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October 17, 2020:


Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am sitting here like so much fish, listening to the very odd symphonies of one Karl Amadeus Hartmann.  I’d read that they were one of the greatest cycles of twentieth century symphonies.  Well, not for me they aren’t.  When I first found this CD at Amoeba for two bucks, I listened because who isn’t interested in one of the greatest cycles of twentieth century symphonies?  But, as we’ve learned over and over again, most people raving about these things are hearing what they want to hear.  Because what I hear is formless, tuneless music that gets worse with each successive symphony.  The first three (of eight) are moody and okay.  Then they start to get irritating, and by the last of them, they simply make you want to become a serial killer.  But I always feel like I should give these things a second shot and now I have and feel comfy nuking them right the HELL out of iTunes.  Otherwise, I’m writing these here notes a little late due to a telephonic conversation.  And due to the extreme length of yesterday’s notes, I think I’ll simply have brevity, for brevity, as you well know, is the soul of wit.  I also feel that wit is the soul of brevity, but that’s another story for another day.

Yesterday was an okay day, I suppose.  I got a bit over nine hours of sleep, got up, answered e-mails, did some stuff that needed doing, then set the final person for the group number that will open the November Kritzerland show, and set another guest.  So, we’re pretty much all set now, save for the one guest who hasn’t gotten back to me – if he does it, great, if not, we’re fine without.  Then I went to work on project one, first at the piano and then on the computer, making a proper document for the project finally, and having a good deal of fun creating this thing.  I worked for about three hours, then ordered food from Togo’s – my usual pastrami sandwich and the mini ham and Swiss.  They arrived rather quickly and neither sandwich was as good as they usually are – but both were okay.  Then I finally sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I finished watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot.  I saw it, of course, back in the day and I didn’t love it, certainly, but in those days,  I just refused to nitpick the flaws in his last three films because there was no huger Hitchcock fan than I.  I saw it several times and enjoyed it for what it was, lightweight though I found it.  A decade later, when it was on home video, I went through a period of really not liking it at all – I never even watched the DVD in the big Hitchcock set.  And I never watched the Blu-ray either, other than to check out the transfer, which I found mostly pretty bad.  So, watching it again, I’m back to appreciating its charms, and especially appreciating Hitchcock’s direction and the delicious performance by Barbara Harris.  Bruce Dern is by turns okay and not so hot, but he’s personable.  I’ve never liked William Devane or Karen Black in this film, good actors though they are.  They seem like they’re playing “at” the characters rather than truly embodying them. And the supporting cast is, for the most part, one of the weakest he’s ever had.  For me, the film’s problems can all be attributed to behind the scenes folks, starting with cameraman Leonard South – he was Robert Burks’ camera operator for many of Burks’ Hitchcock films, but he’s no Robert Burks and it shows, unfortunately.  The editor isn’t as sharp as George Tomasini was and it shows, unfortunately.  Someone convinced Hitchcock to use blue screen rather than rear projection, so every one of those shots is now an optical and the blue screen work is horrible.  The script by Ernest Lehman is certainly not up to his brilliant script for North by Northwest, but it does have its pleasures.  All in all, there are just enough enjoyable things in the movie that it’s fun to watch now.  I love the people who hate the film who always say that Hitchcock was a really old man when he made it.  Yeah, seventy-five.  But he was suffering from health issues and while he was supposed to make another film, he thought it best to retire after Family Plot, and that decision makes Family Plot’s final shot very endearing.  The transfer is really substandard – much of it is too bright, it’s certainly the old DVD transfer, there’s DNR and edge enhancement, and it just looks nothing like film – the one saving grace is that the color is perfect.  Hopefully, Universal will give all the films from Marnie to Family Plot new scans and transfers – treat Mr. Hitchcock with respect.

After that, I had my second sandwich, the mini ham and cheese, followed by some grapes.  I did a Gelson’s run and got some hamburger meal (just eight ounces), some pasta, and a few other things so I have my next two meals.  Then I came home and did more work on project one, had my telephonic conversation, and now you’re all caught up and I’m still listening to the wrong Amadeus, baby.

Today, I’ll be up when I’m up, I’ll do whatever needs doing, I’ll choose the songs for two of our guests and I still have one to choose for Adrienne Stiefel, I’ll eat some pasta with meat and red sauce, I’ll hopefully pick up some packages and mail, I’ll do more work on project one, and then I’ll watch, listen, and relax.

Tomorrow will be exactly the same, just a different kind of pasta – perhaps with butter and cheese and whatever meat is left.  I also have a Zoom thing in the evening.  Then next week is very busy with working on the project, Zoom rehearsals for the Kritzerland show, and lots o’ other stuff.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up when I’m up, do whatever needs doing, choose the last of the songs, eat, hopefully pick up packages and mail, do work on project one, and then watch, listen, and relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: What would you think if I started a series of Kritzerland special interview shows – we’d sprinkle these during the week when we build up a few – one person interviewed with photos and clips where appropriate.  I’d start with Grant Geissman, so we can plug his gargantuan new book and talk about his life and career.  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, as I’m coming to the end of the peculiar symphonies of the wrong Amadeus, namely Karl Amadeus Hartmann.

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