2015 Blind Spot Series: The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

I was expecting more, considering it was written and directed by Orson Welles.  A family saga about unrequited love and a portrayal of an American dynasty in decline. Somewhat bland and forgettable, and only had me involved sporadically. Perhaps a film I need to see again to appreciate.

Based on a 1918 novel by Booth Tarkington which won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize. Welles lost control of the editing of The Magnificent Ambersons to RKO, and the final version released to audiences differed significantly from his rough cut of the film. More than an hour of footage was cut by the studio, which also shot and substituted a happier ending. Although Welles' extensive notes for how he wished the film to be cut have survived, the excised footage was destroyed.

Far from being as masterful as Citizen Kane (1941) or Touch of Evil (1958), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) does benefit from strong dialogue, and is worth a look as a curiosity. But not as gripping as it should have been. It’s unfortunate we cannot see the director’s intended vision, which may well have been a masterpiece. Considered one of the worst instances of studio interference in cinema history.

There are certain things about the film I did like, such as the scene on the street when Eugene Morgan tells Isabel Amberson he's leaving, and she doesn't show any signs that she wants him to stay. That was one of the few sequences that had an emotional impact on me. The "endless" staircase was interesting both as a technical achievement as well as an allegory.

Rating 7/10

Thanks for reading! Agree or disagree? Have you seen The Magnificent Ambersons? As always, comments are welcome

Top 15 songs of 2015 so far

My tentative best songs of 2015 so far. Enjoy! A couple of these tracks were released in late 2014, but will be included on 2015 albums. Suffice to say the ranking below will change before the end of the year.

1.) Where the Sky Hangs by Passion Pit

(Just gets better and better on each listen. The album is expected April 21)

2.) Let It Happen by Tame Impala

(Another addictive track. The rare 8 minute tune that doesn't feel too long. The new album is set to be released in 2015)

3.) Leaf Off /The Cave by Jose Gonzalez

(I love his vocal and this is very catchy)

4.) The House by Le Volume Courbe and Kevin Shields (2015 version)

(I love the violin and there's lots of other stuff going on here too)

5.) 74 Is the New 24 by Giorgio Moroder

(He's still got it!)

6.) Vortex by John Carpenter

(Not as iconic as his soundtracks from the 70s and 80s, but still a welcome return. The album as a whole was a bit underwhelming. Vortex was the stand-out)

7.) Love Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding

(The best track from Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack)

8.) Stonemilker by Björk

(A melancholy breakup album, about Björk's split from her longtime partner and father of her 12-year-old daughter. The track I shared is the single)

9.) Running Out Of Time by Toto

(For me the best album of 2015 so far, and this is from a group who I considered washed-up. The opener rocks. Toto XIV is the band's first record in 9 years. I listened to the early release on spotify, and it has good tracks from start to finish. RIP former Toto bassist Mike Porcaro who died at 59 on March 15)

10.) Welcome To Love by Young Ejecta

(Formerly known as Ejecta. She is so underrated. A pity the singer finds it necessary to sell herself short by appearing naked in all the album artwork(and I mean all), because her music deserves better and holds its own without that)

11. Strange by Laura Marling

(A folk song that feels timeless)

12.) Fantastic Planet by Soko

(My Dreams Dictate My Reality. The best album title of 2015 so far? The Cure influences are obvious, but it's still fun to see her play around with that style, adding her own personal touch. A patchy album, with stand-outs such as Who Wears The Pants?Peter Pan Syndrome and Love Trap)

13.) Uptown Funk (ft. Bruno Mars) by Mark Ronson

(A song that is getting a lot of love at the moment. The single peaked at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart. The album Uptown Special was released in January)

14.) When The Lights Turn Out by Twin Shadow

(Sounds like the 80s. Maybe this track should have been a single?)

15.) REALiTi by Grimes

(A non-album track she gave to fans who came out to her shows. Pitchfork called it "the best new Grimes song since Visions")

Honorable mention:

Accelerated by Miami Nights 1984

(Retro 80s. You can find more on the YouTube channel NewRetroWave )

Agree or disagree? Have you listened to any new albums? Which are your favorites of 2014-2015?

Solo career of Peter Gabriel (2 of 3)

Album: So (1986) 

"So" is the singer's most accessible album, and with its hit singles launched Peter Gabriel into the mainstream consciousness. The best-selling album of Gabriel's career, and arguably among the best albums of the mid 80s. Features several signature songs of the decade.
The imaginative and entertaining Sledgehammer video was groundbreaking for its visual effects and has won a number of awards. As of 2011, "Sledgehammer" is the most played music video in the history of MTV.
"In Your Eyes" gained further attention in 1989 when it was used in the iconic boombox scene in Cameron Crowe's movie Say Anthing (1989).
Years later, "Big Time" featured in Inside Job (2010), the oscar-winning documentary on the financial crisis.
Favorite tracks: Sledgehammer, Don't Give up (ft. Kate Bush), In Your Eyes, Big Time, Red RainMercy Street,

Album: Birdy Soundtrack (1985)

In addition to composing new pieces for the soundtrack, the music includes adaptations of tracks from Gabriel's third and fourth albums. The music makes heavy use of the Fairlight CMI IIx music computer, an early sampling system. Peter Gabriel was one of the first buyers of the Fairlight CMI IIx.
Favorite tracks: 
Birdy's Flight (reworking of 1980's Not One of Us)
Under Lock and Key (reworking of 1982's Wallflower)

Album: Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ (1989)

For a film about Jesus, the score needed to be powerful, which it is. As an album it won't appeal to everyone, there are no singles that accompanied the release. A meditative experience for the patient listener. I personally prefer the music together with the film, but I'm told it's a record that grows on you, and is a great CD for relaxing to and contemplating life.
Peter Gabriel spent several months after the release of Scorsese's film further developing the music. Finally releasing it as a full-fledged album, it is seen as a landmark in the popularisation of world music, and it won a Grammy Award for Best New Age Album in 1990.
Gabriel used the resources of the organization he founded, WOMAD, to bring together musicians from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Passion introduced many listeners to such artists as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Youssou N'Dour, L. Shankar, and Baaba Maal.
Favorite tracks: It Is AccomplishedDisturbedOf These HopeDifferent Drum, Passion,

Any thoughts on the music? Have you listened to Peter Gabriel's solo albums? Or are you new to the music as I am? Next time, I'll look at his work in the 90s and 2000s.

What's at the top of your to-read list?

Needless to say this project will take me a few years to get through, especially in that I’m a slow reader. I can’t just swallow books in a few hours like some people can. I'm sure I'm forgetting some important reads, but today these are the books I'm interested in giving a shot in future. When I say give a shot I'm saying I may not finish them if they do not hold my attention. Hopefully I'll review several of the below titles. Should keep me busy!

Classic novels: 

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

On the Road Jack Kerouac (review)

Dune by Frank Herbert

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Hunger by Knut Hamsun (review)

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Carrie by Stephen King (review)


Five Plays: Ivanov, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard (Oxford World's Classics) by Anton Chekhov

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (review)

Richard 3rd  by William Shakespeare


Keats's Poetry and Prose by John Keats

High Windows by Philip Larkin

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

The Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson

Robert Frost's Poems

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot

100 Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings

A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman

Selected Poems by Jorge Luis Borges

Short story collections:

The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver

Short stories of Ernest Hemingway

The Bloody Chamber and other stories by Angela Carter

The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

Someone Like You by Roald Dahl

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (review)

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li (review)

Contemporary novels:

The Goldfinch (Pulitzer Prize Winner) by Donna Tartt

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (review)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Beach by Alex Garland


The Blair Witch Project by Peter Turner (review)

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? by Harold Bloom

Are We Not New Wave? Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s by Theo Cateforis (review)

Gilliam on Gilliam by Ian Christie

Cronenberg on Cronenberg by Chris Rodley

Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh by Amy Raphael

My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin

A Biography of Kafka by Ronald Hayman

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a Writer's Life by Geir Kjetsaa

Innocent When You Dream: Tom Waits - The Collected Interviews by Mac Montadon

Bad Seed: The Biography of Nick Cave by Ian Johnston

Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty by Patti Breitman and Connie Hatch

Games People Play by Eric Berne

Essays of Montaigne by Michel de Montaigne

Do you also have a to-read list? Have you read any of the above selections?

Solo career of Peter Gabriel (1 of 3)

Album: Car (Peter Gabriel 1) (1977)  
Thoughts: Peter Gabriel has a very unique vocal style. To me the album is not as great as people claim, only a couple of memorable tracks.
The intro to Solsbury Hill never fails to move me emotionally, the singer tells us why he left Genesis in the key track on his 1977 solo debut.
Favorite tracks: Solsbury Hill, Here Comes The FloodHumdrum

Album: Scratch (Peter Gabriel 2) (1978)   
Thoughts: He goes all out with the rock and jamming approach, which is a little too loud and electric guitar heavy for my taste.
Favorite tracks: Mother of ViolenceOn The Air

Album: Melt (Peter Gabriel 3) (1980) 
Thoughts: 1986's "So" is the singer’s most popular and accessible album, yet his 1980 experimental album Melt is by some cited as his masterpiece as a solo artist.
It's my 2nd favorite Peter Gabriel solo album. Has an atmospheric and meticulous production that draws you in. I love the layers of sound, and holds up well to repeats plays.
In the days of side one and side two, the first half of the record is stronger than the last half. Ideally, an album to listen to with a high-quality sound system.
Contains two of Gabriel's most famous songs, the UK Top 10 hit "Games Without Frontiers" and the political song "Biko", about the late anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. However these are not actually my favorites.
Favorite tracks: Intruder(a very sinister track), Start (80s instrumental with sax and synth), I Don't Remember, Lead a Normal Life, Family SnapshotNo Self Control

Album: Security (Peter Gabriel 4) (1982) 
Thoughts: The tracks aren’t as strong as Melt (1980). Again, a sonic production, but this time, not as haunting or impactful. Perhaps with repeat plays the album will grow on me. The single Shock The Monkey is alright for the production, but is not as good as it could have been due to the boring lyrics.
Favorite tracks: Shock The MonkeySan JacintoWallflower

Any thoughts on the music? Have you listened to Peter Gabriel's solo albums? Or are you new to the music as I am? Next time, I'll look at Birdy (1984) soundtrack and the album So (1986)


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