Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Top 5 DVD Box Sets

1. Bob Dylan – Dont Look Back: 65 Tour Deluxe Edition (Columbia)
This feels like the ultimate (if you're a fan): Dont Look Back movie and extra DVD 65 Revisited. Plus reprinted (from 1968) paperback book of the film and cute flick book of the Subterranean Homesick Blues opening sequence, all nicely packaged.
2. Luis Bunuel collection (Optimum)
Eight mainly late but great Bunuel features plus postcards of original posters and booklet.
3. Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films (BFI)
Superb collection of Svankmaker's short animated films spanning some 40 years over 3 discs. Also includes documentaries, interviews and rarities.
4. The Jodorowsky Collection (Tartan)
Three remastered Alejandro Jodorowsky features and a rare short as well as a feature-length documentary. Also comes with soundtrack CDs of two of the films and postcards.
5. The John Cassavetes Collection* (Optimum)
No amazing extras for this but great films in a nicely designed box.

(I was going to include Dawson's Creek: The Complete Collection – 34 discs with every episode but it might have ruined my art house credentials)

*It would have been good to have Gloria included in the set. The ever excellent Gena Rowlands plays a tough-as-nails moll on the run (with a heart). She's the kind of broad who has a beer for breakfast and she's more gun crazy than Travis Bickle – and better looking. Rowlands was Cassavetes' wife and acted in three of the films included in the box-set.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Let Me Ad One More Thing...

One thing on TV which was better in the distant past (the 1980s to early 90s) was its advertisements. Ads used to have style, imagination, surrealism, eroticism and wit. It's hard now to believe a time when ads actually tried to convince Jo (or Joanne) Public to buy its product with such flair.

For the last 5-10 years all ads have needed to do is show the product and add a celebrity. It doesn't matter what the ad's like. There's no need to try and convince people to buy stuff anymore – they don't need any encouragement. Consumerism has won and ads are as bland as the programmes between them. Maybe advertisers finally believe the old maxim that bad ads work better than good ones.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sky + Rubbish = A Waste of Time

Seeing that I watch virtually nothing on TV, I find Sky's research findings of the UK's viewing habits somewhat perplexing. Those with Sky+ (I'm still not exactly sure what it is, but I'm guessing those who have it like TV) watch (or "timeshift" – don't ask) 3 and a half hours of TV a day. A day! Where they find the time, and why they bother, alas, the survey does not answer. It does, however, answer what they watch. Well, seeing that viewers have a multiverse of channels to watch I was expecting (not) an eclectic smorgasbord of cutting edge TV.

Alas, the truth was more mundane. For the most part the results could have been taken 10 or even 20 years ago when we had only 4 terrestrial channels. It's a predictable mix of drivel and crap including Eastenders, Casualty, Dr Who, The Apprentice and a bunch of other programmes I haven't heard of (but I'm sure are still crap) such as Ashes to Ashes, Flood, Waking the Dead (British TV viewers I presume?) and Britain's got Talent – surely an ironic title.

The rest of the survey is as inconsequential as the programmes we're (they're) watching: women in Scotland watch the most TV on Wednesday mornings; men in Lincolnshire watch the most on Tuesdays between 11pm and 12:30am; women in London watch more TV than men on Friday nights... you get the idea.

I'll admit to being hooked by recent American imports Lost, Heroes and 24 (and comedies such as Curb your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development) – but Sky's research reveal nothing American (or outside the UK) in the top ten.

I'm not one of those people who look back on the "golden age" of TV before reality shows and Graham Norton set in. No, by its very nature, it's always been bad. If I do watch it, I'll invariably switch on BBC4 (yes, I've just got a Freeview box). I am officially one of BBC4's 12 viewers and proud of it. The pretentious life is a tough one but someone's gotta live it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Own Up To Your Earnings

I know how much Hollywood actors earn, I know how much David Beckham* and Gordon Brown* earn. I even know how much Brown put on expenses to have his second home painted. I know how much pop stars and fat cat bosses of multinationals earn. I even know what their bonuses were. The other day I read that BBC executive directors are getting payrises of up to £107,000. In papers and magazines we constantly read about famous/rich peoples earnings. But people where I work, who I've sat next to for years? I have no idea what they earn. All I know is it's more than me.

The very rich, and the very poor – the Asda shelf stackers and the McJobbers, the minimum wagers (£5.52ph) – we all know what they earn. But workmates, colleagues – people I spend 8 hours a day with, five days a week with, fifty weeks a year with, and socialise with, many of them won't tell what they earn (of course, some do). The one's who don't, usually earn a lot more than me – do they not tell because they feel guilty or because they've been told not to? The ones who do tell, usually earn the same, or less – and don't care who knows. Helen* (54, mother of three, divorced) earns just £14,000 as a purchase ledger clerk (five tube stops along, and with a decent company, she'd get at least double).

There used to be a joke (I haven't heard it for years and it never was that funny) that the first thing an American asked a Brit when they met was what they earned. An American never asked me but I guess the point was Americans were more forthcoming about the whole pay issue than us uptight English. I've never understood the problem but it seems some office colleagues would rather discuss their (dismal) sex lives than their salary. It seems a completely mis-guided sense of company loyalty – it is essentially making the company earn more and the individual earn less. Companies of course encourage this secrecy – if we all knew what each other earned there'd be a revolution, or – heaven forbid – fair pay for all.

It is hoped that the Government's new (July 2008) proposals to prevent companies having pay secrecy clauses and to let employees discuss their pay openly will prevent such large pay discrepancies between colleagues doing essentially the same job within the same company.

*Real names used.