Monday, December 21, 2009

Top 5 Christmas albums

1. Bob Dylan – Christmas in the Heart (2009)
Go on, give it a go. Surprisingly, it's a lot of fun. My daughter, and amazingly, partner, love it.
2. Various Artists – A Christmas Gift for you from Phil Spector (1963)
Often called the best Christmas album ever. Released on the day JFK was assassinated.
3. Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas (1987)
The one with the Keith Haring cover. Features a fine selection of 80s recording artists from RUN DMC to Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen. A classic.
4. Low – Christmas (1999)
I'm sure it's good.
5. Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Another one I haven't actually heard but is meant to be great.

Have a great Christmas and New Year, and I'll see y'all in 2010: the follow-up to 2001: A Space Odyssey that no one went to see.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Peter Saville Show

BBC2 has just finished showing their School of Saatchi series, following a bunch of would-be artists for the coveted prize of being Charles Saatchi's bitch (the prettiest girl won). Before that we had Design for Life, with product designer Philippe Starck being rude to a bunch of useless Brit would-be product designers for the coveted prize of being Starck's bitch (the prettiest girl won).

What's needed next is: The Peter Saville Show. Take a bunch of would-be graphic designers and get them to design a derivative album cover, but – most importantly: they must turn in work late and over-budget; get up at 11am every morning with two supermodels in bed with them, then smoke a cigarette; be photographed in their dressing gowns by Wolfgang Tillmans; and, finally, make their covers so iconic and influential that they are still reminiscing about them thirty years later – and in fact have made a career out of talking about them and doing very little else (follow-up show 'thirty years later' required). Only apply if you're pretty and female. If you are male you will need talent and Bryan Ferry handsomeness (and then you may come second).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bests of the Decade

What an exciting time for list-obsessed, geeky bloggers, websites, newspapers and magazines everywhere. Not only is it time for the top lists of the year, there's top lists of the decade. You'll be pleased to hear I'm NOT going to do one. Well, not properly anyway.

Some have been a disappointment. The Times lists, in particular, have been fairly mainstream, what with The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter featuring in their book list (I know, they've been hugely influential and popular but that doesn't mean they're well written); Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and Take That in their music list and those dreary, dreadful Bourne movies (#2) in their film list. I think somewhere along the line popularity got mixed up with quality. I like to read the lists to discover books, films or music I might have missed. The Times lists are way too obvious – either I've seen, got or read it – or, more likely, I don't want to.

There also seems to be a case of amnesia (no, not the Radiohead album). After a few nods to 2001, 2004, compilers seem to have got lazy and included way too many items from 2009. I'm guessing they all have short-term memories – as is especially the case with most bloggers who are geeky 14-year-olds locked in their rooms thinking The Dark Knight is the best film ever made.

In music, Radiohead's Kid A (yawn) has featured high in most lists (#1 on Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Times), as have The Strokes Is This It? (NME #1), Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Arcade Fire and most things concerning Jack White (The White Stripe's White Blood Cells #1 in Uncut). Good to see The Streets Original Pirate Material number one in The Guardian's poll. In books, Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic The Road was number one in The Times and NewStatesman's lists. Other notables include White Teeth by Zadie Smith and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers). In films, director Michael Haneke has been popping up all over the place with Cache (#2, Time Out), The Piano Teacher and his latest, White Ribbon, featuring in many lists. No Country for Old Men, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, City of God, There Will be Blood and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (yawn? I fell into a coma!) were also popular.

Okay, okay, if you insist I'll do a list or two – off the top of my head (though I think that's the trouble with most Best of lists...) and in no particular order:

Books: Cloud Atlas David Mitchell; The Corrections Johnathan Frazen; We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver; Chronicles Bob Dylan; No Logo Naomi Klein; The Road Cormac McCarthy; Atonement Ian McEwan; The True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey; Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth Chris Ware; London Orbital Iain Sinclair

Music: The Strokes Is This It?; Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion; Bob Dylan "Love and Theft"; Beck Sea Changes; LCD Soundsystem LCD Soundsystem; Boards of Canada Geogaddi; Johnny Cash American III: Solitary Man; Nick Cave Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus; The Streets Original Pirate Material; Ali Farka Touré Savane; Ry Cooder Chavez Ravine; Sigur Ros Agaetis Byrjun; The Fiery Furnaces Blueberry Boat; Badly Drawn Boy The Hour of Bewilderbeast; Deerhunter Microcastle/Weird Era Continued; The Knife Silent Shout; The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots; Lambchop Nixon; Pulp We Love Life; Manitoba Up in Flames; Kate Bush Aerial

Films: Mulholland Drive, Sideways, Lost in Translation, Donnie Darko, 28 Days later, Shaun of the Dead, Tarnation, Grizzly Man, Cache, Cloverfield, Let the Right One in, The Proposition, Battle Royale, Monsters Inc., Momento, Far from Heaven, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I'm Not There, The Last King of Scotland, Together, Sin City, Russian Ark, OldBoy, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Uzak, Gosford Park... I could go on, so I won't.

Finally, here's my Top ten lists of the decade:
1. Pitchfork Music: P2K The decade in music
2. Time Out (London) Top 101 films of the decade
3. Uncut 150 Albums of the decade
4. The Guardian Albums of the decade
5. The New Yorker Films of the decade
6. Time Out (New York) Top 50 movies of the decade
7. The Times 100 Best books of the decade
8. Paste Top 25 Album covers of the decade
9. Paste 20 Best books of the decade
10. Rolling Stone 100 Best albums of the decade

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Star Wars Lego

I'm always the first to berate people for their old-fashioned, nostalgic, harking-back-to-childhood-bad-tastes, be it 'Allo 'Allo, Pizza Hut, Enya or Ghostbusters. So people, naturally enough, are wondering: why am I building up a sizable collection of Star Wars Lego. I have to admit, I have no defence. I love it. As a child I loved Star Wars and Lego. Period. It wasn't until I was an adult that they teamed up. Star Wars Lego is a combination of absolute genius. Like Gin and tonic. Baked beans and toast. Bacon and eggs. Cigarettes and alcohol. I couldn't resist. They're just so cute. Hopefully one day they'll be worth something too. My daughter's finally getting into Star Wars. I've just got her say, "They're coming in too fast! Pow! Pow!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Expecting Rain Daily

I've just had an extremely geeky email about Bob Dylan box sets posted on one of my favourite Dylan sites, the Dylan Daily. Read it here. Along with Expecting Rain, they're just about the only Dylan sites I look at.

Nick Hornby amusingly describes a Dylan fanatic in his book, 31 Songs, thus: 'I have a friend who stays logged on to the Dylan website Expecting Rain most of the day at work – as if the website were CNN and Dylan's career were the Middle East – and who owns 130 Dylan albums.' I'm pretty bad, but nowhere near that bad a fanatic. Twice a day. Tops.

Footnote: Talking of rain... this very post was link #1 on Expecting Rain, Tuesday 15 December, 2009.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The films of Walerian Borowczyk

From Les Jeux Des Anges to Emmanuelle 5
With cinema's potential for fetishistic lingering on detail, its desire for flesh, its capacity for the extreme close-up, and its final, inescapable, unavoidable superficiality, it’s a wonder the porno film has not been elevated to the status of art. But the low budgets, seediness, decidedly dodgy camerawork, the bad acting and narratives have assured its place in the hands of exploiters and perverts.

The films of Walerian Borowczyk (1923-2006) testify to an elegant, erotic obsession with ‘the object’ (in the surrealist meaning of the word), flesh and things superficial and sexual. It almost comes as no surprise that, after starting off as an animator, he drifted into the realm of softcore pornography, and still didn’t lose his elegant style and unique way of looking at ‘things’. Only Borowczeck could fuse everyday objects with an awkward sexuality and beauty.

An influence on Jan Swankmajer (now often cited as the 'best' animator in the world), early David Lynch, the Brothers Quay and Terry Gilliam, the Polish Borowczyk studied painting at college and produced film posters in the mid-1950s, revealing a mixture of painting, collage and photo montage.

(Polish film posters are finally getting the recognition – and the prices, unfortunately – they deserve. Posters from the 1950s up to the 1990s are amazingly imaginative – often, you'd hardly recognise the Hollywood blockbuster it was depicting (yes, that's a good thing). Ironically – or not... remember my dictum 'all art comes out of shit' – since Poland's political and social restrictions have lapsed in recent years, so has the quality of its poster art.)

Borowczyk began his animation career in the late 50s with fellow animator and surrealist Jan Lenica. They studied at the same film school as Roman Polanski, another Pole whose early films also demonstrate the bizarre and surreal. Borowczeck’s early work recalls the work of surrealists such as Max Ernst, abstract expressionists like Kurt Switters, the Cubism of Braque and Picasso and even the unclassifiable Joseph Cornell with his worlds in a box.

For animation, easier and more effectively than live action, has the capacity for creating new and enclosed worlds. Borowczyk’s best animations, Dom (1958), Les Astronautes (1959, with Chris Marker) and Les Jeux des Anges (1964) revealed an eclecticism of techniques – painting, drawing, stop-motion photography and collage, as well as an over-riding bleak and destructive tone.

Borowczyk’s first two ventures into live-action feature films, Goto, Island of love (1968) and Blanche (1971) were well received by critics. Austere, extraordinary, beautiful to look at, their flattened perspective, lack of shadows and characters often filmed in profile recall animated films and early Renaissance painting. Indeed, Blanche was set in the Middle Ages, and the costume, camerawork, music and acting depicted tales of illicit love that felt like they were filmed five hundred years ago. Blanche features the great French actor Michel Simon, who looked pretty old in Vigo's L'Atalante (1934); here he looks positively ancient. Also, like animation, the films were about closed-off worlds.

By 1974 with Immoral Tales, Borowczyk was slipping into the realms of softcore porn. Though still often visually striking, and like his animations revealing enclosed worlds (with the ol' flattened perspective), with one tale essentially about a blowjob and another featuring an attempted rape of a young girl, it can't disguise its sordidness.

After the well-received Story of Sin (1975), things started going downhill with La Bête (also 1975), a ridiculous soft porn, misogynistic work: a beast runs around the countryside with a huge hard-on chasing an almost naked woman in a wig, still had moments of surreal beauty, such as the snails on the woman’s high heel shoe, perhaps revealing a Bunuel influence. The film has its admirers: and not just perverts – even film critics.

It's difficult to dismiss his later films as purely soft core trash. There's always more to Borowczyk than that. Behind Convent Walls (1975) is filmed like a Renaissance painting, or maybe a Vermeer. Blood of Dr Jekyll (1981) was a partial return to form, depicting Dr Jekyll's transformation into Mr Hyde as a backlash against Victorian morality, and starred decent actors, including Patrick Magee and Udo Kier. But by the time Borowczyk directed Emmanuelle 5 (1988), which I saw on video in a newsagent (some time ago!) for £4.99 (Borowczyk in a newsagent! That’s how you bring arthouse films to the masses!), I had lost all hope, even though a couple of shots were filmed with his now-signature flat like an animation, revealing the animator at heart. Maybe.

Goto Isle of Love was released this year on DVD by Nouveaux Pictures. But what's really needed is a DVD box-set of his early animations. You can watch some on YouTube and (a great site for obscure films and videos) but the quality's not great.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mary Poppins: Practically Perfect

"Our daughters' daughters will adore us"
– Winifred Banks

My daughter is obsessed with the Disney film Mary Poppins (1963): sometimes we watch it twice a day. At first I found Mary Poppins – played with glee by Julie Andrews (who won an Oscar for her role) – somewhat annoying; she's prim, proper and prissy. Then I started to find her attractive (it was her licking the "rrrhhum" [rum] punch flavoured medicine off her finger that did it). Now I think I may adore her. She is 'practically perfect in every way' (as her tape measure says); and it's the practically that makes her interesting. She's an irresistible mix of prim and dirty, innocence and experience, dull and wild, virgin and whore.

I'm guessing it's intentional but it seems ironic that Winifred Banks, the mother of the two children Mary Poppins is nanny for, is an enthusiastic suffragette (the film is set in 1910) – at least superficially: she may sing the songs ("though we adore men individually/We agree as a group they're rather stupid), wear the banners and go on the marches and demonstrations, but at the end of the day she is subservient to her husband ("What will Mr Banks say?" she asks nervously), George Banks, who sings "It's the age of men".

Mary Poppins, on the other hand, is a free spirit, almost a kooky Annie Hall-type character (dresses funny), unburdened by a husband or patriarchal society in general. It helps she can fly and do magic. Winifred doesn't seem to be aware of Mary Poppins's uniqueness (tellingly, they never actually speak together in the film) and goes on her suffragette marches oblivious to her own subservient position in the household – which has four women (wife, nanny, cook and servant) and only one man. Mary Poppins not only routinely disagrees or ignores pompous George Banks (job references, she tells him during her interview are "old-fashioned"), she manages to influence his thinking – more than his nervous wife does for most of the film.

We first see Mary Poppins sitting on a cloud – doing her make-up. She may be free from the shackles of marriage, but she still likes to look her best; she checks herself in the mirror some five times in ten minutes of screen time.

In her role as nanny, rosy-cheeked Mary Poppins first displays her have-some-fun-then-deny-it persona. She takes the children for a great day out (entering chalk pictures; encountering animated characters and animals – who all love Mary Poppins and sing, "It's a jolly holiday with Mary/No wonder it's Mary that we love"; riding an animated horse race on carousel horses; singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious with some Chelsea pensioners) then, later, promptly denies it, as well as being offended: "a respectable person like me in a horse race? How dare you suggest such a thing!"

It's obvious that she is familiar with Bert (Dick Van Dyke), the chimney sweep cum artist, but it's never explicitly stated in what way. Bert reels off names of his other female friends as Mary epitomises mock-annoyed – until the last line, Mary is "cream of the crop" and she's all smiles again. Mary Poppins is often mock-disapproving and fairly short-tempered towards most people – Bert, the children, 'Uncle' Albert (in whose scene she employs sarcastic hand clapping), George Banks, but usually – begrudgingly – comes around in the end, to the joy of all around.

By the end of the film, she has done her job – George Banks is a more understanding husband and father, and the family go off to fly a kite. Mary looks longingly at them, obviously feeling some jealousy. Maybe she's destined to be single and free – but it doesn't look like much fun, even if you can fly.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Top 10 Bob Dylan Years

1. 1966
2. 1975
3. 1965
4. 1964
5. 1976
6. 2005
7. 1967
8. 2001
9. 1974
10. 1978

Measured in terms of album releases, live performances, and general popularity.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dawson's Creek: better than The Wire?

"It's more than beautiful... it's awesome!"
– Jen, Dawson's Creek

Warning: contains spoilers!

Friends, colleagues, family and the mass media still incessantly implore me to watch The Wire (get over it!). I still read about it every week in The Guardian as being the best programme in the world. Ever. Now there's some seminar about it. Obama loves it – so it must be good. I'm sure if I ever bothered to watch it, I'd like it. But you know what, I can't be bothered. It's that simple. And I don't really like TV. I don't like being sucked into something that I've got to watch episode after episode, week after week – and getting involved with characters, god it's almost like having to keep up with friends. I'm sure The Wire's great, but like, I'm sure the Maldives are great, or abseiling, or Harry Potter books, but I just don't feel the need to do these things (I don't have the time, the energy, the money). Besides, although I do occasionally watch TV, I don't watch cop shows, or hospital shows, or reality shows. I'm sure the Wire is one of those. I mean it can't be that groundbreaking, it still fits into a mould – even if it cracks it once in there. In the 80s I watched a bit of Hill Street Blues, that felt pretty real and 'groundbreaking' at the time but look at it now.

But the other reason I'm not watching The Wire is I've been watching the whole of Dawson's Creek on DVD. Yes, the teen soap. It's true. And it's better than The Wire. Seriously. Probably. Friends boast of watching five DVDs of The Wire. Dawson's is 34 DVDs. 6 Seasons. 4 episodes a disc. 23 episodes a season. 16 hours a season. 42 minutes an episode. Over six years. This is epic. This is life. Only £35 too. You do the math.

With Dawson's constant reference to popular culture, films, songs and TV shows, and its simultaneous debunking of and conforming to the limitations of a teenage TV show, it's no wonder it was written by the man (Kevin Williamson) who wrote Scream (which one astute Amazon reviewer calls 'Dawsons with knives') – the first (of many) post-modern, in-joke, self-referential horror movies. Dawson's Creek, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, paved the way for dull, post-modern eponymous angst-ridden heroes; smart, precocious dictionary-for-breakfast teenagers wondering why their lives had become like bad 1980s John Hughes movies (answer: because the writer watched them in the 80s).

I never watched Dawson's at the time (1997-2003), I was probably travelling or watching Bunuel films or something. I wouldn't have given it the time of day. But now, well, I quite like it. Don't get me wrong – it's still kinda in that time before TV got good and cinematic and exciting (Lost, 24, Heroes, Prison Break, er, The Wire – probably) but it has its moments.

I've never been able to relate to most TV shows: hospital dramas (ER, Holby City, Casualty) and cop shows (CSI, The Bill, Law and Order) in particular, mainly because they're boring. However, a sexually immature film student (Dawson) – now that I can relate to! I love Dawson as the film student – probably because I was one (albeit with more talent than Dawson, natch). While it is true that film-makers should make films that are close to them, just how personal is a moot point. My girlfriend at film school, whilst we were still dating, made her graduation film about our relationship, going as far as to use the dialogue we'd spoken, the books I'd read, the clothes I'd worn and the bed clothes I'd slept in. It was surreal, kinda flattering, and a bit creepy (and I'm still annoyed that the actor playing me ruined my copy of Arthur Rimbaud's Collected Poems). Dawson does a similar thing with his early films (except the one with the monster) – they're all about Joey, with identical dialogue and situations... then he does it all over again when he makes a teenage soap about it and gets rich and gets Spielberg on the phone... but I'm jumping a bit here.

The plus (or minus) of watching what should have taken six years to watch but actually took a month or two* means the characters' exponential growth rate and their accelerated fashion and haircut changes are rather alarming – especially Jen's. And their maturity. One minute they're 14 year olds playing around like kids, then suddenly they're twenty, burnt out, bitter, reflective, having lived all there is to live. Then they're twenty-five and successful millionaires (what the fuck are they going to be like at forty?). Except The One Who Dies (Jen).

Dawson's Creek is essentially a will they won't they sleep together between straight-laced, dull Dawson Leary (James Van Der Beek) and doe-eyed, uptight Joey Potter (Mrs Tom Cruise herself, Katie Holmes) – that lasts six years. They kiss at the end of every season, and have sex eventually – at the start of season six, then it's all over by the following morning. They end up as eternal soul mates. To me, soul mates always seems an easy way out – I've had a few female friends (notice how soul mates are never same sex?) tell me we're soul mates – which goes beyond friendship, or sex, or having to keep in touch at all in fact – and then never heard from them again. And I never got to sleep with them. Well, maybe once.

It starts in 1997 – so long ago! – and they're all sipping lattes strolling across lawns and using the internet (Mac, of course), even though they're like fourteen or something. I didn't even hear of a latte until like 2001 and didn't write my first email until around the same time (probably exactly the same time). These kids were born precocious.

Dawson's and Joey's closest friends, Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams, yes her who had Heath Ledger's baby then Heath died) and later additions to the group, Jack McPhee (Kerr Smith), his sister, Andie McPhee (Meredith Monroe) and Audrey Liddell (Busy Phillipps, though I always fondly think of her as Busty Phillipps) are way more exciting than the two leads (who tend to over psycho-analyse events before they're even over) – even they admit Dawson and Joey are boring, though can't help falling in and out of love with them. Pacey gets Joey in the end, poor sod, and Dawson gets Spielberg on the end of the phone. Audrey, LA girl – always on the outskirts of group – when being truthful (ie drunk) and outspoken usually says how boring they all are. She's like one of us – the audience – looking in at this incestuous little group of self-absorbed teenagers.

Joey and Dawson (DJers to their fans) are such highly moralistic, dull people for most of the series: they don't even drink, smoke or date. Come to think of it, hardly anyone smokes in Dawson's. Except: an old, haggard gypsy palm reader; a thief, mugger, drug dealer and potential rapist; an arrogant, stressed British film director (Todd – who sums up Dawson succinctly: "you're boring"); Jack (once) when he reached rock bottom; Audrey when she's drunk and suicidal (even then she only has two puffs) and a black waitress (who quits when Pacey sees her smoking).

All figures of authority (ie all adults – except Principal Green, the black school Principal, one of the only black characters in the series – the other being his daughter and the aforementioned waitress) are flawed: parents, teachers, bosses, in fact anyone older than Dawson and his chums. They're either weak, afraid, evil, bullying or deceitful. What Dawson or Joey don't get at the time (but hopefully have by the end of the series) is: that's life. People are weak, afraid and all those other human foibles; Dawson and Joey were too naive and young to understand. They had impossibly high standards of people.

Dawson's Creek is full of really heavy metaphors – the soundtrack, the films they see, TV they watch, other characters – all seem to exist for Dawson and Joey (and sometimes Pacey). The Last Picture Show, Star Wars, even Shakespeare become mere metaphors for the Dawson-Joey-Pacey ménage-à-trois. It's like Much Ado About Nothing was written 400 years ago for the express reason of being a Dawson-Joey-Pacey metaphor in 2001. Songs, especially, inform the narrative like a sledgehammer, with trite lyrics summing up trite scenes. I truly believe it would be much better if it had a better soundtrack. The songs are truly terrible. Someone like Springsteen on the soundtrack at least would have given it some gravitas what with his songs about small-time losers wanting to escape their small towns.

And film references permeate Dawson's Creek. Although Dawson is a cineaste, his taste is somewhat mawkish and limited: Steven Spielberg, Frank Capra, er, that's it. Joey, as the English literature major is similarly limited by her environment and upbringing in her tastes – her favourite book is Little Women by Louisa Alcott. They're certainly more prosaic than Prozac.

But who can fault, in the space of a couple of episodes, references to: Samuel Fuller, the Guggenheim, Bilbao ("a giant artichoke" – Pacey), enveloping artist Christo (Henry's love for Jen), Pauline Kael, Ford's The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, Lynch's Blue Velvet, Jean Luc Godard, Nic Ray, Lazlo Kovacs, Henry James, Evelyn Waugh, Gustave Flaubert, James Joyce, Slanted and Enchanted (by Pavement) and, er, Notting Hill (the film – apparently only gay people like it).

There are some interesting cameos. Bizarrely, four characters from Twin Peaks pop up: Sherilyn Fenn, Ray Wise, Madchen Amick and Dana Ashbrook. Hope from Thirtysomething plays Jen's mum until she's replaced by Mimi Rogers. Well, wouldn't you? Principal Peskin is Harry Shearer, aka Derek Smalls from This is Spinal Tap. Oh, he also makes $400,000 an episode doing voices for The Simpsons.

Season six, the final one, is like watching your kids grow up, leave home and go to college. Except you get to see everything they do. Like kiss all the time, frequent rowdy bars and go to MTV beach parties in L.A. Two brash, British characters appear in season six (Todd Carr, film director, and Emma Jones, in a punk band/works in a bar) displaying typical American view of Brits – it's all bloody hell, chum, bugger, even a wanker, taking the piss – with accents you'll never hear outside of Bridget Jones and Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels.

After a bad start with the Brit director, Dawson becomes his assistant, then gets to make his own film. Dawson wants to make his personal film, which is essentially Dawson's Creek – the films he's been making, er, all through the series (one of his early works is called Creek Days). Though Dawson's Creek isn't as knowing and clever (or cool and funny!) as Seinfeld, it becomes vaguely reminiscent of 'The Pilot' episodes of season four when the characters get to produce Jerry, a TV series about themselves. Anyway, Dawson, idealistic film-maker he is, doesn't want his 'personal' film being turned into a skin flick, so rejects an offer to have it made with compromises. The name of his uncompromising, personal film: Creek Days.

Joey has a Wonder Boys-type almost affair experience with her tutor, Prof. Wilder (Season 5, 2001). Hold on, though, wasn't she actually in Wonder Boys (2000) and played the student who nearly has an affair with her tutor, Prof. Tripp (Michael Douglas)? Those watching it at the time must have got a distinct sense of déjà vu, though at least she was a bit sexier in Wonder Boys. Whilst at college, Joey went relatively wild, having affairs with two, yes two, bad boys before doing the deed with Dawson.

Joey has other kind of action too. Early on, she meets a serial killer, possibly narrowly escaping being murdered. Then she's attacked by the rapist in the library (lucky her one lesson of kick-boxing came in handy). Finally, she gets mugged (yes, by the one who smokes) but he gets run over and dies later in hospital. Even when being mugged she has a witty rapport with her would-be assassin. She just doesn't know when to shut up.

When Joey watches Dawson's new teen soap called Creek Days, suddenly five years in the future (we can tell it's in the future – Joey's wearing glasses and drinking wine) in Paris, with her boyfriend ("The writers must sit around with a thesaurus", he says about the soap), the end credits font and music are the same as Dawson's Creek – Dawson has been making Dawson's Creek all the time (he even has a knowing smile to camera as he's filming his indie film).

But Pacey gets the girl (Joey), Jen dies, Jack gets Pacey's brother, Dawson sells out, is lonely, but rich and has Spielberg on the phone... it seems a small consolation. Pacey gets to screw Joey first and direct an episode of Dawson's Creek before Dawson does – actually quite a funny episode too. I realise I'm getting my fantasy/reality mixed up here. Oh yeah. Joshua Jackson, who plays Pacey, directs an episode of the sixth season. He doesn't appear in it – a la Orson Welles directing Citizen Kane. In real life he did date Joey too.

(Even minor characters do better than poor James Van Der Beek. Henry, who fell for Jen in a big way (until he wisely dumped her), has fared better than any of them in real life. Henry (Michael Pitt) went on to reveal all in Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003), and worked with other powerhouse directors too: Gus Van Sant in Finding Forrester (2000) and Last Days (2005), Larry Clark in Bully (2001), and Michael Haneke in his own remake of Funny Games (2007). Dawson the film-maker (and James Van Der Beek the actor) would be green with envy.)

And Joey: after years of obsessing over getting A grades (a B- was a near suicide), studying all the hours God gave her, she ends up as some editorial assistant on a magazine in an office. I thought at least she'd be a writer, anthropologist, naturalist. You know, something worthy. Something Joey. *Sigh* Growing up is such a disappointment. And then to get to marry Tom Cruise... Joey Potter would have called her real self a sell-out.

Dawson's Creek: Key Cultural Resources
Key films: Say Anything, E.T., American Graffiti, The Last Picture Show
Key actors: Tom Cruise (mentioned at least four times – Risky Business seems a favourite, and Jerry McGuire, The Color of Money – more than any other actor; obviously Katie Holmes ends up marrying him in real life – well, semi-real life. Funnily enough Audrey mentions to Joey how her film geek, Dawson, looks like Tom Cruise), John Cusack (it's the cool yet geeky effect)
Key novels: Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger; Little Women by Louisa Alcott
Key film directors: Steven Spielberg, Frank Capra, John Hughes
Key poet: Emily Dickinson
Key singer: Bruce Springsteen (though he's only heard once, unless you count Henry doing an acoustic version of Glory Days at a beach party)
Key song: Daydream Believer (not by The Monkees though, but Mary Beth Maziarz)

*How we watch TV now
It used to be, we'd all turn up to our office jobs in the morning and someone would ask, did you see Lost/24/whatever last night? This is now a thing of the past, what with people watching stuff on Freeview, satellite, web, download, DVD and sometimes even on ol' terrestrial TV, it's very rare that anyone at all will be at the same episode in a TV series as anyone else.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Vampires in Havana

Small wooden, yes, wooden, film advert for Vampiros en la Habana, a Cuban animated film released in 1985, directed by Juan Padròn.