With the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse double feature (with Robert Rodriguez), it’s only appropriate we pay tribute to the O.C. (original cineaste) John Waters. The points of comparisons are abundant: Their obsessive knowledge of B- and C-cinema, seemingly haphazard (yet deliberate) filmmaking, ribald sense of humor, fascination with celebrity, aversion to sentiment, and particular/peculiar facial proportions all share similarities. But as far as their films are concerned, the two men are separated by a vast expanse of intent. Whereas Tarantino frankensteins past trash to invent today’s pop, Waters collects yesterday’s debris and preserves it as today’s waste. Sure, both consistently subvert the Hollywood ending, but Tarantino still loves Hollywood in a more traditional sense than Waters does. In spite of Pulp Fiction‘s cool narrative shuffle, the two cowboys still ride off into the sunset — Vincent Vega’s abrupt death a passing plot point. Pink Flamingos‘ protagonist, Divine, comes out the winner, like any other “decent” feature film, but with a stomach-turning shit-eating grin.
Outside of their films, the differences between Tarantino and Waters are explicitly apparent in their music. Both have a tremendous reputation for redefining the soundtrack’s role and elevating cinematic song selection’s importance. Yet, once again, Tarantino often veers toward what could or should be hot, while Waters remains content with being so not. Such is the case with A John Waters Christmas (followed by the equally seasonal A Date With John Waters, released earlier this year), which collects — what else? — anti-Christmas Christmas songs. The tunes cover the spectrum of bad: from Fat Daddy’s amateurish Wesley Willis-meets-Phil Spector shout-out to himself on “Fat Daddy” to the chilling child’s prayer on “Happy Birthday Jesus” performed by the Dakota Fanning-reminiscent Little Cindy. Even the cover is a piece of shit: In a significant step behind No Limit’s most clichéd Photoshop work, a tuxedoed Waters is seemingly cut-and-pasted next to a Christmas tree engulfed in flames. The image is cheap, grainy, and just the way Waters would like it.
As expected, the collection is so out-of-sync with the syrupy Hallmark variety of the holiday (with the exception of the surprisingly conventional Alvin and the Chipmunks rendition of “Sleigh Ride,” to which Waters acknowledges in his liner notes, “We all have a type, what can I say?”) that you can listen to it in the dead of summer and still sing along to the parental angst anthem, “Here Comes Fatty Claus.” Yet, also because of Waters’s tender attention to details and loving selection, the collection is surprisingly apt for the holidays; in fact, you could easily envision the disc being sold at the anonymous truck stop alongside cassettes of rebel country and bootleg Collectibles reissues of the Dells’ greatest hits. So, raise up a jam jar of ‘nog and salute a true American filmmaker: Merry Christmas, and skanks for the memories.