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Top 10 Worst Lines in Rom Com History

January 8, 2013

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Maybe you think that nominating specific lines in romantic comedy as bad is kind of superfluous. But that’s probably because you’re thinking only of Kate Hudson’s oeuvre — and forgetting about, say, ANNIE HALL or MOONSTRUCK. Remember when Nicolas Cage told Cher:

“Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice — it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed.”

Man, those lines are as perfect as a snowflake.

And then there’s Nora Ephron (R.I.P.), who single-handedly revolutionized the romantic comedy. The genius of her movies is that there’s something in them for everyone — maybe you swoon over Harry declaring his love for Sally in the middle of a New Year’s Eve party (“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”), or maybe you prefer the oddball humor of the “baby fish mouth” Pictionary scene, or Harry exclaiming in horror, “That’s it? Some faceless guy rips off all your clothes, and THAT’S the sex fantasy you’ve been having since you were twelve?” And do you remember hearing the line “I’ll have what she’s having” for the very first time?

This is what romantic comedy can be, at its best. Below is what it can be at its worst. (By the way, we limited ourselves to romantic comedies, which is why you won’t find such corkers as “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” from 1970’s LOVE STORY or “Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo,” from 2005’s STAR WARS: EPISODE III.)

Em probably shed a tear during each of the scenes below, despite simultaneously rolling her eyes. Lo refuses to admit seeing most of them, but if she did, she rolled her eyes all the way into the back of her head.

10. AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (2000)

Will (Richard Gere): “You don’t want to die! You want to live!
Charlotte (Winona Ryder): “You don’t think I’ve been through this so many times? I don’t want to give people hope when there isn’t any!”
Will: “Why not? Maybe we need hope.”

Oh right, Will — because your need for a little “hope” is more important than Charlotte coming to terms with the fact that she’s fucking dying. And because you’re an aging playboy who finally — at age, what, sixty-something? — fell in love (with someone three decades younger), she’s supposed to pretend she’ll get better just to celebrate the fact that you love her, you really luuuurrrve her? Try picking on someone your own age next time.

9. FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994)

Carrie (Andie MacDowell): “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.”

Oh come on. How about if we punched you in the face for saying that? Do you think you’d notice that? Also, any movie that has Hugh Grant choose Andie MacDowell over Kristin Scott Thomas is just plain wrong.

8. SERENDIPITY (2001)

Sara (Kate Beckinsale): “You don’t have to understand. You just have to have faith.”
Jonathan (John Cusack): “Faith in what?”
Sara: “Destiny.”

First of all, this is the most ridiculous plot line we’ve ever heard of — you meet the guy of your dreams and you decide to intentionally lose his number and hope that fate or faith or destiny or some shmaltzy Hollywood screenwriter will deign to bring you back together. And second: we’re pretty sure that not even Meryl Streep could pull off this line… and yet they hired Kate Beckinsale.

7. NOTTING HILL (1999)

Anna Scott (Julia Roberts): “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

Oh, infantilism, it’s so charming! The only thing that could have made this line worse is if she’d decided to deliver it in baby talk. Oh, and also: you’re a freakin’ movie star! (Anna Scott the character, we mean.) You make millions of dollars. And yet you’re worried that this is a little intimidating to someone of the opposite sex — a little emasculating, even — and so you downplay it all and turn yourself into a giggling schoolgirl. Woman up!

6. HITCH (2005)

Hitch (Will Smith): “Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.”

in a tie with…

Hitch: “Any man, anytime, has the chance to sweep a woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom.”

Did this screenwriter actually go into a Hallmark store and steal lines from fridge magnets and novelty kitchen aprons? Read the rest of this entry »



Top 10 Directors Not Afraid of Nudity

November 26, 2012

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If you spend a lot of time analyzing movie sex scenes like we do, you might find yourself rolling your eyes at how many on-screen couples manage to have sex without ever showing any skin…or who fall asleep with a sheet covering them just so…or who always put on a shirt and underpants when they get out of bed to pee, no matter how raunchy things just got. Where’s the nudity? Where’s the raunch?

And even when there is nudity, it isn’t always what it seems: It’s not uncommon these days for actresses to wear band-aids over their nipples during shooting, and then nipples are added later, in CGI (with the actresses’ full permission). We’re not sure what this accomplishes, exactly — except put a bunch of body doubles out of work.

Fortunately, there are still some directors around who are very, shall we say, comfortable with on-screen nudity. And we mean the real kind — not the CGI kind. Only after we finished this top 10 list did we realize it was entirely male, which we suppose shouldn’t surprise us — after all, most of the nudity is female. But we dug up male nudity — or, at least, equal-opportunity nudity — where we could. You’re welcome!

10. Lars Von Trier
Is there anything Lars Von Trier is afraid of when it comes to movie-making? (Except perhaps slapstick humor — we can’t quite see him going with a banana peel gag.) This Danish filmmaker makes very smart films, which might make you feel like less of a perv about all the nudity if the works weren’t also extremely disturbing. He is one of the founders of the purist avant-garde film movement Dogme 95, which shuns special effects and other Hollywood gimmicks — which is perhaps why he’s known for showing unsimulated sex in his films like THE IDIOTS (1998) and ANTI-CHRIST (2009), as well as full-frontal nudity of both the male and female variety. Oh, and his company, Zentropa, also produces hardcore pornography. Who doesn’t have a hardcore porn-producing hobby these days?

9. Judd Apatow
Judd Apatow was so annoyed at a test audience’s squeamish response to a penis in WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007) –which he wrote and produced — that he announced, “I’m gonna get a penis or a vagina in every movie I do from now on. … It really makes me laugh in this day and age, with how psychotic our world is, that anyone is troubled by seeing any part of the human body.” That might explain the closing-credits penis montage in SUPERBAD (2007), which Apatow produced. “America fears the penis,” he said. “And that’s something I’m going to help them get over.” The offending schlong in WALK HARD — which appears behind John C. Reilly’s head in an orgy scene — made the cut, though from a different angle than the original, to reduce the delicate audience’s exposure to too much ballsac. Apatow also produced FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008), which features Jason Segel’s awesome nude breakup scene.

8. Adrian Lyne
Adrian Lyne’s movies are pretty much synonymous with dark sex — think, 9 ½ WEEKS (1986), INDECENT PROPOSAL (1993), FATAL ATTRACTION (1987), LOLITA (1997), and UNFAITHFUL (2002). But on the set, while shooting nude scenes, Lyne claims the atmosphere is much lighter. He says he sets the mood by acting like a “demented cheerleader,” shouting encouragement like, “Good, good, good. Give me a little more of that. Show me your beast. Water, water! Great!” He’ll even pop a bottle of bubbly to help his actors relax, like when shooting that kitchen sink scene between Glenn Close and Michael Douglas in FATAL ATTRACTION. Directing this sort of thing, he says, is like a “bizarre kind of menage a trois” with the actors.

7. John Waters
Like Lars Von Trier, John Waters is a fan of equal-opportunity, full-frontal nudity and unsimulated sex scenes — but only Waters includes real live chickens between his actors’ bodies while they do it (that was 1972’s PINK FLAMINGOS). And while we find it hard to defend his infamous dog poop scene, we will say that most of his nudity makes a point — his life’s work examines sexuality, homosexuality, and gender issues.

PINK FLAMINGOS was part of a trio that Waters labeled the TRASH TRILOGY, along with FEMALE TROUBLE (1974) and DESPERATE LIVING (1977). These early films are the filthiest and starred his personal troupe of actors known as the Dreamlanders, including Divine and Mink Stole (with names like that, you could hardly expect them to keep their clothes on); he’s also a fan of casting pornstars.

Until THE WIRE came along, John Waters was pretty much the only reason most Americans ever thought about Baltimore.

6. Steven Soderbergh
So there’s no dog poop in Soderbergh’s films, and you probably won’t find any snuffed chickens, either. This director manages to be incredibly racy (e.g. SEX, LIES, and VIDEOTAPE, 1989) while maintaining his mainstream Hollywood status with movies likes CONTAGION, ERIN BROCKOVICH, and the OCEAN’S ELEVEN franchise. You’d think that to achieve this, you’d have to focus exclusively on female nudity — but he just proved this theory wrong with MAGIC MIKE (2012). Okay, sure, there was plenty of female nudity in there, too, but we’ll take it.

In 2009’s THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, about a Manhattan call girl, Soderbergh tried — unsuccessfully, in our opinion — to prove that pornstar Sasha Grey could actually act. But with that film he did manage to make one of the raciest R-rated movies we’ve ever seen.

His position on this list was almost rescinded for calling his 2002 movie with Julia Roberts and Blaire Underwood “Full Frontal” when it didn’t contain any nudity, let alone full-frontal nudity.

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Top 10 Films That Represent the War on Women

November 16, 2012

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While the topic of women’s rights doesn’t have the box office draw of a bunch of dudes getting wasted at a bachelor party, say, or a bride-to-be getting diarrhea in the middle of the street, there are many excellent movies that cover various aspects of the War on Women (either directly or metaphorically)—workplace discrimination, violence against women, restricted access to abortion, sexual harassment, and all that fun stuff. So when you make a bag of popcorn for one of these movies, not only will you be entertained, you’ll also be spending some quality time thinking about women’s rights. In other words, you can feel virtuous about that time on the couch. You’re welcome!

10. WORKING GIRL (1988)
What was it about the eighties? Sure, we enjoyed ERIN BROCKOVICH kicking ass in a push-up bra in 2000 (especially the “634 sexual favors” scene), and pretty-in-pink Reese Witherspoon certainly put a few sexist lawyers in their place in 2000’s LEGALLY BLONDE. But for a comedy about women not being taken seriously in the workplace—whether it’s due to their looks, their background, their catty and competitive female boss, etc.—you can’t beat WORKING GIRL, with Melanie Griffith riding the Staten Island ferry to the tune of Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run.” The film almost (almost) convinced us that actress Melanie Griffith is just pretending to be a total airhead. Of course, this being the eighties, the kick-ass heroine spends a remarkable amount of time in her skivvies, and says things like, “I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?” Okay, Jessica Rabbit. Still, we are forever indebted to this film for reminding men everywhere that itchy scratchy “sexy” lingerie is not at the top of most women’s birthday wish lists.

9. ANTICHRIST (2009)
In the world of director Lars Von Trier, the battle of the sexes is a literal one—gory, violent, and almost unbearable to watch. ANTICHRIST was a polarizing film: some viewers found it unforgivably misogynistic, while others found it a gorgeous meditation on guilt, grief, and sex—and the intertwining of the three. It’s an arthouse horror film, which means you get smashed testicles (Willem Defoe’s) and a self-butchered clitoris (Charlotte Gainsbourg’s), and yet the violence is meant to serve a higher purpose: demonstrating the meaningless of everything. Or maybe it’s a lesson in just desserts for a man who is obnoxiously sure he knows what’s best for his little wife. Either way, Von Trier’s message is clear: the battle of the sexes will not end well for anyone. In case you need another reminder—less bloody, but emotionally, just as gory—may we suggest IN THE COMPANY OF MEN (1997). ANTICHRIST airs Friday November 16th at 12 am on the Sundance Channel.

8. THE ACCUSED (1988)
THE ACCUSED did more to undermine the “she was asking for it” bullshit rape “defense” than any other movie to date. In it, Jodie Foster (who won the Best Actress Oscar that year) plays Sarah Tobias, a poor, uneducated woman who goes to a bar in a mini skirt, gets high, and then gets gang-raped, while a bunch of other men cheer on the attack. If you came of age around the time this movie was released, as we did, you probably still get chills remembering it. (Which is probably why the 2007 movie THE BRAVE ONE got made. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but how awesome was it watching Jodie Foster grab a gun to avenge her own sexual assault and the murder of her husband? Pretty awesome, if you ask us.) THE ACCUSED is the ne plus ultra of rape movies; other titles lean more toward the rape-and-revenge genre—so satisfying to watch, even if feminist critics are divided on the topic. Some of our favorites in this area are THELMA AND LOUISE (1991), THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011), IRREVERSIBLE (2002), RAPE ME (2000), EXTREMITIES (1986), and SUDDEN IMPACT (1983), the Dirty Harry film that spawned the catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day.”

7. BLUE VELVET (1986)
Is Isabella Rossellini, as nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens, a femme fatale, a damsel in distress, a symbol of domestic violence, or the Oedipal mother every son secretly wants to fuck? And does Kyle MacLachlan, as college student Jeffrey, want to save Dorothy or fuck her or hit her or be mothered by her—or all of the above? It depends on which critic you ask. Suffice it say, this role conveys the incredibly complicated relationship Hollywood (and beyond) has with female sexuality. In the end, Jeffrey falls for sweet-faced Sandy (Laura Dern), who dreams about robins as a sign of hope. Which certainly didn’t earn David Lynch any Feminist of the Year awards. Still, it’s hard to blame someone for choosing robins after they’ve lived in Lynch’s world for a while.

6. THE BURNING BED (1984)
Sometimes the war on women is perpetrated by an army of one, a person who is supposed to love and honor his wife/girlfriend. Recent statistics suggest that one in four women has experienced domestic violence and that between one and three million women experience abuse by a former or current partner every year. Which makes this 1984 made-for-tv movie — starring Farrah Fawcett and based on a 1980 non-fiction book — still depressingly relevant. It tells the story of the thirteen years of brutal abuse Francine Hughes suffered at the hands of her husband before she set fire to their house, killed him and was ultimately found not guilty for it by reason of temporary insanity. It’s one of the most realistic and therefore chilling portrayals of domestic violence made for the screen, small or big. For better or worse, Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of domestic violence storylines. To list just a few: WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT, ONCE WERE WARRIORS, BOYS ON THE SIDE, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, THE COLOR PURPLE, ENOUGH, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, KINDERGARTEN COP (seriously!), RAGING BULL, THIS BOY’S LIFE, WHERE THE HEART IS… Man, we’re depressed just reciting that list.

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Rosemary’s Baby Could Have Been Made in 2012

November 2, 2012

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ROSEMARY’S BABY is part of Sundance Channel’s SCARY POLITICS series — it airs on Election Day, November 6th, at 9PM, at which point we’ll know if progressive values prevailed or if Satan won.

You hear a lot these days about Republicans rolling back women’s rights all the way to the ’50s and ’60s: vowing to defund Planned Parenthood; to allow employers to decide whether or not their female employees can have their contraception covered; to put the rights of an embryo above those of a woman via the Personhood Amendment; to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, and threats to not only the health but the life of the mother. They won’t even commit to laws ensuring equal pay for women doing the same work as men!

Take the viral video recently making the rounds, featuring the classic women’s lib anthem from 1964, “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore. After a variety of women (some famous, some not) lip sync all the lyrics (“Don’t tell me what to do…I love to be free to live my life the way that I want”), Gore says to the camera, “It’s hard for me to believe, but we’re still fighting for the same things we were [in the 60s]. Yes ladies, we’ve got to come together, get out there and vote, and protect our bodies. They’re ours. Please vote.”

Another piece of ’60s pop culture that’s scarily relevant to today’s political landscape is a film now airing on the Sundance Channel: the 1968 classic horror film ROSEMARY’S BABY, based on the bestselling 1967 novel of the same name, which tells the tale of a young woman who’s tricked into conceiving the Devil’s spawn in late 1965. (The baby’s due in June of the next year, get it? Born 6/66!) “You Don’t Own Me” could have been its theme song.

The film is directed by Roman Polanski, who isn’t exactly the poster boy for the feminist freedom fight against injustice (he’s still wanted in the U.S. for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl when he was 43, back in 1978). And yet ROSEMARY’S BABY is a perfect expression of the growing feminist movement of the ’60s: it captures the tension between the old-school traditions of a patriarchy built on female subjugation and the new-found power and will of the modern woman who is curious, smart, and fiercely independent.

At the start of the film, Rosemary Woodhouse is actually pretty old-school herself: a naive, Catholic, country girl who’s now a homemaker in the big city, married to a D-list actor whom she dotes on. He walks in the door, and she’s got a sandwich ready for him. But when he and his newfound besties, a geriatric couple who live next door, start controlling her every move, including every aspect of her pregnancy, she starts getting suspicious — and starts fighting back.

The craziest thing about this movie — besides the Satanic orgy with all the naked AARP members — is how many scenes call to mind topical political issues of today:

Read the rest of this post on the SUNDANCE CHANNEL blog.

 



Top 10 Sexual Extremes in Film

October 19, 2012

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This list originally ran here on the SUNDANCE CHANNEL.

Some things to keep in mind about our list: To make the cut, the films actually had to have some redeeming qualities (so, sorry BOXING HELENA and HUMAN CENTIPEDE!). We tried to pick films that represented ten different extremes — after all, variety is the spice of (sex) life! And while some of the “extremes” in this list are indeed criminal, others are simply lifestyle choices — and in no way do we mean to impugn the latter by including alongside the former.

Have fun walking on (the cliff edge of) the wild side!

 

10. 
BELLE DE JOUR (1967)

Catherine Deneuve, fabulously dressed in outfits designed by the then-little-known Yves St. Laurent, stars as an upper-class, Parisian housewife who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband when he comes home at night — but fucking strangers for money at the local brothel in the afternoons seems to be no problem. (“Belle de jour” is the French term for a day lily, which only blooms during the day.) Some might think the story was boundary-pushing for its time, but get this: it’s based on a novel published in 1928! Directed by Luis Bunuel, promoted by Martin Scorsese for its 2002 DVD-release, and ranked #56 in Empire magazine’s list The 100 Best Films of World Cinema.

Runner Up in the Prostitution Category: VIVRE SA VIE

 

9.
BREAKING THE WAVES (1996)

Non-monogamy often gets a bad wrap, and BREAKING THE WAVES doesn’t exactly reverse that trend. When a Norwegian oil-rig worker breaks his neck and loses his ability to perform sexually, he encourages his simple-minded wife to take new lovers and report back about her escapades. As her affairs grow more deviant and his recovery improves, she mistakes correlation for causation. Needless to say about a Lars von Trier film, it does not end well. Called one of the 10 best films of the 1990s by both Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese.

Runners Up in the Polyamory Category: BELLE EPOQUE, UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, HENRY & JUNE

 

8.
SICK: THE LIFE & DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST (1997)

This is probably the least Sundance-y inclusion on our list (thanks to the nail-in-the-penis footage), and yet it was indeed a Sundance Film Festival documentary.  In fact, it won a Special Jury Prize. SICK details Flanagan’s use of masochism not only for sexual gratification, but for regaining some control over his body, which was ravaged — and ultimately defeated by — by cystic fibrosis.

Runner Up in the Masochism Category: THE PIANO TEACHER

 

7. 
CRASH (1996)

Not to be confused with the 2004 Academy Award winner for best picture about race relations in L.A. No, this 90s movie — based J. G. Ballards’s 1973 novel of the same name, directed by David Cronenberg and starring James Spader and Holly Hunter — is all about symphorophilia: sexual arousal from staging and watching a disaster. In this case: car crashes. It received crazy mixed reviews: Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars; we gave it a big goose egg for making soda come out our noses during the ridiculous sex scenes. Still, it won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes that year. Go figure.

Runner Up in the Paraphilia Category: Pixar’s CARS (just kidding)

 

6.
SPANKING THE MONKEY (1994)

This is probably the closet thing you’ll ever get to a lighthearted film about incest, except for maybe THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE (but with that, the incest was just a side plot, so it doesn’t count). Still, SPANKING is pretty dark — which is to be expected when your main character ends up in a sexual relationship he’s not happy about with his own mother (we mean, if he were happy about it, that’d be a whole ‘nother story). It won the Audience Award at Sundance and the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

Runners Up in the Incest Category: THE WAR ZONE and THE HOUSE OF YES

 

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This I Believe: Slow Kisses, High Fiber, Soft-Core Porn, Baseball

October 9, 2012

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Bull Durham (1988)

We were listening to the “This I Believe“ show on our local public radio station a few days ago — “This I Believe” is an international organization that gets people to discuss their core values, and is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name, hosted by Edward R. Murrow. They have over 100,000 essays archived on the site and new episodes appear via public radio or podcast every week. Occasionally the essays are inspiring, but they can be a little insipid, too — and we were reminded of two of the best — though unofficial — I Believe speeches in the history of movies… both in Bull Durham, the 1988 baseball movie starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. We only wish this kind of I Believe moment would occur on public radio every now and then.

Susan Sarandon plays Annie, a Minor League baseball groupie who chooses one player a season to have an affair with; in the movie, she has to decide between rookie pitcher Ebby (Tim Robbins, hilarious as a himbo) and Crash, the veteran catcher assigned to him (Kevin Costner). She’s got her own internal moral code for her sex life (e.g. she tells Crash, “Despite my rejection of most Judeo-Christian ethics, I am, within the framework of the baseball season, monogamous”) and this is how she describes her beliefs:

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring… which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250… not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. ‘Course, a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. ‘Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ‘em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.”

Later, she asks Crash what he believes in, and this is how he responds. It’s almost — almost — enough to make us like the word “pussy”:

“Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”

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Top 10 Pop-Culture Gender-Benders

October 5, 2012

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We’re not going to focus on the negative portrayals of transsexuality, like in PSYCHO and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and last year’s thankfully cancelled WORK IT television sitcom. And we’re not focusing on the history of transitioning stories that takes us all the way back to the 1930s when an intersexed, Bohemia-born Zdenka Koubkova went from female running/jumping champion to male cabaret performer. Nor are we going to look at transgender issues in the news, like when the Girls Scouts of Colorado let their first transgender girl into the organization last year or when, two years ago, a federal court ruled in favor of a woman who was fired from her job after coming out as trangender. Nope. We’re simply looking at the top ten positively positive, purely pop-culture gender-bending movies, moments and movers & shakers of the past few decades:

10. “Lola” by the Kinks
Considered one of “the greatest 500 songs of all time” by Rolling Stone magazine, 1970′s ”Lola” dealt with a straight man falling for a transgendered woman without jokes or judgment: “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls / It’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world except for Lola / Lo-lo-lo-lo-Lola.”

9. RuPaul 
Perhaps it was RuPaul’s loveableness that made 1990s America embrace him with both arms. There’s a seamlessness, a naturalness to his drag-queenness that has kept him in the pop culture limelight for twenty-years, with five albums, two hosted TV shows, countless movie and TV appearances, and even a MAC modeling contract under his bedazzled belt.

And he didn’t care if you referred to him as he or she. As he wrote in his autobiography: ”You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don’t care! Just as long as you call me.”

Runner-up: Amanda Lepore.

8. The movie “Boys Don’t Cry”
There are a ton of decent movies which involve issues of transsexuality — probably a lot more than you think, but frankly still not enough. Many of them involve men in drag and focus on the straight characters’ points of view, which unfortunately keeps the transgendered person squarely in the detached and alienated category of “other.”One of the most successful, almost mainstream movies to really get inside the head (and body) of its transgendered character was 1999′s BOYS DON’T CRY, based on the real life of Brandon Teena, an intersexed teen who identified and lived as a man until he was beaten, raped and killed by male acquaintances after they learned of Teena’s female anatomy. The film got critical acclaim, won 43 awards (including Oscar’s Best Actress for Hilary Swank’s portrayal of Teena), and was nominated for 27 others (including Oscar’s Best Supporting Actress for Choe Sevigny’s portrayal of Teena’s girlfriend).

By telling a heartfelt star-crossed love story that people related to on a human level, it made a convincing case for wider acceptance and tolerance of sexual diversity — in an intimate way no film had before.

Runner-up: The Crying Game (stay tuned for our Top 10 list of Transgender Films)

7. Ellen DeGeneres 
It’s not just that she’s a successful lesbian celebrity. It’s that she’s America’s sweetheart and she runs a media empire that almost rivals Oprah and she’s legally married to a typically femininely gorgeous Hollywood actress and she dresses in androgynous clothing with extremely sensible shoes (this last point being the most significant and impressive).

6. Buck Angel 
You know a cultural issue has become accepted and mainstream (or at least is on its way to becoming accepted and mainstream) when it gets its own successful porn star. Buck Angel, a.k.a. “The Man with the Pussy,” is a transsexual adult film producer and performer, the only FTM one who’s ever won AVN’s Transsexual Performer of the Year Award.

5. Gender-bending super models 
Maybe it was inevitable that the fashion industry would be a safe haven for gender-benders, since 90-pound female models are inescapably androgynous (look ma, no boobs!) Recent and notable models include the androgynous Andrej Pejic, the transexual Lea T, and the lesbian Jenny Shimizu (who’s had relationships with Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Ione Skye) — all of whom appeared in the fabulous gender-bending promo for last year’s “Fashion Forward” fundraiser for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.  As RuPaul would say, they workit.

Read items 4 through 1 on The Sundance Channel



Top 10 Secretly Feminist Movies

September 28, 2012

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No filmmaker in their right mind would advertise the fact that their film has feminist ambitions — we’re pretty sure that’s box office suicide (sad, but true). Despite that, some films have pretty obvious feminist heroes — think Thelma and Louise, G.I. Jane., Jodie Foster’s character in THE ACCUSED, and Erin Brockovich. And then there are the stealth feminist films — movies that advance the feminist cause without anyone driving off a cliff or shaving their head or fighting against rape or giving an Oscar-winning, stick-it-to-the-man performance. These movies take feminism for granted and act like it’s no big deal — in fact, they’re so stealth that sometimes maybe even the filmmakers and stars didn’t know what was going on. Here are ten of our favorites (we didn’t include BRIDESMAIDS, by the way; while we loved the movie, producer Judd Apatow insisting on a big group diarrhea scene automatically disqualified it):

10. UP IN THE AIR (2009)
If you haven’t seen UP IN THE AIR, please go watch it right now and then return to this list, because its designation as a secret feminist movie doesn’t make sense until the last five minutes. Okay. Now that we’re all on the same page — PLOT SPOILER ALERT! —  Alex (Vera Farmiga) tells no-strings-attached frequent flyer Ryan (George Clooney) that she’s basically the female version of him. “I am the woman that you don’t have to worry about,” she says. His response? “Sounds like a trap.” And the gut-wrenching ending of this movie only happens because Ryan, and the viewers along with him, don’t believe Alex. Because she’s a woman. So she can’t fuck like a man, right? Turns out she can fuck way, way worse than a man. Not that cold-hearted marital cheating is a feminist value. It’s just that this movie forces us to face our own acceptance, however subconscious, of widespread gender stereotypes: all men want sex and all women want love; men cheat, women don’t.

9. CATWOMAN (2004)
Terrible movie. We’ll say it again: terrible, terrible movie. (So bad that we won’t even bother warning you about any plot spoilers.)  But we love that the villain (Sharon Stone) is part of a cosmetics company with a new beauty product “guaranteed” to reverse the effects of aging (the cream actually has monstrous side effects). Catwoman’s self-appointed mission is to bring this villain down — though ultimately, the villain is undone by her own vanity, when she is distracted by a glimpse of her imperfect reflection in a window and plummets to her death. (Let’s just pretend we don’t know that Halle Berry is a celebrity endorser for Revlon.)

8. BILLY ELLIOT (2000)
Because eleven-year-old boys can be feminists, too. This feel-good movie set in a small, working-class, Northern England mining town during the 1984 Miner’s Strike follows Billy’s journey from boxing ring to all-girl ballet class to the Royal Ballet — much to the chagrin of his macho dad and older brother — ultimately proving to them all that dancing is not just a girl-thing or a gay-thing.

7. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999)
Loser puppeteer Craig (John Cusack, sans eighties boombox) tries to cheat on his wife Lotte (a dowdified Cameron Diaz) with Maxine Lund (Catherine Keener), but Maxine gives him the Heisman. Then Lotte ends up falling in love with Maxine — and Maxine falls in love back, but only when Lotte is inside John Malkovich’s body. You know, just your typical chick flick plot. All the men are trying to cheat on something — their spouse, death, whatever. But the two women — SPOILER ALERT! — decide to leave all those cheatin’ male hearts behind and start over together. The ultimate feminist fuck-you twist? Maxine got knocked up by Malkovich while he was possessed by Lotte, so the two ladies kinda made a baby together too.

6. THE PIANO (1993)
Some people think that this is an old school bodice ripper masquerading as a Serious Feminist Work (in part because of that scene with the stocking and Harvey Keitel’s finger, implying that all she really needed was a good ravishing). Others think of Holly Hunter’s Ada as the ultimate feminist icon: she literally has no voice (in fact, it seems she chooses to have no voice) and is sold off to a man — and yet she is as strong-willed and expressive as any female character on screen.

5. LEGALLY BLONDE (2001)
You could argue that sorority queen Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is more of a post-feminist icon, what with her pink girlishness and her passion for shopping. And then there’s the distinctly un-feminist moment when Elle follows her boyfriend to Harvard Law School to try and win him back. Despite all that, we’re going to claim her for Team F. This film manages to make jokes about shoes and generic toilet paper (so scratchy!) while simultaneously examining sexual harassment, female body image, and that dumb blonde stereotype. Also, lawyer Elle makes the following argument: “For that matter, any masturbatory emissions, where the sperm is clearly not seeking an egg, could be termed reckless abandonment.” Swoon.

4. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992)
Almost ten years before Elle Woods, there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And no, we’re talking about the intense television mega-hit but the hilarious little low-budge flick that took itself a lot less seriously. With a much more Valley Buffy obsessed with shopping and cheerleading, the movie gave us great lines like “Get out of my facial!” and “That’s so five minutes ago!” The giveaway that this was much more than a silly action comic and actually a radically feminist project comes at the end: after Buffy saves her town and basically the world from a vampire invasion, her outsider bad-boy love interest played by 90210 alum Luke Perry says to her, “You’re not like other girls,” to which Buffy replies earnestly (for once), “Yes, I am.” Ladies kick ass!

3. SECRETARY (2002)
On the surface, SECRETARY’s story could be interpreted as a traditional fairy tale in which a poor damsel in distress (a depressed cutter played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) needs to be saved and taken care of and provided for and told what to do by a male hero who’s totally in control (a boss with a BDSM streak played by James Spader). But look closely, and you’ll realize that (at least for the second half of the movie) this is a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it, conventions and social norms be damned. The last shot of the movie has Gyllenhaal, now a domestic goddess, placing a gross dead bug in their pristine, neatly made marital bed in their perfectly organized, beautifully decorated, sparkling house while now-hubby is off at work — and then she looks knowingly at the camera, directly at us. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

2. BULL DURHAM (1988)
Susan Sarandon plays Annie, a Minor League baseball groupie who chooses one player a season to have an affair with. Okay, so far, so simpering. But Annie makes her own damn rules and she sticks to them. When Annie is trying to decide between rookie pitcher Ebby (Tim Robbins, hilarious as a himbo) and Crash, the veteran catcher assigned to him (Kevin Costner, who almost – almost – makes us like the word “pussy” when he uses it in his “I believe” speech), she says to them, “These are the ground rules. I hook up with one guy a season. Usually takes me a couple weeks to pick the guy — kinda my own spring training. And, well, you two are the most promising prospects of the season so far, so I just thought we should kinda get to know each other.” Later, after she’s picked Ebby — she decides to educate him via light bondage and poetry readings — and Crash continues to hit on her, she tells Crash, “Despite my rejection of most Judeo-Christian ethics, I am, within the framework of the baseball season, monogamous.” She’s got her own internal moral code for her sex life and when she decides to finally settle down, it’s on her own terms and in her own time.

1. HEATHERS (1988)
What’s not to love about this movie? Winona Ryder’s character, Veronica, starts off in the popular girls’ clique (whose other three members all happened to be named Heather) and then decides to reject everything that her peers tell her about how a girl should be. This rejection happens to correspond with her new boyfriend – the awesomely sociopathic Christian Slater – dispatching some of those ex-friends pretty literally. Though at first it might seem like she’s going along with it all for a guy, in the end she just lights a cigarette and lets him burn, saving the entire school in the process. In the last scene, Veronica takes the remaining reigning Heather’s crown from her head — a red scrunchie — and declares “there’s a new sherriff in town,” signifying a new era of respect, kindness, and friendship among her fellow students, especially among girls.

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This list originally appeared on SundanceChannel.com



Top 10 Funniest Sex Scenes of All Time

September 11, 2012

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Funny sex scenes — at least, those that are meant to make you laugh — are often our favorite kind. Ironically, they tend to portray much more realistic on-screen sex than their serious, sultry counterparts. In funny sex scenes, you get weirdness, kink, awkwardness, jealousy, fantasy — oh yeah, and condoms. For some reason, the only time you see latex on screen is when the sex is supposed to be funny. Below are ten of our favorite funny sex scenes — though not all of them were initially intended to be funny (we’re looking at you, Clive Owen). By the way, if you’re wondering where AMERICAN PIE and PORKY’S are: we took the liberty of limiting this list to scenes that made us laugh. And we’re not — nor have we ever been — fourteen-year-old boys.

10. THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983)
The Brits may not excel at Olympic opening ceremonies, but they sure do excel at making sex funny. This Monty Python film features the weirdest sex-ed lesson in the history of cinema — but actually, it’s a lot more helpful than most real-life sex ed these days.

A Catholic school teacher, played by John Cleese, asks his male students how to get the “vaginal juices” flowing. “Rubbing the clitoris, sir?” asks one boy. Cleese responds, “What’s wrong with a kiss, boy? Hmm? Why not start her off with a nice kiss? You don’t have to go leaping straight for the clitoris like a bull at a gate.” He discusses other methods, from stroking thighs to nibbling earlobes. In case of performance anxiety, he suggests: “Tonguing will give you the best idea of how the juices are coming along.”

But it’s when Cleese pulls down a four-poster murphy bed from his classroom wall that things get really weird: he proceeds to have matter-of-fact intercourse with his wife in front of the students to demonstrate how things work, while simultaneously reprimanding the students for not paying attention or passing notes. Only Cleese could seem so earnest and likeable in this position.

9. BANANAS (1971)
No one does awkward, neurotic sex quite like Woody Allen, and the results are usually hilarious. Which is fortunate, because we don’t think we could stomach Allen in a straight-up sex scene. It’s hard to pick just one, but a favorite of ours is when Howard Cosell joins a newlywed couple in their hotel room — complete with cheering crowd — to give a live, on-the-spot telecast of their honeymoon night, a la ABC’s Wild World of Sports. It’s all done in the style of a boxing match, with a starting bell and Woody Allen making his entrance with a white towel around his neck. Cosell gives running commentary as the marriage is consummated under a shiny peach blanket, then climbs into bed with the couple for the post-coital interviews. Our favorite Cosell commentary? “He’s wearing a green corduroy suit.”

8. AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)
Funny sex isn’t limited to comedies — take the macabre movie AMERICAN PSYCHO. Christian Bale, as Patrick Bateman, hosts two prostitutes and explains to them the genius of Phil Collins. “I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, rather than as a solo artist,” he tells them, and the tone of his voice lets them know they shouldn’t even think about disagreeing. “And I stress the word artist. This is ‘Sussudio.’ Great great song.” Bale then proceeds to have sex with the two women —  to ‘Sussudio’! — while vamping in the mirror: he points at himself, winks, flexes his muscles, and runs his hand through his hair like Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey. It’s not exactly slapstick, but the dark humor is a welcome relief in this bleak tale.

7. SHOOT ‘EM UP (2007)
Funny sex isn’t always intentional. At least, we’re assuming we weren’t meant to laugh when Clive Owen is interrupted, mid-sex with Monica Belluci, by a gang of men with guns and never once removes his penis from her vagina, despite dodging bullets and slaying multiple attackers. He rolls off the bed, spins across the floor, bounces off objects, and, for the finale, pushes Belluci against the wall for her orgasmic climax. She has her eyes closed the entire time and it’s unclear whether she’s clueless about all the gunshots or simply turned on by them. Either way, she gets her happy finish. We know: it sure sounds like a joke, but we think it was meant simply to be hot and action-packed. Perhaps the filmmakers knew that the hormone-addled guys in the audience would just go with it — this is Monica Belluci we’re talking about, after all.

6. THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD (1988)
We love ourselves a little latex humor! (And why is it only in comedies that characters talk about safe sex? Remember KNOCKED UP?) Leslie Nielsen, as Frank Drebin, a supercop on a moral high horse (except for the kinky sex toys he buys), is about to get naked with Priscilla Presley, and she tells him, all breathy and bedroom-voiced, “I want you to know, I practice safe sex.” He responds, all studly-voiced and meaningful eye contact, “So do I.” White sheer curtains blow in a gentle breeze in the softly lit room — cut to the couple, each clad in a full body condom (complete with over-sized packaging on the nightstand). The sound of rubber on rubber as they leap onto the bed together probably turned on more than a few fetishists across the country.

5. A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988)
Remember how we said that filmmakers often feel freer to get kinky when the sex is being played for comedic value? Enter Jamie Lee Curtis’s Wanda — a cross-dresser with a serious foreign language fetish — and her boyfriend Otto, played by Kevin Kline. Otto seduces Wanda with a string of Italian words and songs, including, as he places her black lace stocking over his face, a cry of “Benito Mussolini!” He takes breaks to sniff his own armpits, then breathes in the scent of one of her knee-high boots, before inflating it to imitate an elephant, and then beating himself with it. No wonder Kline won the Oscar for this movie — his O-face alone is worth a golden statue.

4. EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX *BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK (1972)
Like we said, Woody Allen is a comic sex genius — we can’t even pick just one film of his, let alone one scene (and even though Allen’s got two slots on this list already, his movie SLEEPER really belongs, too, for the scene when he gets stuck alone in the orgasmatron).

Pretty much any scene from EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW movie would qualify (hello, sheep bestiality!), but we’re going with Woody-Allen-as-bespectacled-sperm. It’s not exactly erotic, but there’s something kind of endearing about the immense group effort that goes on inside the guy as he segues from dinner date to intercourse. And Allen is hilarious as a neurotic sperm who fears he may be headed for a pointless end in a condom or worse. “What if he’s masturbating, I might wind up on the ceiling. What if it’s a homosexual encounter?” Our favorite moment, though, is when a priest is dragged into mission control during a flagging erection crisis and accused of “tampering with the machinery in the cerebral cortex, turning up the guilt reflex.”

3. OFFICE SPACE (1999)
Oh Bill Lumbergh, how we love you and your TPS reports. We’re going to have go ahead and say that our favorite Lumbergh moment is when Peter (Ron Livingston) has a nightmare about Lumbergh (Gary Cole) having sex with Peter’s girlfriend. Mmm-kay? Nightmare-Lumbergh is oiled up, mid-coitus, and says, “You can just go ahead and move a little bit to the left.” He stops to take a sip from his coffee mug and adds, “Yeah, that’s it.”

Runner-up worst-nightmare sex:  John Cusack, in HIGH FIDELITY (2000), imagines his ex-girlfriend having ecstatic sex with his long-haired hippie upstairs neighbor (Tim Robbins). Cusack’s voice-over: “No one in the history of the world is having better sex than the sex you are having with Ian… in my head.” Meanwhile, Nightmare-Robbins licks the woman’s neck, bears his teeth in a raunchy grimace, and spreads his arms wide to shimmy.

2. TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2004)
Oh man, we just looked up this scene to refresh our memory, and happened upon the original, uncensored, two-minute long version of the puppet sex scene in this movie. There’s puppet poop play! Puppet watersports! (And we’re not talking windsurfing.) Puppet salad-tossing! But even the much cleaner final cut that made it into the movie — less than a minute long — is simultaneously hilarious and wrong. Some of the sex positions are not humanly possible — and even if they were, you could never show them in an R-rated movie. We love the swift transition from candle-lit chest-stroking and sensually intertwined legs to hardcore doggy-style fucking — all to the tune of a romantic power ballad. Pretty impressive for a plastic doll with no penis.

1. SKIN DEEP (1989)
More latex humor! In this classic scene, a philandering woman offers her lover (John Ritter) one of her partner’s condoms, and it turns out to be glow-in-the-dark blue. When Rick, the man of the house, returns, Ritter jumps into a closet, while Rick dons a red glow-in-the-dark condom as a sexy surprise… but the real surprise is when he finds Ritter in the closet. Man fighting ensues. Oh, did we mention that the lights are out for most of this scene? Which means that the entire thing plays out via two bobbing, erect, disembodied, condom-clad penises. Now that’s a sword fight.

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“For a Good Time Call…” Contest!

September 8, 2012

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***THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED***

We’re suckers for swag. And for sex-positive movies with strong, independent, female characters. So it was fortuitous when the people behind the new Focus Features movie “For a Good Time Call…” offered to give our readers the chance to win the following prize package:

  • $100 Visa gift card to have a Good Time at the movies!
  • “For a Good Time Call…” T-Shirt
  • Nail Polish Set
  • Cell Phone Cover w/ microfiber cloth
  • Retro Phone Handset with cord

All you have to do is follow us on Twitter (@emandlo) between now and EOD EST next Thursday, Sept 13th and you’ll automatically be entered for the random drawing on Friday, the 14th. If you’re already following us, then get a few friends to follow us and if they win, have them split the prizes with you — including taking you to see this movie about two polar opposites who find themselves sharing an apartment, launching a phone sex business and actually becoming friends.