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

October 9, 2012


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.”


Top 10 Pop-Culture Gender-Benders

October 5, 2012


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


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.

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.

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.

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.

MORE ON EMandLO.com:

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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



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.

Top 10 Reasons Why SECRETARY Is Better Than FIFTY SHADES

September 7, 2012


You’ve got to give the Fifty Shades of Grey books credit. The erotic trilogy by E.L. James has single-handedly made BDSM mainstream (now everyone knows what a safe word is), been a boon to the sex toy industry (hello, love beads!), and improved the sex lives of many a long-married couple (a chapter a day will keep the couple’s therapist away!). But that doesn’t mean the series is without its faults, or that there aren’t better depictions of BDSM relationships in popular culture — or at the very least, one better depiction. The 2002 indie film SECRETARY, a Sundance favorite, blows FIFTY out of the water, if you ask us. Here’s why.

Grey was here first. E. Edward Grey is the name of the dominant boss played by James Spader in SECRETARY. Almost ten years later, E.L. James names her dominant lover Christian Grey. Perhaps it was an homage.

It’s an award-winner. FIFTY may be a record breaker (it’s the fastest-selling paperback of all time) and a crazy money maker (E.L. James’s net worth is apparently a cool $15 mil), but it’s never going to win any literary awards. SECRETARY was nominated for a Golden Globe (best actress in a musical or comedy) and three Chlotrudis Awards (best actor, actress and adapted screenplay), among others; and it won an Independent Spirit Award (best first screenplay) and a Gotham Award (breakthrough performance, Maggie Gyllenhaal), among others.

More likable protagonist. With all her Oh my!s and the countless Holy shit!s and all the submitting to the whims of her controlling stalker boyfriend, Ana Steele can get a little cloying. Without any magical qualities (like a scent, only detectable to vampires, that makes them swoon), Ana just isn’t convincing as The One to turn a control freak (in and out of the bedroom) into the marrying kind overnight. Especially not with that unruly hair! The flaws of Lee Holloway, on the other hand, are not only believable, but relatable (to a certain extent), and make her a sympathetic character. Plus, it’s really hard not to like Maggie Gyllenhaal.

More believable love interest. A 27-year-old gazillionaire with impossible abs (and ne’er a single crunch to be found in all three books) and a million employees who has time to get both a sailing certification and a pilot’s license falls head-over-heels in love with a naive, dorky virgin utterly devoid of charm and can give her her first orgasm ever from nipple play alone??? Yeah right. Much more realistic is the socially awkward, emotionally sensitive Lee and her creepy-seeming and ultimately conflicted love interest — both of whom are pretty normal looking. Plus, this Grey actually does do sit-ups.

No gratuitous product placement. FIFTY SHADES is a marketing agent’s wet dream: Apple, Audi, Blackberry, Converse, Louboutins, Neiman Marcus, Twinings….we could go on (E.L. James sure does). It’s the most shameless thing about the books! (And these brand-names aren’t dropped in a knowing, ironic way, a la Bret East Ellis. Nope, just lazy writing. Either that or E.L. James figured that these brand names would be comforting and homely and relatable amidst all those butt plugs and spreader bars.) Admittedly, it’s been a while since we’ve watched SECRETARY (we’re catching up when it airs on Sundance all this month — click here for the schej), but the only brand we can recall is Cosmo magazine, and it’s referenced in a characteristically cheeky way.

More honorable origins. SECRETARY was based on a short story by literary power house Mary Gaitskill. FIFTY was based on online fan fiction, which was based on the Y.A. Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers.

Read the top 5 reasons why SECRETARY kicks FIFTY butt…

SECRETARY airs on the SUNDANCE Channel throughout Sept 2012 at the following times:

  • 8:00PM FRI, SEP 7
  • 1:45AM SAT, SEP 8
  • 8:00PM TUE, SEP 11
  • 1:20AM WED, SEP 12
  • 10:00PM SUN, SEP 30
  • 3:50AM MON, OCT 1

Top 10 Sexiest Foreign Films

September 4, 2012

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American exceptional-ism? Phooey! Countries across the pond have better food, more civilized health care, and way sexier films (what a buzzkill a Puritanical national origin can be). And our friends at the Sundance Channel aren’t afraid to embrace their frisky foreign friends: check out their line-up anytime, and chances are you’ll find a cool film with subtitles, bisexuality and equal opportunity nudity. Inspired by some of their recent indie imports, we’ve compiled a top 10 list of the sexiest foreign films. They’re not all necessarily erotic, with lots of skin. Nor are they all uplifting, life-affirming tales of carnal romance with happy endings. After all, we’re talking about European endeavors here. But they do focus on issues of sexuality and sensuality in artful ways — and that’s sexy.

Promoted as “A lovers story” on the poster, the movie is based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Milan Kundera. Tomas is a womanizing brain surgeon in Communist Czecholslovakia with a compulsion to see the unique individualism of every woman that’s visible only in her orgasm. Um, yeah, right. But the strength and independence of his longtime lover Sabina (Lena Olin) and his obvious tender affection for Tereza (Juliet Binoche) help make Daniel Day Lewis’s Tomas likeable. What Magritte did for the artistic appeal of the bowler hat, Olin does for its erotic potential.
SEX & LUCIA (2001)
We’ve long recommended Polaroids as a great way to take naked pictures of yourself and your luvva: no negatives or immediate digital files; a lack of crisp detail to hide imperfections, and an automatic retro artiness to them. So it was nice to see an example of just this in the Spanish erotic drama SEX & LUCIA starring Paz Vega. Is some of the nudity gratuitous? Perhaps. But what can we expect from a movie with the word “Sex” in the title?
How could we not include this film? It made the cut in our Top 10 Cinematic Love Triangles, and director Bernardo Bertolucci was number 4 in our Top 10 Directors Not Afraid of Nudes. He directed THE DREAMERS more than 30 years after his infamous LAST TANGO IN PARIS. Now some might say that earlier film should have made this here list of sexy imports, but in this day and age it comes across as more silly than sexy. (Maybe seeing Marlon Brando at 70 in that Larry King interview ruined it for us — those pants! Plus, we would never recommend butter as anal lube.) So we’re picking his 21st century take on an attractive and dairy-free (albeit incestuous) threesome in 1960s Paris.
This is the story of a mental patient, obsessed with a former porn star, who beats, kidnaps, binds and gags her in the hopes that she’ll fall in love with him when she gets to know him better. The fact that she eventually does makes our inner radical feminists gag, but it’s hard not to include a movie that a) was directed by Spain’s sex-obsessed Pedro Almodavar, b) stars a smoldering Antonio Banderes,  pre-Melanie-Griffith, and c) moved the MMPA to create the NC-17 rating.
Also known as “A Pornographic Affair,” this little French film is super sexy for what it doesn’t show, what it leaves to our wildest imaginations. Via a magazine ad, a woman finds a stranger to fulfill her sexual fantasies: without exchanging names, they meet in a hotel room once a week to do who knows what. But as is always the case, reality (i.e. love) creeps into life and ruins the fantasy.

For more sensual cinema, don’t miss the films airing Saturday nights at Midnight during LOVERS LOUNGE, a night of uncut, uncensored, boundary-pushing films sure to earn their TV-MA.

Top 10 Tangled Love Triangles in Film

August 28, 2012


The tangled love triangle is such a cinematic trope that we could probably put together a list for every year (or a list of Top 10 love triangles with bad ’80s haircuts… or Top 10 love triangles starring Reese Witherspoon…). We decided to limit this list to love-triangle films we actually enjoyed (and not in a guilty-pleasure kind of way) — which is why you won’t find the Bella-Edward-Jacob affair here, despite the ubiquity of “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” merchandise. Same goes for PEARL HARBOR (2001), which attempted to make the love triangle a heroic response to war; or WILD THINGS (1995), which accessorized the love triangle with hot tubs and champagne (and was really more of a lust triangle, anyway); or INDECENT PROPOSAL (1993), which theorized the love triangle as a financial and real estate decision; or MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING (1997), which was a terrible movie despite championing off-key karaoke.

10. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (2001)
This is one of those rare love triangles that has something for everyone, whether you’re an indiphile, an unabashed lover of weepie romances, a subtitles-only film snob, or an avid consumer of soft-core porn. And the guy-on-guy action is a pleasant surprise for straight women (and gay men) who like to roll their eyes at the champagne-and-hot-tub, two-girls-and-a-guy love triangles that are a Hollywood favorite. It’s rare for on-screen sex to be both realistic and scorching hot, but this movie, er, nails it.

9. THE DREAMERS (2003)
Leave it to Bernardo Bertolucci to add a hint of incest to the classic love triangle. Set in Paris (of course it is), this film tells the story of an American student and film lover who befriends a French brother and sister who are equally passionate about film (of course they are) and each other. We’re pretty sure that you could put any three film students in Paris for a few weeks and some kind of tangled love triangle would ensue — especially when they’re as attractive and as fond of nudity as these three.

Artsy-European-student-triangle runner-up: In the Spanish movie 3SOME (2009) — airing on the Sundance Channel August 17 — a woman goes to art school and decides she wants to explore sex (shocking, we know). She meets a guy who has a buddy… you know where this is going, right? A threeway relationship, natch. “It’s not normal,” she says. “But we’re not normal,” the guy argues. We’re artists.” Yep.

8. HEARTBEATS (2010)
This film’s original French title is LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES (the filmmaker is Quebecois), which is a lot more fitting — because only two out of the three people in this movie (which airs on the Sundance Channel August 18) appear to be aware of the love triangle. By the way, you’ll notice that love triangles that take place outside the U.S. are much more likely to be M-M-F (god bless ‘em) — and this uber-stylized film is no exception. Francis and Marie are best pals — he’s a gay man, she’s a straight woman — who fall for the same guy, a blithely gorgeous and androgynous traveler of undetermined sexuality named Nicolas. The three share a bed because Nicolas is broke, but the only hanky-panky that takes place is in Francis and Marie’s rich fantasy lives. Not surprisingly, their friendship doesn’t exactly weather this storm. It’s like a hipster Quebecois remake of JULES AND JIM (1962).

Runner-up imaginary love triangle: FIGHT CLUB (1999) — sure, the sex was real, but there was no steamy triangle with Brad Pitt; that part was all in Edward Norton’s head. And can you blame him, really?

Woody Allen may be all-American (or, at least, all-NYC), but even he chose to he set his love triangle in Spain. Scarlett Johansson plays an American student traveling in Europe who, naturally, ends up in a domestic threeway with wild artist (Javier Bardem) and his crazy-jealous ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). We could tell you about the snappy dialogue or the intricate plot twists, but do you even care at this point? You’ve got pretty much the most attractive love triangle in the entire history of human entanglement. What more do you need? For one of them to go all psycho with a knife? Done.

6. THE GRADUATE (1967)
Oh, Mrs. Robinson, you never stood a chance against your daughter. Here’s to you, anyway.

It’s inspired by the classic love triangle in Pride and Prejudice, but only in BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY do the two men competing for the same woman’s attention (Hugh Grant and Colin Firth) actually roll around on the street together in a full-on, glass-shattering brawl. The fighting is even funnier in the sequel, BRIDGET JONES: EDGE OF REASON (2004) — airing on the Sundance Channel August 13th and 19th — when the action is more girly cat-fight, complete with hair-pulling, ineffectual kicking, and a chase around a fountain.

4. CASABLANCA (1942)
They’ll always have Paris, and we’ll always have one of the most enduring — and heart-wrenching — love triangles of all time.  Most of the time we’re incredibly grateful that this movie was made before the era when endings were “audience-tested” — but there’s a teeny-tiny part of us that wishes there were a version out there where Bogart gets the girl. Is it possible that every cinematic love triangle since CASABLANCA has been trying to make amends for Bogart’s sacrifice?

Runner-up for ne-plus-ultra love triangle: JULES AND JIM (1962). Francois Truffaut’s film has war, marriage, divorce, miscarriages, gun fighting, and suicide-by-cliff. (Oh, how French.) It’s been inspiring homages ever since — both on and off the screen.

Ain’t no love triangle like a 1760 love triangle! John Malkovich seduces married Michelle Pfeiffer on a dare from his control-freak ex Glenn Close. But when Malkovich actually falls in love, Close is royally pissed off — and thus ensues one of the most tortuous break-up scenes of all time: “It’s beyond my control,” Malkovich says again and again, in a line fed to him by Close. “Why do you suppose we only feel compelled to chase the ones who run away?” Malkovich says to Close at one point. Close replies, “Immaturity?” A pretty key element to most love triangles, we’d say.

Finally, an all-American love triangle! It takes place in the middle of the Civil War, ferchrissakes. It’s too bad Scarlett O’Hara never read Les Liaison dangereuses — if she had, she might have realized a lot sooner that it was only an immature desire to chase the unavailable man which made Ashley even mildly attractive (even his name is timid). For future reference, Scarlett, when choosing between two men named Ashley and Rhett, always go with the Rhett.

We suppose the nineties was alright for love-triangle rom-coms (there was REALITY BITES in 1994), but man, did the eighties rock it. The top spot in this list is basically a tie between SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL and PRETTY IN PINK (1986), but we ended up choosing the former because of the ending (and for how awesome tomboy Mary Stuart Masterson looked as a cross-dressing chauffeur). Did you know that in the original script for PRETTY IN PINK, Andie stays with Duckie? But test audiences booed, so in the final cut Duckie gives his blessing for her to go after “richie” Blane. In SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, on the other hand, it’s the loyal best friend (Masterson) from the same side of the tracks who gets the guy — and the diamond earrings. Who cares about Paris — we’ll always have John Hughes.

This post originally appeared on SUNfiltered


Top 10 Sexiest Scenes Directed by Tony Scott, R.I.P.

August 22, 2012


British-born Hollywood director Tony Scott (brother of fellow filmmaker Ridley) died this past Sunday when he jumped from a bridge in Los Angeles. We didn’t know the man so we can remember him only through some of our favorite moments that he directed on the screen (well, at least, our favorite sex-related moments)…

10. The best-ever euphemism for a topping male sex partner: wingman. As in, Iceman (Val Kilmer) saying, “You can be my wingman any time.” And Maverick (Tom Cruise) replying, “Bullshit! You can be mine.” From, of course, TOP GUN (1983).

9. Tony Scott worked frequently with Denzel Washington, and though he mostly directed him in action scenes (as opposed to sex or love scenes), Washington’s tough guys oozed sex appeal in Scott’s movies. (So much so that we, two grown women and mothers of two small children each, are forced to use phrases like “oozed sex appeal.” Apologies, dear readers.) Like in DEJA VU (2006), when a bad guy (played by Jim Caviezel) tells Washington, ”You better have some divine intervention, buddy. You’re gonna need it.” And Washington replies, “You better have some KY. You’re gonna need it.” Talk about a MAN ON FIRE (2004… another movie in which Scott directed Washington).

8. “I had to come all the way from the highway and byways of Tallahassee, Florida, to MotorCity, Detroit, to find my true love. If you gave me a million years to ponder, I would never have guessed that true romance and Detroit would ever go together. And til this day, the events that followed all still seems like a distant dream. But the dream was real and was to change our lives forever. I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing and things seemed to be getting so shitty. And he’d say, ‘That’s the way it goes, but don’t forget, it goes the other way too.’ That’s the way romance is… Usually, that’s the way it goes, but every once in a while, it goes the other way too.” — A prostitute named Alabama (Patricia Arquette) talking about her husband Clarence (Christian Slater) in TRUE ROMANCE (1993), directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino

7. When hot-shot stock car driver Cole (Tom Cruise) mistakes his new doctor Claire (Nicole) for a stripper in DAYS OF THUNDER (1990). Not because she’s wearing stripper shoes, but because his colleagues had previously sent him a stripper dressed as a cop who “pats him down,” notices his erection, and says, “Looks like we found something… A concealed weapon.” We should note that the script is excruciating: Cole later tells Claire “I’m more afraid of bein’ nothing than I am of bein’ hurt.” And at another point, she tells him, “Boy, you’re very quick,” to which he replies — of course he does — “You oughta see me drive.” (Cruise himself is credited as one of the screenwriters, which tells you everything you need to know. And Tony Scott once said that they started filming without a script: they were basically told to put Cruise in a fast car and they’d make a fast buck.) Despite all that, though, we kind of love the chemistry between Cruise and Kidman — this is the movie where they met. Oh how we miss eighties/early-nineties Cruise.

6. “I eat the pussy, I eat the butt, I eat every motherfuckin’ thang.” — Big Don (Samuel L. Jackson) in TRUE ROMANCE (1993). It was much funnier back then (despite the use of the P-word, which has always made our skin crawl), before screenwriter Quentin Tarantino started to annoy the shit out of us. In fact, we think the only thing worse than the word “pussy” is the idea of Quentin Tarantino saying the word “pussy.”

5. Maverick (Tom Cruise) in a bar, serenading his flight school teacher Charlie (Kelly McGillis, with a pink sweater draped over her shoulders) with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” in TOP GUN (1986). We know that this scene, co-starring a pre-E.R. Anthony Edwards as Goose, has kind of lost its oomph after so many bad karaoke renditions (not to mention the whole Scientology thing), but take yourself back to the very first time you saw it: pure eighties magic.

Read the rest of the list on SUNfiltered



How Technology Fixes Fairy Tales

August 1, 2012


While Em was reading her daughter a bedtime story the other night, it occurred to her — because she has read the same stories hundreds of times and thus it is possible to think about potential posts for this blog while reading — that a swift exchange of contact info would have been a much easier way for the Prince to stay in touch with Cinderella. And if the Prince and Cinderella forgot to exchange digits before midnight, then a few minutes of Internet stalking — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al — would have fixed that. It’s perhaps not quite as romantic as visiting every woman in the land with a missing shoe, but it’s a lot more convenient. Also, less gross. (Hello, Athlete’s foot. Google that, Prince Charming.)

Anyway, this got us wondering how many other fairy tales could be swiftly solved — or ruined, depending on your take — by technology:

Beauty and the Beast: If the Beast had just signed up for an online dating site like OKCupid, he and Belle could have fallen in love over the Internet while they talked about books and reading and romance… before ever exchanging photographs.

The Little Mermaid: Instead of saving the Prince from a storm and dragging him to the shore, she could have just cued up SPLASH on his Netflix account and he would have dived in looking for her, faster than you can say “Daryl Hannah in a fish suit.” Of course, if she did stupidly trade in her voice for a pair of legs, she could have always turned to the ultra modern technology of writing to spell it all out for him.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: If the Prince had taken just one goddamned CPR class in his entire life, then he would have known to check her airway and he would have found that piece of apple lodged in her throat. We’re partial to a Prince Charming who knows the Heimlich Maneuver, but maybe that’s just us.

The Emperor’s New Clothes: If you don’t believe a small child in the crowd who says you look ridiculous with no clothes on, perhaps you’ll believe a YouTube video that’s going viral with three million (and counting) hits.

The Princess and the Pea: Four words for you, sister: Sleep Number Memory Foam.

Rapunzel: We have seen the mountains men will scale and the rivers they will cross just to get laid. We have also seen the remarkably creative technological feats men have achieved just to make masturbation feel like getting laid. And so we refuse to believe that a motivated young man wouldn’t figure out a way to get into that tower. As it were.

Little Red Riding Hood: Either Little Red Riding Hood would be traumatized for life after these events… or else some kind soul would help her work through her issues with a little modern therapeutic BDSM-tinted role-play.

Read the rest of this list on SUNfiltered