25 July 2009

Sex Movies

When I first built this blog page, I had a different quote up there below the title than what's up there now. It said, quoting Lotus Weinstock, "I used to want to change the world. Now, I just want to leave the room with a little dignity". Lotus was, according to Wikipedia, an LA-based comedian, and Lenny Bruce's last girlfriend, but I'd never heard of her. She was quoted by Justin Bond's character in the John Cameron Mitchell movie, Shortbus, which I highly recommend for anyone who, like me, enjoys movies that temper their unabashed sex-positivity with a whole lotta mindplay.

To that end, one of my favorite movies ever is Made in Secret: The Story of the East Van Porn Collective, which uses the tale of a group of friends entertaining themselves by filming pornography, to explore how the contours of public vs. private intersect with "anarcho-feminist" communal politics and consensus building. I think one of the blurbs on the DVD box (which I have, but not in front of me), says something like, "most boring film ever made with porn in the title".

If you're still reading this, I welcome you to what may be the most boring blog post ever made with "sex movies" in the title. When I started writing this post, it was called "Subtitle Quote", and I was going to write about how depressing that Weinstock quote seemed, up there, every time it caught my eye, despite how funny a line it is in the movie, and on its own; and how glad I was to have come across another quote that seems both more locally apropos and ever-so-slightly less depressing (in case I end up changing it before long, let me spare you the scrolling and repeat it here, courtesy of "internet humorist" Lore Sjöberg: "Creating your own blog is about as easy as creating your own urine, and you're about as likely to find someone else interested in it"). Recently, another quote was forwarded to me, that I've considered using there instead: Daniel Siegel, MD, published child development authority and advocate of cultivating greater mindfulness, writes, "When unresolved issues are writing our life story, we are not our own autobiographers; we are merely recorders of how the past continues, often without our awareness, to intrude upon our present experience and shape our future directions". Well, that-- as succinct and pithy as it may be--doesn't have the slap and tickle, or even the humility, of current and previous subtitle quotes, while still trucking in plenty of depressive observation all its own. I think it's prob'ly a fine thing to keep in mind, but I don't need to see it atop the page. And anyway, I'm more interested in writing about sex movies! (although I'm not entirely sure that the new post title is going to attract anyone I'm interested in having a blog-versation with...)

I was just raving the other day, at work, to Jeff, about Made in Secret. We'd been listening to Fresh Air, which re-played a Sacha Baron Cohen interview, from his Borat publicity tour, to mark the recent release of Bruno. David Edelstein's review of the movie Hump Day rounded out the show.

I'd just been with some friends, the previous weekend, to see Bruno. We'd all found it pretty hilarious. There's a lot of noise in the press about whether it's funny or offensive, and who does (or should) feel either way about it. Given the audience reaction at the Kabuki, it struck me as well attuned to a San Francisco sense of humor. I don't know how well it'll play in Peoria, but I don't feel like it was forcing me to validate homophobia any more than it was forcing me to, in any way, re-evaluate my attitude toward flamboyant queens. The laughs I imagine Bruno getting from the "flaming homo" community are very much the same laughs Justin Bond goes for in his real life role, duplicated in Shortbus, as a comic emcee--by which I mean, a kind of shared recognition of the folly of stereotype. I imagine Justin Bond falls rather flat in many portions of Peoria, and I guess there's some kind of "fear" that those same dull people might laugh for "different" reasons at Bruno. Whatever. A lot of people on either side of the fence, like their art cut and dried and clearly delineated for them.

Another aspect of Bruno that's garnering a lot of publicity is how much of it is "real", or how many of the players in the different scenes are "in" on the joke. It seems very important to some segment of the population that we are being made privy to someone else being made a fool, and that not everyone on the screen is purposefully entertaining us, especially when the fools on the screen are otherwise known as paid entertainers. It is supposedly somehow disappointing to learn that they may have only given us a simulacrum of foolishness, that not only are they not foolish--they're insincere! Ooh, how I hate Hollywood! I think one of the tremendous accomplishments of Bruno, is that it crafted its scenes in such a way as to render the point moot. I mean, for instance, the Paula Abdul gag was genius in its patent ridiculousness, but if she were in on it from the start, I'd be no less impressed by her performance. And I couldn't care less what portion of the audience in the Ultimate Fighting cage match knew the gag from the start--what made it onto the screen was beautiful and heart-rending and all-around fine film making. I was plenty entertained by the show, fools or no, and knowing--or not knowing--the score wasn't integral to any of the fun, in my opinion.

A quality of Made in Secret that endears me most, is its crafty subversion of "reality" in the documentary genre. I first saw it at the SF Independent Film Fest, and the programmers had trouble figuring how to sort it, in their brochures and website, as a documentary or not. People in the audience at that showing, and commentors since, on its IMDB page, expressed disappointment about it "not being real", although I can't really figure out, myself, what it is that isn't "real" about it: everything you see on film, really happened, the issues it brings up are really being discussed, and a real provocative film for a real DIY porn film fest was really filmed, discretely, in real locations, by real people who, despite excellent performances, are not real actors--there aren't any special effects, that I could discern (which, were there a budget for them, probably would not have been anything as good as Bruno's animated genitals, anyway). I think the whole movie was just a masterful mind-fuck, every bit as impressive (though not nearly as funny) as the gags in Bruno.

I said to Jeff that, although I don't expect Bruno, due to attitudes around the world about homosexuality, to do anywhere near the business that Borat did, despite being every bit as funny, we can be sure that Sacha Cohen's well-earned starpower, and the distributor's ad budget, will, at the very least, earn back the studio's investment; whereas I can't imagine Hump Day finding any kind of audience whatsoever. I think a lot of people can get a laugh from a caricature of a queen, or from discomfiting (for straight people) boy-boy kissing scenes; but when the recent trend of "bro-mance comedies" rounds the bend (or, should I say, "reacharounds" the bend?) to where the straight male leads are supposed to film themselves having sex with one another? Well, I predict that somewhere before reaching the ticket buying line, a whole lot of the Judd Apatow-appreciating crowd are gonna winnow away to see The Hangover, or Bruno, or 500 Days of Summer, or maybe even that new Dave Eggers-penned romantic comedy with the guy from The Office, and whatsername from SNL. I also hear In the Loop is s'posed to be pretty funny--but not sexy, in the least.

Anyway, I wanna see Hump Day, but only just barely (although appreciably more than I wanna have sex with any old school chums). The reviews make it out to be a lot more interestingly written and played than its premise might promise. (I also want to see The Hangover, and In the Loop, and Hurt Locker, and plenty others--it looks like a good summer for cinema, and I haven't reached the ticket buying line yet!) I'm intrigued that Hump Day's plot revolves around a DIY porn festival in Portland, Oregon, just as does the Made in Secret plot, and that it purportedly deals with the difficulty of making our language and actions align with our feelings about sex. That all sounds, really, right up my alley, and I don't mean that in the sense in which Bruno would.

Or do I? Ooo--what's real, what's fake?

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