Thursday, October 23, 2008

Aliens, Dark Relationships, and Radioactive movie night last night.

I watched three movies last night, none of which I had either seen or heard of before. The first was The Load Warriors (C.C. Williams, 1987), curiously called The Load Warrior in the credits (I'm sure there's a story behind that), which depicts an apocalyptic wasteland of a future: humans are in short supply, there is hardly any vegetation, and apparently radioactive waste has been causing problems with reproduction. Semen has become a hot commodity, and men (called "Cows") are used by warrior women solely to harvest their cum and sell it. However, most cum is tainted by the chemical/radioactive/destructive cloud that wiped out most of the human race, and so is judged in a similar way to a diamond - held up to the light, looked at through a little eyeglass, and assessed for "rad" content. Everything is running as normal - jars of jizz get sold to a man in a truck in exchange for whatever he has, men are routinely pumped for semen in ways that leave the men feeling used and starved of affection - until Peter North (the eponymous Load Warrior, we learn at the end) shows up with his gloriously "rad"-free spunk, and his knowledge of the "good old days" when sex was more than just a harvesting technique.

I don't want to ruin the ending for you (there is a little twist), so I won't detail any more plot than that. This was a neat little movie, better than I expected, and surprisingly well thought out, in terms of a Road Warrior spoof. The acting was good, and I will watch anything with Sharon Mitchell - she rocks. Most of all, though, I was intrigued to see their handling of the ways in which gender/sex relations had changed in the wake of the near-annihilation of the human race. It reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale in a weird kind of way. Certainly I spent a lot of time ruminating over the "sperm as most precious entity, craved after by women" element, which seems obviously phallocentric; while on the other hand considering the progressive suggestions that lie in the fact that without sperm worthy of fertilization, male power no longer reigns supreme. Furthermore, with no pregnancy or childbirth, the women were riding around doing whatever they wanted, making money off of the men's semi-redundant splooge. Of course, then you have to think about the idea that the women are all coveting fertile semen, and this brings us full circle back to some not-so-progressive ideas. I'm still not done with these thoughts - I always find issues of fertilization, family, and birth interesting when featured in adult film plots (even if only momentarily), as the genre generally steers clear of these issues. Certainly, when they do come up, porn tends to reject domesticity and nuclear families.

Next in my stack of movies was The Visitors (Michael Raven, 2006), an alien abduction movie. To get past the negative, I will say that the film disappointed me in terms of alien presence, especially as the end credits ran over an alien autopsy - if they had a cool-looking alien figure, why not use it in the movie?? Nevertheless, this film really impressed me. Michael Raven has made some great movies in his career so far - Black Widow and Watching Samantha being the most memorable for me (and both starring Stormy Daniels) - but his 2008 offering, Bound (once again starring Stormy Daniels), was a big disappointment. The Visitors, made a couple of years ago, completely exceeded my expectations. It was so well shot, and well-acted, and the atmosphere was skillfully built up to the point where I was actually a bit scared on a couple of occasions. Sure, there was no pay-off in terms of aliens, but I'm willing to let it slide. 

The true standout in the movie was Kimberly Kane (who I met last January at the AVN Expo in Vegas - she was very sweet, and pinched my waist and told me I was cute, and we had a nice ole' nostalgic chat about Riot Sluts 2). If I had seen The Visitors when I met her, I would totally have called out the producers/distributors for not putting her on the cover. Keri Sable gets top billing, and the cover shot (see pic above), but is only in it for a tiny amount of time, and doesn't have a developed character. Kimberly, on the other hand, is the main character, does a truly amazing acting job, and basically could have carried the film on charisma alone. Her character was believable, and there are some touching scenes between her and her father (no, not those kind of touching scenes - this isn't a sequel to Taboo).

As for the all-important sex, it's not bad at all - the usual Wicked fare, but the Barret Blade scene is actually tolerable (most of his scenes usually result in a quick reach for the FF button), possibly because the lovely Kristen Price is involved. The other scenes have slipped my mind, as there is one that dominates: Kimberly Kane and Evan Stone (AVN male performer of the every-year). Evan goes at it as usual, but I haven't seen him perform with someone as emotionally expressive and enthusiastic as Kimberly - she overshadows him in terms of presence, which you don't see every day. She rocks.

Ok, ok - I know what you all want to know, and yes, of course there was alien probing! Not much on screen, but they do show it, which is a first for me at least. Kimberly is ultimately abducted, and undergoes a not-too-unpleasant probing. It's pretty cool, and coolly weird. I give the movie a thumbs up - go see it!

Friday, October 17, 2008

My rant for the day...

I remember a party I once had as an undergrad, a time when I had a pretty impressive VHS collection (before I had to sell it to move to the States...a sad, sad day) of around 600 movies. It was somewhat "famous" amongst friends of friends, and when people came over, they would ask to see it. Well, at this party some guy asked to see it in a weirdly confrontational manner (a manner I have since learned to recognize in immature/insecure men - a sign that they feel threatened by my film knowledge and tastes. Strange, yes, but unfortunately true). I showed it to him, he started interrogating me about film, as though he was trying to challenge me, and finally Gladiator was the straw that broke the camel's back.

No, I did not own Gladiator, and never will - I think it's a terrible movie. This guy seemed to find this personally insulting, and so began a ridiculous argument. I merely offered my opinion, and he put my opinion down to the fact that I was (am) a woman, saying that it must have been too violent for me. In fact, my primary complaint about Gladiator was that they edited in such a way that the violence is obscured. As a whole, I found the film boring, and thought they spent too much time whispering in tents and not enough time bloodletting.

My reason for bringing this up is that I continue to find myself in "conversations" where the male participant dismisses my views on film (often in a very defensive way) offering gendered reasons for my perspective. I have had this experience very recently on the imdb message boards - my username on there does not indicate gender, and a couple of times, just from reading my comment, a user has written back referring to me as a guy. In these responses, the user will speak to me in a respectful fashion, expressing agreement or surprise either way. 

Once the user discovers I am female, the whole tone changes. One guy, talking to me about porn, was polite but went on to suggest "female-oriented" porn and seemed to have a more condescending, "explaining" tone to his message, as though he had not noticed the part in my comment about the fact that my profession (if that's what you can call it - "future profession," perhaps) is primarily writing about adult film. Nice guy - and I appreciate his suggestions - but I still recognized a difference in his approach toward me.

This didn't bother me too much, but soon after, some other guy responded to another porn-related comment by saying that at first, my disappointment in the film shocked him, but that once he realised I was a woman, it "all made sense." The film (a sequel), he explained, was darker than the first one, both in the sex scenes and the violence; that the violence was pretty graphic, and that women would prefer the first movie. I honestly didn't know how to respond, but felt I should, and offered that my gender did not mean my opinion was invalid (I didn't quite put it like that).

On the other hand, I looked up this guy's other comments and he had started a thread on the Jenna Jameson profile titled, "I like having my balls sucked." Maybe I'm expecting too much from the wrong people...

My point is not that I like "men's" film genres, or that men should get used to women liking "men's" movies. My point is that these are not "men's" genres at all - the fact that they are equated with masculinity has very little (often nothing) to do with the actual make-up of the audience, and much more to do with what we deem to be "masculine" and "feminine," usually reverting to active/passive, violent/pacifist, etc. etc. Nor am I denigrating what people consider "feminine" - I like those genres too, if they're good, and I think lots of men enjoy them also. In short, our society is so obsessed with keeping the genders distinct, and participates so readily in coding "feminine" pursuits as inferior to "masculine" ones, that men fear openly enjoying "women's" movies, while women who openly enjoy "men's" movies are dismissed, the assumption being that is not "for" them. 

DISCLAIMER: I do not think all men are like this - I have beloved male friends (best friends, in fact) who I talk to about film regularly, and have fun and involved conversations. They respect me, and I respect them too. I'm actually posting this rant with an air of sadness. I don't enjoy these responses - it makes me feel like my studies (which, in part,  attempt to show that men interact with pornography in much more complex, progressive, and non-woman-hating ways than people assume) are leading me to a big disappointment; or that I'm merely participating in some kind of feminist wishful thinking. I really, really hope I'm wrong. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Psychedelic money shots? I'm in.

I watched Behind the Green Door last night - it's on my exam list, but I've also wanted to see it for ages. After seeing The Resurrection of Eve, also starring Marilyn Chambers - which was awesome - I was super excited to watch Green Door. Well, they didn't disappoint in terms of the infamous slow-mo, psychedelic money shot. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it's worth watching for the money shot (something you can't say too often). It's borderline art. 

Chambers, as usual, is amazing - a 1970s Chloe Sevigny - and notable for being the Ivory Snow girl, as well as the star of David Cronenberg's Rabid. The movie didn't get me hot, but I wasn't really watching it for that purpose (although it's a nice bonus if you can get it). I was also a little perturbed by the opening scene of her being abducted, taken away in a car, and deposited in a room where she is groomed for a sexual performance at a club where patrons attend in masks (very Eyes Wide Shut-esque) and jack off with each other while watching a sex show involving aforementioned abductee. The eponymous "green door" is at the back of the stage, and we never really fully understand what's "behind" it, other than when Chambers is carried back there at the very end for a more intimate love making scene with one of the guests. I guess behind the green door there is "true" pleasure? Either way, it was a relief that the film makers decided to portray Chambers as choosing to participate in the sex show after being abducted. Granted, this perpetuates the idea that women think they don't want to engage in sex acts, but once coerced they will happily submit. I find that message disturbing, but for selfish reasons (i.e. I don't want to see an explicit rape) I was glad they chose to take this route.

This plot detail leads me to think about audience participation in pornographic film (about which there is some scholarship and research, but not much). When I watched this film with my partner, we both articulated our relief at not having to see a rape, while also acknowledging the fact that technically we were still seeing a rape (coerced sex: does Chambers' character really have a choice, in the true sense of the word?). However, we also understood that the conventions of pornographic feature films, especially during the 1970s, often result in plot lines that deal with the "problem" or female sexual pleasure. Many porn films from this era, most famously Deep Throat, explore female sexuality as a problem in need of a solution or a psychological breakthrough of some kind for the woman protagonist. For Linda Lovelace, in Deep Throat, she doesn't have a clitoris in the usual place, and so cannot have an orgasm. Her doctor discovers that her clitoris is in her throat, and naturally deep-throating cock enables her to finally achieve the "bells ringing" and "dams bursting" that she has been hoping for. I don't think the phallocentric wish-fulfillment expressed by this plot needs any explanation!

In Green Door it's a little more subtle, and much darker, yet the focus is the same: Chambers goes through some kind of revelation or epiphany, but this requires a special place, and a special introduction to the mysterious sex club. In other words, she cannot discover this sexuality alone. On the one hand, this can be seen as obviously misogynistic; however, it could also be read in another, more complex way. While in no way approaching a "feminist" porn film, Green Door does speak to the issues of repressed female sexuality; the idea that women have been cultured for centuries to be passive and repressed when it comes to sex; encouraged to be "virtuous" and "pure." Therefore, in order to experience a sexual epiphany, a woman requires something to happen to her. After this, she is able to become active and experience a more enlightened sexuality for herself (represented by the love-making scene behind the green door). In other words, rather than viewing the film as necessarily condoning what happens to Chambers' character, we could interpret the film as critiquing gendered forms of sexuality in Western culture. After all, when we watch a "regular" movie, we don't automatically assume that whatever the film shows us, they are agreeing with or promoting.

Of course, the culmination of the entire film is the notorious and extended money shot, which has to be seen to be believed, which refocuses everything back to male pleasure, and it is a man who literally picks Chambers up and carries her behind the green door. Nevertheless, I found it to be a thought-provoking, if not entirely progressive, viewing experience. It certainly wasn't a patch on Resurrection, which is a genuinely complex film in terms of gender relations.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not so wicked after all...

Ok, so I watched The Wicked, and I'll be honest, it was a big disappointment. A shame, as it was shot really well, the atmosphere was built up effectively at the beginning, and the cast were great...but where was the gore? Not to mention vampires?! I was so looking forward to Stormy kicking ass, and she barely did anything (she performed in one of the better sex scenes though). By far the best part of the movie was Voodoo's scene with Tori Black - it felt so genuine and totally in context with their characters. Truly impressive. In fact, Tori Black was the unexpected highlight of the movie - she's one to keep my eye on.

Other than that (and a godawful nu-metal soundtrack) not a lot to report. Mikayla Mendez (Wicked's new contract performer) looked like she was going through the motions in her scene - her body barely moved during the BJ scene, and she kept resorting to a bored-looking hand job. Pretty grim. Kaylani Lei did a great job - the performance of her career so far, in terms of acting - and she looked great as usual. 

In short - the concept was great, and all the ingredients were in place, it just seems like the filmmakers forgot what their movie was about and gave up. A missed opportunity.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wicked's The Wicked had better be wicked...

In about two hours I will be watching the hotly anticipated The Wicked starring the glorious Stormy Daniels, as well as Kaylani Lei, who seems to be being groomed to take Stormy's place in terms of her recent roles in genre films. Lei is certainly expanding her range, and Stormy is doing so well behind the camera, I wouldn't be surprised if she pulled a Jenna Jameson on us. 

Anyway - word is, this movie is so good as a horror film, that the sex scenes get in the way...not sure that's a good thing, nor the sign of a "good" adult movie, which for me should be great both as a feature narrative and a sex pic. I've seen plenty of adult features that work because the sex and the narrative are great; in my opinion, the best adult features integrate the sex and narrative in a way that make them equally important, and related to each other. I really hope The Wicked works in this way...I can't handle another Pirates 2: Stagnetti's Revenge...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Studying Porn, Studying Horror...

As I progress through my PhD, studying and writing about pornography, horror, and action movies, I figured it would be a neat idea to note my thoughts and opinions down in a blog - who knows, maybe it will help me in the future.

This blog is intended as a place for me to write down my initial reactions to the movies I have to/choose to watch as part of my studies, as well as get feedback from any other nerds out there who happen to have the same interests. I study these films with an eye on gender, and as an aside I appreciate films that don't rely on CGI and feature true hands-on action, including stuntmen/women, handmade creatures, and splatter - I have a particular love of gore, especially exploding heads and decapitations. I like my films brutal and outrageous - this does not mean I like the Saw movies. I also love genre films that are subversive, especially in terms of gender. Funnily enough, horror, porn and action films - the movies most people deem to be exploitative - are the movies I can rely on to subvert our common ideals of class, gender, and sexuality (and even, in some cases, race - more on that another time). 

I'm basically going to watch movies, write about them, and hopefully engage in conversation about them. Maybe I will even inspire someone to watch a great movie that they never heard of.

So, to start, here is a list of some of my favorite movies:

* Camp Cuddly Pines Power Tool Massacre (a great porn movie for horror nerds).
* Night of the Living Dead (1990 version - it's brutal).
* Aliens (I don't think I need to justify this).
* Zombie Flesh Eaters (truly awesome - the shark fight has to be seen to be believed).
* Robocop (awesomely violent, awesomely subversive).
* Return of the Living Dead (great great great - really funny, a refreshing treat for zombie fans).
* First Blood (Stallone at his finest).
* Evil Dead II (a bit obvious, perhaps, but I would feel guilty if I didn't add it. It's still the best horror comedy out there).

That's it for now - so begins my journey through trash.


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