Friday, March 25, 2011

Staying Optimistic: Superman XXX: A Porn Parody

"[A]s in the movie musical, the episodic structure of the hard-core narrative is something more than a flimsy excuse for sexual numbers: it is part and parcel of the way the genre goes about resolving the often contradictory desires of its characters" (134). Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible." 1989.

Thanks to FanGirlTastic, who flatteringly asked me to start reviewing XXX new releases for them, I received a glitzy DVD of Vivid's second superhero "parody" (this term is becoming meaningless), Superman XXX: A Porn Parody. Over the last couple of years (since 2008's Cry Wolf, I guess), I have witnessed feature porn deteriorate at an alarming pace, seemingly in a panic to emulate the high octane sex of gonzo, as well as separate out the plot from the sex scenes presumably in an effort to adapt to the internet. This results in feature films that do not feel like complete, integrated narratives with sex woven into the plot. In addition, performers fuck out of character, exhibiting sex tricks and demonstrating a level of experience that contradicts what we have learned about the persona thus far in the script. There are exceptions of course, but frankly I have been almost exclusively watching features from the 70s and 80s, while my modern viewing habits center around gonzo and the like, which have their own genre-specific appeal.

Then came the "parody plague," as naysayers like to call it, offering nerds such as myself the cruel glimmer of hope that perhaps some of these flicks might return to form and construct sex as part of the narrative. Alas, it was not to be. The closest I have found to an integrated porn parody, complete with decent lighting, acting, and scripting, is Batman XXX. It's not perfect by any means, but most of the time the performers attempt some level of characterization, and the film as a whole felt complete. With the success of Batman, Vivid announced a whole line of Superhero parodies. Great! I thought. With the bigger budget, the proven interest on the part of the audience (many of whom we might presume are not regular porn consumers), and Axel "Son of Lasse" Braun at the helm, things can only get better. The sex, which was semi-integrated in Batman, will become even more characterized and integral to the plot; the script and plotting will take more risks; etc etc.

So, it was with the bitterest of disappointments that, after dabbling with the FF button only 20mins into Superman, I hit STOP at about the 30min mark. Naturally, I went back and watched the rest for this review, but only because I had to. Watching Superman makes me wonder what the goal was. Save your "It's just porn!" babble. Everything's "just" something, but why not be as good as so many of us *know* it can be? I doubt the gonzo-exclusive crowd are going to be too interested in buying features, and those who are sitting down to watch a feature are clearly not looking to watch gonzo. They bought a feature. They're two different sub-genres, both valuable in their own right, both genres I am a fan of, but they are fundamentally different. I just don't get it. And it makes me sad.

Ok, enough boo-hooing. Here's the scoop, as Jimmy might say: the film opens with General Zod (Ben English) and his peeps being banished for attempting to start a "New Order" on planet Krypton that would make its citizens turn on its rulers and create general tyrrany. Subsequent to said banishment, an airliner, piloted by boozing Evan Stone and Alec Knight, is in bad weather and about to take a nosedive thanks to the sexual distractions offered by flight attendant Lexi Belle. The first scene actually involves some verbal play, as is wont with Evan Stone, and I swear I even heard some homoerotic exchanges between pilot and copilot which frankly got me all hopeful for a rollicking good time. In spite of Evan's shenanigans, the sex is just what you might expect, as if someone is checking the boxes on a list of acts that must be included for fear of the raincoater's wrath. Still, not bad, and I enjoyed the effects, what with the room teeter-tottering throughout thanks to no one being at the helm (insert "at the helm" innuendo here).

Thankfully, Clark Kent, aka. Superman (aka. crossover performer Ryan Driller), is on board and not being serviced, so he has time to go change, fly outside, pick the plane up by its wing, and escort everyone to safety. Oh, and the effects aren't terrible! I've seen many more aggravating things on the Syfy Channel.

Next up, we're introduced to the familiar newsroom where Perry (Will Ryder) is yelling at Jimmy (James Deen) about getting the "flying man" scoop, and Lois Lane (Andy San Dimas) is being a general star. GGG favourite Kristina Rose pops up as the receptionist, directing new-hire Clark Kent into the office, and the interactions work pretty well in these newsroom scenes. That is until everything comes to a screeching halt for the overlong and out-of-character sex scene between Jimmy and the receptionist. Lex Luthor (Eric Masterson) has just announced on television that he has launched a missile, bwahahaha, much to everyone's consternation, but never fear because Superman has dispelled the threat in about 8 seconds...just in time to cut to Kristina Rose sucking off James Deen in the storage room. The scene actually begins in an admirably fractured way, with Clark interrupting them while trying to find a place to change into his supersuit, and then Jimmy taking photographs out of the window of Superman saving the day. However, after these initially hopeful signs of some integration, the scene becomes just another scene from any other movie. This is not Jimmy fucking, but James Deen, and the receptionist is simply Kristina Rose. So, it's James Deen and Kristina Rose fucking, which has nothing to do with their characters. Result: boring. I skipped the second part of this scene. The interesting thing is, it's all about context (I am an uberfan of Ms. Rose, after all). This might be a hot or interesting scene if it were in the context of a different genre -- indeed, it may have played out rather differently within a different genre -- but within a feature I'm just left there scratching my head and watching the DVD timer.

The remaining plot (there is very little of it) follows the familiar 1980s route, with Lex damning his futile efforts at destroying Metropolis, Zod exacting his vengeance on Earth, and Superman booting up while simultaneously courting a frankly ravishing Lois Lane on the side (Andy San Dimas really stands out when she's given the chance -- I'm a fan). The remaining sex scenes threaten to do interesting things, especially Lois Lane's sexual assault at the hands of Zod and Co., in which Andy does a good job of staying in character at least part of the time, inflecting the scene with a certain edge. In fact, the scenes featuring San Dimas and Driller are easily the most compelling (though, again, the sex reverts back to prototype) -- during these brief moments, I thought I was about to start liking the film.

"...not to mention an extra baby wipe."

Yet, in spite of San Dimas and Driller, some interesting framing, notably good videography, and the occasional interesting or witty moment, the narrative is entirely overwhelmed by the sex. It's not even necessarily about having less sex and more plot -- sex and plot are not mutually exclusive, in my opinion. Sex is just as valuable and meaningful a signifier as any other physical act, and I've seen it used as such in hundreds of excellent films. But when you isolate the plot from the sex, that's when things start to become fractured to the point of feeling like two genres competing for dollars, and that's when things start to become boring.

Furthermore, and maybe I'm just plain wrong about this, but the sexual allure of a superhero porn flick strikes me as being rooted in seeing Lois Lane and Superman/Clark Kent uncensored, not a porn starlet/star doing what they usually do, but dressed in a costume (which usually comes off anyway). I detect an effort in this direction with Batman, and glimmers of it in Superman -- certainly, the talent is there -- but I eagerly and perhaps overly optimistically await the full package at some point in the near future. Maybe in the sequel?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Back on the Horse!

Hey folks! Wow. What a week or so. Don't worry, I ain't gonna go into it. (Spoiler Alert! It sucked). Part of it was getting sick, and the sickness just not going away. I'm still coughing up suspect debris, but I'm totally able to get out of the house, fulfill my responsibilities, and generally get back on the horse. A new review will be up tomorrow! Yay! It's written and everything!

In the meantime, chase those blues away with this frankly inspiring photograph of the lovely Marilyn Chambers and the captivating Johnnie Keyes. And some lady off to the side. ID anyone?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"The Male Body: Repulsive or Beautiful?"

I found this article by Hugo Schwyzer, "The Male Body: Repulsive or Beautiful?" via Critical Masculinities, and it moved me. I especially enjoyed (and was saddened by) the many thoughtful comments left by readers.

I found the comment by switchintoglide particularly interesting and touching in some way: "There is the flip-side to this too; I really try to express to my partner how much I love his body. I love that he is strong and muscular, but also kind of doughy (kind of like Darrel on the Office), but he is extremely uncomfortable with me expressing desire and physical attraction to him—he acts like it is degrading. For me, obviously, I want him to feel wanted, but for him, I think it makes him self-conscious to be admired that way—”like a woman.” I have had both male and female partners, and so far three out of the five men I have dated have felt obviously uncomfortable with this sort of expression."

Anyway, I'm posting it because I think several really important points are raised, and many questions asked that I don't have clear-cut answers to but are important to ask regardless. I often muse over representations of masculinity and the male body in terms of sexuality, and Schwyzer's article (and subsequent conversation between commenters) gave me pause. Enjoy.


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