Movie Madness

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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Nudity in Film: as a Gimmick and as a Selling Point

**This article is about a subject that may not be comfortable for some to read. I have included as little of myself in it as possible, but this is still about my experiences with film. Reader discretion advised**

Months ago, I heard about Emily Browning’s new film Sleeping Beauty. The story followed Browning as Lucy, a girl moonlighting as a prostitute to make some money. The trailer made it look sensuous and very indie. I thought the story sounded interesting and I’ve loved Browning since I saw her in The Uninvited opening weekend back in January 2009. A few months after I got the news about Sleeping Beauty, Browning’s latest film Sucker Punch was released. Another movie I followed from the first publicity still, Sucker Punch flopped and let me down in every way. I was expecting something way more original and empowering than Browning playing a deranged girl pretending to be a really gifted burlesque dancer. I hoped Sleeping Beauty would be the film that would erase the disappointment of Sucker Punch.

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The anticipation for Beauty reached a fever pitch last night, when in a fit of over-anxiousness, I managed to watch significant pieces of it. Dubbed in Russian without subtitles, I was so determined to see this movie that I attempted to watch it despite the language barrier. What I soon realized was that the film wasn’t nearly as delicate and interesting as the trailer had made it sound. The plot of the film was true to the trailer, but her interaction with her johns was completely one-sided. The unique nature of her service was that her clients were able to have their way with her while she was drugged unconscious. I attempted to look past this, but the nature of her job was unsettling. Though I have little doubt that writer/director Julia Leigh had it serve as a metaphor for something else, this wasn’t working. This was consenting to men having sex with her while she was in a state in which consent cannot be given. Essentially she was paid to be raped.

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All the scenes with her johns were very frank in its portrayal of nudity. Looking back on the poster (shown above) and the ad campaign, it seemed like the nudity was one of the selling points of the film. But, this is far from the first time that sex and nudity were used to sell a product. The saying is “sex sells”, but it really is true. Just look at the poster for December’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Yes, actress Rooney Mara is actually topless in that picture.

In 2003, In the Cut was released. Remember it? I do, but not for the reasons a film should be remembered. In most circles, this is known as Meg Ryan’s first big nude scene. Billed as a romantic thriller, the film bombed as quickly as it reached audiences. Quality of the film aside, In the Cut relied heavily on the draw of Ryan’s mammary glands to get people in seats. It didn’t work. In today’s world of internet and wifi, the urge to sit through a film just to see a few boobies is replaced by websites like Mr. Skin and pornographic sites that have only the “best parts of the movie”. Though those sites populate a sizable portion of online entertainment, studios still insist on letting details of nude scenes slip for promotional purposes.

The biggest example of embracing the flesh in hopes of getting a profit is Showgirls. Released intentionally in NC-17, the film follows Nomi Malone as she ascends from stripper to the next big thing in Vegas showgirls. The film is nowhere near being a masterpiece (in fact, it’s more often laughed at than enjoyed…because it sucks so much.), but it was all about pressing the flesh in a film about pressing the flesh. It also failed to make back its money in theaters. Filled with topless women and lines so god-awful that it hurts, it should have proven that a movie can’t be sold merely on the promise of nudity.

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In 2004, Atom Egoyan got into a battle with the MPAA (they rate films). His film Where the Truth Lies was given an NC-17 rating because one particular scene involved a threesome between one female actor and two of her costars (Rachel Blanchard, Kevin Bacon, and Colin Firth). When the appeal to have the film rating lowered failed, it was released unrated rather than make the cuts needed for an R rating. This controversy added to its profile, overshadowing the film which was actually quite good. Other examples of such controversy overtaking the film’s intended appeal include The Brown Bunny, The Last Tango in Paris, and many of the X-rated films of the seventies that have since been rerated as R.

Just a few years after Egoyan’s battle with the MPAA, documentarian Kirby Dick released a documentary titled This Film is Not Rated. In it, Dick studied these and other cases of censorship of nudity in American films.

Some genres are more or less expected to have nudity in their films. Teen/raunch comedies and slasher films seem to need nudity in order to be made. Unfortunately, those films are often so myopic that the film comes and goes from theaters and the audiences’ memories to quickly too make any difference.

About 10 to 15 years ago, Hollywood came up with a way to add more nudity and violence in hopes that the zeitgeist would hold onto a film just a little bit longer. Previous generations were known to watch not just the theatrical version of a film, but when home video like Beta and VHS came into play, people could also watch the Director’s Cut. They then had the option to see the original format and/or the director’s intended version. Less and less, Director’s Cut has been replaced with one simple word: unrated. This gave those who opted for the home release something extra. Not all unrated versions really warranted the label, but the intention was to be more edgy and add more violence and nudity for those who previously enjoyed the film or are watching the film for the first time (A more in depth of this fad can be found here). It got bad a few years back when almost all PG-13 movies were being released unrated. I took a step back by avoiding these films; I would watch it in its theatrical version. I wanted the original film, not some boob filled distraction from the story I remember. But after seeing Fired Up! unrated because I couldn’t find a rentable PG-13 copy, I gave up. Now I’ll watch whatever copy I can get my hands on.

 

 

 

 

 

Europe doesn’t share our conservative nature when it comes to nudity in film. Almost all other countries that make films abstain more from violence than nudity. They view the human figure as beautiful and should be recognized as such. Look at ancient civilizations and their sculptures, most of the subjects are naked. It isn’t meant to be pornographic or erotic, it is meant to be artistic and elegant. But in our country, all our statues have people clothed.

That said, nudity will continue be a part of cinema. Certain actors will avoid roles that require it, while others will appear to be bare in every movie they do. Regardless, the hormonal desire to see a film or promote a film on this decision needs to be eradicated. A film should be seen as a whole, not as a vehicle for boobies for younger audiences to see (butts and other parts too, but breasts seem to have the most frequent appearance in films of the three). I don’t condone or encourage such behavior, though I did indulge in it when puberty and the release of Titanic opened a dark rabbit hole. It’s part of growing up in a highly sexualized society unfortunately. It may not be the case in the future, but today kids are told to grow up way too fast, only aggravating the problem.

Some more conservative societies are not letting the rating system carry the burden of such a worry. In states like Utah, persons not involved with the actual film’s production edit films further after their release. CleanFlicks is a company that takes previously released films and removes any item they deem inappropriate. People who want to see a movie, but would prefer to not have violence, nudity, and language can then watch in peace. This process is highly controversial and often ends in lawsuits. But similar to online pornography and illegal music downloading, it will never cease to exist.

Though I understand the desire to remove harsh elements from a film, this is going too far. You can’t enjoy movies with Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue and Martin Scorsese’s frank sense of violence with these heavily censored re-edits. In a sense, the nudity in films is simply that; nudity in a movie. It shouldn’t excite you in a manner other than what the director intended. Nor should it be exploited for personal gratification. Movies are meant to be an experience, a whole greater than the parts that go into it. If a film is playing up the nudity of some scenes while downplaying the artistic merit of the film as a whole, pass. Sleeping Beauty will not be a blockbuster, and many will never even knew it existed. Watch a movie for the movie’s sake. If you want naked people, go somewhere else.

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The Worst Piece of Crap I’ve Ever Seen

I’ve always been a fan of film. When I was little, I rented As Good As It Gets a decade before I could appreciate it. I liked it still. Ever since, I’ve tried to watch movies that challenge me. Some prove rewarding like Antichrist, others leave me wanting that time back. But last weekend, I tried to get a refund. I have NEVER asked for a refund for a movie before. Sure, I walked out of Michael Clayton, but I went back because I knew it would redeem itself (and it was nominated for a slew of Oscars that year). So what was the movie I walked out of and tried to get reimbursed for? None other than Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star.

Some of you may remember Grandma’s Boy from a few years back.

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It was marketed the same way as Bucky Larson, and though it disappeared from the box office as quickly as it appeared, it gained a following on DVD. But where the two movies differ is this: Grandma’s Boy was funny and had a plot, Bucky is offensive and is a one-joke movie that isn’t funny.

Bucky Larson is a small town Iowan. When he discovers his parents were small-time pornstars in their own day, he thinks he’s Hollywood royalty. So he ventures off to the West Coast to star in “all nude movies”. When he makes it big, it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Buckyis one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I can’t think of a movie that has left more of a bad taste in my mouth than this one. Apparently, I’m not the only one. On Rotten Tomatoes, NO ONE likes it. Not a single positive review from everyone. It offends its viewers by lacking any intelligence or craft. It’s offensive to Midwesterners as they paint Iowans as idiot hillbillies. Nick Swardson plays Bucky as if Bucky has Down Syndrome, something that should never be made fun of. The jokes wouldn’t even be funny to those kids who enjoy movies with sick and childish senses of humor.

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I know just by writing this, I’m creating publicity for Bucky Larson, but I can’t let this go. This is a movie that has no redeeming qualities. It sucks and tramples your soul. I wouldn’t even recommend downloading it illegally. The MPAA would arrest you on bad taste. Skip it at all costs. 0 out of 5 stars

Summer 2011- The Poncho Marks of Achievement Awarding Contribution to Film in a Way that Isn’t Ignorable (PMAACFWII)

Summer 2011 came and went quickly this year. And nowhere was it more obvious than in theaters. Sequels and 3D took us by storm, but not everything connected with its intended audience. So without further ado, I present the first annual Poncho Marks of Achievement Awarding Contribution to Film in a Way that Isn’t Ignorable (PMAACFWII)!

This summer, a few things stood out. Many actors had not one, but two films in the multiplexes. Listed Below are the Double Dippers of the Summer:
-Olivia Wilde (The Change-Up, Cowboys & Aliens)
-Jason Bateman (The Change-Up, Horrible Bosses)
-Ryan Reynolds (The Change-Up, Green Lantern)
-Rose Bryne (X-Men: First Class, Bridesmaids)
-Colin Farrell (Fright Night, Horrible Bosses)
-Jennifer Lawrence (The Beaver, X-Men: First Class)
-Anton Yelchin (The Beaver, Fright Night)
-Justin Timberlake (Bad Teacher, Friends with Benefits)
-Owen Wilson (Cars 2, Midnight in Paris)
-Ken Jeong (The Hangover Part II, Zookeeper)
-Emma Stone (The Help, Crazy, Stupid, Love.)
But of all the actors with two movies in theaters, one actor (who isn’t even A-list…yet) managed to be in two big films. The Double Dipper of the Summer goes to Tyrese Gibson!

Tyrese Gibson thecinemasource.com

With Fast Five, he kicked off the summer with Vin Diesel and the Rock. A few months later he popped up in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Combined, the films have grossed more than $500 million domestically. Now if that’s not a wake up call to Hollywood to cast him in more stuff, I don’t know what is.

Some genres really brought it home this past Summer. Comedy really knocked it out of the park this time. Horror films were almost non-existent and the superhero genre began to show fatigue. So far, 3 comedies have grossed over $200 million worldwide, with Horrible Bosses likely to join those ranks soon. Not one of the comic book movies achieved $200 domestically. After huge hits like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Dark Knight all grossing far above that, you see audiences are beginning to tire of subpar comic book movies.

This Summer’s awards for films are listed below:
Best Comic book/action film: Captain America: The First Avenger
Best Comedy: Bridesmaids
Best Sci/Fi: Super 8
Best Drama: The Help
Best Sequel: Fast Five

Worst Comic book/action film: Thor
Worst Comedy/Drama: Larry Crowne
Worst Sci/Fi: Cowboys & Aliens
Worst Sequel: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

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Some films this summer had surprises. One had a cameo of ’90s pop band, one had an actor completely steal a movie out for under its cast, while a couple even began to get a little Oscar buzz. The ones that generated Oscar buzz both happen to have Emma Stone in them. Crazy, Stupid, Love. and The Help were both heaped with praise, with the latter quickly becoming the Oscar movie of the summer. After seeing The Help, I’d be shocked and disappointed if award season didn’t shine favorably on the three lead women (Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer). Others thought Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling were superb in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Though I would agree that both men were well above my expectations, time will tell if they get recognized during award season.

Now, everyone has his or her own way of looking back on the summer. The best and the worst films are always a given. But does anyone really go beyond that and add some flavor? Well I have, here are my awards for the summer that are more than the usual stuff.

Scene Stealer: Ryan Gosling- Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Honorable Mention: Leslie Mann’s figure in The Change-Up. Why they thought it would be a good idea to make CGI boobies, I’ll never know. It completely cheapened the film. It’s one more step towards Hentai and replacing actors all together.

Yummy (Most Attractive Cast): Bridesmaids– Are you kidding me?! Rose Byrne, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, the whole cast is hot as hell! Looks and talent every one of them.

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My Eyes are Bleeding (Best 3D): Captain America: The First Avenger (Post-conversion)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (filmed with 3D cameras)

To Hell with that Garbage (This is awarded to a movie I’d rather get knocked out than watch): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Honorable Mention: Cars 2. This looks like the first time Pixar did a movie just for the money. And the first Cars was crap to begin with. Pixar let me down by even thinking of making this.

You Lost Me at Hello (the big stinker of the Summer): Thor. This movie made me hate myself, and Marvel, and the whole cast. Had Kat Dennings not been in it, I would have led a riot against this clunker.

Failure at Life (a movie that failed at every possible avenue to be a terrible, headache of crappy filmmaking): Cowboys & Aliens

The Cubs fan (an award for a movie that won’t be a hit, but you hope for it anyway): The Change-Up. It wasn’t a well-made movie, but I really enjoyed it none the less.
Honorable Mention: Captain America to outgross Thor. Thor got better reviews and was released early in the summer before superhero fatigue set it.

Clint as Dirty Harry http://wikiality.wikia.com

Where was Clint Eastwood (movie that most needing Clint Eastwood to be profitable)?: Priest. It’s a western after all. Even a cameo could have made up for that lackluster climax.

There you have it, my summer recap and the winners for the first ever PMAACFWII. Until next year…