Monday, November 29, 2010

Sex and The Stad 2

Check out my latest column on page 89 of Amsterdam Magazine. Bonus points if you can separate hard fact from hot fiction.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sex and The Stad

Check out my inaugural column on page 97 of the latest issue of Amsterdam Magazine. Greetz!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Festival Coverage: Pornfilmfestival Berlin

As a filmmaker who makes G-rated porn I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being thoroughly excited when I learned that a festival devoted to celebrating sex onscreen had filled its opening night slot with a flick that contains not one sex scene. And writer/director/producer/editor Zach Clark’s SXSW 2009 hit “Modern Love Is Automatic,” a refreshingly respectful and poignant comedy that centers around a jaded nurse who moonlights as a dominatrix and her aspiring (or rather delusional) model roommate, wasn’t the only selection to subversively screw with the very definition of porn. This year’s fifth edition, which concluded on Halloween, included some highly improbable subgenres in the mix — gay zombie and vampire porn and even a porn musical retrospective.

And Rambo porn. Or rather one critical essay in the form of my short, “The Story of Ramb O,” in which I’ve juxtaposed images from “Rambo First Blood: Part 2” with text from “The Story of O” (to show that a soldier is forever the government’s bitch).

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Falling in Love at PornFilmFestival Berlin

I first heard about writer/director/producer/editor Zach Clark's “Modern Love Is Automatic” from fellow Houser Steve Boone, who emailed to ask if I'd seen the SXSW 2009 hit about a nurse who becomes a dominatrix. I hadn't—though I've seen the real life version of medical professionals moonlighting as pro doms more times than I care to count. So I made a mental note to see it, then promptly missed its theatrical release at the reRun Gastropub Theater. And like so many other flicks that sadly fall off my radar, this breath-of-fresh-air gem likely would have been confined to my dusty must-see list had it not been that “Modern Love Is Automatic” is opening this year's Pornfilmfestival Berlin, where my own short, “The Story of Ramb O,” is having its world premiere. Thank heaven for kinky accidents.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Story of Ramb O at Pornfilmfestival Berlin

World premiere Sunday, October 31!

"A soldier is forever the government's bitch."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August 5 – Well Seasoned: Stories from Pros with Some Experience Under Their Belts

Hot in the city? Join me for the next Red Umbrella Diaries (“stories of sex and money” series) where I’ll be reading an excerpt from Under My Master’s Wings.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer of '85: The Strongest Femme In The World: Pumping Iron II: The Women

It's a shame I had to trek downtown to Tribeca to experience “Pumping Iron II: The Women,” which played as part of the 92nd Street Y's "Outsider Sports" series (on a double bill with “Afghan Muscles”— kudos to the creative programmer!). Not that I have anything against attending a free screening of a 16mm print courtesy of the New York Public Library. It's just that George Butler's follow-up to his Schwarzenegger-starring “Pumping Iron” needs to be disseminated on DVD in a 25th-anniversary edition complete with all the bells and whistles. Yes, this semi-doc is a film geek's dream, one that leaves you thinking about things beyond its bodybuilding theme and hungering to learn more.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Considering “The Big Lebowski: An XXX Parody”

In retrospect it seems inevitable that some enterprising pornographers in Hollywood’s shadow industry would look to the Coen brothers’ quintessential Venice Beach bum The Dude for inspiration. Not only is southern California the hub of the sex biz, The Dude is SoCal made flesh. And now a company called New Sensations has done just this with “The Big Lebowski: A XXX Parody,” a passionate, nearly shot-for-shot recreation that shows that cute porn is not an oxymoron. Sure, New Sensations has already tackled pop culture with “30 Rock: A XXX Parody” and “Seinfeld: A XXX Parody,” but “The Big Lebowski: A XXX Parody” really does feel like something different. This isn’t some mainstream TV touchstone the company is tackling, but a cult film from bona fide indie auteurs. A few years back Lucas Entertainment was the darling of the GAYVN Awards with its serious porn remakes of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (and “Dangerous Liaisons” prior to that). In its own way “The Big Lebowski: A XXX Parody” feels closer to those earnest gay versions, more tributes birthed from true movie geek love than of-the-moment knock-offs.

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New York Asian Film Festival 2010: Dispatch Two

“Annyong Yumika,” making its North American premiere at this year's New York Asian Film Festival, takes its name from legendary Japanese porn starlet Yumika Hayashi, who also had a big career in Korea. But perhaps most intriguing about this odd nonfiction look at the woman who took top honors at the Pink Grand Prix for the softcore Japanese flick “Lunchbox”—and who met an untimely death in 2005—is that it's truly not made for Western eyes. Practically experimental in his whimsical collage approach, director Tetsuaki Matsue takes as his jumping off point the discovery of his subject's previously lost film, “Junko: The Tokyo Housewife.” That softcore Korean production, which cast Korean actors speaking Japanese, becomes the catalyst for not only retracing Yumika's life (through old home movie footage and bizarre reenactments at actual locations), but also for exploring, to use the title of one talking head professor's book, "the Japanese as seen in Korea."

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Get Mad at Sin!

Andrew Dinwiddie's "Get Mad at Sin!," directed by Jeff Larson and running at the Obie Award-winning Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City, Queens, takes as its starting point a delightfully ripe concept - to craft a one-man show from an out-of-print vinyl record of a sermon Jimmy Swaggart gave at an Arkansas church in 1971 (over a decade before sex scandals brought about his downfall in the late 80s). And a hell of a sermon it is! Smartly, Dinwiddie, wearing a cheap polyester suit and JC Penney-style loafers, dispenses with any irony and simply channels the fire and brimstone preacher at his Sunday best. Stalking a worn red carpet, that divides the audience seated in folding chairs on raised platforms with rec room-type wood paneling, Dinwiddie orates and shimmies with abundant sincerity, letting Swaggart's own incredible words ring out loud and clear.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret

As its bold and sprawling title implies Rapscallion Theatre Collective's "All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret" is out to push both buttons and boundaries. Directed by Krystal Banzon from a script by Mariah MacCarthy the show tackles gender stereotypes through an array of can't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover characters, from a hetero tomboy to a femme straight guy, from a feminist lesbian with a knee-jerk hatred of men, to a gay hairdresser who becomes a straight-basher. Guiding them on their journey to self-awareness and the shedding of black-and-white categories is an androgynous emcee named Taylor played by Becca Blackwell whose natural, easygoing stage presence is perfectly suited to the enlightened character.

To read the rest visit Theater Online.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Caligula Maximus

"Rocky Horror Picture Show" meets Coney Island Sideshow is how best to describe writer/director Alfred Preisser and writer Randy Weiner's "Caligula Maximus," a loveably scruffy and ragged extravaganza set on the last night of the debauched dictator's life. While not exactly DIY indie theater - Preisser is better known as the co-founder of Classical Theatre of Harlem while Weiner owns hipster venue The Box - "Caligula Maximus" does boast a homemade "let's put on a show" sensibility that shines addictively through.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

“The Story of Ramb O” now available on YouTube!

My four-minute, homoerotic quickie The Story of Ramb O is now playing for a limited time (until YouTube gives me the boot).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like A Man?

As a freelance critic who is one of the few female voices at many of the sites I write for I found “NY Times” bigwig film critic Manohla Dargis’s run-up to the Oscars rant at Jezebel (see "Fuck Them": Times Critic On Hollywood, Women, & Why Romantic Comedies Suck, a follow up to her more staid “Times” lament Women in the Seats but Not Behind the Camera on the dearth of female directors in Hollywood) delightfully ballsy. For how often do you hear Grey Lady journalists explain why romantic comedies are so cringe worthy in the following terms?

“One, the people making them have no fucking taste, two, they're morons, three they're insulting panderers who think they're making movies for the great unwashed and that's what they want. I love romantic movies. I absolutely do. But I literally don't know what's happening. I think it's depressing that Judd Apatow makes the best romantic comedies and they're about men.”

But Dargis’s swinging cojones are also the problem with the piece. As a longtime fan of both Dargis and her own object of fandom, action director Kathryn Bigelow, I wholeheartedly agree with Dargis’ assessment of the shameful state of Hollywood with regards to female filmmakers. What’s more interesting, however, is why I’m a fan of both these talented women – and not, say, Nancy Meyers, a Hollywood player in the rom-com genre who I like even less than Dargis does. The simple truth is both Dargis and Bigelow (as opposed to Nancy Meyers) create their art from that very same male POV that Dargis herself seems to blame.

For let’s face it. This isn’t a matter of Hollywood not trusting women – it’s a matter of Hollywood, like society, placing a higher value on the white, hetero masculine gaze. It’s the same reason a filmmaker like Douglas Sirk would never direct a western like John Ford. Sirk just didn’t direct from a typically straight male point of view. Both Dargis and Bigelow, not to mention the many women execs in charge of those big bad studios, have been let into the good old boys club simply because the male honchos recognize them as one of their own. (That Bigelow eventually got kicked to the curb for low box office receipts unlike some of her under-performing male colleagues could be attributed to a million other factors besides gender, as Dargis dubiously hypothesizes.) Dargis and Bigelow write and direct, respectively, like their male counterparts, from a very comforting and familiar, masculine point of view.

As opposed to Nancy Meyers who, in Daphne Merkin’s profile of her in the “Times” magazine, is constantly reminding her crew that she wants things “soft” – right down to digitally eliminating spiky plants. Meyers isn’t just a female filmmaker, but a very feminine filmmaker, and one whose viewpoint greatly appeals to a lot of other female-gaze oriented folks. (This is also why she doesn’t direct like Dargis fave Judd Apatow – and Hollywood’s hiring a talented rom-com director who happens to be female with the same masculine gaze as Mr. Apatow would merely be an exercise in redundancy, not equal rights.) Personally I find Meyers as boring and predictable a director as Guy Ritchie, yet I’m also willing to admit that for all I know Meyers could be the next Douglas Sirk, lambasted in his own day for being soft. Perhaps her reputation will be rescued a few decades from now by a female-gaze oriented critic more insightful than I who recognizes the filmmaker’s petal pushing in a Hollywood world of bomb throwers as a radically subversive act of art.

And like the art establishment, where women’s work often makes up less than five percent of a museum’s collection, the business of Hollywood reflects America’s binary patriarchal society – it doesn’t determine it. In another century Georgia O’Keefe “suffered” from her affiliation with Alfred Stieglitz in the sense that his male gaze was forever being placed on top of her paintings. Once Stieglitz had eroticized the artist herself via his photographs her pictures were seen only through a sexual lens in the public imagination. O’Keefe’s artwork could no longer be expressions of a female sensibility. They had to undergo a masculine eroticization to be valued. Yet altering (mis)perception isn’t up to MOMA or Warner Brothers, but to the grassroots artists on the ground, including the gender-neutral gaze, indie filmmakers who elicit change. Only then will a studio call on Kelly Reichardt, or Ramin Bahrani for that matter, to direct the next superhero flick.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Screw Clooney! (Actors Whose Sex Appeal Transcends Their Non-Leading Man Looks)

Hollywood history doesn’t include many stars like Sal Mineo, a character actor whose feral cat charisma enabled him to hold his own onscreen against no lesser an icon of otherworldly beauty than the equally tragic James Dean. In “Who Killed Teddy Bear?,” Joseph Cates’s riveting sexploitation film noir – which recently screened in a rare 35mm print at NYC’s Anthology Film Archives – about a Times Square disco hostess (the always stunning Juliet Prowse) being stalked by an obscene caller Mineo plays Lawrence, a quiet busboy caring for his mentally retarded younger sister. Quite early on we learn he’s also deeply disturbed. Yet when Prowse’s character Norah unaware of Lawrence’s distasteful predilections compliments him on his toned body after a swim in the local gym’s pool we buy that she might be attracted to this creep. The average looking Mineo could make even a perverted weirdo sexy.

Which brings us to the myth of modern Hollywood – reflected in 21st century life – that beauty and sexiness always go hand in hand. I find this utterly ridiculous. Though I wouldn’t necessarily kick Brad Pitt out of bed, I certainly would grab a one-night-stand with Willem Dafoe over sex with Angelina’s leading man hubby anytime anyplace (of course, the seedier the better). In the good old movie days nondescript manly men like Humphrey Bogart could land vixens like Lauren Bacall without having to resemble Clark Gable; and while the women didn’t do quite so well in Tinseltown an Italian siren such as Anna Magnani looked to be every bit as good a lay as knockout Sophia Loren.

So, with all due respect, to George Clooney, Matt Damon, Will Smith and all those other A-list handsome nice guys, here are five lesser mortals who I’d green light over you in the sack. Beauty is only skin deep, after all, while sexiness comes from the mind and soul.

Willem Dafoe

Bobby Peru. The two words that sealed the Dafoe deal for me. Watching Dafoe as Bobby meticulously mentally disassemble then mind-fuck Laura Dern’s Lula in David Lynch’s warped “Wild At Heart” changed my life. Dafoe tapped into the dirty little secret that you don’t have to look like Nic Cage if you’ve got the X-ray vision to discern another’s most secret desires, and the balls to coax that taboo out into the light of day. Bobby tells Lula he likes a woman with nice tits who talks tough “and looks like she can fuck like a bunny.” “Do you fuck like that, huh?" he teasingly whispers from across the room. Even when Dafoe is playing the good guy (like in “Mississippi Burning” two decades ago) his fiery sinister sexuality can’t be extinguished. Bunny jump fast!

Peter Mullan

I last saw Peter Mullan playing a less than chaste priest at a press screening of the “Red Riding Trilogy” (due out in February) and it was like running into an old lover you hadn’t thought about in years. The Scottish actor first came to my attention for his riveting performance as a struggling alcoholic in “My Name Is Joe,” and though he may not have the classic studio looks of fellow countryman Sean Connery, he’s got the same aggressive and magnetic masculinity. Mullan doesn’t light up the screen so much as render it null and void, with those lascivious voyeuristic eyes that are forever roving and calculating. Indeed, it’s possible to leave the theater wondering who was watching whom.

Tim Roth

Whether it’s “Made in Britain,” “Little Odessa” or “Reservoir Dogs” Roth has a bad boy habit of seducing us with his primal intensity. He commands attention even when in a terrible made-for-TV movie like “Tsunami: The Aftermath,” in which he played a tousled roguish journalist. There’s a striking scene in that otherwise forgettable flick where Roth’s character, fed up with an incompetent bureaucracy, orders a drink at a bar. The camera lingers a tad too long in the uncomfortable tension emanating from Roth’s journo as he doesn’t ask but absolutely demands. Roth knows the line between need and desire is fluid, and he walks it with the sultry skill of a tight-wire artist.

John Malkovich

What Spike Jonze captured in “Being John Malkovich” was the same sexy quality apparent in “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Ripley’s Game” and even “Shadow of the Vampire” (opposite fellow sinister hottie Willem Dafoe) – the aspect of being an enigma. The elusive Malkovich compels us with his unreadable, hence unattainable, demeanor, forever creating secretive characters to toy with us. Unlike hot-blooded Roth Malkovich is an ice prince, a cool tease. Rather than give us what we want he’ll always leave us begging for more.

Christopher Walken

From the start of his career the gangly song and dance man was just too weird to be a lead. As good as he was in “The Deer Hunter” Walken’s striking physicality and creepy charisma often overtake the character of Nick, and it wouldn’t be until madman Abel Ferrara came along to cast him in “King of New York” that his offbeat air of sexual menace was allowed to fully shine through. Even weirder Ferrara did the same for unconventional Harvey Keitel in “Bad Lieutenant.” Walken like Keitel makes you feel dirty just by watching him, as if there’s a pornographic subtext hidden inside his every line.

Talking Seduction with "Fish Tank" director Andrea Arnold

I can barely remember the first time I had sex. I mean, I remember the details of picking up a bar-back named Jeff at the Limelight nightclub in the early nineties and letting him take me back to his apartment for some straight-up screwing. What I don’t recall is any mind-blowing sensation – any “eureka!” moment of realization, of suddenly knowing that that’s what the big deal was. To me a one-night-stand seemed akin to just another night of sweaty clubbing.

Yet I do remember the first time I got mind-fucked. It left me in a state of ecstasy greater than any vanilla sex ever had. And I can recall those details vividly the same way a born again Christian recollects the moment of finding true religion. It was Thanksgiving weekend 1995 and I was in Boston visiting my friend Aimee who was attending Harvard at the time. It was at the goth club Man Ray that I met Arthur, tall with a mane of long black hair flowing down the back of his black leather jacket, a twinkle in his eye and a half-amused smile on his face that said he’d seen (and tamed) oh-so-cool types like me many times before. I wanted him more than I’d ever wanted a man mostly because he was so aloof, exuded the unattainable. Yet I did work my flirtatious skills enough to get him to accompany me back to Aimee’s Cambridge pad where I soon made a move to meet his lips as he gently stroked my leg while we sat on the couch. His arm shot out, hand grabbing my hair as he pulled me away then kissed me instead. As things got hotter and heavier and I straddled his lap fully clothed he deftly pinned my arms behind my back, held me still as if taking mental note of this unusual pose for future reference. Then he asked me what I was into. “Sex,” I answered confused. “Just sex?” he wondered in his Schwarzenegger-sounding accent. “Sure, why? What are you into?” I countered feeling my na├»ve age (nearly a decade his junior). “Bondage,” he replied firmly stating the sexiest word I’d ever heard. And then out of the blue Arthur announced he didn’t do one-night-stands, that he’d call and come visit me in NYC sometime soon. Despite my protests that bordered on shameless begging he stood up and sauntered out the door. Leaving me shocked and angry, and sexually frustrated and utterly thrilled all at the same time. That was the night I fell madly in love with BDSM.

Of course, this is just one of a million stories of sexual awakening in the naked city. (And yes, Arthur stayed true to his word.) More recently, I thought about this life altering experience and the myriad forms of seduction and loss of innocence while reviewing “Fish Tank,” Andrea Arnold’s stunning follow up to her equally visceral, Cannes-winning debut “Red Road.” In the film Michael Fassbender’s older man Connor has an extremely hot and unnerving encounter with Katie Jarvis’s teenage Mia, the rebellious daughter of his partying girlfriend. Arnold herself is less a feminist than part of an exciting tide of British directors, Shane Meadows included, who are redefining the kitchen sink realism of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh for a new post-punk generation. But when I sat down with the critically acclaimed director at the Soho Grand a few weeks back that gorgeously specific, coming-of-age scene in “Fish Tank” stood foremost in my mind. Fortunately, the very accessible Arnold was more than happy to shed light on the importance of detail, female insight and listening to imaginary horses.

LW: First off, one of the things that most impresses me is how concise and precise the images are in your films. You say everything you need to say within the least amount of frames. Obviously a lot of people are going to think of the kitchen sink realism of Loach and Leigh but there’s also a poetic, nearly Neorealist quality to your work. Can you talk a bit about your filmmaking influences?

AA: Ooh, I have quite a lot. Everyone from Terence Malick to the Dardenne brothers to David Lynch, Michael Haneke –

LW: “The White Ribbon.” Everyone hated it but me. (laughs)

AA: Yeah, I saw it at Telluride. I don’t know if I was just in a funny mood that day, but it was the first time during a Haneke film that I wanted to leave the cinema.

LW: That’s good!

AA: Yeah, I know. He wants me to feel that way.

LW: Well, you direct in a similar way. I mean, you don’t have a comfortable filmmaking style at all. That seduction scene between Connor and Mia, which is the centerpiece of “Fish Tank” – that’s damn hard to watch.

AA: Yeah, one of my friends described it as “everything I didn’t want and everything I wanted.”

LW: Let’s talk a little bit about that disturbing scene, because interestingly, I found myself smiling during it.

AA: (laughs surprised) Oh, really?

LW: Yes, but what made me smile was the realization that this is a director who actually “gets it” – how seduction can turn to coercion in the blink of an eye. I can’t remember when I’ve seen this rite-of-passage aspect even depicted onscreen and yet it’s something a lot of teenage girls go through. It was like a catharsis for me to see it. It’s also a situation few teenage boys ever experience, which is maybe why male filmmakers wouldn’t think to depict it. Can you talk a bit about its importance and how you developed it? It also happens to be the most visually stylized scene in the film.

AA: Well, I think a lot of it just starts with the writing. When I’m writing I try hard to imagine that situation and how it would really be. And a lot of the details, I think it goes back to what you were saying about being precise. I’m able to concentrate on details, to really think them through, to really imagine them. Quite often there will be some strange detail that I don’t even understand. There was an earlier short where I wanted a shot of a balloon floating across this wasteland. And I’m getting everyone to do the shot, and I don’t think they understood quite what I was getting at, but I somehow knew it was really important.

LW: David Lynch works that way.

AA: Oh really? Does he? (laughs flattered) Well, like with the horse in this film. When I was writing about the horse –

LW: Was that the first image that you had when you started writing?

AA: No, it wasn’t the first. But when I started writing at the beginning always there was that horse. I actually wrote two different beginnings, just trying to find my way into the story, to try to see this person, to ask, “What is she doing on this day?” Yet every time I started writing about her, every time I came at it a different way, the story still came from the horse. And the horse in the script was always an old, dirty brown horse. It wasn’t a white one. But she just kept meeting that horse so I thought, well, the horse is supposed to be there. I didn’t question it. A couple people said it was a metaphor – a heavy-handed metaphor – but I never meant for it to be a metaphor for her situation. The horse just wanted to be there.

LW: Sometimes a horse is just a horse.

AA: Maybe so.

“Fish Tank” is now playing at a theater near you. My review and interview with lead actor Michael Fassbender is now playing at Slant Magazine.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Fave Film of The Past Decade

If I had to choose only one movie of the past ten years to be stranded with on a deserted island it would be Martin Campbell’s smart and sassy “Casino Royale.” The director and his cast and crew collectively returned a sense of fun and play not only to the Bond franchise, but to the blockbuster as well. This popcorn flick’s got something to lure practically everyone into abandoning oneself to the magic of the screen. There’s richly drawn characters embodied not by stars but by highly skilled, hardworking actors (a definition that still fits Daniel Craig despite the film’s subsequently launching him into the cinematic stratosphere). Watch the chemistry between and concentrated performances from the likes of Craig (as a thuggish Bond cut from the roguish Connery cloth), Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre and Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter during that famous high-stakes poker tournament – they could just as easily be performing Mamet on Broadway! The film’s action sequences are actually thrilling because they are organically connected to the swift-moving script, as opposed to mere excuses to blow something up so as not to disappoint a test market audience. Not to mention the riveting storyline keeps you on the edge of your seat like Ian Fleming’s page-turners did in the first place. Heck, as an added bonus there’s even a steamy gay leather scene between (my personal fetish object) Craig and sexy Mikkelsen! “Casino Royale” is classic, feel-good, Hollywood comfort food served up with just the right amount of spice.