Tag Archives: sex comedy

sex, lies, and videotape – Review

8 May

I love going back to the beginning of acclaimed film makers’ careers and seeing what they were capable of before making it big. Kevin Smith had Clerks, Robert Rodriguez had El Mariachi, and Richard Linklater had Slacker. All are impressive starts. Let’s go back even earlier than these movies to a director’s debut that surprised everyone, and he just so happens to be one of my favorite film makers. This is Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies, and videotape. Not only did it take major awards at the Cannes Film Festival, but also helped jump start the independent film movement of the 1990s.

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Ann’s (Andie MacDowell) marriage is in trouble, and she can’t seem to figure out why. In her mind, she just no longer has any interest in sex. In reality, her husband John (Peter Gallagher) is having an affair with Ann’s sister, Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). This deceit continues regularly until John’s old college friend, Graham (James Spader), arrives in town with hopes of finding a new apartment. Graham has a secret of his own, a fetish that rips into the lives of everyone involved and changes the way they look at each other and their relationships.

Now, this movie has really left me thinking. On the surface it works really well as a dark sex comedy/drama, but it possesses something much more psychological. The characters in this movie are all twisted beyond repair, and it’s only appropriate that the first scene of the movie takes place in a therapist’s office. Trying to unravel the characters is no easy task and the past few days since I’ve watched it, I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it. It’s obvious that sex is the main drive for everyone in the movie, but what their true intentions and motivations are are sometimes a little bit foggy. The sex seems to control their entire lives, but what are they really trying to hide or escape from?Sex-Lies-and-Videotape-1989

 

The writing in this movie is also something to really be appreciated and looked at differently than you would a more normal kind of movie. The way the characters speak to each other is far from how people actually interact in everyday life. Deep personal secrets are brought to light way earlier than they should and the graphic nature of the dialogue compared with how long some of the characters have known each other makes it almost a surreal experience listening to them talk. It also makes you wonder what Soderbergh was trying to do by not beating around the bush at all, which is a way more common thing to do in movies. This deconstruction of sexual dialogue is sure to make puritans cringe, but is certainly something to be appreciated.

It also isn’t very rare for a debut film to have acting in it that is less than superb, but that isn’t the case in sex, lies, and videotape. James Spader won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his subtle portrayal of Graham, who is arguably the most normal person in this movie. Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo are both fine, but Andie MacDowell is the real powerhouse next to Spader. Soderbergh was originally very hesitant in casting her, but it appears he made the right choice. Her nervous energy is comparable to James Stewart in Rear Window.

Thinking back on sex, lies and videotape, I can sort of describe it as what would happen if Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen collaborated to make a movie together. It has the neurotic energy of Woody Allen, the mystery of Hitchcock, and the combined dialogue of both. Steven Soderbergh may have, at the time, unknowingly created one of the more important movies of the last 30 years, since the aftermath resulted in Miramax being the forerunner of bringing independent movies to the main stream. It’s a superbly written and acted movie that has certainly made its mark in film history.

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Zack and Miri Make a Porno – Review

7 May

I’m sure that by now, a hefty amount of people have seen Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and it’s safe to say that I’m a little late to the party. This movie did very well at the box office and has since done well in sales. I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith as a director but appreciate his body of work the most as a writer. I was excited to see this movie because of the combination of Smith and the rest of the cast, but I have to say I was really disappointed by what I saw. Zack and Miri isn’t what you call a bad movie or a completely unfunny movie, but if you look at movies like Clerks and Chasing Amy, it’s pretty obvious that Smith is capable of much better work.

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Zack Brown (Seth Rogen) and Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks) are two slacker best friends whose least most concern is paying their bills on time. As the unpaid bills pile up, their luck finally catches up with them and their water and electricity are turned off and an additional threat of getting locked out of their apartment also looms over them. Zack finally hatches a get rich quick plan that, in his mind, seems fool proof. That is to shoot and distribute pornography. As the two gather friends from work and around town which include an overly sensitive Delaney (Craig Robinson), they also begin hiring talent like the astoundingly oblivious Lester (Jason Mewes). Things start looking up for the make shift crew of pornographers, but it isn’t long before real human emotion starts to penetrate the lustful set of the porn movie.

As a comedy, it is pretty average when it comes to the jokes. Something that I really love about Smith’s writing is his ability to write long and drawn out conversations and speeches that seem random, but oddly intelligent and thoughtful. The writing in this movie is pretty average. There are some funny references about film thrown in that made me chuckle, but the really heavy laughter was pretty few and far between. The witty writing and dialogue that seemed to have confidence all its own is nowhere to be seen. Instead, I mostly heard a constant barrage of sex and poop jokes. Now don’t get me wrong. These can be really funny, but when that’s all a movie is I feel kind of ripped off.

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There is some joy to be had in this movie, however. A lot of the laughs in the movie didn’t come from the writing, but more so from the delivery of the jokes that were already written. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks work very well off each other and I feel like a lot of the funnier things in this movie were improvised between the two of them. My favorite part of Zack and Miri is when the two title characters have to film their sex scene for the porno and the way the whole beginning of the scene plays out is incredibly awkward for the both of them. The quick lines of dialogue they say are really funny and just the way they play off each other is great. It was also cool to see Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson, both of whom acted side by side in the two Clerks movies.

As much as I’m putting the writing down, I have to give it to Smith for creating two characters whose developments work very well in the context of the movie. Let’s just say, I buy everything that’s happening between the characters. No one is a cardboard cutout of other characters in comedies like these, and while this isn’t an absolutely hilarious movie, it is nice to see originality in it. For that, I can’t say that this is a bad movie, because any movie that shows honest to goodness originality and spirit put into it, I have to respect and appreciate on at least some level.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a pretty weak attempt by Kevin Smith, especially compared to his other movies that are so memorable and well done. This is also definitely not a comedy for people who can’t stomach things that get too raunchy or dirty, because that’s pretty much all of the comedy involved. I makes me miss the times where Smith made movies that examined a level of society and philosophies that aren’t always explored out of fear of offending people. This movie seems to want to offend just for the sake of offending. If you’re a Kevin Smith fan it’s an alright movie to see, especially for the cast and cameos (including one hilarious one of Kenny Hotz from the show Kenny vs Spenny). Don’t expect too much out of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but it does have some heart and may be good for a chuckle.