Friday, February 25, 2011

A brief departure

There's a pretty amusing Reddit thread regarding embarrassing "Dad's porn" moments.

It's funny to me that situations like these are near-universal, but also seeing the generational differences for how they're played out: stag films/VHS tapes/internet/...holograms?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Kate & the Indians

Kate & the Indians (1979)

Directed by:
Allen Swift

Kandi Barbour
Kay Parker
Holly Joy
Jennifer West
Bobby Dee
Luke Gusher
Jack Shute
R.J. Reynolds
Luis De Jesus
Mike Ranger
Lawrence Washington

Perhaps the most midnight movie-est porn I've ever seen, while not as technically or narratively solid as Neon Nights, Kate & the Indians is at least as surreal.

The film opens with Kate (Kandi Barbour) and her friend Lisa (Holly Joy) entering the home of anthropology professor Dr. Kurt Von Martin's home. They're there to show the professor a medallion that Kate and her boyfriend Bill came across in the desert. Kurt is interested in the medallion and asks Kate if, in the morning, she'll take him to the place she found it. Before they can make any definite plans, Kurt's wife, Mira (Kay Parker), enters with their...butler, maybe?...Bane (Luke Gusher), who presents Kate and Lisa with glasses of what turns out to be a potion passed down by Mira's ancestors, which is said to "make you enjoy love more." Lisa's hit hard and early by the potion, so Mira whisks her off to the bedroom. And then sits on Lisa's doped up face. When Kate goes to check on Lisa, she's shocked at the scene, but is soon overtaken by the potion herself. At this point, Mira commands Bane to have sex with (or, more accurately, rape) Kate.

Abruptly, the scene shifts to the desert, where Kate and Kurt are tooling around in a jeep. The jeep breaks down, then some weird shit happens, then they come across a man in the desert they hope can help them. Bill (Mike Ranger) takes them back to his house. (Remember, Kate's boyfriend's name is Bill; quite a coincidence. OR IS IT?!?) Kurt notices a medallion around Bill's neck that is the same as the one Kate brought to his house. Bill says that he got it from "the Indians", and ultimately agrees to take Kate and Kurt to see them.

"The Indians" are what appears to be a hippie sex cult with a veneer of Native American stereotypes led by a High Priestess (also Kay Parker). Bill is familiar with the Priestess's husband, Studduck (Bobby Dee), and while the group is getting sauced in his teepee on an elixir whipped up by 'duck's "Number One Son" the Medicine Man, Studduck reminices about an orgy and a time that 'duck and Bill watched Medicine Man and some other guy get blown by two Indian girls. (Both of these instances are shown in flashback scenes, of course.)

The High Priestess, tipped off by a midget in a Nazi helmet (Luis De Jesus), busts into the teepee just after Kate starts blowing 'duck. Furious, she condemns Bill, Kate, and Kurt to death. The three attempt to escape and a sped-up chase scene, set to the final movement of the William Tell Overture, ensues. Ultimately, they're caught and, along with Studduck (who's punished to having his wiener cut off), bound. Bill and Kurt are fellated by Indian girls and Kate is gone down upon by the Priestess herself. Studduck realizes that the Priestess actually just wanted Kate to herself, which is apparently against the rules, so he commands the rest of the Indians to attack her...the Priestess, that is.

At this point, there's a twist that I won't spoil, but is one that you should probably be able to figure out.

Watching this flick, it's virtually impossible not to imagine that it was either conceived, produced, or both, by people with their heads full of hallucinogens. With the exception of a couple of minutes that could have easily been cut out of both the orgy flashback and the pre-sacrifice oral sex festival at the end of the movie, Kate & the Indians is really well-paced over its 83 minutes.

Kate & the Indians is so weird and silly, that if I were tasked with picking a movie for a group of people to watch while getting drunk, it would be waaaay up on that list. A-

Pornonomy Reviews: Hot Dallas Nights

Hot Dallas Nights (1981)

Directed by:
Tony Kendrick

Hillary Summers
Raven Turner
Tara Flynn
R.J. Reynolds
Sam Grady
Turk Lyon

This is a weird little piece of work. A parody of Dallas (a show which, to my recollection, I've never seen), Hot Dallas Nights sort of tells the story of the Brewing family, Texan manure magnates: Rock and Millie (presumably Alexander Kingsford and Greer Shapiro in mercifully non-sex roles), sons R.J. (R.J. Reynolds) and Robbie (Turk Lyon), their wives Mary Ellen and Pat (Tara Flynn and Raven Turner), granddaughter Lindy (Hillary Summers), though she doesn't seem to be either son's daughter, and ranch hand Duke (Sam Grady).

Two thirds of the film is the story of intrigue (R.J.'s plan to mortgage the ranch in order to buy a competitor's manure operation) and infidelity (the sons with each others' wives, the wives with each other and with Duke) in the glamorous world of Big Shit, highlighted by gloriously stilted performances of delightfully awful dialogue. The film really falls apart in the end, though. The final third, after the sons are kicked out of the family - R.J. for being a shady jerk, Robbie for being a dummy - and Duke is elevated to boss of the company for orchestrating a merger with the competing manure-ers, is just three consecutive sex scenes between Duke and Lindy, Duke, Mary Ellen, and Pat, and then Duke and Pat. By and large, the sex scenes are average, but they're definitely momentum killers.

After I found out that Kendrick's only other directing credit was Nurses of the 407, Hot Dallas Nights made a lot more sense. Since I gave Nurses a C-, and Hot Dallas Nights was moderately more amusing, doesn't get knocked for wasting its cast, and gets a few bonus points for a relatively funny call back in the closing shot, I'll give it a C.

Pornonomy Reviews: The Young Like It Hot

The Young Like It Hot (1983)

Directed by:
Bob Chinn

Shauna Grant
Hyapatia Lee
Kay Parker
Lili Marlene
Linda Shaw
Laurie Smith
Pat Manning
Rosa Lee Kimball
Sarah Mills
Ray Wells
Bud Lee
Eric Edwards
Hershel Savage
Joey Silvera
Mike Horner
Paul Thomas
Bill Margold

By coincidence, this is the second film I've seen in as many days directed by Bob Chinn. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, chalk up another one for Bob Chinn. (Although, in this case you can't overlook the contribution of Gail Palmer's story and screenplay.)

In what should be square one for filmmakers, porn or otherwise, The Young Like It Hot has a simple, straightforward premise with dramatic tension: here a phone company is considering a switch to a computerized system which would put the operators out of work. In an effort to save their jobs, they decide to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get customers to contact their boss, proving computers can't replace people. At the same time, the operators conspire with the "pole men" to sabotage the computer system.

Much like in Pizza Girls, the main characters are varied and interesting, and right in the wheelhouse of the actors portraying them , and the "action" flows more or less organically within the construct of the plot.

Throughout the film there are moments of levity intentional (particularly involving Edwards as the boss, Mr. Fishbait: "And why is my chair moist?"; and the "help" "dizzy" operator Cindy - Shauna Grant - gives Jeff - Silvera - over the phone while he's attempting to finish an addition to his house) and unintentional (David - Bud Lee - talking Carla - Sharon Mills - through her first orgasm; if Mike Horner and Kevin James are neck and neck for porn's All-American Doofus, Lee may well be porn's Biggest Dweeb).

The main cast is rounded out by Loni (Hyapatia Lee), the operators' supervisor, Cheryl (Kay Parker, who seems more like a weirdo the more I see her in films), virgin-with-man-issues Marie (Lili Marlene, with the look and awkwardness of a fourth wife at Juniper Creek, who is still somehow supposed to be believable as the object of Mr. Fishbait's affection), Nancy (Rosa Lee Kimball) the operator that "talks off" "Big Dick" (Bill Margold, who must be a righty given his spastic left-handed technique while he's on the phone), and service men Jim (Ray Wells), Mr. Fishbait's brother, Cheryl's suitor, near genius and computer wizard, and character with perhaps the line of the film (to Cheryl: "I'm not gonna to fuck you. And I'm not gonna make love to you. I'm gonna do both at the same time."; man, that's a lot of descriptors for a dude that's in the movie for, like, four minutes), and Tom (Horner).

The only things that keep The Young Like It Hot (overlooking the fact that the name of the film seems to have been picked out of a hat...although it does have a pretty sweet theme song), are the trio of simultaneously occurring sex scenes that happen after the resolution of the plot (hence the aforementioned "more or less organically") and the obviously over-dubbed sounds in the first Grant/Silvera scene (I'd hazard a guess that they were deemed necessary given Shauna Grant's relative inability to emote...).

Still, overall a pretty top-notch picture. A-

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Pizza Girls

Pizza Girls (1977)

Directed by:
Bob Chinn

Candida Royalle
Christine DeShaffer
Desiree Cousteau
Laurien Dominique
Vicky Lindsay
Carl Regal
John Holmes
John Seeman
Richard Pacheco
Paul Thomas
Spender Travis

Chalk up another one for Bob Chinn. Pizza Girls has a ton going for it: it's got a silly, simple premise, and is filled with roles that the actors can knock out of the park.

San Francisco is a chicken town, but pizzeria proprietors John and Bob (Holmes and Chinn) are trying to break Country Girl Pizza on the map, much to the chagrin of the shadowy chicken syndicate and their mysterious enforcer, the San Francisco Night Chicken, as well as being spied on by Inspector Blackie (Seeman).

Part of the allure of Country Girl Pizza is their use of codes in the order that will have the female delivery skateboarders - Gino (Royalle), Shakey (Dominique), Celeste (DeShaffer), and Ann Chovy (Cousteau) - delivering more than just pizzas, if you catch my drift. (And that drift should be pretty obvious considering this is uh-duh a porn flick.)

For much of the film, everything about Pizza Girls is pitch-perfect. The one curiosity - or, considered another way, aspect that elevates it from just a fun little porno - is the fact that the Night Chickens method of intimidation is snatching the girls off the skateboard and raping them. It would be weird for an otherwise light film to treat the subject with abject horror, it feels a its mentioned almost nonchalantly. Without getting into spoilers, the resolution of the Night Chicken and closing shot lends the film an oddly - albeit slightly - darker tone than the preceding 68 minutes.

Still, juxtaposed with Skintight, if you're going to have a twist like that, this is the way to do it. A

Pornonomy Reviews: Downstairs/Upstairs

Downstairs/Upstairs (1980)

Directed by:
Lisa Barr

Kay Parker
Lisa De Leeuw
Dan Quick
John Boland
Ken Yontz
Luis De Jesus
Luke Gusher
R.J. Reynolds
Tim Not

Downstairs/Upstairs is the story of a new maid, Olive (Sherrisse) being hired on at a cuh-raaaazy household. The movie starts promising enough, with a main theme in the "Three's Company"/"Love Boat" mold, transitioning into a funky guitar groove (underneath a surreal mail slot/gloryhole scene featuring the current maid, Beth - De Leeuw - and the mailman - Tim Not). Olive's first introduction to the rest of the family, is during a pool-side orgy. For some reason.

The rest of the household is made up of the butler (Luke Gusher), matriarch Mrs. Bun (Parker, natch), the hot dog obsessed patriarch Mr. Bun (Dan Quick), daughter Sheila (Seka) and her fiance Douglas (John Boland), the effeminately gay son Robert (Bobby Reed, non-sex), and the chef (Luis De Jesus). (There are also a few characters whose presence I couldn't quite suss out - R.J. Reynolds seems to be Parker's lover under her oblivious husbands nose; Seka has a scene with Ken Yontz - her then-real-life husband a reused loop, perhaps?)

Downstairs/Upstairs problem is that nothing happens. It seems to want to rely on the household being "zany," a tone porn has a hard time with, generally. In D/U's case, zany equals food fights and midgets. Off the top of my head, the only film I can recall doing it moderately well was Ultra Flesh (coincidentally also featuring Seka...and midgets).

I actually had to watch this in two parts, because it got pretty tedious. In fact, I was shocked when I put it on again to jog my memory that it was only 79 minutes. My initial impression was 109, easy.

I'm only familiar with the television series Soap in that it was a parody of daytime soap operas, was about an affluent family, and featured an openly gay son character (played by Billy Crystal). And it ran from 1977 to 1981. While these similarities are tenuous, at best...what the hell, I'll conclude Downstairs/Upstairs was influenced by Soap.

I was inclined to give Downstairs/Upstairs a D+, but after scanning through it again, while pretty half-baked and uneven, I think C- will do.

Programming note

Okay, so there will be some new reviews up later today/tonight, but first I've got to get this out.

As I explained in my review of The Smiths, the The Morning After Podcast has got me moderately interested in contemporary porn, so I've front-loaded my queue with 2009-10 productions. Most recently, I received Joanna Angel's Bartenders. I haven't watched it yet because it's four fucking hours long! (Well, 3:58:42 or something, but that's splitting hairs.)

Now, on the one hand, it's impressive that consumers are getting the most bang possible for their buck(s), but holy hell.... It looks like this flick has seven sex scenes, so even accounting for an hour of non-action for plot and dialogue (unlikely), those scenes would average nearly 26 minutes each. How about a little editorial constraint?!? My opinion is this: if a pornographer wants to have half-hour sex scenes, shoot gonzo. Scenes within a narrative should be capped at about 12 minutes (a film-ending orgy sequence or three to four consecutively occurring scenes being cut together could justify 15-18 minutes) for the sake of the flow of the movie. If the inclusion of full scenes is necessary to the dvd, keep them separate as bonus features or something.

I mean, criminy....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: The Smiths

The Smiths (2010)

Directed by:
Robby D.

Jennifer White
Kayden Kross
Kortney Kane
Riley Steele
Manuel Ferrara
Mick Blue
Scott Nails
Tommy Gunn

Reviewing a 2010 film is a bit of a departure from the mission statement of Pornonomy. After reading GGG's interview with the dudes behind the The Morning After podcast, I decided to check out some of the episodes. One of the first episodes I listened to was the one with Kayden Kross. In it, they asked her about the difficulties the industry was facing with piracy and what they could do to combat it. She mentioned that in most cases, people were downloading individual scenes instead of full films, and that by offering higher production values in the story and acting, people might be compelled to buy or rent the dvd after seeing a downloaded scene. (Wishful thinking, perhaps.) At the time, one of her most recent films was The Smiths, so she used it as an example of a more plot-oriented film. I decided it was worth checking out.

First, the things I liked: I was pleasantly surprised that the film is only an hour and 37 minutes long. It seems that most of my other recent experiences concerning contemporary porn involved two and a half hour movies, with the individual sex scenes clocking in at mind-numbing 26-minute stretches.

Right when it started up, it seemed to at least have a quality equal to cable softcore films (although, for all I know, this *could* be a "chicken or the egg" type deal; maybe major studio porn dictated the quality and style of Skinemax flicks...), excepting the credits. Christ, you'd think somebody at Digital Playground would have enough sense to know that an italic, decorative serif typeface should *not* be used in all caps. But I digress.

The story actually isn't too bad. Manuel Ferrara, an executive at a company that can be contracted to block porn websites, is frustrated in a sexless marriage with an uptight, straight-laced Kayden Kross. One morning, Kross's sister, Riley Steele, shows up (a character that *could* have been a manic pixie dream girl if the movie allowed for even a modest amount of character development). With her in the house, Ferrara finds out [SPOILER ALERT] that his wife isn't actually a professional corporate document destroyer, but is, in fact, a porn star! Porn is, apparently, a family affair, because the sisters a both porn stars and, guess what, so is their mother.

So now for what I didn't like (or, at the very least found boring): Only one of two of the five sex scenes were really plot-based. The other three were tangentially related, at best. If the industry's hope against pirates is convincing people to watch films in their entirety, it's probably in their best interest to make sure the sex scenes naturally flow from the movie around them.

On a more specific note, all of the sex scenes and all of the performers seemed totally interchangeable. I'm not saying it's imperative to have an actor wear an eye patch and speak with a lisped French accent, staying in character the entire time, but the brutally repetitive nature of the scenes is another whammy against an attempt at encouraging people to think of the movie as a whole. On a slightly more crass note, I'm not sure when the "official porn blowjob" became force it as far into the throat as possible, and hold; after the actress cough/gags, she pulls it out and spits on it; then, she jerks at it as fast as possible; repeat. I mean, that shit doesn't look natural and *barely* seems pleasurable (for either party).

It's not uncommon to hear porn stars say, "Well, that's not how I have sex in my personal life, that's just the fantasy of porn." Or talk about how, if a viewer really considered the positions they were in, they'd realize they couldn't really be enjoying it because they were trying to keep their leg from cramping or whatever, but they have to stay "open for the camera." Now, consider for a second that in the past few years, websites like Yuvutu and Xtube and take your pick of a zillion others have blown up. On the one hand, the availability for people to upload films satisfies exhibitionist desires; on the other, people watching can satisfy their voyeuristic tendencies. On yet another hand, though, I wonder if their popularity isn't more a result of mainstream porn fatigue. I don't mean that people want to see all amateurs, all the time (porn companies, in my opinion, make that mistake and will release videos with "watch Joe Sixpack fuck his favorite porn star" premises), but rather people are interested in watching actors have sex the way they themselves have sex.

I've finally gotten around to starting Linda Williams' Hard Core, and while I'm not far along, one sentence really stood out. (I'll paraphrase, because a cursory glance couldn't track it down.) She noted that pornography has obsessed with the visual to its potential detriment, neglecting less obvious things that could ultimately prove more erotic. While this sentiment was written in 1989, I think it's actually more true now than it was then. I think if you found someone that defined themselves as a porn fan that was unfamiliar with porn before, say, 1995, and showed them one of many Golden Era films, one of their first reactions would be "I can't see anything." Now, I won't contend that all Golden Era sex scenes were more "real" than their current day counterparts - "open for the camera" has always existed - but I'd be willing to wager that a damn sight of them were closer to the way "real" people had (and have) sex.

In the end, watching The Smiths basically confirmed what I already knew (or at least suspected). New porn is not really my bag. I think what it boils down to is that while porn as always existed, essentially, for one thing (uh duh), the video era snap back from features to...well, not loops, exactly...but at the very least a focus on a scene or scenes rather than the whole (and amplified a million fold by gonzo), has permeated so deeply ino the industry's idea of what a porn film is, that narrative movies are fighting an uphill battle.

I'm not actually going to grade The Smiths (although I will count it as a 2011 review, because I said so), since I'm pretty well out of my element. It'd be like asking someone from CMT to review a Geto Boys album.