The 3rd Annual “SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon” – Da Big Finish

Sad as we are to end this affair, it’s time for our goodbye kiss as we present…


If you happened to miss Day 1 or Day 2 of our blogathon tribute to subtle sex in cinema, click on the appropriate day/link in this sentence to read our previous entries. For the third and final day’s entries, click on each blog’s name below to link to their ‘thon entry.


Blog of the Darned shows how 1960’s sex comedies, including A Guide for the Married Man, bridged the gap between Production Code-era movies and today’s more explicit fare.


Love Letters to Old Hollywood details why it’s so easy for Judy Garland to fall for Gene Kelly in The Pirate.


And last but hardly least, Like Water for Chocolate illustrates the ethereal connection between food and passion, and Moon in Gemini is happy to get swept up in it.

As always, we’d like to thank our enthusiastic blogathon participants as well as our faithful readers who followed the ‘thon for three days. We’re sorry to go, but we’ll try to make it back again next year. Bye-bye for now!


The 3rd Annual “SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon” – Day 2 Recap

Don’t turn your back on us now! It’s time for…


If you missed our first day of bloggers’ tributes to subtly sexual cinema, click here to see the entries. For Day 2’s blogathon entries, click on the name of each blog to link to the entry.


Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison make falling in love with a dead man seem like not such a bad thing in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, as reviewed by Lifesdailylessonsblog.


Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews explores dishonor among (some very sexy) thieves, as depicted in Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise.


And finally, Jennifer Jones shows some ranch-hands (and moviegoers) how the West was lust in Duel in the Sun, in a heated blog entry from ThoughtsAllSorts.


Don’t forget, we still have one more day of sexy movie entries to go, so click here to go to our original announcement page, and keep checking back!



THE APPRENTICE (2004) – Starring our future President

READERS: Please forgive me this period piece. I wrote this for a local newspaper 13 years ago, when the reality series “The Apprentice” was in its heyday. I can’t resist posting it as a historical document.



You think your job is bad? Consider “The Apprentice” (Thurs., 9 p.m., NBC), reality-TV’s answer to Glengarry Glen Ross,

Each week, New York building mogul Donald Trump gives two (rapidly deteriorating) teams an enterprising scheme — e.g., pitch a new brand of bottled water. The team that earns the most money gets a week’s stay of execution. The losing team gets to meet with Trump in — cue music sting — the boardroom.

The boardroom is where the real sales job comes in. Trump grills the losing team members on why they didn’t succeed. And with few exceptions, each member does his or her best to point out why some other team member was at fault. The team member with the worst excuses gets to hear Trump intone in New York-ese, “Ya fahd!” (translated as, “You’re fired!”).

Then there’s the payoff. At series’ end, the final person left standing will work for Trump for one year, at an annual salary of $250,000. So the prize is…more kissing-up to Trump? For only a quarter-mil? Isn’t that, like, cigarette money in New York?

The most interesting players are, of course, the most manipulative. Thus far, that includes the ousted Omarosa (a passive-aggressor who used a slight bump on the head to get out of two whole episodes of work) and Troy (who lures people in with his country-bumpkin routine before going in for the kill).

As with “Survivor” — the other reality-TV gem from “Apprentice” creator Mark Burnett — “The Apprentice” is guilty-pleasure heaven. Unlike most reality shows that either trade on fading celebrities or degrade decent folk, this show has perfect pitch.

Viewers can easily identify with someone having to survive on his wits, either on a desert island or Manhattan Island. At the same time, you don’t feel terribly sorry to see these people get dumped on, because every one of them proves they had no scruples to begin with.

So when you think you’ve had the occasional bad day of toadying to your boss, go home and watch “The Apprentice,” where toadying is a job prerequisite.

DON’T LOOK BACK (1967) – One rock legend’s ego


D.A. Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back has been described for years in glowing terms such as “one of the most influential rock films ever made.”

But the movie it seems to have influenced most is This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner’s legendary mock-documentary about a rock group whose egos far outweigh their talent. (There’s even a scene in the Dylan movie, where Dylan’s entourage wanders endlessly to find an exit door, that seems to be directly parodied in Spinal Tap.)

The ostensible reason for this movie’s being is to record the ups and downs of Dylan’s 1965 tour of England. But no matter what the setting is — a concert, a press interview, hanging out with friends — “Don’t Look Back” assumes the same two points of view: mere mortals arriving to worship at the feet of Bob Dylan, or Dylan sneering at fans who try to look for deeper meaning in his music.

Heaven knows that, from the ’60s “British invasion” on, pundits have spent too much time looking for subtext in pop music. But since Dylan’s enigmatic lyrics have always invited such analysis, it’s a bit pompous of Dylan to continually put down the fans who made his name.

The movie’s most famous scene is the confrontation between Dylan and Donovan, a ’60s singer best remembered as a Dylan wanna-be (remember his hit “Mellow Yellow”?). The movie takes little potshots at Donovan throughout, until Dylan meets The Great Pretender himself and sings a sneering version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” to him.

The funny thing is, Donovan is remembered these days, if at all, as a one-hit wonder. If Dylan had it in for a famous peer such as Elvis Presley or The Beatles, it might make for some interesting drama. But for Dylan to use a major documentary to display his resentment about a minor-league imitator speaks volumes about the man’s ego.

For Bob Dylan buffs, Don’t Look Back is probably tantamount to a lovefest. But the non-converted will be left scratching their heads wondering why and how.


SHOWGIRLS (1995) – Screech’s revenge?


”Who do you have to f*** to get off this picture?” — attributed to Bette Davis

Who did Elizabeth Berkley have to f*** to get starred in Showgirls? The movie seems intended as a love letter to her, though I don’t recall anyone in the 1990’s saying, “Remember Jessie from ‘Saved by the Bell’? God, I wish they’d get her into a porno flick so we could see what she’s got!”

What Berkley’s got in Showgirls is a more explicit version of her petulance routine from that Saturday morning teen show. Berkley plays Nomi, a girl essentially from nowhere who wants to become a dancer. (And I do mean from nowhere. She has no family whatsoever, and later in the movie, another character has to explain to her what an M.B.A. is.)

For no good reason, Nomi decides that becoming a dancer involves hitchhiking to Las Vegas. From that point, the script goes into two major loops. One is that, in one form or another, all the major characters have an obsession with either Nomi’s dancing or her breasts. Either Nomi’s being told how beautiful her chest is, or she’s being told how much raw talent she has as a dancer. I don’t know from Las Vegas, but having seen a few dancers and a few breasts in my day, my frank assessment is that Berkley is not outstanding in either department.

The other loop is that Nomi is forever either showing off every inch of her lithe body or doing her best to simulate the sex act, only to go running off in anger every time somebody insinuates that she’s a hooker. Now, where would anyone get that idea (other than her mentors requesting that she ice up her nipples before every show)?

The movie’s main, er, thrust is that Nomi works her way up to being a dancer in a show featuring what we’re told is Vegas’ star attraction, Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon). Eventually, we’re told that Cristal has designs on Nomi, mainly so that screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven (the same enlightened team behind Basic Instinct) can indulge their lip-smackin’ woman-on-woman fantasies.

From there, the movie goes into a hyper, NC-17 variation of All About Eve, or what it would be if Bette Davis and Ann Baxter decided to get it on before they went into career damage control.

Despite this movie’s seedy reputation, it’s not fun enough to be a “good” bad movie. It does have some Ed Wood-like dialogue whoppers — when Nomi’s old boss sees her hit the big time, he blithely comments, “It must be strange not to have someone c*** on you”—but not enough to sit through this slop. Mostly, the movie makes you wonder how it dragged in actors such as Kyle MacLachlan, “L.A. Law’s” Alan Rachins, and most notoriously, Gina Gershon who, with her big breasts and monotone line readings, comes off like Adrienne Barbeau’s big sister.



Maybe I’m subject to a Jedi mind spell, but for me, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is the most satisfying Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back (1980). The story of 1999’s Episode I was inevitably exposition; this one has all the pay-offs.

Here’s a rundown of the major plot points and fans’ criticisms of the movie.

Jar Jar Binks. Episode I‘s much-reviled comic relief has basically been relegated to a desk job and is on-screen for only a short time. So Star Wars fans, quit’cher bellyaching already!

The romance between Anakin Skywalker (a/k/a Darth Vader-to-be) and Princess (now Senator) Amidala. Much has already been made of this couple’s pedestrian dialogue, but it’s at least as convincing as Empire‘s budding romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia. In any case, Natalie Portman (Amidala) is as shimmeringly beautiful as ever, and Hayden Christensen evokes the Vader-to-be far more convincingly than did Jake “Yippee!” Lloyd in Episode I.

Conflict. There’s a lot of it here, most of it quite convincing and intriguing. Anakin chafing under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), some evil politicians who want to take over Amidala’s territory, Anakin’s search for his long-separated mother–it all adds a welcome layer of depth to what is often perceived as a comic-book fairy tale.

Visuals. As always with the Star Wars series, this movie’s visual palette delivers the goods, with otherworldly settings and rich, vivid atmosphere.

In-jokes. There are some extremely sly references here, not just to the other SW movies but to A.I. and Gladiator. And the action sequence with Anakin and Amidala trapped in the clone factory plays like a nightmare version of Charlie Chaplin’s trip through the conveyor belt in Modern Times.

Yoda. The old Jedi master — computer-generated this time, but still voiced by Frank Oz — is the most thrilling surprise here. For an old, short guy, he wields a mean light saber.

Bad acting? Tell that to such pros as McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee.

As with any of the Star Wars flicks, it helps if you’ve seen the others. But on its own, Episode II is as lavish a movie treat as you’re likely to find in this movie series.

The Spice Girls in SPICE WORLD (1997) – Not what you really want


Spice World marked the film debut of a heavily hyped singing group called The Spice Girls, but it was obviously intended to evoke a more legendary British rock band. The movie’s ad is plastered over with the British flag and the tag line “You say you want a revolution?” And like another first film, Spice World is a semi-documentary about the trials and tribulations leading up to a rock group’s concert.

Ripping off old Beatles concepts is about as radical as this movie gets. But the only way in which Spice World resembles that other, far superior rock film is that watching this movie does indeed make for a hard day’s night.

The film plays as though it’s written by someone who never understood Monty Python sketches and then tried to write one. And it’s no help that the five Spice Girls can hardly manage a personality among them. To lend credibility to the movie, there are cameos by Elton John, Meat Loaf, and Elvis Costello. Ironically, these genuine rockers display more movie charm in a few seconds of screen time than the Spices do in 100 minutes.

The movie centers on the efforts of the group’s manager (Richard E. Grant, who was in Steve Martin’s L.A. Story in better days) to keep the girls together for their big concert. But whereas the Beatles film credibly depicted a rock group’s fishbowl existence, The Spice Girls’ most pressing problem is which boots to wear on a social outing. Since even The Spices’ own movie can’t muster up any interest in their well-being, the running time is padded with fantasy sequences that wouldn’t pass muster on an old “Monkees” episode, and some embarrassing subplots involving Roger Moore and “Cheers'” George Wendt.

I’m no music critic, but I have to ask: Why do the female rockers most intent on displaying their feminist credentials always present themselves as sex objects? Yes, women can be powerful and sexy at the same time, but usually not by pandering to the lowest-common-denominator males. There is an interesting movie to be made about singers with names like Baby Spice who wear weirdly suggestive clothing and hairstyles. However, that movie would be at the other end of the spectrum from Spice World.

The funniest moment of this indifferent movie is the credit which informs us that the movie’s story is “based on an idea by The Spice Girls.” The movie handily proves that these women never had an original idea in their lives.


THE STING (1973) – Lots of pros in this con


In these days of gazillion-dollar blockbusters, sometimes you just long for a movie with a solid story and real movie stars. 1973’s Best Picture Oscar winner The Sting delivers the goods.

After the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), it was inevitable that a movie would re-unite director George Roy Hill (who also won an Oscar here) with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. (To those who now know this duo mainly as moguls of salad dressing and independent movies, let’s just say they were the Brad Pitts of their day.) Since sequels weren’t as prevalent back then, they were re-teamed for a fresh effort scripted by David Ward (another Oscar winner for this one, and deservedly so).

Redford plays Johnny Hooker, a wet-behind-the-ears grifter who sees his partner killed after the two of them score a con that trails back to a ruthless high-stakes gambler (Robert Shaw). Eager for revenge, Hooker enlists the help of experienced con man Henry Gondorff (Newman).

Their initial meeting involves Hooker sticking Gondorff under a cold shower to wash off a hangover. But where Hooker is eager to sink his teeth into the con, Gondorff moves slowly but steadily, considering every move and calling in many friends in low places (a wealth of great character actors including Harold Gould and Ray Walston). Hooker also has to work his end of the sting while fending off a local cop (Charles Durning) who knows Hooker’s up to no good.

For all of its layers of con-artistry, it’s a fairly simple story, and at 129 minutes, it could move a little more tightly. But it doesn’t rush for its effects — some of the neatest touches are old movie style, as in its “wipes” from one scene to another, and in wordless sequences powered by Marvin Hamlisch’s Oscar-winning adaptation of Scott Joplin rags. It doesn’t hurt that Newman and Redford have old-style movie charisma in spades. And the grifters’ sting doesn’t work only on the villain — the movie’s beaut of an ending will leave you gasping with laughter.

DEFENDING YOUR LIFE (1991) – Surprisingly mild Albert Brooks comedy


In Albert Brooks’ comedies, his usual persona is that of a schnook who is so obsessed with being hip that he doesn’t realize how obnoxious he is (such as the Brooks yuppie who wanted to “touch Indians” in Lost in America [1985]). But his other movies made fun of these obsessions; Defending Your Life takes them seriously and tries to explore them. Consequently, though it’s officially a comedy, it’s more thoughtful than hysterical.

Brooks plays David Miller, a meek advertising executive who dies in a traffic accident. David finds that, before he can move on to the next level of afterlife, his otherworldly lawyer must be able to prove that David lived his life on Earth to the fullest. If he loses his case, David will be sent back to Earth to try again.

One night, David meets Julia (Meryl Streep), whose case is also being tried, and he falls in love with her. But as always, David is afraid of expressing his true feelings. Will he overcome his self-doubt? Based on his previous life, the evidence isn’t good.

The movie is pretty enjoyable throughout, but the all-out funniest parts are in the first half, as David tries to cope with both the nonchalant blandness of the afterlife and a trial that recounts his most humiliating earthly moments. The romance between Julia and David is not unwelcome either. Meryl Streep is quite charming, and her love scenes with Brooks are surprisingly believable and touching.

But the movie builds up a lot of momentum and goodwill for a huge resolution that never arrives. The whole point of the movie seems to be, “Don’t be afraid of life” —  not Brooks’s most profound statement ever. He seems content to make this film his Heaven Can Wait, complete with a tacked-on happy ending and celestial photography (provided by Allen Daviau, who also did Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra Terrestrial).

As in Lost in America, Brooks’ other actors constitute a rich supporting cast. Lee Grant is terrific as David’s prosecutor, and Rip Torn displays just the right degree of pomposity as David’s condescending lawyer. There are also a lot of neat cameos, such as that of the emcee of The Past Lives Pavilion; I won’t give away the surprise, but when you think about it later, she turns out to be perfectly appropriate.

Defending Your Life is not a bad movie, but coming from Brooks, it’s amazingly benign. If you liked Brooks’s hapless newscaster in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News (1987), you’ll probably love this one. But it’s surprising that one of America’s most incisive satirists is content to settle for middle-of-the-road sweetness.