Sexuality

review my brother the devil

Editor’s note: Scott’s review originally ran during last year’s Berlinale Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens today in limited theatrical release. With its social pressures and troubled definitions of manhood backed into a corner, Sally El Hosaini‘s My Brother the Devil gropes toward acceptance with two characters seeking to define or redefine who they are and how they see themselves. Like most things, the difficulty often lies in how others see them. It’s an hebetic flick where religion, sexuality and socio-economic status all collide to muddy the waters of the East End. That’s where Rashid (James Floyd) and his little brother Mo (Fady Elsayed) live with a mother who is obliviously sweet and a father who is only present long enough to berate them. Rashid is a drug dealer popular with the neighborhood and with his boys. Mo idolizes him, but Rashid is pushing him away from the crib and into the classroom. Good grades aside, there are no easy paths in this movie. After knives get bloodied on a shitty street in London, Rashid begins questioning his chosen profession and seeks a real job and friendship with professional photographer Sayyid (the always strong Saïd Taghmaoui). As that relationship evolves into something more identity-challenging, Mo finds himself without the God of his Big Brother and is left to fall into his footsteps.

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Meet the Fokkens

If the Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro movies had been set in the red light district of Amsterdam with two flaxen-haired geriatrics on the verge of retiring from professionally giving hand jobs, it might have made more money. Or been better. From writer/director Gabrielle Provaas, the documentary Meet the Fokkens (Ouwehoeren in its native tongue) is a portrait of said infamous district and Louise and Martine – two seasoned, sex worker sisters who still pull in money with their talents. The trailer promises candid, quirky conversations with them about vibrators, young hookers and hopefully they’ll share their stroopwafel recipe. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Possibly one of the scariest documentaries I’ve ever seen, Sexy Baby explores the over-sexualization of girls and women in the era of the Internet. Directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, the movie analyzes how social media, Internet porn and general pop culture are affecting the sexuality of women through the eyes of its three female subjects. There’s former porn actress Nichole (aka Nikita Kash) who’s trying to settle in to a more conventional life; precocious teen Winnifred, who’s struggling to come to terms with her own image and sexuality; and finally there’s Laura, who, after years of saving up for it, is ready to get the plastic surgery of her dreams – labiaplasty to be specific – so she can finally feel confident. The three stories attempt to answer the same question – what does it mean to be a woman in today’s hypersexual climate? Images that were once behind the curtain at the video store or at the very least hidden under a mattress are now accessible at the click of a finger, and it’s gotten more extreme. Porn isn’t new, but the types of porn we’re seeing, and the way we access it is. And in most cases, kids are seeing it at a much younger age than they used to. And if it’s not hard-core porn, it’s sexualized images in music videos, billboards, and advertising images. Celebrity sex scandals are frequently covered in the mainstream media, and those who find themselves with a leaked sex tape […]

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The Hunger Games

Maybe our science fiction writers have failed us with all their damned pessimism, or maybe we’re all just obsessed with the world ending because it’s definitely going to stop spinning this year. Either way, everyone on this doomed planet is currently obsessed with the cold, distant Dystopian futures of hits like The Hunger Games. Now it’s time to figure out what it all means (which also means a bit of psychoanalysis). Good thing the Jennifer Lawrence-starring flick has people hungrily dissecting it for meaning. The results? Old Jewish heroines, our cinematic past, Occupy Wall Street, unspoken sexuality and the anti-Twilight.

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Inspired by the real life murder of Ahmet Yildiz, filmmakers Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay set out to tell the story of a friend who was believed to be killed by his father for being in a homosexual relationship. The result is Zenne (or Zenne Dancer) which focuses on three disparate characters forging a friendship that challenges at least one of them to come to terms with who he is. According to Reuters, that’s not all it’s challenging. At least one newspaper in the largely Muslim country has decried the movie as “homosexual propaganda” made by people trying to “legitimiz[e] perversion through their so-called art.” This comes on the heels of the movie winning 5 awards at Turkey’s most respected film festival, the Antalya Golden Orange – including Best First Feature and Best Cinematography. Check out the trailer:

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“Deep down inside, you’re dirty. Do you hear me, dirty? You’re damaged goods, and this is a fire sale.” These vile sentences shouted out by modeling agency owner Mr. Lang (Lawrence Aberwood) during the heated climax of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1963 nudie-cutie Scum of the Earth reflect not only the understandable fear felt by naïve model Kim (Allison Louise Downe) who is begging the depraved Mr. Lang for her naked pictures, but also the real life fear of being exposed against your will. Exploitation films of any era depict society’s underbelly, offering viewers a voyeuristic look at a frightening world. Just like with horror, these films show truly discomforting subject through a lens of entertainment. The exploitation films of the 1960s toyed with taboos and boundaries in a way never seen in films before or since. With the evolution of cinema road shows and drive-ins, teens and adults had more freedom when it came to viewing films out of the reach of the slowly imploding Hays Code. This was the time of gore, sex, drugs, and unabashed pleasure in film. The country was coming out of the Cold War and heading straight for Vietnam. This was the time for society reflection, and filmmakers were more than happy to give violence-hungry audiences something to chew on.

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The other day, while I was supposed to be in the middle of working on a major project, I found myself eyeball-deep in a friendly conversation covering many years of terrible sex decisions. My buddy and I went back and forth sharing stories that spanned from high school to last Tuesday, each adventure something we were both proud and ashamed of. Just like sticking your hand on a hot stove will teach you to never do that again, these individual moments in our collective history were lessons we learned from—even if they were decisions we’d make more than once. The whole sordid affair got me thinking the next day: “wouldn’t it have been easier to learn from a movie that sleeping with a man on his friend’s makeshift innertube air mattress was probably not the best choice?” I mean, isn’t that what films are supposed to do? Provide audiences with entertaining life experiences that seem too exaggerated to be real? I’ve always appreciated films that present sex as both art and entertainment, but what sometimes makes an onscreen sexual moment memorable is when both the characters and the audience can learn from it. Thankfully for us (well, me), there have been a few films in recent memory that offer pertinent life lessons when it comes to bedroom activities.

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Steve McQueen is not the first established director to get the bug to direct a highly sexual film for adults, and he certainly won’t be the last. Sadly, most directors who have actually made bold films about sexuality ended up with sub-par movies. Verhoeven’s Showgirls is a punch-line, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is an interesting mess, and Cronenberg’s Crash is maybe the best example of these experiments. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Lars Von Trier do an adult film in the next few years; he’s already expressed interest in the subject. While McQueen’s Shame does a lot of things right, it stumbles just before the finish line. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a normal guy. He goes to work, goes out for drinks with co-workers, goes home. But every waking moment he has is devoted to sex. Thinking about it, watching it, paying for it, sex pervades his every thought. This goes beyond the normal human desire for and fascination with sex and actually consumes his life. When his sister, Cissy (Carey Mulligan), shows up for an unannounced and open-ended visit, it puts a cramp in his style. His normal evenings of watching porn, paying for webcams, and inviting prostitutes over don’t really work with his sister sleeping on the couch. Then he gets in hot water with his boss when IT checks his work computer and finds all kinds of pornography filling his hard drive. But he can’t stop. His is a true addiction and Brandon can’t stop himself.

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The sweat is from all the running Michael Fassbender‘s character seems to be doing, and the prestige is from the plastering of Award Wins all over a crisp trailer for Steve McQueen‘s Shame that takes its own time in telling a story. It’s rare that a trailer doesn’t just vomit out story points into our eyeballs, but this one is a symphony of short-form movie advertising. It’s quiet almost in purposeful contrast to the NC-17 rating emblazoned on the first few frames, and it slowly reveals Fassbender’s character as a high class hound dog with massive emotional issues. Check it out for yourself:

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Like many of my fellow Rejects, I am currently recovering from the insanity that was Fantastic Fest 2011. Over the course of four days I viewed a relatively tame amount of films (10 – I’m not a champ this time around), each one, even the crap ones, expanding my movie watching mind. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I selected the most sexually involved films I could, pausing briefly for a palate cleanser of adorable in A Boy and His Samurai, and I look forward to sharing some of my insights on the loneliness of loving a sex doll in the coming weeks. But for now, let’s jump right into the eccentricities of loving something we shouldn’t. As a sex writer, I’m constantly asked to voice my opinion on any frisky business ranging from the sweet nibbles of a new lover all the way to the “am I weird for liking this and that?” Typically, I provide a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card by giving a basic of sex-positive response along the lines of “you like what you like” or “your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is okay” (unless the kink involved is so taboo I have to flip a table and walk away). But last week the same topic kept coming up: The sex appeal of the bad girl. Yes, there’s nothing new in feeling attracted to a girl who can beat you up, take your money, and then kiss you on the cheek before she leaves […]

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As the temperatures here in Dallas rise to anger-inducing levels, I’m reminded of my summers spent avoiding the sun at my grandmother’s house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My parents would ship me off to visit our “Amish” relatives, experience a simpler country life, and even spend a week at Jesus camp, which happened to be my concentrated dose of religion for the year. While I would come home after the month-long excursion thankful to be around luxuries like air conditioning and cable, I secretly loved visiting Grandma because I had the chance to work as child-labor at my aunt’s video store where she paid me in free movies. Unlike my cautious mother, my Aunt Katie never censored the videos I picked to take home each night. However she did require I watch the original of any remake or sequel of a classic. I guess that explains why one summer I spent almost every night watching Hitchcock films in preparation to see the remake of Psycho. When most people think of summer films, images of explosions, beaches, sweating, and (most importantly) sex fill the brain. Yet not all the films I watched those formative summers were, in fact, happy summer fare. The films that remind me the most of summer are ones involving a heavy amount of smut and questionable characters making despicable decisions.

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The second competition title of Sunday, and a universe away from the gorgeous, subtle brilliance of the morning showing of Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, comes Bertrand Bonello‘s House of Tolerance, or to give it its full French title L’apollonide (Souvenirs de la Maison Close), an intimate portrait of a  brothel in its last days. The press pack promised copious nudity, and the hook of a prostitute who is disfigured by a “client,”  who slashes the corners of her mouth to make a permanent scarred smile. So think the Joker, only with capital knockers. It’s hard to offer a succinct review, or even a succinct synopsis, since the film consciously resists definition by traditional standards. In other words it’s one of those pretentious films that is usually found making up the Competition picks at Cannes, not likely to trouble the awards, and thus basically represent an opportunity for the selectors to show off their own tastes. But here goes…

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The second film of the day, following Midnight in Paris this morning, Sleeping Beauty is the only Australian film included this year, starring Emily Browning (who hopefully won’t be a high-profile casualty of Snyder’s sickly Sucker Punch) as a University student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of beauty and desire. Or at least that’s what the marketing material says. Regardless of what they position this erotic, chiller had already been picking up a lot of buzz, possibly because the official synopsis that I read as part of the bulging press pack (stuffed lovingly into my press PO box this morning) suggested a film about a girl who willingly becomes a Sleeping Beauty – or someone who takes a sleeping pill and allows herself to have “erotic experiences” with “old men” that she has no control over. Funny that, because Browning’s whole role in Sucker Punch can be labelled as overly eroticized and submissive too. Zing!

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This piece contains spoilers for Sucker Punch. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go watch it before diving in. Once the first images hit, or when the first synopsis hit, or maybe even when Zack Snyder dreamed up the concept for Sucker Punch ten years ago – a time bomb was set to explode twice, and it finally did this weekend. The first explosion was the basis for the existence of the movie, and it continued exploding many, many times during the runtime. The second was the question of feminism. Now that the movie is out, it has also exploded. The reactions from before the film was released varied, and they still do. Some see it as feminism merged with geek culture (which assumes geek culture isn’t sexless to begin with). Some see it as an affront to the advancement of women parading in thigh high boots. One who gives a strong argument for the latter is Angie Han of /film, who writes the hell out of an editorial called “On Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch: Why Ass-Kicking and Empowerment Aren’t Always the Same Thing.” You should absolutely go read it before reading this, although I’ll do my best to condense her arguments (in a fair way) in order to respectfully counter them.

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Black Swan Movie

Every time Nina Sayers gets near sex, something terrible happens. It is the focal point catalyst for almost every major event of Black Swan – where a character is forced to grow up in the most violent way possible. For a bulk of the film, this character – brought to life by Natalie Portman – is passive about the world around her. Nina’s mother has kept her in a state of arrested development, her boss relegates her to the background as he pleases, and even when she’s given a chance to shine, she is unable to do so because of the psychological barriers she faces. All of those barriers are brought down by sex. A few more are created because of it.

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There’s a danger in our first world society of creating new diseases, and with the Viagra movement of the last decade, that danger was quickly spreading both into the sex industry and into the nether regions of womankind. The documentary Orgasm Inc., directed by Elizabeth Canner, has been done for almost two years, but it’s not had distribution until now. Now, First Run Features is promising an early 2011 release, so the film got a shiny new poster. Plus, since it hadn’t made its way to the site yet, we’ve got a look at the trailer that’s been around for a while. Hopefully you’ll learn something new.

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The MPAA, coming under heavy fire from the media recently that will never amount to anything or change their internal policies, has had a long-standing record of inequality in their ratings. The most graphic example has been doling out or threatening NC-17 ratings for sexuality on screen between same sex couples even if the scene is far tamer than the typical man on woman sex act. In fact, looking back, it really is sex that has the MPAA’s knickers in a twist. Violence seems to get a pass alongside whatever Adult Situations are, but if someone is enjoying another person (or themselves) carnally, the MPAA picks up its ball and goes home. Speaking of balls, the MPAA is now discriminating further in their fear of sex. It’s important to give parents a guideline, sure, but it’s overkill for the MPAA to point out whether the nudity in a film is male or female. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

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It’s a taboo topic, but we brave the films that brave the unclear world of this sexual pathology and emerge unscathed with the best portrayals of pedophiles in film.

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oam-somelikeithot

Joe and Jerry are two musicians who see a mob murder and decide to go into hiding in an all-female band. The gorgeous Sugar Kane Kowalcyk is part of the troupe, which might just be two good reasons to stay in hiding.

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