KEvin: I must have typed something in my email search window today that I thought I’d never type: “Marlow + sex.”
Marlow: I am so Sorry!
Kevin: I didn’t remember how we got into the topic, but somehow we started talking about it, for such a spectacular year as it was in the movies – if anything, the pandemic and release delays avoided all the blockbuster bloat – it was oddly tame year when it comes to movie sex. We were talking about it because of The Very Horny Bridgerton Christmas? Was it because of this tweet that went viral and sparked all this talk that said, “Sex scenes are useless in movies / series.” No plotline was motivated by a good sex scene or has there ever been a movie enhanced by a sex scene?
Marlow: This tweeter clearly haven’t been watching tv for a while! Although don’t get me started Bridgerton, which as someone on Twitter perfectly described it, was like an R-rated version of a Taylor Swift music video.
Kevin: Anyway, here we have this talk about the last year in the cinema, which seemed oddly sexless. I’m racking my brains for the most memorable sex scenes I’ve seen, and it turns out they were all in queer movies. This great sex scene in Ammonite between Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, for example, was one of the most fascinating I’ve seen. He was placed at a perfect climax (heh) in the movie, and was outspoken and outspoken about sex and pleasure in a way I’ve never seen before, and certainly not in a love scene between people of the same sex. It was so carnal and cumbersome. Instead of scoring sullenly, there was just bed creaking, heavy breathing, and the wind outside the window.
Marlow: It’s fascinating how the only memorable artfully done sex scenes I can think of in recent years are in independent queer movies, be it the intimate handjob on the beach Moonlight, where Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer mingle Call me by your name, or Rachel Weisz spitting in Rachel McAdams mouth Disobedience, or any number of scenes in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I am curious to know why?
Kevin: I talked about it at length with Winslet and Ronan and the conversation it sparked – obviously you have two actresses of this caliber in a sex scene and people are going to talk about it all the time – and they were happy that instead of continuing the same discussion about sex in movies, he pivoted it in a new direction: one that considered agency, quirk, and pleasure rather than pure audience titillation. Maybe this is what we see now? Instead of constant free sex in the movies, scenes that can be more self-explanatory, but actually mean something … despite what this tweet says.
Marlow: Right. When we say “pure audience titillation” I think of how the great sex scene was staged. Blue is the warmest color, which seemed to have been designed for the enjoyment of the creepy director and people like him (i.e. straight men). So I think these sex scenes are at least less masculine than they have been in the past.
Kevin: Which not only makes them more interesting, but also hotter. Sorry straight men!
Marlow: I don’t see any lies. One of the sex scenes that really stood out for me this year was Thomas Vinterberg’s. Another round, where we see Mads Mikkelsen’s lost middle-aged teacher reconnecting with his wife on a family camping trip. It’s a wonderfully intimate sequence, as she begins to cry towards the end, so shaken by how much they missed each other and her renewed presence, that he in turn is overcome with emotion. Although it’s not what anyone would call “sexy”.
Kevin: Interestingly, while we struggle to find any “hot” scenes that we used to think of in big studio movies – remember when it was like a rude contract between the buyer. tickets and the director to have a sexual montage of A-listers around neatly placed white sheets in every R-rated movie? —There has been a fascination with sex in movies this year. A measurable, in fact. A documentary was released over the summer titled Skin: a story of nudity in the movies which offered as much opportunity as any other to make a state of the union of the sex film, and then there was You do not name, on the cult’s fascination with Showgirls– an inseparable fascination with its comical and explicit sex scenes.
Marlow: Regarding the “raw contract”, I remember when this director claimed that Halle Berry was given an additional $ 500,000 to go topless. Swordfish (Berry denied it), or for that matter the foolish sequence in this same movie where Hugh Jackman’s hacker is forced at gunpoint by John Travolta to hack a system in 60 seconds while being shot by a random blonde woman. But I digress. Love me a little Showgirls! Crystal Connors forever, honey. And i will never forget about that sex scene in the pool! I hope Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan are recovering well. Maybe that’s what gave her Gender and city character erectile dysfunction.
“It’s interesting that while we struggle to find any “hot” scenes we used to think of in big studio movies… there has been a fascination with sex in movies this year.“
Kevin: But if there’s a way to gauge something as vague as what the company is interested in at any given time, it’s Netflix’s Top 10 list. And there was a point this summer when the two most popular movies on the streamer were Love, a movie about sex complications that opens with its main character jerking off and jizzing on camera, and 365 days, a steamy and practically soft Polish film about perversity and Stockholm syndrome.
Marlow: Apparently it was filmmaker Gaspar Noe’s erect penis in Love (he also flashed it during the S&M nightclub sequence at Irreversible), But Love came out in 2015. People were pretty horny this summer during lockdown.
Kevin: What I’m getting at is that there is an obvious truth, whether or not we’re too shy to admit it, that movie audiences as watching sex scenes in movies. Again, check out these Netflix hits. So it’s interesting that there has been a lack of sex in the new movies to go along with that. I’m trying to think of scenes from this year: when Aubrey Plaza and Chris Abbott are interrupted by a blunt object in Black bear? The brief (but hot) gay sauna scene with Andrew Rannells and Matt Bomer in The boys of the group? The very psycho-twisty sex scene with Jude Law and Carrie Coon in The nest? I’m sure I’m missing something, but maybe I’m not …
Marlow: … I don’t think you are missing much! Perhaps the scene between Kristen Stewart’s Jean Seberg and Anthony Mackie’s Hakim Jamal in Seberg? It was pretty passionate, with Stewart’s Hollywood actress straddling Mackie’s Black Panther activist (in a leopard-print dress, no less). Although the sex appeal is lackluster given the way they are watched by a racist FBI agent, played by Vince Vaughn. I think it’s kinda disappointing that the riskiest movie sex scenes this year have been relegated to the straight-to-schlocky video quality fare like 365 days or Fatal affair, with Omar Epps and Nia Long.
Kevin: There’s this weird idea that I thought was going away, but seems to be going backwards, that a movie can’t have good fun sex and still be serious – or vice versa, it has to be so serious and ‘arty’. that it is practically inaccessible.
Marlow: I couldn’t agree more. These are the same Skinemax quality projects that NSFW sex scenes have always lived in, and in 2020 there should be a lot more sex in mainstream cinema. It may have something to do with the MPAA, the rating committee / lobby that has long nurtured a Puritan attitude towards onscreen sex – famously explored in This movie is not yet rated“Seeing it as much more damaging than on-screen violence, however misguided it may be.
Kevin: I’ll never forget that they tried to give Blue valentine an NC-17 rating, because it showed a woman giving a blowjob. Heavens! Go get my pearls so I can catch them!
Marlow: It was crazy. MPAA really hate female pleasure. It’s usually such a weird and obscure cabal of biblical moms and dads, and the fact that they have a say in the governance of what we see is infuriating. It looks like most of the really hot sex this year didn’t happen on the big screen, but rather on the small screen, with shows like Normal people, White lines (although this is pure waste at Skinemax level), Valley P, and The new pope.
Kevin: And Elite! And Bridgerton! And Industry, which is a great example of how the portrayal of gender on screen is changing. The scenes were self-explanatory, fair in terms of male and female nudity and overturned the perspective of power we’re used to seeing.
Marlow: Everyone, go see HBO Industry! A gem under the radar.
Kevin: The most interesting was, because so realistic and without quote were “risky” the scenes, how little sexy they seemed. Going back to that ridiculous first tweet I mentioned, these scenes weren’t about titillation but about revealing things about the characters’ relationships and how they behave … although sometimes the behavior was purely exciting. They’ve proven that sex in storytelling means something. It is really necessary! Anyway, these are my thoughts on the year in sex. Sorry mom.