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Daily Reads: The Best Sex-Positive Movies, ‘Fifty Shades’ Book vs. Film vs. Phenomenon and More

Daily Reads: The Best Sex-Positive Movies, 'Fifty Shades' Book vs. Film vs. Phenomenon and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. The Best Sex-Positive Movies. Fifty Shades of Grey” is sexually explicit, but there’s some disagreement about whether it’s sex-positive or not. The Dissolve’s staff looked at some of their favorite sex-positive movies. Here’s Keith Phipps on “Say Anything…”:

What did I get instead in the years when I was watching movies trying to explain the worlds of sex and teendom to me? Horny guys crossing the border to sleep with prostitutes in “Losin’ It,” Doug McKeon desperately groping Kelly Preston while the Platters played in “Mischief,” date rape played for laughs in “Revenge Of The Nerds,” Peeping Tom behavior played for laughs virtually everywhere, and whatever messed-up sexual politics were going on in “Sixteen Candles.” In “Say Anything…” John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobbler loses his virginity to Ione Skye’s Diane Court, and it’s not a matter of him winning a hard-fought victory or clearing a level in a videogame or making the earth open up. It’s something that happens between the two of them that leaves him moved and vulnerable. This wasn’t scoring or getting away with something naughty, and I hadn’t really seen sex, particularly sex between teens, portrayed that way before. I’m not even sure I’ve seen it portrayed that way since. Read more.

2. “SNL” at 40. 
Saturday Night Live” hits 40 this year, and Alan Sepinwall of HitFix looked at how the show’s story was told through its sketches. 

When people speak of the vintage, Not Ready for Prime-Time Players-era “SNL” as an outlaw comedy show, this sketch more than any other is what they have in mind: a job interview between Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor turns ugly in a hurry once racial terms are introduced into a game of word association, which doesn’t stop until Chase has said the N-word and Pryor has responded with “dead honky.” This is arguably the edgiest the show would ever intentionally get (as opposed to something like Sinead O’Connor surprising everyone by ripping up a picture of the Pope). The series would skirt various boundaries of language and sexuality in later years, but rarely in a fashion intended to provoke and shock to this degree. Read more.

3. How “Key & Peele” Surpassed “SNL.” That said, a cultural institution like “SNL” isn’t quite one of the funniest shows on TV anymore.Time’s James Poniewozik wrote about how smaller shows have surpassed it:

Humor is about voice, and because of their small casts, shows like “Key & Peele” can have one. Whereas “SNL,” by design, is bigger than any individual star, these shows are exactly their stars’ size. Built around one or two talents, they can’t be about everything, and they don’t try. Instead, they embody, gem-like, a single point of view and their stars’ idiosyncrasies and nerdy obsessions. For Key and Peele, now in their fourth season, those range from horror movies to sports culture the murkiness of race in America. (Both stars are biracial, which has helped make them TV’s prime comic interpreters of the Obama presidency–literally in the case of their running bit about Luther, Obama’s “anger interpreter.”) Read more.

4. Lady Journalists Sleeping with Subjects in Movies. The trailer for “Trainwreck” shows Amy Schumer’s journalist sleeping with a doctor she’s profiling (Bill Hader). It’s a ridiculous situation that’s become a trope, and HitFix’s Katie Hasty made a list of some of the recent films and TV shows where this happens.

“Fifty Shades of Grey”
“Top Five”
“Crazy Heart”
“Nashville”
“Bad Words”
“Iron Man”
“Man of Steel”
“Smallville”
“Law & Order SVU”
“House of Cards” Read more.

5. Preserving Classic Sex Films. Everyone hears about the importance of preserving silent masterpieces and classics from Old Hollywood, but even old dirty movies are culturally important. Flavorwire’s Alison Nastasi wrote about the people trying to preserve classic sex movies:

Your team has a background in film restoration and collection. How did you wind up in the porn biz, so to speak?

Joe Rubin: I don’t feel that we’re in the “porn business” at all. We are film archivists who happen to focus on preserving sex films. But regarding why we’ve made that our focus, it’s mostly because they represent a huge part of the American film industry of the ‘60s through ‘80s — and virtually no one else has done anything to ensure that they get saved from rotting away in vaults and basements. Read more.

6. “Fifty Shades”: The Book, The Film, The Phenomenon. How does “Fifty Shades of Grey” compare to the book, and does it live up to the phenomenon? Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve investigates.

The film version is fascinating in its own way, in part because it’s clear the gawker wave is still expanding—the film is already poised to break first-week ticket-sales records—and in part because it’s clearly been designed as a corrective, simultaneously addressing the concerns of the prudish, the BDSM cognoscenti, and readers who like their sex-books a little less weighed down with constant references to an “inner goddess” who tends to react to new sexual stimuli by, direct quote from the book, “doing the merengue with some salsa moves.” As a balancing act between personal sexual fantasy and widely accessible blockbuster, the screen adaptation of “Fifty Shades” is endlessly discussable, and will no doubt sow the seeds for months of cultural conversation. Pity it isn’t nearly as interesting as an actual movie. Read more.

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