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Unsexy Sex: A Valentine

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By Michelle Orange, Matt Singer, R. Emmet Sweeney and Alison Willmore

[Photo: “Killing Me Softly,” Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2002]

On-screen chemistry’s a funny thing. Some actors come together and click; others might as well be staring out at each other from separate screens across the multiplex. When it comes to romance, good chemistry can mark the difference between a sense of believably heated liaison and a sense that you’re just watching two famous people smash their faces together. Nowhere is this clearer than in love scenes — whether extravagantly staged or staunchly naturalistic, movie sex without a spark can range from boring to downright ludicrous. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re taking a closer look at the ludicrous side of the spectrum with some of our favorite examples of unsexy sex.

Body of Evidence (1993)

Directed by Uli Edel

There are at least four lengthy sex scenes (plus a sequence where Willem Dafoe strokes a cat while watching Madonna get acupuncture needles stuck in her butt) in “Body of Evidence,” but the funniest has to be the last one. By this point in the film, Dafoe, a shady defense attorney, has grown fed up of his client (that’d be Madonna) and her devious feminine trickery. He barges into her home and accuses her of telling his wife that he’s been cheating on her. Madonna denies it and Dafoe throws her to the floor, but since Madonna’s character is into rough sex, that’s basically like slipping her some Spanish fly. In short order, the two are in the midst of a wild and wildly ridiculous lovemaking session that includes masturbation, bondage, biting, strangulation and anal
sex. Most of “Body of Evidence”‘s sex scenes are far funnier than they are erotic — I’m also quite fond of the one where Madonna ties up Dafoe with his own belt and then pours hot candle wax and champagne on his chest after announcing they’re going to do it “My Way” like she’s Frank Sinatra or something — but that fetish potpourri really exemplifies why they all don’t work. One kink might have been sexy; but six all at once within a two and a half minute span? The scene’s so jam-packed that the characters don’t even have time to enjoy themselves before they’re on to their next wacky indiscretion. Madonna and Dafoe look like they’re working their way through a checklist of deviancy as quickly as possible so they can put their clothes back on. —Matt Singer

In The Cut (2003)

Directed by Jane Campion

There are some actresses who shouldn’t have sex. Something strange happens in my brain when I see Cate Blanchett, for instance, in bed; neurons misfire, it just doesn’t work. It’s not a matter of being a roaring femme fatale or innocuous honey pot, it’s a certain switch, and they can flick it or they can’t. I don’t necessarily think Meg Ryan can’t, but in 2003’s “In the Cut,” Jane Campion’s moody serial killer thriller, much of the hype around the movie was derived from the question of whether she can. As a mousey New York teacher, Ryan gets caught up in a murder investigation being conducted by a bowl of hot tamales (Mark Ruffalo and his formidable moustache). Rumors of their graphic sex scenes abounded, and while it’s true that the two are naked a great deal, the dark, libidinal abandon of it all failed to kicked in. In fact at the end of the film, when Ruffalo is cuffed to some sort of radiator, encouraging the demure Ryan to have her nasty way with him, the dreaded giggle impulse is triggered. Campion fails her actors in these scenes — you can see that they are game and able, though Ryan generates more heat, in one particular scene, on her own than with her dirty-talking detective — in capturing all the flesh and none of the fun. —Michelle Orange

Killing Me Softly (2002)

Directed by Chen Kaige

Neither Joseph Fiennes nor Heather Graham really found a place for themselves in Hollywood. I place the blame on 2002’s “Killing Me Softly,” the only English-language effort to date from revered Fifth Generation Chinese director Chen Kaige (of such irreproachable arthouse fare as “Farewell My Concubine”). After the film was dropped directly to video, Graham was left with a guest-star spot on “Scrubs” and a quickly canceled show of her own, Fiennes slunk off to act in a slew of middling period dramas no one’s heard of, and Chen returned to China to make the sentimental “Together” and the ridiculous fantasy epic “The Promise.” What could possibly be so mojo-killing? “Killing Me Softly” is an erotic thriller about a British mountain climber and a comically naïve Midwestern expat — I’ll leave you to divine which actor fits into which role — who meet cute at a London crosswalk and wordlessly rush off to bang. Believably portraying such reckless passion, particularly only a scarce few minutes into a film, would be a challenge for any actor. To say that Graham and Fiennes fail is too generous — they manage to make the film’s frequent, panting displays of their famous flesh actively boring. Graham’s Bambi-eyed ingénue begins to suspect her brooding boy-toy of murdering his last two girlfriends, but marries him nevertheless, and the film’s plodding poor-man’s Hitchcock themes of lust and danger cumulate with a howler of a kinky love scene involving a silk scarf and a fireplace that could earn “Killing Me Softly” a place on the cult classic pantheon. —Alison Willmore

Miami Vice (2006)

Directed by Michael Mann

As much as Michael Mann is an expert of the impenetrable chatter of cops ‘n robbers, he’s clueless when it comes to the allusive game-playing of flirtation. There’s no starker reminder of this than in “Miami Vice,” a visually ravishing film that screeches to a halt with every intimation of intimacy. After a tense sit-down with coke supplier José Yero (John Ortiz), Crockett (Colin Farrell) ambles off to speak with the operation’s second-in-command, Isabella (Gong Li), whence comes the soon to be legendary line that he’s a “fiend for mojitos.” This inexplicably charms Gong (visibly uncomfortable speaking English), and so begins another grueling male rescue fantasy. They whisk each other away to Havana on speedboat fumes, gropingly do the salsa, and (cue the angsty Chris Cornell ballad) furtively hump under latticed shadows at a seedy hotel. It’s all Hollywood handbook seduction — lots of dead-eyed stares and sensitive cheek grazing, but no hint of idiosyncrasy or humor — that is, nothing identifiably human. At least Tubbs (Jaimie Foxx) gets a cute premature ejaculation joke in his scene of amor. —R. Emmet Sweeney


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.