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


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.