Sex sells (they hope).

Sex sells (they hope). (photo)

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Let’s say you’re a female movie star and your new movie is tracking poorly and the buzz around Hollywood isn’t much better. What are you going to do about it?

Well if you’re Cameron Diaz, you’re going to give an interview to Playboy in which you talk about how much you love cock.

Yes, in an interview in next month’s Playboy, which hits newsstands tomorrow, Diaz, star of the tepidly anticipated “Knight and Day,” tells Stephen Rebello that she “can’t even count how many times I’ve gotten on a plane for love. It’s not unusual in this business; my lifestyle demands it. I’m always traveling for [whispers] cock. You’ve got to go where it is.”

She also describes her interest in sex as “primal on an animalistic level” and hints at bisexual interests, saying “Sexuality and love can be different things. I can be attracted to a woman sexually, but it doesn’t mean I want to be in love with a woman. If I’m going to be with a woman sexually, it doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian. We put these restraints and definitions on people, but it’s hard to define.”

Well, then. What else is there to say other than, these sage words from Hugh Laurie?

06172010_sexsells3.jpgSubjects interviewed by Playboy are expected to be provocative and open about their sex lives (or so I’m told from people who, unlike me, read the magazine, cause I would never do that, like, ever). John Mayer even got into trouble by trying a little too hard to be provocative and open in a Playboy interview last February.

But Diaz’s comments come just a couple weeks after Jennifer Lawrence, the star of the decidedly un-sexy Sundance hit “Winter’s Bone,” garnered attention — both good and bad — for posing for a salacious spread in Esquire. Lawrence later told Vulture‘s Bilge Ebiri that she did it out of a fear of being typecast in future work, but it’s hard not to imagine the pressure to sell a difficult-to-market movie on a more, um, gut level not weighing into the decision as well.

Any reason to see “Winter’s Bone” is a good one, and if those photos get more people into the theater, fantastic (though one worries that anyone who goes to see the film purely because of Esquire may be confused to find that the title is not some sort of sexual euphemism). But that doesn’t make them feel any less demeaning. It’s not enough for Lawrence to be a remarkable young actress, she’s got to be sexy too.

Nor is it enough that a film is a powerful portrait of hardscrabble life in the Ozark Mountains, with a beautifully written script and haunting performances, we’ve got to able to picture the lead in a bathing suit too. And what about poor Diaz, shilling for her movie by exposing the most intimate details of her sexual proclivities? It all feels kind of dirty and sad.

06172010_sexsells4.jpgOne question, though: would it still feel dirty and sad if the gender roles were reversed? Would it feel quite so icky if Tom Cruise was the one talking with Playboy, and he couldn’t stop raving about how much he loved boobies? Maybe not; nobody seems to raise a hue and cry when Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson bare their bodies to promote the “Twilight” series.

Then again, those movies are all about lusting over half-naked dudes: topless photos of the two may be selling a film with sex, but at least it’s selling a film with sex accurately. By the same token, I don’t think we can expect a scene in “Knight and Day’ where Diaz raves about the awesomeness of Cruise’s manhood.

Wait, is it too late for a rewrite?

[Photos: “Knight and Day,” 20th Century Fox, 2010; “Winter’s Bone,” Roadside Attractions, 2010; “Twilight Saga: New Moon,” Summit Entertainment, 2009]

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

“Iron Man 2″‘s redeemed burnouts and other summer meta-casting.

“Iron Man 2″‘s redeemed burnouts and other summer meta-casting. (photo)

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On June 23, after nine long years of anticipation, Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise will finally be reunited in “Knight and Day.”

The last time they paired up was a very memorable incident indeed. The occasion was Cameron Crowe’s loopy-but-endearing “Vanilla Sky,” in which Cruise played a rich guy with a shit-eating grin and Diaz played a psychotic bitch who got to utter the immortal lines “I swallowed your cum! That means something!”

Their relationship, alas, wasn’t destined to work out — as generally happens whenever Penelope Cruz decides to become the third part of the love triangle — but now they have a second chance at love, this time with Cruise as the crazy one. It’s going to be a blast.

Meta-casting — the art of reuniting stars with past on-screen histories, thereby letting the audience make some connotative connections, or otherwise playing off past imagery — is something that doesn’t happen often enough. There are, still, some amusing examples from this summer.

The implicit subtext of “Iron Man 2″‘s Downey-Rourke face-off, as has been widely noted, is former burnouts redeemed and going mano-a-mano. Next Friday begins the limited release of “Cyrus,” in which Jonah Hill torments John C. Reilly — payback, perhaps, for “Walk Hard,” in which young Reilly kills his brother accidentally, only to have him show back up in the form of Hill as ghost. (Given the way they sort of resemble each other, I expect this to keep happening for years.)

06102010_eclipse.jpgHaving made out in “The Runaways,” Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart will get back to proper money-making business in the latest “Twilight” movie, which makes the Joan Jett/Cherie Currie biopic the rough equivalent of slash fanfiction.

Still to come as well are two especially piquant pairings of the rom com variety. In “He’s Just Not That Into You,” Justin Long found true love (with Ginnifer Goodwin) and Drew Barrymore didn’t (with Kevin Connolly). In “Going The Distance,” can they find true love… together? Bonus layer of context: the two have resumed their real life romantic relationship.

Similar questions confront us when thinking about Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in “The Switch.” In “The Break-Up,” Bateman was Vaughn’s friend, watching the disintegrating relationship from the sidelines; now, after all these years, he can make his move! This will also be the second time a pregnancy has been the inciting incident for Bateman, after “Juno.” It’s like when Katherine Heigl gets pregnant in “Killers” and it ultimately seals an otherwise unstable relationship!

[Photos: “Knight and Day,” 20th Century Fox, 2010; “The Switch,” Miramax, 2010]

You should totally see this dark, difficult movie!

You should totally see this dark, difficult movie! (photo)

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Writing about Sundance favorite “Winter’s Bone,” which Roadside Attractions will release in theaters next week, the LA Times‘ John Horn hits on all of the usual points that come up whenever a big publication covers a scrappy, genuinely indie film and makes it sound like cinematic equivalent of steamed spinach mixed with shards of glass.

He notes it’s based on “an acclaimed but little-read Daniel Woodrell novel” (which describes a sizable chunk of novels turned into films, not just micro-budget indies) and lists its other uncommercial factors, like the “sometimes violent main characters” who “subsist on methamphetamine,” and the fact that its teenage protagonist “played by the unheralded actress Jennifer Lawrence.” Hey, last time I checked “Alice in Wonderland” starred the unheralded Mia Wasikowska, whose name is harder to spell, and it still made $1 billion.

In any case, the main point of the article is sound. Small distributors have been imploding as fast as newspapers these last few years, yet Roadside Attractions — thanks to a combination of modest overhead (less than $2 million annually), a mere 16-employee staff and some modest hits (“The September Issue,” “Super Size Me”) — is more or less thriving. As far as it goes with “Winter’s Bone,” Horn emphasizes that the best part of Roadside’s pitch — they beat out six other offers — was their idea of blatant bait-and-switch marketing, making the movie look like a more standard thriller in the trailer:

The result is something that’s kind of… dire. With its thudding nu-metal guitars, generic title cards (“between what you see and what you hear lies the truth you’re not meant to know” — wait, so the difference between your two senses will uncover the truth?) and general sense of nothing-new-here, there’s no glimpse in the trailer of the movie that’s been about as universally acclaimed as any Sundance premiere of recent years.

06042010_wintersbone5.jpgMost interestingly, Horn wonder “whether highbrow moviegoers will patronize an art film in the summer movie season.” Well, first they’d have to know it existed, preferably via some means other than the trailer. In that way, the misdirectiony marketing makes sense — the kind of person who’s pumped about “Winter’s Bone” has already been reading about and waiting for it. You can take those viewers for granted: they’ll be there for your Hou Hsiao-Hsiens and your Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s as well. These ad dollars are all about seeing who else can be brought in.

But do “highbrow moviegoers” really go into a temporary explosion coma during the summer just like everyone else? In my experience, that’s not the case. The real question: how do you bring people into a movie they might conceivably like but would be terrified of if described as, you know, “OH NO NOT METHLAND!” Surely there’s a balance to be reached between hiding the true nature of the film and making it sound like a masochistic self-flagellation test.

[Photos: “Winter’s Bone,” Roadside Attractions, 2010]

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