September 26, 2005
C be 3idligan taiIl
'Kiss kiss, bang bang'
A mong the pint-sized collection America ratings board, which also hap-
of movies that everyone actually pens to be the cause of the first reason.
went to see last summer was Using that ever-popular PR mantra of
"Wedding Crashers," a goofy sexploita- "family values," the board rivals the FCC
tion comedy that people loved, as far as I in its subtle and not-so-subtle censor-
can tell, because it had gorgeous women ship of film in the United States. They
with no shirts on and a grandmother can't force someone to cut scenes from a
who got away with calling movie, right? Sure. But let's
Eleanore Roosevelt "a big say a director is under con-
lesbian mule." True, no one in tract to deliver an R-rated
the movies today says "fuck" film that has sex scenes
with quite the frothy, mouth- and it gets an NC-17 rat-
foaming conviction as Vince ing (always for sex, never
Vaughn, but I wouldn't have for violence) - the same
guessed that would be enough rating the board gives to
to sell a movie. Well, it was. actual porn. What choice
The romantic-buddy comedy k does he have but to cut it?
beat its one-joke premise to It's telling of our society
death even before the grave- JEFFREY that we can't distinguish
digging Will Ferrell cameo, BLOOMER between a movie that deals
but now that it has grossedr
more than $200 million, I'll just pretend I
Then there was "The 40-Year-Old
Virgin," a fluffy geek-sex comedy (quick:
Aquaman or Catherine Keener?) that
didn't quite garner a "Crashers"-sized
repeat-viewer cult but still found a
respectable following of guys who could
relate more than they'd care to admit.
Of course, to Hollywood, two R-rated
hit comedies in less than one month
means that the industry needs to hurry up
and make 14 more before next summer.
They will, and most of them will do great
business - but we won't really consider
what we'll be giving up.
What's at stake? Critic Pauline Kael
famously said, "The words 'Kiss Kiss
Bang Bang,' which I saw on an Italian
movie poster, are perhaps the briefest
statement imaginable of the basic appeal
of movies." She was probably right. But
unlike any other in the world, modern
American cinema is all about the bang
and almost never about the kiss. Sure, we
love that pristine final shot when the guy
finally gets the girl, but let's face it: It's a
whole lot better if he blows up a legion of
faceless bad guys to get to her first (bonus
points if they might be nonwhite and/or
are played by Sean Bean).
In most American movies, sex is only
a footnote - we get suggestions or a
few voyeuristic glimpses of the action,
but for the most part, we pretty much cut
straight to the morning after. People have
been duped into believing that there's
an outward trend toward graphic sex in
film, when the real possibilities of sex
and sexuality amount to a great deal of
unexplored territory in contemporary
It's not as if no one has tried: The adult
sex movie died somewhere between "9
1/2 Weeks" and "Basic Instinct," when
fetishistic domination fantasies involving
blindfolds and a lot of fruit (yes, that's
where those DiGiorno commercials
came from) became bizarre tales of lurid
obsession that solved themselves with
Sharon Stone's legs parting and an ice
pick beside the bed. And none of us are
likely to forget "Showgirls," which might
be the last big-studio NC-17 movie ever
made and was the final bolt in the coffin
for nonpornographic adult films.
Basically, we have two institutions to
thank for this: Studios that won't make
the movies because they are bad business
and the Motion Picture Association of
frankly with sex and one
that exploits it, but there you are.
Consider the case of "Where the
Truth Lies," the latest film from Cana-
dian director Atom Egoyen, which
features a three-way sex scene between
Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Rachel
Blanchard. Many viewers would, in fact,
have no interest in seeing that, but now
many of them won't have the chance
to decide for themselves. The movie,
which may well have expanded into wide
release, will now only open in a handful
of art-house markets because it will be
released as "unrated" - the more PR-
friendly version of an NC-17.
Egoyen was contracted to deliver an
R film but got lucky: The studio let the
harsher rating slide. For better perspec-
tive, recall that last February, the ultra-
violent flaying scene in "The Passion
of the Christ" earned an R, whereas a
masturbation scene and a few full-frontal
shots in "The Dreamers" earned a scarlet
letter when it was released weeks before.
So, wait, weren't we talking about
sex comedies? "Wedding Crashers" and
"The 40-Year-Old Virgin" were both
considered sleeper hits because of their
R ratings; studios took a risk, and it paid
off. The problem is that it feeds into the
MPAA-fueled machine of what is con-
sidered acceptable screen content. These
movies were risks because of their sup-
posedly "edgy" material, a primary draw
for audiences. But as long as we continue
to be satisfied, the message is clear: Bare
breasts and brief, mostly embarrassing
sex is fine, but if a movie really wants to
delve into the subject, forget it.
Even as the MPAA finally gets over
the fact that others besides straight white
people have sex ("Brokeback Mountain"
earned an R, among others), it refuses to
acknowledge it consists of anything more
than 30 seconds of frenzied dry humping.
Yes, ratings are important for parents,
but not when they leave a back door open
for censorship. We have the Michigan
Theater, so when "Where the Truth Lies"
opens, we can judge its content for our-
selves. But not everyone will have that
chance, and as long as the MPAA contin-
ues to be allowed free reign, the Ameri-
can public will keep seeing the movies it
wants them to see.
- Bloomer was one of those guys
who loved "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."
Tell him it'll be OK by e-mailing
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beck performs on Thursday at the State Theater in Detroit.
By Gabe Rivin
Daily Arts Writer
Preparing to begin a variously intimate, explo-
sive and exploratory concert, Beck shook his
golden locks and flashed his
peachy, boyish charm in front Beck
of a sold-out show at the State
Theater Thursday night. Beck. At the State Theater
the Los Angeles-born freaka- Detroit
zoid famous for his defiance of
genre and musical categorization, promised wild
antics and over-the-top stage props while tour-
ing the world promoting his new album, Guero.
Never a sucker for overhyped or decadent stadium
shows and prone to making unannounced appear-
ances at small bars around L.A., Beck performed
a show at the State that was full of surprises and
delighted fans of his sardonic, often absurdist
humor and eclectic sound.
As with his records, Beck's live performances
constantly shift in genre and mood. While music
from Guero was well represented, he performed
a set list that spanned the length of his il-year
career. Weaving between disco-funk jams, inti-
mate solo acoustic pieces and loud rock tunes
underneath faux-rap, Beck's 90-minute set kept
up a propulsive momentum.
Opening with "Black Tambourine," the stage
lit up to reveal a group of seven men - the stan-
dard rock quartet with some extra decoration.
In one corner stood a video DJ, a low-key guy
who mixed and scratched DVDs, rhythmically
illuminating the screen behind the stage. Two
keyboardists and occasional guitarists chimed in
with vocal harmonies. The funniest, and perhaps
strangest, inclusion to the group was Beck's danc-
er - an ostensibly inept arm - and leg-pumper
hidden behind big, black aviator sunglasses and
a green jumpsuit who danced something like an
awkward version of The Robot.
Fairly standard versions of Beck's earlier hits,
like "Loser" and "Devil's Haircut," let the audi-
ence feel some '90s nostalgia. But pointed fingers
and an eruption of mirth marked the grand descent
of a 10'-by-5' "ghetto blaster" boombox from the
ceiling of the theater while Beck jammed on
"Where It's At." With his head ducked under this
massive symbol of street hip hop, Beck rapped
with his eccentric montage of disparate imagery
("Pick yourself up off the side-of the road/ With
your elevator bones and your whip-flash tones"),
looking as legit as any white guy wearing a red
and white striped shirt possibly could. Other high-
lights include the solo rendition of Sea Change's
bittersweet "Golden Age." But the mood created
by Beck's mature, goosebump-inducing voice
wasn't enough. The song segued into an odd sec-
tion in which his bandmates tapped rhythms with
silverware on glasses as they sat on the floor of the
stage, eating dinner.
Funny flourishes aside, Thursday night's con-
cert showcased the talent of one of America's most
accomplished singer-songwriters since Neil Young.
On Guero's "Go it Alone," Beck gracefully sang
against a Southern gospel handelap/stomp rhythm
that referenced 1930s Delta Blues. He strummed
"Tropicalia," another acoustic effort from his album
Mutations, alone - another successful genre-nod
to the Brazilian bossa nova explosion in the '60s.
Though not his original, he sang former tourmates
the Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize" in an earnest,
sincere way that went far beyond the sappy version
the Lips released.
After one encore with some funky tracks from
Midnight Vultures and a perfect rock perfor-
mance of "E-Pro," the man behind these musical
paradoxes took off, leaving the elated audience to
await his next Detroit tour stop.
WE WANNA GET
wiH you. AND
(WE THINK HER