The Sporadic Beaver

24 Hours

September 19, 2012

Tags: Shu-Izmz, Core of Destruction Radio, Beaver Street, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, About Cherry, Gail Dines, Lorelei Lee, Indies Unlimited, Talk Story TV

Here's a brief rundown of the events of the past day:

Last night, I talked to Bryan Schuessler, who'd recently posted an enthusiastic Beaver Street review on his site Shu-Izmz. In the course of our extensive conversation, we covered a slew of topics that included pornography, politics, John Lennon, Nazis, and writing. The interview will be broadcast this Sunday, September 23, on Core of Destruction Radio and will also be available as a podcast. Check their site for details.

The review of About Cherry that I posted here yesterday came to the attention of a number of people on Twitter, including the film's co-writer, porn star Lorelei Lee, who retweeted the last line: "Guaranteed to piss off Gail Dines." Among other things, I said that About Cherry was the best movie about the porn industry since Boogie Nights. Then, out of curiosity, I read a few other critiques, and was surprised to see how savagely critics had trashed the film. The Hollywood Reporter, for example, called About Cherry "dramatically feeble and fraudulent." Well, obviously I disagree, and I can say with some authority that this particular critic doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. Bring on the controversy, baby!

A site called Indies Unlimited asked me to write a guest blog about how my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, became an international bestseller. My essay will run on Lennon’s 72nd birthday, October 9, and you can read it here after it goes live at 2 P.M. Eastern time.

Finally, please remember to visit Talk Story TV tonight at 9 P.M. Eastern Time for my live chat with Julia Widdop about Beaver Street. The technical problems we experienced last week appear to have been solved.

About Cherry

September 18, 2012

Tags: About Cherry, Stephen Elliott, Lorelei Lee, pornography, Tickled Pink, Boogie Nights, Gail Dines

Cherry (Ashley Hinshaw) and Frances (James Franco) look for love in the world of XXX.
There was a time in the porn industry, about 25 years ago, when people spoke of X-rated films that had "crossover potential." I discuss this phenomenon in my book Beaver Street, in a scene where I'm asked to play a "nerdy file clerk" in Tickled Pink, which I describe as "a screwball comedy with hardcore sex." This is a historic film, I'm told, because, "never before had a porn movie employed fourteen paid extras in one non-sex scene."

Tickled Pink, like a lot of other pornos produced in this brief "Golden Age," had "upscale production values," a quality soundtrack, "performers who could act and fuck," and a well-plotted script written by a smart young director who just happened to be passing through smut on his way to respectability.

Tickled Pink never did crossover into the mainstream. Nor has any other porn flick. In fact, with the porn industry having degenerated into amateur exhibitionism on sites like YouPorn, and professional studs wired on Viagra engaging, as the inimitable adult-industry critic Gail Dines would put it, in “body-punishing sex” with a succession of anonymous starlets, the idea of crossover porno has been long forgotten.

Though it comes very close, About Cherry contains no hardcore sex and therefore cannot be called a crossover movie. It does, however, contain a lot of very explicit sex scenes, and is also the best and most realistic film about the porn industry I’ve seen since Boogie Nights. It’s certainly the best movie yet to be made about pornography in the 21st century, an age when the Internet has taken over and relegated what remains of the venerable “men’s magazine” industry to its deathbed.

This realism can be attributed to About Cherry’s co-writers, director Stephen Elliott, who has written extensively about sex, and Lorelei Lee, a porn star who plays a porn star in the film. Obviously, they both know the business, and their insider knowledge and experience comes across in such scenes as when Angelina aka Cherry, played by the gorgeous young actress Ashley Hinshaw, is interviewed by a porn production company before they hire her to make videos.

Realistically depicted, as well, is the arc of a porn star’s career—single-girl still shoot/single-girl video/two-girl video/boy-girl video—as is the nature of a porn star’s romantic relationship. Cherry begins dating Frances (James Franco), a wealthy coke-addict attorney who doesn’t hesitate to tell her what he thinks of her job: “It’s disgusting.”

The extraordinary ensemble of actors—notably Heather Graham as Margaret, Cherry’s lesbian mentor/director who’s dealing with a jealous girlfriend; Dev Patel as Andrew, Cherry’s supportive gay friend; and Lili Taylor as Phyllis, Cherry’s alcoholic mother—create a milieu of such verisimilitude it can, at times, border on queasy. But the porn industry can, indeed, be a very queasy place.

The plot is basic: Cherry, a high school student, runs away from her dysfunctional family and sleazy boyfriend, Bobby (Jonny Weston), accompanied by Andrew. She winds up in San Francisco, needs a job, and after waitressing in a strip club, finds her way into porn. What’s different is that About Cherry, unlike, say, Boogie Nights, ends on a positive note, if not necessarily a happy one.

Guaranteed to piss off Gail Dines, and that’s a good thing.