Movies

Solomon with the star of her short, Manini Gupta, on set. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Witte Solomon)

Solomon with the star of Small Talk, Manini Gupta, on set. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Witte Solomon)

Nicole Witte Solomon and I have kept up with each other online for a while, dating back to the era when she was a young phone sex operator/film student, just beginning to pitch her clever writing on topics ranging from vegan cooking to feminism in pop culture to a variety of venues. As the years have gone by, she’s fulfilled many of her dreams, from directing a video for her favorite Jewish post-riot grrl band The Shondes to co-founding writers’ site The Stoned Crow Press. Having followed the making of her phone sex horror movie short Small Talk since its inception, it’s exciting to get a chance to interview Solomon about it as it finally makes the festival rounds.

What attracted you to horror as a genre? What sort of opportunities do you think horror provides for feminist artists?

I’m attracted to horror as a viewer because it has the potential to make me feel a wide range of intense emotions within a controlled and hopefully safe environment. A great horror director is much like a great domme; of course I gravitate towards the genre as both a viewer and filmmaker.

The whole reason Small Talk happened is I was writing a phone sex memoir and got the image in my head of a PSO taking a phone sex call while dismembering a corpse. It felt a lot more compelling than a long, tedious recounting of autobiographical detail. Horror allows us to break into the supernatural where needed and requires no happy endings.

It was enormously therapeutic for me to make this film. I had some unresolved feelings and then I exploded a couple [of] people in a movie and now I feel fucking great. I am a huge proponent of filmmaking as a form of narrative therapy and encourage any and all sex workers who have unresolved feelings to make art about it, if for no other reason than my own selfish one of I really can go the rest of my fucking life without reading, viewing or otherwise consuming a sex worker narrative by a non-sex worker, and god knows everyone else is apparently starved for them [narratives by and about sex workers] and—

The horror community has been by far the most welcoming of the film. I submitted it to a ton of “women’s” film festivals and not a single one has wanted to touch it. One festival that rejected me offered to send a summary of jury comments for free and the comments were basically like “It was well shot and acted and all but it was about a phone sex operator and it was so disturbing and suddenly people were exploding and I don’t understand why and our audience will be so disturbed and upset.” That was the consensus of why my film was a bad choice for their festival.

I was impressed with how Manini Gupta, as the phone sex operator protagonist, Al, was so versatile with the affect of her voice as she worked the line. And I empathized with her so much as she rolled her eyes through most of those calls. What were you looking for in the actress that would play the PSO? What was most important for you to say about being a phone sex operator in your movie?

It was not easy finding someone who could do all the things you mentioned, and the most important thing to me was that the actress I cast be believable—to me. That was the litmus test. I needed someone who could 1. Convincingly play all those things on the PSO fantasy end—sound like a believable, good PSO while also 2. Play the Al character’s own, usually conflicting reaction to what’s going on. Manini was totally on the right track from the first audition, whereas most people I saw couldn’t really do either, let alone both at the same time.

In terms of what I wanted to say about being a PSO—I guess I wanted to portray it as a challenging job involving a particular skill set. I wanted to show some of the less savory aspects of the job without demeaning it in any way. I wanted to open up to the world about the specific aspects that can be difficult and sometimes emotionally damaging in a way that contextualized it within a broader service industry—looking at race and gender dynamics within capitalism in general, not just the sex industry specifically or the phone sex industry in particular. I meant this film as a kind of valentine to other PSOs, honestly. Our labor and skills are so commonly undervalued and misunderstood, and what we do is so tricky, if we do it well.

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image via 50 Dollars Not Fifty Shades on Facebook

image via 50 Dollars Not Fifty Shades on Facebook

There’s a new campaign circling social media encouraging people to not only look into the abuse and lack of consent within the book Fifty Shades of Grey, but to also boycott the movie, with a philanthropic twist. According to their Facebook page, “#50dollarsnot50shades is a grassroots, women-led campaign, encouraging people to boycott the 50 Shades of Grey movie & give a $50 donation to [a] domestic violence shelter or agency. The money you would have spent on movie tickets and a babysitter or movie tickets, popcorn and drinks will go towards serving victims of abusive relationships like the one glamorized in the 50 Shades series. Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do.”

As someone who not only practices BDSM professionally and personally and dislikes the poor excuse for BDSM erotica that is the Fifty Shades franchise, I thought that this idea was actually quite clever. Instead of supporting a movie and book series whose leading man doesn’t talk about consent with newbie Ana while also meeting all of the signs of being a domestic abuser, why not make a donation to a local women’s shelter for domestic violence? Brilliant.

Or maybe not. The campaign is not as grassroots as it claims, but instead is run by anti-pornography activists. 50 Dollars not 50 Shades is sponsored by the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC), the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), and Stop Porn Culture. It is also affiliated with PATHS of SaskatchewanAntiPorn.org and Pornography Harms which is apparently part of the NCSE. [READ MORE]

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La Bare (2014)

by Bubbles on January 23, 2015 · 0 comments

in Movies, Reviews

image via La Bare

image via La Bare

The news that Joe Manganiello was making a documentary about the Dallas male strip club La Bare thrilled me, because I loved Magic Mike and his performance in it. When it finally came to Netflix, I roped Matthew Lawrence into watching and chatting with me. It was no Magic Mike, but the real-life Magic Mike, Randy “Master Blaster” Ricks, didn’t disappoint. Below is an edited version of our real-time viewing experience. There’s probably spoilers.

Matthew: How many stars does Netflix THINK you will give this movie? For me it’s only one and a half!

Bubbles: Two for me! Seems like you don’t know me at all, Netflix.

Matthew: My Netflix is hampered by my boyfriend’s mysterious love of The Vampire Diaries, so maybe it assumes I will hate any documentary narrated by a True Blood cast member?

Bubbles: I’m so happy. I loved Magic Mike so much.

The film opens on two male strippers in cowboy hats and sleeveless shirts, about to perform for a bachelorette party.

Bubbles: Haha, it’s ok to take her number if she isn’t engaged. These outfits are fantastic.

Matthew: Those hats! I am in New England, I don’t see hats like that ever.

Bubbles: OK, so, it kicks off with the Flaming Lips “Free Radicals,” one of what I assume are many interesting musical choices. Is there a “businessman” male stripper? I guess that would be “Richard Gere Armani Suit” male stripper

Scene changes to the office of La Bare, where the manager talks about the club’s early days, when it switched from a topless club with female dancers to a male strip club named “La Bare.”

Matthew: Hahaha, nude in French or whatever.

Bubbles: “Which means nude in French or whatever.” Jinx! 9/11 killed the male stripping business? Had you heard anything about this?

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KAL8079_NightoftheDemons_DVD_V2.indd
At the age of five, growing up in in the desert six hours from the nearest town and hospital, I had recurrent nightmares about a hirsute, razor-toothed werewolf with glowing red eyes. I haven’t ever really gotten over those dreams, so at 29, I can still get a little too spooked at all things werebeast. That doesn’t stop me from watching supernatural horror, though.

While engaging in self care, I want to stream and watch something. Sifting through films that I’ve already seen, that I have no interest in, and—what the hell?

Strippers vs. Werewolves? Oh baby! Why has nobody told me about this?

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Sin City 1, via fanpop via huffington post Imagine a city so bleak, so hopeless, so full of darkness, that only criminals and social rejects have a fighting chance to survive living there. Imagine villains so desperate, so foul, so vile, that the ugliest death for them still wouldn’t feel like justice. Now imagine heros who are so full of vice, rage, and demons that they are not much better than our villains. Picture a city that doesn’t have a violent underbelly, because its entirety is a violent underbelly. This is the setting Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have built for us with Sin City and its sequel, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. Based on Miller’s comic book series of the same name, the two have constructed a nightmare town that is terrifically gory and hellbent on destroying every person who enters it.

The characters that seem most equipped to survive Sin City are its sex workers. (Spoilers ahead.)  [READ MORE]

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