People have a hard time talking about sex work. Whether it’s pornography or strip clubs, the topic remains taboo regardless of how far our society veers from its puritanical roots. Many focus on the danger sex work can pose to women—in fact, a 2017 study suggests that it is the most dangerous profession, with its violence disproportionately affecting women. But another critical reason for our societal fear of sex work (and a reason people are much less keen to admit) is that female desire has always been deemed a scary thing. Eve’s desire begat the downfall of humanity. The sirens are seen as more monstrous than even the Cyclops. Hell, in the Twilight franchise, Bella’s sex drive gets her impregnated by a bloodsucking vampire that almost eats her from the inside out. On the other hand, there’s an entire subgenre that revolves around the male sex-odyssey: Wedding Crashers, Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, just to scratch its modern surface. While sex work on film almost always centers women, it’s clear that cinematic sex is a totally different ballgame depending on who’s seeking it out. In 2012, Stephen Soderbergh came out with the strangely revolutionary Magic Mike, a movie about male strippers that complicated these norms.
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Director Paul Thomas Anderson has always stood out for his unique musical sensibilities. In Boogie Nights (1997), he seamlessly weaves major hits like Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” into the film’s narrative. In Magnolia (1999), he goes as far as to have the film’s characters sing along to an Aimee Mann song in the film’s emotional centerpiece. In There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), Inherent Vice (2014) and Phantom Thread (2017), Anderson teamed up with Radiohead mastermind Jonny Greenwood to create some of the most breathtaking scores in film history. And most recently, the dynamic duo teamed up again with Licorice Pizza, a film that blends Greenwood’s musical cues and a glorious jukebox compilation of 1970s hits.
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