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May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience" 
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Post May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
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Fri May 29, 2009 11:34 am
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Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
Fun story,

I'm surprised you didn't mention Marilyn Chambers (who recently died) and her work with David Croneberg in the seventies on Rabid.

Rob


Fri May 29, 2009 12:02 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
I think the main problem with porn-to-mainstream is that a porn actor is never challenged to actually act. It brings me back to Boogie Nights when Burt Reynolds's dream was to make porn where you come for the sex and stay for the story. If more people adapted that line of thinking, we could have half-decent actors making it easier to break in the mainstream.

And what about the male porn-stars, I think the only one I can think of breaking through is Ron Jeremy.


Fri May 29, 2009 12:51 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
Patrick wrote:
I think the main problem with porn-to-mainstream is that a porn actor is never challenged to actually act. It brings me back to Boogie Nights when Burt Reynolds's dream was to make porn where you come for the sex and stay for the story. If more people adapted that line of thinking, we could have half-decent actors making it easier to break in the mainstream.

And what about the male porn-stars, I think the only one I can think of breaking through is Ron Jeremy.


And now he needs to fade away ... nothing's creepier than a big fat hairy guy who still scores on young chicks. Oh wait, that's half of my graduating class ;)


Fri May 29, 2009 2:43 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
This article reminds me of musicians and athletes trying to enter the world of acting. I mean musicians and athletes face similar prejudices and preconceived notions as porn stars when they try an acting career. Like with people who go from porn to acting, there have been successes and failures with these two groups.

One problem with porn actors that try a legitimate acting career is that directors and casting directors only try to cast them as porn stars. They don't give them many opportunities to actually play a character. You can say the same thing for musicians and athletes that try to act. I mean most get casted as, you guessed it, musicians and athletes. If you are pretty much playing yourself on screen, regardless of your past work, then it's not exactly showing off your acting range. So having a porn star play a porn star doesn't exactly help their acting credibility.

Even if porn stars do take acting classes, auditions, etc. they still face the uphill battle to be taken seriously. All they can do is just try their best and hope for a lucky break. I don't think they should try to run away from their past. I think it would be too mentally draining and there's no sense to attack the thing that made you rich and famous. Even if someone regrets their past, they still would have too much difficulty trying to forget about it.


Fri May 29, 2009 4:34 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
Robert Holloway wrote:
I'm surprised you didn't mention Marilyn Chambers (who recently died) and her work with David Croneberg in the seventies on Rabid.


Rob, I was expecting him to mention it, too. For what it's worth, James interviewed me for hours for this article, and we did discuss Marilyn Chambers and other "crossover" examples at length. However, there was so much packed into that one ReelThought that I believe he may have excluded that example for brevity's sake, and because he was able to make his points without it.

This inspires me to say that I'm really impressed with how JB has managed to review SO many movies at length without becoming formulaic. It's mind-boggling to think how he juggles two careers while watching and so thoroughly analyzing half a dozen films every week, presenting them thoughtfully and without spoilers. To write in a genre thousands of times without becoming cliche is a feat. My hat is off.


Fri May 29, 2009 6:16 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
If anything I would like to read the actual interview...but knowing JB I'm sure it was done on the phone or in real-life making it impossible.


Fri May 29, 2009 6:49 pm
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Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
Patrick wrote:
If anything I would like to read the actual interview...but knowing JB I'm sure it was done on the phone or in real-life making it impossible.


It was done electronically, but I'm not planning to clean it up for public consumption. I have grown weary over the years of doing long interviews by phone or in person. It takes forever to transcribe them.

Still, my interview with Alex Firestone is nowhere near as long as the one I did for Cosmoetica.


Fri May 29, 2009 7:06 pm
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Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
I pretty much agree with what Patrick stated: there is a reason that porn is looked down upon as an "art form". It requires little real talent, unless you're talking about the talent of the plastic surgeon in putting in the necessary implants to turn a girl into a sexpot. It acts to stimulate a basic instinctual impulse in humans: the need to reproduce. I mean really, how hard is it for a girl to fake an orgasm or give the impression that she's enjoying the sex? Basically, porn is an easy form of entertainment with which to evoke an almost guaranteed human response (and thus to make tons of money from).

I'll enjoy watching sex because I'm a guy with needs just like any other. I'm not going to try to justify watching it by claiming that it's some sort of art form ("performance art", my ass).


Fri May 29, 2009 8:36 pm
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Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
Ragnarok73 wrote:
I pretty much agree with what Patrick stated: there is a reason that porn is looked down upon as an "art form". It requires little real talent, unless you're talking about the talent of the plastic surgeon in putting in the necessary implants to turn a girl into a sexpot. It acts to stimulate a basic instinctual impulse in humans: the need to reproduce. I mean really, how hard is it for a girl to fake an orgasm or give the impression that she's enjoying the sex? Basically, porn is an easy form of entertainment with which to evoke an almost guaranteed human response (and thus to make tons of money from).

I'll enjoy watching sex because I'm a guy with needs just like any other. I'm not going to try to justify watching it by claiming that it's some sort of art form ("performance art", my ass).


I don't think I ever claimed porn to be a form of "art," although there are those who might argue the point. It's debatable, I think, much as the video games art/not art is debatable.

I'm assuming that you skimmed the ReelThoughts rather than reading it, because I go into some detail about the different skills need to "act" in porn versus "acting" in mainstream movies.

And, while you may want to sneer down your nose at what porn actresses do, consider this first: Would you have the self-confidence to strip naked in front of a room full of cameramen and technicians, engage in sexual acts with members of the same and/or opposite sex with cameras coming in close to record every detail, and be able to achieve either a real (male/sometimes female) or facsimile (female) orgasm? I know I couldn't. Body image plays into it as do a lot of other issues, some personal and some societal. So, while I agree with your assessment that acting in porn is not the same as acting in mainstream movies, your belittling of what porn stars achieve seems to be ill considered.


Fri May 29, 2009 8:46 pm
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Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
James Berardinelli wrote:
I don't think I ever claimed porn to be a form of "art," although there are those who might argue the point. It's debatable, I think, much as the video games art/not art is debatable.

I'm assuming that you skimmed the ReelThoughts rather than reading it, because I go into some detail about the different skills need to "act" in porn versus "acting" in mainstream movies.

And, while you may want to sneer down your nose at what porn actresses do, consider this first: Would you have the self-confidence to strip naked in front of a room full of cameramen and technicians, engage in sexual acts with members of the same and/or opposite sex with cameras coming in close to record every detail, and be able to achieve either a real (male/sometimes female) or facsimile (female) orgasm? I know I couldn't. Body image plays into it as do a lot of other issues, some personal and some societal. So, while I agree with your assessment that acting in porn is not the same as acting in mainstream movies, your belittling of what porn stars achieve seems to be ill considered.


I read your article fully, James, and to clarify, I wasn't implying that you inferred that porn was any sort of "art". My comments were mainly focusing on what Mr Firestone said about it being "performance art". Oh, and I also don't think it's warranted to say that I'm "sneering" at what porn actresses do, since that implies I enjoy seeing the darker side of humanity. I don't- being cynical is in fact a method for coping with the knowledge of the shitty side of our species, which in my view is far more prevalent than the good side.

As for your comments about self-confidence: no, I most certainly wouldn't strip naked in front of a crew to engage in sex acts on film. However, it's mostly because I *wouldn't* do it as a matter of principle. I'll watch it, but I don't pretend that I'm doing it for any real lofty purpose of enjoying "art" on film. It's not an admirable reason (if one feels that base emotions like lust aren't worthy of attention), but there it is.

Also, when it comes to female porn stars: well, given the right circumstances, people will do almost anything, and money is one of the strongest motivators around. Is it any surprise that porn stars mostly come from lower-class backgrounds? To me, it isn't. If a girl has the looks, physique (natural or enhanceable), and needs money, porn can be seen as a very viable means of making a living. BTW, I never said anything about achieving an orgasm. I was talking about *faking* one, which is pretty much the extent of the "acting ability" that your average porn actress requires in that industry.


Last edited by Ragnarok73 on Fri May 29, 2009 11:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri May 29, 2009 9:09 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
Porn stars are placed into a special category of non-actor: those that routinely appear on camera and have achieved resultant fame. They're method actors, it would seem, able to convince the viewer they're having the time of their lives when they may be more preoccupied with paying the bills later on that same night.

That said, like with any actor, they have an opportunity to have as much mainstream success as any other. The problem they'll encounter is the Wow! factor of a porn star appearing in a mainstream affair. Rather than treat Sasha Grey as an actress making her debut in a Soderbergh film many people are adding the pornography background as a kind of juxtaposition to either legitimize her or pose a litmus test for her acting abilities. The gimmick of a porn star being cast need be no gimmick whatsoever -- one hopes they'll be able to, as Sasha Grey has indicated, say "I do this but I also do that." I don't doubt that some of the top porn stars can act in a role that isn't defined as mostly physical. It's all a matter of not calling up pornography backgrounds as a way of test their acting chops.


Fri May 29, 2009 9:34 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
majoraphasia wrote:
Porn stars are placed into a special category of non-actor: those that routinely appear on camera and have achieved resultant fame. They're method actors, it would seem, able to convince the viewer they're having the time of their lives when they may be more preoccupied with paying the bills later on that same night.

That said, like with any actor, they have an opportunity to have as much mainstream success as any other. The problem they'll encounter is the Wow! factor of a porn star appearing in a mainstream affair. Rather than treat Sasha Grey as an actress making her debut in a Soderbergh film many people are adding the pornography background as a kind of juxtaposition to either legitimize her or pose a litmus test for her acting abilities. The gimmick of a porn star being cast need be no gimmick whatsoever -- one hopes they'll be able to, as Sasha Grey has indicated, say "I do this but I also do that." I don't doubt that some of the top porn stars can act in a role that isn't defined as mostly physical. It's all a matter of not calling up pornography backgrounds as a way of test their acting chops.


Oh, I'm open to the idea that a porn actor can go on to achieve mainstream success as well. I'm just one of those who would view that idea as a rare exception to the rule, that's all. Like I said, pornography doesn't demand much in the way of acting ability, IMO, so I don't expect the vast majority of the performers in the porn industry to really have the ability to do well in a mainstream film.

I freely admit that my view of this is a very cynical one. I feel that the porn industry is even more driven by greed than Hollywood is.


Fri May 29, 2009 10:27 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
A terrific article, James. Covers a lot of ground and offers an unbiased, insightful and factual take on one of the movie industry's most "hush-hush" topics. Enjoyed reading it.


Sat May 30, 2009 7:33 am
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
I'm going to name two examples I can think off the top of my head who made the transition from porn to mainstream. However they are not from Western cinema, instead, Hong Kong: Loletta Lee (or Rachel Lee nowadays) and Shu Qi.

Loletta Lee is a bit unique as she did start in mainstream cinema work, starting with bit parts in the 1980s. By the time it was the 1990s however she was famous for her work in Hong Kong Category III (closer to US NC-17 ratings; there is nothing like R in most Asian countries) softcore porn flicks. She eventually worked her way back to mainstream shows, and ended up winning the 1999 Golden Horse Award (Chinese equivalent of Oscars) for Best Actress in Ordinary Heroes.

Shu Qi started out as a softcore model and actress. I believe if you search you can still find the photos she did as an 18 year old softcore porn model. The Category III crossover movie, Viva Erotica, put her in the limelight, winning her the HK Film Award for Best Supporting Actress. She is also a Golden Horse Award nominee.

Now, if you think they only did softcore (as opposed to hardcore), do not forget this is in a Chinese context, where people can be even more conservative (and hypocritical; witness the Edison Chen scandal). Porn is porn, be it soft or hard.


Sun May 31, 2009 12:55 am
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Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
yslee wrote:
Now, if you think they only did softcore (as opposed to hardcore), do not forget this is in a Chinese context, where people can be even more conservative (and hypocritical; witness the Edison Chen scandal). Porn is porn, be it soft or hard.


Your point it well taken with respect to how a culture will view a star who does "porn."

I happen to disagree with the assertion that "porn is porn, be it soft or hard." (I'm sure the pun was unintentional.) Defining porn, like defining obscenity, is a personal thing. Some people consider PLAYBOY pictorials to be porn. (I do not.) For me, one necessary element for anything to be considered "porn" is the presence of non-simulated sexual activity that is (1) clearly shown and (2) designed for purposes of sexual stimulation.

While soft-core porn is certainly designed to sexually stimulate, it almost never involves actual sex and violates condition (1).

Something like THE BROWN BUNNY, which shows actual sexual activity, also violates my "porn" test because it does not seek to sexually stimulate.

A film like BOXCAR BERTHA (dir: Martin Scorsese), where the actors have admitted to having real sex while the cameras were rolling, also doesn't fit into the porn category because nothing graphic was being shown.

All this, of course, is personal. Someone who follows fundamentalist principles is going to have a much narrower definition of porn that I do.

Interestingly enough, the original draft of the ReelThought had two paragraphs related to defining porn, but I cut them out because the thing was already way too long.


Sun May 31, 2009 9:41 am
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Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
James,
Where would you place a movie such as Shortbus? It has non simulated sex in it yet I do not think the intention was to stimulate the viewer. I personally do not consider a film like this porn.


Sun May 31, 2009 10:02 am
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
James Berardinelli wrote:
I happen to disagree with the assertion that "porn is porn, be it soft or hard." (I'm sure the pun was unintentional.)


I also disagree, but unfortunately Chinese society in general does that. To elaborate a bit, as long as there's nudity involved the actress (sexism still is an issue I feel in Chinese society) is as good as stigmatised.

s for the pun, sorry about it; I was toying with leaving it out or in when I was reading through what I wrote, and I thought I'd leave it in. :P


Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:17 am
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
bob harris wrote:
James,
Where would you place a movie such as Shortbus? It has non simulated sex in it yet I do not think the intention was to stimulate the viewer. I personally do not consider a film like this porn.


There are a lot of films that have scenes involving hardcore sex which are considered to be mainstream: 9 Songs, Intimacy, Devil in the Flesh, and others. Shortbus probably belongs on that list as well, IMO. Porn films generally have sex scenes with the odd scene of "story development" and not vice versa.


Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:47 pm
Post Re: May 29, 2009: "The Porn Star Experience"
I disagree with those that think there's no acting in porn. Sasha is a great example of this. She's far from the best looking girl in the business. She's earned her rep with her ability to act and put on a performance.

I also disagree that the porn "stigma" is weakening. While porn may be more accepted as the Internet society grows, that also means more people are aware of the actresses/actors involved. I thought Sasha did very well in The Girlfriend Experience, and I have respect for the work people do in the porn business. But, even I couldn't get past the fact that I've seen Ms. Grey do vile things that I shouldn't mention on this board. And her notable anal warts.

Also, if a porn star wants to be taken seriously, they should drop the stage name.


Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:59 pm
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