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The History of Sex in Cinema

A number of cable-TV dramatic series have continued to spark debate about nudity and sex on cable TV, and especially what some critics have termed "sexposition" - or unnecessary gratuitous nudity of its female performers. This sampling below is only a continuation of what came in the year before.

Nudity and Sexual Scenes in Cable-TV Dramas and Shows

True Blood
HBO

Californication
SHOWTIME

Californication
SHOWTIME

Weeds
SHOWTIME

The Tudors
SHOWTIME

Anna Paquin

Eva Amurri

Camilla Luddington

Mary-Louise Parker

Selma Brook

 

True Blood
HBO

Californication
SHOWTIME

Dexter
SHOWTIME

The Tudors
SHOWTIME

The Tudors
SHOWTIME

Lizzy Caplan

Addison Timlin

Courtney Ford

Charlotte Salt

Joanne King

 

Reality Show
SHOWTIME

Reality Show
SHOWTIME

Dexter
SHOWTIME

Episodes
SHOWTIME

Magic City
STARZ

Margaret Savinar

Faith Picozzi

Maria Zyrianova

Sophie Rundle

Jessica Marais

         

Hit & Miss
UK TV Series

Strike Back
UK TV Series

Strike Back
UK TV Series

Strike Back
UK TV Series

Strike Back
UK TV Series

Chloe Sevigny

Natalia Avelon

Natalie Becker

Orla O'Rourke

Alexandra Moen

         

House of Lies
SHOWTIME

Girls
HBO

Parade's End
HBO


Dawn Oliviera

Lena Dunham

Rebecca Hall

Title Screen

Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description

Screenshots

About Cherry (2012)

The R-rated showbiz drama film marking the directorial debut of Stephen Elliott (a former sex worker) was subtitled with the tagline: "There's no such thing as going too far." The poster advertising the film was of the nude shirtless backside of a pig-tailed schoolgirl with a plaid skirt sitting on a desk, in front of a group of film cameras (one of the film's major sequences). For authenticity regarding the world of pornographic film-making, the script was co-written by Lorelei Lee, a veteran of almost 100 porn films. The film was first made available as video on demand and then opened for limited release in theatres.

The slow-moving, coming-of-age film told of the evolution of a young, blonde 18 year-old teen Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw in her debut starring role) living in a broken family in Long Beach, CA who became an adult film starlet. Her depraved boyfriend Bobby (Jonny Weston), who sought a referral fee and hinted: "Do you want to wash other people's laundry forever?", convinced her to pose for some topless pictures for Vaughn (Ernest Waddell), to be posted on a website. She enjoyed posing topless while reclined on a fur-lined sofa.

Afterwards, with the 0 - she journeyed north to San Francisco with her resentfully-platonic best friend and confidante Andrew (Dev Patel). She started out as a cocktail waitress in a strip club, where she was soon introduced to wealthy, drug-addicted, art-appreciating lawyer Francis (James Franco), and Margaret (Heather Graham), an ex-porn star (and lesbian) who was directing adult fetish films for the website Bod. [Note: Much of the film was actually shot inside the San Francisco Armory, which housed the porn website Kink.com.]

During a photoshoot directed by svengali director Margaret, Angelina - now screen-named Cherry - posed for the cameras as an innocent schoolgirl, first touching herself, then stripping to black underwear, and then going topless. Margaret talked her through the sequence as she also gave directions behind the camera:

"You're a naughty girl. You can try and get us turned on. Give me a close-up. Why don't you touch yourself? You know you want to. Go wide. You can't help yourself, huh? You're so f--kin' hot! You know that feels good, doesn't it? I'm not gonna let you come yet, though, not yet. There's still plenty of time if you have to go do your homework. We want to see you strip. Just do it really slow, entertain us. And then maybe, I'll let you come. You're so hot. Wow! You're a sexy broad. Naughty little schoolgirl. Oh, my God. You're so beautiful. Your ass is so hot. Oh, my God. You're a work of art."

Hot Schoolgirl Photoshoot of Cherry (Ashley Hinshaw)
Directed by Margaret (Heather Graham)

The nurturing mentor Margaret developed a crush on Cherry (and kissed her), causing a rift in her 8-year relationship with her own girlfriend Jillian (Diane Farr). Their breakup scene was slightly voyeuristic and involved angry sex.

'Cherry" progressed from solo masturbation (for online patrons, while awkwarding touching a giant dildo), to girl-on-girl, online bondage porn and S&M, and finally to full-on boy-girl scenes. When she graduated to more lucrative hard-core sex on camera, the scenes were timid - limited basically to waist-up views.

In the film's conclusion, Francis became upset at his girlfriend, asking: "Why do you do whatcha do?" She responded blankly, "This is my job." He then went further: "How am I supposed to, uhm, f--k you tonight after you just got done f--king, I dunno, five guys?" She added: "Everybody's tested. Are all of your girlfriends tested?" He claimed she was his only girlfriend. Angelina eventually decided to move in with Margaret and decided to take a turn at directing porn herself.



First-time Posing


Solo Online Posing

Girl on Girl




Hard-Core Cherry
(Ashley Hinshaw)

American Reunion (2012)

This was the eighth installment in the American Pie film series, and the fourth that was theatrically-released:

Theatrically-Released

Spin-Offs (Direct-to-Video)

American Pie (1999), d. Paul Weitz
American Pie 2 (2001)
, d. J. B. Rogers
American Wedding (2003) (aka American Pie 3)
, d. Jesse Dylan
American Reunion (2012),
d. Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
American Pie Presents: Band Camp (2005), d. Steve Rash
American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile (2006),
d. Joe Nussbaum
American Pie Presents: Beta House (2007),
d. Andrew Waller
American Pie Presents: The Book of Love (2009),
d. John Putch

Many of the stars from the first two or three films reprised their roles in this sweetly-raunchy, tedious comedy, to continue the tale of the teens 13 years later - now struggling with sex at middle-age. Its tagline was:

SAVE THE BEST PIECE FOR LAST

The setting for the sappy ensemble film was the 10th year reunion (actually 13th) of classmates at East Great Falls (Michigan) during a momentous weekend. Some of the singles from the earlier film were now married, such as Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), with a two year-old son Evan. The couple had a sex-less love life which was stuck in a rut (he watched porn on his laptop and pleasured himself into a lubricated sock, while she masturbated alone in a sudsy bathtub with a hand-held shower head).

Other characters included:

  • Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas), a bearded, devoted house-husband architect married to Ellie (Charlene Amoia)
  • Chris "Oz" Ostreicher (Chris Klein), studly LA TV Sports View reporter for the NFL
  • Mia (Katrina Bowden), Oz' shallow supermodel blonde girlfriend, whose bikini top was removed while she sunbathed
  • Steven 'Steve' Stifler (Seann William Scott), an office temporary worker, sex-crazed jerk-off and avid partier
  • Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), an intelligent world traveler (actually an Asst. Mgr. at a Bayonne, NJ Staples store)
  • Noah (Eugene Levy, the only actor to appear in every single American Pie film), Jim's widower father
  • Selena Vega (Dania Ramirez), Michelle's sexy band-camp friend who was working the bar at the local Jilly's
  • Heather Gardner (Mena Suvari), Chris' prudish ex-high-school girlfriend, with her boyfriend cardiologist Ron Douglas
  • Victoria "Vicky" Lathum (Tara Reid), Kevin's ex-girlfriend

The profanity-laced, sex-drenched tale revolved around three weekend events: an 18 year old's birthday party, Stifler's house party, and the reunion itself. It included both male (including an extended shot of Jim's genitals covered up by a see-through glass pan lid) and female nudity (from minor supporting characters rather than from the main stars), some very suggestive sex scenes, and lots of sex talk. The shenanigans, break-ups and pair-ups included:

  • Stifler retaliating against locals by defecating in their beer cooler
  • hung-over Kevin waking up in bed naked with Vicky (although he fantasized that she was performing oral sex on him)
  • Mia's breaking-up with Oz, after which Oz was reunited with Heather
  • Jim finally having sex with his wife Michelle, during the HS reunion
  • Stifler doing it with Finch's mother Rachel (Rebecca De Mornay) on the lacrosse field during the reunion (she enticed him: "I like to handle a stick and cradle those balls")
  • Finch hooking up with Selena to travel to Europe
  • Noah finding love (and oral sex) with Stifler's stacked mother Jeanine (Jennifer Coolidge) in a movie theatre (during the end credits)

Inebriated 18 year-old next-door neighbor Kara (Ali Cobrin)

The most nudity was seen in the sequence involving Jim's meeting up with his seductively tempting next-door high-school-aged neighbor Kara (Ali Cobrin), someone he used to baby-sit but who was now all "grown up." She invited him to her 18th birthday party ("I want you to come so bad"), after which Jim drove the inebriated, virginal Kara home. Next to him in the car, she propositioned him: "I want you to be my first...I can't think of a better birthday gift" and stripped off her dress. He had great difficulty sneaking her back into her house - carrying her half-naked outside and then into her house and up her stairs to her bedroom.


Michelle
(Alyson Hannigan)



Mia
(Katrina Bowden)


Kara
(Ali Cobrin)


Jim Levenstein
(Jason Biggs)


Stifler
(Seann William Scott)

Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012)

Famed independent film producer Roger Corman, the master of schlocky B-movies ("The King of the B's"), Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, and various creature features, brought this 3-D film (his first ever) to the screen (TV) for the EPIX cable network. The movie was another example of his branding style - an entertaining, fun-filled, profitable venture, and a throwback to the T&A films of the 70s and 80s.

The film was actually a remake or "re-conception" of Corman's own Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958), and similar to Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor (1963) and parts of Gulliver's Travels. It was advertised with the obvious tagline:

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THOSE POM POMS!

It told of a scientific experiment that went awry. An aspiring college cheerleader Cassie Stratford (Jena Sims, Miss Georgia Teen USA in 2007) felt that she was nerdy, mousy, and ugly (with facial acne) ("Being me sucks"). Urged by her vain and pushy mother Brenda (Sean Young), Cassie hoped to become a member of the school's most popular Greek sorority Zeta Zeta Mu, led by the film's antagonist - the evil and bitchy Brittany Andrews (Olivia Alexander).

The freshman scientist took a performance-enhancing, anti-ugly serum, and grew to gigantic proportions (in stages). At first, she was pleased with her transformation - she stood in front of a mirror and admired her new breasts and figure (she caimed it was "a little makeover"), but then problems arose.

The envious Brittany emulated her, and self-administered a double dosage of serum shot with hypodermic needles into both of her breasts. Soon after while having sex, her bra burst open as she grew in size right before her partner, and he fled in shock from the room.

In the film's climax, the two topless 50 foot cheerleaders battled it out with 'bitch-slaps' on the football field on Homecoming day ("The Knock-Down Drag-out of the Century") - better than the regular half-time show entertainment. Cassie was supported by her geeky science friends, who provided her with serum to transform Brittany back to normal size. After Cassie injected Brittany in the gluteus maximus with a serum-syringe, her rival didn't return to normal size but was slightly miniaturized. Cassie also accepted the reverse transformation for herself ("I think I like the old me better") as the film ended.

The Football Field Catfight Between the Two Giant Topless Cheerleaders: Cassie vs. Brittany

In addition, there was an earlier shower scene in the gym, enjoyed by another coed Tiffany (Anne McDaniels) who soaped up her breasts, but was then attacked by a giant spider in a nearby toilet stall.


Cassie Stratford
(Jena Sims)



Brittany Andrews
(Olivia Alexander)







Tiffany
(Anne McDaniels)

Bel Ami (2012, UK, Fr.)

French writer Guy de Maupassant's 1885 second novel, Bel Ami, or, The History of a Scoundrel: A Novel, was the basis for this erotically-steamy film by theatre director Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod.

In this cynical costume drama, heartthrob Robert Pattinson starred as the main character, amoral Frenchman Georges Duroy. He was a 19th century, peasant-born and penniless, soldier-turned-journalist, who sought his fortune in Paris, and was involved with a succession of mistresses and lovers (all married):

  • Madeleine Forestier (Uma Thurman), an ambitious and intelligent journalist and politician; she was the aristocratic wife of his former army buddy Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister), the political editor of the newspaper La Vie Française. She became Duroy's secret lover - his central paramour
  • Clotilde de Marelle (Christina Ricci), a promiscuous, lonely and bored young housewife who sincerely loved Duroy during her sexual affair with him
  • Madame Virginie Rousset (Kristin Scott Thomas), a prim socialite, and the obsessive wife of the paper's editor Monsieur Rousset (Colm Meaney)

The power-hungry, ruthless, misogynistic, charming Parisian lothario was able to advance up the city's social ladder (during the Belle Epoque era) by manipulative sexual trysts with these talented and influential upper-class women.

For example, the talentless Duroy was able to get employed at the newspaper due to their influence. There were many passionate sex scenes, several of which involved nudity (breasts and buttocks were visible). Soon, Duroy was able to find himself a position of influence as the paper's gossip editor and as Madeleine's husband.


Georges Duroy
(Robert Pattinson)


Clotilde de Marelle
(Christina Ricci)


Madame Rousset (Kristin Scott Thomas)

Madeleine Forestier
(Uma Thurman)

Bikini Spring Break (2012)

The Asylum has produced quite a few direct-to-video, 'guilty-pleasure' sex comedies (garnering many negative reviews) within the past few years (with similar copy-cat titles to larger films, such as American Pie or other series), including Barely Legal (2011), MILF (2010), #1 Cheerleader Camp (2010), Sex Pot (2009), and 18 Year-Old Virgin (2009).

This R-rated, low-budget teen sex comedy immediately opened with plentiful views of bare breasts beneath the credits - a boobs montage in the locker-room. As its sole claim to fame, the raunchy film probably has more breast shots than almost any other in recent memory. However, there were no sex scenes (just kisses), instances of sexual contact, or full-frontal nudity. It was competing with another more highly-publicized, similarly-titled film (with much less skin), Spring Breakers (2013) with Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez.

Opening Credits - A Boobs Montage

Franny (Jamie Noel)

Michelle (Erin O'Brien)

The Mechanical Bull

The Jumbo-Tron

Pole Dancing

Wet T-Shirt Contest

Director/co-writer Jared Cohn included all the prerequisite features of this kind of film as well - a wet-T shirt contest, a soapy car wash, green Jello-wrestling, a stripper montage (topless in thongs), topless mechanical bull-riding, and a locker-room sequence (broadcast onto the football field's jumbotron scoreboard). Revenge of the Nerds' Robert Carradine starred in the tiresome flick. The film's tagline advertised: "Sweet, Small-Town Girls, Until..."

The conservative college, with its alcoholic band director Coach Gil (Robert Carradine), sent its female marching band 3,000 miles to Miami, Florida to compete in a national competition. Five main coeds drove in a bus with the band's instruments (the rest of the band flew ahead!):

  • upbeat, optimistic, ditzy, sweet, good girl Alice (Rachel Alig)
  • super dense, bawdy, red-headed screw-up Zoe (Virginia Petrucci)
  • in-charge, bossy, neurotic Whitney (Samantha Stewart)
  • spoiled, germaphobe "Princess" Franny (Jamie Noel)
  • abrupt and gruff, potty-mouthed Michelle (Erin O'Brien)

Unfortunately, their misadventures began when they became stuck in Ft. Lauderdale following a bus accident, and they frequently doffed their tops to compete in the wildest and wettest Spring Break party of the year, to win ,000 to fix their bus.



Whitney
(Samantha Stewart)



Zoe
(Virginia Petrucci)


Franny
(Jamie Noel)



Alice
(Rachel Alig)

Black & White & Sex (2012, Australia)

Although writer/director John Winter's (his directorial debut film) provocative, b/w erotic drama premiered in Australia in 2011, it made its worldwide debut the following year. The taglines of this low-budget, experimental independent film were blunt: "Sex is never black or white," and "An Intimate Film About Sex."

The documentary-style dialogue film (a "film-within-a-film" since it was about the making of a film), with a single set and multiple camera setups, was composed of an interview about sex between:

  • un-named filmmaker (Matthew Holmes), largely unseen, in shadowy silhouette or from behind
  • prostitute Angie (eight actresses of different ages, ethnicities, and appearances: labeled Angie 1, Angie 2, etc: Katherine Hicks (Marilyn Monroe-like, with a wig), Anya Beyersdorf, Valerie Bader (mature, older, sassy), Roxane Wilson, Michelle Vergara Moore (confrontational), Dina Panozzo (dominatrix), Saskia Burmeister (young, sweet-girl-next-door), and Maia Thomas (sexy))

Angie Characters

(Katherine Hicks)

(Anya Beyersdorf)

(Valerie Bader)

(Roxane Wilson)

(Michelle Vergara Moore)

(Dina Panozzo)

(Saskia Burmeister)

(Maia Thomas)

There were many references to sexual acts and topics: foreplay, oral sex, sex smells, prostitution, and masturbation. The last Angie described what sex meant to a man:

They say that men love to have sex, but it's not true. Women love to have sex. Men have sex to love. It's the only way they can love. And doing what I do means that I get to see it more than just about anyone. It's not there for very long, but when it is, it's real. Maybe that's why the wives don't like us.

During the probing interview, Angie discussed her attitudes, and lifestyle (with varying attributes of a hooker presented by the different actresses), and in some cases combatively turned the tables on the male interviewer. Angie challenged long-held assumptions and attitudes (often false), and misconceptions. Archetypes for sex-workers were reviewed: man-haters, needy drug addicts, nymphomaniacs, control-freaks, or those seriously damaged.

At one point, Angie 6 had the film-maker strip down to nothing and masturbate in front of her. Angie 8 blindfolded herself and then followed the commands of the film-maker, but asked: "And am I taking off my clothes because I want to or because you're instructing me?" He continued:

Put your hands behind your head...Spread your legs...Touch your nipples. Squeeze them. Harder. Harder...Are you wet?...I can smell you."

Then, in a shocking revelation, the film-maker confessed that his wife Mattie was a "sex worker" who didn't tell him about her past occupation until their first wedding anniversary. He said he felt "betrayed" and that's why he left her. He further explained his reasoning:

When I looked at her, I didn't see her anymore. I-I only saw all the other men that she'd slept with. Look, it wasn't rational, OK? I wasn't rational. I-I wasn't thinking about her or us. I was thinking about - How I was gonna explain this to our friends and colleagues and my family.

But then after his wife left after feeling utterly rejected, she was never to return. He realized it was too late to ever get her back, and that he never gave himself a chance to listen and understand her. He said he wanted to forgive her, but it was too late. He reported that she remarried just three months earlier and was now pregnant. Since she left, all the film-maker wanted to do was to stand on a building top and scream out, "My wife was a whore" - and "I love her to bits." He admitted that the making of the film was "therapy" for him. At one time, Mattie had encouraged him to make a film about sex and sex workers to "learn something" - which he admitted he now had. He also revealed that Angie was the first woman he had wanted since he left his wife.

In the final sequence, it was decided that the film would end with close-ups of the faces of the eight Angies, intercut between each other, as they reached orgasm (a "happy ending") through masturbation.








Angie 8 (Maia Thomas)

Angie 1 (Katherine Hicks)

One of 8 Final Angie Close-Ups During Orgasm By Masturbation

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Director Drew Goddard's witty R-rated horror film (his feature-directing debut) was derived from a script he co-wrote with Joss Whedon. The self-aware, mischievous film, with plenty of in-jokes, had the tagline: "You think you know the story." It was derivative of, and paid homage to earlier classic horror films, such as Sam Raimi's first two Evil Dead films (1982 and 1987), Ringu (1998, Jp.), Eli Roth's Cabin Fever (2002), Ju-on: The Grudge (2003, Jp.), the Scream films (1996-2011), Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994), the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and the thematic set-up of The Truman Show (1998).

Although it was actually shot in 2009, it was held up by MGM's bankruptcy, and then by new owners' Lionsgate that delayed the release for 3-D conversion (although it was eventually released flat).

The principal characters (obvious archetypes), all young and sex-crazed college students, ventured in an RV to Curt's cousin's new place, the Buckner place - a "cabin in the woods" located on a rural lake (similar to Friday the 13th's locales):

  • the Jock (or Athlete), studly athletic football player Curt Vaughan (Chris Hemsworth)
  • the Dumb Blonde (or Whore), slutty college student Jules Louden (Anna Hutchison), Curt's girlfriend
  • the Stoner (or Fool), drug-user pothead Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz), who believed in conspiracies and suspected 'puppet-masters'; the film's comic relief
  • the Nice Guy (or Scholar), reserved, bookish and nerdy Holden McCrea (Jesse Williams)
  • the Good Girl (or Virgin), virginal, shy, awkward brunette Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly)

Everything that the group did was monitored by a group of white-shirted and short-sleeved technicians in a high-tech control room or command center - two conducting surveillance on the group were Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford). (There were similar projects underway in Sweden, Spain, Japan, and other countries around the world.) They were observing, manipulating, and betting on the outcome and fate of the choices of the characters - the film's slasher victims. The cabin was wired with hidden cameras, and the behaviors of the characters could be guided by pheromone sprays in the forest or mood-enhancing drugs. A large whiteboard, used by the scientists for betting which monsters would be picked, displayed dozens of horror categories, scenarios, and monsters to be selected for inclusion, i.e., Alien Beast, Vampires, Yeti, Sugar Plum Fairies, Dismemberment Goblins, Hell Lord, Zombie Redneck Torture Family, Deadites and Angry Molesting Trees.

As expected in any film in the teens-in-the-woods subgenre, the lusting couple (after a healthy dose of sex pheromones) were led to the woods. Moonlight and temperature were manipulated to be just perfect, as the slutty Jules removed her blouse for Curt. They were monitored by the techies, one of whom commented as she went topless: "Score!" However, Jules was almost immediately killed and decapitated by zombies.

In the climactic conclusion, the last two survivors (Marty, immune to the technicians' drugs, and last remaining virgin Dana) who were fighting back against their manipulated enslavement, entered (via elevator) into the underground laboratory labyrinth. In the lower levels of the tech facility, they were spoken to, via the PA system, by The Director (Sigourney Weaver), who described the scenario that they had just acted out. They were five stereotypical teens doomed to die, to appease the "ancient ones" during an annual ritual sacrifice, as part of an ancient pact. Teens were fateful carnage for a blood-lusting Satan-like creature orchestrating the quasi-governmental organization to placate evil, to forestall a global apocalypse if the sacrificial scenario wasn't completed somewhere in the world. This time around, all of the other groups had failed:

"This is all most unpleasant. I know you can hear me. I hope you'll listen. You won't get out of this complex alive. What I want you to try to understand is that you mustn't. Your deaths will avert countless others. You've seen horrible things: an army of nightmare creatures. And they are real. But they are nothing compared to what lies beneath us. There is a greater good, and for that you must be sacrificed. Forgive us...and let us end it quickly."

In response, the two survivors unleashed an attack of many different creatures, including werewolves, spiders, mummies, zombies, ghosts, giant snakes, an Alien (1979) creature, killer robots, a Clive Barker-like Cenobite, and a killer clown. The technicians in the control room were among the victims, as was the Director. Marty and Dana decided not to follow the suggestion to die for the larger cause. In the film's final scene, they smoked pot together, and gave in to the sleeping, giant evil gods that were rumbling underneath them. The Ancient One's gigantic hand and arm from the lower chamber rose up to destroy them.


The Five Characters

The White-board

The Control Room


Jules
(Anna Hutchinson)

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas was based on David Mitchell's 2004 multi-award winning novel of the same name, directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer. The convoluted film consisted of six loosely interconnected storylines, interlinked or interwoven by the film's theme of reincarnation, played by performers in the ensemble cast who were in multiple roles across many different time periods (past, present, and future):

  • "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing" - an 1849 diary of an ocean voyage eastward across the Pacific, written by SF lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), a potential stowaway slave owner who was treated for tropical parasites by Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks)
  • "Letters from Zedelghem" - young composer Ben Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) abandoned his Cambridge lover Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy) in Cambridge/Edinburgh, 1936, to go to Zedelghem, Belgium to musically collaborate with Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent)
  • "Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery" - a thriller about a murder at a nuclear power plant, in San Francisco, 1973, revealed to Spyglass investigative journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) from information provided by aging nuclear physicist Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy), who was set up to be killed by corrupt plant manager Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant)
  • "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish" - a farce about 65 year-old publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) hiding out at Aurora House, a nursing home, in London of 2012
  • "An Orison of Sonmi-451" - a genetically-engineered clone/slave worker, an exploited fabricant known as Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) in futuristic, totalitarian, dystopian Neo-Seoul, in Korea of 2144, who led a rebellious struggle with lover-freedom fighter Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess)
  • "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" - a tale of a tribe (including peasant goat-herder survivor Zachry (Tom Hanks)), living in futuristic Hawaii, in a primitive Valley society on the Big Island, 106 winters after the apocalyptic "Fall," and fighting off cannibals



Sonmi-451
(Doona Bae)

Compliance (2012)

Writer/director Craig Zobel's low-budget crime-drama thriller was "inspired by true events" - an incident that occurred in April of 2004 in a Mt. Washington, Kentucky McDonalds restaurant. In the psychodrama's fast-food restaurant, a fictional ChicWich fast-food facility in Ohio, young, blonde and innocent 19 year-old employee Becky (Dreama Walker) was detained, stripped, and sexually assaulted.

The middle-aged, matronly, ineffectual restaurant manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) and her engaged, slightly-drunk fiance Van (Bill Camp) received a call from Officer Daniels (Pat Healy). He authoritatively claimed to be a policeman and that he had an incriminating surveillance videotape of an employee stealing ,400 from a customer's purse. The caller urged the manager to take the suspected Becky, who resembled the appearance of the criminal, to the back stock room of the restaurant for a strip-search (the alternative was to immediately send her to jail), after the stolen cash was not located in her purse or clothing. He also added that Becky's home was being searched as part of a larger investigation for suspected marijuana possession.

The restaurant employee was forced into complying - Becky strip-searched herself in front of Sandra and Marti (Ashlie Atkinson), another female employee. As events escalated, three different men were stationed in the room to keep a watchful eye over her, leading to her complete humiliation and sexual violation:

  • co-worker Kevin (Philip Ettinger) - he refused to comply with Officer Daniels' demands that Becky be further inspected by removing the apron she had put on after the strip search. He told Sandra that he couldn't be involved.
  • Sandra's fiance Van - he coerced Becky to perform a series of sexual acts, including naked jumping jacks (to see if any objects would "fall out"), lying on his lap to be repeatedly spanked, and even to perform oral sex on him.
  • custodian Harold (Stephen Payne) - he called a halt to the proceedings, telling the complicit Sandra that the police officer on the phone was an imposter.

The entire incident (the prank call and hoax) was discovered to be fraudulent, perpetrated by a telemarketer and family man. The final moments of the film stated that the strip search prank-call scam had occurred over seventy times across thirty U.S. states.

As it turned out in reality, the caller was thought to be a prison guard in Florida, 37 year-old David Stewart, a married father of five suspected of 160 such telephone hoaxes over ten years. In 2004, he was charged with soliciting a sex act and impersonating a police officer, but was acquitted of all charges during a 2006 trial. The restaurant manager Donna Summers received a year's probation, and her fiance pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and unlawful imprisonment, and received a 5-year jail sentence. The victim Louise Ogborn received an undisclosed sum of money from McDonalds, which had appealed the jury's decision to award her more than million in compensatory and punitive damages.






Becky
(Dreama Walker)

The Devil in Me (2012, UK, Can.) (aka Devil Seed)

Director/writer Greg Sager's possession-styled thriller/horror film was a derivative and predictable film within its genre, with plot elements ripped off from The Exorcist (1973), Demon Seed (1977), and The Entity (1982). Its tagline was: EVIL GROWS WITHIN...

After the summer holidays, virginal Alex Froshiber (Michelle Argyris) moved into a rented house with two roommates:

  • Jessica Martin (Shantelle Canzanese), her friend
  • Breanne Whitaker (Vanessa Broze), a bitchy, slutty blonde

Breanne was actually sleeping with Alex's unfaithful boyfriend Brian Wolski (Kevin Jake Walker) and provided all of the film's gratuitous nudity (in a sex and shower scene).

After a night of drinking and partying, Alex and Jessica visited a fortune teller who gave Alex a psychic reading about her future. She was forecast to experience both death and doom. (This was explained by an early flashback during an introductory montage in the opening credits - an exorcism which went wrong some time in Boston in 1972 - 40 years earlier.)

She began to experience blackouts, sleepwalking and sleep-time moaning. She heard voices, had unexplained injuries (scratched thighs and abdomen, and defaced cleavage), screamed foul-mouthed blasphemous obscenities, saw satanic symbols in her school-notebook, and felt she was going insane. She (or the house itself) seemed to have become possessed and haunted by a demonic spirit, confirmed when she went to the library to look up "demonic possession" on Google.

She was rape-attacked (mostly off-screen) by an invisible demonic figure. She became pregnant with the unclean spirit, and required an exorcism from a priest, the same one from the prologue, to rid her of the malevolent demon.



Alex
(Michelle Argyris)




Breanne Whitaker
(Vanessa Broze)

Dario Argento's Dracula (2012, It.) (aka Dracula de Dario Argento, Dracula, or Dracula 3D)

Italian horror director Dario Argento's unoriginal version of the vampirish, blood-sucking tale, also available in stereoscopic 3-D, included a mish-mash of cultish elements for a Dracula film, including gothic atmosphere, nude vampiresses, violence and blood. It was riding the wave of many vampire films, including HBO's True Blood, Let the Right One In (2008, Swedish), and the Twilight movies.

As the familiar iconic tale was told in a kitschy, Euro-trash, exploitative manner, vampire Count Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) - with long fingernails and fangs (and at one point transforming himself into a giant praying mantis) - was intrigued by the entrancing Mina Harker (Marta Gastini), the reincarnation of his beloved Dolingen De Gratz who had died around 400 years before.

Sexy Lucy (37 year-old Asia Argento, the director's daughter), the mayor's daughter, was promised eternal life if she would lure her old friend Mina to the Transylvanian village of Passo Borgo, near to Dracula's castle. Lucy would first pretend to offer Mina's clerk-husband Jonathan (Unax Ugalde), her newlywed husband, a castle librarian job. After her arrival to join her husband, Mina gave Lucy a sponge-bath.

Lucy's (Asia Argento) Naked Sponge Bath Scene

Much of the choppy film's dialogue was leaden and ludicrous, along with various plot holes and poor, soap-operish acting. However, the nudity and sleazy sex factor among the females was excessive, including that of Tania (Miriam Giovanelli). In the opening scene, the beautifully buxom Tania secretly met her lover late at night in a barn for love-making - a nude scene. She was then stalked by Dracula (as an owl) and attacked, making her one of the undead. She became Dracula's slutty assistant, a mostly-naked vampire, who often walked around in a low-cut, body-hugging, transparent white dress, to seduce Jonathan, so that afterwards Dracula could consume him.

In the film's conclusion, Rutger Hauer appeared as the vampire hunting Abraham Van Helsing, with wooden crosses and stakes, holy water, and garlic to combat Dracula and his forces.



Tania (Miriam Giovanelli)
Opening Scene - Barn Tryst




Tania as a Vampiress Seductress

Farewell, My Queen (2012, Fr. ) (aka Les Adieux à la Reine)

Director Benoît Jacquot's gorgeously sexy French drama, an opulent period piece, fictionalized the story of French Queen Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), on the eve of the 1789 French Revolution (and Bastille Day). The tale was adapted from Chantal Thomas's 2003 novel. It was one of many similar films about the doomed queen, including Sofia Coppola's recent Marie Antoinette (2006) starring Kirsten Dunst.

The Sapphic story was set at the gilded Palace of Versailles over a period of three days. It was told through the feminine viewpoint of young and naive lower-class Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux), the Queen's self-negating, totally-devoted reader (lectrice). She was critiqued by one of the aging servants: "You're so young. And already blind." The resourceful reader traveled up and down the back corridors of Versailles, listening to murmurings as the royalty was besieged from without. When the fall of the Bastille and news of the revolt circulated (with a list of the heads to be cut off), there were mass defections, broken alliances, and some suicides. Sidonie asked urgently: "What will happen to us?" although she vowed to be steadfast to the Queen: "Stay with her as long as she needs."

The intense and compelling quasi-historical drama highlighted a love triangle involving the moody, unpredictable, hedonistic and frivolous Queen, who was married to neglectful husband King Louis the XVI (Xavier Beauvois). While tended by Sidonie, the Queen was in a scandalous, passionate lesbian relationship with:

  • Duchess of Polignac, Gabrielle de Polastron (Virginie Ledoyen), very-poised, regal, and semi-icy

The Queen asked Sidonie: "Have you ever been attracted by a woman, to the point that you suffer in her absence?", hinting at her own lesbian longings for the Duchess. In one of the film's most interesting and erotic segments, Sidonie thrilled when the Queen applied rosewood water to her mosquito bites/rash on her arm, but also silently seethed in jealousy over the Queen's morally-loose, lascivious infatuation with the beautiful aristocrat Gabrielle.

The film concluded with Sidonie's willing sacrifice ("I cannot refuse her anything") to protect the Queen and her pampered mistress - potentially an ultimate sacrifice. The ill-fated Marie Antoinette was determined that her lover, the Duchess, must flee for her life, while she would stay behind to face her destiny. Before the Duchess left, the Queen hugged the Duchess one last time, telling her: "Let me inhale one last time the scent of your youth."

In the final scene, Sidonie stripped off her own dress and stared at the Queen, with a look of longing and sadness - feeling slightly betrayed. The Queen had ordered her to impersonate the fleeing Duchess, who would accompany her dressed as a servant. Sidonie was attired in the Duchess' green satin gown, reminding the Queen of her lover ("Tell Gabrielle that I'll never forget her"). As Sidonie departed, in order to prepare for the costume-switching decoy-escape with the Duchess, the Queen gratefully kissed Sidonie.



Sidonie Laborde
(Léa Seydoux)


Sidonie and the Queen
(Diane Kruger)


The Queen and Duchess


The Duchess
Gabrielle de Polastron
(Virginie Ledoyen)

Flight (2012)

Director Robert Zemeckis' R-rated action-thriller was his first live-action film since Cast Away (2000), and the second R-rated film of his career.

In the opening non-sexual scene set at the American Value Suites hotel near the Orlando, Florida airport, a clock radio turned on at 7:14 am. Flight attendant Katerina (Trina) Marquez (Puerto Rican actress Nadine Velazquez) rose totally naked from bed and walked to the bathroom. [During most of the scene, the camera was at a stationary angle at the foot of the bed, as she walked in and out of the frame.] Her African-American partner Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), later revealed to be a veteran pilot for a regional airline, was naked under the bed-sheet. He answered his cellphone - a call from his divorced 'ex-wife' asking for financial support. His frustrating conversation was a 'shake down' for money for his estranged son's tuition, while he was accused of being a liar:

"What tuition?...How much does it cost?...No, no, no, that's not true...You're the one that wanted him to go to private school, not me...Oh, he’s my son now, because you want him to go to -- you want a f--king tuition check...Does he want to go to the f--kin' school?"

He had obviously slept and had sex with Katerina the night before - the room was disheveled and there were beer bottles strewn around, one of which served him another swig. As he talked on the phone, she returned to the room and slowly slipped on her clothes, beginning with her dark-red, skimpy thong panties. Katerina briefly climbed atop Whip. He was due to pilot an early-morning 9 am flight to Atlanta with 102 passengers. Before leaving the room, he was also snorting a line of cocaine as a pick-me-up, adding to his major addiction problem of alcoholism.

The main focus of the film was the spectacular flying ability of Whip (even though he was high), as he piloted his plane through turbulent thunderstorms, followed by a malfunction. In a gripping sequence, Whip was able to invert the aircraft during a nose-dive to force it to level out, before crashing the plane in an open field, and saving everyone except six. However, post-crash toxicology reports revealed that he was on drugs, even though it was a miracle that he had avoided a potentially more devastating tragedy.



Katerina
(Nadine Velazquez)

Hijacked (2012)

Director Brandon Nutt's low-budget, B-movie action-thriller, a straight-to-DVD effort, resembled Die Hard (1988), Executive Decision (1996) and Air Force One (1997) with its testosterone-driven plot about the unraveling of an international conspiracy onboard a hijacked plane from Paris to the US - with a "twist" ending.

It opened with a lavish Parisian party hosted by wealthy, brash British CEO industrialist Bruce Lieb (Craig Fairbass), who was suspected of shady business practices by the SEC. US government agent Paul Ross (former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture) was investigating a global terrorist crime syndicate known as The Tribe, and discovered that their next target was billionaire Lieb.

Ross was hired by Lieb to serve as a bodyguard aboard his private plane, a huge luxury jumbo jet. There, he encountered his own leggy estranged ex-fiance Olivia (Tiffany Dupont) and Lieb's burly Aussie bodyguard Otto Southwell (Dominic Purcell). The villains were led by Rostow Pawlak (Holt McCallany), who planned to rob Lieb Industries, hijack the plane in mid-air during a trans-Atlantic flight, and parachute off the plane with the cash deposited in a Swiss bank account.

The film was rated R in part for a explicit sex scene between two of the plane's passengers, including Taylor Jeffries (Marla Malcolm) who showed everything topless - but the scene ended with both shot dead in an embrace during intercourse. The female assassin explained the necessity for the double homicide: "Sorry, I got excited."




Taylor Jeffries
(Marla Malcolm)

Lawless (2012)

The R-rated, brutal and violent gangster-crime film from Australian director John Hillcoat was set in 1931 in Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia, and was adapted by writer Nick Cave from the 2008 book The Wettest County in the World, written by Bondurant grand-son Matt Bondurant. The film's tagline boasted: "When the Law Became Corrupt, Outlaws Became Heroes."

Various brothers in the Bondurant family were real-life "lawless" bootleggers running a moonshine racket-business, and searching for the American dream:

  • Forrest (Tom Hardy), the middle brother, a WWI veteran, a stoic, smart, quiet (yet fierce) and principled leader, with brass knuckles
  • Howard (Jason Clarke), the eldest brother, the enforcer, often drunk, a dim-witted, oafish "crazy one"
  • Jack (Shia LaBeouf), the youngest one, idolizing and ambitious (wanted to be a bigger player in the family), fearful and naive

The story told about the Bondurants who were doing business with big-city, legendary villainous Chicago mobster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). They ran into conflict with a corrupt police force led by intimidating, psychopathic Chicago-based federal agent Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce). The glove-wearing, bow-tied, foppish and preening Rakes wanted a share of the lucrative business and was willing to lawlessly intimidate competitors with extreme violence (killings, beatings, throat slashing, a revenge castration), torture (tar and feathering) and rape.

To round out the violence were two 'girlfriend' characters:

  • Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain), city dweller and ex-saloon dancer from Chicago who had moved to the country, serving as a waitress at the Bondurant gas station/store/diner (the front for the operation), and becoming the love interest of Forrest
  • Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska), the rebellious, chaste daughter of a disapproving Dunkard Brethren preacher (Alex Van) as she was courted by Jack

As noted in the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony's risque musical number by Seth MacFarlane, "We Saw Your Boobs," a number of actresses were known for baring their breasts on-screen:

  • Meryl Streep in Silkwood (1983)
  • Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr. (2001)
  • Angelina Jolie in Gia (1998)
  • Anne Hathaway in Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001)
  • Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
  • Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler (2008)
  • Kristen Stewart in On the Road (2012)
  • Charlize Theron in Monster (2003)
  • Helen Hunt in The Sessions (2012)
  • Jessica Chastain in Lawless (2012)
  • Jodie Foster in The Accused (1988)
  • Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry (1999)
  • Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky (2001)
  • Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures (1994), Jude (1996), Hamlet (1996), Titanic (1997), Iris (2001), Little Children (2006), and The Reader (2008)

Three mentions were for 2012 films, including two Best Actress Oscar nominees:

  • Kristen Stewart for On the Road (2012) - see below
  • Helen Hunt in The Sessions (2012) - see below
  • Jessica Chastain (nominated for Zero Dark Thirty (2012)) in this film - she was noted for her nudity in her first on-screen naked appearance in a love-making scene with Forrest



Maggie Beauford
(Jessica Chastain)

Lay the Favorite (2012, UK)

British director Stephen Frears' off-beat comedy-drama was based on Beth Raymer's memoirs about her life as a stripper, boxer, and journalist. Rebecca Hall starred as high-pitch voiced, thirty-something naive "private dancer" (lap-dancing stripper) Beth, who left her hometown and moved to Las Vegas with aspirations of becoming a cocktail waitress.

There, because of her semi-idiot-savant skill with numbers, she was employed by charismatic professional gambler/bookmaker Dink Heimowitz (Bruce Willis), aka The Sure Thing.

Dink became involved in a pseudo-romance with the uninhibited and bubbly Beth, his Lucky Charm. His relationship with her disturbed his emotionally-fragile, jealous wife Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Things turned more difficult when the ditzy Beth also became involved running a highly illegal off-shore operation in Curacao for fellow NY bookie and bi-polar gambling addict, the loud-mouthed Rosie (Vince Vaughn).

The film included female nudity - rooftop topless sunbathing (although Beth kept her top on) with redhead Darcy (Jo Newman) and blonde Holly (Laura Prepon).


Beth
(Rebecca Hall)




(l to r) Beth, Darcy
(Jo Newman) and Holly
(Laura Prepon)

Looper (2012)

In this mind-bending, intelligent sci-fi action thriller by talented writer-director Rian Johnson, 25 year-old Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lived in the year 2044 in the burned-out, socially-decayed, dystopic metropolis of Kansas City. He was a low-level, yet specialized hitman (or "looper") with fated fellow looper Seth Richards (Paul Dano), working for crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) in a Kansas syndicate. Abe had been sent back from the future by the mob to manage or run the loopers. The contract killer was hired to assassinate each of the mob's victims at a pre-arranged drop-off point, a remote corn/wheat field.

Although time travel was to be invented in 30 years, it was outlawed. It was appropriated and used by criminal gangsters, such as controlling mastermind mob boss Rainmaker from 30 years in the future (2074), to execute their enemies and leave no trace. The goal was the closing of every single loop. Targeted enemies to be eliminated were sent back to the present year of 2044, to be disposed of by their younger selves. This would be a foolproof and clean method to eliminate the loopers (or close the loop) - and leave no trace.

Because of his fancy and lucrative lifestyle and career, young hedonistic Joe was able to afford fine retro clothes, a classic red Miata, and a fancy hooker/showgirl Suzie (Piper Perabo). She worked as a can-can dancer at Abe's nightclub "La Belle Aurore." After a naked encounter together, she told him that their relationship didn't go further than "services rendered."

The main plot was that Joe found himself in a twisting situation where his next target was himself - 30 years older Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Old Joe had been living a good life in the future - in Shanghai, China with a wife (Xu Qing). He had traveled back in time - to find and kill the monstrous Rainmaker as a kid, to save his own loving wife in the future. [Her death had been ordered by a man known only as "The Rainmaker."]

The younger Joe was in hiding from his own mob boss at the remote Kansas farmhouse of devoted single-mother Sara Rollins (Emily Blunt) with her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). He suspected that Cid might be one of the children Old Joe thought was the Rainmaker, so he was there to protect Sara and her child.

The mind-bending conclusion revealed that Cid was the Rainmaker. Joe realized that if Old Joe killed Sara, Cid's destiny would be disastrous, filled with anger and hatred. He would grow up to become the evil, vengeful Rainmaker, creating a closed time loop of murder and revenge:

"Then I saw it. I saw a Mom who would die for her son; a man who would kill for his wife; a boy, angry and alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it. And the path was a circle, round and round. So I changed it."

To remedy and avert the situation, younger Joe shot himself to death in the heart to erase Old Joe's life, just as he was about to shoot Cid's mother. Old Joe immediately disappeared in front of Sara.





Suzie
(Piper Perabo)

Young Joe
(Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Old Joe (Bruce Willis)

Magic Mike (2012)

Director Steven Soderbergh's R-rated comedy-drama was set in the world of male strippers - taglined: "Work all day. Work it all night." Its authenticity as an ensemble drama was enhanced by the fact that actor Channing Tatum was a male exotic dancer (named Chan Crawford) in the late 1990s in Tampa before coming to Hollywood. The amount of male nudity was considerable (skimpy G-string thong shots, buttocks views) with lots of pelvic thrusts and phallic-shaped props, but there were no full-frontal shots (male or female). In one sequence, one of the exotic male dancers in the club was prepping for his performance with a hand-operated suction device or pump, used to enlarge his penis for better viewing onstage.

In this cautionary moralistic tale, there were some scenes of drug and alcohol abuse, kinky sex, and of course, profanity. Many of the male dancers frequently shaved off their body hair. In contrast, one of the scenes of topless female nudity was provided by Olivia Munn (her first nude scene) as bisexual psych grad student Joanna - Mike's non-committal on/off lover.

Female Nudity in a Male Stripper Movie

Joanna (Olivia Munn)

Ken's Wife
(Mircea Monroe)

Nora (Riley Keough)

The story was about the 30 year-old title character, Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) - a Tampa-area roofer, car detailer, and furniture maker by day and stripper by night - the star performer Magic Mike at the Club Xquisite Male Revue among a group of other males. His undeveloped entrepreneurial intention in the film was to start his own small furniture design business.

He introduced impressionable college dropout (who lost a football scholarship) and co-construction worker, 19-year-old Adam "The Kid" (Alex Pettyfer), to the nightclub. There the sleazy owner, leather-clad MC Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) offered him a job after he was pushed on stage and convinced to remove his clothes. [The character of Adam was based on Channing Tatum's past.] Dallas described the lure of the profession to Adam:

"You're not just strippin'. You are fulfillin' every woman's wildest fantasies. You are the husband that they never had! You are that dreamboat guy that never came along! You are the one-night stand, that free-fling of a f--k that they get to have tonight, with you onstage, and still go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you baby, you made it legal. You are their liberation."

Dallas also kept the other star males in the crew from leaving by promising them equity in a new larger club in the Miami area. The other bare-assed male performers for the all-female clientele, calling themselves the Kings of Tampa, included:

  • Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello)
  • Tito (Adam Rodriguez)
  • Ken (Matt Bomer)
  • Tarzan (Kevin Nash)

Adam's older, straight-laced, caring, responsible yet judgmental blonde sister Brooke (Cody Horn), a medical records keeper, was skeptical and disapproving of his newfound lucrative career, and feared for Adam when he was tempted into debauchery and abusing drugs. She engaged in a romantic yet strained and tested relationship with Mike.



Dallas
(Matthew McConaughey)


Ken
(Matt Bomer)


Mike Lane
(Channing Tatum)


Brooke
(Cody Horn)

The Master (2012)

42 year-old writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's sixth film was this well-crafted, visually-compelling, intelligent, R-rated psychological drama. It was highly acclaimed, with three Academy Award Oscar nominations for its performers: Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams). However, it spawned considerable controversy for its similarities to the leader of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, author of the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

Overall, its main unsettling theme was the search for life's answers and self-fulfillment by a disciple following a guru/master - often an extremely elusive, pseudo-religious and difficult relationship. By using an informal technique called "processing" proposed by the "Master," a series of lengthy, free-association sessions would help to relive past traumatic events and eliminate toxicity, negative emotional impulses, and inner turmoil. The same questions would be repeatedly asked (i.e., "Do your past failures bother you?") until they were emotionally nullified and disempowered. Every one's spirit had carried through for many trillions of years, in past lives and in different bodies (or "vessels"). Detailed memories were to be recalled (or imagined) and deliberated upon again and again, in order to have them lose their power, to heal oneself and to bring oneself back to an "inherent state of perfect." However, Val Dodd (Jesse Plemons), Lancaster's son, didn't believe in his father's teachings: "He's making all this up as he goes along."

The film's story concentrated on three main fictional characters in the early 1950s. The main focus in the film was on the rogue drifter Freddie and his difficulties adjusting to civilian life, not on "The Master" title character - Lancaster Dodd. It emphasized the bond that developed between them, including wayward and unpredictable Freddie's wild swings from loyal fanatical devotion (including beating up those who argued against the Cause) to doubt and betrayal:

  • Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a WWII US Navy veteran (with post-traumatic stress disorder), an unstable, animalistic, primitive misfit and loner; an alcoholic - sex-obsessed, violent, explosively volatile, and erratic; he was diagnosed with enuresis (bed-wetting); he walked with stiff body movements, hunched shoulders, and a compressed neck; his father was dead and his psychotic mother was institutionalized; he claimed he had incestuous intercourse three times with his Aunt Bertha, and that he abandoned the love of his life, a 16 year-old sophomore named Doris Solstad (Madisen Beaty) from his hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts, who seven years later was married with two children
  • Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a mystic charlatan, the self-proclaimed, opportunistic, charismatic cult leader of "The Cause," an author and book publisher; at first, he mentored and bonded with Freddie due to his supply of a secret "remarkable potion" - actually a solvent-based, home-made moonshine concocted with lethal paint thinner, and became dedicated to curing Freddie
  • Peggy Dodd (Amy Adams), Lancaster's quiet, stoic and dutiful wife and manager; pregnant, and fiercely protective of her husband and his work, while very wary of Freddie (and eventually telling him to leave the "Cause")

Lancaster Dodd
(Philip Seymour Hoffman)

Freddie Quell
(Joaquin Phoenix)

Peggy Dodd
(Amy Adams)

There were quite a few instances of overt sex in the film:

  • In the film's opening line of spoken dialogue, Freddie suggested: "You know how to get rid of the crabs?..You gotta shave one testicle. All the crabs go over to the other testicle. You got to light the hair on fire on that one. When they all go scurrying out, you take an icepick and you f--king stab every single last one of them."
  • Freddie came up to a large sand sculpture of a busty nude woman made by his military buddies, with detailed genitals and nipples; he pretended to have sexual intercourse with it (by dry-humping), then fingered it; he jerked off (viewed from behind) into the ocean, and finally returned to lay by the sand woman's side
  • during a Rorschach test (of flash cards) administered by the military doctor (Mike Howard), sex-obsessed Freddie gave very graphic responses and saw genitalia in all the images ("Well, that's a pussy. A lady's pussy," "Looks like a cock going inside of a pussy")
  • in the dark-room of the department store where he worked, sex-fixated Freddie fondled flirtatious store model/salesgirl Martha (Amy Ferguson) who began removing her clothes; when she asked as she unbuttoned her bra: "What else do you wanna see, these?...Are they nice?...Handmade," Freddie poked at her nipples
  • the scene of Freddie's twisted, zany, hallucinated sexual dream-fantasy - of Dodd singing and dancing among many naked (full-frontal) female disciples at the Philadelphia home of one of the Master's devotees

Sexual Dream/Fantasy

  • in front of a bathroom mirror (seen from behind), Peggy administered a hand-job for her husband (entreating: "Can you come for me?...Come for me"); she stipulated: "You can do whatever you want, as long as I don't find out"; she also prohibited any more of Freddie's drink: "No more of that boy's hooch"
  • Peggy read a passage from an erotic Victorian novel to Freddie, with a graphic description of the sexual act ("'It's really a damn shame to tease you so, my little whore,' he laughed. 'So, I will get the dildo out of my cabinet in the next room.' He was scarcely gone many seconds before he returned, and I felt his fingers opening the lips of my cunt. 'Oh, oh, who is that?' I screamed from under my skirt."..."Kiss her. Put your tongue in her mouth, my boy. F--k, f--k, f--k away")
  • during sex with Winn Manchester (Jennifer Neala Page) whom he had just met in an English pub, Freddie - after asking her "processing" questions, told her part of a line he had earlier heard from Dodd: "You're the bravest girl I've ever known. (pause for laughter) Now stick it back in, it fell out" (the film's last line of dialogue)



Freddie Having Sex with
Nude Sand Sculpture



Store Model/Salesgirl
Martha (Amy Ferguson)


Peggy with Lancaster


Freddie with Winn
(Jennifer Neala Page)

On the Road (2012)

Brazilian director Walter Salles' slow-moving, self-indulgent 'road film' (he previously directed the biopic The Motorcycle Diaries (2004, Sp.)) was the first film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's semi-autobiographical cult novel (published in 1957 although written in 1951). Another film attempting to create the same ambiance was Monte Hellman's existential classic Two Lane Blacktop (1971).

With languid generation-defining prose, the over-long film (at almost 140 minutes) told about late 1940s and early 1950s travels 'on the road.' Its taglines were: "The best teacher is experience," and "Desirous of everything at the same time." The Beat generation, with its adventurous spirit, anti-materialism, cheap thrills, jazz listening, poetry writing, experimental use of hard drugs, generational existential angst and frequent free sex, was highlighted in this randomly-episodic film.

The main character was free-spirited, charismatic, bi-sexual Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), incarnating and modeled after Neal Cassady, the hedonistic, narcissistic rebellious, quasi-mythical Beat icon. Dean joined three others in NY:

  • Marylou (Kristen Stewart), a teenaged 16 year-old (representing LuAnne Henderson), Dean's own lover (and marriage partner!), with youthful and passionate sexual energy
  • Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a frustrated young NY (Queens) writer, French Canadian, Jack Kerouac's alter-ego
  • Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge), a gay young poet, representing Allen Ginsberg

Then, Dean, Marylou, and Sal traveled from coast to coast across the US (the aimless road journey covered New York, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans and Mexico), attracting various colorful followers, such as:

  • Dean's blonde mistress Camille (Kirsten Dunst), representing Carolyn Cassady
  • Sal's morphine-addicted mentor Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen), an eccentric writer representing William S. Burroughs
  • attractive farm worker Terry (Alice Braga), representing Bea Franco
  • seedy, homosexual salesman (Steve Buscemi)

In one of the film's more bizarre scenes set in a moving car, bare-breasted Marylou masturbated - a double-hand-job - both naked Sal and Dean (on either side of her in the front seat of a car). It was one of three scenes when Kristen Stewart was topless; in another, she was engaged in a three-way sex scene with Dean and Sal.

Marylou (Kristen Stewart) In Various Love-making Scenes


(l to r) Carlo, Sal, and Dean

Marylou
(Kristen Stewart)



Double-Hand Job

The Paperboy (2012)

Director Lee Daniels' tawdry, somewhat perverted and lurid tale was widely praised for Nicole Kidman's portrayal of a feral, trashy Southern female. The campy and compelling film's basic tale was about two reporters investigating a convicted death-row inmate awaiting execution in Lately, Florida (Moat County). The screenplay (by co-writers Daniels and Dexter) was based upon Peter Dexter's 1995 novel. The atmospheric, startling and profane drama was an official selection for the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, and received a long yet questionable standing ovation.

The infamous and notorious film was mostly known for the scene in which Nicole Kidman squatted and peed on Zac Efron on a beach after he was stung by a jellyfish (a first-aid folk remedy).

Omniscient voice-over narration via flashback of the events and proceedings from many years earlier was provided by Anita Chester (Macy Gray), the mother-substitute and domestic housekeeper of the main Jansen family after the mother "ran off." She was mostly relating and interpreting the experiences of aimless blue-eyed 20 year-old son Jack Jansen (Zac Efron). He was a one-time swimming champion - but now the paperboy in town after being kicked out of the Univ. of Florida for vandalism (emptying the pool water). After entering Jack's room without knocking, Anita was accused of potentially catching him masturbating. She comically imitated Jack by mock-masturbating through her padded pantyhose with her legs propped up on the bed ("I could have been jerking off").

Enterprising, idealistic Miami Times journalist Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) (with his black assistant writer Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) from London) returned to his small Florida hometown. Ward joined up with his younger handsome, and impressionable brother Jack, the paperboy title character who delivered the paper (and was mostly seen in tight white underwear). The two were there to investigate a salacious murder case, in the sweaty summer of 1969, to try to secure the release of imprisoned Hillary van Wetter (John Cusack). Both Jansen brothers disliked new girlfriend/fiancee Ellen Guthrie (Nealla Gordon) of their estranged girl-chasing father W.W. Jansen (Scott Glenn), the publisher of the local Moat County Tribune. [Note: Later, just before W.W. married Ellen, Anita was fired.]

The death-row inmate van Wetter was charged with knifing to death unscrupulous, unpopular local redneck Sheriff Thurmond Call (Danny Hanemann). Ward and Yardley had been in contact with and aided by carnal Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), an aging (40 years-old) and frisky Southern belle. Sex-hungry and trashy, she wore false black eyelashes, a Barbie-doll bottle blonde hairdo and wig, cleavage-revealing clothing and micro-miniskirts in bright yellows and oranges. Charlotte was a corresponding pen-pal with many "dangerous" cons, and had become erotically fixated on van Wetter. She steadfastly believed he was innocent and wrongly-convicted even though she hadn't met him. Anita explained how Jack, whose mother abandoned him when he was five years old, fell in love with the town's hot-and-bothered nympho Charlotte. "That horny little boy wanted to jump her on first sight."

Already horny, Charlotte sent "good vibrations" to the jailed inmate while parked in Jack's car (Jack was the hired driver) in the lot outside the prison. When the group gathered for their first interview with the creepy, sweaty, puffy-faced and deranged van Wetter, Charlotte became even more convinced that they had to be together and marry. During the questioning in a visiting room, lust-driven psychopathic van Wetter only spoke to Charlotte, and asked: "Spread your legs open a little bit. Mmm. Yeah. Now tear off them pantyhose. Rip those off...Move your hands away. Now open up your mouth. You picture what you wrote me in your letters." She ripped through her pantyhose, then touched herself through her clothed pink panties (seen in a close-up upskirt shot) and mimed oral sex. She moaned and gasped, open-mouthed, as she touched herself. They both were masturbating separately - and orgasming (he ejaculated in his pants - a wet spot was visible on his leg) - without even touching each other and sitting 10 feet apart, as everyone else watched silently or looked away. The visit was prematurely stopped by a suspicious prison guard. Anita recalled: "Jack came home and threw up after that. He couldn't believe he still loved her after what he saw, but he did."

Prison Interview: Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman)
Pleasuring Herself in Front of Inmate (John Cusack)

Anita continued to tease Jack and observe how he was obsessed with sexpot Charlotte: "You'da thought Jack woulda had a girlfriend by now, but all he did was jerk off to the pictures in those nudie magazines that was under his bed. Now she was all he could think of night and day. Oh yeah, he was definitely in love. He needed her." At the beach while Jack read Lolita, Charlotte sensed Jack's obsession: "You want me to blow you, don't ya? You don't have to answer. I know it's true. I'm not gonna blow a friendship over a stupid little blow-job." When he went swimming and was stung repeatedly on the arms and face, three girls in two-pieces who saw Jack's allergic reaction and red sores suggested a home remedy: "You're supposed to piss on a jellyfish sting." Charlotte was angered: "If anyone's gonna piss on him, it's gonna be me. He don't like strangers peeing on him" - and then squatted over him and let loose a stream of yellow urine.

There were a number of revelations and striking scenes as the investigation proceeded:

  • Hillary was from an inbred family that made its primary living by gutting alligators for their skins
  • van Wetter's swamp-dwelling Uncle Tyree (Ned Bellamy) claimed, as an alibi, that his nephew was doing "lawn work" (stealing sod off a club's golf course) in Ormond Beach when the murder occurred
  • Yardley slept with Charlotte (off-screen) and afterwards was manipulatively compelled to invent evidence (to corroborate Tyree's story) that would exonerate Hillary (Charlotte admitted to Jack: "F--king a man is the most natural thing in the world"); later, Ward discovered that there was no truth to the alibi that Hillary was stealing sod the night of the murder
  • Ward, a closet homosexual, was assaulted (hog-tied) in his motel room by two black men, and S&M gang-raped while naked on a plastic tarp - requiring hospitalization

Ward's (Matthew McConaughey) Naked Hog-Tied Assault/Gang-Bang
in a Motel Room

  • Anita (in voice-over) related how Charlotte and Jack made love only once: "With Charlotte, it was like he was getting it with his mama, his high school sweetheart, and an oversexed Barbie doll all rolled into one. Anyhow, I think you all seen enough."
  • the despicable Yardley wasn't English after all and had lied about his background; Yardley admitted that he had given Ward sexual favors in exchange for his position ("I got drunk once and let Ward suck my dick. He got a taste for ni--ers and now he hates himself")
  • after the article of their investigation was published, van Wetter was released from prison by the governor's pardon; he immediately sought out Charlotte, and they had violent sex together atop her washing machine; the sex scene was interspersed with imagery of an alligator, a scavenging pig and a dead possum (she asked: "You always f--k like this?")
  • he and Charlotte began living together in the alligator-infested swamp; Charlotte wrote a letter to Jack describing how she was unhappy with her new lifestyle; during an attempted rescue attempt by Jack and Ward (on the day of their father's wedding), Charlotte was found dead and Ward's throat was slit with a machete by van Wetter
  • van Wetter was tried and convicted for the two murders; he died in the electric chair at the Florida State Prison; nobody ever found out who murdered Sheriff Call
  • Anita spoke the last line about Jack and his naive, unending love for Charlotte: "He never did get over his first true love"

Jack Jansen
(Zac Efron)


Anita Chester's (Macy Gray) Mock-Masturbation


Charlotte (Nicole Kidman)
with Jack



Charlotte in the Prison
Interview Scenes




At the Beach:
The Infamous Pee Scene



Charlotte In a Dream
and Making Love to Jack



Charlotte with Hillary

Ward's Killing

The Sessions (2012)

The Sundance Film Festival premiered Australian-American writer/director Ben Lewin's audacious R-rated art-house film - the true story of Berkeley-based poet, autobiographer and journalist Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes). He had hired a hands-on "sex surrogate" named Cheryl Cohen Greene (Helen Hunt), a married mother with a Massachusetts accent, to help him lose his virginity and discover sex at the age of 38. The story was inspired by an article O'Brien had written in 1990 titled "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate."

The movie strangely brought together the themes of two other diverse films: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) and The King's Speech (2010). And Hunt had starred (and appeared nude) in a similar movie 20 years earlier titled The Waterdance (1992).

The Motion Picture Assn. of America rated the dramatic film R for "strong sexuality including graphic nudity and frank dialogue." However, all of the nudity came from 49 year-old star Helen Hunt, who was required to often be naked in the film during the six fairly explicit and graphic sex "sessions." She had approximately nine breast-baring scenes, and four full-frontal glimpses. Hawkes' character Mark, however, was never nude, presumably because an erect penis or male frontal nudity would have delivered the film an unacceptable NC-17 rating, making the film commercially unviable.

Mark was a devout Catholic, and had never had sex - one of his greatest frustrations beyond his disability. He believed that sex out of wedlock was a mortal sin and was therefore conflicted about the issue. His main physical problem was that because of childhood polio at the age of 6 that had given him a curved spine, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He was able to achieve involuntary erections during sponge baths. [Until he died at the age of 54 in 1999, Mark was required to spend 20 hours a day in an iron lung. During the other few hours, he was put on a portable respirator.] One of his caregivers, pretty student Amanda (Annika Marks), caused Mark to develop an innocent crush on her, but she was scared away and rejected his advances when he proposed marriage. He began to consider how to proceed with his sexual longings and have sex for the first time ("to know a woman in the Biblical sense").

After learning about the idea of a professional sex surrogate when he was researching the sex lives of disabled individuals, he sought and discussed receiving the church's approval to have sex therapy with his spiritual counselor and long-haired priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy). Brendan agreed with the idea (assuring him that God would give him a "free pass on this one. Go for it!"), and Mark was able to hire Cheryl. Mark and the priest continued to speak to each other, in interwoven segments, as he confessed his increasingly erotic feelings after each meeting. For each therapy session, assistant Vera (Moon Bloodgood) wheeled Mark to her at a motel.

The Therapeutic Sessions with Cheryl (Helen Hunt)

Verbally frank with her extremely nervous and terrified client, Cheryl proceeded step-by-step and matter-of-factly. She explained during their first awkward encounter that she wasn't a prostitute. Only six therapy "sessions" were allowed in order to avoid having him develop an emotional attachment to her, although she added: "The limit is six. That gives us plenty of opportunity to explore." [In an interview, Hunt explained the difference between a prostitute and a sex therapist: "A prostitute wants your return business, and a sex surrogate does not."]

She stripped naked, then started body awareness sessions, and there were Mark's inevitable bouts of premature ejaculation. She reassured Mark that they would eventually have sexual intercourse, although his body was horribly twisted. The film, however, never showed explicit intercourse.


Amanda
(Annika Marks)







Cheryl Cohen Greene
(Helen Hunt) with
Mark O'Brien
(John Hawkes)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are pictured. | Getty Images

While some might want Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to take advantage of the chaos, in reality, sitting on their hands is the only sound political strategy at the moment. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

DRIVING THE DAY

IF YOU ARE A DEMOCRAT, and you’re watching PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP fumble around with immigration policy, there is only one thing to do that makes sense: nothing. The president and his allies are providing Democrats plenty of fodder as they enter day four of massive upheaval at the Department of Homeland Security with seemingly no plan to deal with asylum-seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border. While some might want Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to take advantage of the chaos, in reality, sitting on their hands is the only sound political strategy at the moment. As for the 2020 candidates, what’s the upside of weighing in?

THERE’S A POLITICAL TRUISM that seems to fit quite well here: Never get in the way of your opponent when he’s making a mistake.

NEW … HOUSE MINORITY WHIP STEVE SCALISE (R-LA.) is beginning the process to try to force a vote on an anti-BDS bill, as Republicans look to use Israel as a wedge to split Democrats. SCALISE is using the only tool the minority has -- a discharge petition -- to try to force Democrats to sign onto “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019” -- the House version of a bill the Senate has already passed.

The legislation would allow “states to divest from entities boycotting Israel.” The idea is to try to force vulnerable Democrats to sign the petition. It needs 218 signatures to reach the floor. All 197 Republicans are sure to sign on, which means 21 Democratic signatures are needed. Discharge petitions rarely work, but this is tailor-made for campaign season.

THE TICK TOCK … WAPO’S DAVID NAKAMURA, JOSH DAWSEY and SEUNG MIN KIM: “Twelve days of chaos: Inside the Trump White House’s growing panic to contain the border crisis”: “Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior over the past 12 days — since he first threatened to seal the border in a series of tweets on March 29 — has alarmed top Republicans, business officials and foreign leaders who fear that his emotional response might exacerbate problems at the border, harm the U.S. economy and degrade national security.

“The stretch also has revealed that a president who has routinely blamed spiking immigration numbers on others — past presidents, congressional Democrats, Mexican authorities, federal judges, human smugglers — is now coming to the realization that the problems are closer to home. Though his aides have taken the fall, and it is unlikely that Trump will blame himself, the president is facing an existential political crisis ahead of his 2020 reelection bid over the prospect of failure on his top domestic priority.” WaPo

NYT, A1: PETER BAKER and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Mick Mulvaney Tries Letting Trump Be Trump”: “In his first 100 days as the president’s acting chief of staff, Mr. Mulvaney has assumed a central role in Mr. Trump’s circle but one markedly different than the previous two occupants of his corner office. For the first time since taking office, Mr. Trump has a chief of staff who has made it his job to encourage rather than restrain the president’s conservative instincts — to let Trump be Trump, in effect. …

“During tense negotiations amid the government shutdown earlier this year, Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican and Appropriations Committee chairman, complained bitterly about Mr. Mulvaney’s penchant for undoing weeks of bipartisan work with a quick comment to Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. Mr. Shelby told Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the committee’s top Democrat, that Mr. Mulvaney was ‘the most dangerous man’ in Washington, according to three people familiar with the exchange.

“Mr. Shelby has not repeated that in public, but when a reporter on Capitol Hill asked him about Mr. Mulvaney last week, the senator tartly interrupted to offer a correction. ‘You mean the acting chief of staff?’ he said before walking away.” NYT

NIELSEN’S EXIT STRATEGY -- “Nielsen’s allies trying to rehab her image for life after Trump: Liberal activists say she was complicit in an immoral migrant child separation policy — and should be ostracized by corporate America,” by Andrew Restuccia and Daniel Lippman

ELIANA JOHNSON and DANIEL LIPPMAN, “Inside Trump’s ‘truly bizarre’ visit to Mt. Vernon”: “President Donald Trump had some advice for George Washington. During a guided tour of Mount Vernon last April with French president Emmanuel Macron, Trump learned that Washington was one of the major real-estate speculators of his era. So, he couldn’t understand why America’s first president didn’t name his historic Virginia compound or any of the other property he acquired after himself.

“‘If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,’ Trump said, according to three sources briefed on the exchange. ‘You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.’ The VIPs’ tour guide for the evening, Mount Vernon president and CEO Doug Bradburn, told the president that Washington did, after all, succeed in getting the nation’s capital named after him. Good point, Trump said with a laugh. ... The Macrons, Bradburn has told several people, were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the president.” POLITICO

NEWS THE PRESIDENT WILL LIKE … BLOOMBERG’S CHRIS STROHM and BILLY HOUSE: “Barr Forms Team to Review FBI’s Actions in Trump Probe”: “Attorney General William Barr has assembled a team to review controversial counterintelligence decisions made by Justice Department and FBI officials, including actions taken during the probe of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“This indicates that Barr is looking into allegations that Republican lawmakers have been pursuing for more than a year -- that the investigation into President Donald Trump and possible collusion with Russia was tainted at the start by anti-Trump bias in the FBI and Justice Department.” Bloomberg

HE’LL ALSO LIKE THIS … NEW POLL: “While President Trump’s overall unfavorable rating has remained steady at 55 percent since he announced his candidacy in 2015, 58 percent of voters approve of the job he has done on the economy.” NBC ... Poll details

Good Wednesday morning. QUOTE DU JOUR: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to the NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “I wrote a best-selling book … If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.” NYT

-- EH: Lots of people write best-selling books and don’t become millionaires!

BUT, BUT, BUT … SOME FOLKS ARE GETTING RICH! …

-- TIME MAGAZINE: “Pentagon Awards Nearly Billion in Two New Contracts for President Trump’s Border Wall,” by W.J. Hennigan: “The Pentagon announced two military contracts Tuesday worth 6 million to construct a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, marking the first step toward President Donald Trump’s long-promised goal since he declared a national emergency nearly two months ago.

“The Army Corps of Engineers awarded a 9 million contract to the Galveston, Texas-based company, SLSCO Ltd., for ‘border replacement wall construction’ in Santa Teresa, N.M., near El Paso, Texas. Barnard Construction Co. Inc., of Bozeman, Mont., was awarded a contract worth 7 million for ‘design-bid-build construction project for primary pedestrian wall replacement’ in Yuma, Ariz. Both projects, announced on the Defense Department website, are slated for completion in fall 2020.” Time

-- BLOOMBERG: “Mnuchin’s Chief of Staff Eli Miller Plans to Join Blackstone,” by Heather Perlberg and Saleha Mohsin: “Miller will work on public policy at the world’s largest alternative asset manager, according to a spokeswoman for New York-based Blackstone. Mnuchin last week announced that Miller is leaving the Treasury Department.” Bloomberg

PLAYBOOK POOL WINNERS: U.Va. won the national championship, much to the delight of a few Playbookers. Dave Whisenant of Tallahassee, Fla., is the winner of the Playbook Pool and will receive an iPhone XR. No. 2: Scott Guenther of Bozeman, Mont., wins a Series 3 Apple Watch. No. 3: Liz Steckel of Chicago wins AirPods. No. 4: Kevin Lahner, city administrator of Waukesha, Wis., wins an Amazon Echo. No. 5: Greg Staley, SVP of communication for the U.S. Travel Association, wins an Amazon Echo Dot.

None of our VIPs finished in the top five, but Brian Bartlett, a partner at Rational 360, finished atop the leaderboard, followed by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), New York Playbook co-author Laura Nahmias, NBC’s Hill producer extraordinaire Alex Moe, Jonathan Martin (“JMart”) of the NYT, outgoing DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and POLITICO CEO Patrick Steel. Thanks to the more than 4,500 participants!

HEADS UP … WSJ’S ANDREW ACKERMAN and LALITA CLOZEL: “Bank Executives to Tell Congress: Financial System Is Much Safer”: “In testimony prepared for the House Financial Services Committee, bank chiefs including JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s James Dimon, Citigroup Inc.’s Michael Corbat and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s David Solomon plan to paint a rosy overall picture of an industry House Democrats have targeted for closer scrutiny.

“‘There is no doubt that the strength, stability and resiliency of the financial system has been fundamentally improved over the course of the last 10 years,’ said Mr. Dimon, the only one of the seven chief executives who has held on to his position since the financial crisis. ‘Postcrisis reforms have made banks much safer and sounder in three important areas: capital, liquidity and resolution and recovery,’ he added in the prepared testimony.” WSJ

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2020 WATCH -- “Poll: Democrats unfazed by Joe Biden’s handsiness,” by Steven Shepard: “Most Democrats are shrugging off questions about Joe Biden’s touchiness as the former vice president nears a decision on 2020, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

“Half of Democrats polled said the allegations from women that Biden made them uncomfortable by invading their personal space will make no difference in their vote. Twenty-nine percent said the allegations would make them less likely to vote against Biden. The responses were nearly identical among Democratic men and women.

“And very few voters see the allegations as truly disqualifying. Only 14 percent say the stories make them “much less likely” to vote for Biden.” POLITICO

-- “Gillibrand: I was wrong on immigration,” by Matthew Choi: “Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday confronted some of her previous stances on immigration, saying they ‘didn't care’ about the needs of diverse Americans. ‘When I was a member of Congress from upstate New York, I was really focused on the priorities of my district,’ the New York senator said during a CNN town hall. ‘When I became senator of the entire state, I recognized that some of my views really did need to change.’” POLITICO

-- “Oil drilling plan threatens Trump’s 2020 chances in Florida,” by Zack Colman and Ben Lefebvre

TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY -- The president will leave the White House at 9 a.m. en route to San Antonio. He will hold a roundtable with supporters at the Argyle at 12:35 p.m. Central time. At 1:05 p.m., Trump will deliver remarks at a fundraising lunch. Afterward, he will travel to Houston and then Crosby, Texas.

Trump will deliver remarks and sign an executive order on energy and infrastructure at 3:40 p.m. at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center. He will return to Houston and participate in a roundtable with supporters at the Lone Star Flight Museum at 5:40 p.m. before speaking at a fundraiser. Trump will then return to Washington.

VP MIKE PENCE is going to New York today to speak “to a Special Session of the United Nations Security Council on the Crisis in Venezuela.” He will visit with the U.N. secretary-general and attend a Trump fundraising lunch.

PLAYBOOK READS

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is pictured. | Getty Images

PHOTO DU JOUR: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee, where tempers flared between him and Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

INSIDE 45 CLUB -- by Ben Schreckinger and Daniel Lippman: “The club, an informal gathering that provides solidarity and networking opportunities in a hostile Washington, is open to what it calls ‘the Team’ — Trump administration appointees as well as alumni of the campaign, transition and inaugural committee. Members wear a lapel pin fashioned after the butt end of a .45 caliber bullet casing and attend semi-regular gatherings that often feature remarks by better-known Trump-world figures such as Brad Parscale, Corey Lewandowski and [Anthony] Scaramucci.

“Its operations, described here for the first time, offer insight into how the anonymous foot soldiers of Trump’s Washington have organized their social lives: discreetly, with an eye toward exclusivity and the aspirational lifestyle that has always marked the Trump brand. ...

“Public hints of its existence are scarce, and the locations of its events are withheld from attendees until they RSVP, all the better to evade the notice of pesky activists and nosy reporters.” POLITICO

JUST WATCH THIS: “I believe you’re supposed to take the gravel and bang it.” -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Video

NETANYAHU WINS, KIND OF … AP’S ARON HELLER in Jerusalem: “Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be headed toward a historic fifth term as Israel’s prime minister on Wednesday, with close-to-complete unofficial election results giving his right-wing Likud and other nationalist and religious parties a solid majority in parliament.

“The outcome affirmed Israel’s continued tilt to the right and further dimmed hopes of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Re-election will also give Netanyahu an important boost as he braces for the likelihood of criminal charges in a series of corruption scandals.

“With 97.4% of the vote counted, Likud and its traditional political allies were in command of a 65-55 majority in parliament. A couple of small parties were still teetering along the electoral threshold and fighting for their survival, so the final makeup of the next parliament has yet to be decided. Final results were expected Thursday.” AP

BREXIT LATEST, via POLITICO Europe’s Jack Blanchard in London: “Theresa May returns to Brussels today to request a further Brexit delay from her EU allies/overlords. Twelve whole days after Britain was meant to leave the European Union, the prime minister will find herself limping back across the Channel this afternoon to ask continental leaders if she can have a little more time to fix our protracted departure.

“After bilateral talks with European Council President Donald Tusk, the PM will make her case to all 27 EU leaders at 5.30 p.m. U.K. time. As usual they will hear her out, ask a few pointed questions, and then chuck her out of the room — before deciding Britain’s fate over a private dinner.” London Playbook

-- And a correction: Yesterday we said Parliament had “finally passed a Brexit deal late Monday,” but that was overstating the case. Technically, it was just a bill ordering the P.M. to ask the EU for a delay.

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MEDIAWATCH -- Lara Logan, the former CBS foreign correspondent who took a leave of absence last year after a “60 Minutes” segment on Benghazi that went awry, is taking a job at conservative broadcaster Sinclair to cover the U.S.-Mexico border.

“What’s the alternative?” she asked THR’s Jeremy Barr. “To never work again? Because organizations on the other side of the ideological spectrum aren’t lined up to offer me jobs?” Hollywood Reporter

-- The Peabody Awards are out. Finalists include “Zero Tolerance,” ProPublica’s searing, viral audio recording of a 6-year-old migrant girl crying out for her mother.

-- The NYT previewed “The Weekly,” the Gray Lady’s new experiment with TV. Watch the trailer

-- MSNBC host KATY TUR is now on maternity leave. (hat tip: Jesse Rodriguez)

PLAYBOOKERS

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK -- Ja’Ron Smith has been promoted to deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of American Innovation. … Veteran Democratic lobbyist Nicole Venable, most recently with the Bockorny Group, is joining Invariant.

SPOTTED at Charlie Palmer’s Tuesday: Isiah Thomas, Minyon Moore, Lisa Mushaw, Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry and Jeff Eller. Pic At the Lafayette restaurant at the Hay-Adams hotel at lunch Tuesday at separate tables: Michael Milken, David Bradley and Marie Royce.

OUT AND ABOUT -- SPOTTED at the opening Tuesday night of the Conrad Washington D.C. hotel in City Center: Terry McAuliffe, David Solomon, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Abby Blunt, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Qatari Ambassador Meshal Al-Thani, Chris Nassetta, Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Katie Fallon, Heather Podesta, Liz Johnson, Charlie Rifkin, Jim Moran, Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Madden, David Chalian, Karen Finney, Kelley McCormick, Craig Gordon, Mike Allen, Patrick Steel, Kevin Cirilli, Eric Schultz, Robyn Bash, Ryan Williams, Brian Fallon and Vinoda Basnayake.

-- SPOTTED at outgoing White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters’ going-away party at Woodward Table: Jessica Ditto, Caroline Sunshine, Garrett Marquis, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Vivian Salama, Alex Leary, Steve Holland, Justin Sink, Jordan Fabian, Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller, Andrew Harnik, Francesca Chambers, Emily Goodin, Jeff Mason, David Jackson, Olivier Knox, Julie Davis, Sara Cook, Betsy Klein, Meridith McGraw, Roberta Rampton, Darlene Superville, Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook.

REMEMBERING DICK COLE: The final survivor of the Doolittle raid -- the audacious World War II bombing run against the Japanese mainland -- has died at age 103. Air Force Magazine

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Samantha Dravis, SVP at Clout Public Affairs and an EPA alum. What Samantha has been reading recently: “Arthur Brooks’ piece in the New York Times on ‘Our Culture of Contempt’ -- we’ve become so conditioned to see those who don’t share our views as inherently bad people. More empathy for each other is sorely needed in our industry and our country. Another book I read recently was ‘AI Superpowers’ by Kai-Fu Lee on the battle between China and America for global dominance in artificial intelligence -- the ethics of AI will be a major challenge for our leaders in the coming years.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Hanna Rosin, co-host of NPR’s “Invisibilia” ... Ann Klenk (h/t Tammy Haddad) ... Antoine Sanfuentes, CNN W.H. and Capitol Hill managing editor ... Carter Yang ... POLITICO’s Adam Behsudi, Alice Miranda Ollstein, Haley Bowcutt and Mariama Tejan ... Lisa Belkin, chief national correspondent at Yahoo News ... Mark Tavlarides, SVP at BGR Group (h/t Ben Chang) ... Melinda Henneberger of the Kansas City Star ... Max Clermont (h/t Ben Schreckinger) ... Chris Holden … Josh Shultz, president of NJI Media and co-founder of FamousDC, is 41 (h/t Amos Snead) ... Shelley Greenspan of Amazon’s public policy office … Marshall Sitten (h/t Jon Haber) … Cary Sherman is 71 … Jessica Mackler is 4-0 … Gary Grumbach (h/t Al Drago) ...

... Ann Marie Hauser, VP of public affairs at the Hudson Institute (h/ts Blain Rethmeier and Ed McFadden) … Stig Abell, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, is 39 … Emily Stier ... DHS’ Nick Barbknecht (h/t wife McKenzie) ... Joe Gierut ... Aaron Whitehead of Majority Strategies … Daniel Wolman ... David Endicott ... Bridget Mulcahy, booking producer for MSNBC’s “Hardball” ... Mitchell Murray ... Jon Sallet, partner at Steptoe … Ray Zaccaro ... Chris Lydon (h/t Nihal Krishan) ... Bradley Saull ... Jen Judson ... Katie Cline Malloy ... Kim Hicks … Gabriel Arana is 36 ... Yishai Schwartz … Jeffrey Frank ... Howard Gantman ... Tom Kohn ... Lauren Appelbaum ... Joseph Heaps is 55 ... Josue Pinto ... Marisa McNee … Triada Stampas ... Mia Salvemini … Matt McCarthy ... Amy Bodette (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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