Poverty isn’t sexy, especially in morally bankrupt Los Angeles, so rather than spending too much time talking about the “economic downturn,” let’s just say that, despite it, smart people managed to produce some pretty great movies this year that would have made the old school masters jealous (because, let’s face it, I’ve yet to meet anyone in the porn industry who is “proud” of a would-be competitor).
Because there is a wealth of ways a movie can present footage of women getting ropey volleys lobbed across their faces and necks—even some that require talking—the following is an unordered list of favorites.
It Could Happen Award: Private/Kink.com’s “An Open Invitation”
While that uncomfortable evening at the house of your Phoenix uncle and his mail-order bride may have underlined the fact that not all swingers are attractive, this very thoughtful, mannered, and deliberate movie, shot with Private funds on Kink.com soil and starring Lorelei Lee, India Summer, and James Deen, is the rare piece of porn that is both sexy and attainable.
“An Open Invitation” is not a movie that tries on swinging to meet a niche quota, like “Lesbians” or “MILFs” or “Asians.” Instead, it presents a story about a hesitant but game couple and a pair of old pros, then it takes the viewer’s hand and gracefully but deliberately leads her to the inevitable orgy at the back of the house, with each door clicking closed behind her.
- Read the review here
Porn Stash Award: Vivid’s “Curvaceous 2”
Maybe the appreciation of scripted porn epics, dark psychosexual dramas, and wishful-thinking parodies is a sign of maturity, but I can still remember a time when I and my friends could only obtain one piece of pornography and kept it for years, which was a huge Return of Investment when you considered that the magazine, DVD, or tape would be used for perhaps three minutes at a time.
The juicy and amiable women of “Curvaceous 2,” like Katie Kox, Rachel Love, and new-mom-as-of-November Ava Rose—make me fondly recall those times when I had no reason to believe that beautiful women weren’t anything but awesome.
- Read the review here.
Parodies That Mean Something Award: “The Human Sexipede” and “Sex in the City”
Working in porn is a series of conflicting compromises; you have to be able to make money, believe in your product enough to control its quality, but not take it so personally that you forget that you are making movies for people to ejaculate to, and remember that the people in your movie, though affable, sexy, and game, might have just been cast that day.
You also have to somehow distinguish your product from all the competing, exisiting, and free stuff that’s already out there.
Out of the fistfuls of movies Lee Roy Myers has directed for companies like New Sensations, Dreamzone, Nightingale, Hustler, and his own Lee Roy Myers Presents imprint this year, he seems to have kept in mind that it is a fine line between sexy, silly, and stupid, and there’s only room in the boat for the first two.
I liked “Human Sexipede” and “Sex in the City” simply because the originals were so pornographic already that they needed the right twist to really pornify them. Not once this year, upon learning about a parody he was shooting, did I say “Oh Jesus, really? That’s stupid. Really? God Damn It,” like I did, at least twice, with everyone else.
Lee Roy Myers may not have reintroduced parodies to the porn marketplace (Digital Playground did with “Pirates”), but his are the best.
- Read the review here
To Some People, Sex Is Thought-Provoking Award: Zero Tolerance’s “Sanatorium”
Director Gary Orona told me that this film was made over five years. An epic featuring the machine-crafted and powerful Tabitha Stevens, “Sanatorium” is an epic originally conceived, Stevens said, as a mainstream vehicle.
But, you know how it is, porn is a siren that keeps calling us back.
As I think about it now, “Sanatorium” is a little like “Unforgiven” in that it is a postmodern take on an established genre. Stevens is a hooker who tells the marble-mouthed Nick Manning (himself sort of reprising the role of an unreconstructed, pre-“Droppin’ Loads!” Nick Manning) that hypocrisy about sex is what is really dragging this nation down.
We have seen this sort of weighty, sex-positive-but-with-a-hammer pornography before in tons of recent AVN winners like “Corruption,” “The 8th Day,” and “No One Outside of Porn Recognizes How Brilliant I Am” (the 2012 winner), but “Sanatorium” is truly a visual and geographical journey through California, the desert, and the Orona/Stevens lair in Utah that doesn’t skimp on the sex or the variety.
- Read the review here
- Honorable Mention: Miss Lucifer’s “Malice in La La Land” – great performances all around, including a likely Sasha Grey porn swan song, but without the epic sweep of “Sanatorium”
Working Blue Award: Hustler’s “This Ain’t Avatar XXX 3D”
God Bless Pornographers. I mean it. They will jump on a bandwagon, ride it into the ground, and squeeze money out of it whilst fucking questionable teenagers to keep from getting real jobs. While they’re doing that they will figure out a way to deploy mass-market applications of topical pop culture and technology faster than anyone else.
And sometimes they fail miserably. But not Axel Braun with “Avatar.” Working for Hustler, Braun put together a porn-aware parody of the ridiculous James Cameron movie that was frugal, fun, and efficient without skimping on the sex or the 3D.
Not only were there no on-set physical assaults on the blue characters, but the 3D was similarly restrained, an understated depth of field richness instead of Na’vi popshots in the eye. If you buy one 3D porn this year, get this one.
- Read the review here
Performer/director Kimberly Kane doesn’t direct a lot of movies, but each of them is worth having, because not once do you think someone’s talent has gone to waste. Without beating us over the head about it, Kane lets us know what turns her on, what women and men she likes, and then shows us why. Mixed in is a lot of Kane’s own vulnerability, bitchiness, and the generosity to let other performers get the spotlight.
There is no performer who directs stories as well as Kane does, and few directors, either.
While the performers in these movies may be well-known to Porn Valley audiences, a different mentality is evident here, and you get the sense that the movies wouldn’t be half as effective without Dawayne Dane and Madison Young directing them, respectively.
If porn tells you a lot about the people who make it, you owe it to yourself to watch these movies and get a different perspective, whether from “urban” Los Angeles or liberal San Francisco. I guarantee you’ll find a lot to like about these movies and reassure yourself that there is more to porn than Porn Valley.
Best Wicked Movie Award: “Dinner At Frankie’s”
Wicked makes movies unlike any other studio, because the venerable Porn Valley institution—credited with the catapulting-to-fame of Jenna Jameson—has what amounts to the adult industry’s only ensemble cast.
Q. But what about the Digital Playground girls?
A. They’re great, but the DP girls really only get together once a year, like 33rd-degree Masons. The rest of the time they are flung across the country.
Wicked casts, on the other hand, are inseparable. You’ll rarely see Randy Spears, Barrett Blade, or Marcus London far away from jessica drake, Kaylani Lei, Kirsten Price, or Alektra Blue, et al, and that has led to both a chemistry and familiarity in Wicked movies that is—dare I say it?—charming.
It is in Wicked’s small ensemble movies like “Dinner at Frankie’s” that the company really does something different from anyone else.
While many porn parodies or couples’ films (or both) are either cynical or half-assed (or both), “Dinner at Frankie’s” keeps offering pleasant surprises while staying within its boundaries. I instantly liked nice-girl Mandy when she announced that not only did she bring the one bottle for the table, but she also had two more in the car, just in case. I liked that the group got drunk. I liked when one of them got mean – because it was believable. I like that someone throws up. I liked that Tiffany’s fed-up boyfriend, Russell (Barrett Blade), got to act fed-up. I like that they eat real food.
I like that there are consequences.
And, though these condom-clad and gently-aging porners and pornstresses don’t always give me the feeling of danger that I need, I do like that Wicked is actively reaching out to an audience that is apparently out there, somewhere.
- Read the review here
Best Abandoned Concept Compilation Award: Pink Visual’s “When They Were Sinners”
What a great idea. Of all the terabytes of big boob, Asian, redhead, faux-wife-swap porn housed in Pink Visual’s copper-lined subterranean Tucson vaults, some unnamed genius thought it would be a great idea to compile scenes containing women who have since found Jesus and become anti-porn crusaders.
This is the best series concept since the poignant and evocative “She Is Half My Age” and “Crack Whore Confessions.” But, unlike the other two, there is a finite amount of porn-again Christians.
But Pink Visual could not rouse itself above its low-budget mission statement to add any context or wraparound to these otherwise-unremarkable scenes featuring the now-repentant Hayley Jade, Erin Moore, Becca Bratt, Nadia Styles, and Michelle Avanti, and there was never a Volume 2.
Read the review here
As we’ve seen from this list, all porn is not the same, but these three movies capture something delightful, sassy, and mercurial about porn girls in general.
Teasers’ excellent web series “Extreme Public Adventures” gets the DVD treatment as devil-may-care cuties traipse naked through the streets of Hollywood. We really feel the danger and their excitement.
Ditto Lexi Belle in New Sensations’ interactive “My Plaything,” in which your STD-tested proxy fucks the stuffing out of Belle, who is at just the right time in her life to look like she takes it for granted (the sadder-but-wiser girl for me, but we can’t but think fondly of the Lexi Belles in our own lives who could get away with anything).
Finally, Madness Pictures’ “12 Nasty Girls Masturbating” is great for its low-budget feel, as people like the ripe Laurie Vargas jill off in Porn Valley apartment bathrooms for the camera. It’s hard to direct masturbation, so director Mo just lets these girls fake it convincingly. It is up to us to discover the truth, though, and the truth is, we wish we were there to replace their masturbation with the real thing.
Mainstream Porn or Spurtacus: Nudus in the Ludus Award: Starz’ “Spartacus: Blood And Sand”
This giddy, bloody, sexy toga opera is a perfect combination of “Gladiator,” “300,” “Oz,” and “Desperate Housewives” that makes no apologies for the generous amount of skin it shows in the epic tale of loving Thracia husband Spartacus (Anthony Whitfield), his capture by the venal Romans, imprisonment in the House of Batiatus Finishing School for Gladiators, and his rise to stardom in the arena.
Filmed in New Zealand with some familiar faces for “Lord of the Rings” and “Xena” fans (Lucy Lawless is still as hot and fearless as ever), “Spartacus” steals liberally from the “Gladiator” storyline and “300” visual style but expands on both, never delivering an unsatisfying—or even unexpected—plot twist, which is way better than “Lost” could do, all the while serving up enough beefcake and juicy, fleshy Roman slaves and wives to satisfy every red-blooded adult in the room.
Sadly, star Whitfield is battling, ad gladiam, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and won’t return for Season 2, so Starz has developed a prequel, featuring Lawless’ Lucretia and ambitious husband Batiatus (John Hannah). Jupiter’s cock!
Stay tuned for Ropey Volleys pt. II