Still trying to make sense of this month’s AVN and XBiz nominations in your quest to see 2015’s most celebrated adult films? Start here.
Each year for the past dozen of them, two competing adult trade publications nominate hundreds of movies, performers, companies, and individual scenes for hundreds of awards. AVN trophies (first awarded in 1984) are the better known commodity, but the XBiz Awards have also been keeping porn stars off the street one night a year since 2003, and that’s a good thing, too.
As you might imagine, trade publications doling out awards to their own potential advertisers leaves both outfits open to scrutiny and suspicion of conflict of interest. It is as if Variety and The Hollywood Reporter threw the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. But the hardworking staffs/stiffs of AVN and XBiz really do watch every movie and try as hard as possible to be impartial, even in this incestuous — or should I say Taboo Relations — business. That is why January’s XBiz Awards in L.A. and AVN’s fete in Las Vegas will distribute so many awards that most of them will be listed simply by a screen crawl.
To give you an idea of how drilled-down the process can be, AVN has three anal categories (movie, series, and scene) and two oral categories. XBiz is daintier and hole-agnostic, but still nominated a dozen movies with oral or anal in the title.
Naturally the companies try not to overlap categories, but here are six movies that were nominated in both AVN’s Best Feature and XBiz’ Best Drama lists.
1. “Love, Lust, And Longing”
You know, if you just go from the product description, this movie might actually make you dumber:
“Love, Lust and Longing” takes place in a seemingly innocent Bed and Breakfast. Rachel, a prostitute who has set up shop in the master bedroom, falls in love with James, a boarder whose is staying there after separating from his wife. But James has to come to terms with her occupation before he can finally allow his emotions to take hold. Another long term resident, Lily, lost her voice after a childhood trauma. After spending time with a soldier who is on leave, she realizes the importance of living your life to the fullest. And if you’re hungry there is a food truck scene where Wicked Girl Asa Akira attempts to satisfy her insatiable sexual appetite!
So don’t, because this is a well-edited movie by writer/director Scott Allen featuring an excellent non-sex performance by Dutch Loper (only nominated in that category by AVN, strangely) and a delightful, filthy, and reassuringly paunchy food truck throwdown featuring Nick Manning and Asa Akira.
2. “Safe Landings”
Not enough was made of this movie when it came out, but in terms of marketing, Kay Brandt’s movie is intriguing. A stripped-down (porn budgets as well as porn itself) adaptation of her own erotic novel, “Safe Landings” is a shrewd marketing idea. Maybe more writers of erotic tales can crossover and film porn versions that they can promote to both audiences — the porn viewers can “learn more” and the readers see an approximation (again: porn budgets) of what the author had in mind.
The beautiful Brenda James — at 45 a welcome sight in an adult movie — plays a grief-stricken, affair-havin’ flight attendant who deals with her survivor’s guilt by cheating on poor Marcus London. Can’t that guy ever catch a break? It would be interesting to see what this movie might have looked like had more money been thrown at it, but it was impressive for James’s confidence, interesting subject matter, and story arc.
3. “Saving Humanity”
A tremendously ambitious movie that, but for the sex, is ridiculous. Women from four time periods (my favorite is 1950’s vocal fry Riley Reid) converge through the earnest time-traveling of Sinn Sage to save humanity from the enslavement schemes of a future scientist, played by James Deen. Great individual performances by Anthony Rosano and Sage do not redeem what remains a nudity-laden WTF of a movie. Nevertheless, ATKingdom should sponsor college nights for this movie and, like its successful “Porn shot at a high school” campaign for “Revenge of the Petites,” might easily recoup its budget.
It is hard to find fault with such a well-made adult film filled with Hollywood blackmail, sex, and greed, and yet… “Starmaker” has an all-star cast (including writer/director Brad Armstrong, jessica drake, Asa Akira, and Tommy Pistol, each doing his or her restrained best) and boasts more sex scenes than most feature porns. Yet for me it didn’t have a spark. The story was a porny twist on long-established characters and plots (“What would you do for Tinseltown fame?”), and the film’s grave tone made me think of late-nite Zalman King, fast-forwarding to the sex parts.
I have got to believe that people still watch these movies otherwise new ones wouldn’t be made, but there was a lack of exuberance and fire in “Starmaker” that, despite the solid acting, meaningful pauses, and excellent editing, made me wish for a 6-hour Anabolic cumshot reel.
5. “Stockholm Syndrome”
Directed by and starring James Deen in his biggest outing with his new company, “Stockholm Syndrome” finds Deen on a crime spree with Remy LaCroix who, though he kidnapped her, has fallen in love with the dreamy Pride of Alta Dena. Other than “Saving Humanity,” this movie is the only movie on our list directed by the owner of the company that produced it.
Stormy Daniels wrote and directed this western, co-produced by Adam & Eve and featuring nine sex scenes and a massive cast, including Daniels, who looks great and remains the finest actor in her cast. Like “Starmaker” (another Wicked film), however, it suffers from a not-too-compelling reason for being other than the money was there. Your favorite Porn Valley stars camp it up in western gear, with extras prancing through, a horse or two, dust and — of course — whores on balconies and men spitting chew.
There is something about an uninspired big budget porno that fails harder than a dirt-cheap fuck film. In the opening scene of “Wanted,” for example, a rich frontier couple is served soup by their Mexican maid in a room that is carefully staged. Then the wife pours tea. Yet the tea is clearly water and there is no soup. In one way or another, this is what big budget porn has almost always looked like — dress-up with no substance.
Previously on Porn Valley Observed: The 2012 Ropey Volley Awards — Most Ridiculous Film of the Year