Archive | Movies RSS feed for this section

Heroines Locked in the Erotic Gothic Universe of David Lynch

11 Jun

by Chloe Robbins

The gothic and the erotic go hand-in-skeletal-hand. When people think of gothic romance, first thoughts often run to authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Victoria Holt, but the genre is much larger than these titans. In fact, one of today’s most famous gothics often isn’t discussed as a gothic at all. Musician, writer, film and television maker, David Lynch’s work is chock full of delicious gothic eroticism and romance. In Lynch’s stories, gorgeous heroines are constantly thrust into the romantic, moneyed darkness of someone else’s realm—a hotel, a spaceship, a movie set—forced to navigate literal secret passages even as they explore their own internal ones. “Gothic” as a style is characterized by the grim, the extravagant, the grotesque, the violent, the darkly romantic, the mysterious—a style that drenches Lynch’s work.

In Baltimore, the erotic twists and edges of this style are also celebrated in Lynch’s work through an annual David Lynch Fest. At this festival, a diverse line-up musicians and burlesque performers come together to strip, sing, and dance to various interpretations of Lynch’s creepiest, sexiest stories. As a Baltimorean—and a lover of all things gothic-erotic—I want to share some of this annual celebration with you by highlighting just a few of Lynch’s sexiest, most powerful, and most gothic heroines. (Disclaimer: some spoilers lie beyond.)

Twin Peaks

Who can forget Audrey Horn from Twin Peaks? Even the ultimate cinnamon roll hero, Special Agent Dale Cooper, couldn’t help but fall under her thrall for a time.

Twin Peaks is constantly indulging in and poking fun at the romance genre and especially its gothic tropes. From the idea of “tainted innocence” (read: young girls coming into their sexual identity under dangerous circumstances) to doppelgangers to murderous/lecherous family members to ghosts. Audrey Horn epitomizes so many of these gothic tropes, but perhaps most obviously that of the “tainted innocent”: a high schooler who feigns experience and jadedness yet yearns for fairy-tale love (e.g. her relationship with Agent Cooper); the ghostly pale skin; the dark hair; the blatant sexuality (e.g. her decision to break into Agent Cooper’s hotel room and wait for him, naked, in bed); and the shadowy fortress owned by her pervy father (aka The Great Northern Hotel), which is, of course, riddled with secret passages and peepholes. Audrey Horn is one of many romantic gothic heroines in Twin Peaks, coming into her sense of self as well as her sexuality in the wake of a classmate’s brutal murder, discovering the countless ghosts, trapdoors, and Black (and White) Lodges within her town and within herself.

 

Mullholland Drive

Mullholland Drive is a delicious example of Lynch’s unique brand of Hollywood Gothic, and the main characters—the lovers, Betty and Rita—are dripping with eroticism.

Mulholland Drive

In the very beginning, Betty’s “innocent” dream of becoming a Hollywood star is juxtaposed with Rita fleeing a mysterious car crash, as if fate had slammed them into each other—a pair of shooting stars, shot straight into each other’s hearts. Set in Hollywood, lush gothic threads run all throughout this film: the winding hallways of the mysterious Aunt Ruth’s house, the haunted theater where Betty and Rita hear the ghostly rendition of “Llorando,” the sexually-charged search for identity that both Betty and Rita tumble into together, the shadowy film sets where Betty discovers darker and darker tunnels within herself, on and on and on. This film is all about the haunted house of the mind built within the desirous, hungry package of the body.

 

Dune

I know most David Lynch fans would rather his film adaptation of Dune be left unmentioned, but there’s no denying the gothic-erotic influences running riot through this space opera, and just because it’s not a great film doesn’t mean there aren’t moments and characters that aren’t sexy as hell.

Dune

As Tor.com is quick to point out in their break-down of why the film doesn’t work, this movie is aesthetically dark. Every cathedral-esque spaceship, castle, and cavern is packed with shadows, all but begging for some Phantom of the Opera-style candelabras. And while this maybe isn’t the best way to build up a vast scifi universe, it’s a great way to make the entire film feel as though it took place inside Vincent Price’s sexy little grin. Filled with scheming royals and estranged family members, with grotesque villains and flashing daggers, it’s no wonder that even Lady Jessica, a side-character and the mother of our hero, is turned into an erotic figure in this setting. I say “even” Lady Jessica because, in some ways, it’s positively radical that Lynch would take a middle-aged mother character and give her so much sex appeal, her own journey through this tale being one of tortured love for her murdered husband as she carries their secret baby (another classic gothic trope) to term.

 

Wild at Heart

And speaking of tortured love… Lynch takes the idea of a road-trip movie to a whole new level with the lovers, Lula and Sailor, who flee a band of assassins that Lula’s mother Marietta has hired to kill Sailor. The film’s gothic elements may shine darkest in the grotesque violence of Marietta’s desire to strip her daughter of all sexual power and freedom, but they can also be seen in the shape of Marietta’s slow-emerging madness that only Lula and Sailor seem to fully understand: the literal Wicked Witch of the West.

Lula’s character is another example of the “tainted innocent”: she’s charged with sexuality and power, especially (and ironically) due to her mother’s violent desire to see these powers contained, even as she is also a bit childish and naïve. Haunted, a runaway, abused as a child (and as an adult), adrift in a sea of violence, Lula fights to take what she wants out of life and retains a fairly healthy sexual identity through it all. A classic gothic heroine.

 

Blue Velvet

I’ll never forget seeing a Blue Velvet-inspired burlesque performance wherein a dancer wearing gasmasks over her face and breasts slowly revealed more and more gasmasks that she’d managed to hide on (and in) her body. For many, Blue Velvet is nothing but disturbing. But as disturbing as certain elements are—the violence, the constant taunting shadows, the gasmasks—there’s no denying the eroticism of a young hero exploring a stranger’s house in search of clues only to duck into a closet and end up spying on her.

The secret passage is a beloved plot device in gothic tales because it so often finds a heroine in a dangerous situation and gives her fresh power, fresh control, while also acknowledging that she herself is riddled with secrets and hidden depths. In Blue Velvet, we see this dynamic inverted with our young hero finding momentary safety within the heroine’s closet, watching her undress and drape herself in blue velvet, only to be discovered and dragged into the light. Our heroine in this story doesn’t need to lurk in the dark to find her power…or to allude to her hidden depths. She grabs a knife and forces him out of the closet herself, demanding that now he will undress for her.

The truth is, the gothic is often disturbing. It is often dark and uncomfortable and taboo. This is also why it’s so undeniably sexy. The forbidden. The dangerous. The fantasy. What’s important is making sure that the fantasy is handled by an artist who understands the live wire they’ve just taken hold of, someone who understands how these tropes and devices have been used in the past to cause harm and knows how to circumvent, challenge, and subvert these harmful possibilities. For danger to be sexy, there must also be great trust—perhaps not between the characters, but between artist and audience.

Chloe Robbins is a writer and editor living in Baltimore with her delicious husband and various taxidermied creatures. She’s currently at work on her paranormal romance novel, A Stony Heart, and has short fiction forthcoming with Circlet Press’s Dressed in Black anthology, inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Ghost of Hot Relationships That Never Were

9 Apr

by Madeline Iva

Watching a scene in a movie, or an episode of a TV show I’m like that kid from the Sixth Sense–but instead of dead poeple I see whole story lines that aren’t actually there.  It haunts me day in and day out. Don’t get me wrong. We’re lucky to have so many interesting stories out on TV and in movies.  I’m enjoying them; I’m reveling in them.  Yet I also see a lot of hot-boinking-that-should-be-there-but-isn’t.  To you they’re invisible–but they haunt me. Is this a blessing? Or is it a curse? <Cue the spooky music.>

There are just so many good shows in which the hotness factor between characters should be invoked.  Let’s seance with this sad spectre–the Ghost of Hot Relationships That Never Were as it wanders down the corridors of Untold Passion & Secret Scandalous Hook Ups.

MASSIVE MASSIVE MASSIVE SPOILERS!!!!!!! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!!!

Black Panther:

Michael B. Jordan played Erik Killmonger in Black Panther. Out of all the villains in Marvel Universe why did they kill off this one? Whyyyyyyyy? WHAT ON EARTH WERE THEY THINKING? Don’t they see the Loki potential here? With his ripped body, damned attractive face, and awwwwww story of heartbreak and loss as a young boy–it’s killing me. (Pun intended.)

The hint of dimples is what truly slays me.

Eric Killmonger is that Loki-ish anti-hero we lurv, no matter how many times he’s got “Kill Whitey” tattooed all over his body. (He doesn’t really. Just kidding. But you get the idea.) His character would draw everyone back movie after movie, sequel after sequel.  Someone go to the bottom of that waterfall and fish him out. Revive and rehabilitate that bad boy STAT!

While Hollywood is at it, I think you’ll agree hands down that Erik needs to get together with Okoye, AKA Danai Gurira AKA Michonne from Walking Dead.  Erik is hotness on a stick.  Okoye is the woman all humans bow down to.  I mean–did you see the movie? Yeah? Then you get it.  The movie would have been more realistic to me if Okoye had straightened Erik’s sh*t out in about ten minutes. Danai

Okoye needs to become Queen of Wakanda too, btw.  Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett may be worthy of ruling as well, and I didn’t have any problems with our super-hero, Black Panther. He was cute–incredibly cute.  He has a real “goodness to the core” super-hero vibe.  It’s just that clearly he needs to be out and about in the world.  His job is international.  But back home in Wakanda, Okoye is queen material.  She’s the f**king bad ass leader of all leaders.  Just calling it like it is, people.  As for Ramonda–well, see below.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: AKA Heather-Heather-Heather AKA Vella Lovell

I mean, I really like CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND overall.  Rebecca Bunch obsessively crushes out on a former flame named Josh, and goes to cray-cray stalker extremes often urged onward by our twisted societal values about a women’s worth.  But Heather, Rebecca’s neighbor-then-roommate is her polar opposite.  Tall, goy, hot and slacker-ish, Heather is instantly compelling to watch. With her vocal fry, colored hair extensions, and community college scholar wisdom she is the one I obsess over in this show.  Yes, I have a massive girl crush on Heather — and the actress who plays her recently expanded her career to movies.  She was probably the best thing in THE BIG SICK.  (And the writers of the BIG SICK should make a follow up about her character story. Can you say another Smart Indian Girl Rom-Com? Squeeeeee! Hasn’t anyone in Hollywood watched Bend It Like Beckam?)

Anyway Heather and Hector are now together in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.   Hector always was cute, if a bit oedipal, but he doesn’t get much face time on the show. We all know the two of them hooking up is really just an excuse to give us more Heather.

Though White Josh and Josh in the stripper scene were giving Nathaniel a run for his money,  Nathaniel’s character is pretty appealing.  The more he was into Rebekah, the more I was into him.  But clearly, he and Heather should be together.  They both are seemingly shallow but really good people with unexpected depths. They are both extremely sane despite recognizing their perverse impulses.  They are both vulnerable to romantic situations in which they’re being used.  I’m asking nicely— could they PLEAAAAAASE get together? Pretty please? And I mean really get together in a complicated, sweaty, guilty, dirty way — the way that Rebecca tends to get together with men on the show?

She’s just using you, Nathaniel. Can’t you see that?

If they can’t, I will totally accept Father Brah, played by Rene Gube as a Heather-Love-Interest substitute.  That guy is totally under-utilized in terms of hotness. Wasted actually.

BTW — did you expect Crazy-Ex to really go there with serious mental health issues? I didn’t. I’m pretty impressed. And making Rebecca the poster girl for BPD — whoa.  That mental disorder does not get a lot of sympathetic play.  So thumb’s up Crazy-Ex Girlfriend for going there, staying there, and then doing a song and dance number there.

The Good Place — This show is not for everyone, but I get off on weighing utilitarian counterfactuals against Kantian ethical theory.  The show is about someone mistakenly sent to heaven.  My version of heaven is Jianyu played by Manny Jacinto. Manny is divine. Manny and Kristen Bell would be too cute together as a couple.  Manny and Tiya Sircar would be too cute too.  I mean, can Jianyu just have his own spin off show next year? Something where yes, we see his cuteness factor, but also the other hot never-see-him-coming facets as well?

Meanwhile, I very much appreciate Elinor’s girl crush Tahani played by Jameela Jamil.  Tahani with her Amazonian posh presence gains a wonderful edge from Elinor’s girl-lust-crush.  If the creators of the show wanted to take relationships in that direction, I, as a fan, would happily follow.  Just sayin’.

Before I sign off though, let’s talk steam heat in terms of romance with age difference —

First of all, I would like to advocate for Angela Basset’s character Ramonda having a thing with M’Baku when she gets dropped off at M’Baku’s land.  M’Baku is played by Winston Duke, a 6′ 4″ drink of beef water.  He’s a wee bit Alpha for my taste — but even so…even so. His character has an unexpected sense of humor that slays.M'Baku

And I don’t care who you are, if Ramonda gets dropped off in your kingdom and you’re made to promise to protect her and make sure she’s “taken care of” –I mean, seriously, how could your mind not go there? It’s Angela Bassett, people. It doesn’t matter how old she gets. I think I spent the next fifteen minutes of the movie not hearing or seeing anything on the screen.  Instead I was still back at the toothy gorilla lair with M’Baku and Ramonda imagining how their forbidden sexual tryst would come about.  These moments are so obvious to me–am I the only one? Is anyone else seeing the possibilities here?

Back at The Good Place I also noticed that Tahani has fabulous chemistry with Michael, played by Ted Danson.  Yes, he’s like in his seventies or something, but still–they’re both dapper dressers.  In fact, they are too attractively tall together not to have hot sex/romance.   Maybe they seem to connect because they’re the only two tall enough to look each other in the eye.  Maybe it’s something more.  But I think they should work it.  Torture Tahani with the tantalizing promise of a ‘daddy’ relationship figure that goes to a naughty places.  Let us live a little.The Good Place

The Upshot: Hollywood is having outstanding success with greater casting diversity.  At last.  Finally! Bravo. (The horror that’s going on behind the screens –that’s another blog post). Let’s all urge them to keep heading further in this direction.  Despite hot (and I mean that in more ways than one)  new talent, the boink factor is suffering.

There’s chemistry going on here, people!  My mind is a-buzz with all the variations and combinations to explore — I want jealousy and lust.  I want tenderness and taut sexual tension.  I also want some light kinky elements–is this too much to ask? I don’t think it is.

What relationships do you wish you were seeing in movies/tv shows that you love? Please sound off below.

Madeline Iva enjoys penning stories about reclusive guys with dark secrets in mouldering castles.  If you like your gothic gloom with a perverse twist join her cult following newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

Shipping Reylo: Adam Driver & A More Twisted Last Jedi

8 Jan

by Madeline Iva

Alexa Day had a fabulous blog post on The Last Jedi last Friday.  Check it out.  I just want to extend the convo a little here — cause The Last Jedi was the first Star Wars film I’ve actually liked since Empire Strikes Back.  Not only was The Last Jedi more diverse and watchable than Return of the Jedi, and all the prequel episodes, it was far stronger, I thought, than The Force Awakens.  Yes, it was still uneven – and see Alexa’s notes on the guy who says that kind of thing about your parents is not your friend. Real wisdom there.

But hey, you know where this post is going – and it’s not going to be all about the porgs—cute as they are.

First of all, don’t tell me Adam Driver is not hot. Second of all — don’t tell me in your twisted little heart you were less than happy that this unexpected Kylo Ren & Rey thing suddenly splashed across the screen.Adam Driver is hot

REASONS TO SHIP REYLO:

  1. SEXUAL TENSION IN STAR WARS: YES, PLEASE! When Kylo Ren started to connect with Rey I sat up in my seat and was like: hey now! This movie is starting to come alive.

  2. HE’S THE MOST INTERESTING CHARACTER IN THE WHOLE MOVIE: I mean, come on–Finn, Poe & Rey? Yawn.  (Poe is a tragic waste of Oscar Isaacs if you ask me).  I thought so in The Force Awakens and even more so in The Last Jedi.  The sign of a really good actor is one who fills up an only mediocre role with charisma and emotion. Adam Driver is doing just that–and the other guys aren’t. He’s filling Kylo Ren with emotional intensity.  And so what if he draws with colors outside the Crayola Machismo Box? So they’re calling him emo. Fine. Fine. I don’t care!  He’s got his issues, okay? In The Last Jedi we find out exactly what one of those compelling issues is–and it’s pretty compelling.

  3. REY IS FAR MORE INTERESTING WITH THIS COMPLICATION: Frankly, she needs the assist. She upped her game big time by bouncing off Kylo Ren. In fact, Poe and Finn could use some of that edgy-sexy-emo assist too. Almost everyone in the rebel camp could use some help in being more interesting. Everyone except the porgs–they were totally holding their own.

  4. YOU TOTALLY WANT TO SEE KYLO REDEEMED, DON’T YOU? During the film, Kylo Ren is so on the cusp of falling over into the good side you can taste it: nom nom nom!

  5. GIVE ME A GOOD ANTI-HERO ANY DAY. They seem like they’re cranking up the works for some kind of intimate, doomed romance between Rey and Kylo Ren–and I am all over that sh*t. Let’s hope there’s some sex that happens between them, even if it’s far too late for full on redemption and he’ll have to die or something…

In the end—I will dream my little dream that Finn and Poe get their edgy, forbidden, sexual no-no encounter as well.  Why not?

Let’s say Finn is caught by the evil empire, put through retraining by Captain Phasma, and that they get together in some terribly twisted way.

Finn and Captain Phasma

You know Captain Phasma–she’s Brie from GOT.

Meanwhile, Poe and the doomed Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) found time for a very short, very fraught and heated sexual tryst that wound up on the cutting room floor.Vice Admiral HuldoPoe

BEYOND REYLO:

But if you really REALLY want to grab me by the scruff of the neck and never let me go — then after Kylo and Rey don’t work out, let’s ship Kylo Ren and General Hux. Domhnall Gleeson is another great actor who’s coming up less than in his role.  Let say Kylo Ren startles General Hux one day by stating there’s always been some chemistry between them, and it’s finally time to not only admit it, but to start exploring it.  That would scare the whiney out of Hux.  Then just let them go at it.  Now that I’d pay some good money to see.

General Hux, Kylo Ren, and Captain Phasma

Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had.  She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  Check out her other Lady Smut postsJoin her newsletter or follow her on Facebooktwitter, and PinterestWicked Apprentice

 

 

 

 

 

After the Fire: Where The Last Jedi Takes Us

5 Jan
unhuxed

Behold Domnhall Gleeson, unhuxed in The Revenant. I just thought you should see that.

By Alexa Day

Where do I start with The Last Jedi?

I spent a little while, probably longer than I should have, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say about the latest cinematic installment in the mighty Star Wars franchise. Star Wars isn’t my family the way that Star Trek is, but the giant chord that gives way to the opening crawl still gives me goosebumps after all these years. My affection for the characters and the story runs deep enough to make me protective. I want the best for the series. So when I challenge the filmmakers to do better, I try to do so firmly but lovingly.

I loved The Last Jedi. It’s challenging an audience that needs to be challenged. It takes us into a darkness more subtle than its predecessors have shown us. Despair and hopelessness settle over these characters like a chill in a damp room. We’re restored to light and hope by the end of the movie, but there are a couple of places along the way that bother me.

And so, firmly but lovingly, let’s start with those places.

It’s all spoilers after this Tweet from Emo Kylo Ren.

Still here? I know. Kylo Ren has problems. We will address that in a moment.

First, let me join the long, long line of people delighted to see so many women in The Last Jedi. Star Wars has always been reasonably friendly to women in leadership for the Rebels, but the Empire and First Order have kind of been boys’ clubs until now. In The Last Jedi, I saw women working desk jobs for the First Order, down in the trenches working the switchboards with the buttons and the blinky lights. They call to mind a lot of women we know — working a crap job for a giant corporation because that’s how you keep the bills paid.

The First Order’s highest ranking woman actually appeared in the preceding movie. Captain Phasma made quite an impression in The Force Awakens, with her blinged-out Stormtrooper armor. In the giant corporation that is the First Order, Phasma is like so many of us out here toughing it out on the day job. She’s better than the drama that Supreme Leader Snoke uses to keep Kylo Ren and General Hux circling around each other, and she knows it. She’s not just trying to avoid the Disciplinary Chokey-Doke ™. She’s about getting her job done because that’s what effective leaders do. But all that hard work isn’t getting her the attention she deserves. The First Order rewards drama a lot faster than hard work. Raise your hand if that sounds like your job beneath the great ceiling of glass.

I want to see more of the woman in the gleaming armor (with a red-trimmed cape, no less), so I hope Finn didn’t succeed in killing her. I’m approaching this question the way I would approach it in a soap opera — no one is dead until there’s been an open-casket funeral and the box is in the hole. But Star Wars killed off Darth Maul just as he was becoming the most interesting character in his film. They’ve taken out characters with strong potential before. I was just hoping not to see that mistake more than once.

There is apparently a movement to ship Kylo Ren and Rey. That actually makes sense to me on one level. Over the years, I’ve had many, many friends who wanted to set me up with the only other black person they knew because we “have so much in common.” Sticking Kylo Ren together with Rey makes the same kind of sense, and it promises to have the same kind of results. The fact that Kylo Ren and Rey are both strong in the Force is not enough to build a dinner date on, much less a relationship. Kylo Ren and Rey are both living in a vacuum right now, so they can’t see that.

But I do. I see it.

Before I saw the movie, one of the spoilers that slipped through to me was that the mystery of Rey’s parents would be solved at last. I like Rey, so I was a little curious about who her parents are. I didn’t think Luke Skywalker would repeat the cycle of well intentioned abandonment that marked his own childhood. But who else could her parents be? Who else did I know?

Somehow I got to the end of the film with no answers. Concerned that I had missed something, I turned reluctantly to the Internet. At what point had the mystery of Rey’s parents been solved?

The answer was unexpected.

Rey’s parents were nobodies from nowhere who sold their child to get a fix and were later buried in a shallow, unmarked grave, forgotten by a world that was better off without them. We know that, the Internet says, because Kylo Ren says so.

He did say that, yes. I remember. I’m just surprised anyone believes him.

Sit down with your Aunt Alexa for a moment. This is important.

Kylo Ren — who needs to keep a shirt on at all times because the unnatural pallor of that poorly defined torso is not sexy at all, pookie — is lying to Rey. I think a lot of you have been told a lie just like this. I thought you knew it was a lie, but now I’m not so sure. So I want to help you out.

A person who cares about you will not tell you that you are nobody from nowhere who came from nothing. He will not do that even if he knows it to be true. He will not do that even if you know it to be true. He will definitely not do that if he knows this is something that bothers you. This is not to say that he will run along behind you, polishing your ego. Not at all. He might not constantly sing your praises to the mountains — but he will not tell you that you are insignificant, or that any part of your identity is insignificant.

You know who does tell you that you’re nobody?

That predictable, played-out lie is the trademark of a man who has figured out (a) that you are out of his league and (b) that you have not yet discovered this. You are nobody from nowhere who came from nothing, and you have no significance at all … except to me. Your Aunt Alexa and most of your friends can all name one useless dude who tried it with them because he had nothing to offer and he knew it. He probably needed to keep all his clothes on, too.

I hear some of you out there. But Vader —

It’s true that Darth Vader also gave Luke Skywalker some unwanted news about his parents. That situation was very different. For one thing, Vader was telling Luke the truth. His information was about as reliable as it gets. Vader was also trying to get Luke on the same side of the Force. Vader was trying to lift Luke up with him, using the truth. Kylo Ren is trying to drag Rey down with a lie.

I love you because we’re the same is a very different message from you can’t leave because you don’t have anything else. If you don’t hear me say anything else today, I need you to hear that.

The long road from farm boy to Jedi Knight to Jedi Master has not been kind to Luke Skywalker. His decision to follow Obi-Wan brought him to the highest point in his life, a place of meaning and purpose and fulfillment and enlightment. And then the bottom fell out, and the way of the Jedi cost Luke everything he had. This is the Luke who greets us at the beginning of the film.

Mark Hamill said, at one point, that he was opposed to where director Rian Johnson was taking his character. “[A] Jedi doesn’t give up,” Hamill said. The idea that Luke would find himself in such a dark place, no matter the circumstances, was simply unthinkable.

That really spoke to me. Because I am not in a place emotionally to hear from someone who never gives up. I’m tired. I’ve given up. And the idea that I would find myself in such a dark place was once unthinkable to me, too.

In a film filled with strong and vulnerable and multi-dimensional female characters, I saw myself most clearly in Luke. He doesn’t want to be involved in anyone’s spiritual transformation anymore. He wants to be left the hell alone and leave other people the hell alone in return. When I saw Luke hiking up to the Venerable Jedi Tree with a good old-fashioned firebomb in one hand, I pumped my fist. I don’t need another cheerleader. I need a good old-fashioned firebomb and a venerable target at which to hurl it.

Yoda’s appearance, just as Luke is about to let that firebomb fly, turns the film away from its slow but inexorable march into the dark. Yoda being Yoda, he does this in a way that feels backwards to the rest of us. He doesn’t stop Luke from burning down the tree. He starts the fire himself.

It raises an important set of questions.

When the tree is gone, Luke will remain. Who is he now, in the ashes? What will he do now that he’s closed the door on his past?

What will he make of his freedom from the order and structure that informed his entire life?

It’s a big question. Luke finds an answer in his most defining moment, before he truly passes the torch to Rey.

That question is out there for all of us. Who will we be after Burning It All Down? What will we do in the ashes?

I didn’t need a cheerleader or someone who never gives up, but dammit, I needed that question. I needed that as much as I needed to Burn It All Down. I think Hamill saw that for himself, too, because he walked back his doubts about the film and his character upon further consideration.

I don’t think fandom is entirely ready for all that. Not right away. There’s a reason AMC Theatres felt they needed to warn people that the interval of silence in the middle of the story was intentional and not a defect in the sound system. Some people aren’t ready, and some of them won’t be ready for a long time.

But are you? Are you ready to consider who you actually are, without the identity and the structure you’ve been trying to grow into?

Isn’t it worth asking?

Follow Lady Smut.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

 

 

 

Thor: Ragnarok: Anti-Patriarchial Action Adventure

23 Nov

 

 

I knew going in what I wanted fromThor: Ragnarok going in–And I got it.  But it also had some excellent surprises.  First let’s go over the good stuff we expected:

I wanted humor. The very first Thor film had a lot of excellent humor–and who doesn’t love a hero–and a franchise–that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Who doesn’t love riffs on anti-cool-ness? (I do!)

I wanted Hela! I was excited to see an all-powerful villainess with the most-est.

As played by Kate Blanchet, Hela in all her glory is a lot of Goth eye make-up and a lot of scorching fury. Her tortured, slinky self was magnificent. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: her antler horns are ridiculous–almost as ridiculous as Loki’s–which is saying a lot. It takes quite a good actor to wear it well, and Blanchett did.

I wanted Loki – Hiddlesbum, you hot thing you.  He was expected, even needed in the film every bit as much as Thor was. Always elegant, and in this film not given particularly much to do. He nevertheless did a good job of portraying his own skewed agenda throughout. Sometimes a reluctant part of the team, Loki’s never one of the mob. He’s an independent thinker, with his own perspective, and that’s why I like him so much. 

Idris Elba as Heimdall, alas, has never pleased me in the Thor franchise. Three reasons why:

  • They loaded him down with some crazy eye contacts
  • and about five tons of too much sincerity
  • in too small a role. Sigh.

What I wasn’t expecting was:

Valkyrie! Tessa Thompson got to play the reluctant hero role as a POC side-kick. YAY!  I found her arresting.

Thor gets a make-over! He gets a haircut. (Yay!) There is also some gratuitous shirtless Hemsworth time. (Was that abdomen CGI? I don’t think it was, but day-am!) Hemsworth, really is at his best as an actor playing a frank, yet dumb warrior dude. He doesn’t deserve his role because of pure acting skill; there is no denying the man’s super-human arms. Whew! In a way, I’m glad his shirtless moment didn’t go on and on, because I have no idea what was being said in that scene, and wouldn’t have been able to follow the movie’s plot had such shocking Hemsworth shirtlessness continued.

WHAT YOU DIDN’T SEE IN THE FILM BUT I COULD TOTALLY IMAGINE:

I think the creators of Thor know us by this point, ladies. That Thor ending—where there’s a bit of a singular moment between Thor and Loki when they’re alone. Full of emotive unspoken feelings. Full of pauses.

This is what I said to my sweetie on the way back to the car afterwards:

In my version of the film that’s where they would have started having sex.

Sweetie said: No way! They’re brothers.

Adopted!

Please.

Look it’s been a hard year for us women. We need Thor & Loki sex.

META-NARRATIVE ABOUT THE DEATH OF OLD SKOOL PATRIARCHY, ANYONE? (!!!)

It was a surprise to see Karl Urban with a bald head and heavy make up at the beginning of the film, yet he was there purely as a representation of Old skool masculinity.

A sop to a certain kind of gun-loving guy, Karl Urban has babes and guns at the beginning of the film. But the film really deflects that. An instant later, some creature spits up all over the babes, and things go to hell in a handbasket. Poor Karl really just wants to have his one true warrior moment. At the very end, he gets to have that moment—along with all the gun-toting idiot dudes out there–as he go down in a blaze of old skool masculine glory, seemingly selfish at first, but sacrificing himself for the good of others.

LET’S GO DEEPER PEOPLE: That’s one layer of the film–and it’s thin.

I would posit that the rest of Thor is attempting to shift Action Movies in a new direction—make them more progressive. (Shocking, I know.) How did THOR: RAGNAROK mark a profound shift in action adventure movies of the future? Many critics are buzzing about the different meaningful aspects of this new directorial vision – the first POC director in the franchise. I want to argue that the film is (as much as it is anything else) literaly dismantling patriarchy, as well as creating space for women as active players in the Thor Universe.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

First the women: Hela is a great villain. She could have been more clever, could have gotten deeper, but her role involved a shocker—see below.

There’s also the Valkyrie. No more Thor’s mother and sister sitting around at home while all the action was happening elsewhere. The Valkyrie is right up in it. She is the female Karl Urban, taking up far more space in the film.  She also fights in the end, knowing she’s gonna die.

No women need to be saved because they’re the weaker sex in this movie—on Valhalla the entire population needs saving. Nor are the women reserved for romantic interest fodder. There are no romantic interests at all in Thor: Ragnarok (unless you buy my Loki & Thor m/m fantasy. ;>) Women are included as players, pure and simple. Hela kicks ass, and the Valkyrie—full of doom and foreboding–wads into a losing battle, then pounds away at it just like the men.  Why not, right? They’re all gods–it’s not like their physical forms really matter.

Credit:Jasin_Boland/Marvel Studios 2017

But what was even better and more riveting to me—was this fabulous tearing down of Odin—Thor’s father (played by Anthony Hopkins.)

The back story in this movie is that Odin had a daughter, named Hela – and they ravaged 9 kingdoms together, raking in the booty. That is, until one day Odin seemed to grow a conscience about all the plundering and decided to go in another direction. So Odin’s solution was to cast his daughter out of Valhalla. Her very history was written over, with other remnants and symbols from that time buried and forgotten. Until Odin’s death. As he’s dying, he tells his two sons about their lost sister—and once he’s dead, she’s back, with a big old chip on her shoulder and some major daddy issues.

The first thing she does is go and uncover all this erased history in Valhalla, (I couldn’t find pictures of the cool moving ceiling mural–but it was really well done) staking her claim as first born to rule all of Odins 9 realms. And what the hell—she wants to go out and conquer all the remaining realms as well.

The picture of Valhalla literally crumbles to reveal a hidden truth underneath.

So as a villain, her major lasting strike is that she complicates the idea of Odin as a good guy. Nor is he ever vindicated in the end. There’s no rolling back from her revelations once she’s vanquished.  The upshot: Valhalla, built upon ill-gotten, illicit colonialist wealth, is destroyed.

Buh-bye patriarchal kingdom.

In the end, yes, Hela is displaced by Thor. It’s not done with a “the man’s supposed to rule” kind of presumption. Thor acknowledges that as eldest born Hela has a legitimate claim to the throne.

But then Thor points out that she’s the worst. True. Hela has an unquenched desire for conquest, totalitarian rule, and a cavalier disregard for the death and destruction of her subjects. That’s what they say, but that’s not how actions play out.  At the very end, Hela **is** left to rule Valhalla–and to destroy it. A world born out of multiple sins is pulled down into flames and destruction, while Thor and his people seek a new place to start fresh.

Want to read more interesting discussion about the film?  Here’s a Mashable blog post on Thor’s themes of colonialism.

and a blog post about the deliberate use of Maori humor in Thor:

https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/31-10-2017/thor-and-his-magic-patu-notes-on-a-very-maori-marvel-movie/

 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Lady Smut – our Black Friday giveaway that starts tomorrow, Nov 24, 2017. Check it out!

Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had.  She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  Check out her other Lady Smut postsJoin her newsletter or follow her on Facebooktwitter, and Pinterest

You Had Me At ‘Psycho-Sexual Unravelling’ RAW: Feminist Horror Movie

10 Oct

by Madeline Iva

There’s nothing like a good feminist horror movie to get you in the mood for Halloween.  And such is our society that for the first thirty minutes of Julie Ducournau’s feminist allegorical film RAW, she doesn’t even have to go out of her way to create horror–she just turns the camera on all the normal, yet utter bullls**t young women typically go through in the world, simply by virtue of being young women.

THE BEGINNING:

A young woman named Justine (get it? JUSTine?) leaves her vegetarian parents to go off to medical college and become a vet.  She goes through an initiation everyone must go through, in which she’s covered in blood and made to eat raw meat (she’s a vegetarian too.) But the initiation goes on for weeks–that’s just the beginning of it all.

Are you getting the sense of moral violation on this still shot? Good.

La-la-la! You know, for the first half hour she goes through horrible stuff.  The whole point of these initiation rituals is a kind of semi-compulsive, semi-voluntarily trial of humiliation and degradation. Justine tries to get through it all while she’s being pushed and pummeled on all sides (literally, at one point, when she’s at a party.)

As we move through this set up the first scene of actual horror comes.  She’s been accused of cheating because she and another student (who is also her roommate) have the same answers on a test. Clearly he copied from her, but the professor wants her to confess SHE cheated because she’s a smarty-pants know it all, and it’s clear that this man just enjoys bashing bright, young women.  Afterwards, there’s a scene that’s analogous to purging.  But make no mistake–this is not a film about eating disorders. It’s allegorical. It’s about the f**ked-upness of our world.  First of all  it’s not food she’s purging. (No spoilers here!)  Second of all, when Justine emerges from the toilet cubical having purged, the response of another young woman at the sink is this: “It’s easier if you stick two fingers down your throat.” Thus invoking a kind of sisterhood of eating disorders! Yes, that’s messed up—and THAT’s what the entire film is like.  The horror of how twisted real life is with the volume dial turned up a little higher and then a little higher still.

The next special moment of horror in the film devoted to Brazilian waxing.

Let me pause here: imagine a movie in which women are tortured by having patches of hair ripped from the most private part of their body–and somewhat to the detriment of our own health (we’re talking micro tears of the va-jay-jay that lead to an increase in infections, etc.) —that’s a pure horror movie concept right there.

But wait! In this horror movie — the tortured women are somehow convinced to volunteer for this torture again and again. Moreover, to crank the horror up another notch–they start putting pressure on their friends and daughters to torture themselves the same way.  It’s eventually revealed to the audience that the evil people who started this whole thing have actually gotten the women to pay for their own torture.  The final scene answer the question of why would women ever do this to themselves in this way is that they’ve somehow they’ve been convinced in some nebulous, undefined way that men like it—men like women to be smooth down there like little pre-pubescent girls–as if all the men were pedophiles or something. (Insert scream of terror.)

I mean, — why hasn’t someone made a horror movie yet about popular grooming trends in modern life?????

THE MIDDLE:

Watching the film, I start to get the idea we’re witnessnessing a “pyscho-sexual” unraveling.

Goody!

Like in BLACK SWAN.(Why have I never done a blog post on Black Swan?) Like in that classic French film REPULSION. (So good!)

The truth about sexual bullying in college is revealed here clear as a bell.  There’s one of those variants of college heteronormative, de-virginizing activities–certainly familiar to all U.S. college students as well–where two people are basically told “You git on in there and boink or else.”

sex with strangers

The pressure to loose your virginity to a stranger in college — it’s own unique horror.

The situation with the Justine’s gay roommate/study mate is also interesting – REALLY interesting. Like there’s so much I want to say but it’d be spoilers left and right. So I won’t.

Except…He’s hot. She likes him, and at one point –

Ah! I can’t go any further…you’ll have to watch the film yourself.

I will say this:

It’s fascinating, and I also, since I’m writing this blog post as I’m watching it—I’ll confess I have no idea where it’s going.

THE END:

There’s a clear indication that the movie is allegorical. It’s not about vegetarianism at all. It’s really saying something about the initiation of young women into the world.  About the swift egregious violations of one’s own moral code just to get along.  And then what? How can you use your own moral compass when you’ve already been compelled by social pressures to smash it?

Raw, feminist horror film

Hate to break it to you, but this film is NOT about vegetarianism…

The movie definitely points out how those who are oppressed in turn victimize and oppress others.

Yeah, it’s like that. Justine turns upon someone weaker than her –and wants to inflict damage. Not only does she want to do that–she also instinctively blames the weaker person for the violation. Towards the end of the film, Justine yells at a victim in remorse: “How come you didn’t fight back? You should have hit me!”

If I had to guess, I’d say this movie is about how societal institutions (like a competitive college for vets) bully and harass us into becoming aggressive, compulsive consumers (in this case of flesh). The only other choice in this false dichotomy, is to become a victim yourself.

What I’m saying, of course, is that the movie is brilliant. It’s on Netflix right now. Perfect Halloween date night horror movie–if you’re a twisted, feminist vegan—like me. ; >

Hey! Check out this HALLOWEEN ROMANCE page on Facebook   Wednesday night, Oct 11th, the page is having an event where we’re watching PRACTICAL MAGIC at 9:30 EST. On Thursday, October 12th, I’ll be doing a take over and hosting some fun posts and giveaways.

And! Don’t forget if you live within reach of Charlottesville, VA I’m going to do a panel and book signing for the QUEENS OF THE DAMNED event at Barnes & Nobel. (See Our FB Event Page and let us know you’re going). It’s on Saturday, October 28th from noon to 3.  Here’s the postcard:

 

Thanks to women, the horror genre is changing and growing–come to this event and hear more!

Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had.  She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  Check out her other Lady Smut postsJoin her newsletter or follow her on Facebook, twitter, and Pinterest.

Sick, Sick, Sick: Men Who Take Care Of Others Are HOT

26 Sep

by Madeline Iva

We’re celebrating Kiersten Hallie Krum’s latest novel SEAL’d WITH A TWISTSEAL’d… features a hot doctor named Grant who was in the first book in the series.  He takes care of others–and when in Book 1 he can’t heal a buddy and that buddy dies–he becomes totally tormented.  So I wanna talk about THE BIG SICK and guys who care for those who hurt.

Which brings me to a new obsession of mine: the whole hurting/caring trope in fan fic.  Lurv it so hard.  I get the ovary spasms over it the way other other women almost die looking at a super hot guy holding a baby.  This is why women go so crazy for doctors, of course.  Nothing new here.  But I’ve always felt a leetle removed from the doctor thing.  After all, it’s usually the nurses who do the tending, isn’t it?

Matthew Fox’s hotness on LOST was 95% the doc/healer thing.

I will confess to two exceptions to this rule. (They’re weird–don’t judge.) One is the doctor who removed my wisdom teeth.  That guy was nothing super to write home about, but I’d delayed getting my wisdom teeth out because I didn’t have the money and then I got a massive infection.  My obnoxious roommate at the time pointed out that having a really bad infection near your brain isn’t good.  Ya think? My maxillofacial surgeon had this amazing bedside manner.  “There there, it’s gonna be okay,” was the gist of his reassurances, but something about how he conveyed that to me in my distress just had me crushing out on him for about a week.

I know it’s ridiculous–but Clemens would give this close attentive look at Ripley, and then give her a ‘tincture’ and my ovaries would implode.

The other doc was (wait for it) Charles Dance in Aliens 3.  Yes…Charles Dance is a fabulous (now somewhat elderly) British Actor.  in Aliens 3 he played Clemens a “medical officer” who treats Ripley. Basically he tends to her wonky health from all the deep space time and other issues she’s experienced.  He gave her these little tinctures, and was just kind of attentive to how she was feeling.  It’s really just a tiny break from all the alien biting mayhem, but he’s an amazing actor, and that bit of a role was very well written.  The whole Ripley thing–a woman trying to save humanity when the other humans around her are most often just not being very helpful — and then suddenly someone actually cares about HER — not in some overt soppy way, but just kind of peering at her and then “making it better” — well, it really got to me.

Which brings me to THE BIG SICK.  Omg, I was almost crying to death just hearing about the movie–just watching the previews.  Why was so deeply affected? I think it goes so deep with me that it goes back to the trauma of watching my mom when she was 34 and just really ill.  She needed someone to step in and just sure things were going to be okay.  No one did–and she died.  (I know, I know, it’s very sad.) The prospect of a romance hero stepping in to care for someone who’s sick and needs someone to ‘make it better’ just undoes me to the f*cking core.

So anyway–my sweetie and I go see THE BIG SICK and…while it was a good date night movie, for sure.  But ultimately I was let down.  I mean, there’s much to rejoice about in this based-on-a-true-story, and I enjoyed it as much as any other semi-rom com I’ve seen in a while.  There are critics out there as well for the movie.  All of their stuff has to do with race.  I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about my fav hurting/caring trope.  There was much hurting…In the movie, Emily gets really sick really fast and is in a coma in less than 24 hours. But we don’t see a whole lot of tending to from the “hero” Kumail Nanjiani.  He’s funny, he’s a good actor.  It’s great to see someone raising themselves up by their own bootstraps vis-a-vis creating a movie that others aren’t writing with East Asian leads.  Huzzah to all that. I think at one point before the coma, Emily’s ankle hurts and he’s solicitous.  At one point when she’s in a coma, he urges the family to make one decision and not another.  Like…that’s it.  Other than that, he’s sitting around and waiting with her family. Which is what you do when someone you love is in a coma…true.  But I guess I was expecting more after-care when she comes out of the coma…I mean, I can easily see there’s a kind of feminist “I can take care of myself” and “I don’t need a man to take care of me” kind of thing maybe going on.  But come on–this is just basic humanity we’re talking about here.  We’re not talking about opening a door. We’re talking about being on the cusp of death and it’s all hands on deck.

After the coma, Emily’s got PT, she’s not all together for a while.  And he…anyway, he tries showing her his devotion and commitment–but as she points out–that’s all fine and good.  “Only all that happened while I was asleep.”  And in the audience I’m saying the next line I would have written, “But what have you done for me lately?”

Again, in the movie, he basically is forced to choose at one point between his family and his true love– and he chooses her.  That’s romantic. That’s a big deal.  But in my heart, I also would have preferred him to help her with the groceries.  Because this is Chicago — groceries, a cane, and no car — these three things do not go well together.  You know what I’m saying?

A caring partner to help you out just when you need help the most.  The very idea makes my heart do intense crunches…We leave behind the realm of women who are afraid to take a big shit in a potential love interest’s apartment.  We enter the world where you look like sh*t–and he doesn’t care.  Because he loves you.  You are not great company because you don’t feel well–and he feels badly–not because you’re not funny and charming at the moment–but because you’re hurting, because he loves you.  For some reason we have accepted hand in hand the idea of not needing men and at the same time performing for them a lot — getting out of bed to put on make up before he wakes up.  I find this appalling.  Utterly appalling.  I think women fear they’re not somehow worthy of being so deeply loved that their humanity and flaws don’t really matter.  So maybe that’s why I’m all about this kind of a trope–because I think we need to march in the opposite direction.  I think that a lot of good men out there who would excel at nurturing and caring–if given the chance.

I may have a write a story or two about this in the future.  And because germs and feeling punky in general are not the hottest thing when it comes to sex–they may have to be on the sweeter side of the heat spectrum.  They may have to live in the more squishy comforting side of romance.

In the meantime,  Kiersten’s really got talent at portraying that heavy throb of hurting and the need for some deep romantic connection. In her book, I find that the scorching sex to make it all better–at least for me.  Please go check out SEAL’d WITH A TWIST! (Don’t you lurv the cover? I think it’s crazy hot.)

Review of Hollywood Dirt from Passionflix

22 Sep

by Elizabeth SaFleur

Hollywood Dirt is Passionflix‘s debut original film based on Alessandra Torre’s novel of the same name. For more than a year we’ve waited anxiously for this romance movie subscription service to launch, and I prayed–PRAYED–the service was going to be good. As for their original films? I really, really, really wanted them to be good. I’m a romance movie and book crackhead. There isn’t enough content in the world to satisfy this girl. Of course, this makes me a Typical Romance Book Lover so I felt some compassion for the Passionflix ladies knowing they had (have) a mighty job to do.

But this mighty job had to be done. I mean, who wants to slog through Netflix, Hulu [name your service] looking for a good movie–one that doesn’t want you to take a valium with a shot of vodka afterward? Last week I endured the movies Academy Award-winning Lion (cried),  heart-wrenching A Dog’s Purpose (bawled), and sci-fi flick Life (was horrified). To say I was ready for a romance was a major understatement.

So last night while husband was out of town, I took the plunge. I got my laptop, poured a glass of wine, logged onto Passionflix, held my breath and hit <play>. Here’s my take: Hollywood Dirt is awesome. Why bury the lede?

The movie is well paced, well written (Hello? Author Alessandra Torre who cannot be bad if she tried), and — thank you Jesus — well acted by actors Johann Urb and Emma Rigby. (Though the lawyer, played by actor Marco Dapper, stole every scene he was in.)

Hollywood Dirt is the story of second chances and finding love in the unlikeliest of places. Mega Hollywood Star Cole Masten, abandoned by his superstar wife, comes to the little town of Quincy, Georgia to shoot a movie — partly to escape and partly to get back on his feet. He hadn’t expected Summer Jenkins, small town girl who has demons of her own, including a past mistake that is heartbreaking, hilarious, brilliant and steal-worthy (ya know, in case anything like that happens to me). They are from different worlds and try to not be attracted to one another. Well, we know how well that works out.

Despite a few, minor moments of over-the-top southern mockery in the very, very beginning, the movie nailed the small Southern Town, which, as it is in real life, is a character of its own. They also had excellent secondary characters and small roles that flavored the film without dissolving into subplot hell.  The movie didn’t try to do too much (I’m looking at you Ron Howard) or too little (Sorry, George Clooney). Hollywood Dirt gave us just the right amount of story, heart, feels and character. Of course, look at the material they had to work with. (Hello again? There’s a reason Alessandra Torre lands on the bestseller lists with some regularity.)

As for the sex scenes?#NailedIt. Some things require watching rather than recounting. This is one of them. Just watch–you’ll see what I mean. (Excuse me while I go turn up the A/C now.) I really want to talk to some about that first sex scene — like what he did with her T-shirt afterward? SWOON. Did that slay you, too?

And, I have to believe the producers and director had fun with some of the actor’s lines, such as a screenwriter who had a bit part and got to deliver the line “A script is not a book!” Well, unless it’s a Passionflix movie. At last year’s RT Booklovers Convention, Alessandra Torres herself praised the Passionflix team on their unwavering commitment to stay true to the book right down to the dialogue and a certain scene involving a knee. (Watch. You’ll see.)

I look forward to Passionflix debuting more original movies, but I also hope they stock other movies in their database more robustly. As a subscription service for romance lovers, they have a large appetite to fill. Right now about 30 available movies is a good start, but given we consume books like oxygen, we need more! And, that’s how I’m ending this. Passionflix, give us more! Your first movie is a hit in this blogger’s eyes.

What’s next? How about a Sylvia Day original? Yes, please.

The motion picture adaptation of Afterburn & Aftershock is coming this November from Passionflix. Summary: Businesswoman Gia Rossi is determined to be successful in her new job, but when her ex lover Jax Rutledge waltzes back into her life, their passionate connection ignites not only in the boardroom, but the bedroom.

That’s a wrap!

While we’re waiting for that next original movie, pick up a copy of Kiersten Hallie Krum’s latest release, SEALed with a Twist.

Debutante. Heiress. Lady.
Skylar Thornquist has been called them all. But when her family insisted she stand as bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding to Skye’s ex-fiancé, she rebelled, drowning her public humiliation in tequila and a one-night stand of carnal debauchery with Grant Sisti. To escape her family’s iron grip, Skye now hides out cleaning toilets at the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa, masking her breeding and identity under a dye job, heavy makeup, and a smattering of fake tattoos while she tries to discover which label sticks to her best.

Doctor. Joker. Warrior.
Navy SEAL Grant “Twisted” Sisti has been them all. But since he failed to prevent the violent death of his teammate six months ago, Grant isn’t sure he can be any of those men anymore. He’s back at the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa for his best friend’s wedding, but Grant knows he’s reaching the end of his rope. A state that isn’t improved by finding the help swimming naked in his private villa’s pool.

Skye never thought she’d get caught skinny dipping by the man who got her through her worst night. But this Grant is a different man than the one who lit up her world back then. And though it takes him too long to remember her, Skye is drawn even more to the wounded warrior than she was to the charming lover.

Grant is fascinated by the puzzle Skye presents, the debutante who cleans toilets and speaks like a queen. She’s the first thing he’s had any interest in since his friend’s death, the first woman in a long time to see the man before the SEAL.

They never expected to find each other again on Barefoot Bay, both hiding from who there were, both wondering who they should be. Until Skye’s identity is compromised and the Thornquist iron grip gets a stranglehold on her new life…only this time there’s a Navy SEAL by her side.

~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur is a contemporary erotic romance author and dying-to-retire public relations practitioner who writes, tweets and posts under a pseudonym since her business clients might be (WOULD be) shocked at her second career choice. Her books, the Elite Doms of Washington and Justice series were inspired by her thirty-year career serving D.C. clients where she learned not all power in our nation’s capital is wielded by politicians.

Like Soldiers? My Obsession with Matthias Schoenaerts Continues!

7 Sep

This week, I’m talking about the hotness factor of Matthias Schoenaerts in two different films where he plays two different kinds of soldiers and brace yourself, because there are a billion shameless plugs at the end.

As devoted LS readers already know, Matthias Schoenaerts is one of those underrated actors we admire as he is becoming more of a hot commodity in Hollywood. He’s gradually creeping his way up the ladder of leading men through a combination of undeniable warm sexiness, excellent acting, and mad language skills. He’s a more accessible Tom Hardy. A less genial Tom Hiddleston. He’s more the quiet guy, more burly, more…Belgian. I’m always drawn in by how unassuming, quietly competent, and totally hot he is.

In DISORDER, Schoenaerts plays a soldier with PTSD who’s either paranoid or–unlike everyone around him–aware of hidden danger when taking care of a woman (Diane Kruger) and her little boy while her Arab husband is away.

This is different look for Schoenaerts – he’s a little grubby in this film. He usually plays the well dressed man. (With Mr. Oat in FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD being a picturesque variation). Here he’s got a shaved head, scruff-i-licious beard, and a soldier-y look. He’s also playing a different class of character – more middle class with their offhand brusqueness. Ultimately, he’s a man hanging onto his shit as his mind is unraveling. It’s a fast, gripping little movie….

THE HOTNESS FACTOR: He’s all beefy and scruffy and you just kind of want to grip him hard and bite his skin.

And if you like this kind of hero then (shameless plug #1) you’ll lurv of the hero of my friend Adriana Ander’s second book: BY HER TOUCH.  You all know Adriana—she’s been featured on this blog a lot. This is her second book with a DEA guy who’s got PTSD, and needs to remove all the gang tattoos he got while he was undercover in a biker gang. He encounters a female doctor willing to take off the tattoos.  She’s eager to dig under his skin and sooth his caged soul. (Yum!!!)

Click to buy!

In the other movie, SUITE FRANCAIS, Schoenaerts plays a German Lieutenant as the Germans roll into a French provincial town to occupy it in the first year of World War II.

Part of the regiment is quartered in the homes in the homes of the townspeople. And as an officer,  the lieutenant is quartered in a very nice home that Michelle Williams’s character Lucille. She lives in with her controlling mother-in-law while her husband is away at the front. She was married off to her husband by her father, and clearly doesn’t love him, but goes about with her mother-in-law and generally lives a repressive life, doing her duty. However,  she has a deep love of music and playing the piano soothes away the stresses of war.  The lieutenant wanted a house with a piano because back in Germany before he became a soldier he was a composer.  As they share their love of music, she’s drawn to his room to listen to the piano, and he’s drawn to her fragile, cultured goodness. He swiftly falls in love with her, even as the soldiers begin a series of abhorrent acts that he despises. Eventually, he is commanded to engage in these atrocities as well, and it takes a toll upon him—while he does what he can to help Michelle William’s character when she asks for his influence in certain matters relating to the townspeople.

The Schoenaerts Hotness factor: he’s tall and crisp–an imposing soldier with power over the town and and all townspeople. (Fans of dark romance would go ape over Schoenaerts in his German uniform.) In addition to that, he’s a sensitive composer, and a reluctant soldier. He brings the whole sane-people- in-a-world-gone-mad factor to the movie – otherwise it’s just a movie about a bunch of very uptight French provincials getting screwed by the Germans.

Even as Schoenaerts is all super clean shaven and short haired, there’s still something sensitive and sensual about his every look and touch. The combo of being all he-male in uniform and yet  a man with no defenses when he’s around Lucille—ready to give her anything he can, and shield her in any way he can—it’s compelling. He’s on the wrong side of the war, and married, etc.

This is one of those movies that knows how romance addicts are. They string you out on the scenes between the two of them—there aren’t as many as you want and they aren’t very long. Instead there is a lot of fraught tension and wind up. And at a certain point – I could tell that things were as good as they were going to get between these two illicit lovers. It was all going to be a rather tragic downhill slide from there on out. I’ll admit I stopped watching and went for a jog instead. While I jogged I continued the story in my own mind, creating scenarios where somehow, despite all the multiple challenges the characters got to be together after the war. So if you like your romance more flavored with bittersweet love, then this movie is your poison.

But speaking of choosing your own ending! (shameless plug #2) My good friend Nara Malone (such an excellent writer) has a new Choose-Your-Own-Romance book out called STORM RUNNERS.  You actually choose whom Trella, a singer/songwriter hooks up with — and what kind of Happily Ever After Trella lands.  (BTW, Don’t you just lurv this cover?????)

Click to buy!

And here’s my third shameless plug –if you like military romance–or even better yet, reading romances written by actual soldiers –check out another author–C.M. Moore. C.M. Moore is actually two people –my friends Connor and Monica. Both served tours of duty in Afghanistan and their military infused futuristic romances reflect that experience. Their second book, titled 2:05am is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

Final shameless plug which has nothing to do with Matthias Schoenaerts whatsoever, but does have to do with a sexy sorcerer/soldier.  My publisher has started uploading my latest work WICKED ENCHANTRESS onto Wattpad. WICKED ENCHANTRESS is book two in my Wicked Magic Series.  Here’s a blurb and a cover:

SHE WILL MASTER THE POWERS OF ENCHANTMENT…TO SAVE THE MAN SHE LOVES

After Rhine the sorcerer and soldier inadvertently saves a kitchen maid named Wart from an evil spell, he tries to reunite the maid with her one remaining friend, Zephyr the Sorceress.  Yet the famous sorceress is not in her tower as usual. Her lover, Theo the Black Knight, has taken her to Balfad where elves rule and Theo’s father is the Winter King.    

Rhine takes Elspeth all the way to Balfad–yet keeps his distance though Elspeth secretly pines for him.  After Rhine is overcome by a deceitful enchantress, Elspeth is the only one determined to do whatever it takes to save him. If that means risking her own life to become an enchantresses too, so be it. When she discovers Rhine half-naked and locked up in chains, she realizes that the sorcerer is almost mad with the sensual torments of his enchantment.  In helping him find relief, Elspeth’s inner wickedness begins to take over…one pleasurable deed at a time…

The first episode is going up tomorrow, Friday.  Whooo-ha! So follow me on Wattpad and you can start reading …The story will be serialized for at least the next ten weeks, and all episodes will be available until January, 2018.

 

 

 

Ingrid Goes West & Discovers O’Shea

31 Aug

O’Shea Jackson Jr. Yowza!

by Madeline Iva 

I loved this movie! It’s a satire, and send up of social media crazy.   Let’s talk about the juicy acting before tearing into the bloody guts of the film.

WARNING: vague spoilers litter this entire post.

THE CAST OF INGRID GOES WEST IS FAB:

First – O’Shea Jackson Jr. – HELLO!!!!!!

He came into a scene and I just kept watching him – OMG. Cute. Damn. I kept thinking of him as a less cranked Ice Cube – (Who I kind of obsessed over when he was a kangaroo mutant in TANK GIRL, btw.)

From the moment he was on screen kept thinking: Hey! Look at him. Ingrid? Why are you not paying attention to this guy! Go for him, Ingrid. Look!

I loved that he was playing a geeky screenwriter/batman obsessive. It is my opinion that aside from movies, TV, and romances needing hot POC guys in general, that we especially need more cute/hot/black/geeky men. (Like Echo Kellum!)

O’Shea knows how to flirt with the camera, is all I’m saying.  And –well, what do you know? I get home from watching the movie, check IMDB, and O’Shea is Ice Cube’s son.

No way! Yes, truly.

In a just world we’ll O’Shea Jackson Jr. rise to super-stardom.

Side note for Billy Mangusson: I saw him in Damsels in Distress.  Do I like his ken-doll good looks? No. Ken dolls have never done it for me.  So I don’t feel obliged to mention him here because of his hotness factor—for me he registers a zero on that scale. But his manic energy made an impression. He was good – perfect even, in his loathsome movie role. He’s a character actor in the body of a Ken Doll (which he can’t help of course–) and I first saw him in Damsels in Distress—which is a great daffy movie, btw, check it out.

Finally: Aubrey Plaza. She’s so good it hurts. She’s doing the crazy-manic thing well, of course, as the role calls for. But Plaza is also going through hip moves like a gymnast nailing the landing. She’s so on it when it comes to social tracking.  It’s like she knows how to rate social currencies up and down like she’s the Tokyo stock exchange.

But that’s when her character is barely in control. When her character spins out of control, then we are watching straight up humiliation humor of the kind we’ve long been familiar with when it comes to comedic actors like Jerry Lewis (R.I.P.) and Ben Stiller, but that we see far less in women (with the genius exception of Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher on SNL). My sweetie had to hide his eyes during these parts of the film. “I can’t watch.” But I was rejoicing in Ingrid’s social belly flops.

Aubrey Plaza has her own unique persona going on, with a misanthropic attitude and deadpan voice.  We think we’d quickly get tired of this one note, but Plaza will surprise you.  She has no fear of taking her audience to other dimensions of her comedic range. She also reached into emotional points you didn’t think she’d necessarily be able to handle, giving her stiffly uninflected comedic axe. But this is what we know of Aubrey Plaza – she works it and she works it hard as an actress. She pushes higher, deeper, and lower than one would have thought she could go. I’ve noticed in movies and in TV that Plaza is always better than you think she’s going to be.  She’s one to watch.

Here are two other great movies she was in—be sure to check them out:  SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED and LIFE AFTER BETH.  She also had a small role in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (Hey! Maybe that’s where she met Billy…)

BUT LET’S MOVE ON TO THE MOVIES INNARDS:

STYLING: First of all, the movie, appropriately enough, it was beautifully directed, in a totally classic instagram style. You know what I mean – that understated boho thing (and by understated we do NOT mean inexpensive or second hand.) At the same time ‘the look’ invokes color drenched quirkiness, it also should invoke the clean look of big open spaces:  sort of like a fresh ocean breeze off the Malibu shore as it wafts across the bodies of billionaires meditating on the beach.  The movie did this very well — well done, movie!

BUT WHAT IS THE MOVIE ACTUALLY SAAAAAAAAAAAYING?

CLAIM ONE: The obvious message: If you’re mistaking social media connections for real relationships—you’re cray-cray!

And yes, we (I) need reminding that:

  1. there is a life beyond social media (I know, so hard for you youngins who’ve never experienced anything but.)
  2. You need a few real people to have relationships with in your life–at least.
  3. It’s okay to have thousands of great acquaintances on social media –just remember they’re acquaintances.
  4. Social media is a reflection of our lives—not our actual lives.

Even so, some might say that social media is a more insidious evil. I had a friend who once gave a critique of the TV show Friends by saying: The problem is that they’re all so funny, so gorgeous, and well dressed. They make me dissatisfied with my real friends. I take her point.

Do all the pretty people on social media ruin us for “real life”? Hmmmm. I want to say I don’t think so – but you have to be strong about limiting your social media intake.  And this is where I feel the movie plays an important role in inviting us to examine our lives vis-a-vis social media.  For instance, looking back on it, I would say that yes, my Sweetie and I do socialize in person a bit less than we used to in the years before we joined fb.

Which brings us to claim #2 that INGRID GOES WEST makes:

People who are on the other end of the selfie stick – the “influencers” on social media — look down upon their followers/worshipers and, when you meet them in person, they are shallow and inauthentic.  My response to this is twofold:

One: Maybe some do — (I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian) but I don’t.  I also don’t think I’m an influencer.  So.

Two: The world is chock full of people who were shallow and inauthentic and yet popular and somewhat famous L-O-N-G before social media came along.  So what’s really changed?

Yet the film is at it’s best, I think, when it shows that there is more to Taylor’s life than her instagram feed presents. Her nervous monitoring of her husband’s artistic career and satisfaction comes to mind.  There was something about the role that radiated a sense of instability (Good job Elizabeth Olsen!) that rang incredibly true to me.

On the other hand, as expected, Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen) stops the great moments that are happening in her life to capture the moment so it meets her ruthless instagram standards.  Ingrid of course, is at that point where if it didn’t get captured on social media, it didn’t count. She takes every instance of these friend selfies as a quasi-religious moment to savor.  Personally, I think most of us just wear out before we hit the Taylor point in our lives.   Or at least I do — I go to weddings, or author events and I take a lot of pictures and post them on social media –but then I’m done! I’ve experienced something, I’ve put it out there, moving on now!

After seeing the movie I wanted to go out and dig into these issues of social media, our place in them, and the social ethics involved.   Sweetie wanted to dismiss the movie. It made him uncomfortable in parts, and he didn’t see it the edgy double-bladed sword of truth like I did. INGRID GOES WEST offers up a chance to examine our relationship to social media–the ways in which we revel and triumph in it, and the ways in which it undercuts what keeps us stable and sane in our real lives. I say these are good conversations worth having.

So FRIEND— go see the movie already! Talk to me about your thoughts regarding the movie down below.  : >

And since we’re talking about social media–I’m glad you’ve found us at Lady Smut. I’m glad that you want to take this journey we’re on as we explore the possibilities of a women-friendly, sex-positive world. We’re here to share our favorite romances with you—many of them smoking hot—and we’re glad you took some of your valuable time to park your attention here for a few minutes every day.

I never feel inauthentic when it comes to the people who support Lady Smut. I appreciate you all every day.  Whether you’re on a lunch break at work or at home in bed sobbing over a shitty love life—we’re here to cheer you up, and let you know others out there are smart, intelligent women who love romance. We think the way you do.

Hugs!

Madeline Iva is the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  You can’t follow her on Instagram, but you can join her newsletter.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: