Money Shots 

In the fall of 1997, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights presented in cinematic, big-screen glory the porn industry boom of the late ’70s. Even though it’s certainly an entertaining movie, we were supposed to be left with the impression of people so scarred by life or so oblivious to it that they couldn’t see the damage they were doing to themselves. The movie admirably didn’t judge the characters, but it was unmistakable that we were supposed to feel a certain pity or compassion for Dirk Diggler—other than a large member, he had little to contribute to the world.

In the four years since that movie, porn stars seem to have gained a new level of respectability. I don’t necessarily think Boogie Nights validated the profession, but it perhaps helped eliminate some of the stigma by humanizing the people who make these movies. Once seen as outlaws or objects of shame, these actors—or, more appropriately, actresses—are suddenly intermingling with your everyday Hollywood stars. It’s as though they’re all working on the same playing field. Which I guess makes sense—all celebrities are basically whores.

You’ve got Janine Lindemulder, who dated Vince Neil, ended up in a home-sex videotape that naturally was leaked to the media, and appeared on the cover of a Blink-182 album. There’s Alisha Klass, who has a small role in the current arthouse hit The Center of the World and dated megastar Bruce Willis. Jenteal has a small part in the Jon Favreau film Made later this summer. Traci Lords has her own series on the Sci-Fi channel. Raylene is in an Everclear video. (Gee, I’m way too familiar with these names.)

And then there’s Jenna Jameson. Probably not since Linda Lovelace has a porn star’s name been so widely known. I’m not really sure why, either, but she’s been in mainstream movies, has made appearances at the Grammys, and was even interviewed by Ben Stein on Comedy Central.

So what does all this mean? Are we witnessing the downfall of society? Has the line between damaged people having sex on camera for money and damaged people pretending to have sex on camera for money been irrevocably blurred? I don’t know, but actresses like Pamela Anderson sure make it seem that way. Is it any surprise that two separate home videos of Anderson having sex are making the rounds? She’s really only a skimpy bikini away from being a porn star anyway.

Even noteworthy, talented young actresses such as Kirsten Dunst and Laura Prepon seem to feel it’s necessary to sell themselves sexually, popping up on the covers of Maxim and Stuff. It’s almost an unspoken assumption that if you’re young and attractive in Hollywood, you’re going to sell sex—be it explicitly or as close as you can come without crossing the line into actual pornography.

Well, I’m here to tell you people that I’m not for it. If there is a consequence to porn stars and celebrities becoming interchangeable, it’s that the alluring nature of either becomes nullified. Isn’t part of a Hollywood actress’ sex appeal the very fact that she doesn’t bare all? And who’s excited about pornography when it’s as mainstream as any other thrill? I liked porn stars better when they were taboo—watching them in music videos or in big-budget movies takes that away.

All in a name

One thing the porn industry has mastered with aplomb is movie titles: Shaving Ryan’s Privates. American Booty. Saturday Night Beaver. A Passage Through India. Sure, they’re goofy, but they stick in your head and in some cases are more inventive than the titles they’re ripping off.

I bring this up because lately it seems as if Hollywood has lost all sense of creativity when it comes to titles. Take the works of the fearsomely untalented Freddie Prinze Jr. In the past two years, he has starred in four romantic comedies, all of which boast three-word titles seemingly designed to accentuate their interchangeability: She’s All That, Down to You, Boys and Girls, and Head Over Heels. Each one is a cliché that perfectly conveys the cardboard nature of the film—my favorite is Boys and Girls, which distinguishes itself from the numerous alternative-lifestyles films Prinze has made.

You’d think that, considering how bland these movies are, the producers would give them zippier monikers to attract some attention. I guess it could be argued in response that these movies are marketed for teenagers, who don’t know any better. But shouldn’t we give them a little more credit? When I was a kid, teen movies had titles like The Breakfast Club. That only made me curious to find out what the hell a “Breakfast Club” was, so I went to see the movie. What’s remotely intriguing about She’s All That?

It’s not just kids’ movies that are getting saddled with lousy titles. My biggest pet peeve is the trend in which a movie’s subject has been deemed so important that the only appropriate title is the name of the event in question. In the cases of Pearl Harbor and Titanic, the title would seem to indicate that this is the definitive telling of a historical event. But I’d say it’s an ill-advised tactic, considering the criticism sure to be fired off if the film falls short of those lofty expectations.

I guess Pearl Harbor was determined to learn the hard way. Titanic was appropriate enough, considering that the only interesting thing about the movie was watching the damned boat sink. But for comparison, look back 40 years to A Night to Remember, which also told the story of the Titanic. Now, that’s a title! Not only is it memorable, it’s also deliciously ironic.

Now, though, Hollywood seems to think that the best policy is to keep the title as simple as possible, so that mainstream America won’t be scared off by the prospect of having to think too much. The upcoming Mariah Carey movie, for instance, was originally called All That Glitters before being truncated to Glitter.

What in the world was wrong with All That Glitters? It implies something without telling you everything. Glitter, though a shorter tag, somehow manages to convey something entirely different, and in much less imaginative terms. Or look at this year’s Academy Award contenders. The winner for Best Picture was the unimaginatively titled Gladiator, which conveyed exactly what a cow pie you were in for. Meanwhile, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which deserved the award, was shut out for being clever, unusual, and original.

Maybe you can judge a book by its cover these days.

Quotidian Challenge

“Don’t you think that idea is a little half-baked?”

“Oh no, Dad, it’s completely baked.”

Be the first to e-mail the origin of this useless bit of trivia to poplife the shame of your name printed in the paper and some free useless crap from the Nashville Scene!

Previous week’s answer: “I used to live at home, now I stay in the house.”—“Here Comes a Regular” by The Replacements.

Winner: Charles Ellis.

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