Illustration by Hilton Dresden
Foreplay: Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2010)
Kevin Smith combines his most acclaimed strategies–the slacker workplace comedy of Clerks and the slack romantic-geek comedy of Chasing Amy–into an elongated burlesque about platonic Pittsburgh roommates Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miriam (Elizabeth Banks), old high school friends, who attempt to get out of debt by joining the amateur porn craze. What makes this formula “indie” is Smith’s brazen primitivism. He boasts crudeness in working-class men and women’s sex talk. Like a low budget Judd Apatow comedy, Smith flashes vulgarities. He satirizes the confusions of porn and gets lost in them, too..
Press Play: From the Terrace (1960)
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were Hollywood’s blond version of Richard Burton and Liz Taylor celebrity actors duo and this adaptation of John O’Hara’s novel is close to the top of Paul & Joanne’s teamwork. They play a mismatched couple whose marriage crumbles due to career ambitions and class conflicts among Pennsylvania elites. It’s a splashy deluxe soap opera in the Douglas Sirk tradition but directed with straightforward melodrama by Mark Robson from Ernest Lehman’s screenplay adaptation. Newman’s blue-eyed sincerity is tempted by brown-eyed virginal Ina Balin while Woodward steals the film flashing platinum-blonde rich-bitch chic.
Play Time: Black Widow (1988)
This cat-and-mouse murder mystery starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell is also the best example of the Single White Female stalker-double genre. DOJ agent Winger hunts down serial killer Russell (who victimizes a string of rich husbands). Each woman’s envy of the other provides the psychological twist, sometimes turning this thriller into a topsy-turvy feminist comedy. Director Bob Rafelson gets definitive performances from the sexiest American actresses of the 1980s and Conrad Hall photographs them in sparkling light and deep shadows, a stunning film noir in color. Nicol Williamson, Terry O’Quinn and Sami Frey guest star as male victims.