Monthly Archives: October 2011
I’m having trouble figuring out how to start this review of what I think is a perfect movie. A bold opening sentence, I know, but any accurate synopsis would spoil so much of what makes Red State great that my writing one would do all five of you reading this blog a disservice.
“But what’s so perfect about it, yo?” you wonder. “If you were a good writer, you could make your point without spending so much time focusing on how difficult you’re finding it to make your point.”
Red State is perfect for the same reason any Perfect Movie is perfect: It starts strong, gets better, then ends. A simple formula, really, but few films even aim for that let alone pull it off. So many movies these days rely on huge set pieces, mind-blowing action sequences, and high-concept drama that they blow their loads early. Everything after the Great Part lags. You yawn. Check your phone. Tweet about the cool bits.
Red State starts with a strong small-town horror set up, then takes one unpredictable turn after another, each better than the last, and ends sharp. The characters are (sometimes frighteningly) believable and the acting couldn’t have been any better (especially from Michael Parks [as Fred Phelps meets David Koresh] and John Goodman). Throw a little cultural commentary into the mix and you’ve got yourself a Perfect Movie.
Watch it on Netflix, guys. Seriously.
Every one of the first six Netflix user reviews for Michael Grecco‘s Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry give it a 1-star rating. “It is NOT a true doccumentary,” one reviewer whines. Another says it “makes porn boring”. The comment rated most helpful by the Netflix community reads, “This documentary sux!!!!!!!”
Those people are all wrong, and because they’re unanimously and vocally so, I feel obligated to correct them.
First order of business: Naked Ambition is not a documentary about porn. It’s a documentary about Grecco’s attempt to shoot a coffee table photography book in only three days. His subject just happens to be the Adult Video News awards show in Las Vegas. People expecting a straight documentary about porn will be disappointed (though there’s plenty of sex-free nudity), and that’s their own fault. The film’s synopsis clearly states that the doc is about Grecco working to compile photos for his book, which brings me to my next point.
Second order of business: Naked Ambition is not an advertisement for Grecco’s book (also named Naked Ambition: blah blah blah). Many reviewers complain that it’s self-indulgent and that Grecco is creepy. None of this is true. It’s about Grecco shooting for his book. Of course he’s going to talk about it. The man worked 20 hours a day for 3 days and you don’t want to hear about the finished product!? Would you complain that The Beatles Let It Be film is an advertisement for the album?
Third order of business: Naked Ambition is not entirely without plot or insight. Plotwise, it follows one thread about Grecco making his book and another about two up-and-coming young actresses vying for the coveted Best New Starlet award. Along the way it provides a glimpse of some porn stars’ real personalities, and they aren’t exceptionally strange or emotionally damaged at all. Throw in some behind-the-scenes peeks at the awards show and the convention preceding it and, as an added bonus, brief interviews with some of the most interesting sex toy creators you’ll ever see, and this doc has way more substance than prude reviewers would have you believe.
You see, it starts as a straight documentary about a photographer shooting for a coffee table book. Interviews along the way introduce stars, inventors, and awards. Slowly, you start caring more about the people and less about the book and the porn. Will Sunny Lane, a former figure skater and current Next Big Thing, win an award? Will Grecco land a photo-op with smut legend and First Amendment crusader Larry Flynt? I’m not telling.
Naked Ambition is an excellent documentary, folks. If you’re interested in photography, porn, awards shows, or convention expos, (and who doesn’t love convention expos?), you’ll dig this flick.
I’m right. As usual.