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Erika Lust’s Alternative Porn Vision

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LaBruce, who just wrapped up a feature-length parody porn movie set in the fashion industry, said in a phone interview that he was not surprised by the recent resurgence of negative attitudes toward porn. “The idea that porn is a male way of controlling women — that used to be the providence of the Christian right,” he said. “Now, the left and the right have kind of flipped.”

The anthropologist Gayle Rubin, who was on the “pro-sex” feminist side of the 1970s and ’80s “sex wars,” opposing calls for censorship, said by phone that pornography was “easy to pick on” because, historically, it had been marginalized socially and legally.

“You know in movies when you think the monster is dead, but it just keeps coming back?” she said. “These assumptions about porn just keep resurfacing, going back more than four decades.

“Many people just don’t think as rigorously about porn as they do other topics. Porn is a special case in how it’s treated intellectually, which is badly — even among philosophers and others who should know better,” Rubin said.

While the porn industry is not known for critical reflection, there are, however, events like the Berlin Porn Film Festival, an annual gathering that seeks to provide new perspectives on the genre — artistic, social and even philosophical. Paulita Pappel, a porn performer and director who is one of the event’s curators, said that porn was often “a mirror of wider problems in society.” She added that, “The more we scapegoat and stigmatize it, the less space there will be for porn to be diverse, and the less chance we have to change the bigger issues.”

When Lust screened her first feature-length movie, “The Intern,” to a sold-out audience at the festival in October, many in the audience — men, women and gender nonconforming people, mostly in their 20 and 30s — said that they came to see the film in search of an alternative to traditional porn.



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Hilary Duff Is Back, in ‘How I Met Your Father’

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The girl next door has a new apartment.

Hilary Duff — forever young, forever pert, forever blond — found a home on the Disney Channel two decades ago as Lizzie McGuire, a self-possessed tween with an animated alter ego. After forays into music, where she went multiplatinum, and film, where she and her sister, Haylie Duff, racked up a few Razzie nominations, she stopped chasing auditions.

“I had been touring for four years,” she said. “And I really just needed a break.”

She married the hockey player Mike Comrie, and had a son, now 9. Two years later, in the midst of her divorce, she received an offer for Darren Star’s TV Land rom-com series, “Younger,” and went on to spend seven delightful seasons as the brash publishing executive Kelsey Peters.

Along the way she had a daughter with the musician Matthew Koma, whom she married just before the pandemic. She became pregnant again a year later. In her ninth month, with “Younger” newly wrapped, she heard from Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, co-showrunners of “This Is Us” (with Dan Fogelman) who were putting a new spin on the echt-00’s sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

That series, which ran on CBS from 2005-14, starred Josh Radnor as the mother meeter, with a supporting cast that included Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel. In the new show, “How I Met Your Father,” Duff plays the lovelorn heroine — a striving photographer named Sophie with a perky New York apartment that few real starving artists would be able to afford. (Kim Cattrall appears onscreen as the older, cashmere-clad version of Sophie.)

Duff had seen only a few episodes of the original. “I like murder too much to watch comedy,” she said. But after some initial hesitation, she agreed. The show debuted its first two episodes last week, with eight more to follow on a weekly basis.

Very early on a recent weekday morning, Duff arrived on a video call from her Los Angeles home looking seraphic in a white dress embellished with broderie anglaise. Despite a few interruptions — hug bombs from her three-year-old daughter, a TikTok shoot by Koma (“He’ll do anything for some content,” she said indulgently) — Duff spoke about her career past and present and whether she, like Sophie, believes in soul mates. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

You were 13 when “Lizzie McGuire” debuted in 2001. What was it like growing up on camera?

With Lizzie, that was me — those lines were very blurred. I was that mismatch queen in my everyday life. Some of the things that happened to her were comforting to play out loud because they were also happening to me. She became really real to me. Then I shot the movie when I was 15, turning 16, and I wanted my own identity. I’d be out on the street and everyone would be like, “Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie!” I wanted to be known as Hilary. Now I’ve fully come to peace with it. I love her, and I am so grateful for that experience. But from probably 17 to 25, it killed me.

You moved to music. You made movies. Then your career seemed to downshift. How did you find your way back to television?

I got married. I had my son. I learned that I love to cook; I love to entertain; I love my dogs; I love bicycle riding. I just started to find out who I was, you know? I didn’t get a chance to explore any of that stuff on tour, locked in a hotel room, or a bus or a stage. “Younger” found me when Mike and I were about to get divorced. No one knew. I read the script and I’m like, this could be great. I get to play an adult. It’s fun. It’s sweet. Like, I am that person.

Kelsey is also driven, and very good at her job.

She knows her worth. It took me longer to find my worth. Maybe I learned from her. But I was like: “I can’t come to New York. I’m so sorry. I’m about to get a divorce. And I have a baby.” [Darren Star] was like: “No, no, you can. We’re just going to shoot the pilot. No big deal.” It feels great to be wanted by someone like Darren Star. I did it, and then it lasted seven years.

Then the week I got back to L.A., I got the call from Isaac and Elizabeth. I’m like: “Why are you calling me? I’m about to have a baby. You want me for this role of this 30-something girl who doesn’t have kids?” Obviously, the title scared me a lot. I was not into doing a reboot, and it was such a beloved show. That cast was incredible together, so buttoned up and tight. Then Isaac was like, it’s a sequel. No one’s trying to be this person or that person. The cast is off on their own adventure.

And that sold you?

Well, I loved Sophie and I never really got to have that time in my 30s where I just dated and tried and fell on my face a bunch. I definitely have had struggles. But not in that way of like, Where am I going to land? Am I just a loser? Sophie is a romantic. She has this idea that her person’s out there, but she’s going to learn that she’s got to make herself whole first.

Have they told you who the father is yet?

I’ve given up because they’re just going to cat-and-mouse me, bat me around. It’s actually kind of hard to navigate sometimes shooting because I have moments with all the guys. It’s almost like “The Bachelor,” but better. Everyone is a possibility. So I’ve given up guessing.

Is it exciting knowing you’re going to grow up to become Kim Cattrall?

Hell yeah. When I sat next to her in all the photos, I was like, God, I need your posture. I just need to become you. For me, it just feels sweet because I have a son, and I can’t wait to drink too much wine and be cozy in my cashmere on my couch one day, telling him stories.

Sophie believes in soul mates. Do you?

Not really. That might crush my husband to hear me say that. Because he is absolutely the more tender, thoughtful one, and I don’t think I could do this with anyone besides him. I love him so much more than I ever thought I could love a person, and it’s just grown through us having all these damn children. I’m so happy. I thought I was just going to do it by myself forever. But I don’t think I actually believe in soul mates. I think there are a lot of people out there that you can be compatible with, be in love with, and those scales move up and down. It’s just a matter of doing the work to find your way back together, or not.

I understand you tested positive a week into the “How I Met Your Father” shoot.

Oh no, I tested positive the first day of work. I had not gotten Covid all through the “Younger” shoot. I was vaxxed up.

We had our first day of rehearsal. I’d never done multicam before, and I had no idea what to do. I was only four months out of having a baby. I got in the car and cried to my husband: “I don’t know if I can do this job. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This isn’t who I am.” And that night, I got the results back at like 4 in the morning. It was awful. And I shut us down one more time because my son got Covid.

What happened to the planned “Lizzie McGuire” revival? Did it fall apart because the show wanted to acknowledge the existence of sex and the network didn’t?

It’s been a wild adventure. I was not really willing to bend, because of the age that Lizzie is, and they weren’t willing to bend, and we politely and lovingly paused. It’s not dead. And it’s not alive. I’m always here to explore that character because it’s such a big part of me. You never know.

The nice thing about the arc of your career is that you managed to become an adult actor without having to disown the tween actor that you were. You’ve kept playing these funny, ambitious, outspoken, openhearted women.

That means a lot to me. Navigating and not abandoning that was challenging, when it seemed other people were trying to make big moves to be taken seriously. That’s really not who I am. And I’m not embarrassed of anything I did. I’m finally settled with that.





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Justin Peck and Collaborators Combine Gravitational Universes

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A few months ago, Justin Peck, the resident choreographer of New York City Ballet, was entertaining his baby daughter with a set of building blocks as he listened to the first movement of Caroline Shaw’s a cappella “Partita for 8 Voices.” He was thinking about how to approach the densely packed music, layered with speech, vocal effects and wordless harmonies, when he noticed that his daughter’s toy set contained eight shapes. Together, they began to move the shapes around to the music.

“We came up with the structural pattern that starts the ballet!” Peck said, referring to “Partita,” his new work for New York City Ballet, which will have its premiere on Thursday, the opening night of the company’s delayed winter season at Lincoln Center.

Set to Shaw’s Pulitzer Prize-winning composition and performed by eight dancers in sneakers, the ballet has vibrantly colored hanging fabric sets, designed by Eva LeWitt, the daughter of the artist Sol LeWitt, whose “Wall Drawing 305” was an inspiration for Shaw’s score.

“It has really felt like a back-and-forth conversation, from Caroline incorporating text from Sol LeWitt’s instructional drawings, then me interpreting that work and bringing in Eva to create her own response to the music and dance,” Peck said. “The whole experience feels like the most alive thing I have been part of in terms of the creative, artistic expression.”

In a joint video interview a week before the premiere, the three creators discussed their responses to one another’s work and how practical parameters and pedestrian elements were important to each aspect of the ballet.

Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Justin, you originated the project?

JUSTIN PECK Yes. When I first heard “Partita,” after Caroline won the Pulitzer, I was totally blown away. Sometimes as a choreographer you will hear music and think, let’s choreograph it tomorrow. But with this work, I felt I had to live with it, listen to it steadily for several years. I consider it to be one of the most important compositions of the last decade, so I didn’t take it lightly.

In April last year, I worked up the courage to reach out to Caroline, who I had worked with on small things. She was really supportive of the idea, and I felt like City Ballet was the place to do the work because the dancers have such musical sensitivity.

How did you discover Eva’s work?

PECK While I was doing a lot of deep-dive listening and research on Caroline’s process, I noticed that a lot of the lyrics were pulled from the LeWitt instructional drawings. Through that rabbit hole I stumbled on Eva’s work, and was immediately blown away by that too. You can feel a little bit of her father’s influence, but it’s so uniquely her own voice, and has a dimensionality and theatricality that I thought would work well in a live performance setting.

Caroline, “Partita” alludes to Baroque dance suites in the names of its sections: Allemande, Sarabande, Courante, Passacaglia. Did you think of it as a score for dance?

CAROLINE SHAW I didn’t literally imagine it being choreographed, but it felt really visual and as if I were choreographing with sound rather than dance.

When I wrote the piece, which was over three summers, I was freelancing as a violinist and singer in New York, and also accompanying dance classes all over the city. So all those counts and rhythms were swirling around my brain at the time. I truly fell back in love with music through dance.

I was playing a lot of Baroque violin pieces at the time, and Bach uses all these dance forms, so it felt like a great jumping-off point. Each movement in “Partita” does relate to the original Baroque dance, but they are abstractions, holding seeds of those original meters and feels, but quickly moving further. It was a playful experiment with form, and a conversation with the past.

Eva, were you influenced by the score? How did you approach the design?

EVA LEWITT I had done an exhibition at the ICA in Boston, and Justin really liked the asymmetric, random quality of that work, so I took that as a freedom to kind of paint with sculpture and fabric. I wanted to leave space for the dancers, to frame them, but also be idiosyncratic with colors and spacing, and I was definitely influenced by energy of “Partita.”

Gravity is very important in my work; the pieces really have to hang, that’s what creates the shapes, defines the circles and forms. That’s so linked to dance, to humans moving through space, and to the voice too. Those gravitational universes are important to all our art forms.

Justin, does each dancer correspond to a voice in the score?

PECK Not exactly. I thought about that a lot, and made a very meticulous, mapped-out text that deciphered each voice and how the dancers could hear and count it. It was a level of preparation that I have never done before. There were moments when I thought maybe one dancer would correspond to a certain voice, but it became too much of a constraint. Vocally, it’s eight individual voices, and I think choreographically it feels like eight individual dance voices.

Actually, from the play with the building blocks, I’ve got notes that read “Harrison [Coll] is the lime-green rhino, Taylor [Stanley] is the yellow leaf,” and so on!

You have created movement with a distinctive loose-limbed, grounded quality that seems different from your previous work. Did this come from your sense of the music?

PECK Yes, the music is so unlike anything I have worked with before. But it also came from what Eva created. There is so much in her work that is about the tension and the harmony of the line versus the curve. That very simple, mundane visual quality really influenced the choreography. There is so much in it that is geometrical, and about those tensions and harmonies.

Why did you decide to put the dancers in sneakers?

PECK I went back and forth for a while whether it should be in pointe shoes or sneakers, and decided that sneakers felt right. The physical language feels to me like modern Americana folk dance, where I am able to pull influences from beyond ballet and incorporate them into dance language that feels very current, and deeply personal to me as a New Yorker. There is a comfort and relatability that I think communicates a different experience for the audience.

SHAW I really like the decision to do it in sneakers because it relates to the way I wrote the music. Everything in it comes from speech, and the spoken word isn’t highbrow. I wanted to use natural ways of speaking, all the sounds we make, just American voices, and turn that into music. It’s something pedestrian, shaped into something else.

LEWITT I love that idea and the practical parameters of making something for the stage. A lot of my work is made with fabric and plastics, and has an inherent sway to it, and I realized I could create an environment for the dancers in which the set too had movement.

PECK The music, the dance, the design, it all feels in motion, never static. That’s the quality we were aiming to achieve. We’re doubling down on what makes live performance so great; that it’s happening in the moment, that you feel the energy coming from the stage, the performance. This is the closest I’ve gotten as an artist to having that quality on all fronts.



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Alec Baldwin Seeks Dismissal of ‘Rust’ Lawsuit

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Lawyers for the actor Alec Baldwin and other producers behind the film “Rust” filed a motion on Monday seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the movie’s script supervisor, who was feet away from the actor on the movie set in New Mexico when he fatally shot a cinematographer.

The script supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, said in her lawsuit, filed last year, that she was standing nearby when the gun fired a live bullet that killed the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and wounded the film’s director, Joel Souza. Mitchell then ran out of the wooden church set that had been the backdrop for the scene and called 911.

The lawsuit claimed that Ms. Mitchell “sustained serious physical trauma and shock and injury to her nervous system and person” as a result of her proximity to the shooting. It accused Baldwin of “intentionally, without just cause or excuse,” cocking and firing the revolver in a scene that did not call for it.

In Monday’s court filing, lawyers for Mr. Baldwin wrote that he could not have intentionally shot a live bullet from the gun because shortly before it discharged, the movie’s first assistant director called out “cold gun,” indicating that the old-fashioned revolver being used as a prop did not contain any live bullets and should have been safe to handle.

“It is completely illogical for plaintiff to contend defendant Mr. Baldwin received a prop gun that everyone including plaintiff and defendant Mr. Baldwin expected to be ‘cold,’ while at the same time stating that Mr. Baldwin’s conduct was intentional in accidentally firing a live round,” the filing said.

Mr. Baldwin said in a television interview last year that he did not pull the trigger of the gun while he was practicing on set that day. He said he did not fully cock the hammer of the gun, but pulled it back and let it go in an action that might have set it off.

The filing from Mr. Baldwin’s and the production’s lawyers also asserted that Ms. Mitchell’s grievance did not qualify as a complaint under New Mexico’s workers’ compensation law.

Ms. Mitchell’s lawsuit targeted the production more broadly for making a series of what she called “cost-cutting measures,” including hiring a 24-year-old armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was just starting out her career as a lead armorer in the industry. Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer has said that she was dedicated to safety on set; she filed her own lawsuit against the film’s supplier of guns and ammunition.

The production’s court filing said that Ms. Mitchell’s allegations relied on “a list of things that she contends, in hindsight, should or should not have been done” to ensure safety on set; the production’s lawyers argued that her case was insufficient and should be dismissed.



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