In this special "Valentine's Day" edition of Couch Trip, we asked MT contributor Paul Knoll and his partner to provide commentary on a handful of recently released gay "erotica" titles. That was all we asked. Here's the conversation:
David Paul: I would assume that not much of what we took in had anything to do with "erotica." In fact, I don't even know if it would qualify as porn — except for all the naked guys, and, in this country, naked equals porn.
Paul Knoll: Amen! In Hollywood if you dare show a penis, erect or not, you're asking to get your flick stamped with an NC-17. Fascist MPAA!
Paul: Well, in the first film, they wouldn't have to worry too much about an erect penis. Seriously. If you agree to be in a porn, shouldn't you at least be able to get it up?
Knoll: I think a stiff member is a definite prerequisite. Maybe there should've been a more rigid screening process before they cast the dudes in Vivid's Jockstrap. There were flaccid cocks in every one of the five scenes. One guy even skipped out on his final, ahem, shot.
Paul: Yes, and nary a jockstrap. Normally a title is applied after something is written, but apparently the fine folks who crafted this film thought up and then promptly forgot they gave it the title Jockstrap.
Knoll: That's false advertising as far as I'm concerned. Where's a consumer advocate group when you need one?
Paul: Consumer advocate? How about just some guys in jockstraps?
Knoll: I think Jockstrap is about a sex-obsessed second-string football team that gets abducted by some rednecks when their van breaks down. Oh, yeah, there's a reference to the famous Ned Beatty "Squeal like a pig" scene. Ewww!
Paul: Seriously, Paul. Referencing Deliverance while reviewing second-string porn? I know you like to think of yourself as a serious movie critic, but I doubt the director of this dreck intentionally referenced anything other than his bank account.
Knoll: And the soundtrack was possibly the worst I've ever heard in a porno. The opening score sounded like something from a demented circus or, worse, a '70s variety show. I swear I heard Muzak remixes of Black Box's Strike it Up and Us3's The Cantaloop. It was just plain bizarre.
Paul: And you know things are bad if a porn viewer is looking for something positive in a soundtrack. You could, however, hear lots of guys spitting. Really? What's up with that?
Knoll: Spitting is gross, not sexy.
Paul: This entire movie was not sexy. Which would explain the rampant limp dicks.
Knoll: The models had fewer problems rising to the occasion in the other Vivid flick, The Initiation.
Paul: True, and, ironically, The Initiation seemed to be overflowing with jockstrap-clad studs. Do you think the discs got switched at the factory?
Knoll: Oh, there's no way to confuse these two films.
Paul: Sure there is. They are both round, shiny discs. And do you really think those guys from Jockstrap were allowed to make another film? They are the ones working in the factory doing all the packaging and shipping.
Knoll: Ah. So that's where washed-up gay porn stars go.
Paul: OK, I think that we're straying off track here, boyfriend. Let's get back to the film, which looked like a masterpiece compared to the first one.
Knoll: Well, The Initiation belongs to the well-worn gay porn genre known as frat-boy porn. You know, new pledges are forced to sexually service their brothers as a hazing ritual.
Paul: None of these boys looked forced to do anything. I kinda thought we were watching a behind-the-scenes at Project Runway.
Knoll: Except there's no sewing and no Heidi Klum yelling, "You're out!" at the guys.
Paul: Ah, yes. But there were other things being yelled at the boys that we obviously can't print here. And can I once again ask what the hell is up with all the spitting?
Knoll: I think questions like that are better left for Dan Savage to answer.
Paul: Well, these boys didn't seem to mind it. Not even the one with the welt on his ass, presumably from the scary-looking riding crop the pledgemaster was wielding.
Knoll: I don't know if "boys" is the proper term. Most these guys looked a bit too old to be in a fraternity.
Paul: True. But again, at least these boys/guys/pledges seem to be enjoying themselves, which is a huge improvement over the first porn we watched.
Knoll: Too bad the overly long orgy scene at the end ruined all the excitement of the first two scenes.
Paul: Yeah, I don't think the intent of the director was to have me mentally balancing my checkbook in my head midway through the final scene.
Knoll: I actually dozed off. It was just too hard to keep track of who was who in the scene. I vaguely remember a guy with a Spencer Pratt goatee.
Paul: Hey, at least it held our attention the majority of the time.
Knoll: The Vivid flicks were radically different to Barebacking Fuck Buddies 3 from Cocksure Men.
Paul: Other than setting our people back 20 years? A title like this is all society and gay men need. Don't we already get enough bad press as it is?
Knoll: Whoa, there! I was referring the actual content of the DVD. BFB3 doesn't waste time with things like plot and music. We just get guys going at it without condoms in a sterile generic room that's furnished with Ikea tchotchke.
Paul: I would hardly call two lamps and an occasional plant tchotchke, but, OK. Each scene did have a different color sheet set though, so apparently someone shops the Martha Stewart Everyday Collection. Did I mention that while the guys were an interesting assortment of cute, most seemed strangely awkward and uncomfortable with each other?
Knoll: Yeah, I suppose it was supposed to look un-choreographed, but instead the guys looked like they were fumbling, and ended up in some uncomfortable positions.
Paul: You mean uncomfortable like being-filmed-while-wearing-white-socks-that-both-have-holes-in-the-bottom uncomfortable?
Knoll: Ouch! Yeah, you could see the director clued him in to that fact the minute he got down on all fours. Off they went!
Paul: His mother must be so embarrassed. Wait, her son's doing porn. Suddenly holey socks aren't so bad.
Knoll: BFB3 wasn't any more arousing sans rubbers. For what it's worth, the producers let you know right up front with a disclaimer that the sex acts on the film should not be acted out by nonmonogamous couples and that their models receive a PCR/DNA test. According to the producers, it's significantly more accurate than the antibody test commonly used at health clinics. Again, this sounds like a question Dan Savage should answer.
Paul: And after all this porn, we ended with an "art house" movie. I must admit, after reading the description on the box I would have thought we would end up viewing something completely different from what we actually watched.
Knoll: This was a reccurring theme for us. First a flick called Jockstrap without any jockstraps and now one called Shank without a prison. Time was you could judge a movie by its title. Damn you Squid & the Whale!
Paul: Yeah, and yet there was no soap-dropping either.
Knoll: Instead, we got a serious story about a British kid who sells drugs, is part of gang, and who also happens to be in the closet.
Paul: It's hard enough to fit in when you are a teenager, let alone when you are a teenager in a rough, drug-selling gang. It also doesn't help when you lust after your best mate.
Knoll: Cal ends up on his gang's shit list when he stops them from robbing and beating the shit out of an effeminate French exchange student. The two fall in love and find themselves targets of the gang's hatred.
Paul: Congratulations, patient reader. You have finally made it to a serious film review in this column!
Knoll: I guess I thought this would be more salacious, being that it was the Director's Cut. Erotic this isn't, despite an occasional glimpse of a penis.
Paul: Sex seemed secondary to the story, and there really wasn't much of it to mention.
Knoll: This is a legitimate film with real characters, actual acting and a story arc. Low-budget, sure, but the guys who made Shank were going for a rather unusual coming-out story. And it's pretty good as far as indie gay flicks go.
Paul: Legitimate, real characters with a story arc. Gee, this sounds like us after 15 years together. If I have learned anything from all this, I believe that porn is not better than the real thing. In fact it can be downright boring.
Knoll: Hey, it still beat watching the Super Bowl this weekend.
Paul: That reminds me, I forgot to buy squares.Paul Knoll is proud to be a B-movie critic. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org