Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bad sex scenes

AAAAARGH!!! I've had it up to here with bad, gratuitous, overwritten, ridiculous sex scenes. The hack writer seems determined to get his characters down and dirty repeatedly in his script. Yet interestingly, expect for cases where the sex is totally integral to the plot, like Disclosure. (And I have NO idea why Disclosure was the first film that leapt to mind there. I haven't even seen that film in something like 15 years), I can't think of too many major studio releases with long, on-screen sex scenes.

Sure, there's plenty of setting up the sex and then showing the aftermath. And yes, this usually involves getting the attractive leads into some state of undress, but are there many movies where we're voyeurs for much of the act? My gut says no.

So hit me with your sexiest moments in film. I'm curious to see how many of you name actual sex scenes versus scenes that are content simply to tease.


  1. The funny sex-scene opening of AWAY WE GO was so clever. Finally a way to show someone is pregnant besides morning sickness.

    As for actual sexiness, BASIC INSTINCT comes to mind. Also any British period piece in which people are stuffy and chaste for two hours and then finally get it on. Those old Brits can make even just a kiss sexy because everything's so forbidden. I loved the passion in BRIGHT STAR, which was PG. Less is more, people.

  2. See, I've always had a beef with this - I think sex scenes always take me right out of the story (unless integral to the plot as mentioned, such as Disclosure and Basic Instinct - coincidence they're both Michael Douglas films?). They're the point at which my brain clicks into 'okay, now instead of being absorbed in the story, characters and world of this film, I am watching two actors pretend to have sex.'

    It's why I think 'raunchy' modern comedies like Knocked Up or Friends With Benefits are the devil's spawn made flesh - I don't want to pay my £6.20 to watch two hot actors pretend to fool around for two hours. I WANT PLOT

    A recent episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day has attracted a lot of criticism for showing two long and somewhat gratuitous boy-on-boy love scenes - the producers would argue it was essential to sell the romance between Cpt. Jack and the other guy, I'd argue did we really NEED to spend a good 10 minutes of the 50min running time on all that? Why not show the beginnings of a fumble then cut to the aftermath so we can get back on with, you know, the actual story?

    Maybe I'm just an old prude, but for me it's always been something I get a bit huffy about in film and TV.

    Actual sexy moments in film? All of SHOWGIRLS, obviously. Especially that bit where Liz Berkely thrashes around in the swimming pool like a beached goldfish, while Kyle McLahchlan grimly clings to both her and his dignity.

    Or not.

  3. I've always felt that sex is not a spectator sport. Flirting is fun, what happens afterwards is fun; the actual sex is rather like a boring chase scene, the sort where you just want the hero to catch the bad guy so we can go back to advancing the plot...

    The only explicit sex scene I've ever seen that actually advances the plot and illuminates the characters is the scene on the staircase in A History Of Violence. Something has changed catastrophically in this couple's relationship, and it's hard to see how else this could have been conveyed...

  4. I've always liked the scene in Bound between Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon. Not only is it sexy as hell but it crystallizes the relationship between these two women and informs their actions for the rest of the film.

    re: Monster Zero - I have a problem with all of the gay sex in the Dr. Who/Torchwood universe. Not because of any prejudice, but because the writing team is led by a gay man who uses the show(s) as a platform to shout "Look! Gay people! We're alright really, please accept us!"

    If you want to send a message.....

  5. The Name of the Rose. Slater and the girl, felt like real, first-time, sex.

  6. For hilarity, it's hard to beat the "disrobing" scene between Eastwood and Russo in In the Line of Fire.

    For steam, Ripley stripping off her clothes in preparation for hypersleep in Alien is genuinely erotic and melds well with the storyline, thus managing to avoid feeling gratuitous. It may be Weaver's sexiest moment onscreen.

  7. Emma Thompson & Jeff Goldblum in The Tall Guy. Both hilarious and sensual at the same time.

  8. how about Monster's Ball? The scene between Billy Bob and Halle Barry is intense and taboo-breaking.

    Another good one is High Fidelity when Rob is imagining his ex having sex with the dreaded Ian (Tim Robbins). A similar scene occurs in Office Space when Peter imagines Jennifer Aniston getting boinked by Lumbergh.

  9. Will Forte and the ghost of Maya Rudolph in "MacGruber." Best. Sex Scene. Ever.

  10. Zuul, any pointers on how to write such scenes?

    I've always felt them to be like action scenes, so unless you really need to choreograph them, it's best to keep things simple. In the end, imho, it's not the writing that's going make such a scene hot and sexy, and really pop.

    In general I do 2 or 3 short paragraphs of setup, and the last line of my last paragraph is always, "they make love", "they fuck like bunnies" or something like that.

    The only embellishment I've ever added is a request for a specific song, and specific lyrics from that song that highlights one or the other's emotional state.

  11. If you're looking for intense, honest (and graphic) sex scenes, give "Shortbus" a watch. It took a lot of courage to act in that film, let alone get from script to screen.

  12. With all those scenes, it would be interesting to see what was on the page.

    What is an example of a sex scene done well on the page?

  13. THELMA AND LOUISE...who can forget Brad Pitt in that damn cowboy hat, holding a hair dryer? Mmhmm.

  14. There are multiple sex scenes in David Cronenberg's Crash that are essential to the plot (you could say sex is the plot), although that film might not be for everyone. Gotta love James Spader because I'm gonna give you three more examples that I think are good: Secretary, Sex, Lies and Videotape, and an underrated film called Dream Lover. Those three all have well made sex scenes that feel true and are not just pre and post-coital.

  15. @Rob - Not to mention the atheist message. The older episodes are not like that that I can remember. Not even the Douglas Adams ones. I hate it when a show preaches to me ANY belief system. I believe in God, but I will not watch religion-centric shows like Touched By An Angel for all the preaching and I don't want any "God is a myth" preaching either. Just give me an entertaining story and let me believe whatever I want IRL.

    Don't forget the guy who plays Jack is gay too. Though his character is known to get it on with ALL genders and it would be nice to see him make out with a female or even a hermaphrodite once in awhile for a change of pace. The guy on guy stuff is SO BORING already! Though I am glad they show a macho gay man. I'm sick and tired of the "wimpy flamboyant gay guy" crap. When I was taking drama classes the guys who were macho, could beat anyone up types were 85% of the time gay and the wimpy, semi-feminine ones were straight 85% of the time. Only stereotypes that fit - the macho gay guys had strong fathers or father figures growing up. The feminine straight guys were either raised by a single mother or a female ruled the roost and the men were all weak growing up.

    As a straight woman who is mistaken for a lesbian because of "masculine traits" - and that's because I have 3 older brothers and no sisters - I am freaking sick and tired of all the gay stereotypes out there.

    I can't think of any movie where showing the sex is important. Unless the characters are murdered during sex. Like a husband walks in on his wife having an affair and blows out the brains of her and her lover. Other than that, have them kiss then show them cuddling, but no sex please. It's boring.

    I often think that over blown sex scenes are written by virgins. I know I was hung up on imagining/writing them until I found out - it's really not that big of a deal. Nothing to write home, or scripts, about.

  16. 15 comments! I know all I usually need to do to get you folks talking is bring up s-e-x. This could totally change the talkbacks I do. Tomorrow: who'd you rather? Princess Leia or Queen Amadala?


    I agree with most of the early comments that basically were of the less-is-more thought. Someone asked about my tips for writing a good sex scene, and I think "restraint" is key. (Restraint in the tenor and tone of the writing - not bondage, which is an entirely different bag of cats....) There were a couple of explicit examples pointed out, but I think by and large most sex scenes feel awkward on-screen.

    On the page, they're often worse. There's some screenwriting book I read that offered the advice that love scenes should try to arouse the reader. I think that's bad advice and it leads to hack writing like a four-page sex scene that details every thrust and moan with all the vivid detail of a romance novel.

    Writing sex scenes is like writing fight scenes - don't choreograph every blow. Leave the nuts and bolts to the choreographer. And I don't usually go for soundtrack suggestions. At this point, seeing Nine Inch Nails provide the audio wallpaper for yet another aggressive sex scene makes me either giggle or roll my eyes.

    I'd love to know if there was a sex scene done well on the page, because no major examples spring to mind.

  17. The fundamental problem with writing a sex scene, is that anything you put on the page is going to seem prosaic and mundane in comparison to what these executives get up to in their private lives.

  18. btw. Leia or Amidala?
    The correct answer is together, so you can have the ultimate mother/daughter threesome.

  19. okay then, if this is where we're going to take this thread... which is the "ultimate" M/D threesome: Leia & Amidala or Rory & Lorelei?

    I just KNOW that's going to provoke emails I probably should ignore.

  20. I'll see your santa hat, and raise you a metal bikini.

  21. The Metal Bikini wins every time. Ten billion cosplayers can't be wrong.

  22. You mean I CAN'T use 'Closer' for my love scene? *gasp* But that was my Best Idea Ever to make it all edgy and shit! Curse you Zuul!

    And on the other topic - is it just me, or is Queen Amidala from the new Clone Wars CG cartoon series actually kind of hot? The fact that I have thought this concerns me o_0

  23. Sex scenes that actually work in the film, and are actually sexy to me as well are rare.

    The earlier sex scene with Maria Bello and Mortensen in A History of Violence for sure. The stair scene is amazing and integral to the characters, but the cheerleader encounter was stunning.

    Also, I remember Maria Bello (maybe she's the key to it!) with William H Macy in The Cooler being a very real seeming scene.

    Bill Pullman and Kim Dickens getting together in Zero Effect is very tender, and sexy - and again is key to the film.

    And one scene that always drips sexy to me, but shows almost nothing more than a kiss is Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity. The way she keeps looking at him and moving to block him leaving the bathroom is incredible.

    When I think of Disclosure I just remember the virtual corridor chase scene and giggle.

  24. out of sight is pretty hot, but soderbergh said he shot a lot less than what was required.

    21 grams had a very graphic and dramatic love scene.

    Ang Lee's lust, caution had very graphic but unsexy sex scenes.

  25. The opening scene in BETTY BLUE is still the king. Who knows what that looked like on the page, though.