Rogue 10: Ten Films Involving Pornography That Aren't Actually Porn

Wednesday, 17 August 2011 10:56 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Rogue 10: Ten Films Involving Pornography That Aren't Actually Porn

In this often Puritanical culture of ours, jam packed as it is with hypocritical attitudes on sexuality, the whiff of pornography on any film can drive away audiences in droves, as people often assume that any adult-film connotations must mark the film itself as obscene trash.  This is odd, as we love movies about all manner of criminality, up to and including serial killing, yet we're able to make the distinction between the subject and the art, no matter how heinous the crimes involved.

In the new comedy Meet Monica Velour, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, Kim Catrall plays Linda Romanoli, a retired porn actress who had her heyday in the 1980's and is now a single mother working hard to make ends meet.  When she's tracked down by an awkward teenager, played by Dustin Ingram, who idolizes her based on her days as Monica Velour, the two form an unlikely connection that yields surprising results for both.  Inspired by Meet Monica Velour, our latest Rogue 10 list presents ten films that may involve the porn industry, but that are really about far more than that.

10. Zack and Miri Make a Porno

The first entry on our adult-themed list has a self-explanatory title, with Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as the titular pair, two broke-ass best friends and roommates who figure the best way to make some money in this difficult economy is to make a home-grown Star Wars-themed porn movie.  Writer-director Kevin Smith captures an oddly childish "Let's put on a show!" spirit, while also engaging in dirty talk and fecal gags aplenty.

9. The Amateurs

This movie, written and directed by Michael Traeger, marks one of two Jeff Bridges appearances on the inventory.  He stars as a recently divorced loser who sets out to one-up his ex-wife's wealthy new husband by making a full-length pornographic feature using only actors from his small town.  Like Zack and Miri, there's an upstart sweetness at work, particularly in the small-town bonds between Bridges as the hero and his cohorts played by Ted Danson, William Fichtner, Joe Pantaliano, Patrick Fugit, and Tim Blake Nelson (who also shows up on this list twice).

8. Pornstar: The Legend of Ron Jeremy

At first examination, you might expect this 2001 documentary to be about a physically-less-than ideal man who lucks out in the lottery of life, becoming the world's most unlikely pornographic actor.  While Ron Jeremy, affectionately dubbed "The Hedgehog" is indeed a porn star, the film is surprisingly insightful and detail-oriented; we see Jeremy's often-painfully earnest desire to become a mainstream actor, and we also see him getting a routine but nonetheless nerve-wracking HIV test.

7. Wonderland

If you were wondering what the second movie featuring Tim Blake Nelson on the list is, you just found it.  He's a supporting played, though; Val Kilmer stars a real-life 1970's porn actor John Holmes aka Johnny Wadd.  Holmes' pornographic background and a frequently-mentioned physically attribute are accounted for, but director James Cox's film is more centered on Holmes' self-destruction, focusing on his role in a horrific 1981 crime.  Plus, it gives Lisa Kudrow a rare chance to deliver a dramatically charged performance.  Just try to ignore the hugely distracting Paris Hilton cameo.

6. The Girl Next Door

Essentially one giant wish-fulfillment fantasy that allows an uptight teenager to fall in love with both the Madonna and the prostitute, this movie stars Emile Hirsch as the JFK-idolizing student and Elisha Cuthbert as his new neighbor, a soulful and loving former porn starlet.  Overall, the story is much more a high school movie than one about pornography, but it does include a menacing, delightful turn from Timothy Olyphant as Cuthbert's ex-boyfriend/producer.

5. The Big Lebowski

Hey, Jeff Bridges, good to see you again.  Porn is only tangentially related to Joel and Ethan Coen's main story here, with The Dude eventually ending up at the Malibu home of porn producer Jackie Treehorn, a guy who, "treats objects like women, man."  He gets there as the result of Bunny Lewbowski's involvement in adult film, specifically a "beaver picture" called Logjammin', in which she stars with Uli the Nihilist. 

4. Inside Deep Throat

This NC-17 documentary from Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato is about 1972's Deep Throat, the most famous porn film ever made.  But it's really about so much more than that, weaving the odd tale of the film's creation with a history of sexuality in America and the cultural seismic shift that Deep Throat  represented, with the Puritanical establishment rallying against it and irrepressible human sexuality making it something of a phenomenon.

3. The People vs Larry Flynt

First off: Woody Harrelson is outstanding as Larry Flynt, the Hustler publisher who has defiantly defended his First Amendment right to be a purveyor of smut for decades.  Flynt is appropriately represented as the kind of entertaining figure who unapologetically wears a gold necklace in the shape of a vagina, but like Inside Deep Throat, this film is really about the controversies and liberties that pornography represents in our fractious democracy.

2. Orgazmo

Before Trey Parker and Matt Stone made their mark as the creators of South Park and professional mockers of Mormonism on Broadway, Parker directed and starred in this ridiculous low budget comedy about Joe Young, a Mormon missionary in Los Angeles who stumbles into the porn business.  There, he discovers his destiny as Orgazmo, a superheroic figure who employs a high-tech Orgazmorater.  Porn is just a backdrop for Parker and Stone's signature style of happily abrasive vulgarity.

1. Boogie Nights

This is a predictable number one, but our goal here is not to be cunning, and Paul Thomas Anderson's sprawling ensemble is not simply a great film set in the porn industry, it's a flat-out great film.  Based loosely on the life of John Holmes (see #7) Anderson's story charts the rise and fall of a goodhearted young dimwit, played by Mark Wahlberg, who adopts the stage name of Dirk Diggler.  Boogie Nights is packed with well-realized tertiary characters, all of whom undergo substantial changes.  As such, the overtly Altman-inspired film is packed with excellent performances, but the big tour de force comes from Anderson himself, with his audaciously confident, surprisingly funny, and ultimately moving film.

Here's an example of PT Anderson's hilarious command of 70's-style porn, provided by the opening credits of Diggler and Chest Rockwell's passion project:


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