Thursday, January 20, 2011
So many movies, so little sex
Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in exactly 100 feature films.
(Wow, what a time for me to check IMDB for his career stats, right?)
I'm talking movies in which he either appeared on screen or provided a voice to the narrator or one of the characters. Those count. What I'm not counting is all the TV shows, TV movies, short films and video games where he is also credited, adding girth to an already impressive IMDB page.
Of these 100 movies, I have seen 43, most recently Mother and Child on Monday night.
Mother and Child also marks the first time I've seen Samuel L. Jackson do a sex scene. Heck, it may be his first sex scene.
In Rodrigo Garcia's film, Jackson and Naomi Watts have sex. I know, that sounds funny, but it works for the characters. It's actually kind of a hot scene, but that's because Watts always gives her all to accurately reproducing the throes of sexual passion. Just remember when we first discovered her in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, ten years ago -- there are several unforgettable sex scenes in that movie. Jackson, for his part, is fully clothed, and basically just lies underneath her -- in fact, she orders him not to move. ("Stay still, old man.") But it counts.
Yep, Jackson is old -- 62 years old now. He's not only been in all those movies, but he's been the lead in many of them. And I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever seen him engaged in sexual congress.
When I pointed this out to my wife, she agreed and noted that he's not usually cast as the romantic lead in a film. In fact, probably never has he been cast in that role. And though secondary characters do have sex in films, most often we're talking about the male and female romantic leads. Jackson has never been cast as either.
Which makes him pretty unusual for a mega-star. How mega? He's appeared in the Star Wars prequels, a couple Tarantino movies, a couple XXX movies with another still to come (the XXX action movie series, not porn, as I have spent this post making abundantly clear), and is set to play Nick Fury in a seemingly endless series of Avengers movies, having already appeared in the role in both Iron Man films. And those are just his recurring affiliations. He's also been in as many good one-off movies as anyone -- and as many bad. (Hey, the man likes to work.)
Yet, no sex.
So what is it about Sam Jackson that keep him from getting any?
I mean, clearly he's handsome enough. He may not possess traditional good looks, but it's no doubt he has a smoldering allure, not to mention a million-dollar smile. But it seems to have something to do with his typecasting. It's funny to suggest that a man who has appeared in three digits worth of movies would be typecast -- outside of John Wayne, that is -- but it's true that casting directors almost always want Jackson to be a badass.
But the badass gets the girl in plenty of movies. In fact, there are a number of movies where badasses actually kill people while they're having sex.
And maybe that's why Mr. Blue Balls does finally get to have sex in Mother and Child -- he's not playing a badass. In fact, he's playing the senior partner at a law firm, who hires Watts' Elizabeth Joyce. He may be a badass in the legal world, but I don't think that's what we mean by "badass." In fact, it took him becoming a literal gray-beard and an old softie to finally get a piece of tail. If he'd known that, maybe he would have started toning down the volume in his auditions and dying his beard, years ago.
There's another quick thing I wanted to talk about regarding Mother and Child, another strong film in Garcia's canon, and it relates to sex had by the real-life Naomi Watts. The film is too under the radar to get any Oscar nominations, even though I'd argue that Annette Bening is as good here as she was in The Kids Are All Right. But there's a case to made that it deserves a nomination in the category Best Acting by a Fetus.
If you haven't heard about one of the more amazing logistical details of the film, Watts plays a woman whose tubes are tied, but gets pregnant anyway. And in a case of method acting at its most committed, Watts is actually pregnant in the film. But she's not pregnant for the whole film, and here's where the movie seems like an incredible feat of logistics. Garcia must have cast her based on her intention to become pregnant -- although the fact that she's a great actor probably had something to do with it. In the character's early scenes, you can be absolutely certain she's not pregnant, or if so, only a couple weeks. In fact, in another sign of Watts' commitment to her sexuality, she gives a full frontal flash to a neighbor, showing not only her breasts and pubic hair, but also a flat stomach.
But what if Watts hadn't been able to conceive? What if they shot all those early scenes, and then she couldn't deliver on the back end? Would they have needed to use a fake-looking prosthetic stomach? Would they have scrapped the scenes they'd done and started over with a different actress? Or would they have simply waited for as long as it took?
Where things get really impressive is later on, when she's ridiculously pregnant. There's a shot when she's lying on her bed, and turns on her side. Her clearly-real pregnant belly is exposed. And then, about ten seconds into the shot, the baby kicks. The baby kicks -- on film! Should we be surprised that Watts is such a good actor, the talent seeps over by osmosis to her unborn baby? And was that kick just a happy accident, or did they have to film it a hundred times, hoping eventually to get this result?
I may not want to know. It's one of those magical moments of cinema that are best left unanswered.