Secretary (2002) is a romantic comedy, but the central conflict that drives the story is not as much about the relationship between secretary Maggie Gyllenhaal and boss James Spader, as the inner conflict within each of them. As the film opens, she is being released from an institution where she was placed after a supposed suicide attempt. Actually, it was not a suicide attempt at all, but a miscalculation during one of her self-mutilations, something she had been doing for many years. She clearly didn't much like the hospital, and we learn in a few very brief scenes that her father is an abusive drunk, and her mother practically stalks her, so home is not her favorite place either. She attends secretarial school, and lands a job with James Spader. The rest of the review could be considered a spoiler, so don't read on if you plan on seeing this film.

Spoilers Ahead

Spader, we slowly learn, is a dom, but is ashamed of his tendencies. When Spader comments on her self-mutilation, and correctly guesses why she does it, she believes that a relationship with him is possible. After he spanks her for frequent typos, she is in love, and on her way to a realization that she is a true submissive. So the real story here is her awakening, and acceptance of her masochistic tendencies. Spader is virtually helpless around her, and can't control his urges to dominate. Gyllenhaal is now in the strange position of being a submissive trying to get an unwilling dom to do what she wants. When she finally has the nerve to confront him, she uses a safe word, "time out," that she has picked up from reading about dominance and submission, and he does not even recognize it. At this point, she understands him better than he understands himself, and we see a key point about the lifestyle. Not only does the submissive have the easier job, but it really they who control the relationship.

In the commentary, the director and author repeatedly talk about scenes that were radically cut, but the cuts mostly shortened back story, letting acting deliver the background, and kept the focus on the relationship between Spader and Gyllenhaal. In the end, we see that the two have become a normal, happy suburban couple that happen to be into a D & M relationship. There is a final subtle joke in the ending, where she drops a dead roach from her pocket onto a freshly made bed, and smiles broadly, knowing that she will get the paddling she wants when he gets home. If this film has a message, I suppose it is that D & M might seem bizarre to outsiders, but it is one normal choice of lifestyle. Along the way, the film provides much insight.

End Spoilers

It is an intensely sexual film. Gyllenhaal has two very hot masturbation scenes. and Spader one. We also get views of Gyllenhaal nude from every angle in the last act. IMDB readers have this at 7.2 of 10. Gyllenhaal, who was nothing short of brilliant, received numerous acting awards. The film won critical acceptance, with three stars from Ebert, and a rare 3 1/2 from Berardinelli. Rotten Tomatoes have it 70% positive overall, with 82% from the top critics. It is not easy to make an entertaining film from this subject matter, and the director and the writer deserve much of the credit for pulling it off. It was also very well cast. I think this film has an audience beyond those who would normally be in favor of S & M and B & D films, and is therefor a B-.

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  • Maggie Gyllenhaal (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)


    Far From Heaven (2002)

    This is a new release today. There is no nudity, but it was a highly acclaimed film with four Oscar nods, so I wrote about it anyway. The plot is simple on the surface. A perfect 50s couple seem to have a perfect 50s life. He's a successful executive and she's the model housewife. Beneath the glittering surface, however, are secrets which prompt a concatenation of events that destroy the idyllic scene. The wife (Julianne Moore) comes to her husband's office late one night and finds him in a passionate embrace ...

     ... with another male Brooks Brothers executive.

    While he tries to "treat" his homosexuality with therapy and counseling, the husband (Dennis Quaid) develops a drinking problem as well. In the meantime, the gentle-hearted wife starts to develop a very close friendship with an educated and refined black man who is doing some work for her. Needless to say, everything goes wrong.

    That's about all there is to the plot. That seems simple, but the film is actually exceedingly complicated. You see, Far From Heaven is a film that asks you to make some the challenging mental adjustments which are necessary to approach it. It is the ultimate post-modernist 1950s homage. The characters dealing with homosexuality and miscegenation are not modern people, nor modern movie characters, nor 1950s people. They are 1950s movie characters. They encompass the full scope of the stilted 1950s images that were suitable for projection in the films and television shows of the 1950s. They live in houses which are designed perfectly. The women dress in high heels and pinafore skirts while they serve their families hearty, nourishing breakfasts. The people all speak with a studied indirectness as if characters in a play by Pinter or Beckett. The acting is not as natural as it would be in a movie made today, and is not the way people really talked in the 50s, but is a perfect replication of how people acted in 50s films.

    When the characters experience the events of their daily lives, they are accompanied by 50s style theme music, ranging from the syrupy/sad strains of the weep-o-matic climax to the "Riley pulled another boner" music of the light moments, as reproduced by Elmer Bernstein, a man who actually scored many of those 50s melodramas. The characters'  lives are encapsulated by Kodak moments in a manner replicating the films of the period. There are plenty of anachronisms related to the time of year, some listed below, but we have to remember that this is not a film about Connecticut in the 50s. It is a film about 50s films about Connecticut in the 50s. In those days, the art directors would have Spring flowers blooming in Fall if it achieved the correct aesthetic balance, and this film followed the old formula perfectly. For a detailed discussion of the specific films which provide the spiritual roots of this homage, read the Salon article linked below. They did a thorough job, and they obviously know much more about these films that I do.

    Some of the inappropriate items used to produce the artistic look of the film:

    • Although the film starts in Autumn (fallen and russet leaves are everywhere), this particular Autumn includes newly blooming apple blossoms.
    • The Connecticut February is filled with beautiful flowers in full bloom outdoors, and March is filled with flowering trees. It sure looked impressive, however, to see the snow falling in the midst of all the colorful blooms.
    • As they walk through the beautiful Fall foliage, the black man hands Julianne Moore some witch hazel in bloom. (Witch hazel flowers in Spring.)

    The film is just about awash in production design and art design, from Moore's perfect home to Quaid's art deco office. Everything is a marvel in gray-green and russet hues. I guess Julianne Moore must be a "Fall".  I can't really comment on the season theory of colors, because I went to have my colors analyzed once, and it turns out I don't have a full season, only Ground Hog Day, so my whole color palette is "brown and furry" mixed with "grey and dreary". This sense of style makes me sort of conspicuous when I visit Paris or Milan to see the Spring line, but helps me blend in perfectly in Gary, Indiana in February.

    I found myself impressed by the period feel of the film, the set design, and the cinematography, but I could never get into the lives of the characters. The first half of the film was more interesting to me, because it functions simultaneously as a 50s melodrama and as a parody of 50s melodrama. The old style of acting and the hilarious background music had me in stitches. The filmmakers don't try to be funny. They just show us that the actual attitudes of 50s movies simply seem funny by their very quaintness, and the liberal attitudes of the progressives in the film seem like they are slightly to the right of the KKK when perceived by our newly-tuned ears. The husband is determined to "beat this thing" and get back on the heterosexual path again, as if he simply had to quit smoking. The wife's well-meaning words to the black man she cares about seem painfully condescending to us, and his apparent lack of offense seems even more embarrassing. (At least Sydney Poitier would have told her with his eyes that she was talking to him as if he were a child, and she would have understood.)

    In the second half of the movie, however, all the irony disappears and the film simply becomes a beautiful, cinematic tribute to those 50s weepfests. Frankly, that is a type of filmmaking that I do not miss, so I didn't enjoy this very much, but if you like those multi-hankie films about the racial and sexual hypocrisy of society, as portrayed sincerely but clumsily in the Hollywood of the 50s, go for it.


    I have to say that one thing surely surprised me about the ending. The wife ended up a social pariah, completely ostracized because of her very pure friendship with the black man.

    The husband, on the other hand, seemed ready to resume his former successful life as a top executive with his hot young toy-boy. Yeah, that could happen in the 50s.

    • General USA consensus: four stars. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3.5, Entertainment Weekly A.

    • Nudity: none. It is a perfect 50s-style film.


    The Maids (1974)

    This film was part of the 2nd season of "American Film Theater", Ely Landau's series of productions in which he created filmed version of important plays and showed them in stage theatres for a single weekend, with advance tickets and reserved seating like a concert. He hoped to turn these works of serious literature into "events" for the uptown intellectuals. I'm not sure how he planned to make a profit, but he made a lot of these films before the idea imploded after the second year. Before the new DVD releases, these films had virtually disappeared. I can't speak for the others in the series, but this one has been beautifully restored by Kino Video, with quite a few extra features.

    • Widescreen letterboxed 1.85:1. It looks excellent.

    • various written essays on this play, Jean Genet, and the AFT

    • an interview with Edie Landau of the AFT

    • the AFT promotional reel

    • the trailers for most of the AFT films

    They filmed plays by Eugene O'Neill, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Brecht, Maxwell Anderson, Osborne, Ionesco, and other such intellectual luminaries of stagecraft. There were even some intellectual musicals, like "Lost in the Stars" and "Jacques Brel". There were some most distinguished productions. Olivier directed and starred in a Chekhov play which co-starred such rising young talents as Derek Jacobi and Alan Bates. Ionesco's Rhinoceros starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, who also co-starred in the famed Mel Brooks comedy "The Producers". Some of the directors included John Frankenheimer, Arthur Hiller, and Tony Richardson.

    The Maids is one of the plays which made the renegade French playwright Jean Genet a hero of the intellectual counter culture in the period from WW2 to Vietnam. Genet, himself a thief and a male prostitute turned to literature, felt himself to be a champion of the downtrodden of the world: homosexuals, the third world, the criminal demimonde, the non-white world, the impoverished, the anti-corporate, the underdog. In fact, as late as 1968, Genet was involved in the anti-war protests at the Democratic convention, and Genet was still alive in the mid 80s, Most of his plays and novels were actually written in the forties. After Genet became a literary cause celebre for intellectuals like Sartre, his productivity dropped precipitously, and he wrote virtually nothing between 1960 and his death in 1986.

    This particular play was inspired by the true story of two French maids who murdered their employer in 1933. This filmed adaptation stars Glenda Jackson and Susannah York.

    The women were said to be lesbian lovers as well as sisters. A more literal adaptation of this event was made into a film called Murderous Maids in 2000. Genet was not interested in the literal truth, but in the workings of the maids' minds. Genet, of course, identified with the maids. In his version, the women play roles constantly, assuming false deferential poses with the mistress, then taking turns playing the part of the mistress when she is absent. They plot to murder her. Although they do not succeed in that particular plot, they do provide false evidence against the lover of their mistress, and are waiting for the police to catch up with them after their failure to murder Madame.

    I haven't actually spoiled the plot. The gist of the play's meaning, as well as the important plot developments, really unfold after the Madame leaves and the two maids are left to resume their bickering and role-playing.

    There are no reviews available. It is rated 6.1 at IMDb, based on a scanty 19 votes. Based on our system, this film is a C+ - a real treasure for people who thought these films to be lost forever, and for devotees of the great era of the serious playwrights in the 60s and 70s. For anyone else - well, it's all talk, folks.

    There is full frontal male nudity, but only a brief peek at Susannah York's nipple. Or not .


    Other crap:

    Here are the latest movie reviews available at

    • The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
    • If there is a white asterisk, it means that there isn't any significant humor, but I inexplicably determined there might be something else of interest.
    • A blue asterisk indicates the review is written by Tuna (or Lawdog or Junior or C2000 or Realist or ICMS or Mick Locke, or somebody else besides me)
    • If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too ashamed to admit it.

    Graphic Response
    • Juliet Mills...very nice breast exposure from the 1972 movie "Avanti"

    Be sure to pay Graphic Response a visit at his website.

    'Caps and comments by Brainscan:

    Two A-list babes today in roles where they sho nuff got nekkid but kept stuff between themselves and the camera...most of the time. We got Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment" and Daryl Hannah in "Roxanne".

    • CZ-J gets caught sleeping in the buff but the onliest things you can see are three motion-blurred frames of one natural wonder (collages 2 and 3) and sorta something when the obscuring foreground object moves (collage 5). Otherwise you get her perfect face (all collages) and her frame in really tight pants (collages 8-10). (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    • Daryl was nekkid in an early scene from Roxanne, when she must slip off her robe to get back in her house... or something very much like that. You see her disrobe with the camera aimed tragically too high (collage 1) and then you see her run around a lot behind fences and trees and green, leafy bushes (collages 2-4). You do see fleeting and faraway glimpses of her bum, however (collages 2 and 4) and an interesting someting or other in the middle frame of collage 2. Sigh. This scene coulda been a contender. (1, 2, 3, 4)

    Kari Wuhrer
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    Topless in several scenes from the Eric Roberts movie "Sensation". The transfer to DVD is not that good but is better than a VHS.

    Nicole Eggert Topless in scenes from the two Coreys flick "Blown Away".

    Victoria Sanchez Topless and very hairy in scenes from "Blood Moon:

    'Caps and additional comments by Dann:

    This is one of the more interesting werewolf movies I've ever seen, but it's not really a werewolf movie. This is also one of the more interesting horror movies I've ever seen, but it's not really a horror movie.

    Made in 2001 as a TV movie called "Wolf Girl", Blood Moon is really a morality play about how poorly we treat people who are different. It's also a love story.

    A teenager in a traveling freak show has the rare condition hypertrichosis, which causes her to have heavy hair all over her body. Dressed up in fake fangs and claws, she indeed becomes the wolf girl for the audience, although she is actually a sweet, kind-hearted person. When a shy local boy grows to love her, he gives her an experimental drug that his mother is working on. It does indeed cause the hair to go away, but some unexpected side effects complicate things.

    This story has many, many sub-plots and is well worth your time, in my opinion.

    Melissa Stone
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    Señor Skin 'caps of the cute blonde topless in scenes from the Kari Wuhrer movie "Poison".

    Nadja Full frontal shower nudity from the German Big Brother.

    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

    Vidcaps by PKOrion of assorted babes going topless, frontal and showing a bit of bum in scenes from the Hankster favorite, "The Abductors" (1972).

    Pat Reeder
    Pat's comments in yellow...

    1.10: Too Tall! - Dr. Boguslaw Pawlowski of Poland's Wroclaw University claims to have developed a formula for the perfect couple. After studying 600 women between 19 and 50, he decided that genetically, women prefer taller men and see them as having higher social status and earnings, and they automatically seek a partner of a certain height who will give them the right size children. But they adjust their height requirements so their mate will match their own physique. For most women, the perfect mate is 1.09 times taller than they are.

  • For men, the perfect woman has breasts 2.1 times larger than his hands.
  • I thought women liked tall men so they wouldn't look stupid while slow dancing.
  • Here's a man's formula for a happy couple: "Man plus woman plus food plus sports minus nagging."

    They'll Probably Grow Up To Be Gay! - Cher is an old friend of Michael Jackson's, but she told Entertainment Tonight that she'll never buy his records again because she's so upset about his treatment of his children. She said she didn't care about his face, "he could just erase it as far as I'm concerned," but "this guy is nuts" and "if it were up to me, he wouldn't have those babies now." Cher said, "I watched him grow up and all that, but, you know, you dangle a baby over a balcony, that's it for me."

  • Proving at last that Hollywood celebrities DO have limits.
  • She would've been frowning when she said this, if she could.
  • This is bad news for Michael: Cher was the last person still buying his records.

    Actually, Scorsese Was Scratching His Nose - Michael Moore now claims the bad response to his Oscar speech was an illusion created by the show's director. He said the booing was "oddly amplified," the cameras were "desperately trying to find people who were disagreeing with me and couldn't," and they cut away from people like Martin Scorsese who were just about to applaud. Oscar producer Gil Cates called that "bull," said he showed a live event just as it happened, and fumed, "The man is paranoid!"

  • Michael says if he's paranoid, it's only because George W. Bush and the CIA's secret trained dolphins made him that way!
  • His cap size is too small for his fat head, and it's cutting off circulation.
  • They cut to Salma Hayek, who was applauding wildly, but the audience was too transfixed by her bouncing breasts to notice.