"The Secret Cellar"

The Secret Cellar (2003) day two. The story concerns Kennedy Johnston, who has inherited a haunted house from her aunt, her boyfriend, another couple (Cecelia Simon and her boyfriend), and another guy, who have come to the house to fix it up to sell. Johnston's boyfriend has promised everyone a party. At this point, I smelled predictability, and was mistaken. Yes, the ghosts do create the horror, and not everyone survives, but people don't die immediately after having sex, no woman screams, trips, then dies, and it takes a while before we realize who is real, who is good and bad, etc. Ananda Saint James and Christina Baby both play sexy ghosts.

It is the rare soft-core that is serious at all about plot, and most of them have way to much footage of boring simulated sex, complete with fancy fades and weird lighting. In this case, though the sex scenes occupied most of the 96 minute running time, they never became boring. There was enough character development among the main characters that I became involved with their struggle. I applaud director Quinn for making what is in my top ten list of soft-core films.

This is one hell of an effort, especially given the time and budget constraints. The physical locations were good, the plot was better than many soft-core efforts, all of the players could deliver lines, The special effects were not terrible and the sex scenes sizzled. For God sake, somebody give this man a real budget and realistic schedule, and let's see what he can do with it. C+

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  • Cecelia Simon (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72)

  • Kennedy Johnston (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66)

  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

    Ararat (2002):

    "Who now remembers the Armenians"

     --- Adolph Hitler --- 1

    Filmmaker Atom Egoyan is a genuine intellectual, a subtle man who views all situations thoughtfully, examining the nuances, admitting multiple viewpoints, viewing truth relatively.

    There are times - many times - when those characteristics are precisely the right ones for a particular challenge. Nobody is better at Egoyan at looking at the depths and complexities of emotion in the human heart. He knows that situations are not always what the thoughtless first imagine them to be, and he knows that the differences between saints and sinners are differences of degree rather than absolute certainties. His sensitivity and his elliptical narrative style have allowed him to create some of the great film masterpieces of the past decade. In The Sweet Hereafter, he resisted the temptation to demonize an ambulance-chasing lawyer, showing instead that he was a man of great depth who possessed a personal sorrow which made him not very different from the people he intended to exploit. In Exotica, Egoyan took great pains to pull off the layers of the onion slowly and subtly enough to allow us to be manipulated from an early assumption to a contradictory truth. In the hands of a schlocky director who would have pulled back the curtain too suddenly, the movie wouldn't have worked at all, but Egoyan is truly a master of subtlety, and he pulled it off.

    There are also times when subtlety can be a liability. Making a film which gets into the heart of a great and important historical truth is one of them. This is an instance where subtlety is for scholars only. A filmmaker needs to paint with a broader brush. Egoyan wanted to make and long promised to make, a film about the Armenian Holocaust, a horrible 1915 massacre of all Turkish citizens of Armenian ethnicity. More than one million people, virtually the entire Armenian population of Eastern Turkey, including all non-combatant women and children, were eradicated. The Turkish government has never admitted its genocidal action, and most of the Western nations, who are now playing footsie with Turkey, have failed to issue any official condemnation. (France is an exception.) Egoyan wanted to tell the true story of a people he considers his own, so that the world would know for sure.

    He used far too much indirection and post-modernism to allow the emotional impact to take hold.

    First of all, instead of just making a movie about the holocaust, he made a movie about making a movie about the holocaust, in which many of the key issues were explored through people whose lives somehow touched that production. (In my opinion, there were too many connections between characters to be believable.)

    Second, the movie within the movie uses it's own distortive devices, so that we are left wondering if what Egoyan is telling us is true, or just more distortion. Indeed, the main character is also telling a related story to a customs inspector, and he too is distorting the facts to make his point. Are we to believe that all filmmakers will distort the facts to make a point? Even Atom Egoyan? The emotional impact of the film would be far greater without hedging every bet. Just tell the damned story. If you made up any details for literary purposes, simply tell us what they were in the extra features, but don't try to weave your own self-doubts into the film.

    Third, the film included way too many sub-plots and they were not thought through well enough. The young man who is going through customs may be carrying heroin or he may be carrying film. The customs inspector never asks him the most important question - "after you get these four cans into the country, who are you supposed to give them to?" The object of smuggling drugs is to get them TO someone, so that someone can make a profit. If the kid was just being used as a mule, he still had to get the drugs to someone, right? Yet the customs inspector does not seem to be aware of that fact. Not very likely, is it? There is another sub-plot about the customs inspector's relationship with his gay son, whose lover happens to be in the film-within-a-film. They two men are raising the customs man's grandson together, and grandpa obviously disapproves. There is yet another sub-plot about the main character's affair with his step-sister, and the prickly relationship between their mother/stepmother and their respective fathers. I can't see any good reason for those sub-plots to exist in such detail. The constant meandering between half-developed stories seemed to detract from the central theme. The step-sister and all the plot elements involving her could easily have been written out of the film entirely. The little kid could easily have been written out as well.

    Fourth, Egoyan wanted to weave the story of the Armenian painter Arshille Gorky into the narrative, since Gorky made a painting after the holocaust which was based on a photograph of himself and his mother taken before the holocaust. Gorky worked on that painting - agonized on that painting - for ten years, and it is now in the National Gallery in Washington. Unfortunately, Egoyan placed that story in the film-within-the-film, and weakened it by showing how much of that biography was completely fictional. Thank God Egoyan had the good sense to delete a scene which takes place in 2002 in which a modern character has a long conversation with the real Gorky (who died in 1948), in which the character complains about becoming a distorted fictional character in the film-within-a-film. Egoyan has never been one to be aware when his illusion/reality devices have become heavy-handed, so the fact that he removed this scene tells you a lot.

    Fifth, Egoyan got so deep into the arguments and counter-arguments that he actually had a Turkish guy defending the actions, not denying the actions, but mitigating them by claiming that the Armenians within Turkey's borders were traitors who sided with Turkey's enemies. (Which may or may not have been true, but certainly didn't justify genocide.)

    Sixth, this film does WAY too much teaching by lecturing. Egoyan typically makes a point by having the customs inspector, for example, ask "oh, and then what happened?", thus allowing the young Armenian man to make a lengthy speech. In other scenes, we listen to a professor's lectures This happens several times with different combinations of characters. In general, speeches are good for professors, but bad for filmmakers.

    Atom is a great writer, a great director, and a brilliant man, and the movie is an earnest, intelligent, and honest statement about matters close to his heart. Unfortunately, he didn't use enough of that big heart, and too much of that big brain. All the sub-plots, "on the other hand"s, and "not really"s eventually prove to be too much baggage to add to the heavy emotional load that the film hopes to carry. I came away thinking, "well, Atom says everyone lies in order to make their point. I suppose that means Atom is lying to make his point ... um,  except he says he's not. But then everyone says that, don't they? Hmmm. Maybe I better read historical accounts of this painter Gorky and the Armenian holocaust, and find out what really happened"

    Obviously, Atom is an honest man, willing to show exactly how distortions can creep into a fictional narrative when history is transformed into art. That is a perfectly scholarly way to approach a subject.

    So see his film if you want to encounter a work of scholarship. Otherwise, maybe you might want to check out "Dude, Where's My Car"

    • Marie-Josee Croze (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
    • note: there is also quite a bit of atrocity nudity, but it doesn't seem appropriate on this kind of page



    1. Contradictory to my own point about not being too scholarly about emotional truths, I feel obligated to say that there is some debate about whether Hitler ever made this remark at all. He was supposed to have said this in justification of Draconic instructions to his generals about Jews, Gypsies, and the Slavic intelligentsia. It does have some of the earmarks of an urban legend. Everybody seems to agree that he said it, everybody feels free to quote it, but nobody seems to know exactly when or where Hitler made this remark, and I couldn't find any specific historical evidence to corroborate it. Some sources say 1936, some say 1939, for example. 





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    "I have an observation about film appreciation and “the masses.” 

    I was stunned by Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire.”  It had multiple languages spoken and the characters interacted with seemingly untraceable plot threads – enough real life to make the fantasy palatable.  Similarly, I was floored by the beauty and realism of Bertoluci’s “Sheltering Sky”. 

    My wife (then girlfriend) opined that she felt the exact same way; only her films were Wim Wender’s “Until the End of the World” and Bertoluci’s “The Last Emperor”. We found an art house video rental place and swapped movies.  What complete shit!  She hated my films and I hated hers.

    And then I remembered a drinking buddy from the University of Wisconsin.  He studied Art History and did his thesis on the Vatican’s huge cache of art that was originally “collected” in order to keep it from the masses.  He called it “Il Papa’s Porn”.  I asked him “What did you find the most arousing?” 

    And he answered “I don’t know – but I am sure it was one of the first pieces.”  

    Familiarity breeds contempt and while “The Graduate” once blew us away we now know the story.  And every producer in Malibu knew the story – thus we have enjoyed lots of middle finger films since.  The story is so well known it is a cliché.

     Twenty minutes of flashing lights seems pompous today but Kubrick did it first and I give him credit for it."

    Scoop's note: Well said, but I don't think the point you are making is true of all films, just of some (like the ones you mentioned). If being copied were going to turn any film into a cliché, it would happen to Pulp Fiction, right? That movie should now seem stale because everyone in the world has copied it, but it still seems pretty fresh, don't ya think? At least it does to me. So the deeper question is why is it that some often-copied films now make us think "seen that, old hat", and others do not? Why do modern audiences still love Gable's version of Mutiny on the Bounty, and To Kill a Mockingbird, just as much as when those films were new, but other films like True Grit and Coming Home have lost their broad appeal?






    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
    • Jordana Brewster, the young soap star turned Hollywood actress in her first nude scene. Vidcaps from the 2001 movie "The Invisible Circus".

    • Leonor Watling, the lovely Spanish actress topless in scenes from the Pedro Almodóvar movie "Hable con ella" aka "Talk to Her" (2002).

    • Susannah York, full frontal and rear nudity in scenes from "Images" (1972). Additional comments by Graphic....'This is a 31 year old film that looks it's age even on DVD. It gives the maximum exposure of Susannah York but ever so briefly.'

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

    Nancy Travis
    Faye Grant

    Going back to the 1990 Mike Figgis film, "Internal Affairs". Both ladies have brief topless scenes.

    Leslie Bega
    Nicole Rodriguez

    Breasts and bush from both actresses in scenes from "Time of Her Time" (1999).

    Andrea Rau Full frontal nudity from the German actress in scenes from "Das Stundenhotel von St. Pauli" (1970).

    Cornelia Sharpe Topless in a shower scene from the 1976 Sean Connery movie "The Next Man". She has an odd IMDb filmography. She had steady work from 1972 until 1982, but then comes a 20 year gap before she returned to the screen with a small part in the Eddie Murphy flop, "The Adventures of Pluto Nash".

    Marie Riva Full frontal nudity in the French movie "Riens du tout" aka "Little Nothings" (1992).

    'Caps and comments by Dann:

    "Slam Dance"
    A cool 1987 thriller about a cartoonist who has an affair with a girl who winds up murdered, and he winds up as the prime suspect.

    Well done and exciting, right up to the unexpected ending. While Virginia Madsen did only brief token nudity, Lisa (Mrs Patrick Swayze) Niemi's long full-frontal scene is well known and often-capped.

    For those that are interested in such things, the Lisa Niemi collage is my 1000th collage!

    Charlie Spradling Excellent robo-hooter and thong views from "To Sleep with a Vampire" (1993). A great collage by Scorpion.

    Erika Anderson
    (1, 2, 3)

    Full frontal nudity from the former Elite model turned actress in scenes from the 1991 Nicolas Cage movie, "Zandalee".

    Jaqueline Lovell
    (1, 2)

    Wendy Schumacher
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

    Awesome collages by Vejiita from the softcore thriller, "Animal Instincts III" aka "Animal Instincts: The Seductress" (1996). Skinemax legend Jaqueline Lovell bares breasts and bum in a lesbian love scene. Wendy Schumacher (aka Alexander Keith) shows off her after market big'uns, and also gives up some bum and bush views (link #9 is especially nice).

    Jami Ferrell
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    Michelle Ruben
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    Señor Skin 'caps members of the "Swedish Suntanning Team" in scenes from the Cuba Gooding Jr. movie, "Boat Trip". Both are topless and doing jumping jacks. Many folks will recognize Jami Ferrell as the Heffer of the month for January '97.