Oral Sex Scenes: The Key to Winning Awards?
Is it just me, or is this the most orally sexy Oscar season in memory?
As blogger Jeff Wells notes, "at least three of the six actresses nominated by the Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Actress received on-screen oral pleasuring in their respective films -- Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, Natalie Portman in Black Swan and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine." Julianne Moore didn't receive a BFCA honor for doing the honors in Kids, but Williams' Blue Valentine bittersweetheart Ryan Gosling got a best actor nom, and more influentially, Portman's partner Mila Kunis, who's been too often overlooked in all the film's hooplah, got a best supporting actress nom from BFCA.
More than almost any other critics awards group, BFCA tends to overlap with Academy voters' tastes.
Of course, it's not about the mere collision of what Brits call "naughty bits." It's all about the context. In Kids, oral sex is lighthearted, upsetting only to people who'd never see this film anyhow.
The Portman-Kunis scene is scary, like Catherine Deneuve's violent sexual hallucinations in Repulsion. And do let's remember, it's Kunis's intense scene too -- Danny Boyle told me he calls her "the Bad Black Swan."
The Williams/Gosling scene, whose NC-17 rating was recently overturned after public outrage, is intensely romantic, which may be why it upset the ratings board even though it's not porn-quality explicit at all. It's like the amputation scene in 127 Hours (or, eons ago, the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs) -- you've seen plenty more upsetting scenes, it's just that you really feel this one.
(Twenty people -- including industry people -- have told me they refuse to see 127 Hours because they've heard about the amputation scene. "There's a hole in the rock that his hand goes into!" Boyle told me at the Fox Searchlight party Dec. 1. "It's trompe l'oeil. It really isn't real.")
One oral-pleasure scene evidently went right by BFCA voters: Stephen Dorff's scene with a Chateau Marmont girl du jour in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere. I won't spoil the scene, but let's just say that Dorff's movie-star character's oral-sex method is not one likely to make a woman pass out from sheer erotic excitement. He's more like an Acapulco cliff diver for whom the tide is out.
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Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter, is one of the entertainment industry's most experienced and trusted experts about the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. He started on the awards beat in 2001, writing for independent websites including his own ScottFeinberg.com before joining the Los Angeles Times and then THR, for which he writes “The Race” blog, which won the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award for best entertainment blog of 2012-2013. A voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics' Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association, he is also writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 500 high-profile Hollywood figures whose careers span the silent era through the present.
Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/scottfeinberg.