(Written for Epinions in 2004, when I was 41!)
Erotic? No. Soporific? Yes.
Warning: This review deals with a DVD that contains “erotic” material, and as such contains references to nudity, sexuality, and other topics which may be offensive to some readers.
Part One: Sex, Money, and Balancing Budgets, or, Why I Own this Awful DVD…
Like most adults my age, I’ve had more than a passing interest in sex, nudity, and intimate relationships, so I’ve done my fair share of looking at Playboy gatefolds, reading erotic stories (yes, I do have a battered copy of Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus) or How to Make Love to a Woman, and even watching a few hardcore porn videos.
First, it’s basic human nature; the sex drive is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, natural instincts we all have, and most of us do derive some pleasure out of reading or watching erotic materials. Second, and it pains me to admit it, I was a sexual late bloomer; I learned about sex around the same age as most kids do, in my teens, but I was (and in most ways still am) very self-conscious and shy because I have a mild case of cerebral palsy. Until 1999, the same year that I purchased Anna Nicole Smith Exposed: Her Fantasies Revealed, I seriously doubted I’d ever have sex; I had to wait until I was 36 and-a-half years old and connected to the Internet before I found a woman who was sweet, loving and generous enough to offer to be my “first.”
There is another, less interesting reason why I own Anna Nicole Smith Exposed, and it’s not because I’m an avid fan of the former Guess model and Playboy Playmate of the Year, either. It has more to do with my wanting to join the DVD revolution as soon as possible and at the same time upgrading my Pentium I PC with Windows 95/98 to something a bit faster and more up-to-date. You see, until 2002, I had bought my PCs custom built from components by a neighbor of mine who was adept at putting together hardware and fixing software problems. My PC at the time was okay but getting obsolescent (as PCs very quickly do these days), and my meager income from ghostwriting some awful children’s books for a crackpot who thought she’d compete with J.K. Rowling couldn’t support both a computer upgrade and a conventional DVD player (you know, the ones that connect to television sets). I mentioned this to Andreu, my “computer guy,” when we were discussing what the 1999 upgrade would entail.
“Well,” Andreu said after giving it some thought, “a DVD player — a good one, that is — goes for about $250 to $300, but that means you’d have to postpone the upgrade.”
“No, that’s not a good idea,” I said, thinking about how limited my PC was getting. It could still do the basic stuff that I do with the one I’m using now, but it was having problems with some of the entertainment software I had at the time, and it wasn’t powerful enough to handle some of the newer games.
“But I could get you a DVD-ROM drive,” Andreu said. “They are just a bit more expensive than a CD-ROM drive, but at least you can watch movies on the PC. You have a nice monitor, so you don’t need a lot of new hardware to buy. Just the right video card, the proper amount of memory, and the drivers.”
I really wanted to start seeing what all the DVD fuss was about, and my patience level isn’t the most admirable, so I went ahead and shelled out my $400 for my PC upgrade. Andreu sold my older computer to a friend of his so he could play Solitaire, cutting my costs down some.
Now, of course, when I was writing for the woman with literary delusions of grandeur, I was basically working for peanuts. I could only charge her for the first two weeks of my time, even if the rewrite took a month or two; the hope was that some publisher would be willing to take a chance on us and that I’d get a share of the royalties. (It didn’t work out.) That meant my paychecks were small and infrequent; my average annual “take” from this little experiment in collaboration was $1000 or so, roughly divided into 4 or 5 books spaced out over quarterly periods. I also started pet-sitting for one of my neighbors in 1997, supplementing my income in the summer and fall cruise seasons.
Obviously, I had to help pay bills and put some money into my savings account, as well as squirreling away funds for going out or buying books, CDs, or VHS tapes, so I had to be careful with my spending habits. That meant, obviously, that after I had paid for the new DVD-ROM-equipped PC I could not buy a very expensive DVD. No American Graffiti, no Saving Private Ryan; those were too expensive at $29.99. My budget was $20, which had to include sales tax.
Thus it was that I found myself looking at the “under $20” DVD shelves, flipping through the titles (mostly awful Grade Z movies starring unknown minor actors), and finding nothing that I’d want to spend time or money on. Finally, about to give up, I headed to the Adult/Miscellaneous section.
The Playboy DVDs, which were more to my taste, were (at $24.99) out of my price range. Sure, I could have used my bus fare money to go above my limit and buy a Girls of the Internet disc, but it was late May and it was hot, and I didn’t feel like walking home that day, so I looked for something less expensive. Anna Nicole Smith Exposed was about the only DVD that met my criteria…inexpensive and with at least someone pleasant to look at.
Part Two: Erotic? No…more like soporific.
Celebrate eroticism as the excitingly sensual and beautiful ANNA NICOLE SMITH invites you into her private universe. Share a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her world of provocative photo sessions, flirtatious fantasies, exotic French maids, erotic limo drivers, and foamy bubblebaths.
– Back cover blurb, Anna Nicole Smith Exposed
Anna Nicole Smith Exposed: Her Fantasies Revealed is perhaps one of the least erotic “adult” movies I’ve ever seen. Mind you, I’m not a constant X-rated movie watcher; I’ve probably watched 10 such skin-flicks in my 20-odd years as an adult, and most of them are basically variations on the same themes. There’s usually an oral sex-and-intercourse scene, a lesbian sex scene, a group sex bit, and a final intercourse scene involving the main stars.
The frame stories, if any exist, vary, of course, but the basics remain a constant. If the leads and supporting cast are attractive enough, and one is randy enough, porn flicks can elicit the desired result, whether it be for a couple or a lonely watcher. Sometimes they can be very off-putting or depressing (leaving one thinking I’ll never get anyone to do that with me… or worse, What if my spouse or significant other wanted to try group sex or have a same-sex tryst?).
This DVD, no matter what the blurb says, is more frame story than anything else, with only one mildly erotic scene (Chapter 2: The French Maid I), in which Ms. Smith (who co-wrote and co-directed this love letter to herself) engages in some girl-on-girl action with softcore porn actress Ahmo Hight. There’s some hot-and-heavy kissing and hugging in a foamy bubble-bath, with the big-boned Texan blonde going as far as to take Ms. Hight’s nipples into her mouth. The rest of the scene is still sexy but a bit silly, as there is a bit of simulated “muff-diving” in the soap-filled tub. Now, I don’t know about Ms. Hight’s likes or dislikes, but I for one wouldn’t want to try that trick in soap-sud-filled bathwater.
The highlights — or lowlights, if you will — of Exposed are the vignettes with guys. Only in Chapter 1, The Houseman does a guy get down and dirty with a nude Ms. Smith, and the nudity, both male and female, is on the level of those edited-for-cable porn films that are the bread and butter of the Spice Channel (or, as one of my more worldly friends calls it, The Dyke Channel). Not that I really go for male “equipment,” but if I’m gonna watch a sex film, I might as well watch a sex film. The other two chapters which purport to be about heterosexual fun (The Pastry Chef, The Chauffeur) are not erotic, they are soporific. There is no heat, passion, or even eroticism there. Innuendo, yes. Excitement and lots of skin, no. Sure, I’m aware of the concept that partial disclosure (as in nudity) is sexier than full, um, exposure, but this is ridiculous.
Speaking of exposure, there are only three chapters in which Ms. Smith is in the buff, but she’s with Ms. Hight in two of them, which leaves only one “straight” sex scene in which she is in her birthday suit with a guy. In all the other vignettes, Ms. Smith is scantily clad, true, but clad nonetheless.
Other things that annoy me are:
Anna Nicole’s voiceovers. Not only does her Texas drawl make it very difficult to understand what she’s saying, but her dialog is trite and inane. (And, of course, she can’t resist making a veiled reference to her legal woes; when she lists all the people that she must deal with on a daily basis and gets to the lawyers, she says, “Oh, the lawyers…”)
The contrivance of showing us Anna Nicole during a hard day’s work at a photoshoot for a sexy calendar, which includes a couple of nude shots. The “frame story” comes and goes between the longer fantasy vignettes.
John Gonzales’ music. Sure, “adult” movies aren’t Academy Award candidates and don’t rate a score by James Horner or John Williams, but why does porn movie music have to be so awful? Yes, I know, we aren’t supposed to be paying attention to such things when watching a “dirty” movie, but such things bother me.
Thankfully, all things, even this sorry excuse for self-adulation by Anna Nicole Smith, come to an end, and Exposed reaches its non-orgasmic climax at the 54-minute mark. The DVD comes with two equally obnoxious trailers for two A.N.S. direct-to-video flicks, but thankfully there are no extras or commercials for phone sex companies or Internet sites.
One of the things that irk me about the adult film industry is that the movies are just about sex. I’m sure some of you out there are shaking your heads and clucking in amazement at my naivete, but I’ve never seen, in the 10 or so porn flicks I’ve seen in my life, any real sense of joy or affection between the characters (whether they are straight or lesbian) while they are being intimate.
Most directors of the genre tend to focus on the “equipment” or “business end” of the actors and actresses, filming below-the-waist closeups rather than doing a wide-angle master shot that allows us to see the faces…and when they do use face shots or wide master shots, the “love” scenes are so mechanical and bereft of emotion that one gets the impression that the actors are on drugs or simply so bored with so much sex that there’s no fun in it anymore. Just once, for crying out loud, I’d like to see a real adult film depicting a couple that’s really and truly in love, willing to please each other to the fullest as an expression of passion and caring. It probably wouldn’t be a movie that would make too much money, at least not in the cutthroat world of porn, but at least it would portray a lot more humanity and shared passion, not just the same old “seen one porn film, seen ’em all” skin-flick cliches.
(Originally published at Epinions in 2004. I have reposted it “as-is” )