Ah, Hollywood! Every year, thousands and thousands of hopefuls feel the call of the silver screen and flock to L.A. to follow what they just know is their destiny. Of course, only a tiny fraction of them actually go on to be stars; it's a well-worn cliche that any random person in the greater Los Angeles area will start throwing movie scripts at you at the slightest provocation, and every dude pouring your coffee has a self-updated IMDb page with roles in shoestring-budget Super 8 movies called Sentinels of the Star System, featuring themselves and a raccoon they caught in their backyard.
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"My stage name was Dave Barista until the raccoon heard it and mauled me."
What we often forget is that it's not just actors, directors, and screenwriters who are attracted by the industry. There are any number of technicians, experts, and professionals working on our entertainment, and some of them have found employment in fields that are ... well, let's just say they rank as "weird and kind of creepy" even by the industry's standards.
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Any rank amateur can instruct two people to bump uglies in a manner that passes for porn. But when it comes to making the act appealing for mainstream cinema in a way that is meant to move the plot instead of the viewers' nether regions, things suddenly get seven kinds of complicated. From the director's view, you want that shit to look good and advance the movie. From the producer's standpoint, things should be sexy enough to draw in the kind of audience that is fascinated by the prospect of two A-listers wrestling in their underwear, but not so hot that it attracts the dreaded R-rating. As for the performers, they generally prefer if they don't have to indulge in too much wiener-related interaction at this point in their careers, thank you so very much. The result of this hodgepodge of mixed interests is generally the sex scene you see in every movie: people awkwardly frenemy-hugging under the sheets, maybe with their backs arched if things get really steamy.
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And that's just the beginning of the great heap of trouble that is depicting marital arts in movies. As anyone who has ever made the mistake of looking in the mirror during boning can attest, it's damn difficult to make sex look appealing, and whenever movies try to break the mold and create something more ... novel, it's all too easy to stray into ludicrous horror territory.
Now, imagine a scene where there are more than two participants, and listen carefully as the world's cinematographers burst into tears of impotent fury.
"Hey, hold on," I hear you protest. "That's not fair: some movies get the whole boning thing right. Take The Wolf of Wall Street, for instance. There were scenes in that movie where pretty much everyone was fuckin', and it looked awesome." Yes, this is correct. That's because they employed a sex choreographer.
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The first guy to hold the job was the production's animal wrangler,
but he kept getting confused by scenes that involve hooters.
The man with this enviable title is Michael Arnold, a Broadway veteran and dance choreographer. One day, a producer offered him an interview for a gig choreographing an orgy scene. Instead of calling the cops and/or running the hell away, Arnold shrugged and went for it. This turned out to be a good move, because the movie was, yes, The Wolf of Wall Street. Not many people can claim their first major movie credit was helping Martin Scorsese sort out a carnival of flesh so that nobody pokes anyone's eye out with an errant boner, but that's what Arnold did (with three separate scenes, no less; the antics at the yacht, the office with the baton twirlers, and the flight to Vegas were all his handiwork). The word spread, and the next thing you know, Arnold had carved himself a name as a bona fide bonin' choreographer.
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Following strange people who ask you to come check out their orgy: a surprisingly viable career path.
Apparently a specialist when it comes to depicting complex, multi-person shenanigans, Arnold is described as Hollywood's go-to guy in these matters. But it's not like he can handle all of that ass-placement traffic alone. Perhaps we're witnessing the birth of a brand-new professional class on par with cameramen, special effects people, and gaffers, whatever the hell it is that they do. Who knows, all those hours you spent arranging Barbies and action figures in compromising poses as a kid might finally come in handy one of these days.
3Murder Food Stylist
Do you follow NBC's Hannibal? I do; it's amazing. Mads Mikkelsen is awesome in everything except maybe The Desolation of Smaug, but I think that's Mikael Persbrandt anyway, so that's OK.
General fanboying aside, at its heart Hannibal is not a terribly original show. It's a fairly simple killer-of-the-week procedural with a central plot and a twist (SPOILER: The psychiatrist with the fancy tie eats people) and fantastic production values. However, what sets it apart from its ilk is one defining factor: it happily hates its viewers. Unlike shows like Sopranos or Breaking Bad, where even the worst asshole protagonists come with a side order of (at least potentially) redeeming features, Hannibal takes a bunch of nausea-inducing plots and impossible, troubled, cold, and unlikeable characters, then shoves them down our throats with gusto until we find ourselves rooting for the crazy, perpetually sweaty investigator, his pushy boss, the annoying potential romantic interest, and, of course, the manipulative creep that happily eats faces. Shit, they even manage to muddle up the technically 100 percent unlikeable stock character of sleazy, meddling journalist with a gender swap and a looks upgrade. It's such a simple trick it should never work, but it does.
As previously played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Of course, the "hate" I'm talking about is not actual bile; this level of messing with the viewer requires a deep, loving devotion on the creators' part. Nowhere is this more evident than with the copious food porn Hannibal revels in. At its core, this is a tale of a bad man that eats people. He also enjoys sneakily feeding his victims to his frequent dinner guests, to the point where it wouldn't be surprising if he showed up with a goddamn butler's platter at the door of someone who turned down a dinner invitation. So, of course, the show takes great pains to present said food in a manner that would tempt even hardcore vegans, even if they knew that the "lamb" chop on the plate is really Hank from next door. Here, take a look at this picture, knowing that it's supposed to be a people platter, and say that you wouldn't take a bite:
How about this one?
Perhaps some pie?
Gorgeous, aren't they? There's a special expert doing those, you know. Her name is Janice Poon, she's a food stylist by trade, and presumably at some point someone sat down with her and the following conversation took place:
"Yeah, we have this show about a dude who feeds people to other people. We want you to make his food look as appetite-inducing as you can."
"So, you want me to make cannibalism look as awesome as possible?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
"OK, cool. I'll just update my CV to include 'murder chef.'"
In other words: Janice Poon is my new hero.