Saturday, September 4, 2010

Is thinking you saw the same as seeing?

I usually write my Friday blog posts, which are often tied to one (or more) of that week's new releases, at my desk at work, early, before my co-workers come in. Because of that, they are necessarily speculative posts, either making a prediction of the film's quality based on available evidence (which I've been told is a critically suspect exercise, and I partly agree), or writing about some larger trend of which the movie in question is emblematic.

This week, however, I'm home on paternity leave -- I should put that in quotation marks, because I'm taking vacation days to do it -- so my Friday new-release post gets to be about a movie I've actually seen.

This afternoon, I finagled some time away from the wife and child to Feed the Beast, and I saw Machete, the Robert Rodriguez-directed (with a hand from some guy named Ethan Maniquis) full-length version of a trailer Rodriguez created for Grindhouse -- a Mexploitation film starring Danny Trejo.

But if you've been reading my blog for long, you know that my focus is not usually reviews, so I'm not going to submit a review of Machete just because I've seen it early enough to be timely with the review. If it ain't broke, why fix it? (And if it is broke, please just allow me to continue on in my ignorance of that fact.)

Instead, I want to talk about Lindsay Lohan's boobs.

Which do not make an appearance in Machete. But if you're not a very discriminating audience member, you might think that they do.

See, Lohan plays a character that the poster you see here wants you to think is nicknamed "The Sister." That's a bit of exploitation hype that has only to do with the marketing of the movie. Lohan is actually the daughter of a corrupt political aide who wants to make a career as an erotic internet model. It's not spoiling much to tell you that she gets kidnapped, nude, and stashed in a church. Upon awakening, she dresses herself in a nun's habit, because it's the only available clothing. The fact that she suddenly has skills with an automatic weapon is just fetishistic violent fluff.

So right before she gets kidnapped, she's making out in a pool -- alongside her mother -- with Machete. Both women are naked, and in this particular shot, both bear their breasts for all the world to see.

Except it's not really Lohan. It's a body double.

(The woman playing her mother, an actress named Alicia Marek, appears to be doing the stunt herself.)

I knew it right away. The woman who's supposed to be Lohan's character, April, is turned in to Trejo's body, so her face can't be seen. In fact, it doesn't even look like they made a very earnest attempt to duplicate Lohan's hairstyle on the body double. If the blatant disguising of her face were not evidence enough, I knew also that Lindsay Lohan -- no matter how far she may have fallen -- is one of those actresses who's squeamish about nudity. Kind of like her Machete co-star Jessica Alba, who has an almost nude scene herself, where the positioning of her arms and legs covers everything you might want to see.

But what about all those innocents out there who don't know about body doubles, who leave Machete telling their friends that Lindsay Lohan gets topless in it? Is thinking you saw Lindsay Lohan's boobs the same as actually seeing Lindsay Lohan's boobs?

When thinking about body doubles, I always think back -- for some reason -- to the movie Slums of Beverly Hills. Marisa Tomei's in the movie, and she uses a body double for a quick topless scene. Of course, the Marisa Tomei of 2007-2010 is much different than the Marisa Tomei of 1998 -- she practically has a clause in her contracts requiring nudity these days. Back then, however, she was far more prudish. And I clearly remember the one body double shot, where you see basically a pair of boobs on screen, and that's it -- no head, and not much of a belly either. Just the boobs. They could have been anybody's boobs, even the boobs of a blonde or a redhead.

But I remember thinking at the time that there were certainly many people watching that movie who thought they were seeing Marisa Tomei's boobs. And thinking that if she really wanted to maintain the reputation of an actress who doesn't do nudity, she shouldn't even have a body double who would fool certain naive viewers into thinking they saw her boobs. I remember thinking that there should be some kind of pop-up that occurred during the movie, complete with an asterisk, that said "Not Marisa Tomei's boobs!" Just to prevent any possible confusion.

And now the one TMZ calls "Lilo" is in the same situation. Just think of all those sweet simpletons in the heartland of America, who don't know a body double from a key grip from a dolly grip from a green screen, who will now spend the rest of their lives thinking that they glimpsed the promised land: the supple young breasts of one of Hollywood's most lusted after pieces of former jailbait. And because they may not have any acquaintances who will correct that misconception, they may go to their graves thinking they know what Lilo's breasts look like. Could this kind of ignorance be bliss?

I guess for Lindsay Lohan, it really doesn't matter anymore. You might ask why she doesn't just go ahead and do nudity -- heck, maybe do a whole sex tape. She's definitely sunk to the kind of professional and personal depths in which a sex tape would not necessarily be considered a step downward. When you think about it, there are two reasons most actresses don't want to do nudity: 1) They think it demeans them, and they want to keep the mystique of their private body intact; 2) They think it will negatively impact their career, will keep them from getting cast in movies financed by Disney, for example. Well, Lohan's Disney days are long over. If she wanted to show some nipples, even some muff, it might only help her.

And actually, there is some satisfaction in Machete for the prurient viewers out there. There's one scene, right before she dons that habit, when Lohan's long curls are only barely covering their curvaceous fleshy neighbors to the south. Yes, the real Lohan, not her double. As she goes from seated to standing up, the hair brushes aside long enough for one pretty clear shot of a nipple. It won't make very useful spank material, even for people who can pause their eventual DVD copies of the film, but it is there -- a certified Lohan nipple spotting. Lord be praised.

Thankfully, that's not the only reason to see Machete. I said I wouldn't submit a full Machete review, but it would be cruel to leave you without saying something of substance about it. So I'll tell you that although Machete is quite entertaining, it would have been a lot more so with 20 fewer minutes and about five fewer characters. The number of different bad guys in this movie nearly makes your head spin, and while some of that casting is deceptively brilliant (Jeff Fahey, Steven Seagal), other stunt casting doesn't really register the way it should (Don Johnson). Also, I'll say the movie needed a bit more of the Grindhouse grunge of Rodriguez' Planet Terror, in which it looked like the film stock was nearly falling apart there on the reel. Here, Rodriguez and Maniquis apply that look haphazardly, and the film in general looks a lot cleaner than it should. Whether that was their artistic choice or the artistic choice of Twentieth Century Fox, it's hard to say.

Oh, and Danny Trejo is one awesome action star who shouldn't have had to wait this long for his own badass vehicle.

With that, I bid you a-boob -- I mean, adieu.


Simon said...

You did a while post on Lindsay Lohan's boobs. Awesome.

Mike Lippert said...

I gotta say, I don't quite follow the logic of this post since Lohan as done topless photoshoots in which she bears the real things. That aside, it's like asking if a tree falls in the woods and no know how it goes. I think this post may come from being part of a generation where if you wanted to catch some boob, you had to pause the vhs and go it a frame at a time. Nudity is not taboo anymore because of the internet where guys are nice enough to post the scenes in question for us. In terms of body doubles, I'm not so sure if it matters because it all comes down to psychology in the end. Think of it like Eisenstien would have: shot of Lohan, shot of boob: Linsey Lohan's boobs. Whether it's here or not is just a matter of icing on the cake.

Vancetastic said...

The logic of the post is ... I'm not aware of everything that exists in the world! I did find the Lohan pictures you are referring to, but they are very chaste -- seen from the side, or else through a diaphanous dress of some kind. I think it's a big difference, also, when you are straight-on topless and kissing someone in a swimming pool, and being shot in an artsy way for a magazine. There HAS to be a difference, at least in her mind, or she would never have had the double ... is that logic more sound?

Mike Lippert said...

Vance, excuse me while I decalre that this conversation is no more than tit for tat ;)