Shortbus & Bound - Lilith Likes to Watch Double Feature!

Well, for this, the Lilith Likes to Watch 3rd Anniversary, I decided to do a very special double feature. Please, do enjoy!

Title: Shortbus
Starring: Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, PJ DeBoy
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Synopsis: A group of New Yorkers caught up in their romantic/sexual milieu converge at Shortbus, an underground Brooklyn salon infamous for its blend of art, music, politics, and carnality. - Via
Lilith's Notes: Nominated for several awards including the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film.

"After all, voyeurism is participation"

The human experience is made up of countless milestones, for both good and ill. As soon as we scream our first scream we measure our lives in a set of accomplishments and goalposts. Some are more or less set in stone; first day of school, first crush, first car, first date, first death, first time surviving a global pandemic. Others are more unique to an individual; first pet, first marriage, first publication, first divorce, first backpacking adventure.

One of my personal milestones was when I met my best friend, writing partner and editor J. Lee Kage. As we cultivated our friendship, which has been going on for literal decades at this point, we started watching movies together. We would challenge one another with trash, or something scandalous, or revisit films from our respective childhood.

It was this hobby that was the genesis of Lilith Likes to Watch. We had watched something, and I had thoughts about it! This September will be the third anniversary of this review site. Somehow it's survived and I'm still here, with Kage, watching porn.

So for the third anniversary, and because I ran out of Alice in Wonderland themed porn, I decided to revisit the two films that predate this blog but were influential and, for me, taste-making.

One of our first movies we watched was Shortbus, a 2006 indie darling about the sex lives of several 20 and 30 somethings in a post-9/11 New York. Our cast live in a world trying to figure out grief and sexuality in a confusing era that makes it feel like a movie out of time. Also it starts with a guy coming on his own face so that's fun.

Which is funny because I don't remember anything about this movie from the first time I watched it except for one scene. That doesn't bode well, does it?

Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) is a sex therapist who can't orgasm, Severen (Lindsay Beamish) is a dominatrix who fears intimacy, Jamie (PJ DeBoy) and James (Paul Dawson) are a gay couple looking to add a third. Really, Shortbus feels a bit like an over-sexed version of Rent.

Our cast of crazy characters all enter Shortbus, a club for the sexually curious and adventurous.

As the movie progresses, each character reveals facets to themselves, and that's great but I'm not sure I cared. Especially about James and Jamie. James just comes across as self-absorbed and sort of whiny thanks to a bout of clinical depression, and Jamie is oblivious, still coasting on the memories of being a child actor or something. They invite Ceth (Jay Brannan) into their relationship. He used to be a model.

Shortbus, the establishment, is run by a vampy, glam performer called Justin Bond (Mx Justin Vivian Bond). They're a voice of encouragement and tries to get others to open themselves to the sexual environment.

One night, Sofia and her husband Rob (Raphael Barker) visit the club. Sofia has a vibrating egg inside her lady parts and Rob has the remote, and they split up. Then Justin comes to talk to Sofia and they kiss. Suddenly the egg keeps going off. Sofia tries to explain to a completely turned off, eye rolling Justin. Excuse me?! You are the owner and purveyor of a fucking sex club in the middle of NYC. How the hell do you have any right of being so fucking judgmental about what a consenting married couple choose to do with their time? What the fuck?

Then, Severen, the dominatrix, tries to work through her feelings about her best client. Then she sort of sexually assaults Sofia, and I think its played for laughs? And then she ends up with Sofia's husband and her arc makes no sense and she goes from possibly favourite character to least favourite very fucking quickly.

And then an artsy metaphor happens, causing the characters to reconvene at Shortbus.

Eventually, Sofia hooks up with a heterosexual couple that she's been eyeing ever since her first visit to Shortbus. We don't get to see the sex, but the guy does that creepy knuckle along the arm move, like he's checking the quality of a fucking leather jacket. Fuck you, dude. You're gross. Anyway, Sofia comes. Good for her.

It's funny, looking back I remembered not liking this movie, but revisiting it, I found I liked it more than I remembered, whereas Kage did not. He would have given it a 4, I would have given it a 2. Now we both give it a 3. Perception is a strange thing.

For the record, the egg was the only thing I remembered from the first time I watched this film.

Best Moment: The homosexual threesome. They seemed to be having a genuine, silly good time.

Worst Moment:When Justin Bond leaves Sofia after kissing her. It was very judgmental.


We're not done yet, viewers. I said double feature and I meant it. Let's move on to ....

Title: Bound
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano
Director: The Wachowskis
Synopsis: Corky, a tough female ex-convict working on an apartment renovation in a Chicago building, meets a couple living next door, Caesar, a paranoid mobster, and Violet, his seductive girlfriend, who is immediately attracted to her. - Via
Lilith's Notes: One of the first mainstream films to feature a lesbian couple where the plot isn't about how lesbian they are.

"I'm not apologizing for what I did, I'm apologizing for what I didn't do"

Did you see it? In the Matrix trailer. The tiny easter egg for this movie? Look again. You'll find it.

Bound is the story of Violet (Jennifer Tilly), a mobster's girlfriend, and Corky (Gina Gershon), a woman who's fixing up an old apartment. After Violet finds out Corky was in prison for theft, she asks for help to swindle the mob and get out of the life. Who better than an ex-thief? Together they plan to outwit the mob and get the loot for themselves. Of course, not all is well in paradise. As the scheme goes, we're not sure if Violet is going to double cross Corky or if their love is real.

What's to say? It's Bound. You either know this movie and like it, or have never heard of it and need to go watch it. It's an early Wachowski venture, and honestly, you can see echoes of what their later films would feature. Things like dynamic shots of phone calls, effective use of slow motion, and a creative use of texture, patterns, lighting and colour, like Cesar's completely grey and white apartment.

The movie is perfectly cast. Both characters have a running story, a place they came from. They're lived in, fleshed out and three dimensional. I forget that Corky, with her lock-pick earrings, is just a character Gina Gershon is playing. It's so fucking natural. Jennifer Tilly I feel is probably someone a lot of people dismiss as being cheesy or low brow or something, but she's one of my girl crushes and she's great in this. Their chemistry is off the charts and one can't help but root for the pair.

The sex scene between Corky and Violet was very well done, though I wish it was longer. The Wachowski's invited sex educator and writer Susan Bright. Taken in one long shot, it's a very intimate scene but It's not lecherous or lewd. There's a fragile honesty to it and it's expertly crafted. But it needed to be longer.

I don't remember when or why I first watched this film but this is at least my third time and I like it more and more with each viewing. It's stylish, creative and bolsters an entirely different perspective on the typical crime drama.

This year, Bound will be 25 years old. It's interesting that this film was so ahead of its time but watching it now it seems sort of timeless. Despite some mild trappings of the 90s, It still manages to feel modern and contemporary, maybe because of the ladies at the helm.

Best Moment: The lesbian sex scene between Gershon and Tilly.

Worst Moment:There are large swaths of screentime where Corky is nowhere to be seen.


Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

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