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The X List: The National Society of Film Critics' Guide to the Movies That Turn Us On
Its reach is ambitious, covering films from the mainstream and the fringes, from the buddy flick to good, old-fashioned hard-core porn.

The X List: The National Society of Film Critics' Guide to the Movies That Turn Us On

edited by Jami Bernard

Da Capo, 352 pp., $17.50 (paper)

When it comes to movies, which ones inspire a tingle in your special places? Do you lust after Gael García Bernal in Y Tu Mamá También? Or does the twinkle in Robert Redford's eye as the Sundance Kid make your nether regions quiver? How about Connie Nielsen's patrician despair in Gladiator? Well, friend, you're not alone. When you get more than 40 writers talking about films that tickle one's pink, the project necessarily lends itself to more than adequate breadth and depth regarding the subject matter. The X List's reach is ambitious, covering films from the mainstream (Basic Instinct) and the fringes (Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life), from the buddy flick (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) to good, old-fashioned hardcore porn (Deep Throat). For every critic present, there is a different reason for why these films turn folks on, and who is turned on is always up for grabs.

For Roger Ebert, writing about Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (of course), the turn-on in question is Russ Meyer's epic fascination with boobies. Amy Taubin of Film Comment explicates, quite surprisingly, the similarities between Edith Wharton and Martin Scorsese, and why he was the perfect choice to explore the class-driven sexual tensions in his 1993 adaptation of The Age of Innocence. Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, in her discussion of the symbolism of the color green and the crippling, mind-fucking power of memory, actually makes Alfonso Cuarón's version of Great Expectations (starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow) sound like a good movie worth another viewing.

While there is a fair representation of the academic here (those familiar with Laura Mulvey's feminist film theory will be right at home), this collection of essays is accessible to those who appreciate movies you can only see on college campuses, as well as those appreciated by Joe Sixpack, running in perpetuity on basic cable. The most interesting thing about this collection, however, is its (possibly unintended) reminder that in order for us to get turned on south of our belts, our brains must first be stimulated. Which means that, sadly, Deuce Bigalow did not make the cut.

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The X List:The National Society of Film Critics' Guide to the Movies That Turn Us On, Jami Bernard, Da Capo

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