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The Bottom Shelf #102

04.05.2007

Probably one of the biggest true Bottom Shelf genres is the documentary. I've been made fun of countless times for being "boring," "geeky," or "lame" because I actually enjoy watching documentaries. Real life stories can be the funniest, scariest, exciting and most dramatic tales out there. Why trudge through a fictional movie that most likely is just some recycled idea when you can watch something that has its own unique finger print?

SEX: THE ANNABEL CHONG STORY (1999)
Directed by: Gough Lewis
Starring: Annabel Chong

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I miss my porn days. No, I was never an actress (not on screen at least), but I used to feel free to watch porn in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend, when the sun was shining and I should have been wandering around outside. Having a kid relegates porn to the late night hours, squirreled away as if a thief in the night. I hate this concept because I've always seen porn movies as being just another genre of film. Sure, most people watch them to have accompanying visuals for those private dances with their pink parts, but what guy was denied sex after watching THE NOTEBOOK with his lady? At least porn is more upfront and honest about its intentions. Still, there are lines that need to be drawn about the appropriate nature of porn just as there is a need for parents to make decisions about whether or not their children watch a bloody R rated horror flick.

The lines are blurred and then brought into sharp focus in this documentary. Annabel Chong (real name: Grace Quek) was the first in a brief line of women back in the mid to late nineties who broke porn records for f*cking the most men in a day's length of time. She is still best known for her participation in that video than any of the other 27 porn films that she was in. What the general public doesn't know about her gets detailed in this movie. From being enrolled in Sex Studies at the University of Southern California while acting in porn to the fact that she was never compensated for her role in her most well known film. We get to meet Annabel up close and share with her the every day moments in her life in addition to her dealings within the adult entertainment industry.

This film is hard to watch. At the start it's hard to watch because quality wise in terms of camera quality, this looks like a porn director's documentary about porn. There are no shiny Showtime angles and lighting. It will be hard for most to watch because unlike other documentaries about the porn industry, it is more graphic in nature, not shying away from the scary shots. For those viewers who are unaccustomed to porn, this might not be the movie for you. As it goes on, it becomes vastly more watchable. You get drawn into the life that this woman leads and what she feels she is representing. It is in those moments, where you grow to like her and get past the weird accent and stuttering speech patterns she uses, that it becomes most difficult to watch. Because she almost convinces you of the power that she says she derives from her involvement in the industry and then the curtain falls and you realize that it was all an elaborate charade. This was absolutely one of the best behind the scenes looks at porn that I have seen thus far.

Favorite Scene:

The justifications of those working in the porn industry trying to distance themselves from what Annabel had done in her work and what they do in theirs.

Favorite Line:

"Put a police officer right here, and you have a girl right here, and have me say, "Will you suck my dick for $50?" and she says, "Yeah," they'll arrest us because that's prostitution and that's a pimp. But because we have this camera here, "We're gonna make a movie now. You're gonna suck my dick and I'm gonna give you $50. We're gonna make a porno," and that's legal."

Trivia Tidbit:

The website that had formerly been dedicated to Annabel and her career is now a generic adult sales website, containing nothing more about Annabel than listing her name.

See if you liked:

THINKING XXX, PORN STAR: THE LEGEND OF RON JEREMY, 9 SONGS

THE EDUCATION OF SHELBY KNOX (2005)
Directed by: Marion Lipschutz, Rose Rosenblatt
Starring: Shelby Knox

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Alright, so I know this one is pretty recent and The Bottom Shelf is supposed to be dedicated to some of the older movies out there that we might have forgotten about. However, I also consider this column to be about promoting stuff that you probably haven't heard of and should. I'm also a big documentary geek. When I was a little kid I would consume hours of National Geographic specials and not get bored. When cable television started catering to people like me with the various Discovery type channels, I was blissed out. Bear with me, though. I fully understand that most people are not all that into documentaries. I also think that most people want to be educated. Well, most people outside of Lubbock, Texas.

This film is light weight documentary fodder detailing one girl's aspirations to help bring sex education to her high school. Residing in Lubbock, Texas, Shelby Knox was appalled by the record high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. She decided to join a youth committee formed by her local government to help push for education in schools. The major twist here is that this girl is from a conservative Republican family. At the start of the film she is shown taking a "Purity Pledge," a contract of sorts that teenagers make with their church promising to remain virgins until they are married. For someone so naive about most of the aspects of sex, Shelby ends up making one hell of a vocal advocate for youth rights.

There are parts to this feature which feel a little forced. Her parents are overwhelmingly understanding for being as supposedly conservative as they purport to be. The movie has moments which play out a little like one of those '80's after school specials. Lucky for the movie, I was a fan of those, even in their cheesiest of moments. Because they meant well. Shelby means well throughout this movie, even getting involved with a teen gay pride group fighting for their own rights in the high school system. One of the young men expresses my feeling precisely when he wishes that there were more Christians out there like her. Here's to hoping that with her determination, some of what she possesses will rub off on those around her.

Favorite Scene:

The culmination of the project, when they reflect on what the head of the school supervising board was up to.

Favorite Line:

Sidenote: You must not read into the following the wrong way, as it is not my personal belief, just a statement to the audacity of the proclamation.

"Jesus loves homosexuals as much as he loves murderers."

Trivia Tidbit:

Was nominated for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

See if you liked:

JESUS CAMP, BORN INTO BROTHELS, SHUT UP AND SING

Crawl out of your little hole. This isn't like actually joining the big bad world. But it's the closest you can get to it realistically without having to do the living yourself.

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