Filmmaking is an art, and the industry is a business. What fans see on any awards night may give the illusion of spontaneity, with the daring red carpet fashion and the breathless acceptance speeches, but make no mistake: awards season is a regimented process. There’s nothing particularly sexy about forms, Variety ads, and firm handshakes. With any luck, the excitement factor comes from the nominated films themselves. And while you might make the blanket assumption that the honored movies are as stuffy as the campaign period, major award shows have doled out accolades to some very provocative pieces of work. Though controversy still follows films that dare present anything different than the waist-up, softly-lit love scenes designed to spare audiences offense, these 13 sex-filled movies were recognized with nominations.
In fact, controversy can be a blessing. Voters are inundated with screeners and invitations. Inevitably, some eligible films are not as widely seen as they should be. But add a little buzz from a graphic love scene or two, and suddenly that screener moves up the voter’s list. I’m not saying that these movies aren’t excellent in other ways. I’m just saying that a little nudity can’t hurt.
1. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller was an award and festival darling in 2011. Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her performance as an obsessive ballerina, whose encroaching fantasy life includes a frantic love scene with a rival played by Mila Kunis.
If "tent sex" is your thing, Brokeback is your movie. It lost the Best Picture Oscar to Crash in one of the most egregious upsets of all time, but its quiet romantic desperation endures.
This title is misleading, to say the least.
Glenn Close plays a male fantasy turned nightmare in the Best Picture nominee, which, in the words of Tom Hanks' character in Sleepless In Seattle, "scared the s**t out of every man in America."
Halle Berry earned her Oscar by playing the widow of an executed prisoner in this rather bleak drama. It features quite a bit of naked time between Berry and co-star Billy Bob Thornton, though.
6. The Piano
I remember being very confused about why my parents wouldn't let me watch a movie that seemed to be about a musical instruments and women with very tight braids. Then I saw it and I wasn't confused anymore.
A Best Foreign Language Motion Picture winner at the Golden Globes, Alfonso Cuaron's coming-of-age road movie culminated in one of film's most famous threesomes.
Stanley Kubrick's last hurrah ended up being Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's as well. The erotic thriller and its masked orgy were a little too much for the Globes and the Oscars, but festivals and critics associations were all over it.
9. The Reader
A challenging love story, to say the least, The Reader set leading lady Kate Winslet up for a Leading Actress Oscar win. As a former Nazi guard who seduces a teenage boy, Winslet is fearless and exposed.
It's the 7-minute-long lesbian love scene heard around the world. In the dreamy French romance, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, co-stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux wore molded vaginas in order to act our realistic oral sex. It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, as well as many other nods.
11. Boogie Nights
Who can forget that final shot of Dirk Diggler giving himself and little Dirk a pep talk in the mirror? Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights brought Bert Reynolds back into the spotlight and the most taboo film genre — porn — straight to the Oscar red carpet.
Definitely not one to watch with the parents or the kids, this biopic of Marquis de Sade, an early icon of sexual freedom, would do the Marquis proud with its graphic, messy depictions of sexuality.
Diane Lane was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in this revenge thriller. Don't worry, she and her lover (Olivier Martinez) have plenty of opportunity to rattle some headboards before everything goes way south, way fast.
These provocative movies rode their buzz straight to major awards recognition. Who says sex doesn't sell?
Image: IFC Films