Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story: written by Flynn Hundhausen and Michael Lee Nirenberg; directed by Michael Lee Nirenberg (2014): Fascinating documentary about the history of Hustler magazine from its creation in the early 1970’s to today. I’d never really considered the fact that Hustler founder Larry Flynt “won” the American pornography wars. Hustler is still a vital, successful online porn presence. The other three major American porn magazines — Playboy, Penthouse, and Screw — have all either dwindled, been sold off, or completely disappeared.

With the McKinnon-Dworkin Anti-Porn Goofiness behind us, one can see how important porn was to free speech in the United States. Both Al Goldstein’s Screw and Larry Flynt’s Hustler fought multiple battles against censorship and obscenity laws. That isn’t to say Flynt was a saint — the film does a nice job of laying out all his weird moments, with Flynt himself commenting on his own weirdness with the benefit of hindsight. His completely bananas, muck-raking Presidential campaign in 1984 is probably Flynt’s crowning moment as a social commentator.

As the song goes, it’s hard to kick against the pricks. Was Hustler important? Yes. How? Well, it de-mechanized the female body in American pornography, following Screw‘s lead in eschewing airbrushing and other photo touch-ups. It actually ran real investigative journalism. And Flynt was almost fearless. You may not always get the free-speech advocates you want, but sometimes you get the one you need. 

Made by the son of one of Hustler‘s early art directors, Back Issues does fall down in two places. The timeline sometimes isn’t clear. And the movie takes vast jumps in time to get to its 90-minute length. But a fascinating documentary nonetheless. Highly recommended.

No Clue: written by Brent Butt; directed by Carl Bessai; starring Brent Butt (Leo), Amy Smart (Kyra), David Koechner (Ernie), Kirsten Prout (Reese), David Cubitt (Horn) and Garwin Sanford (Nelson) (2013): Pleasant spoof of film noir and hardboiled detective movies, starring and written by Corner Gas‘s Brent Butt. It looks and feels like a nice time-waster of a TV movie, very much in the pleasant, mildly observant comedy tradition of Corner Gas. And it admits that it’s set in Canada (Vancouver, to be exact). Boy, though, did the director fall in love with his overhead helicopter shots of the city. Recommended.

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