Whew! Is it hot in here, or is it just the February magazines generating heat?
With less than a month until Valentine's Day, Movieline, Essence and Esquire, among others, are taking big-time notice of the holiday with themes of love, desire and, in the case of Movieline's annual ''More Sex Than Usual'' issue, raw lust.
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, star of next summer's ''X Men,'' sizzles on Movieline's cover. Inside, the magazine takes a look at the upcoming Marquis de Sade movie, ''Quills,'' and profiles Hollywood's ''tarts,'' (including Rose McGowan, who wore a wickedly revealing get-up to the '98 MTV Music Video Awards). Writers also opine on the 10 greatest cinematic kisses (among them Kathleen Turner and William Hurt's clinch in ''Body Heat'' and Daniel Day-Lewis' lip lock with Madeleine Stowe in ''The Last of the Mohicans'').
Be advised to don the oven mitts when reading the Q&A interview with actor James Woods, titled ''The Man Who Loves Women.'' Things get pretty hot.
Woods maintains that sex is the ''fundamental thing in life that never gets talked about.'' So he does, quite frankly, and apparently from experience.
Woods, most recently linked with actress Heather Graham, never figured he was particularly handsome but never had any trouble in the romance department. ''So that thing about not being attractive, I let it go because it wasn't important to women,'' he says. ''It amazes me that people are always asking, 'How do you get so many attractive women when you're 52 years old?' I answer, 'Because I like them.' Women appreciate men who really love women.''
Woods, whose liaison with Sean Young was tabloid fodder for years, admits that some of his affairs have been with women who are ''a little crazy.''
''What's so provocative about insane women is they're connected with their sexuality in such an unfettered way. Why be in bed with a librarian when you can be in bed with an animal?''
Other Woods insights:
''There's nothing more boring than watching married couples act together. Every time Tom Cruise makes a movie, it makes billions of dollars except when he does it with Nicole Kidman.''
''One of the worst things to ever happen to marriage is this insane practice of being right there with the camcorder while the kid is being born. Marriages die from it.''
''Listen,'' he tells women who gravitate toward ''bad boys,'' ''I don't want you to be disappointed, but I'm kind of, like, over it. I'll still tie you up and give you a little spanking if you want, but if you're looking for nothing but drama, I'm the wrong guy.''
The opposite of sex is what Essence details in a story about celibacy by Audrey Edwards, who has forsaken bedroom activities since March 8, 1996.
''The truth is, most women will spend a good part of their lives alone -- as either divorcees, widows or never-marrieds who statistically outlive the guys by about six years,'' Edwards writes.
The reasons -- busy careers, dislike of casual sex, life circumstances -- are many, Edwards finds, and the situation isn't limited to women. Most people are holding out for sex ''within an intimate, loving and compatible relationship. In other words, good sex.''
The three hunks pictured on the magazine's cover -- Morris Chestnut, Blair Underwood and Mekhi Phifer -- have undoubtedly broken their share of hearts, but they haven't broken Hollywood's bias against black leading men. Although women and black moviegoers represent a large share of box office receipts, ''studios have never been interested in portraying black men as fully realized sexual human beings,'' write Tananarive Due and Allison Samuels.
''Even Denzel Washington, 45, the ultimate crossover matinee idol for most of the last two decades, repeatedly plays characters who are as chaste as monks, getting hot and bothered only four times.'' (Those movies were ''Mo' Better Blues,'' ''Mississippi Masala,'' ''Devil in a Blue Dress'' and ''He Got Game.'')
E. Ethelbert Miller of Howard University's African-American Resource Center blames slavery and its legacy of fear. Black men in our society have ''always been considered dangerous,'' Miller says, and to put fully realized black male characters on the screen would require viewers to ''acknowledge their humanity,'' and their sexuality.
Although there are recent exceptions (''Soul Food'' and ''How Stella Got Her Groove Back,'' among others), black actors are in demand in the action-adventure genre, rather than in romantic roles. What this means is limited opportunity for black actors.
''It's no mystery that certain types of roles aren't out there for us,'' says Omar Epps, star of the 1992 movie ''Juice.'' ''There's no interest in this industry in diversity. That's just the reality of it.''
A recent demand by the NAACP to include more black characters in the new season's TV lineup may translate into more leading-man roles for black actors in films.
''I tell young people with ideas -- love stories, whatever -- to come to my company (Mundy Lane Entertainment) and see if we can make things happen, make things change,'' Washington says. ''Because the ceiling is glass, not lead.''
Speaking of lead, Esquire examines the shooting of Martin Dillon, a Pennsylvania man who lost his life in a lover's triangle. Seems his best friend, Dr. Stephen Scher, claims Dillon shot himself in a hunting accident. But Scher also was in love with Dillon's wife, Patricia. Alec Wilkinson explores this question-riddled 1976 case with skillful flair.
Also in ''The Desire Issue,'' Esquire profiles the femme fatale of the moment, Angelina Jolie, lists 73 things a man should know about marriage (''Now and then, look back at the original wedding budget and laugh at your childlike optimism'') and explicates ''The Passion of Bill Bradley.''
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