This Film is Not Yet Rated (2007)

Friday, February 01, 2008
How much do you know about the Motion Picture Association of America's and it's rating system? Other than the fact that they probably kept you out of a few movies you really really wanted to see when you were a teenager? The MPAA is the organization that provides the ratings you see before the start of a film. We all know that green screen... "This film has been rated G - General and is suitable for all audiences", etc. But how do they decide which films get which ratings? And who are they exactly? Director Kirby Dick decided to find out.

This Film is Not Yet Rated chronicles Dick's mission to discover the identies of the MPAA's rating board, figure out how they make their decisions, and just why they need to be oh so secretive. Wait a minute, you're probably saying. Can't you just go on their website and find their names? Or call up the MPAA and ask? No. They don't publish the names of their raters and their identities are kept secret to "protect them" from groups trying to pressure them. Even their appeals board's identities are secret. And for good reason.

Dick enlists the services of private investigators who manage to discover the identities of both the raters and the appeals board, which includes two members of the clergy. Contrary to former head, Jack Valenti's often repeated claims that the ratings board is made up of average American parents looking to do what's in the best interest of the country's children, Dick's investigations discovered that most of the current members (as at time of filming) either had no children at all or had adult aged children. Not exactly what you'd expect based on Valenti's statements. And the appeals board? Well, I'm not going to give that one away - I suggest you give this documentary a looksee and I bet you'll be a bit surprised. Or maybe you won't. Either way, I'm thinking HUGE conflict of interest...

The film is peppered with interviews of filmmakers (including Kevin Smith and John Waters among others), actors, free speech lawyers, reviewers, and authors describing their experiences with the MPAA raters. It's interesting to see just how many famous filmmakers have had an NC-17 rating slapped on their films. And despite what the MPAA claims, they seem to routinely judge films with depictions of gay sex, female pleasure, or depictions of straight sex which are anything other than missionary or woman on top harsher than ones with scenes of extreme violence or dismemberment and decaptitation. That is unless the film portrays violence and it's consequences accurately (the film uses the example of the beach assault scene in Saving Private Ryan as an example).

While I feel that some sort of "standard" for lack of a better word is necessary, the power the MPAA is depicted as holding is incredible. Free speech? Artistic expression? Don't necessarily count on it if you're looking to have your film distributed or promoted to a wide audience.

Captain Recommended.

3 comments:

mister anchovy said...

Har! I forgot all about J.D. Roberts morphing into John Roberts. Is he any better as a news guy than he was as a DJ?

Karen said...

You can still see flashes of the old JD Roberts when he's reporting on CNN. To be honest, I liked him better as a Veejay. I just don't buy him as a "serious" newsman.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I saw most of this film and it shows once again how the big corporations have a stranglehold on our culture.

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