Monday, February 19, 2007
The biggest mystery and the best kept secret in Hollywood is why a movie gets a certain rating. Why is it more acceptable to show a thousand orphans getting shot and killed (PG-13) than it is to drop more than one F-bomb (R)?
The director of the film is Kirby Dick. He also stars in the film, and is quick to point out that the MPAA's (Motion Picture Association of America) rating system is voluntary. However, the difference between an NC-17 and R rating could mean tens of millions of dollars, and a director has no choice but to bow to the MPAA's suggestions (unless they don't like to eat). There is an appeals process, which is more of a formality, in which a director can speak their case as to why their movie should get a lower rating.
The identities of the people that rate the films for the MPAA are kept confidential. Dick decided to hire a P.I. to find out who these people were, and if they do in fact represent the "average American parent" (which has at least one child between 5 and 17). It is revealed that very few of the nine film raters have children that fall into that age range, which by the MPAA's own definition means that they do not represent the "average American parent". What's even more interesting is that only nine people (plus their few bosses) have the final say on what rating a movie gets, and ultimately if that movie will ever be released.
Are there "too many" pumps in a sex scene, the duration of an orgasm, what sexual positions are used, how many people are having sex, if there are gay/lesbian situations, and explicit language are all factors that film raters take into consideration. The restrictions for violence are significantly looser, though just as fuzzy. If blood appears as a result of voilence, then an R rating is pretty much guaranteed (but Wolverine can stab as many guys in the chest as he wants, as long as no blood is shown it's alright for PG-13).
These are not rules, more guidelines that the MPAA has never defined to the public. This means that a director really has no idea what rating their film will receive. And just because some movies can get away with saying tons of curse words and showing nudity, sexual situations, blood-letting-violence, and gayness doesn't mean that other movies will get a similar rating. For instance, if someone made a movie that shows a vagina for 2 seconds (The Cooler), it would most likely get a rating of NC-17. Why then would other movies (Basic Instinct) that shows a vagina for no good reason at all receive an R rating?
This film has interviews with plenty of directors you've heard of and seen their movies (Matt Stone, Kevin Smith, Mary Harron) as well as interviews with Hollywood insiders, and even interviews with former MPAA film raters.
The movie really completes documenting the process of how a movie receives it's rating by showing how This Film Is Not Yet Rated dealt with the MPAA. No surprise, it got rated NC-17 basically because it showed the "dirty" parts of the NC-17 films, but it shows these parts to display how ridiculous it was that these movies got their ratings because of one scene, sometimes one second of footage.
I give this film 4 / 5 stars. There's so much information in this movie, and Kirby Dick really does a great job of not being like Michael Moore as much as possible. It's pointed out that in Europe, the movie industry has almost the exact opposite priorities when it comes to "voluntary" censorship. The European films are more free when it comes to sex, but very strict when it comes to violence.