Saturday, October 29, 2016

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Everyone has probably heard of the Motion Picture Association of America, which usually just goes by MPAA. The MPAA is the agency that, among other things, assigns ratings to movies. Specifically, it has a board of people that meets to review movies and figure out how they should be rated. Have you ever stopped to wonder how those ratings are assigned?

The ratings system is designed to give people an idea of what’s in a movie. But, what makes a PG movie different from a G movie? What, exactly, differentiates an R from an NC-17? (Yes, the NC-17 is generally associated with porn, but there are plenty of R-rated movies with lots of sex in them.)

The trouble is that the members of the MPAA’s ratings board meet in secret and are unknown to the general public. Supposedly, they’re all parents of young children and are average, middle-class people. However, since we don’t know who they are, we have to take the MPAA’s word for it. That’s where the writer/director, Kirby Dick, comes in. He’s taken it upon himself to figure out who these people are and why they rate the way they do.

Mr. Dick makes a few interesting points. For instance, a rating of NC-17 can pretty much kill a movie, since it limits the options of said movie in terms of advertising options and distribution. Granted, theaters have the right to show what they want, but what if the NC-17 rating is given unfairly? As I asked before, why are some movies with sex scenes given an R while others are bumped up to an NC-17?

The movie does actually show which forms of sex are ‘acceptable’ for an R rating while everything else is considered non-mainstream. In a way, it gives the board the power to rewrite movies, essentially telling the writers that if they take out certain scenes, then can get a different rating. From what I understand, UHF could have gotten a G rating if the scene with the flying poodles had been taken out. In that case, “Weird Al” Yankovic refused to take the scene out, but there are some writers that don’t.

The movie is filled with interviews featuring all sorts of people, such as Matt Stone of South Park fame. Many of them explain how they were in a movie or tried to make a movie that the ratings board rated unfairly. I didn’t feel that any of it came off as whiny, but the movie did drive home the point. If anything, it was repetitive.

Mr. Dick also decided to hire a private investigator to find out the identities of the board members, which I felt was also drawn out. I can see showing the identities of one or two, but he shows the investigator exposing all of them. He uses the information to show how the board members aren’t necessarily what the MPAA says they are. It would have been fine to feature how he got one or two and give all the names. It basically came across as filler.

Speaking of filler, the movie also has footage (most of it reenacted) on how the movie got its own rating of NC-17. This is due mostly to the movie featuring a lot of sex scenes. (It tries to show how violence is more acceptable that sex.) It reminded me of a scene in the Simpsons where Marge’s sisters are showing a slide show of a recent trip, which ends in the sisters dropping off the film to be developed. (By putting in that footage, doesn’t the film have to be resubmitted?)

The ratings are supposed to reflect society’s standards, but that may not always be the case. The main point of the movie is that the MPAA is a bit biased. There are no movie professionals on the board. There are no single people. It doesn’t seem that the board is a very diverse group. It’s also difficult to get an appeal. If you want a new rating, you have to cut stuff.

It was a good movie worthy of four stars, but seemed a bit long at 90 minutes. It’s still worth watching. 


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