Nov 032008

>We’ve been so pins-and-needles over tomorrow’s election thing, we’re totally late to the party for the 40th birthday of the MPAA’s rating system. Oh, well–it’s not like they bothered to show up for our 40th shindig.


Founded in 1968, largely as a way for industry to stave off government intervention in the movie business, the ratings were/are intended as a way to help parents decide which titles are appropriate for the precious youngsters, but have tended to be a bit, er, capricious over the years.

In a fitting birthday gift to the MPAA, Defamer has come up with a very special list of questionable rulings made over the years, “40 Reasons to Wish the MPAA Ratings System an Unhappy 40th Birthday.”

Be sure to check out the rest, but just a few of the hits:

Boys Don’t Cry: Threatened with an NC-17 for a lingering shot of a topless Chloe Sevigny experiencing an orgasm, but allowed to keep the climactic rape scene and gunshot to Brondon Teena’s head.

and, of course…

Waiting For Guffman: A classic example of the “Fuck Rule”; a Christopher Guest mockumentary with no sex or violence but featuring the F-word used one too many times in an actor’s audition using the scene from Raging Bull. Its R-rating was upheld on appeal. (You can use “fuck” in a non-sexual way up to four times in and retain a PG-13 — maybe.)

And in an interesting coincidence (or is it?!), Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which barely squeaked away from it’s own NC-17 rating, opened on the MPAA’s birthday to not-so-spectacular results. At work might have been a skittering away from the the film’s title and subject matter by mainstream newspapers and venues… though several reports underlined the odd hypocrisy of limiting the sex-themed feature while glorifying such torture-porn fare as Saw V.

Then again, going back to Defamer, it could just be bad marketing on the part of the distributing Weinstein brothers. Shocking, indeed!

Feb 222007

>We’re counting the days until our return to the Lonestar State and our eagerly-anticipated – by us, anyway – participation in the SXSW film festival panel, Sex Scenes Stay Hard:

Love scenes might be the toughest thing for a filmmaker, actors and crew to accomplish. Under play it, and the audience does not believe there is connection between the characters. Go too far, and you’ll get yourself a NC-17 rating. From behind the camera to between the sheets to behind the scenes, this roundtable will discuss what it takes to get that love connection on film and keep those scenes in the final cut.

At one point in our prior existence as a young, enterprising film development sort, we actually contemplated starting our own company, to be deemed “NC-17 Productions,” with the thought of making balls-to-the-wall (so to speak) explicit, albeit narratively sophisicated fare. But then that conniving John Cameron Mitchell stole the idea and totally ran with it. Um, Shortbus … you might have heard of it? Anyway, we’re really not so bitter anymore, all we’re suggesting is that the NC-17 rating – or none at all – need not be regarded as the sign of the beast and might actually be embraced as a badge of distinction. (Then again, we did see This Film Is Not Yet Rated – at last year’s SXSW actually – and we have to concede that either can be a bit of a distribution, er, hindrance.)

It should be a jolly discussion. Moderating will be Bryan Poyser, who, among other things, directed the CineKinkster fave Dear Pillow. Rounding out the panel will be director Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, LOL) and POWER UP’s Lisa Thrasher (Itty Bitty Titty Committee), along with actor Jay Brannan and director John Cameron Mitchell (yep, him again!) of Shortbus.

We’re up on Monday, March 12 @ 3pm. Drop in if you’re around!

Aug 312006

>On our way out of the multiplex the other day, we noticed the rather demure posters for This Film is Not Yet Rated and a banner instructing us to visit to see the posters “they wouldn’t let us show you!” Later, in one of our regular moments of online procrastination, we actually remembered to do so.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We’re not sure, but we assume that the “they” preventing you from seeing these posters in a theater lobby is the MPAA, the motion picture industry’s trade association. And, using this instance as just an example, that might not be an entirely bad thing. While we’re as down on censorship as anyone, we’re not so keen on floating out of some dreamy rom-com to be smacked in the eye with a blazing image of seared flesh. (We should probably come clean with the revelation that branding is one of our own personal squick points.) (Come to think of it, both in the physical and in the marketing sense.)

But once we’ve left the town square and plopped down our $10.50 to see a particular film of our own adult-minded choosing, the determination of which images confront us should be left to the creativity of the filmmaker. And the process of classifying what is considered “adult” needs to be made transparent, so that filmmakers and audiences alike know where the line falls, as well as the how and the who behind that determination.

And that’s where This Film is Not Yet Rated comes in. Directed by Kirby Dick–who holds a permanent place in our heart for the sensitive and engaging Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist–the documentary delves into the whimsically arbitrary MPAA rating system and the power it wields over what we’re ultimately allowed to see on the big screen. Featuring the candid anecdotes of such directors as John Waters, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Kimberly Pierce and Mary Harron, the film is particularly compelling in its look at the discrepancies in the MPAA’s treatment of sex vs. violence and in an apparent aversion to homosexuality and the depiction of female sexual pleasure.

Opening in NYC and Los Angeles tomorrow, This Film is Not Yet Rated rolls out in several cities in the next weeks. Definitely make the effort to see it.