Here’s a really late film review. Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated was sort of released in early 2006. I was dying to see it the second I heard about it, but due to its NC-17 rating that wasn’t really a possibility outside of ponying up money I didn’t have to go to the Sundance Film Festival.
It’s pretty undisputed that, if your movie carries an NC-17 rating, it will not be shown at any major theater in the country and it will probably be impossible to find at nearly half of your DVD outlets. That’s a shame because if you are in any way seriously interested in movies or the movie business, Dick’s movie is without a doubt essential viewing.
Bill O’Reilly is constantly talking about the culture wars, and on that I agree with him. The people on Bill’s side think that the side I’m on is out to essentially destroy all that is good as we know it, which is funny because that’s exactly how I feel about them.
The problem with censorship is that it almost always seems that there is no voice for the people that are not offended. Leaving us at the mercy of some of the most creepy easily offended nimrods America has to offer. You know the ones that get arrested in Minneapolis bathrooms. One organization in America, the Parents Television Council, is actually reputed to be responsible for 99% of all FCC television complaints!
A lot of people look at the differences between now and the days of Lenny Bruce and think that censorship doesn’t exist and what there is of it isn’t damaging, since in their opinion we’ve actually gone way too far the other way. Personally, it’s not an issue I take lightly. I see how easy it is for kids to access pornography these days. I’d agree 100% that kids today watch too much vile crap than they should. I once saw a kid of an el train that couldn’t have been 12 singing rap lyrics about raping a woman, which made me fear for his and my own very existence. Then again, I’ve also seen suburban parents renting Terminator 2 for their 8 year old kid.
It’s my strong opinion that showing something mature to a child can be either a positive or an negative experience with the end result being completely decided by how the adult who does or does not show it to them helps them with the material. Some people want to abdicate this responsibility by just getting rid of everything they think might be offensive to their children. Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff they find offensive is material of art, ideas, and ideals that I think are essential to making us a more mature and understanding society.
Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated shows a Kafka-esque world where my side of the battle has literally been having its ass handed to it for decades, the MPAA. It’s no surprise that the MPAA is a collusive, secret, corporate nightmare of hypocrisy, its founder, Jack Valenti, came straight out of the Nixon administration. Every year I use to have to watch this now dead troglodyte get a mandatory standing ovation at the Oscar Awards, and I’d cringe, but I have to hand it to him. The man was a master of Orwellian proportions, a man constantly throwing around hypocritical nonsense to the press, while running a secret organization one film expert in Dick’s movie refers to as fascist in nature. Not only that, he and his organization remain undefeated and barely challenged.
The beginning of Dick’s film shows a list of all the director’s who have had to buckle under to the MPAA’s demand for them to edit their movies, and it reads like a hall of fame of modern directors. These are the greatest intellectuals cinema has to offer the world and their work is being edited by a secret panel of suburban parents, who have absolutely no intellectual guidelines to do so other than what they find suitable to be seen in an American movie theater.
This is horrifying to me because next to television and possibly the internet there is no other medium in America as influential to attitudes and social mores as movies. Dick’s argument also shows the numbing effect of the modern corporation. The MPAA was completely set up by the 7 major film studios, and it continues to serve their purposes. In the movie, Matt Stone, relates how when the board gave him an NC-17 for the movie Orgazmo, he was told that the board wouldn’t tell him what was deemed offensive at all, but when his major studio film South Park Bigger, Longer, and Uncut was rated he was given a list of what to cut to get an R rating.
Dick, in full prankster mode, actually hired a private detective to identify the secret panels that deal with rating movies and handling filmmaker appeals, put their names and pictures in his film, and then submitted it to the MPAA. Their response and his appeal process reveal a world that indeed someone who had just read Kafka’s the Trial would find brutally terrifying. Film makers aren’t even allowed to compare their films to other films that have gotten previous ratings by the board. In fact, any filmmaker that has a problem with the MPAA is pretty much at their mercy for the rest of their career.
That means that you’ll continue to see movies that find sex to be more deplorable than violence, and realistic violence more harmful than cartoon violence. This Film Is Not Yet Rated is an essential and courageous movie. My guess is that in the future Kirby Dick could submit a version of the Flintstones and find it rated NC-17. I also appreciate the bravery of Stone, Kevin Smith, Kimberly Pierce, and Maria Bello for speaking eloquently and persuasively about their experiences, while still in the movie business.
Nevertheless, I’ll leave with my new favorite example of the industry’s hypocrisy, which due to it’s time of filming, Dick couldn’t comment on. There is a long scene in the film where Bello discusses how her film the Cooler was originally rated NC-17, due to a brief flash of her pubic hair. Bello would then go on to make a History of Violence, a film, which though rated R, shows a full, unobstructed view of the same region for nearly 60 seconds. Don’t try to make sense of it all, it will only make you dizzy.