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This Film Is Not Yet Rated

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From: "Robert T. Haile" <robert@specialopsmedia.com>

Subject: "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"

Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006

Hi ,

As you may know, today marks the official release of "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," Kirby Dick's groundbreaking expose of the MPAA rating board.

As the title implies, the film is NOT rated. Yet an interesting trend has emerged. Despite the filmmakers intentional decision to leave the film UNRATED, many listings and reviews are still carrying the NC-17 rating! The MPAA site lists the film as NC-17, as do popular sites such as IMDB.

Might the MPAA have anything to do with this? Are they using their NC-17 label as a weapon to suppress this film? Perhaps one should ask Joan Graves, ratings Board chair at the MPAA (her contact info happens to be (818) 995-6600; Joan_Graves@mpaa.org).

IF YOU HAVE LISTED OR FEATURED THIS FILM ON YOUR SITE, PLEASE DO THE RIGHT THING AND MAKE SURE IT IS PROPERLY TAGGED AS "NOT RATED."

Thanks!!!

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From: "Robert T. Haile" <robert@specialopsmedia.com>

Subject: "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"

Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006

Hi ,

As you may know, today marks the official release of "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," Kirby Dick's groundbreaking expose of the MPAA rating board.

As the title implies, the film is NOT rated. Yet an interesting trend has emerged. Despite the filmmakers intentional decision to leave the film UNRATED, many listings and reviews are still carrying the NC-17 rating! The MPAA site lists the film as NC-17, as do popular sites such as IMDB.

Might the MPAA have anything to do with this? Are they using their NC-17 label as a weapon to suppress this film? Perhaps one should ask Joan Graves, ratings Board chair at the MPAA (her contact info happens to be (818) 995-6600; Joan_Graves@mpaa.org).

IF YOU HAVE LISTED OR FEATURED THIS FILM ON YOUR SITE, PLEASE DO THE RIGHT THING AND MAKE SURE IT IS PROPERLY TAGGED AS "NOT RATED."

Thanks!!!

But...

The film _was_ rated. It was rated an NC-17.

The filmmakers wish to release the film unrated. Okay. But that's an altogether different thing to say it was "Not Yet Rated."

Still, any film which uses SDG's movie reviews to prove its point deserves notice.... if only to say that SDG is in an NC-17 film.

Nick

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So in reference to the thread's subtitle, is an MPAA employee considerd a "ratings creep"?

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That reviewer, despite his apparent lack of basic writing skills, does bring up a valid point, IMO - what exactly does it mean to have a rating less strict than "Parental Guidance suggested"? Is there really any movie where parental guidance ISN'T suggested?

Now, perhaps there does need to be some divide, to differentiate, say, Cars from Monster House. But it might be profitable to call Cars PG and Monster House PG-10. Which is basically the way a lot of people take it already . . .

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: The film _was_ rated. It was rated an NC-17.

: The filmmakers wish to release the film unrated. Okay. But that's an altogether different thing to

: say it was "Not Yet Rated."

What I find interesting is that the MPAA website (filmratings.com) lists the film as rated NC-17, and leaves it at that, whereas earlier films, such as Requiem for a Dream (2000), are listed as "Unrated" because their NC-17 ratings were "surrendered" (whatever that means). So why hasn't the rating for THIS film been "surrendered"?

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I thought it was worth highlighting this portion of John Podhoretz's favorable review of this film in the current Weekly Standard (link only available to subscribers):

The key question Dick and others pose is this: Why is it that the board goes so easy on depictions of violence while viewing depictions of sexuality as something more liable to give offense and more in need of restrictive rating? This is something that has bedeviled Hollywood for decades, and no one on the board or at the MPAA has ever explained this double standard. I'm not sure the raters themselves even understand it, which is why there's never been a satisfying defense.

Let me try one. When you see violence depicted onscreen, what you are seeing isn't really happening. No one is punching another person. No one is shooting another person. The blood isn't real. The guts aren't real. There is no injury being inflicted. It's a highly expensive version of a game being played by six-year-old boys in the backyard.

When you see people simulating sex on screen, you are seeing something very real, even though you are not seeing sex itself. When tongues touch, those tongues are actually touching. A man's actual hand plays with a woman's breast. A man's body lies on top of a woman's, or vice versa. This may all be for show, but it's far more true to the actual experience of intimacy than any depiction of a punch is to an actual punch.

What's exciting about seeing sexuality onscreen is also what can be disturbing about it. It's actually a violation of the very idea of intimacy to watch two other people in intimate relation to each other. This is why, I think, the raters remain more likely to restrict the viewing of sexually graphic movies than they are to keep teenagers from seeing fantasy violence onscreen. And if I'm right, then this reticence should not be as quickly or easily dismissed as most critics of the ratings board dismiss it--no matter how ludicrous or corrupt the ratings system might be.

So, is he right?

Edited by Christian

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I thought it was worth highlighting this portion of John Podhoretz's favorable review of this film in the current Weekly Standard (link only available to subscribers):

The key question Dick and others pose is this: Why is it that the board goes so easy on depictions of violence while viewing depictions of sexuality as something more liable to give offense and more in need of restrictive rating? This is something that has bedeviled Hollywood for decades, and no one on the board or at the MPAA has ever explained this double standard. I'm not sure the raters themselves even understand it, which is why there's never been a satisfying defense.

Let me try one. When you see violence depicted onscreen, what you are seeing isn't really happening. No one is punching another person. No one is shooting another person. The blood isn't real. The guts aren't real. There is no injury being inflicted. It's a highly expensive version of a game being played by six-year-old boys in the backyard.

When you see people simulating sex on screen, you are seeing something very real, even though you are not seeing sex itself. When tongues touch, those tongues are actually touching. A man's actual hand plays with a woman's breast. A man's body lies on top of a woman's, or vice versa. This may all be for show, but it's far more true to the actual experience of intimacy than any depiction of a punch is to an actual punch.

What's exciting about seeing sexuality onscreen is also what can be disturbing about it. It's actually a violation of the very idea of intimacy to watch two other people in intimate relation to each other. This is why, I think, the raters remain more likely to restrict the viewing of sexually graphic movies than they are to keep teenagers from seeing fantasy violence onscreen. And if I'm right, then this reticence should not be as quickly or easily dismissed as most critics of the ratings board dismiss it--no matter how ludicrous or corrupt the ratings system might be.

So, is he right?

Hmm... that's an interesting way to look at it. Certainly not one I'd thought about. My assumption has always been that (given the religiously influenced nature of the history of hollywood's ratings board) depictions of - and viewing of - sexually explicit content was far easier to find biblical justification for avoidance than violence. As a christian, I know my personal standards are influenced by trying to heed these warnings.

Even from a non-religious "community standards" standpoint, the fact such a large portion of our community is impacted at least marginally by these religious (and not just christian) undergirdings I think (justly) requires taking them into consideration when considering those "community standards." Especially given that the mpaa's mandate is specifically designed to give parents guidelines for what they choose to let their children see, not to give adults guidelines for what they themselves feel is appropriate to see. I certainly don't have any numbers to back this up, but my personal gut feeling would be that the majority of parents would shield their children more vigilently from sexual images than violent ones. (Certainly, I'm making generalizations here, as it's impossible to make these choices in a vaccuum, but I guess I'm doing it nonetheless.)

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popechild wrote:

: Hmm... that's an interesting way to look at it. Certainly not one I'd thought about.

It's pretty much the argument that I've advanced here before, in multiple threads, and I think a few other people have advanced it too. Make-believe violence is make-believe. Make-believe sex is not-as-make-believe. That seems pretty straightforward to me. One produces an entirely different kind of voyeurism from the other.

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Ooooh, you were just waiting for that one, weren't you? ;)

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Watched this last night, and though I'm not put off by the Michael Moore school of doc film making, I found this one very wanting. The talking head part wasn't bad (although just as biased as anything Moore has done) and the "investigation" parts were not nearly as entertaining or well done as the equivalent in Moore's work. On my film journal I gave it a 3.5/5, and I think that might be generous. Maybe I'll down grade it later.

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Just saw this. Liked it well enough, though it doesn't really get into anything that I hadn't already encountered in essays and interviews -- apart from all that private-investigator stuff to track down the identities of the various ratings- and appeals-board members.

It has already been mentioned in this thread that James Wall of Christian Century is one of the two clergymen who sit on the appeals board (and he's been doing this since 1968, apparently). We might as well mention that the other clergyman on the board is Harry Forbes, who reviews films for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Nick Alexander wrote:

: The film _was_ rated. It was rated an NC-17.

: The filmmakers wish to release the film unrated. Okay. But that's an altogether different thing to

: say it was "Not Yet Rated."

What I find interesting is that the MPAA website (filmratings.com) lists the film as rated NC-17, and leaves it at that, whereas earlier films, such as Requiem for a Dream (2000), are listed as "Unrated" because their NC-17 ratings were "surrendered" (whatever that means). So why hasn't the rating for THIS film been "surrendered"?

FWIW, the film is now "Unrated" and the former rating HAS been "surrendered".

Jim Wall (who acts as "witness" on behalf of the National Council of Churches in the appeals process) gives his take on the film in current The Christian Century.

Interesting. If memory serves, there was one point where a statement of his was cut off pretty abruptly, when the film cut to something else. So yeah, that was kinda lame on the filmmakers' part. But I don't think Wall mounts a particularly good defense of the MPAA or his part in it.

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We might as well mention that the other clergyman on the board is Harry Forbes, who reviews films for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Um. The movie doesn't really say that Harry Forbes is a clergyman, does it? I know Harry Forbes. He is a layman.

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SDG wrote:

: Um. The movie doesn't really say that Harry Forbes is a clergyman, does it? I know Harry Forbes. He is a layman.

Ah.

At 1:26:49, Atom Egoyan says that he just found out there are two clergymen on the appeals board, and it is always a Catholic and an Episcopalian.

At 1:27:43, Michael McClellan -- the only appeals board member who speaks on the record -- is asked about the two members of the clergy, and he says they are just there as "observers". Another appeals board member who speaks on condition of anonymity says the clergy members cast a vote.

At 1:28:56, the director tells the private investigators that there are a Catholic priest and an Episcopalian priest on the board, and asks how they would be tracked down. The PI says their names would come up if she compares one of her lists with a list of ministers at those denominations.

At 1:29:26, the interview with James Wall begins. A subtitle calls him "appeals board clergy member since 1968", and he says he has been asked by the National Council of Churches to represent "them, Protestants" on the appeals board. In a later clip, Wall says the religious representatives are there to assure "religious bodies" that the film ratings process is transparent and above-the-board (though he does not say what non-mainline-Protestant or non-Catholic religious bodies may have to say about this; and personally, as a lifelong member of religious bodies myself, I had never even heard of these religious representatives until a year and a half ago, when Darren H passed on a comment of Egoyan's mentioning them in our thread on Where the Truth Lies.)

At 1:31:32, Wall is cut off when he says "We don't want to restrict the film artist. We want to give the artist the freedom to make the films they want to make. But we do not want to make it totally free--" It's clear from the tone in his voice that he was cut off in the middle of a thought, and I wouldn't have minded hearing the rest of it. At any rate, the cut-off gives the film a definite feeling of "not playing fair", at least in that instance.

At 1:33:13, there is a series of titles listing the various names and positions of the appeals-board members, including "REVEREND JAMES WALL - united methodist minister - representative, National Council of Churches" and "HARRY FORBES - representative, United States Council of Catholic Bishops".

So the titles get it right, but there is nothing on-screen to correct the misleading impression in the earlier bits of conversation, which appear to go back to something that Atom Egoyan was told.

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FWIW, in the audio commentary, the director mentions that someone told him the "clergy reps" weren't really clergy, and then he says, in effect, well hey we looked up James Walls' ordination records, and HE'S certainly clergy. The fact that Harry Forbes is NOT clergy is never addressed, at least not that I recall hearing.

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