Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Movie review: "This Film is Not Yet Rated"

This 2006 film is not so much a documentary as it is a 90-minute editorial.  Filmmaker Kirby Dick despises the movie rating system run by the Motion Picture Association of America and sets out to show us why.

Kirby Dick
Dick has some legitimate points. He documents the obsessive secrecy that surrounds the ratings system – the names of the people who rate the movies is rigorously kept private – and shows how hard it is for filmmakers to understand how a motion picture gets a PG-13, R or NC-17 rating.

Kirby hires private investigators to find out who the raters are, and it's fun to watch as they spy and stalk around the MPAA headquarters.

"This Film is Not Yet Rated" also does a good job, unintentionally, of illustrating how out of touch Hollywood is with mainstream America. To support his argument, Dick brings out a parade of filmmakers and First Amendment advocates who seem utterly dismayed that someone would suggest that movies featuring profanity, masturbation, three-way sex, and other graphic portrayals of fornication shouldn't be OK for children.

Director John Waters, for example, says that, sure, his film "A Dirty Shame" shows "perverted" sex – but not in a bad way, so why shouldn't it be OK for kids to see? Waters' impeccable logic is that since "all" kids have viewed perverse sex on the Internet and eighth-grade girls "routinely" give blow jobs, it's OK for them to see it in the movies.

Dick and his supporting cast labor hard to portray the MPAA as a looming dark force controlling what Americans see. One moviemaker calls the MPAA a "Fascist" group and another calls it a "powerful censorship organization," but the film acknowledges that the association has no power to stop a film from being released regardless of its content. In one part of "This Film is Not Yet Rated," a director actually laments that the MPAA felt a movie where puppets have sex in multiple ways is inappropriate for kids.

What these filmmakers fail to appreciate is that they have far more freedom today than under the old Hays Code – so much, in fact, that many Americans are now turned off by Hollywood's infatuation with sex, profanity and violence.

One filmmaker wonders why a film with female masturbation got saddled with an R rating when one showing male masturbation got a PG-13 rating. She obviously believes that both should get a PG-13 rating, while I wonder why they both don't get an R.

It would be nice if Dick had an included an interview with someone concerned about media effects on children, but again, his goal wasn't to provide a balanced movie.

One point on which I agree with the movie is that the MPAA needs to give violent films more restrictive ratings than they currently receive.


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