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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Nov 1: This Film is Not Yet Rated


Nov 1: This Film is Not Yet Rated

"Kirby Dick's exposé about the American movie ratings board."
Directed by: Kirby Dick, Rated: UR, 97 minutes

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is an eye-opening documentary about the inner workings of the MPAA, the group of people that decide the ratings of every major motion picture from studio blockbusters, to indie darlings. It leaves you incredibly frustrated with a broken system that was set up in 1966 with a main mission to avoid censorship, yet has managed to turn itself into a regulating body that does exactly that in its own twisted way. It's a documentary that takes a side but, when the facts of the argument are presented, it's incredibly easy to join the fight. Oh, and it's also incredibly funny as the ridiculousness of the entire system is so laughable. 

You realize how much this movie gets away with. 

Director Kirby Dick is out on a mission to expose the MPAA rating system for what it is- an understated, unfair, and way too secretive board that has way too much power. The MPAA has been known to actually ruin filmmakers and their work, as getting slapped with an NC-17 rating for an up and coming filmmaker is a near death sentence. The film compares ratings for multiple films and tries to explain what justifies a PG-13, R, or NC-17 rating. Dick compares big studio releases with far smaller indie films and shows that if you have money behind the production, you're sure to get by with much, much more. Intertwined with Dick's own investigation into the MPAA (with the help of a very enthusiastic private investigator) are interviews with filmmakers who have experienced critical issues with the MPAA and their own appeals for the system.

Founding president of the MPAA, Jack Valenti is one of the most self-obsessed arrogant son of a bitches I have ever seen. 

This Film is Not Yet Rated challenges and exposes a system that's well past its expiration date. It literally leaves you floored with what films have gotten away with and leaves you wondering what films had to have been scrapped entirely by an unfair rating slapped upon it. Dick does a terrific job at challenging the system and breaks it down for all of us to understand and fight against. It's a film that exposes so many secrets of the MPAA, the board will never be what it used to be and the demands placed upon it require scrambling from the corrupt process. It's a real eye-opening documentary and I think it completely does what it has set out to do. Realistically, change will not happen over night, nor has a lot been changed in the six years since this film's release, but it's a good jump-start in the right direction. It also gives a greater insight to the film-making process and the loops filmmakers need to jump through in order to get the product, that they work so hard on, out to the public. It gives you an added appreciation for the things that they do and makes you admire them even more. I would highly recommend this doc and hope that more changes the film suggests happen sooner than later.

The Good:
the work Kirby Dick and his team go about to expose the MPAA is admirable and the secrets that uncover are things no one has known about before
The Bad:
knowing that such an out-dated system still holds so much power in Hollywood and that the people behind it are not publicly known
The Ugly:
not knowing if huge changes will ever happen and if the system can fix itself before more damage is done


Discussion Question:
If you were to set up your own rating system, how would you go about it and what factors would you consider?


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At November 1, 2012 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous DustyonMovies said...

You said it in the first sentence, a total eye opener. People think the MPAA is some sort of objective, government regulated body. In truth it's just a bunch of suburban moms dictating morals to the rest of the country at the expense of artistic freedom. People have to cut their films to get an R or PG13 because if they don't get those ratings their screenings will be cut to a fraction. It's a really sad state of affairs.

If it were me, I'd say no rating system at all. The information should be more specific (i.e. contains nudity, murder etc...) but no actual rating. Parents do need the information, but we don't need someone else telling us how to raise our kids.

At November 1, 2012 at 11:55 PM , Blogger Nick said...

You're right, it's incredibly frustrating and totally unfair. There's no reasoning behind who's on the board nor do they have any education or knowledge as to what should make a film R or NC-17. It's completely subjective to what they personally think and after it has sunk dreams of filmmakers over and over, it needs a major overhaul.

As to your followup, I do think that a lack of system may be too tricky to implement but a severe cutting back would do wonders. In the day and age of the internet I think enough people can come to the conclusion of what is acceptable and what is not and I think that more than enough trailers give plenty enough away to decide on.

At November 2, 2012 at 5:44 AM , Blogger Brittani Burnham said...

I really enjoyed the parts of this doc that had the film makers talking about their expierence with the MPAA, but I didn't like the parts where the private investigator was following them. That dragged a bit for me.

The MPAA is extremely frustrating, especially with same sex relationships. The fact that a wonderful film like Mysterious Skin got an NC17 for male relationship scenes just pisses me off. I think the MPAA serves it's purpose, I just think they need some more open minded people in there.

At November 2, 2012 at 6:25 AM , Blogger Two Tickets For... said...

I've loved this documentary ever since I watched it for the first time three years ago. Was able to get Sarah to watch it last winter and we're in total agreement about the ridiculousness of the MPAA in its entirety. The double standards, the censorship, the pandering and the hidden agendas involved are all despicable.

Our favorite part of the whole film is when Matt Stone tells the story of he and Trey Parker trying to get a R rating for their independent film Orgazmo, and the MPAA refused to tell them what they could cut out to get that R saying, "We only give the ratings." Then when they were trying to get a R for their South Park movie, a Paramount film, the MPAA said, "Cut this, this and that and you're good."

It was also eye-opening that every member of the appeals board has a connection to one of the major studios.

We're glad to see the MPAA is slooooowly starting to modernize, like now if you have two uses of the f-word it's not an automatic R, but they're still terrible, and this documentary is still totally applicable to today's MPAA.

At November 2, 2012 at 4:12 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I liked the investigator parts, but I wasn't a huge fan of them going into details about her life as they really didn't relate to the MPAA at all.

At November 2, 2012 at 4:18 PM , Blogger Nick said...

You're right, it's slowly modernizing but nowhere near fast enough to keep up with the movies of today. And yes, the story Parker tells is the perfect example of what is wrong with the MPAA and the struggles indie filmmakers have to deal with when they're movie isn't backed by big studios.


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