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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

I watched this documentary the other night on Netflix. It was quite entertaining, informative and thought provoking. In it the filmmaker, Kirby Dick, interviews many directors and writers whose films have, right or wrong, earned the infamous X or NC-17 rating from the MPAA, which means very limited distribution and no advertising budget. That usually translates into a box office turd. (Apologies for placing the word "turd" next to the adjacent graphic. Twice.)

The film explores the apparent inconsistency of the ratings process and brings light to the conclusion that many ratings seem to be based on what is best for the studios rather than the consumer, as the MPAA would have you believe. Part and parcel of that argument is the fact that indendent films are more likely to earn a more restrictive rating than major studio films, regardless of comparable content. Many examples are provided of identical scenes identified as root causes of specific ratings, yet the ratings are different.

Mr. Dick also digs into the clandestine nature of the ratings board itself as well as the ratings appeal board. The identities of these people have been shrouded in secrecy since the MPAA's inception in 1968. The current head of the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration, Joan Graves, is the only member known to the public. That is, until Kirby Dick hires a private investigator to reveal all their identities. :)

Needless to say, the MPAA gave this film itself an NC-17 rating. Mr. Dick chose to forgo the rating entirely and give the MPAA the big kiss-off. That's why you've never heard of it. It's definitely worth a look if you are a cinephile like me.

Four of five stars