Before 1990, when the Motion Picture Association of America rated a movie, that rating was all the commentary they offered: G, PG, PG-13, R, X, M, GP (look ‘em up!). But in September of that year, the MPAA began amending ratings with brief descriptions of the action that resulted in that rating, and that’s where the fun began. You see, those descriptions give the rest of us an opportunity to not only figure out exactly what was offensive to this super-secret group of oral sex-loathing penis-fearers, but to read their oh-so-delicate descriptions of said offenses, which often read like hilarious blank verse — or, in the case of this week’s “unusual behavior” notation on Fifty Shades of Grey’s R rating, like the hothouse declarations of a delicate flower in a lesser Tennesse Williams play (“I do decla-yuh, this is such unusual behav-yuh, oh Beulah, get me to the faintin’ couch!”). So as a thank you for literally years of giggles, here are some of our favorite MPAA descriptions: … Read More
Over the weekend, Ira Sachs’ lovely, heartfelt romantic drama Love is Strange performed quite well in limited release, claiming the top per-screen average for any film in theaters. But those numbers might have been higher, were it not one outside factor: the MPAA, bizarrely, gave the film an utterly disproportionate R rating. Since the film concerns a longtime gay couple and the troubles they encounter after getting married, a bit of a storm has erupted around the picture, with a general consensus emerging that the picture’s rating is proof positive of the organization’s inherent homophobia. And believe you me, there’s merit to that claim — but maybe not when it comes to the case of Love is Strange. … Read More
Thirty years ago this month, John Milius’ Cold War wet dream Red Dawn rolled into theaters, helping launch the careers of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey. But it also launched a significant chapter in movie history: it was the first film released to theaters carrying the new PG-13 rating, a Goldlocks-ish “just right” nestled between the PG and the R. But as with all things MPAA-related, the PG-13 became a giant clusterfuck in the three decades hence, as its desirability led studios and filmmakers to push the rating to its absolute breaking point — loading up their PG-13 blockbusters with dead bodies while the ratings agency’s bean counters tallied “F-words” and bare butts. So to celebrate this dubious anniversary, let’s take a look back at ten cases where the 30-year-old rating was woefully… Read More
When the PG-13 rating was introduced back in 1984, the aim was clear: to create a rating for movies that were just a little too intense for the PG rating, yet not “adult” enough for the R. Its invention was prompted by the massive success of Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, two PG-rated pictures whose intense and rather scary violence caused widespread complaints from parents. But in the nearly 30 ensuing years, a funny thing happened: instead of cranking up their PG movies, Hollywood started cranking down their Rs. With the lucrative dollars of teenage moviegoers at stake, the PG-13 became the industry’s most desired rating, and its most lucrative. But a new study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds something more disturbing: though initial PG-13 films contained about as much gun violence as G or PG-rated pictures, “since 2009, PG-13-rated films have contained as much or more violence as R-rated films” (emphasis mine). And hey, funny story, that rise matches gun violence off-screen too. … Read More
The Bully saga feels like a long one, but Deadline is reporting that a final decision about the documentary’s unrated/R-rating debacle has come to an end. The new film directed by Lee Hirsch about bullying in schools has won a PG-13 rating after an agreement between The Weinstein Company and the… Read More
Every Friday here at Flavorwire, we like to gather up the week’s new movie trailers, give them a look-see, and rank them from worst to best — while taking a guess or two at what they might tell us (or hide from us) about the movies they’re promoting. We’ve got ten new trailers for you this week, including the American Pie sequel (yes, another one) American Reunion, the end-of-the-world thriller 4:44 Last Day on Earth, a new indie featuring (and produced by) Nick Offerman, and the latest effort from the fine folks at Pixar. Check ’em all out after the jump, and share your thoughts in the comments. … Read More
Shame, a candid and powerful look at sexual addiction from director Steve McQueen (no, another Steve McQueen) is out in limited release tomorrow, and as we reported last month, it’s going out with the NC-17 rating—no children under 17 admitted, under any circumstances. The rating, many have surmised, is due to the film’s copious male nudity, and that’s how the American ratings system works: all the naked ladies you want, but the erect male member= automatic NC-17.
The rating was initiated by the MPAA back in 1990, and was intended to be an alternative to the porn-stained (if you’ll pardon the pun) X rating; NC-17 movies, like Henry & June (the inaugural film to carry the rating), Bad Lieutenant, The Dreamers, and Lust, Caution would be for adults, by adults. But it quickly became the kiss of death for filmmakers and distributors. Just as with the X rating before it, newspapers and television outlets wouldn’t carry ads for NC-17 films, while larger theatrical chains and home video outlets refused to carry them. Smaller films would take the mark or (as Kids and Happiness did) go out unrated, while the editing process for big releases became something of a con game: if a film was rated NC-17, the distributor would make the trims necessary for an R-rating, enjoy the publicity, and then restore the cut material for the inevitable “unrated” DVD release (frequently carried by the very chains that refused to stock NC-17 films). By the late 1990s, studios wouldn’t even bother with the first step, cranking out unrated versions of raunchy comedies and adult thrillers as a standard step in their home video release plans.
While the politics of who gets an R and who doesn’t are shady at best (check out the terrific documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated), we can’t help but wonder about what would have happened if the NC-17 could have been what its creators wanted it to be. Fox Searchlight’s decision to release Shame with the scarlet letters/numbers has prompted another round of “will the NC-17 finally become respectable?” questions (answer: dubious), but what if that question weren’t necessary, because the NC-17 had never been stigmatized? Had that been the case, we might have seen the uncut movies we’ve assembled after the jump. … Read More
Shame, the sex addiction drama from director Steve McQueen that wowed audiences at the Telluride, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals (where we somehow managed to miss every single screening), has been officially branded with an NC-17 by the MPAA. The application of the rating, which prohibits anyone under the age of 17 from seeing the film (whether with an adult guardian or not), doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has seen the picture; star Michael Fassbender reportedly spends a healthy percentage of the film’s running time in his birthday suit, and without the artful and careful coverage of his man-parts that is required to get the R. (Co-star Carey Mulligan goes full-frontal as well, but that, of course, is perfectly acceptable within the R rating, so hi double standard, how ya doin.) … Read More
Movie geeks and horror fans across the internet are up in arms over news that director Guillermo del Toro’s dream project, a film adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness, has been canned by Universal Pictures. Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool News fired off one of his barely readable screeds, calling Universal “chickenshit” for cancelling the picture; Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny responded with a reasoned and reasonable essay, noting that Universal has taken on plenty of chancey movies.
So why were they so afraid of this one? “Concerns over the film’s budget and likely R rating,” explains The New Yorker. Basically, the studio feared that the film’s high production costs ($150 million) would require a box office gross that said R rating would preclude it from generating. Commentators like Knowles and McWeeny have taken this news as an opportunity to fire up this year’s model of the art vs. commerce debate. But here’s a more pressing question: why have we allowed an organization as clearly corrupt and incompetent as the MPAA to play such a pivotal role in determining what films get made? … Read More