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The MPAA
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 7:20 pm    Post subject: The MPAA Reply with quote

The Passion of the Christ has renewed discussion about the MPAA's rating system. In a recent review (Moriarty's at AICN.com, I believe), Passion's R was compared to the NC-17 that was awared to Bertolucci's The Dreamers; in essence, Passion, a graphically violent and bloody film received a much more market-friendly rating than Dreamers, which apparently only boasts some nudity and sex scenes, hence, we are to infer, the MPAA is guilty of unbalanced judgement.

But, correct me if I'm wrong, hasn't R always stood for explicit violence, while X, before the porn industry absconded with it, stood for explicit sex? Since NC-17 is a replacement for the X rating, isn't the MPAA simply following its general formula by awarding The Passion an R for its violence, and The Dreamers an NC-17 for it sexuality?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 7:54 pm    Post subject: Re: The MPAA Reply with quote

We can quibble about whether the MPAA should be more tolerant of graphic violence than graphic sex, but I agree that they have been relatively consistent on that point. I suppose the MPAA is merely following the lead of most Americans, who generally seem more uptight about sex than about violence. More telling is the way the MPAA isn't always consistent regarding violence levels--it's clear that major studio releases are held to a different, more lenient standard than other pictures. Would the flying limbs and decapitations of Return of the King have earned a PG-13 if it was made, say, in Asia?

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, PG-13 was created specifically for Mr. Speilberg and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which, I think, is no less graphically violent (although it may be a little more violent) than Return of the King. Although you bring up an interesting point: has a martial arts flick from Asia been slapped with an R upon immigrating to the states? The only two I can think of are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Iron Monkey. I think both got PG-13s, didn't they?
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Michael Scrutchin
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It has been said that the MPAA's ratings board consists primarily of religious conservatives, but the MPAA website says this:

"There are no special qualifications for Board membership, except the members must have a shared parenthood experience, must be possessed of an intelligent maturity, and most of all, have the capacity to put themselves in the role of most American parents so they can view a film and apply a rating that most parents would find suitable and helpful in aiding their decisions about their children's moviegoing."

Film ratings are voted upon by the eight- to 13-member board. If a filmmaker/studio isn't satisfied with a rating, they can re-edit the film and re-submit to try at a less harsh rating (remember, each submission costs a lot of money), or they can appeal to the "Rating Appeals Board" if they feel the given rating isn't deserved (as Kevin Smith did when Clerks was initially given an NC-17 due to the sexual dialogue). The ratings system gives major studios the advantage, since they can often afford to re-edit and re-submit to get the rating they want. If a low-budget indie is stamped with an NC-17 and they can't afford to re-edit/re-submit and/or appeal, they'll either have to go with the NC-17 or release it unrated.

I'm rambling here... where was I?

It does seem like the ratings board is generally tougher on sex and nudity than violence and gore. A quick look at the list of films rated NC-17 at filmratings.com reveals an overwhelming majority granted that rating soley for things like "explicit sexual content," "graphic sexuality," "pervasive sexuality and nudity," "strong, graphic sexuality," but there are a few that have received the rating exclusively for violence. Those include the 1994 home video release of The Evil Dead ("for substantial graphic horror violence and gore"), Santa Sangre ("for several scenes of extremely explicit violence"), and the direct-to-video thriller Intent to Kill. There are also films like Peter Jackson's Dead Alive and Brian Yuzna's Return of the Living Dead 3, from which violent/gory content had to be removed to avoid an NC-17 and secure an R -- of course, both are also available in unrated (NC-17 equivalent) versions.

So no -- the NC-17 hasn't stood exclusively for sexual content. Neither has the X rating for that matter. Many martial arts movies (including the original Street Fighter with Sonny Chiba) were rated X in the '70s and '80s due to their violence and gore.

Anyway...

Does anyone else think Roger Ebert is silly to keep insisting on a new "A" rating -? for non-pornographic adult features -- in between R and NC-17? Hello! That's why NC-17 was introduced in the first place -? a rating in between R and X for non-pornographic features designated for adults only; the X rating was disowned by the MPAA and the hardcore porn industry took it. If an A rating were to be introduced, how would it be different than the NC-17?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael B. Scrutchin wrote:
Does anyone else think Roger Ebert is silly to keep insisting on a new "A" rating -? for non-pornographic adult features -- in between R and NC-17? Hello! That's why NC-17 was introduced in the first place -? a rating in between R and X for non-pornographic features designated for adults only; the X rating was disowned by the MPAA and the hardcore porn industry took it. If an A rating were to be introduced, how would it be different than the NC-17?


I think his heart is in the right place, but I've often wondered the same thing--if both the X and NC-17 finally became unworkable because of the associated stigma, isn't it reasonable to assume that the same connotation would eventually befall an "A" rating? Still, I'm always pleased to read Ebert's semi-regular assaults on the MPAA. They are well-deserved.

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
Well, PG-13 was created specifically for Mr. Speilberg and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which, I think, is no less graphically violent (although it may be a little more violent) than Return of the King. Although you bring up an interesting point: has a martial arts flick from Asia been slapped with an R upon immigrating to the states? The only two I can think of are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Iron Monkey. I think both got PG-13s, didn't they?


Let's not forget about Gremlins, either, which was produced by Spielberg and was also integral to the creation of PG-13.

I just picked Return of the King and Asia at random; pick any other violent American action movie and any other country, and the model still generally fits. But while we're talking about Asia... here are a few US-distributed martial-arts flicks starring either Jackie Chan or Jet Li that earned an R, sometimes inexplicably:

Rumble in the Bronx

Police Story III: Supercop

Police Story V: Supercop 2

Crime Story

Drunken Master II (The Legend of Drunken Master)

Tai Chi Master

Black Mask

My Father Is a Hero (The Enforcer)

Fong Sai Yuk (The Legend)

Fong Sai Yuk II (The Legend II)

The Bodyguard From Beijing (The Defender)


I'd argue that, without exception, each is less violent than Return of the King. I'm not suggesting that King was necessarily misrated; I'm merely suggesting that the MPAA is much easier on studio product when it comes to violent content.

Eric

EDIT: Fixed typo.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always been baffled by the difference between Ebert's proposed A and NC-17, too. I think the difference is that the A rating would not prohibit viewers under the age of 17 from viewing the movie, as does NC-17 (and as did X). It would simply a stronger alert to parents and guardians. I might be wrong, however.

I was unaware that The Evil Dead, Santa Sangre, and ROTLD 3 got slapped with NC-17s, none of which are any more bloody and violent than, say, Kill Bill Vol. 1. Maybe the MPAA really does have it in for low-budget films.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
But while we're talking about Asia... here are a few US-distributed martial-arts flicks starring either Jackie Chan or Jet Li that earned an R, sometimes inexplicably:

Rumble in the Bronx

Police Story III: Supercop

Police Story V: Supercop 2

Crime Story

Drunken Master II (The Legend of Drunken Master)

Tai Chi Master

Black Mask

My Father Is a Hero (The Enforcer)

Fong Sai Yuk (The Legend)

Fong Sai Yuk II (The Legend II)

The Bodyguard From Beijing (The Defender)


I'd argue that, without exception, each is less violent than Return of the King. I'm not suggesting that King was necessarily misrated; I'm merely suggesting that the MPAA is much easier on studio product when it comes to violent content.



Freakin' unbelievable. Down with the MPAA!
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael B. Scrutchin wrote:
It does seem like the ratings board is generally tougher on sex and nudity than violence and gore. A quick look at the list of films rated NC-17 at filmratings.com reveals an overwhelming majority granted that rating soley for things like "explicit sexual content," "graphic sexuality," "pervasive sexuality and nudity," "strong, graphic sexuality,"


Relevant question: Is the board's apprehension about sex/nudity out of step with most American parents, or would most Americans agree with their "position"? And does the board have a responsibility to reflect their own feelings, or majority opinion? More importantly, are they successful at reflecting majority opinion? (Certainly the PG-13 for Whale Rider seemed excessive. But was that just a misstep, a rare misjudgement that naturally occurs when thousands of films are rated every year?)

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
I was unaware that The Evil Dead, Santa Sangre, and ROTLD 3 got slapped with NC-17s, none of which are any more bloody and violent than, say, Kill Bill Vol. 1. Maybe the MPAA really does have it in for low-budget films.


The compare/contrast game is significant I think... how did film A pass when film B didn't? Yet we have to be careful not to mix eras; as cultural standards shift, so do the ratings criteria. The Evil Dead, Santa Sangre, and ROTLD 3 might all be considerably less violent than Kill Bill, but would they have earned that NC-17 if they were initially submitted today, in the age of KB? And would KB have earned an R in the '80s?

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a question I'd love to ask regarding their descriptions.

Amelie recieved an R for "some sexuality," whereas Intolerable Cruelty got a PG-13 for "sexuality." Now, I thought some implied less than the general amount, as they've expressed it. Is French sex worse than American sex? Laughing
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.04.2004 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
Is French sex worse than American sex? Laughing


No, just less guilty.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 03.05.2004 3:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's one question that baffles me though:

If the MPAA is so easy on violence, how was Open Range R-Rated, when it should've been easily PG-13?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.05.2004 3:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
Here's one question that baffles me though:

If the MPAA is so easy on violence, how was Open Range R-Rated, when it should've been easily PG-13?


Good question. The exception that proves the rule, perhaps? Or maybe they felt the final shoot-out, which clearly attaches consequence to each bullet, earned the R. It's certainly less cartoonish than many other gunplay scenes. I dunno.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 03.05.2004 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Still, as I said in my review, I've seen more violent cowboy games played on the grammar school playground. I'd LOVE to see one of the votes and how it broke down. Was that a unanymous R or was it simply a 7 to 6 ruling?
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