Thursday, February 01, 2007
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, 2006) 
It's a little surprising to me that it took this long for someone to make a film about the asinine rating process that the MPAA has been using for so long. Maybe it's because so many filmmakers don't really want to bite the hand that feeds them, seeing that compliance with the ratings board will help lengthen a career. Dick as a director has no such problem biting the hand that feeds him, and he does a good job of playing the pain in the ass, his persistent phone calls with the ratings and appeals board the chief examples. The film plays out best when it's the muckraking expose piece, hiring private investigators to find out who the raters are and (surprise!) they don't exactly fit the qualifications of what the MPAA says they are. Through Dick's investigation and some talking head interviews, the film paints a perfect picture of the MPAA being a shadowy, near "fascist" (Bingham Ray's words in the film) organization that while claiming to protect filmmakers from censorship, does a pretty good job of the act itself. Jack Valenti, who I feel is a career political hack on the same level as protoplasm, comes out the villain, as he should. And it is truly troubling that very few films have the balls to go without a rating, as it's clearly stated that films don't have to be rated.
Which brings me to the question, "Why didn't Kirby Dick just release the film without a rating?" In my mind, the more effective tool to get back at the ratings board would to be say screw you, you aren't necessary. But he goes through the entire appeals process, which on a filmic level makes the film more interesting in that it reveals more identities, lacks something in the way of conviction. The other weakness here is there's not enough history of films rated NC-17 or X. A few films and their examples are thrown in but Dick doesn't even go back to films like Midnight Cowboy or A Clockwork Orange. These films were rated X and yet did solid box office, received Academy Awards, or became influential films. Dick plays the victim card too much, and the more successful fights he can bring up, the stronger argument he could have had.