Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blue Valentine's NC-17 rating overturned, MPAA finally shows some sense


The Weinstein Company has successfully appealed the NC-17 rating of their film Blue Valentine by Derek Cianfrance. The film had initially been given the strict rating (equivalent to an X-rating) over a simulated cunnilingus scene between a husband and wife played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams that involved no nudity. Many have pointed out is not much different than the lesbian oral sex scene from Black Swan. Harvey Weinstein himself led the arguments for about 40 minutes in today's hearing, in front of the 14-person panel. The decision to overturn the rating was unanimous. The film will now carry an R-rating.

In overturning its original rating, this is one of the rare instances where the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) has shown any sense. For the most part, their ratings system is a complete joke where violence, blood and gore are deemed acceptable but consensual sex or swearing - things that are both normal and legal - are treated with the utmost severity. This put's the lie to Hollywood's reputation for being "liberal" when the MPAA is run with the most hypocritical pro-gun and anti-sex prudishness.

The A.V.Club provided a list which outlines a good number of the MPAA's more ridiculous decisions. There are many others that could be added, such as the harsh PG-13 rating for the delightful children's film Whale Rider because of a split-second shot of an uncle hiding a bong when Pai drops in. Blue Valentine at least can now be stricken from that list. But another Weinstein film The King's Speech will not likely ever make its way off that list since the MPAA has a policy in place whereby more than one "fuck" uttered in a film earns it an automatic R-rating.

It's really time we either updated the MPAA to a more modern and sensible standard, or we dispensed with it altogether. The information they provide is simply not useful and they serve only a censorious purpose. Everyone has their own arbitrary standards as well, such as Facebook and Youtube which allow all manner of swearing but not so much as a nipple.

The reason these ratings matter to Hollywood of course is that they affect not only ticket sales but whether theatres will even carry the film itself. Many theatres have a policy of not carrying NC-17 films. This would have made it next to impossible for Blue Valentine to find an audience, let alone make a serious run for any awards. Now, it has a good chance. 

Blue Valentine.premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2010 and also played at the festivals in Cannes and Toronto. The movie will open on December 31, 2010.

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