Saturday, October 9, 2010

Blue Valentine Slapped with a NC-17

With a hearty boo to the puritanical folks at the MPAA, with great sadness it's been reported that one of this years most eagerly anticipated films, and potential awards contender has been slapped with the NC-17 rating of death.  Apparently a particularly blunt piece of sexuality between Blue Valentine's leads (Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams) is the culprit; something of which I must admit sounds not at all offensive, but even more titillating (just saying both these actors are tremendously good looking, as well as talented.)  Sight unseen, I'm still annoyed by this call-- particularly as thoroughly and entertainingly researched in the 2006 documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006, directed by Kirby Dick), that the MPAA typically signals these ratings on smaller films, often of sexual (but in fairness sometimes violent) nature-- my point I suppose is that aside from cinephiles and art house lovers, I sincerely doubt Blue Valentine in any way would appeal to kids in the first place.  It's a film that will likely art house theaters in major cities and not be the sort of breakout, must see sneak in film for children.

The distributor-- the clever ones at the Weinstein Company-- have a few options: they can re-submit the film in hopes of getting a R-rating, make the necessary edits to appease the covert operators at the MPAA, or decide to throw it all away and take a gamble and release the film unrated.  The NC-17, and in some respects the unrated stigma, while perhaps the most noble nod in protecting the artistry of the film, will cost The Weinstein Company.  Many theater chains and many media outlets will not play or advertise films with an NC-17 rating; so my money is on a trimmed down, hopefully not too sanitized version of the film that's received raves since Sundance this year.  It's the ultimate catch-22 in that the film needs marketing and potential awards to make any money, and it needs money and marketing to win awards contention.

The debate over the MPAA is a lengthy one, but since the watchdog group works in such similar fashion it's always been a reliable punching bag.  Even after a scathing documentary, ridiculous scads of nasty articles and speculation, the group hasn't learned much, nor particularly changed their way of rating movies.  Sexualized films always will get the harder rating, far more so than graphically violent films.  If the sexuality in any way is same sex related, again, the stricter rating will likely prevail.  The whole thing makes me scream.  In the case of Blue Valentine, if it keeps it's NC-17 rating, the Oscar campaign is virtually over-- only one NC-17 rated film has received an Oscar nomination since the category introduced in 1990.  That would be Philip Kaufman's Henry & June, which was nominated for best cinematography.  Before that the rating was famously known as "X," and again famously in 1969, John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy became the one and only "X" rated film to win best picture; of course by today's standards, Midnight Cowboy likely would have been rated R-- strong R for sure.

A look back at the NC-17 rating:

Key movies that were theatrically released with the rating:

  • Henry & June (1990), directed by Philip Kaufman
  • Bad Lieutenant (1992), directed by Abel Ferrara
  • Showgirls (1994), directed by Paul Verhoeven
  • Crash (1996), directed by David Croenberg
  • Bent (1997), directed by Sean Mathias
  • Orgazmo (1998), directed by Trey Parker
  • Baise-Moi (2001), directed by Virginie Despentes & Coralie
  • The Dreamers (2004), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
  • 9 Songs (2004), directed by Michael Winterbottoom
  • Bad Education (2004), directed by Pedro Almodovar
  • A Dirty Shame (2004), directed by John Waters
  • Lust, Caution (2007), directed by Ang Lee
The biggest box office winner of this group is Showgirls, with about $20.0 million in it's initial theatrical run; Henry & June is second with nearly $12 million.

However, not to fear if Blue Valentine is edited for an R-rated, it will be in fine company, including a few Oscar favorites:

  • The Godfather: Part III (1990), directed by Francis Ford Coppola
    • nominated for 7 Oscars, including Best Picture
  • Basic Instinct (1992), directed by Paul Verhoeven
    • nominated for 2 Oscars: Best Film Editing and Best Score
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola
    • won 3 Oscars: Costume Design, Sound Editing and Make-up
  • Damage (1993); directed by Louis Malle
    • nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Miranda Richardson)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994), directed by Quentin Tarantino
    • nominated for 7 Oscar; won Best Original Screenplay
  • Casino (1995), directed by Martin Scorsese
    • nominated for Best Actress (Sharon Stone)
  • Boys Don't Cry (1999), directed by Kimberly Pierce
    • won Best Actress (Hilary Swank); nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Chloe Sevigny)
  • Monster's Ball (2001), directed by Marc Forster
    • won Best Actress (Halle Berry)
  • The Cooler (2003), directed by Wayne Kramer
    • nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Alec Baldwin) 
Then again there is the ultra-cool club of films that gave the finger to the MPAA.  Most of which didn't really make money, but some are defiantly and beautifully there own things, that of which severe editing would take away from.  The films that surrendered there ratings in favor of an unrated release include:

  • Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1999), directed by Pedro Almodovar
  • Kids (1995), directed by Larry Clark
  • Happiness (1998), directed by Todd Solondz
  • Requiem For a Dream (2000), directed by Darren Aronofsky
    • nominated for Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn)
  • Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002), directed by Alfonso Cuaron
    • nominated for Best Original Screenplay
  • The Brown Bunny (2003), directed by Vincent Gallo
  • Mysterious Skin (2004), directed by Greg Araki
  • Shortbus (2006), directed by John Cameron Mitchell
  • This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006), directed by Kirby Dick
    • Ironic, huh-- the avid indictment against their flawed and secretive system got snubbed with an NC-17 itself
  • Antichrist (2009), directed by Lars von Trier

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