Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shame earns NC-17; MPAA continues to surprise no one!

The buzzy new film Shame which won huge acclaim during the fall festival circuit centers around an unflinching take on sex addiction has earned, what many where expecting, the kiss of death NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.  The film, from director Steve McQueen (his second feature after the acclaimed and difficult to watch 2008 feature Hunger) stars Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan as siblings-- he's a sex addict, she's a wayward lounge singer.  The frank nature of the film was surprisingly not a turn-off to Fox Searchlight Picture who snapped up the film shortly after its festival debut and is releasing it December 2nd.  What's exciting is that the film will get a proper release-- awards be damned, it matters nil-- and that it will go on unchallenged.  Much can be made of the problems associated with the MPAA, and there are many, the documentary The Film Is Not Yet Rated amusingly and pointedly attacked the covert and highly secretive coven that has such strange, unholy power over modern filmmaking, but what is the hopeful outcome here-- that Shame hopefully on notice and reputation and adoration might just become a box office hit at the very least.  Wouldn't that be grand.  No matter the content itself, I'm fairly sure the sight of Fassbender's genitals will be more agreeable than the countless bloody, violent, destructive studio yarns that weasel themselves into R ratings any day.

The last high profile release to wear the shameful badge of honor was Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, which opened in 2007, courtesy of Focus Features.  The film kind of tanked (only about $4 million domestically) and earned mixed reviews, and merited no serious awards contention.  That film incidentally won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival that year, where this year Fassbender won Best Actor honors for Shame-- facts are fun!  Blue Valentine was famously threatened with the rating last year, a fact of pride and joy for it's champion, Harvey Weinstein-- of course he was able to reverse the rating-- the MPAA has always been slightly more lenient to female copulation than male genitalia.   The validity and arguments and aftermaths of the rating are all fairly dismal, which bodes poorly on terms of Shame as a box office or awards magnet, but hopefully the rating itself, hopefully undisputed, will get all the curious-minded filmgoers together in thrall and desperate need of a grand piece of art.  (Not I haven't seen Shame, so all this praise, sight unseen, may be much ado about nothing, but this is far and away the sole film of this fairly sad cinematic year that excites me.)

On the awards front, it looks grim at least historically.  Only one film with the kiss of death rating has earned an Oscar nomination: Henry & June was nominated for Best Cinematography.  Good luck Fassbender!

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