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Another Ebert rant about the MPAA


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#1 of 58 OFFLINE   TheLongshot

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Posted July 20 2003 - 04:44 PM

Just got done watching Ebert and Roeper tonight. Towards the end of the segment was a rant against the MPAA about the use of quotes from his reviews. In the promo material for "Whale Rider", they quote Ebert saying that people should take their kids to see this film. The MPAA, apparantly, took exception to that, since the movie is rated PG-13, which of course means that kids have no business watching this film. They told the studio that they needed to remove the quote from their ads.

Ebert's disagreement it twofold:

1. He fully believes that kids should see the film, and his comments aren't limited by the ratings, which does not preclude parents bringing their children to the film. The MPAA shouldn't dictate this.

2. The whole issue with "Whale Rider" being PG-13 in the first place. Being placed in the same category as "Charlie's Angels 2", just seemed very wrong, and proof that the MPAA ratings are meaningless.

I gotta say I agree with him.

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#2 of 58 OFFLINE   Jason Kleeberg

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Posted July 20 2003 - 05:55 PM

The MPAA ratings are worthless.

The last 2 rated R movies I went to had crying babies and 3 year olds in the theater (T3 and Bad Boys).

#3 of 58 OFFLINE   Chris

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Posted July 20 2003 - 05:57 PM

He's right. Hell, I don't care if a movie is "R", even if the parent disagrees, a reviewer has a right to say the film is important enough/good enough to warrant being a 'family film'.

I would tell kids that I would prefer they see "Schindler's List" if they are over 13-15 rather then say, some of the PG-13 CRAP that is showing.

The point being: the MPAA has no right to determine what a studio can use to promote a film if the reviewer said those words. Because the MPAA doesn't pay, promote, endorse, or change the reviewer.
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#4 of 58 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

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Posted July 20 2003 - 07:11 PM

Cris, the jerks - in effect - changed Ebert. I think it's censorship. What happened to free speech?

If the studio used Ebert's quote, what could/would the MPAA do, stop rating their movies? Wouldn't that just show how silly the MPAA is?

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#5 of 58 OFFLINE   Dan Rudolph

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Posted July 20 2003 - 08:00 PM

Glenn I was also wonderign that. What can the MPAA do in this sort of situation?
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#6 of 58 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted July 20 2003 - 08:34 PM

Aren't parents allowed to take their kids into PG-13 movies, as long as they're present in order to provide the "parental guidance" the rating itself suggests?? If so, then Ebert isn't breaking any rules, nor is the studio.
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#7 of 58 OFFLINE   Jason Harbaugh

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Posted July 20 2003 - 09:42 PM

So since when is 13 the age you stop being a kid?

#8 of 58 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted July 20 2003 - 10:06 PM

That's the age when they let you watch "Crossroads" and you're forced to come to terms with the cold, cruel world Posted Image
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#9 of 58 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted July 21 2003 - 12:33 AM

Well, I agree that the MPAA shouldn't have requested that the quote be removed from the ads, as similar comments have been used to advertise other PG-13-rated films (most recently, Pirates of the Caribbean), but I don't think ratings are meanlingless.

Certainly, there have been movies where I've thought to myself, "That got a such-and-such rating?" but overall I think that people's perception of the rating system is more skewed than the system itself. The ratings system was started as a system of guidelines for parents to judge whether or not to let their children see certain films. An PG-13-rating doesn't necessarily mean that a 10-year-old cannot see a certain movie; the rating is simply a warning to parents about what that movies might contain. "Some material may not be appropriate for children under 13."

I agree that there are inconsistencies in the ratings, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly where things go wrong, because different things offend different people, and children mature at different rates. There may be some 10-year-olds who are ready to see an R-rated film like Schindler's List, and there may be some 13-year-olds who aren't. It should be up to the parent to decide if their kid is ready.

At any rate, there are some parents that let their kids see anything they want; then there are others who use the ratings system as the end-all, be-all of what is appropriate for their children. Either way, that is the parents' decision, even though neither one are the way I would go about it. Children do surprise you, sometimes they are ready to handle more than you expect, but at the same time, there are some films that I feel just aren't appropriate for 9-year-olds, and the rating system gives us an idea of what to expect in a given film.

Again, you may not have a problem with your child watching a PG-13 or R-rated film; that's your decision and I fully support it. However, there are parents who would rather their kids not see certain movies yet, and that's what the ratings are for. I haven't seen Whale Rider, but from what I've heard, it probably would be a great film for older kids to see. But the ratings do not denote quality; merely content that could potentially be offensive.

Also, I think that Roger Ebert's continued campaign for an "A" rating to replace NC-17 is kind of silly. He claims that it would free adult-oriented films from the "NC-17 stigma," but that's what NC-17 was supposed to do for movies that would have gotten an X-rating. After 10 years, the same thing would happen to the A-rating.

Sorry for the long post, but this is getting to be such a big topic, it seemed like it needed some discussion. Perhaps a re-evaluation of the ratings is in order, but it wouldn't really fix anything. Some parents would still let their kids watch anything they wanted to, and others would blindly follow it. I just think parents need to take the responsibility of finding out about movies, and then decide what to allow their kids to watch. And the current ratings system, while not perfect, gives them a jumping off point. At least for the movies the kids don't sneak into. Posted Image
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#10 of 58 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted July 21 2003 - 01:48 AM

Aren't parents allowed to take their kids into PG-13 movies, as long as they're present in order to provide the "parental guidance" the rating itself suggests??

There are no entry restrictions on PG-13. Anyone of any age is free to attend the film, with or without a parent/guardian.

Only "R" and "NC-17" have entry restrictions. "R" must have a parent/guardian (or just have them buy the tickets at the box office at some theaters). "NC-17" is no one under 18 admitted, period.
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#11 of 58 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted July 21 2003 - 01:52 AM

Quote:
Aren't parents allowed to take their kids into PG-13 movies, as long as they're present in order to provide the "parental guidance" the rating itself suggests?? If so, then Ebert isn't breaking any rules, nor is the studio.
No, children can buy tickets and attend PG-13 films with no restrictions whatsoever (unless an individual theatre chain has a policy about it).

Quote:
The point being: the MPAA has no right to determine what a studio can use to promote a film if the reviewer said those words. Because the MPAA doesn't pay, promote, endorse, or change the reviewer.
and
Quote:
Glenn I was also wonderign that. What can the MPAA do in this sort of situation?
*All* advertising (posters, trailers, newspaper ads, etc.) must be submitted to the MPAA for approval if the releasing studio is a signatory to the MPAA (which all of the majors are). They have the power to make the studio change the ads (they made Columbia change the poster to Striptease a few years ago) if they don't meet their criteria.
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#12 of 58 OFFLINE   LisaDoris

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Posted July 21 2003 - 01:49 AM

Quote:
Also, I think that Roger Ebert's continued campaign for an "A" rating to replace NC-17 is kind of silly. He claims that it would free adult-oriented films from the "NC-17 stigma," but that's what NC-17 was supposed to do for movies that would have gotten an X-rating. After 10 years, the same thing would happen to the A-rating.


I agree with Ebert on this issue. You're right, NC-17 was supposed to get away from the X-rating stigma but it didn't. Most newspapers won't advertise NC-17 films and correct me if I'm wrong but a heck of a lot of theaters won't show them.

The MPAA is horribly inconsistent with their ratings to the point that if I was a parent, I wouldn't trust their ratings to guide me one bit. I don't think some parents pay attention anyway since when I saw both T3 and Bad Boys 2 (rated R) there were little kids in the theater. When I saw Saving Private Ryan years ago there was a 7 year old girl sitting in front of me!

The MPAA has no business telling the studio or Ebert what they should or should not say about the film. I hope the studio doesn't change the ads one bit.

#13 of 58 OFFLINE   TheLongshot

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Posted July 21 2003 - 03:48 AM

BTW, it sounded like Ebert would like to be rid of the PG-13 ratings, since he feels that there is too much stuff that should fit more in PG or R that is in that category. I disagree with that for the most part, since there is a signifigant difference between a PG-13 action movie, and an R action movie. (And is why the rating was created in the first place...)

Quote:
I agree that there are inconsistencies in the ratings, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly where things go wrong, because different things offend different people, and children mature at different rates.


Which is why I'd rather have a rating of more quantifiable things: violence, language, sexual situations, etc. It still will be subjective to a certain extent, but at least we can get some idea of what is exactly in a film. With the MPAA ratings as it is, you don't always know what you are going to get.

I still think "Almost Famous" should have been PG-13 (I think teens would have liked it), and that "Requiem For A Dream" should have been R (One of the best anti-drug films, and kids couldn't go see it...). It tells me the system is broken.

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#14 of 58 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

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Posted July 21 2003 - 04:40 AM

Peter, that's insane. They sound worse than my mother! They'd actually not review any of their future movies so they would be blacklisted then?

(Meaning they couldn't get a rating on their next film, and without the rating the theater won't accept the movie at all).

I'm still waiting for Disney to do this on their next flick. Just skip the MPAA and send it right to the theaters. Since the studios pay the MPAA to rate their movies, - well - I can hear the MPAA screaming about now.

The major point of Ebert's speech was that he didn't want anyone to send their kids to see it - but was that they should take their kids to see it. With a parent in tow, they would be able to explain anything that wasn't appropriate.

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#15 of 58 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted July 21 2003 - 04:41 AM

Quote:
Which is why I'd rather have a rating of more quantifiable things: violence, language, sexual situations, etc. It still will be subjective to a certain extent, but at least we can get some idea of what is exactly in a film. With the MPAA ratings as it is, you don't always know what you are going to get.

You sort of do; nowadays, "reasons" are released along with the ratings. They're usually put underneath the ratings on movie posters and other ads. "For Violence and A Scene of Sexuality," or something like that. The only problem is that they usually only denote why the film is not the next rating down. Something could be rated R, and the "reasons" would only state why it's R and not PG-13. Not as helpful as it could be, but still better than nothing.

At any rate, like I said, I think the ratings are not perfect, but there is no way they could be.

Also, I agree that the uncut Requiem for a Dream should have been R. I need to see Almost Famous again, though.
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#16 of 58 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted July 21 2003 - 05:28 AM

FWIW, I was cheering Roger on when I watched the show this weekend.
Quote:
Also, I think that Roger Ebert's continued campaign for an "A" rating to replace NC-17 is kind of silly. He claims that it would free adult-oriented films from the "NC-17 stigma," but that's what NC-17 was supposed to do for movies that would have gotten an X-rating. After 10 years, the same thing would happen to the A-rating.
I agree with Roger that NC-17 isn't working. Take last year's Y Tu Mama Tambien. This was a very raw film with lots of nudity and fairly explicit sexuality (not hard-core, though). If it had been rated, it would have received an NC-17 and no one would have seen it until it hit DVD. However, the studio released it unrated, and it played in the suburban megaplexes here in Houston! No one complained.

I disagree with Roger in that NC-17 should be changed to A. As Bryan points out, it would suffer the same fate as NC-17 (and X before it). Actually I think it would be LESS effective than NC-17 as the term "adult films" is already associated with the porn industry.

My suggestion - R-17. There's no problem with the R rating - it's well established, and R films & ads can be run in any city in the country without problems. Adding the -17 would just mean that no one under 17 will be admitted, with or without a guardian. Seems like it would work to me.

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#17 of 58 OFFLINE   Jefferson Morris

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Posted July 21 2003 - 05:32 AM

Quote:
You're right, NC-17 was supposed to get away from the X-rating stigma but it didn't.
Whether they call it 'X', 'NC-17', 'A', or anything else, so long as those under 17 cannot purchase tickets for such a film, that "stigma" will always be there.

It's a matter of economics. Studios are afraid to venture beyond 'R' for major releases not because they're squeamish about the content, but because a significant part of the moviegoing audience would be barred from attending.

The only way a re-tooled 'A' rating would make any difference would be if it were kinda like the PG-13 - that is, no more restrictive in terms of entry than the rating preceding it, but with a more strongly worded warning. Such a rating may or may not be politically viable, but if it existed, studios would almost certainly be less afraid of venturing past the 'R'.

Not to sound like a shill for Jack Valenti, but I've never quite understood why people always bash the MPAA and its rating systems for all that's wrong with Hollywood. Is it often inconsistent? Sure, and so is everything else that has to do with personal taste and aesthetics. Is it more permissive of violent content than sexual content? Sure, but that's American culture.

Fact is, the rating system was put in place to stop the howling of the Legion of Decency and other watchdog groups, and keep the government from having to step in and regulate the movie business. It's successfully done that for many decades now, and for that it's to be commended. In fact, its inception liberated film artists from restrictive codes and allowed a new frankness in cinema that resulted in many American classics in the late 60s and early to mid-70s.

It's not a perfect system, but it does the job, and it's not a form of censorship. It's a voluntary system that doesn't require you to cut a damn thing if you don't want to. The pressure to cut comes from the studios releasing the films. How many times have we heard of a filmmaker being "contractually obligated" to deliver a PG-13 or an R?

Most of us on this board would love to live in a world in which filmmakers had carte blanche in terms of content, and didn't have to worry about the effects of their artistic decisions on a product's marketability. But we don't live in that world. Certain types of content will never be embraced by the general marketplace. Furthermore, parents and individual moviegoers have a right to know in advance what they're paying to see. The ratings give them a reasonably concise, if imperfect, way of doing that.

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#18 of 58 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted July 21 2003 - 05:31 AM

The rating system is complete out and out farce and I would love to see the studios come together and drop them altogether.

There has been a problem with this system for years and it's primarily because there is no system. If you take a movie rated PG from 15-20 years ago, it would probably be G now. A rating system shouldn't be dependant on the time period that it was released. (What a Joke!)

I feel that there should be either no rating system or a completely restructered rating system. Maybe something that can be quantifiable and not just a rotating group of people's voted on opinion. Who chooses who is on this board? There is currently nothing about the rating system that describes what a particular movie is about. The ratings are based purely on nudity, profanity, & violence.

I could ramble on and on, but I feel that I'm starting to repeat myself. I can't even remember the last time that I looked at the rating on a movie before I saw it and most of the time I don't even know afterwards. I simply couldn't care less and I doubt that I would care more if I had children. If I did, I would read reviews first in order to decide whether it was appropriate.

This system has done nothing but breed laziness!!

#19 of 58 OFFLINE   TheLongshot

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Posted July 21 2003 - 08:51 AM

Quote:
You sort of do; nowadays, "reasons" are released along with the ratings.

Yes, and I don't think it is enough. Especially when it is in small print.

Quote:
If you take a movie rated PG from 15-20 years ago, it would probably be G now.


Actually, it would be the other direction. Do you think Jaws would get a PG nowadays?

Quote:
Take last year's Y Tu Mama Tambien. This was a very raw film with lots of nudity and fairly explicit sexuality (not hard-core, though). If it had been rated, it would have received an NC-17 and no one would have seen it until it hit DVD.


I accidently rented the R-Rated cut one time. Man, it feels like there's a big hole in the movie when you remove the sex...

Quote:
Whether they call it 'X', 'NC-17', 'A', or anything else, so long as those under 17 cannot purchase tickets for such a film, that "stigma" will always be there.


I don't argue with this, and it is why I don't really agree with Ebert on that. No matter what you call it, it will have the same problems.

Quote:
Not to sound like a shill for Jack Valenti, but I've never quite understood why people always bash the MPAA and its rating systems for all that's wrong with Hollywood.


We aren't saying that they are responsible for all that is wrong in Hollywood, just that their rating system is flawed, has been for years, and probably should change to be actually useful.

Quote:
It's not a perfect system, but it does the job, and it's not a form of censorship. It's a voluntary system that doesn't require you to cut a damn thing if you don't want to. The pressure to cut comes from the studios releasing the films. How many times have we heard of a filmmaker being "contractually obligated" to deliver a PG-13 or an R?


I don't believe you just said that.

Yes, it is censorship, even if it is "self-censorship". There is a rather heavy price to be paid if you don't bow down to the rather inconsistant line that the MPAA draws. If you get an R, you are cutting out a signifigant percentage of your audience. (which is fine if you aren't depending on that audience) If you get an NC-17, you are basically screwed comercially.

And the MPAA doesn't always say what needs to be changed in a film to get a certain rating. The example of "Orgazmo" keeps comming up again, a movie that had no business being NC-17, but was anyways.

Jason

#20 of 58 OFFLINE   Jefferson Morris

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Posted July 21 2003 - 09:24 AM

Quote:
Yes, it is censorship, even if it is "self-censorship".
We may be defining "censorship" differently. To me, censorship implies a mandate from an outside authority explicitly suppressing something. All the MPAA is doing is rating a product. Nothing more. What happens after that is up to the studio and is largely determined by economic realities, as I said.

Quote:
There is a rather heavy price to be paid if you don't bow down to the rather inconsistant line that the MPAA draws.
Yes, but the studios are free to pay that price if they choose. The MPAA isn't telling them they can't release the film the way they want. They're just telling them that if they do release a film in a certain form, it will be rated a certain way as a guideline to consumers.

Naturally there's an economic price to be paid for an explicit rating, and as often as not, the studios won't pay it. As you said, NC-17 films usually are "screwed commercially," so the studios back off. But I suspect the only way to avoid this kind of "self-censorship" is to forgo ratings and admission restrictions altogether. And I think this would be a very poor solution, as the public outcry would likely result in the government stepping in to assume control (as it very nearly did in the 60s).

As to ratings being inconsistent and mercurial, you'll get no argument from me there. "De gustibus non est disputandum," as they say. But I doubt there's any way to really quantify ratings in terms of content and make it into a precise discipline. It's always going to be a judgment call, and I think that's appropriate - it allows the goal posts to shift as cultural standards change over time.

The MPAA undoubtedly plays favorites, letting some filmmakers and studios get away with things that they wouldn't let others get away with. And there may well be corruption that runs deeper than that. This should be weeded out, if it can be proven to exist. But show me any field of human endeavor that isn't tainted when large sums of money are at stake.

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