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In a rare and refreshing reversal of roles, filmmakers put the powerful Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA for short) under the microscope for inspection in Academy Award-nominated director Kirby Dick's incisive look at stateside cinema's most notorious non-censoring censors. Compelled by the staggering amount of power that the MPAA ratings board wields, the filmmaker seeks out the true identities of the anonymous elite who control what films make it to the multiplex. He even goes so far as to hire a private investigator to stake out MPAA headquarters and expose Hollywood's best-kept secret. Along the way, Dick speaks with numerous filmmakers whose careers have been affected by the seemingly random and sexual-content obsessed judgments of the MPAA, including John Waters, Mary Harron, Darren Aronofsky, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, and Atom Egoyan. Written by
The MPAA announced that starting in March of 2007, it will change their policy and allow filmmakers to cite other film's ratings as comparison. The MPAA will also provide information about the demographics of its board. See more »
perhaps not the 'best', but surely my favorite documentary of the year thus far
Kirby Dick is a filmmaker I wasn't aware of before This Film is Noy Yet Rated, but now he is assuredly on my radar, if only for the determination in pulling off his main idea. Like Super Size Me, this documentary has a near-gimmick to it; Dick hires a private investigator in order to track down the anonymous "parents" who decide why a movie will be rated R over PG-13, and NC-17 instead of R. This even leads- more intriguingly- into the more deceptive group of appellant board members of the MPAA. So on the one hand the filmmaker has this extremely entertaining, guerrilla-style aspect to his film, with a hand-held camera in one moment in a fast-food place that draws attention to him, and detectives who will go to any length to get results. On the other hand he gets great interviews and clips and history about the film industry in the US and the near fascist style of the MPAA in relation to the several (corporite) studios.
As a film buff this film already had my interest long before I saw it. For too long the topic of film ratings have both infuriated and fascinated me. Much of what ends up going on with filmmakers's battles with the MPAA to get their R (and indeed the difference between millions of dollars in grosses) instead of an NC-17 is staggering. That Kirby Dick get such insight out of the insiders (two of which former MPAA people, and two who kept anonymous), filmmakers, business people, and other types within the industry, is a good help to add to the basic argument that there is some inherent problems with the current ratings system in the country. This is accentuated in comparisons between NC-17 and R rated sex scenes from other movies, and clips from films that received the NC-17- or close to it- and the inanities and problems filmmakers have to get their whole vision against people who, of course, are not that creative. There are issues of gay sex in movies, how violence is vs. sex in allowance in ratings, and in the end how big business (and religion) are behind the scenes if not pulling strings then giving complete influence.
All of this as a documentary ends up being pulled fantastically off, as it does at the core what a documentary mostly should- stir up conversation about the topic(s), and at the same time still being entertained to an extent. And Kirby Dick even has a slight Michael Moore tinge to him as he goes full-on after his subjects; one of which reminded me of Moore's own confrontation with Charleton Heston, as Dick puts himself in split screen with animated caricatures of his callers. But Dick also is smart enough to put such subject matter with good doses of humor. I loved the little animated explanation as to what each rating means (including dead orphan and Almodovar jokes), and as he revealed with a near relish the full facts on every member (most shockingly the appellate members). Even if you just have a casual interest in movies it should be worth your while, and especially if you're a parent- and try not to let the NC-17 rating deter you as it's in part just in spite of the mirror put up to the ratings board itself- it's especially prudent to see. It's got both tongue-in-cheek and dead-serious aspirations, and all the while making Jack Valenti look worse and worse. It's biased, to be sure, but for the right reasons.
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