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197 out of 216 people found the following review useful:

Informative, cheeky and funny as hell!

Author: Max_cinefilo89 from Italy
23 August 2006

Ever been curious about the American film rating system? Then Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated is perfect. It does to US censorship what Michael Moore has done to others: it makes everyone look like jackasses, mainly because that's what they really are.

The film explains pretty early on, through South Park-style animation, what kind of rating a movie can get in the USA: G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17. The last certificate is the most unpleasant one, as a film with that classification won't get a proper distribution. And it's that particular rating that Dick wants to dissect.

This documentary is divided into three sections: the largest one sees various filmmakers (Kimberly Pierce, John Waters, Kevin Smith) revealing the problems they've experienced because of the American ratings board, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). The second section features the director's efforts to uncover the identities of the film raters. You see, the MPAA is supposedly composed of average American parents, doing a fair job. Then how come no one knows who these people are? As the investigation continues, we learn that one board member doesn't even have kids, while several others' offspring are already adults. So what's really going on?

The last part of This Film Is Not Yet Rated focuses on Dick's own censorship trouble, a really interesting version of the movie-within-a-movie gimmick: he sent a rough cut of the documentary to the MPAA, receiving the dreaded NC-17 (since there's some footage coming from other NC-rated films), and so we get to see his frustration as he tries to appeal the controversial decision.

The best part of the film is the first one I mentioned, mainly because we get to know the rules of the game a bit better. Apparently, any kind of "weird sex" is not welcome: oral sex (Boys Don't Cry), threesomes(The Dreamers, American Psycho), gay stuff (Mysterious Skin, Where The Truth Lies), female masturbation (Jersey Girl, a PG-13 movie, almost got an R just because Liv Tyler talks about it)... the list is quite long. Of course, you're better off if your film is endorsed by a major studio. That's why a glimpse of Maria Bello's pubic hair got independent film The Cooler an NC-17, while Sharon Stone doing much more in the audience-baiting Basic Instinct was "appropriate" enough to receive an R. No wonder most filmmakers hate the MPAA! Hell, we even find out that Trey Parker and Matt Stone deliberately put distasteful material in Team America just to make fun of the ratings board.

Another "funny" thing is, the NC-17 is only used against sex. No one ever says anything about on-screen violence. In fact, any movie can have the highest body count ever, and be rated R. If there's no blood, it might even get a PG-13. As people point out, all other countries have the exact opposite attitude, condemning violence rather than sex (I know, from personal experience, that most films rated NC-17 in the US are usually classified "15" or "16" in Europe, while excessive violence tends to lead to an "18").

As someone wisely says in this hilarious, poignant opus, ratings don't really matter. If it's a film a lot of people want to see, no rating in the world can damage it. If it's a film few people want to see, then no rating in the world will save it. That might be true (although I don't necessarily agree: the huge success of The Passion of the Christ was largely due to the rating controversies), but this movie also made me realize that I would definitely not want to be a member of the MPAA. Their criteria are too weird for normal people to understand.

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169 out of 181 people found the following review useful:

Maybe Not Rated, But Definitely Brilliant

Author: marobertson from Columbia, Missouri USA
28 February 2006

The film rating system in this country is governed by a secret panel created by the major film studios more than 35 years ago. Since its inception the MPAA ratings board has functioned as a sort of 'black box' where movies go in one end and a rating comes out the other, with absolutely no transparency or public accountability of the process.

The MPAA rating system is publicly proclaimed to be merely a voluntary industry system that nobody is 'required' to follow. Unfortunately the reality of the movie industry is entirely divorced from these innocuous proclamations. The rating placed on a film largely determines who gets to see it in a theater, and what sort of publicity for the movie will be accepted by television and newspapers. An NC-17 basically guarantees that only the small sliver of the public with access to art house cinemas will ever sit down in a theater to watch the film, and that there will be virtually no way to promote the film to the public.

So, in the real world, the MPAA ratings board wields considerable unchecked power over the film industry. Since the organization is funded and sustained by the major studios, that influence becomes particularly problematic when applied to independent productions. It would be not unlike a small, local merchant having to go to board set up by Wal-Mart and Target to get approval for what he can put out on his shelves.

Kirby Dick approaches this subject with humor, insight, and tenacity. He undertakes to blow the lid off of the black box of the MPAA rating system. In the process he creates a narrative filled with both information and humor. While I will leave his methods as a surprise for the viewer, suffice it say they are both unconventional and effective.

The interspersing of interviews with independent filmmakers who have been forced to do battle with the MPAA to get their movies seen, provides an excellent counterpoint to Dick's quest to expose the star chamber like proceedings of the rating board to the light of day. As well, his side-by-side comparisons of similar films, one receiving an R rating and the other an NC-17, is illustrative of the particular biases present on the ratings board.

If you care deeply about he art of film, This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a must-see. On the other hand if you just want to learn a little something and have a good laugh, this is a good pick for you too.

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121 out of 129 people found the following review useful:

Must See!

Author: Danielle from Syracuse, NY
4 April 2006

This movie is informative, but also funny and clever and kind of mind-blowing. It's not for the faint of heart because it contains quite a bit of graphic footage to illustrate the point that the ratings board is totally arbitrary (in fact, one former board member says there is absolutely no training or standards -- you come in on your first day and start to rate movies). That may seem not to matter, but it matters quite a bit to the film makers whose films are being rated and several appear in the film and make very strong arguments for why the rating their film received was unfair. There are also interviews with several other people (like a free speech lawyer) who add context to Kirby Dick's expose. This really is a must see for anyone who cares about movies and it's a lot of damn fun too.

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88 out of 97 people found the following review useful:

perhaps not the 'best', but surely my favorite documentary of the year thus far

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
2 September 2006

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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72 out of 82 people found the following review useful:

Violence Wins Over Sex Every Time

Author: fwomp from United States
5 February 2007

Ever wonder who the people are who decide the ratings of films? You know the G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17? I'd personally not thought that much about it simply because I could care less what a film is rated. If it looks good, regardless of its MPAA rating, I'll see it. Not to mention the dichotomy between the American rating style versus European countries.

Ever notice how phobic Americans are when it comes to sex and nudity on screen? We can put a bullet through a hundred heads but show a little pubic hair and you'll get slapped with an NC-17. Why is that? Why are we so afraid to show our kids and the general population a little skin, but we're ready and willing to let them see brain matter? In Europe, the exact opposite is true (they put the higher ratings on violence), and this is brought to the forefront in Kirby Dick's excellent documentary, THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED.

What Kirby did was infiltrate the MPAA system by finding out who was on this incredibly secretive board so that those who make films — and have them rated by these people — know who stands in judgement of their cinematic work.

Mr. Dick (love his last name by the way) dissects the MPAA system and discovers so many problems as to boggle the mind. There apparently is no tried and true way to rate a film. It pretty much depends on the MPAA raters and how they "feel" it. If they happen to be in a bad mood that day, you're screwed.

The F-word is likely to get you an R rating unless you use it just once. A gay love scene will most likely get you an NC-17 but a "normal" man/woman sex scene (of the exact same type) will get you an R. Homophobia in Hollywood appears to be alive and well.

The most disturbing element is that violence is condoned over sex. What message does this send our society? That violence is more natural than physical attraction? {shiver!} A James Bond film has never been given an R rating (all of them have been lower), but Bond has killed more people than almost any movie character. They get away with this by not showing the blood that results from gunshot wounds. How convenient. But films like BOYS DON'T CRY get slapped with an NC-17 rating because of their sexual content (never is a bullet let fly in Boys Don't Cry).

When Kirby Dick puts up these side-by-side comparisons on screen, it's smackingly obvious how biased the MPAA board is toward human sexuality but very accepting of violence.

Kirby hires a private detective to help him reveal who the MPAA raters are and to dispel the myth that these are infallible people. On the contrary, they are extremely fallible.

My advice: don't go and see a flick based on its MPAA rating. Go see it because it interests you.

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59 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

Fast paced, sometimes zany slam of the MPAA's de facto movie censorship program

Author: ( from Portland, Oregon, United States
14 September 2006

Fast paced, absorbing, at times comical exposé of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film rating system. While it is in name a "voluntary" system, i.e., a filmmaker can choose whether to submit a film to MPAA for rating purposes, in fact the theater chains that promise wide exposure and revenues for a film they screen will rarely touch a movie that is unrated or that receives the most restrictive rating, NC-17 (no "child" 17 or younger admitted under any circumstances.) The ratings are allegedly created by a panel of "average" parents of school age children, according to long time MPAA CEO, Jack Valenti, and other officials. There are no experts, e.g., no psychologists who study the impact of media on kids' attitudes and behavior. Panel members are selected by the rating committee chair, Joan Graves. Members' identities are kept secret to "avoid pressures" on their decision making.

Among other things, director Kirby Dick discovers that (a) there are no explicit criteria or guidelines for ratings; (b) ditto for selection of raters (who, if they work full time, receive annual salaries of $30,000); (c) one recent rater was childless; the children of several others were adults; (d) raters frequently discuss films with industry representatives, arguably the most important source of "pressure" on their decisions; (e) majority votes determine the recommended rating, but these votes are not binding; (f) in case of ties (there are eight voting members, including Ms. Graves), Ms. Graves also is empowered to cast a tie-breaking judgment; and (g) there is an appeals process.

However, the appeals board is composed exclusively of representatives of the major studios, distributors and exhibition chains, and rarely do they controvert the initial rating. This is no surprise, since the MPAA is entirely financed by the six largest studios (responsible for 90% of the films released domestically) and their conglomerate corporate media owners (who control 95% of all media outlets in the U.S.) Details of all rating board and appeal decisions are kept secret. To create the illusion of transparency, two clergymen, representing Roman Catholics and Protestants, always sit in as observers at appeals hearings. But they too are required not to disclose information on the appeal decision process.

Compared to a number of other rating systems that exist in various countries worldwide, the MPAA approach is by far the most secretive, and contrary to every other system, it is far more restrictive of sexual content than violence. Kirby Dick also cites examples that strongly suggest greater bias (i.e., greater likelihood of getting an NC-17 rating) against films depicting gay/lesbian sex scenes than those with heterosexual scenes.

Dick mixes illustrative film clips, talking heads, historical notes on the evolution of ratings, a rundown on what appear to be the implicit criteria for ratings; a stalking investigation to discover the identities of raters and appeal board members; and his personal experience in submitting an earlier cut of this film to MPAA for a rating (it got an NC-17 for sexually explicit content). Atom Egoyan, Kimberly Peirce, Kevin Smith and John Waters are among independent filmmakers interviewed by Dick. Ms. Peirce raises the interesting notion that MPAA ratings may also be more biased against films with scenes connoting female sexual pleasure than films showing male pleasure.

Dick generally maintains a tone of wry humor, especially in showing us his day-by-day use of private investigators to track down and identify raters. There's almost a Keystone Cops flavor to the stalking antics of the women PIs he has hired, with Dick along for the ride. His re-creation of phone conversations with Joan Graves and the MPAA Chief Counsel, when he protests the rating of his own film, are also as funny as they are biased. (He uses animation to visually depict these officials as mean spirited grumps in split screen scenes that simultaneously show real time footage of Dick himself at his end of these conversations.) Dick is less successful in his review of information suggesting the implicit or inferable criteria raters use, based on film content and actual ratings. He zips through too much information too fast for anybody to absorb. Still, this is a bravura piece of advocacy journalism. The film gives us ample information to conclude that the MPAA system of corporate control of ratings, when combined with control of film distribution and screening based on these ratings, effectively results in a clever censorship arrangement that would certainly violate First Amendment rights were it not for the illusion of "voluntariness" that is perhaps the most ingenious aspect of this system.

Anybody is free to make a film about anything, of course. But whether it will be screened, or even advertised, let alone able to return revenues sufficient to defray the costs of production, is a very carefully controlled process. And what is the point of making a film that will not be seen? As in political campaigning, free speech is hardly free. Those with the most corporate clout rule both the campaigning and movie making businesses. What's worse, in our characteristic American manner, we shrink puritanically from sex on screen but remain inured to the effects of violence. My grade: 7.5/10 (low B+) (Seen on 09/10/06)

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57 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

Very good insight in American censorship and media manipulation

Author: siderite from Romania
20 January 2007

America is the land of the free, so in order to constrain people to do what you want them to do, you have to let them think it's their choice. How do you do that? You create a completely anonymous committee, supposedly composed of concerned parents, to rate the films that appear and, depending on that rating, they will get more or less media coverage, distribution, target audience size. You also finance this body with the money of the seven largest film studios in the US. This functioning censorship committee is called the MPAA.

The film is highly biased, to a point where it gets a little annoying, but the information contained in it is sound, proved and makes one think about the way public opinion is manipulated, ever so slightly, towards a desired average point of view. If you ever wondered how Americans can seem so ordinary, yet have completely different opinions about the same subjects as any other people, then this movie will answer part of that question. Very insightful is the presentation of the seven major film studios who own 95% of the American film industry, parts of larger conglomerates that own 90% of all mass-media. Also interesting, the role of the clergy in movie rating. Yes, I did say clergy, as in priests. In the appeals commission there are always an episcopalian priest and a catholic one. No other religions get to add their input.

A must see movie, not a conspiracy theory film, but certainly one that is against the system. The system here being the absurd movie rating system of the MPAA.

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46 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Necessary viewing

Author: tomq5p from United States
24 January 2007

Since the Hays Code, filmmakers have had a lot more freedom over the content of their films. However, the MPAA ratings board still does exercise a certain de facto censorship power. Most people do not realize this.

"This Film is not Yet Rated" exposes the arbitrariness, secrecy, and bias of the MPAA ratings board and makes the viewer question why movies receive the ratings they do.

Kirby Dick puts together a nice cross-section of directors and "talking heads" who discuss the MPAA ratings board's biases when it comes to realism, sex, violence, gay themes, and other taboo issues in films.

Dozens of major directors have had problems with the MPAA ratings board - they either received the NC-17 (or the old "X") rating or had to cut their films to meet the requirements of the ratings board. Some examples are: Kubrick, Tarantino, Lynch, Woo, Friedkin, Peckinpah, Aronofsky, and countless others.

This film exposes the fact that the ratings board is made up of people who are given NO criteria and NO training for rating films, so they basically use their own personal (and obviously heavily biased) judgments to decide what rating a particular movie should receive.

This is an important film because so few people realize how movies are rated in the U.S. Even fewer realize how problematic (biased, anti-democratic, non-transparent, not accountable) our system is.

It is also well put together, so it is easier to watch than most documentaries.

I would have liked to have heard more comparisons between the U.S. rating system and others worldwide, something that was only briefly touched upon.

9 out of 10

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55 out of 68 people found the following review useful:

Refreshing. Not perfect, but pretty *expletive removed* good.

Author: BroadswordCallinDannyBoy from Boston, MA
22 September 2006

A look into the mysterious organization that decides what rating a film is given. And all sorts of other issues/arguments that are created because of it. Numerous actors, directors, producers, former MPAA raters and critics share their thoughts on the good and bad of the highly secretive organization.

I have always found "rating reasons" funny and often absurd, which is why I make my own when writing these things. I have also always liked to look into second opinion on things so maybe whoever reads my little IMDb reviews will get that from them. Since, the often disturbing fact for film makers is the rating is something they have to live with and discussing it with the people who decided it is virtually not an option. And that ultimately decides what theaters decided to show it and how much, which is essentially how films money.

The reason as many of you know for the infamous NC-17 rating is sexual content, especially if it is explicit, and that is basically the focus of this film. Which is both good and bad. Good, because they do a pretty good job comparing R-rated and NC-17 rated sex scenes which are not that different. But bad, because the issue of violence (in my opinion the most potentially objectionable thing shown in film) is attended to on a small scale. There are violent PG-13 movies (Ah-nuld's "The 6th Day" for one) which include bone breaking, dismemberment, and you get the picture. While on the other side you have R-rated movies with really minimal or much more accurate depiction of violence (Michael Mann's "Heat" for one). Yet violence as entertainment is condoned, but showing kids what violence really looks like is not. Darren Aronofsky and Kevin Smith make the film's only points on violence and it'll leave you wanting for more.

Also there wasn't a comparison to other countries rating system, just a mention that those systems are a little less absurd, which is true if you look at the rating sections on most IMDb film profiles, but some thought here would have been invaluable to this film's argument.

However, this remains a pleasantly fresh documentary that many, but mainly John Waters (haha), have been waiting for. 8/10

Not Rated, contains: sexual material and some violent clips - There are many clips of sex scenes shown, but are shown and discussed from a critical perspective. The few violent scenes are discussed in the same manner. So bring your kids! They'll finally know what "it's not for you" means.

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27 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Interesting and insightful, but more for film fans than casual watchers

Author: DonFishies from Canada
20 April 2007

Alright, let's just say it right from the start: the MPAA sucks. They make good films turn into films that are hacked up just to fit their 'moral' agenda, and they are the bane of the existence of Hollywood filmmakers. Being from Canada, I have the benefit of a much fairer system, but one that is affected by the MPAA nonetheless. So when a film like This Film is Not Yet Rated comes out, I definitely become interested. And interesting is what this film is.

The documentary is about the NC-17 rating primarily, and the people and groups fighting against it. When it is not showing interviews and clips about the horror stories in trying to get director's films cut to a suitable R or PG-13 rating, it is about director and star Kirby Dick's hired private investigators trying to get the names of the members of the MPAA ratings board.

Watching the film is a bit of an on and off experience.

On because the interviews with directors like Kevin Smith, Atom Egoyan, Jamie Babbit, Matt Stone, and Wayne Kramer are absolutely fascinating to listen to. They talk about the troubles they had with the MPAA, show the "obscene" footage from their films, and even offer some ideas as to how the MPAA can change for the better, rather than completely tear the company up to pieces. All of these clips are excellently edited together, and in some instances, offer some pretty amusing anecdotes. Seeing the offending clips from the films was also interesting, as just simply talking about them would defeat the purpose of the documentary itself (which thankfully, originally got an NC-17 for having the clips in the film).

These interviews also offer a lot of moments talking about the rules of the MPAA itself. Listening to how ridiculous some get can be hilarious, but it is also enlightening. For someone who is into film and only knows the basics of the MPAA, it offers a lot of information on the final process a movie has to go through before it makes it to the theatre. The clips offered a lot more information than I imagined, and they elevate the film greatly.

Another element I liked was showing the hypocrisies of the MPAA, and interview footage of former head Jack Valenti himself. It made the film feel a whole lot more complete, and gave it more of an authentic circular viewpoint. If they had simply just included the viewpoints of the filmmakers, journalists, authors, doctors and lawyers (like I half expected them to show), than they would not have nearly had as much credibility as they end up having. Of course, these moments are practically the funniest in the film, but they still offer plenty of intriguing insights. I think some comparisons to other country's film rating systems probably could have only enlivened this credibility even more.

Where I think the film fails and becomes off is in the almost obsessive search to find out the identity of the MPAA's raters. I understand that it is pivotal to the entirety of the film, but it just drags the film down into depravity and ridiculousness. It shows these moments in an amusing light, but they really are not that funny. They offer a bit too much information in some sequences (like blurring out license plate numbers, but having the private investigator say the numbers anyway), and the payoff just does not feel entirely proper. It does not have the intensity or the postmodern awareness that the interview clips do. They just feel kind of boring, and in some parts, unnecessary. Dick was already exposing the fraudulence and downright deceitful nature of the MPAA. Did he really need to go so far as to expose everything imaginable?

I am unsure of why it the exposing got to me so much, but it just did not feel totally right in a lot of cases. I liked how much dedication Dick and his crew had for the material, but it feels more like two different films than it does one cohesive whole. The information does not become overwhelming in any scene, but it does feel like overkill in some parts. The film is just over ninety minutes long, but it feels like it could have been trimmed. And most of that trimming could have probably come from scenes involving the private investigators. They just are nowhere near as interesting as the insight and horror stories offered in the interviews and film clips.

This Film is Not Yet Rated is an interesting documentary, and it offers a lot of insight that I seriously doubted it would. It is definitely a recommended watch for anyone who is interested in the film-making process, but for anyone else, it may just be something to casually watch part of and then turn off. I will hand it to Dick though. The final product is something I never thought the MPAA would have passed with any rating.


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