The MPAA began, in slightly different form, to act in part as a tool for the early Hollywood studios. But it also quickly became a self-regulating arm of the film industry, an attempt to pacify those who accused movies of moral lapses without letting control over the business pass to a government agency. The MPAA has seen its share of controversy over many decades of existence, but in the last ten years has seemed more and more out of touch with common standards. Cite, if you will, the board’s inflexible approach towards ‘foul’ language, or a permissive attitude towards violence that contrasts with a severe distaste for sex, especially if the film in question is the product of a major studio.

Harvey Weinstein has had several battles with the MPAA in recent years, and the latest is over the documentary Bully. The film, a trailer for which we showed you yesterday, was rated R for scenes in which kids speak like kids do — that is, with some bad language. Weinstein appealed the R rating today, and lost by a single vote. Now he is threatening to do something that perhaps only Harvey could get away with: a wholesale break from the MPAA.

Update: The MPAA has released a statement in response to Weinstein’s threat. Read that below.

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Here’s the trailer for Bully, a documentary from director Lee Hirsch (NextWorld, Amandala!) about the ways that schoolkids and their families deal with bullying. We’ve seen several cases in the past few years where bullied kids have taken their own lives, or attempted to, and this film seems intended to address the issue both as an expose and a means of support to those who are bullied.

There is a minor point of controversy, however, as the version of Bully submitted to the MPAA was given an R rating for language, and Harvey Weinstein is trying to appeal that rating before the film’s March release. Read More »

Briefly: It is probably shallow to become more interested in a movie when the rating is R rather than PG-13. But then, the action/comedy/romance This Means War looks fairly shallow, so my slightly elevated interest in the movie might be a perfect match for it. The film stars Chris Pine and Tom Hardy as best friends who are also partners in the CIA. But their friendship is torn asunder when they fall for the same woman, played by Reese Witherspoon.

While Fox was hoping to get the film on screens with a PG-13 rating, the MPAA gave it an R, and upon appeal the board upheld the rating. Why is the film R? Does Chris Pine’s head explode? Nope — it is just R for “some sexual content.” Oh, that repressed MPAA! I can’t imagine the sex in the movie being all that crazy, but we’ll see what the story really is when the film is released on Tuesday, February 14. Or, the Valentine’s Day release was the plan; now that the film will go out with an R, perhaps it will be pushed back tpo the 17th once again.

UPDATE: Deadline now reports that “a couple of racy jokes” were cut, and the film was granted a PG-13 rating.

Check out the trailer again after the break. Read More »

MPAA Blasts Websites Planning SOPA Protest Blackouts

Tomorrow the main pages of Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and other sites will go dark to protest support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a piece of legislation in the House of Representatives which is so wide-ranging in effect that it threatens to curb not only piracy and illegal activity, but the method of information use which characterizes the internet. (There is also the associated Protect IP act in the Senate.)

One big target of SOPA is any site that operates like The Pirate Bay. That is, sites outside the US that host or point to intellectual property copyrighted in the US. Others are foreign sites that scrape and steal content — sites such as a few that take /Film-written content on a daily basis, for example.

If SOPA passes, however, the power to shut down web sites in the US will be unprecedented. The US attorney general could shut down websites by asking courts to order ISPs to block access to them from within the US. And the fine print creates power to block sites — even legitimate sites — suspected or accused of copyright infringement, or those that link to sites that infringe copyright. That block could go into action very quickly, with little if any warning to the website.

Under SOPA, sites like /Film could well end up not being able to exist. Any one complaint about how we have used a video clip or song could shut us down. Potentially, even a scoop about an upcoming film could result in destructive action. The indiscriminate power created by SOPA is the reason for the protests by many internet giants.

One of the big supporters of SOPA, however, is the Motion Picture Association of America (MPA), which likes to blame piracy for a wide variety of industry ills. Today, in what seems like a hot-headed move, MPAA chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd issued a statement blasting companies planning SOPA protests. Read it after the break. Read More »

‘Shame’ Officially Gets NC-17 Rating

We knew this was likely to happen, and now the MPAA has spoken: Steve McQueen‘s Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, has earned the film industry’s most dubious badge of honor, the NC-17. The rating was delivered for “some explicit sexual content,” designating that no one under 17 is to be admitted under any circumstances. In years past this might have doomed the film as a commercial failure or led to recuts, but things are a bit different with Shame. Read More »

When a film gets branded with an NC-17 rating, most studios do one of four things. They re-cut it hoping to get an R-rating, release it unrated, doom it direct-to-DVD or suck it up and go for it.

That last option is a rarity because embracing the NC-17 rating means fighting an unfair, almost pornographic, connotation. The MPAA website itself explicitly states “NC-17 does not mean ‘obscene’ or ‘pornographic’ in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience.” But that doesn’t stop major theater chains from not playing the movies, major video distributors from not stocking the movies or TV channels from not advertising the movies. It’s a huge mountain to climb.

Fox Searchlight’s new film Shame, directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, is so filled with sex and nudity, it’s all but guaranteed to receive an NC-17. And that’s okay. Not only will Fox Searchlight embrace this, they’re going to push the film for awards. They’re making a stand against the negative stigma. Read more about their marketing strategy after the jump. Read More »

This week, movie theaters across the country received a notice asking them to remove the movie trailer for The Hangover Part II from Source Code and to delete the digital trailer files from their servers. /Film reader Chris sent us a photograph of the notice, which was sent out by Warner Bros Pictures but specifically mentions the MPAA. No reason for the removal is listed on the notice. We contacted Warner Bros for clarification and they responded with “No Comment”.

PG-13 Cut of ‘The King’s Speech’ Opens April 1

April Fools? The Weinstein Company announced today that the PG-13 version of big Oscar winner The King’s Speech will open on April 1. The film was originally rated R for a string of expletives uttered by Colin Firth as his character, King George VI, attempts to break through his stutter. Because violence is OK but a couple instances of the word ‘fuck’ aren’t, that was enough to land the film with an R.

When this cut goes out to theaters it will be on 1000 screens, replacing the R-rated version that is currently being shown. So if you want to see the original cut of the film on the big screen, you have eight more days, counting today. Deadline reports that the PG-13 cut involves replacing all the instances of ‘fuck’ with the word ‘shit.’ Otherwise, it is exactly the same as the R-rated version. April Fool’s indeed. Wonder if director (sorry, Best Director) Tom Hooper still disapproves of this move? I’d expect so. The press release is after the break. Read More »

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