'Not Yet Rated' Not Likely to Overhaul Film Ratings

I'd like to say "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" is a quality hit job on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the panel of mostly anonymous people who decide a film's rating (G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17).

But it's not.

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While a courageous and ambitious documentarian (courageous in the sense that any person who goes up against an organization that's powerful in the industry one works for is courageous), director Kirby Dick has made a movie that holds little more credibility than the anonymous folks on the MPAA ratings board at whom this piece takes aim.

That's not to say the Motion Picture Association of America isn't a worthy target. Indeed, the group may as well be obsolete, considering what is accessible on the Internet and premium cable at any given moment, and their secret society is well exposed here.

Where the movie falls short, however, is in the long list of unanswered questions that viewers will leave the theater with, questions that should have been answered before the credits rolled.

For instance, how much money are these raters paid to make one of the most important decisions in the filmmaking process?

At one point, Dick shows video of an MPAA rater's home with a caption describing her dwelling as one worth millions of dollars.

At a loss as to the relevance of the value of this woman's home to the rating system, I asked Dick, who was present at the screening, if he meant to imply that she made a lot of money rating films. How did he know that she didn't inherit boatloads of money, or marry a renowned heart surgeon?

"I'm fairly confident she is well compensated in her job," he said.

OK, then.

With hard-hitting investigative journalism like that, surely the rest of the movie's assertions should be held as gospel. Perhaps Dick, an Oscar-nominated documentarian, can look forward to a career on ABC's "Primetime Live" producing specials like the one on the alleged Corey Clark/Paula Abdul affair.

The movie also failed to feature filmmakers who agreed with the ratings they received. Instead, this one-sided documentary includes interviews with people who were once jilted by the great and powerful MPAA, such as John Waters, Kevin Smith and "South Park's" Matt Stone, whose "Team America: World Police" puppet satire was forced to cut out a hysterically graphic puppet sex scene.

Dick also offers no alternatives to the current ratings system.

But the film gets really good when we get to see, uncut, the scenes that were cut from NC-17 movies that ended up with R ratings after the cuts were made.

It is clear that the MPAA board is made up of prudes, because for the most part, we're talking about sexual content in rated R films.

Also interviewed in the doc are Maria Bello and her "The Cooler" director Wayne Kramer, who protested being forced to cut a shot of Bello's pubic hair from their film.

And after seeing the questionable footage, it's easy to see their point. Where it's OK for other films to show graphic violence and still get an R rating, like say, "Sin City," which was full of bloody violence, a quick view of Bello's pubic region should not have been all that bothersome, especially for a movie rated R.

So what Dick does do well is emphasize the absurd reality that extreme violence is more acceptable to the MPAA than scenes containing sex, especially anything homosexual or kinky — in other words, anything but heterosexuals in the missionary position.

Also, Dick's hiring of a private investigator (a woman I wouldn't hire to walk my dog) to follow MPAA employees and rummage through their trash made me begin to wonder if all of this was just one big joke.

In the end, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" should at least open a dialogue on whether the current MPAA board is or isn't in touch with today's morals.

While the Motion Picture Association of America may have its problems, most moviegoers, especially parents, appreciate its existence.

Keeping It Reel? Since the Independent Film Channel produced this little movie, that's the most appropriate place to watch it.

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