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David Poland

By David Poland

BYOB Friday

34 Responses to “BYOB Friday”

  1. Shillfor Alanhorn says:

    Every time there’s a controversy over an MPAA rating, as in the recent BLUE VALENTINE and KING’S SPEECH brouhahas, it never ceases to amaze me how the aggrieved parties are always so quick to finger point and throw some other movie under the bus, instead of trying to challege the ludicrousness of the rating system head-on.

    As for KING’S SPEECH, I can’t really see how TWC is surprised, as the “two fucks” rule, ridiculous as it may seem, is among the few iron-clad criteria the MPAA has, but today Harvey Weinstein pulled the “if BLUE VALENTINE deserves an NC-17, then PIRHANA 3-D does too” card, which completely misses the point. The fact of the matter is the ratings system is too strict and NEITHER FILM deserves an NC-17. Pointing the finger at another movie only serves to validate the MPAA system and set some other movie up to take the fall later on.

    Think for a minute what NC-17 really signifies. NC-17 means that if you, as a parent, make the informed decision that you want to take your 16 year-old high school student child with you to a movie, YOU ARE BARRED BY LAW FROM DOING SO. Ask yourself how many movies, besides hardcore porn, really merit that distinction? THAT should be the real benchmark used when rating something NC-17 and should only be used sparingly. Meanwhile, how about just enforcing “R,” which already by design keeps kids away from objectionable content, instead of drawing such an arbitrary and damaging line in the sand? The MPAA likes to use the “well, we have to lower the standards on NC-17, because kids get into “R” movies anyway” excuse, but that’s just a cop-out of epic proportions.

    Imagine, if you will, a stretch of desert highway with a posted speed limit of 65 MPH, which is rarely enforced and regularly ignored by cars going 85 MPH, so, instead of enforcing the law, the city officials lower the speed limit to 45 MPH, figuring that way they can keep the traffic at 65, but then suddenly and arbitrarily decide not just to give tickets to the douchebags in Ferraris, but also to grandmas in station wagons going 46 while they’re at it. That is basically the ratings system in a nutshell and it’s mind-blowing that films undeserving of such a “Scarlet Letter” get caught in the crossfire of the culture wars and are still having to fight this absurd battle.

  2. Jerry Kirk says:

    I really, really miss the old Movie City News layout!

  3. Trevor Elmore says:

    R.I.P. Jill Clayburgh. Nice long career, but I’ll always remember her best from her brief years on top in the late 70s/early 80s. She was one of my mom’s favorites, and, I think, a touchstone for women in their 30s back then.

  4. leahnz says:

    who knew there was a ‘two-fucks’ rule

    i didn’t really follow that ‘ratings system in a nutshell’, but as a parent i don’t mind having a ratings system, as flawed as it may be the stricter ratings do let me know roughly what i’m in for – either a lot of fucking swearing/sexual explicitness/extreme violence-gore or all of the above; but it never sits right with me that someone i don’t know and who may not share my same values is deciding ‘what is what’ for me, and whether my offspring are likely capable of handling the content of a film. i hate other people deciding for me.

    plus violence tends to be viewed/rated far less harshly than sexual content (duh), which i don’t necessary agree with, depending on the nature of the sex/violence. and everyone knows you can just rent it (after an ever-shortening interval) and watch it with your kid at home and mess them up in your own special way anyway, so it doesn’t really even matter that much any more. the rating that’s annoying here is the ‘M’ for ‘mature audience’, which is a bizarre catch-all for a wide range of flicks from innocuous to fairly rude stuff like ‘hancock’ with heads up asses and such (hancock just sprung to mind for some reason)

  5. leahnz says:

    oh, i’ll second that for clayburgh, legend, how sad. i was just watching ‘silver streak’ the other day on VHS dreaming dreams of it on blu-ray, she was such a dynamite lady, RIP

  6. Keil Shults says:

    I saw Piranha 3-D with my wife, and the only other people in the theater at the time were a married couple with their two children (approx. ages 7 and 10). I really, really don’t think those kids should have been in that theater, regardless of what their parents thought. And I’m a weird guy who willingly watches plenty of weird shit, so this isn’t some conservative prude talking here.

  7. Shillfor Alanhorn says:

    Leah: The “two fucks” rule is any more than two utterances of the word “fuck” is an automatic “R” (as if no child under 17 has ever heard or used the word “fuck!”). I’m a parent too and have no problem with the existence of a ratings system. Just think they should do a better job enforcing the one they have and only use NC-17 on the most egregious cases. Assuming New Zealand’s “M” works like the U.S. “R,” namely “no one under 17 admitted without parent.” There’s no logical reason a film like “Blue Valentine” or the 2 second flash of Maria Bello’s pubic hair in “The Closer” or the original director’s cut of “Boogie Nights” or Martin Lawrence’s stand-up concert film (or even most violent horror films) shouldn’t fall under that rubric. But as soon as you say “you as a parent can’t take your 16 1/2 year old to this movie even if you want to,” you better have a damn good reason.

  8. leahnz says:

    no i think our M is like your R13 or R15, something like that. we still have R16 and R18, the second most and harshest ratings, respectively. you think those movies you mentioned should just be ‘R’ not NC-17, but R what? is it just R then straight to NC-17 there? that seems odd, we have multiple levels of R to ponder. don’t you have R13, R16, etc?

    (shows how my mind is firmly in the gutter, i’m thinking the ‘two fucks’ rule meant two depictions of sex. christ. your way makes a lot more sense)

    like i said (and i think we agree), it’s sexual content and nudity other than boobs of course that seems to earn the most severe censorship from the ratings bodies – ass/pubes/dick in that order i think – along with realistic depictions of sexual violence (and that one is just fine with me, actually) and excessive mutherfucking language. as usual, general violence is more liberally tolerated (not necessarily GORE, but they are not the same). why is (particularly) male nudity and frank sexuality so taboo while people getting blown away left, right, and centre amidst chicks with their tits out considered mundane? why indeed.

    but you have to draw the line somewhere, it’s just that WHO decides where that line is and precisely WHERE the line is drawn that’s contentious, there seem to be glaring double standards and inconsistency. i think that’s why people whinge, ‘but this movie was far worse than that movie, blah blah blah’, because the criteria seems so muddled and arbitrarily applied, and more to the point, everyone’s personal criteria is subjective and thus varies wildly, so people will always have a bone to pick no matter what. what exactly IS the criteria (two fucks, obviously), that’s the real issue. the ratings boards must be following very specific criteria…so it’s the criteria and how it’s interpreted and applied that needs to be examined, really. is it voted upon? by whom? who ultimately DECIDES the criteria, and how did these people come to wield such power? i don’t trust them as far as i can throw them (and yet i’m relieved they exist; it couldn’t be an easy job to be a censor, and i would think at the very least they probably take their jobs as such very seriously)

    realistically, how are ‘they’ going to enforce the R rating more than it is currently? surely the harried dumbasses behind the counter at the cinema can’t be expected to do it.

    as a parent i don’t mind an R18 rating (or NC-17 rating, assuming it’s the same thing? what’s NC anyway, national certificate? that sounds too ‘queen’s english’ for the US somehow), not that i’m necessarily going to agree with it but this isn’t anarchy and bedlam, not yet anyway, we live in a civilisation and as such certain cultural standards are applied and upheld, and a parent’s need to be warned of possibly inappropriate and explicit content for our young people IS necessary. the problem is as old as the hills: WHO decides what is appropriate, on what scale are the levels of inappropriateness graded, and just who do ‘we’ trust to say, “this content is so extreme, you can’t just take your child to see this willy-nilly (and 16/17 yr olds are children), you have to watch it first and then decide”. that is an extreme position to take, but i’m actually ok with it in theory. in practice, that’s another story. age old dilemma.

  9. IOv3 says:

    We also must remember the best thing about the freaking MPAA: they will bend over backward for the studios. Indies will constantly get the shivs but if Blue Valentine or The King’s Speech were affiliated to one of the majors, there would be no problem with those films, and that’s a freaking problem in and of itself.

    Also, Megamind is what the next Superman film should be. Yes, the story should be tweaked but that movie is what no Superman movie has ever had… EPIC BATTLES! Why the next Superman film has to be a freaking origin story, which negates bad ass epic battles, is beyond me. Nevertheless, Megamind rules and DWA continue to kick it on a Pixar level for me at least.

  10. The Pope says:

    Jill Clayburgh. Only a few months ago I was wondering why I had not seen her in that many films recently. Brilliant actress and one whose company I always enjoyed when she was on screen. I see that one of her last credits is Love and Other Drugs; hopefully it provides a fitting memory.
    She was brilliant.

  11. The Pope says:

    Sorry, meant to mention the great moment when she was dancing around her apartment in Unmarried Woman. Funny Tom Cruise’s dance in Risky Business is a performance for the audience, but Jill was dancing for herself. Or am I completely wrong?

  12. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Except the 2 fuck’s rule does not always apply. Gunner Palace got a PG-13 on appeal with way more than 2. Same for The Hip Hop Project. And all the President’s Men has around a dozen.,0,2198662.column

  13. cadavra says:

    The Appeals Board tends to be a little more lenient when it comes to documentaries on serious topics, and the swearing in GUNNER’S PALACE was certainly acceptable in context; by contrast, the R was upheld on the Dixie Chicks doc because that was not an especially “serious” film.

  14. cadavra says:

    I also want to note that I’ve seen three horror movies so far this year–THE WOLFMAN, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD and PIRANHA 3-D–that absolutely did not deserve R ratings as released. If these films aren’t NC-17, then the rating simply does not exist, violence/gore-wise.

  15. sanj says:

    ‘Friends With Benefits’ Red Band Trailer

    Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake

  16. castnews says:


  17. Shillfor Alanhorn says:

    In claiming those films “deserve” NC-17s, again, I ask you to use this benchmark: Do you really think that a parent shouldn’t be allowed by law to take his/her 16 1/2 year old child to see “The Wolfman,” “Survival of the Dead,” or “Piranha 3D?” Really? If more people viewed NC-17 this way instead of playing the “well, if THIS is NC-17, then THAT should be too” card, there’d be a lot less ratings battles.

  18. Don R. Lewis says:

    I saw AMERICAN PSYCHO at Sundance and when it got picked up, it was made clear it would be NC-17 without some editing. Then I saw it again a few months later after the edits and they took all the sex out and left in all the violence. That was when I first realized how screwy American morality is and how totally screwy the ratings system is.

  19. LexG says:

    Yeah, yeah, everybody brings up the “MPAA is harder on sex than violence, that’s what’s wrong with America,” but what’s more awkward to watch as a family– some simulated gunfire or stabbings, or a topless chick pretending to blow a dude? Especially in a country that’s like 93% religious, and the Bible is the most violent shit ever, so pretty much everyone “gets” violence from childhood, and definitely gets it as a propulsive, crucial element of most dramatic conflict in works of art.

    Seriously, you don’t see the difference between watching The Wolfman or American Werewolf or Halloween with your 12 year old kid, and watching naked oral sex orgies? Yeah, yeah, I know everyone likes to feign like they’re some oh-so-continental libertine, but it’s not really that surprising that sex is a bigger no-no for most parents than some clearly-fake blood spatter. Even though the sex is simulated, it’s still real body parts on display and I know when I was 12, I’d freeze-frame my way through Linda Hamilton’s rack in TERMINATOR and sure didn’t care if it was simulated or not. Whereas the gunfire was just something you can shrug off and watch sans embarrassment if Ma and Pa are in the room.

  20. leahnz says:

    again, the problem is it’s all subjective. what one person deems appropriate for their children to view is not the same across the board (not to mention that some parents make poor and inappropriate choices), but certainly the issue of children’s desensitisation to violence/gore is arguably a serious one.

    and to say, “what’s more awkward to watch as a family, sex or violence?”, and then excuse the violence out of hand IS the problematic mindset in a nutshell, the absurd double-standard has become the default, that graphic violence is somehow acceptable for kids to view. yes, watching sexual content with your children can be awkward and even inappropriate, and so should watching horrible graphic violence/gore/death. how about NEITHER graphic violence nor graphic sex slip thru the ratings system without appropriate warnings so parents have a clearer idea of what they’re in for and can then make more informed decisions.

    “some clearly-fake blood spatter”

    well, depictions of graphic violence are often frighteningly realistic and visceral, and perhaps only people without kids might think graphic depictions of violence have no effect on the developing psyches of children. it’s not about what is ‘awkward’ for adults to watch with their children, it’s about the apropriateness of the content for impressionable children to view. this may be hard for a narcissist to understand, but this isn’t about how a movie makes YOU the adult feel when watching it with your kids, it’s about the kids and how it effects them.

    these are our film classification/ratings copied over (perhaps people can see why i complained about our M, which is so vague a catch-all as to be a joke, really):

    G Suitable for general audiences.
    PG Parental guidance may be needed for younger viewers.
    M Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over.

    The most common restricted ratings are:

    R13 Restricted to persons 13 years and over.
    R15 Restricted to persons 15 years and over.
    R16 Restricted to persons 16 years and over.
    R18 Restricted to persons 18 years and over.

    so the US doesn’t have all these levels of R? why not?

    what i would appreciate as a parent is an actual brief breakdown with the rating criteria as a matter of course, such as:

    rated blankety-blank for (then a brief list from): violence/graphic violence-gore/partial female nudity/brief nudity/graphic nudity/sexual content/graphic sexual content/mild language/strong language

    so something is “R13 for violence, brief nudity, strong language”, ok, got it; or if a movie is “R15 for sexual content, nudity and strong language” then i know the sexual content and intensity may be too much for my particular child. i think more information should be required to be provided with the rating, just a brief list of criteria for which that specific rating has been applied. is that too much to ask? i don’t see how, it seems quite simple. TV here does exactly that, providing a warning before the show of any possibly inappropriate/offensive content and a brief list of exactly what that may entail, so why not film?

  21. cadavra says:

    What you say makes sense on a theoretical level, but there are some things that small children simply shouldn’t see, and I can’t see any responsible parent taking their kids to see movies that will give them nightmares for Christ knows how long. (I was nine when I saw THE ANGRY RED PLANET and it fucked me up for weeks.) If parents feel their six-year-old simply must see PIRANHA 3-D, they can wait a coupla months, rent the DVD, and let them watch it in the relative comfort of their home.

    I yelled at Joan Graves for literally years that an R-13 would solve most of the ratings debates (right now there is NO rating that distinguishes a 6-year-old from a 16-year-old), but she said it would never happen because–wait for it–the STUDIOS don’t want it!

  22. leahnz says:

    fwiw ‘piranha 3D’ was rated R18 here, the strictest/highest rating so hearing it was only R in the states is a bit surprising; ‘survival of the dead’ and ‘wolfman’ were both R16.

    apparently we now DO have some basic criteria by way of abbreviations to go with the rating (unbeknownst to me until just now), great news, i’m relieved i’m not alone in my desire for some sort of criteria along with the rating; ‘piranha 3D’ was rated R18-NV for nudity/violence, ‘survival of the Dead’ was R16-VLH for violence/language/horror, and ‘wolfman’ R16-HV for horror/violence.

  23. sanj says:

    Hey DP – you should do dancing with the stars on tv – that
    way DP/30 and MCN gets a bit of promotion.

  24. movieman says:

    Leah- My production of “Speed-the-Plow” closed last nite after a three-weekend run, and I’m now experiencing post-partum depression. It was one of the scariest–and most exhilarating–experiences of my life, and it’s going to be damn hard to return to my “civilian life” as a critic. I’m already making plans to do this again…after a much-needed rest, that is. I can’t begin to describe the immense pride and joy I felt sitting in the lighting booth during Friday’s performance and watching my incredible cast act their hearts out. For a moment there I thought I was in San Francisco, Chicago or L.A. watching a “professional” production of Mamet’s play: they were THAT good! Audience reaction was beyond my wildest dreams, and it was a kick seeing the local “theater community” turn out en masse because of the show’s off-the-charts buzz. Even more gratifying was hearing their effusive comments afterwards.
    I felt like a very proud papa.
    Here’s a sampling of our feedback:

    TESTIFY! From famous local sculptor Daniel Horne: “WOW! This may very well be the very best thing I have seen on stage in the valley…ever! The acting quality is simply stellar. They keep you riveted for the entire 90 minutes. Just awesome people, go and see it before it is gone!”

  25. yancyskancy says:

    leah – The US has only one R rating, but we do get the list of criteria you mention.

    What I don’t get is how R-level violence on a basic cable channel like AMC (e.g., multiple gunshots to the head in their new series THE WALKING DEAD) requires only a “viewer discretion advised” disclaimer, along with the usual TV-V rating, or whatever. They have a little more leeway sexually, too (Bryan Cranston’s naked butt; suggested sec on MAD MEN, etc.), but nothing as in-your-face as the violence. Of course, the republic still stands — I suspect few children are among the couple of million viewers of such shows. Just pointing out an interesting (to me) phenomenon related to the topic at hand.

  26. leahnz says:

    thanks yancy, yeah i sussed that one out, it really is quite bizarre to go from PG(13) to a very wide ranging R to adults only NC17; so as a parent you can effectively take any age child to an R rated film (such a piranha 3D), that’s just nuts imho.

    of course your point about TV is spot-on, similar to here, and like i mentioned before the fact that after a mere couple of months adults can rent DVD/stream NC-17 material for the entire family to watch if they see fit sort of renders the whole ratings stoush moot anyway.

    hey movieman, that is so cool!!! (not the post-p depression obviously but that’s completely normal and probably to be expected, but when that fades the pride and joy will linger on) congratulations! you’ve found your new calling…it’s so rare that a person finds something truely exhilarating and gratifying that really stretches one’s wings, and you obviously have the talent and intestinal fortitude for it, so i hope this is the beginning of a beautiful thing for you! be sure to let us know what your next challenge will be, what can top mamet-speak?

  27. movieman says:

    Thnx, Leah.
    I think I’m gonna need a few months to recuperate, but I’ve already got projects lined up at virtually every theater in town over the next two years.
    Among the stuff I’m mulling over: “Streamers;” “Reasons to be Pretty” (my favorite Neil LaBute); “The Graduate” (not a great play, but it could be a real lark: plus, I’ve pre-cast it with some of my favorite local actors) and “The Year of Magical Thinking” (have a commitment from the most extraordinary actress in the entire tri-state area–she positively killed in “Wit” last spring!)
    Somebody told me today that “Speed” was the recipient of “the Youngstown (Ohio) equivalent of Oscar buzz.” I told him that was enormously gratifying…and pretty darn hysterical.
    True story: my 7th/8th grade teacher came to our final performance last nite. I hadn’t seen her in over thirty years, so it was a real kick learning that she’d been following my “career” in the newspaper and on TV.

  28. leahnz says:

    aw, that’s so exciting, movieman, i’m thrilled for you! and how sweet to see your teacher who’s been following your career after all these years, that’s magic. good teachers are the unsung heroes of the world, bless them all. keep us up-to-date, it sounds like you’ve got your hands full already, yowza!

  29. movieman says:

    I told her that she had always been in my pantheon of greatest-teachers-ever: she seemed really touched by that.
    It was a very nice moment for both of us.
    Interestingly, her son does a lot of local theater (he’s damn good, too), and I used the opportunity to pitch him one of the drunken sergeant roles in “Streamers,” lol.
    I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens next, Leah. But it’s going to be very sad returning to the theater this week to pick up the office desk I borrowed for the show. That sort of officially signifies, “The End.”

  30. sanj says:

    DP – post the rest of the DP/30’s

  31. leahnz says:

    yeah, i hear that movieman. it’s always such a sad, empty feeling when production ends, the family breaks up and everyone scatters to the four winds…but then the next one starts and it’s all guns blazing once again (plus i tend to work with the same bloody people over and over again so it’s like, ‘not you again!’ but it’s the best feeling in the whole wide world). just hang in there, go with the melancholy flow and allow yourself the time to grieve and say goodbye to that production (it’s good for your directorial soul) and before you know it you’ll be onto the next, shaking your fist at the players demanding more energy and commitment, and directing the hell out it. i just know it.

  32. leahnz says:

    and sanj, what is your dealio with DP and his 30s? you’re like a dog with a bone, hilarious

  33. sanj says:

    i just don’t get the point of doing a preview of a dp/30 and then posting it a week later .

    DP/30 should be outsourced to China so they can get it up faster.

  34. movieman says:

    Leah- The most satisfying aspect of the entire production was getting the last laugh on all of the people in town who were salivating at the prospect of me falling flat on my face (my unstintingly honest reviews haven’t, uh, endeared me to a certain faction of the local theater community). It was fun watching them all come out–daggers poised and ready to pounce–only to admit, “Damn! That was really good.”
    Not that any of THOSE people would pay me a compliment, lol. But I loved
    proving to everyone (myself included) that my instincts are sound, and that I might actually have a future in this sort of thing.
    Maybe this was one of those “game-changers” that people talk endlessly about (but which I’d never experienced before).
    Onward and upward.
    Now it’s time to catch up on all of the movies I’ve fallen behind on. (Opting not to do Toronto this year is only half of it.)

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“We don’t have any idea what the universe is. Wise people have always told us that this is proof you shouldn’t think, because thinking leads you nowhere. You just build over this huge construction of misunderstanding, which is culture. The history of culture is the history of the misunderstandings of great thinkers. So we always have to go back to zero and begin differently. And maybe in that way you have a chance not to understand but at least not to have further misunderstandings. Because this is the other side of this question—Am I really so brave to cancel all human culture? To stop admiring the beauty in human production? It’s very difficult to say no.”
~ László Krasznahorkai

“I have a license to carry in New York. Can you believe that? Nobody knows that, [Applause] somebody attacks, somebody attacks me, oh, they’re gonna be shot. Can you imagine? Somebody says, oh, it is Trump, he’s easy pickings what do you say? Right? Oh, boy. What was the famous movie? No. Remember, no remember where he went around and he sort of after his wife was hurt so badly and kill. What?  I — Honestly, Yeah, right, it’s true, but you have many of them. Famous movie. Somebody. You have many of them. Charles Bronson right the late great Charles Bronson name of the movie come on.  , remember that? Ah, we’re gonna cut you up, sir, we’re gonna cut you up, uh-huh.


One of the great movies. Charles Bronson, great, Charles Bronson. Great movies. Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct, right? It’s not politically correct. But could you imagine with Trump? Somebody says, oh, all these big monsters aren’t around he’s easy pickings and then shoot.”
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