May 5, 2008

This Film is Not Yet Rated - Ned Rupp

I thought "This Film is Not Yet Rated" was a very well done, informative documentary which really showed how flawed the hollywood movie rating system really is. One thing that was interesting to me in the movie was how anonymous the raters had to be. It makes sense that the MPAA didn't want the raters opinions to be swayed by outside sources, but it seemed like even if their opinions WERE swayed it really wouldn't matter because whatever decision the raters made could be overturned by the MPAA anyway. I don't even know what they bother having raters anyway if the system isn't legitimate. Why don't' they just get random crowd of people (maybe volunteers) to review each movie? They could change the crowd every time, and this would make sure that there weren't any movie biases among the raters. For example, what if one of the long time raters just couldn't deal with certain types of violence, or certain sex scenes, etc, and they tended to rate whatever movie had either of those things more commonly because of their bias? It would make sense if a bunch of people could volunteer to rate movies, but they wouldn't know WHAT movie they would be seeing, then that would prevent a lot of either positive or negative biases. I think Hollywood still has alot of work to do to correct this system, and they should do it soon because there are probably alot of good movies not being seen by the public because they got an NC-17 rating, just because a small portion of a womans crotch was showing. It isn't fair to everyone who could EXPERIENCE these possibly good movies, and it isn't fair to the movie's creators who spend a ridiculous amount of time to make these movies, only to have it all go down the drain.

May 4, 2008

This Film is Not Yet Rated-Sukhpal Dhillon

The documentary “This Film is Not Yet Rated� was an excellent movie regarding the rating system for movies in the United States. The difference in ratings can be a huge economical one. If a film is rated NC-17 instead of R, that could mean the difference of tens of millions of dollars. The one thing that the MPAA is criticized about is that they do not reveal openly who heads the panel of their board (the people who say that a movie is G or R). Since there is no directory of how a film is rated movie directors and producers must often walk a fine line and make constant modifications to their movies so it is “more acceptable� to the MPAA. What is ridiculous is that the MPAA will not allow films to reference previous examples of violence or sex in other movies to argue their cases.

The MPAA stresses that sexual activities are much more subversive than that of violence. They are also very biased, for example in a scene of American Beauty the main character who is a male masturbates in the shower and that is given an R rating, however in another movie a female does it over her clothes and this movie received a NC-17. Also themes such as homosexuality in comparison to heterosexual activities are looked down upon even more so. In general it is obvious that major changes need to be undertaken for the ratings system in America’s Movies, for it is one that is completely driven by the monopolistic movie industry, which in turn should not have the ability to censor movies.

Review of James Nadell's "Boyz N The Hood: A Colonial Analysis" by Jenna Johnson

James Nadell, in his article, “Boyz N The Hood: A Colonial Analysis,� gives us an overview of the symbolisms and illustrations in John Singleton’s “Boyz N the Hood,� as well as the struggle of African Americans in a historical/colonial context. Nadell’s main ideas deal with how Euro-American capitalism has had negative effects on the development of African Americans as a people, how a “warfare� has been made against the progress of Black freedoms by our government, and how the drug problem landed in Black communities and has since rendered violent conflicts.

Nadell begins with his opinion that “the oppression and exploitation of African and Third World labor and resources� has been influential in fueling American capitalism over time. This is a logical deduction when thinking of the times of the slave trade and the forced labor of African Americans in southern American states during the colonial times. Later on, Nadell describes how African Americans have been considered an “externalized cost� that only brings down the power of capitalism, implying the “warfare� attitude against black people by the majority in our nation’s history. From a colonial point of view, this would also seem logical, however in present day it is recognized that African Americans and other minority groups have become a viable part of the American workforce.

As Nadell analyzes “Boyz N the Hood,� he largely points out the problem of illegal drugs and its relation to violence among many black communities. According to Nadell, a “driving force of the within-group violence depicted in [“Boyz�] is the illicit narcotics trade.� However, we are informed that the CIA was responsible for the original import of opiates and other narcotics to the United States. The trouble began once the trade spread into black and other minority communities, “a most serious blow to the Black liberation struggle.� Relating to our class discussions, this problem was most likely a factor of the LA riots and the corruption of the LA police force, which also is seen in “Boyz�, and could also possibly contribute to ongoing racism against black people in this country.

Concerning the topic of racism, Jeremy Stoddard points out that: “Critical race theorists argue that racism pervades American institutions and is “endemic in American life.� Stoddard infers here that the views of Americans have changed, making racism out to be the “endemic� that African Americans and other minorities once were, according to Nadell. Stoddard idealizes the image of Americans here, at least these “race theorists,� as it is certain that many forms of racism still exist today, but are perhaps less noticeable.

Overall, Nadell uses examples from “Boyz N the Hood� to summarize well the effects of American capitalism, the introduction of drugs, and other hindrances to the struggle for liberation amongst black people over time. His consistency with history and realizable contextual evidence make for an informatively persuasive read.

This Film is Not Yet Rated Reflection

According to Daniel Franklin’s Politics and Film reading “the rating system is based on the number of and graphic nature of the acts of violence and explicit sex as depicted in a film.� I like the idea of having a rating system of some sort so people can judge whether or not they want to see a movie but the MPAA is inconsistent and unrealistic. The MPAA does an ok job on restricting movies that have extremely realistic and graphic violence. There is less emphasis on violent acts then on sexual content. However sexual content seems to have some different approach. If the movie has sexual explicit content then it is restricted but definition of sexual explicit content seems to be unclear. Heterosexual male focused sex is more frequently given a lower rating for its humor while those who were interviewed seem to think that female pleasure and homosexual sex are more restricted. The MPAA claims that this is not a deciding factor, but ratings given in the different film clips from PG to NC-17 suggest something else.
Also, the bias and treatment of films that are independent and big studio are different. Looking at the two films by Matt Stone we can see the bias of the MPAA. The independent film that was submitted was rejected and the MPAA suggested they would have to cut several scenes from the movie to give his film a marketable rating. The South Park movie that was submitted which was through a major studio was also rejected but was given guidelines on how the movie could be made “appropriate.� Some of the other film makers who were interviewed said they had similar experiences.
In general the MPAA is a good idea and a pretty good system. They just need to take a look at their rules and revaluate those that are important. I think it is more important for people to see sexual content than grotesque violence. –Grant Flatgard

This Film is Not Yet Rated Mikhail Karpich

Franklin states that the MPAA rating system provides for “some fairly well-established guidelines to the assignment of ratings, [and thus] filmmakers can now predict with a fair amount of certainty what their film’s ratings will be. In addition it is a fairly simple matter to edit a film to conform to a particular ratings requirement� (153). Unfortunately, the individuals that were interviewed in “This Film is Not Yet Rated� would not agree with this statement. One of the filmmakers that was interviewed could not understand why she got an NC-17 rating on her film. In her film there was no nudity or violence, but a girl masturbating in full clothing and a story line indicating that it is okay to be a lesbian. The American Pie film, on the other hand, received an R rating and that film included one of the characters masturbating half naked in a pie. According to M. Hodgson, “there are those who oppose the entire idea of the rating system, contending it is a form of censorship� (1). The interviewers would agree with this statement because the films they produced have no real validity to be rated NC-17. MPAA on the other hand claims that the parents don not want their children to see such things and that they must alter it for a “more� appropriate viewing. The various interviews with the filmmakers do not really agree with Franklin’s second statement either. One of the filmmakers was asked to change the tone of the film. To change the tone of the film would require re-filming and filming a completely different film. How can one predict with certainty what the rating will be if there are no solid guidelines? It just cannot happen. The filmmaker discussed previously, about the lesbian girl, included no violence or nudity but still received an NC-17 rating. According to D. Franklin, “Make no mistake about it, American films are censored now and always have been� (143).

MPAA Approved?

Throughout the history of the American film industry, directors, screenwriters, and actors have strived to develop innovative and original techniques for editing, camerawork, performance styles and narrative with the goals of reflecting upon issues and creating an entertaining piece of art. However, many times individuals in the film industry are unable to accomplish these goals because of unclear MPAA guidelines regarding rating assignments for films. According to Franklin, the MPAA rating system provides “some fairly well established guidelines to the assignment of ratings, [and thus] filmmakers can now predict with a fair amount of certainty what their films’ ratings will be� (153). Although subjects such as extreme gore and explicit sexual content will automatically earn a film a highly restrictive rating, the definitions for explicit and violent content are poorly defined and often held to double standards. For example, independent film companies are held to a much higher and tougher standard than big wig studios. When Matt Stone, co-creator of South Park, released two films, the first independently released film was instantly rejected by the MPAA whereas the second film (South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut), which was released by Atlantic Records, was rejected but given guidelines (including a title change) for how to make the film releasable. Holding lesser film companies to higher standards suggests that the MPAA is dishonest, secretive and hypocritical. The ratings system, established to protect audiences from graphic material that may be unsuitable, has become a political tool to appease major film corporations.

Ian Bell

Self-Censorship in the Film Industry, Alex Schreiner

The MPAA is a controversial issue, because of the lack of continuity or explanation for the ratings, but not because there are ratings. Jack Valenti was very smart in creating the ratings board, because it was a preemptive way to address concerns the nation had about the content of films. It allowed for the movie industry to police themselves and allow themselves leeway where they see fit, instead of having the government try to define rigid and unchanging standards. The “moving goalposts� that are addressed by Cieply are the undefined standards against which movies are rated. The ratings and standards for comparison are very ambiguous, and sometimes it seems like they are applied unequally to the same issue at different times. This is frustrating for filmmakers, who may get a higher rating for something they had shown in a previous movie without any fuss. This ambiguous system of malleable standards is good, because it allows the film industry to change with the social and moral climate of the nation without too much trouble. It can become frustrating, however, when these invisible lines routinely move and are crossed unknowingly. Overall, self-regulation is a positive force in the industry, and will continue amidst the outcries of unfairness and inconsistencies.

Yu Katayama - Movie Ratings-Do they serve the Hollywood or the public?

For this assignment, I read the article called Movie Ratings – Do They Serve the Hollywood or the Public?, which was written by Moira Hudgson. Basically the author attacks the issue about the film ratings that we have in the society today and how these ratings are affecting the community and public in general. In the article, he compares the ratings back in the earlier days to the ratings that we have now. He believed the major change that occurred in the rating was the changes from X-rated to R-rated films. All the filmgoers, or people in general, tends to watch more of PG and R rated films today as it was stated in the article. Since these statistics are true, the industry or the studio are forced to make a film that are PG or R rated (that’s what the MPAA would call it…) because obviously they would make more money. I believe that’s one of the issues I think that needs to be solved because the priority for the studio is to make some bucks, not the public. In addition, with all the disorganized procedure that are going on in MPAA can also be harmful and inappropriate for the children that are not old enough to watch the adult contents. With all these kinds of problems flying around, it makes the film industry to focus on their job more difficult because their relationship with the public could go downhill. But was it necessary for people to change the rating from being X to R? Mr Romero said that “they should say V for violence or S for sex,� instead of calling it PG or R because I think those copyrighted trademarks can be confusing sometimes and it would make it a lot easier if they say the film is rated S (sex), for example. Maybe X would have been too much of a broad rating, but if there is no standard system for MPAA to rate films, it would make sense for them to have the films rated in the way which Mr Romero stated. Basically I just want to say that if MPAA have concerns for the public and the children, they should look closely at their system in order to receive positive feedbacks from the public. The last thing that they want to do is to have the children watching the inappropriate films because of the wrong ratings. The priority for them should be “people�, not the bucks. If we could see some changes within the organization in the next couple of years, the rating system that they have might become useful or they should just change the whole system in order to ensure the protection from the under aged children.

H. Getachew

In the reading Movie Rating- Do They Serve Hollywood or the Public by Moira Hodgson, asks readers to examine if the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) services the film goers and parents or the Hollywood business. The article doesn’t have a thesis statement but one main question, which is stated in the title and to help reader answer the question, the Hodgson explains how the MPAA works and points out some controversial argument associated with the rating system. After reading the article I would argue that the movie rating system by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is not designed to service the public but Hollywood.
Hodgson starts out by illustrating that the MPAA has improved the rating system since the 1970’s. MPAA now looks at violence more carefully as they do sexual content. Hodgson stats “ X ratings which used to be conferred mostly for sex are now used to designate violence as well� (2) Hodgson states even though the MPAA has made improvement, still the rating system is not helpful for the public or for parents in identifying what the movie contains “there are those who find the ratings so vague- there is not indication whether an R rating is for sex, violence or language, and no indication why a PG has been awarded.� (Hogson, 1)
For the most part this MPAA rating system is business, movies with the X rating don’t get any advisement in the media and most movie theater don’t play movies with an X rating. In addition “Members of the national Association of the Theater Owners, comprising about 85 percent of heaters, will not show unrated films� (Hogson, 4) Hogson explains there are small number of filmmaker who don’t submit the their film to the MPAA still make money by using their own rating system. The MPAA rating system is not only biases, but also influenced by big corporation “there have been complaints by producers that the rating board is softer on the giving X rating to the larger companies.� (Hogson, 6)
Hogson, explains that MPAA is a form of censorship, that comes between the movie goers and the films. I would also agree it is a form of censorship based on the politics and money. The article was very interesting, it had great points that supported the film we watched this week.

“Boyz N The Hood: A Colonial Analysis� James Nadell- Alexander Culverwell

Boyz 'n the hood is a film that shows the hard life and rough area that many African Americans have to grow up and live in throughout their lives. James Nadell in his article,“Boyz N The Hood: A Colonial Analysis�, discusses the isue of racism from the African American aspect and how they are always looked at or treated differently from the White Americans. Nadell also comments on the drug trade and the way that the people looking in on it believe that it is the African Americans who are responsible for it , when they only have a very strong part to play.
The young African Americans that are shown in Boyzz n the hood are always being watched and in some kind of danger. Even they are shown to be up standing citizen's, trying to get into college, they always seem to be in some kind of danger. We see them being pulled over by police, who are mainly shown as white people are an occasional black cop who wants to show everyone that he is greater than they are. They are pulled over for no apparent reason, other than being African American. Also in the area there is always the treat of being shot, as we hear the gunshots throughout the film. Nadell say that this is typical and comes from the days where the African Americans were brought over from Africa and Europe to be slaves for the white people of America. These days are long passed but some people still class the race as being inferior to white people.This is why they find it harder to get away from the stereotypes that they once had. An example of this is shown in American History X when Derek is extremely against minorities and African Americans in particular.
The other point that Nadell talks about is the drug trade.He points out that the people who are really behind the drug trafficing are the White Americans, possibly the government. Even though it has not been discussed in class much or even brought up in the film a lot, apart from one scene where Furious tells his son that African Americans dont have the boats or planes to get the drugs in. as Furious says here, they dont have the funds to get the drugs in to the country. They are merely the tip of the iceberg as they distribute and sell it to the people who want it. This is why they get the name for the drug trade as trhey ar ethe only ones who are seen doing anything with them.
Overall, i think that Nadell touches on and goes in good detail on the race issues that we have seen and discussed in the class. I think that his article and the topic of race and racism that we talked about for three weeks are very well connected.

Censorship

With all the censorship in today's popular culture, I actually believe it is quite hard to produce a film that could be considered "subversive" in the true meaning of the word. In my opinion, to successfully subvert the MPAA, the film would either have to be independently distributed, leading to an extremely small audience, or somehow produce a sensation for the viewer that is much more obscene or "adult oriented" than the actual visuals / audio would imply. Barring a technique like the one alluded to in the movie Fight Club, where he cuts frames of pornography into the middle of feature films, subversion is not possible. However, my opinion aside, I feel it is much more likely that subversive films would appear with relation to violence, as opposed to sex. There are very few physical acts of violence that have yet to be portrayed in some shape or form on the movie screen. Sex, on the other hand, is still a guaranteed "R" rating, minimum, with the more obscene movies (the obvious example being the small subsection of movies considered pornography) garnering the most extreme of ratings... something you don't see with violent movies.

Tom Lulic - Censorship

In this week’s film it is interesting to see the amount of industry influence on film ratings. In response to Franklin’s statement, “Films are censored in one of three ways: by the market, by industry, or by the government,� the presence of industry in film censorship is seen not only through the MPAA Board’s actions but also through the make-up of the MPAA Appeals Board. In the film it is shown that some of the raters have direct contact with studio personnel after movie screenings. Meetings are called for these individuals to commune after a movie showing. Given that these ratings have “great social significance�, one would assume that, to avoid any outside influence on the ratings, the persons involved and financially benefiting from the ratings would not be involved. Even if a rating has been decided upon for a given film, for what reason are the studio personnel involved anyway? What is more interesting is the roster for the MPAA Appeals Board. Comprised of studio and movie theater chain executives, it seems worthless to appeal to such a crowd when so many financial partnerships and company dependability are engrossed. Assuming that the rating process for a film has a significant weight on the potential for the amount of money a film can make, these MPAA Boards can doctor the market into one that has the greatest benefit for their respective studio or movie theater. The rating for a film should not be influenced by such financial criteria.

Review of "Movie Ratings-Do they serve Hollywood or the public?" - by Marc Dunham

In Moira Hodgson’s article, “Movie Ratings-Do they serve Hollywood or the public?�, inconsistencies of and objections to the MPAA’s rating process are examined. Although the article was a bit dated and riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, I found many of the points to be very interesting, and a relevant corollary to the film we watched recently in class, “This Film is Not Yet Rated.� Hodgson details the differences among the ratings and an overview of how guidelines for each have changed in the years since their inception, as well as assorted people’s response to and opinion of them. Also examined is the role of ratings within the film industry itself and the politics of assigning various ratings to films.

Over time, Hodgson says that the ratings board has become more lenient on sexual themes and more stringent on violence, although many interviewed in “This Film is Not Yet Rated� would say that there is still much to be done to tone down gratuitous or potentially damaging violence. Language has been a fairly consistent qualifier for a harsher rating, but Mr. Valenti, head of the MPAA, says it can be the most difficult to rate, commenting that “if you’re a born-again Baptist in Mobile and the rating says some mild language and you hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, you’d feel you’d been tricked� (3). Language presents another issue as well. Because it can be used more easily than sex and violence without affecting the storyline, it is often included gratuitously to garner a stricter rating. Hodgson comments that “G (suitable for general audiences) is today considered box-office poison for many films on the grounds that the G can be equated with kiddie movies which arouse little interest among the majority of moviegoers� (2). Former chairman of the Code and Ratings Administration Richard Heffner responds to the issue by saying, “I frequently have the feeling the filmmaker has dropped in one of the harsher, sexually-derived words to get an R� (2). It’s an unfortunate reality that the ratings board has this type of control over the output of filmmakers. In this way the ratings board inevitably serves the film producers, who are able to bend the raters’ decision to their will by including gratuitous content.

Although the article mentions the possible inclusion of an intermediary rating between PG and R, “R14� as suggested by Steven Spielberg after complaints in response to his PG “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,� it wouldn’t be until 1984 that the PG-13 rating would be introduced, providing an alternative to the restrictive “R� when less offensive content is present. The article also makes note of people’s complaints that reasons for ratings are not given. As of 1990, brief explanations are included with the rating. One look at the new “Iron Man� on the MPAA’s web site reveals the reason, “Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.� Another complaint of the X rating being commonly associated with pornographic and otherwise sexually explicit films has been addressed by renaming the rating as “NC-17�, which films can earn typically for extreme violence, as well as sexual themes.

Cameron White

The documentary we watched this week in class, This Film in Not Yet Rated was a very interesting because I had never realized the way films are rated is very bias. The biggest problem is that it is done privately and the public is not allowed to know who and how films are rated. I believe it is not fair and the general public should have the right to know the reasoning behind what can and can not be viewed. “There are those who find the ratings so vague- there is not indication whether an R rating is for sex, violence or language, and no indication why a PG has been awarded.� (Maria p.1) All this system does is make people frustrated and question the rating structure.
Over the years what is allowed and not allowed to be viewed has changed. Today you have movies and TV shows that make fun of the president all the time, which was something that was unacceptable in years past. Over time the rating of films has become less and less strict. If you were to take an “R� rated film from twenty years ago it would more then likely get a rating of PG-13.