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"This Film Is Not Yet Rated"

Directed by Kirby Dick.
Written by Kirby Dick, Eddie Schmidt and Matt Patterson.
Release Year:  2006 

Review Date:  9/12/06


Love a good documentary--ESPECIALLY one that trashes The Man, in this case the Motion Picture Association of America Ratings Board, which dictates what movies are best suited for American audiences based on the ideas of a nine-person top-secret group of film raters.

Director Kirby Dick, who was nominated for an Oscar for his feature documentary "Twist of Faith" a couple years back, does a great job of weaving talking-head interviews with a fun fact-driven story about the ratings board, its history, its legendary chief, Jack Valenti, and the process by which Dick finds out just who might be on this super-secret board of film reviewers.  In speaking with directors as varied as famous independents like John Waters and Kevin Smith with lesser-known but influential directors like Atom Egoyan, Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry") and Darren Aronofsky ("Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream"), "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" gives us lots of examples of points where directors lost battles with their film due to excessive sex and/or violence with the MPAA.  Because the MPAA has only Valenti and whoever is in charge of the film board at the time to speak for it, Dick's attempts to wrangle information out of the MPAA are at times quite funny, especially when he submits the film you are currently watching to the board to go over its content.

But it is the random facts, the funny background score selections and wide variety of clips from films of the last 10-15 years that make "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" so entertaining; if you are old enough, this is a great film for everybody, because it creates a compelling story that is backed by the fact that it's real!  The film also stays away from going completely Michael Moore-style over-the-top in its moral thumping agenda, because there isn't an agenda to be should simply naturally question an organization that literally has no precedent, no competitors and shady, unexplained government influence.  Some PG-13 films are more violent and feature a higher body count than some R-rated films, but the MPAA says that it doesn't have to justify it because--as interviews with former members validate--the MPAA has no rules or standards that it uses to grade films.  It just does it, and if you don't like it, you can appeal the rating, which results in a rating change about, oh, 1% of the time.  If you decide to bypass the board and have your film enter theaters as "Unrated", there's a pretty good guarantee that your film will make no money, since most TV, print and radio outlets do not broadcast or publish film previews for Unrated or NC-17 films.  So, it's do or die!

"This Film Is Not Yet Rated" is a great movie, and much like in the two other great documentaries I have seen this year, "Wordplay" and "An Inconvenient Truth", it's a great combination of entertaining filmmaking and a story that will leave you smarter than when you got to the theater.  Check it out when you can!

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09