Release Date: September 1st, 2006 (IFC Center) by IFC Films.
Directed by Kirby Dick.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the secrecy and corruption of the MPAA.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:. Director Kirby Dick treats the MPAA more like a cult that gathers secretively and has the power to control the content of every film that passes through their “system”. Dick appropriately includes graphic footage from a broad range of films such as Boys Don’t Cry, Where the Truth Lies, American Psycho, Showgirls, Sin City, A Dirty Shame, Gunnar Palace, Storytelling, Coming Home and, of course, Team America: World Police, which features sex with Barbie dolls. What makes this documentary so much fun to watch are the hilarious and fascinating interviews with directors such as John Waters, Atom Egoyan, and Kimberley Peirce who each enjoy talking about their bad experiences with the MPAA. Much of the film feels like a suspenseful thriller as Dick hires Becky Altringer, a private investigator, to help him uncover the identities of the current MPAA judges, many of whom are supposed to be parents with teenagers. They use some espionage, a little bit of stalking—i.e. a car chase— to try to solve the mystery. In one scene, Dick delivers a copy of this film to the MPAA who soon call him back soon to stamp it with an NC-17. His failed attempts to repeal the rating and to get a decent explanation from the MPAA are funny which isn’t the least bit surprising. Ultimately, Dick goes into Michael Moore territory by pointing the angry finger (or the angry camera, rather) at this corrupt, so-called “system”, but at least he does so with a consistently wicked sense of humor and plenty of style.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: This Film is Not Yet Rated does bring up some insightful arguments regarding the MPAA, such as how it’s harsher on independent filmmakers than it is on Hollywood filmmakers and how it’s less strict regarding violence than sex. Gunnar Palace’s initial R-rating, which later changed to a PG-13, is a clear example that the MPAA doesn’t grasp the difference between real violence/profanity from everyday life and cartoon violence like in the very graphic Sin City. There’s certainly a bit of fascism in this “system” given that a movie gets an R-rating because they say it does without giving filmmakers a fair explanation. In a quite revealing scene, an MPAA representative claims that the judges cannot be identified because that would put too much pressure on them while they work. So, basically, she’s saying they are a bunch of sissies? Everyone nowadays experiences pressure while they work—it’s just part of life. What makes pressure such a bad thing after all? Director Kirby Dick misses the ball on attacking the MPAA at its metaphysical roots, though. He fails to mention that, with its unpublicized rules and inconsistent rating process, the MPAA can’t even be called a “system” to begin with. If it’s not a system, then what is it? How does it compare to the “systems” in other countries such as the UK? A little more critical thinking and less deriding could have helped to make this a much more insightful documentary. At least Dick didn’t choose the daunting task to attack something more challenging and complicated which everyone takes for granted and which also has plenty of corruption/mystery: the academic grading system. Perhaps somebody in the future will have the courage to tackle that so-called “system”.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Wickedly hilarious and fascinating, but not quite as powerful/insightful as it could have been.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "T" Menu