Bully

Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange is a movie about, well, love. It’s about the love shared by its central couple, George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow), but there’s more to it than that. It’s about all of its varieties and inflections, and the way that it’s expressed by husbands, nieces-in-law and friends. Beautifully lit spaces, subtly crafted dialogue and open, naturalistic performances from the whole cast help director Ira Sachs play with the manifestations of this title concept. The MPAA ratings board, meanwhile, didn’t pay attention to any of this. Love Is Strange was given an R rating. There’s no sex in the film, nor any notable violence. The reason this family drama wasn’t considered family-friendly was “language,” that ever-vague, often ironically meaningless word. What exactly does that mean? Sometimes it means too many “fucks,” or some similar breach of the arbitrary mathematics of swear-word policing. Here, though, it seems to be something else. An entire script in which the humanity of gay people is taken for granted may have been too linguistically salacious for the MPAA.

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discs kid with bike

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Kid With a Bike (Criterion) Cyril (Thomas Doret) is a young boy in flux. His mother is long gone, and his father has dropped him at an orphanage ostensibly for a few days while he gets his job and house in order. That lie hides an unforgivable truth that Cyril simply can’t accept, but through his efforts to reunite with his dad he comes under the care of a single hairdresser (Cecile de France) with struggles of her own. This French film is a deceptively simple tale of a lost boy at risk, but it becomes one of the year’s most suspenseful experiences thanks in large part to Doret’s incredible performance. His fragile emotional state teases as much danger as local teen thugs and Cyril’s constant bike-riding do leaving viewers nervously awaiting a seemingly inevitable and terrible turn of events. But even as we worry we can’t help but fall in love with the boy and the woman, their challenging and sweet interactions, and the film’s effortless display of affection and humanity. I rarely buy Criterion titles at retail (because they’re freaking expensive!), but like Broadcast News and The Game I’ll be making an exception here. [Extras: Interviews, featurette, booklet, trailer]

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Bully Contest

One of the most popular and powerful documentaries of last year, Lee Hirsch’s Bully is a film about the continuing crisis of bullying, which affects kids nationwide. In our own review, we call it “an intense, heartbreaking movie that every parent and school official should see.” Now it’s also a particularly important topic relevant to discussions of school violence. And it finally arrives on home video this Tuesday (February 12) on the heels of winning the Audience Choice award at the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors and finishing out the year as the fourth highest-grossing doc of 2012. You can go ahead and buy a copy right away, or you can try to win a DVD from Film School Rejects, and we’ll throw in a couple promotional anti-bullying rubber wristbands, on which are printed “IT’S TIME TO TAKE A STAND.” The DVD, from Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Compay, features a bunch of bonus tracks, including six deleted scenes (half of which star the teen subject Alex and then one each for Kelby, Caine and Jake). There are also other videos of Alex updating us on how he’s doing today and his appearance on Good Morning America. Another bonus video stars Meryl Streep talking about the film and the issue. 

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Last night, at a special event in conjunction with the AFI FEST, the nominees for the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors were announced. And once again, the titles contending for the ten feature categories, all of which focus solely on nonfiction films (to make up for the Oscars’ minimal recognition), represent the year’s best in documentaries. As someone who professionally concentrates on docs elsewhere, I tend to feel kinda useless or redundant when Cinema Eye names its nominees, because now when someone asks me what’s great this year I can just point to their list of 31 features. Of course, some of these films are only up for specific honors, like those for original music score and graphic design, and may not be quite as necessary as the six up for the top award or the 10 nominated for the Audience Choice Prize (which sadly, for publicity-sake, lacks a Justin Bieber movie like last year). Also, I could name a bunch of exceptional docs that haven’t been recognized, such as This is Not a Film, The House I Live In, Under African Skies, Beware of Mr. Baker, Last Call at the Oasis, The Queen of Versailles, Girl Model (though its directors are up for Downeast) and The Invisible War. Still, I’m very excited that one of my top three nonfiction films of the year, The Imposter, is one of the most-nominated titles, while I’m even more ecstatic that the CEH could bring more attention to brilliant, lesser-known works like Only the […]

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One of the most difficult Oscar categories for pundits (let alone regular folk) to predict is the one for feature documentary. And this year more than ever it’s going to be hard to pick the five nominees, because changes to the rules of qualification and voting have given the race an extra element of complication: there is no precedent for how things turn out with this particular selection process in place. In a way, it’s a wide-open field with no certainty that higher-grossing films or more issue-oriented titles or discernibly cinematic works have the greater chance at a nod. Some expected the number of contenders to be cut in half as a result of the new rules; instead it grew, much to the chagrin of branch leader Michael Moore. And until the annual shortlist narrows them down to 15, we have 130 eligible films to choose from. But most of those docs aren’t plausible nominees. Many of the kind that Moore gets upset about for paying for a screen rental to qualify aren’t likely to go all the way. So they qualified. Now they have to be good and popular enough for people to notice.

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Boiling Point

Much of the on-line film community has a fairly strong anti-MPAA lean to it. Hell, we here at FSR even pushed to have the “governing” body disbanded seeing as how they serve no real purpose. Unfortunately they still exist, and while they’re not in the news today every so often they make a splash by screwing over a film with an unnecessarily restrictive rating. It may be a film like Bully, initially Rated-R for language when its intended audience were those under the age of 17, and that should be a PG-13 flick (it eventually was after toning down the language). Or it can be something very assuredly more adult getting really boned. Blue Valentine was initially smacked with the kiss of death, an NC-17 rating, because of an act of cunnilingus. Sex is a killer at the ratings. Violence can bring you an NC-17 rating as well with films like Killer Joe and A Serbian Film getting the dreaded rating. In 2010, at least four films were initially rated NC-17 and forced to be re-cut, with two more crippled in 2011. Thus far in 2012 no film has been effectively banned from theaters due to the rating, but I’m still pissed about it anyways. The rating itself is unnecessary and actually redundant, but beyond that, the rating is offensive.

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After weeks and weeks of controversy, manufactured or otherwise, the tumultuous story of The Weinstein Company’s anti-bullying documentary Bully has finally come to a close. For those who haven’t been following all of the hullabaloo, the fun all started when the MPAA ridiculously gave a Lee Hirsch-directed documentary meant to expose the escalating problem of bullying in U.S. schools an R-rating. Even though the movie taught a good lesson, the fact that it used the F word a few too many times deemed it unsuitable for our children’s bruised little ears. Never one to take a chance at free publicity lying down, the film’s producer Harvey Weinstein made a big stink about how unjust the rating was, and vowed to have it appealed. He did as much, and he even brought one of the bullied kids from the film, Alex Libby, to speak during the appeals process. Nonetheless, the MPAA decided that the rating would stand. This, of course, led to further outrage on the part of everyone. Weinstein put the film out unrated, the PTC threatened to picket any theaters that would show it, and the MPAA continued to sit behind closed doors and do whatever evil things they do that we don’t know about. The whole situation was a mess, and in some serious need of mediation. Which must have eventually happened, because at some point they re-edited the film, re-submitted it to the MPAA, and it now has a PG-13 rating. Apparently the issue was that they […]

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The overall weekend was down more than anticipated, but that didn’t stop The Hunger Games‘ swath of box office destruction. In its first, nine days of release, it’s closing in tightly to the $250m mark, a feat only three films have been able to pull off in less than 10 days. Those films are The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. These are the kinds of blockbuster films The Hunger Games now finds itself, and their ultimate totals are numbers the Lionsgate film is definitely keeping its eye on. As it’s going, and it doesn’t look to be slowing much any time soon, The Hunger Games will find itself within the top 15 domestic grossing films of all time. Only four films have been able to make more in their first 10 days, the three listed above and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, again a massive blockbuster next of which The Hunger Games is finding itself listed. And this isn’t Warner Brothers or the latest Michael Bay movie released from Universal or even Disney. This is Lionsgate, whose walls are certainly vibrating all this month for the prolonged celebrating that is surely going on. The follow-up, Catching Fire, which will surely get some kind of a Hunger Games Episode 2 title, is already set for release on November 22, 2013, and you know the studio cannot wait for that weekend to come.

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From a family legacy to positive portrayals of black youth to showing up at the club with your kids, Mario Van Peebles and his son Mandela cover it all while discussing their forthcoming flick We The Party. To the bass beat of The Rej3ctz and Snoop Dogg, we discuss rising above racism, staying hip, heading out in a hoodie and a whole lot more. Plus, Hollywood.com Movies Editor Matt Patches joins us for Movie News Roulette and weighs in on Bully and Ninja Turtles. Download Episode #127

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There are least two sides to this whole Bully MPAA rating mess. Maybe it’s a valiant outcry against the hypocrisy of an organization that treats sex and language differently than violence. Maybe it’s a huge public relations stunt orchestrated by Harvey Weinstein in order to get more butts into seats. Maybe it’s both. Either way, Lee Hirsch‘s movie is caught in the balance, and it looks like he’s ready to cut off his entire head to spite his face. Shortly before the Los Angeles premiere of the movie, he made the decision to release it unrated into theaters. Because if your goal is to make sure as many children see it as possible, the best move would be to make it impossible for them to see it, right?

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The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collection of links, movie news, happy things and sad things. Tonight we begin with something sad, because it’s easily the biggest story of the night. We begin this evening on a sad note. Over the weekend, Ralph McQuarrie passed away. Some of you may not know the name, but you’ve seen his work. In fact, his work may have defined a lot of what you consider to be the iconography of your childhood. He’s the man who helped George Lucas craft the look of a little project called Star Wars, among other things. Better men than I have written excellent obituaries. I found Drew McWeeney on Ralph McQuarrie and AICN’s Eric Vespe on Ralph McQuarrie to be the best of them. Also, Geek Tyrant has a great gallery of Ralph McQuarrie art.

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Hot on the heels of winning a slew of awards at the Oscars, Harvey Weinstein has decided to go to war with the MPAA over the new documentary Bully, which was “slapped” with an R rating for language and lost an appeal to have it changed to PG-13. I’m not going to spend all my time pointing out the irony that Harvey Weinstein is a big bully himself, leveraging the tragic events in this new film to orchestrate a publicity stunt. Suffice it to say, if he were interested in actually having as many students as possible watch this film instead of making money, he could easily distribute censored screeners to schools with any offending language bleeped out. And why is he doing a little song-and-dance about releasing it “unrated” when he knows full well that the National Association of Theatre Owners will have to treat it like an NC-17 film (under the yoke and obligation of the MPAA)? Make no mistake… Weinstein’s in it for the money and not the cause. But let’s leave his personal bullying out of the argument and consider the possibility that an R rating might, in fact, be the right thing for Bully.

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A couple of days ago we reported that Harvey Weinstein intended to once again heroically take on the MPAA. This time it was because they had seemingly ridiculously stuck the upcoming documentary Bully with an R-rating due to some nasty language. The kerfuffle with that comes from the fact that director Lee Hirsch’s work is an important look at a terrible behavioral plague that has the American school system in its grip, and has already lead to an unacceptable amount of violence and death. This movie deals with the lives of bullies and those that are bullied; it’s theoretically an eye-opening experience meant to preach an anti-bullying message to a generation of people who are growing increasingly more callous in the way they treat one another. But, you know, that doesn’t work if the movie gets an R-rating and none of the kids who are supposed to go see it are able to buy a ticket. Just a few days ago this didn’t seem like such a big deal. Weinstein had successfully argued down the rating of one of his films before, so there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t be able to do it again; especially in such a cut and dry situation where a movie was made for didactic purposes, and a little bit of language could probably be excused under the grounds of the film needing an air of realness in order to reach the younger generation who most need to hear the message. The MPAA isn’t […]

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The Motion Picture Association of America has a history of questionable practices when it comes to their content rating of film releases. And Harvey Weinstein has a history of going up against the organization when he doesn’t agree with harsh ratings they’ve slapped on Weinstein movies. In October of 2010, his indie project Blue Valentine got slapped with an NC-17 rating due to an oral sex scene, and Harvey successfully appealed the decision, arguing that nothing in the film was exploitative or unessential, and that the rating would be financially harming a great work of art if it was left to stand. It looks like it’s time for round 2 in the Weinstein/MPAA war. This time the fight is over a documentary called Bully, which takes a look at schoolyard bullying in the United States. The MPAA has deemed that the film should be R-rated due to “some language,” and Weinstein is pissed because a restrictive rating would prohibit the youths who need to see a movie like this most from being able to buy a ticket.

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