NC-17

Lucky Bastard Movie 2014

You may have heard NC-17 called the “rating of death” for the way it kills a movie’s commercial success. Is this true? As a producer of one of the handful of NC-17 films ever made, Lucky Bastard, I can tell you it’s like the guys on Jackass finding out what happens when you get kicked in the nuts: Yes, it hurts like hell. Does the spectacle itself attract attention? Maybe—but you’ve still been kicked in the nuts. Lucky Bastard is a thriller about an adult website that pairs average Joes with porn stars (there really are such sites). When one troubled young man fails to perform, he is driven by shame and humiliation to enact bloody revenge on the porn crew. For us, this was a great micro-budget premise that let us comment upon America’s obsessions with sex, violence and “humiliation entertainment.”For artistic reasons, we wanted the movie to be as raunchy and disturbing as possible. Mission accomplished! But when it came time to find a distributor, everybody balked. Although there’s no actual sex in the movie, we were told no sales agent would represent the movie, no distributor would buy the movie, no theater would show the movie — no, no, no. “How come?” we asked one sales agent. “Because this is pornography,” she said. “No, it’s not,” we said. “There’s nothing here you wouldn’t see on Cinemax at 11PM. And we’ve got a great plan to market it through churches.” End of meeting. So we had a bright […]

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Kelly Marcel

Let’s be real for a second. Even if screenwriter Kelly Marcel claims that Fifty Shades of Grey is going to be NC-17, there’s no chance that it will be. For that to happen, Universal — one of the biggest studios in Hollywood — would have to convert the best-selling, phenomenon level property they spent $3m to acquire into an aggressive message aimed directly at the MPAA (which is partially funded by Universal) and risk money on the film not screening in a lot of theaters. Had The Weinstein Company gotten the rights, this might be believable, but it’s beyond the realm of possibility as it is, and there are two situations playing out that I can see here: This is a screenwriter — who from what I can tell has some serious game — pointing to the bleachers or having a laugh by going over the top. This is part of a cultivated marketing plan to make the property even more titillating and dangerous which will culminate in them either achieving an NC-17 (maybe they’ll have Ryan Gosling go down on Michelle Williams in it) before pulling it back for an R or aiming for an R regardless of the NC-17 publicity. Obviously there’s going to be sex in it, but if The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still an R, it’ll be truly surprising to see Grey manage to go harder. But truly, the reason this doesn’t pass the smell test is that a lot of major theater chains won’t […]

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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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Shame

There has been a lot of talk about the sexual content in Steve McQueen’s upcoming drama about sexual addiction and bratty little sisters, Shame. How explicit does it get? Exactly how many seconds is Michael Fassbender’s wang on screen? What gets glossed over a lot, however, is that Shame has been stuck with an NC-17 rating not because it shows too many boobs and butts, but because of how dirty, creepy, and downright…well, shameful watching this movie is going to make you feel. This is a no frills, brutally honest look at sexual compulsion, and the explicit content it contains is much more likely to repulse than it is to titillate. There is nothing healthy about the way Shame portrays human sexuality. You wouldn’t know that from the newest red band trailer for the movie though. What we get here is an isolated scene from the film, where Fassbender’s character eyeball humps a redhead on the subway. His wolflike leering and her suggestive thigh shuffling are interrupted by brief bursts of images from all of the dirty, dirty sex that Fassbender has over the course of the film, and the effect of watching it all cut together is rather… well, exciting. Make no mistake, this trailer paints Shame as being a much more pleasingly erotic experience than it really is, and is in some ways misleading.

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The sweat is from all the running Michael Fassbender‘s character seems to be doing, and the prestige is from the plastering of Award Wins all over a crisp trailer for Steve McQueen‘s Shame that takes its own time in telling a story. It’s rare that a trailer doesn’t just vomit out story points into our eyeballs, but this one is a symphony of short-form movie advertising. It’s quiet almost in purposeful contrast to the NC-17 rating emblazoned on the first few frames, and it slowly reveals Fassbender’s character as a high class hound dog with massive emotional issues. Check it out for yourself:

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Feel free to stand up from your seat and slow clap while loved ones and strangers stare, because one studio has decided to slap the stigma of the NC-17 rating right in its moronic little face. As we all know, that stupidity is two-fold. The first is in its existence in the first place. A betting man or woman could win easy money that most don’t even know that the NC stands for No One 17 and Under Admitted (because there’s a confusing C in there), but it might as well just stand for No Children. There’s an absurdly thin line between R and NC-17 that becomes all the more apparent when you hear a screaming 4-year-old in the theater where Jason Statham is beating a dude to death on screen before banging down Amy Smart’s doors. Come to think of it, the No Children of NC sounds pretty good in those cases. The second part of the stupidity surrounding the rating (which inherited its bad reputation from the X rating that it morphed into), is in the connotation that some doomed by Puritanical high horsemanship slather onto it. Yes, NC-17 means adult, but there’s also nothing wrong with making a film for an adult audience. Those that don’t think so, aren’t adults.  In a way, the rating’s reputation does a small service in weeding out those too emotionally, psychologically or sexually infantile to handle a solid adult drama (no matter their age). Sadly, that small service is a life […]

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Culture Warrior

A few months back, a fight for free expression was exercised by the Weinstein Company for the Sundance-indie favorite Blue Valentine to be theatrically released with an R-rating instead of the dreaded NC-17. Many things about this pseudo-fight are nothing special: there’s hardly anything surprising about fights with the MPAA or about the Weinsteins making a fuss – it’s how they’ve succeeded in the business for decades. But this fuss, and the anti-MPAA lobbying contained within it, seemed significantly more justified because it was exercised in the name of potentially getting an exceptional indie into more theaters across the country (and while the film does star two recognizable names, it is, economically speaking, very much a truly modest indie of the classic Sundance variety). In the end, the Weinsteins got their way, and justifiably so. The NC-17 rating has become an economic form of censorship: nothing associated with the label, or the institution that bestows that label, has the power to actively stop distribution of NC-17 films, but because of the rating’s associations with sexually-explicit content, and because of the liability and extra measures required of theaters in preventing young people from sneaking their way into such films, many theaters (and some entire theater chains) will not exhibit films with such a rating. This would have relegated Blue Valentine, at best, to arthouse theaters in big cities. Such theaters are no doubt where Blue Valentine will play best regardless, but the key word here is opportunity – an R-rating provides […]

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bruno-trailer-header

There’s been a lot of news recently about Bruno after footage was shown to some SXSW audiences -including our very own Rob Hunter who peed himself laughing and tried to claim he has spilled his Odwalla juice on his crotch. Then came the inevitable NC-17 rating (that still seems more like a marketing ploy than anything else). Now, there’s the trailer.

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Bruno got an NC-17. Who cares?

There’s one major reason why none of that matters, and I promise I eventually get to it at some point during my rambling, nonsensical rant.

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If you get a chance to see this near-masterpiece, please don’t let the NC-17 rating give you a second moment’s thought (unless you’re under 17 of course).

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