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OCTOBER 15, 2010 1:00PM

Remember the NC-17 Rating? It's Back...

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Blue Valentine, a new film starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, is stirring up a lot of attention by being the first notable film in awhile to receive and accept an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Review Board.

To be honest, I was shocked when I heard about the film's rating, mainly because I wasn't aware there still was an NC-17 rating.

After all, if you watch cable television--even on channels like AMC and FX--there isn't a lot you're not exposed to anymore.

When googling the movie to find out what brought on the dreaded rating formerly known as "X," it's interesting to learn that the scene in question is one where a married couple (Gosling and Williams) check into a hotel for the night to try and revitalize their marriage only to have a sexual encounter that starts out being more of an assault until Williams' character gives in to her husband's advances at which point the scene simply becomes, as more than one reviewer put it, "uncomfortable."

This made me curious: What about that merits an NC-17?

We all know too much nudity will get you in trouble, but by all accounts, there isn't much of that. Then I thought, perhaps it's the implied rape. Still, there have been rape and sexual assaults in other movies that managed to walk away with only an R-rating. As far as violence, anything that isn't a gunshot to the head would probably land you in the PG-13 realm.

So how did this movie get the Scarlet Letter of movie ratings?

To me, it seems like all the reviewers were suggesting the same thing:

The movie received an NC-17 rating because of its intensity.

Almost everyone commented on how disturbed they were by the scene. Some called it "heartbreaking," while others said it was "devastating to watch."

But wait a minute! None of those things should qualify a film for the same rating normally reserved for pornography...should it?

When I sat down to write this post, I kept thinking about movies like Superbad and The Hang-over--films that featured extreme sexual situations, violence, and incredibly coarse language still managed to land only R ratings.

So is the review board saying it's okay to have sex and violence onscreen when it's in a comedy?

It almost seems like Blue Valentine is being punished for being too...dramatic.

The strange thing is that in the current cultural climate, you can see gang rape on Sons of Anarchy on F/X, prostitution and rough sex on Mad Men and meth dealers on Breaking Bad both on AMC, and an entire hospital getting shot up on Grey's Anatomy.

I'd also like to argue that many of Blue Valentine's reviews were stellar. Critics are saying it's one of the best films of the year. So in addition to handling controversial topics, they might actually be doing a better job of it than many of their counterparts.

So when all is said and done, is the only thing shocking about this story the rating itself?

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The MPAA has its collective head up its ass. Their ratings mean next to nothing anymore, they're so out-of-touch with reality.
Watch the movie This Film is Not Yet Rated and you'll see exactly what I mean...
then again, perhaps the controversial rating will actually serve to make the film even more popular... which for a critically acclaimed film is never a bad thing. strange this world we live in
Intentional.

If I was the filmmaker, I might've purposely included the iffy scene or expressed "concern" to MPAA about it. Wink wink.

Brilliant stunt IMO, especially if it's actually a well made film all around. Think of all the people who will check it out just to see what all the hub bub is about!
I don't think the NC-17 rating is for "pornography". The problem with the MPAA's earlier use of the X rating was that it wasn't copywrited (perhaps it wasn't copywritable). In any event, pornographic movies were using it as a marketing tool (no pun intended). Remember ads for "Triple X excitement!" The problem for the MPAA was that pornographic films weren't typically submitted for rating. The producers slapped the X, double X, triple X rating on it. The X rating was original intended for films that had content meant for adults. The Jon Voight - Dustin Hoffman movie, "Midnight Cowboy" was originally rated X. When X became too closely associated with pornographic films, the MPAA came up with the NC-17 rating. It's meant to distinguish mainstream films with adult content from "X rated" pornography. It's incorrect and misleading to conflate the two.
In the age of 24-hour dungeon porn streaming live into everybody's living room via the internet, what exactly does NC-17 mean anymore? Artsy movie, or bad porn? Hm... Rated.
The ratings system for movies has become insane within the past five years. Worse yet, there doesn't seem to be as much nudity in movies as there was years ago.

Not having enough nudity often hurts the reality of certain movies. I can't believe the producers expect us to believe some of these scenes in which a hot babe is holding the covers over her boobies as if she doesn't want her lover to see them.

Makes me thing they should have an "S" rating for Stupid instead of this NC-17 stuff.

After all, we have thousands of parents up in arms over sexting, but us older folks don't get to enjoy nearly as much nudity at the movie theater? Come on, folks.
Nathan is exactly right. Nc-17 says it's adult, but not "adult" as in XXX. It's interesting to look at what movies from the past were originally X, such as "Midnight Cowboy" and the Streisand comedy "The Owl and the Pussycat." There are other movies in recent years that have taken out a few seconds of footage so as not to receive the NC-17... but the attention the film will receive for the rating and the movie goers it will gather, will make it all the worthwhile to have the rating. This rating is saying it's not porn.... and we know it's not gut wrenching violence (see "Hostel") so yes, it's for intensity and the uncomfortable factor. Didn't "Blue Velvet" receive it?
I am not fond of ratings anymore....but thanks for letting us know.