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by Aaron Bogert, Peter Knegt, Dana Harris, Bryce J. Renninger and Nigel M. Smith
March 29, 2012 1:23 PM
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The MPAA Being a 'Bully': 10 Films That Appealed Their Ratings

"Requiem for a Dream" (2000)

Darren Aronofsky's harrowing second feature following "Pi," was given an NC-17-rating by the MPAA for the tough-to-watch sex scene involving Jennifer Connelly that appears near the end of the film. Distributor Artisan refused to make cuts to "Requiem," maintaining that the MPAA's rating was "neither correct nor justified." In a film that graphically depicts drug addiction and all the horrors it entails (Jared Leto's character gets his arm amputated), it's notable that the MPAA chose to pinpoint this one sequence in particular. In the end the appeal was denied and Artisan released the film unrated. [Nigel M. Smith]


"South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" (1999)

We hear again and again how difficult it is to sell an R-rated romance, an R-rated fantasy, and yes, an R-rated animated film. But could you imagine an animated NC-17 film?  Well, Paramount and "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone couldn't imagine that either. Along with Producer Scott Rudin, the "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" team released a series of fax memos that showed their humorous back-and-forth negotiation with the MPAA. Among the doozies: "The intent now is that you never see Saddam's real penis, he in fact is using dildos both times," and "We took out the only reference to 'cum-sucking ass' in the film." Stone ends his memo with a postscript -- "This is my favorite memo ever." The film-within-the-film, "Asses of Fire," elucidates some of the very case of censorship the memos deal with and ends up starting the war between the U.S. and Canada which drives most of the film's narrative. At the end of it all, the film's rallying cry "Blame Canada" received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. [Bryce J. Renninger]


"The Tillman Story" (2010)

Weeks after the Holocaust documentary "A Film Unfinished" tried to make the claim that the film needed to be given a PG-13 rating so that it could more easily become a part of school curricula, The Weinstein Company tried to do the same with Amir Bar-Lev's "The Tillman Story," the story of the NFL-player-turned-soldier who was killed in Afghanistan, in what turned out was friendly fire. The film charts the ways in which the US government and media perpetuated a patriotic story of his heroism, while Tillman's own complicated relationship to the war machine he was a part of was ignored. As it turned out, it'll be difficult to get the film in curricula. The R rating stuck. [Bryce J. Renninger]

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  • katy | March 30, 2012 11:33 AMReply

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  • Barry | March 29, 2012 3:28 PMReply

    There needs to be some rating system I feel. There are challenges with its arbitrary nature, but the biggest problem is with the theaters who are said to preclude the playing of films with NC-17 ratings. This is ridiculous. They are the ones who should be feeling the heat. Film viewers can decide for themselves if they want to see a certain film and to have it excluded by these corporate bohemoths is maddening.

  • IRONY | March 29, 2012 2:49 PMReply

    The MPAA's rating criteria is RIDICULOUS! Why is violence more acceptable than sex? However, did Weinstein see his own documentary? It is ironic that the film is being distributed by the biggest BULLY in the industry - Harvey Weinstein. Not surprised his bullying tactics towards the MPAA didn't work. That said - would like to see the MPAA go away altogether.