Tuesday, November 25, 2008

R is for Ridiculous

This week I saw Motorcycle Diaries. It's a film based on Che Guevara's partial autobiography of the same name. Shown at International Cinema here at BYU.

Despite the historical inaccuracies, I thought it was a fantastic film. I actually walked out feeling I'd learned a lesson about missionary work.
Online later I found out it was rated R.
I double-checked my screen a full seven times before I believed it.
Really? R? It was less graphic than most PG-13s I see. Probably less than some PGs too.
Suddenly I felt sacrilegious. I learned about missionary work! Oh no! That's not allowed. Rs are evil...right?

Then tonight, in beginning The Fall with Scarlet, I realized that film was rated R too. It DID contain more blood than I expected. But it all had the super-saturated quality of Monty-Python blood and it was too unnatural in color and behavior to be disturbing. It was used for style more than anything.


The film was gorgeous throughout. The style followed Alexandria's imagination: intoxicating color, gorgeous scenery and fantastic costume design for each of the characters. The commentary on life, living and love was very very powerful. It really makes you think too. I loved it.

Which leads to my confusion. Why R? Because it's deep? Because of the violence?
Anything with Bruce Willis, most super-hero movies and any Bourne film is much more violent. The vast majority of romantic comedies (or action flicks - they apply too) are more sexually explicit. Will Ferrel (pick the movie) is ten times as crass and vulgar.

What then?

You're telling me it's more harmful for children to be exposed to a philosophical view of life and the reasons for living than it is to hear Ferrel spout expletives and crude sexual references for an hour and a half?

For practically my entire life I've considered Rs off-limits. Bad. Evil. Dangerous.
I remember being 14 and utterly mortified that a family I babysat for owned a couple R-films. I instantly judged them to be on the slippery slope.
But here I am facing my own movies and realizing that their ratings are completely invalid. Staying away from R-movies doesn't keep you safe. There's just as much garbage in PG-13s. R-movies aren't all safe and innocent, of course, everyone knows that's not true. But there are good, valid, wonderful things in Rs. Their rating isn't an accurate measure anymore.

Maybe I'm just spouting stuff you already know. According toJordan, this skewed rating has been going on for a while. But it was new to me. I didn't want to know, I suppose. It's harder to judge when you throw the standard ratings away - easier to take them as a given and feel safe within their diction. But to watch without thinking - trusting an ambiguous third party's recommendation- THAT may be more dangerous than any film.

So...I don't plan on renting every R at Blockbuster because of this realization. But it does give me some perspective on those who do watch R-movies consistently and it's prompted me to more critically analyze my films before I watch them. Not all that glitters is gold.


Thoughts from the Animation Program

UPDATE: It was pointed out to me that Motorcycle Diaries was rated for language not graphic-ness. I didn't really acknowledge that, but it's true. They had pretty dirty language. I censored it for myself since all of it was in Spanish (i.e. subtitles for me) anyway.

10 comments:

Michael Mercer said...

Interesting.

Anthony Holden said...

Well, you have to consider that the MPAA who set the ratings for U.S. releases on movies is a fallible institution that is trying to serve its own ends. "R" is so...R-bitrary. Yeah, that's what I meant.
I mean, think of Schindler's list--sure it's violent; the Holocaust was that violent. But the message supersedes the arbitary rating. It is a tricky decision to make, though--where do you draw the line?

The Rabidmilkman said...

Yeah, I know how frustrating these ratings can be (I agree wholeheartedly with the Will Ferrell thing).
I stumbled on a discussion of R films on the BYU animation blog. I liked both sides of the argument (namely what Mike Mercer and Ryan Woodward had to say). I guess in the end we have to keep seeking for all things virtuous, lovely, etc.

Jake Wyatt said...

If one takes a moment to think about it (as you obviously have, Laura) the notion that a largely anonymous body of people whose qualifications are undisclosed should be allowed to control one's media intake is ABSURD. MPAA Ratings aren't handed down by an institution that you or I have voted for, nor an establishment that has any claim to authority other than precedent.

I think it used easier to fall back on the ratings system instead of doing the work required to find out whether or not a film is A: worth seeing and B: right for you. Now it takes just as much effort to find the rating as it does to find hundreds of content-based reviews. Why, with all that information at our disposal, would we let a bunch of faceless studio employees tell us what to watch?

Jake Wyatt said...

Also, The Fall is GORGEOUS.

Audrey Gayle said...

now you've talked me into watching two R rated films - you're responsible for my destructive behavior ;) hope you are well. i envy our halloween costume. keep telling everyone to work on that senior film! It will end up saving them later down the line. <3 miss you laura!

Scarlet Verdeja said...

haha, i saw this movie... the unedited version.. you know, the one you get in a video store.... um, totally R rated. The one in BYU is edited., but with this I'm not saying that the ratings are alright. R rated qualifications are absurd and even more absurd is that some R rated movies in here arent R rated where im from. therefore making it clear of how unclear this ratings are, i completely agree with you guys, there are movies that Ive seen that I think are so untruly R rated, ... Gran Torino for example... great movie, people, go see it.

Scarlet Verdeja said...

haha, i saw this movie... the unedited version.. you know, the one you get in a video store.... um, totally R rated. The one in BYU is edited., but with this I'm not saying that the ratings are alright. R rated qualifications are absurd and even more absurd is that some R rated movies in here arent R rated where im from. therefore making it clear of how unclear this ratings are, i completely agree with you guys, there are movies that Ive seen that I think are so untruly R rated, ... Gran Torino for example... great movie, people, go see it.

Scarlet Verdeja said...

haha, i didnt know why it wasnt being published.. sorry if i sent it too many times

CoyoteLion said...

AAAH! I LOVE THE FALL! That is my favorite movie at the moment, along with Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. (on completely opposite sides of the spectrum...I have eclectic tastes) Me and my sister keep quoting The Fall over and over. I found it one of the most amazing movies, powerful too.

The MPAA is weirded out. My mom had a friend who used to be on it, and it totally depends on who's there that day and what mood they're in as to what rating something gets. If I want to see a movie that's been rated R, I find out why and do the research, because I've learned that ratings hardly mean anything anymore, sadly. They're all over the place. Like you said, some PG-13s are worse than some Rs. Pooh pooh to you, rating system!