Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Kirby Dick’s documentary ‘This Film is not yet Rated’ is truly an exercise in sticking it to the man.  The man in this case being Jack Valenti, the now retired head of the studio supported Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the rating system which he devised some forty years ago.  The movie rating system as it stands for most of us has never been an issue because we were all raised with it.  For anybody under the age of, I would guess 45 or so, the rating system is as much a part of our culture as movies themselves, so the general public would probably never call it into question, unless, you have just made a film and need a rating to get that sucker released.


As it is clearly pointed out in this documentary, you really, really don’t want your film to be saddled with an NC-17 rating (Which by the way, the MPAA gave ‘This Film is not yet Rated’, if Kirby Dick hadn’t rejected the rating).  An NC-17 rating generally means that newspapers will not advertise it, and the major theater chains will not show it.  What Mr. Dick shows us… you know what, I’m not totally comfortable calling the man Mr. Dick, so I’m gonna go ahead and get familiar and call the man Kirby.  What Kirby illustrates here are the almost ridiculous things that tend to land one an NC-17 rating.  A brief shot of Maria Bello’s pubic hair ‘The Cooler’ – NC17.  Snip the hair, and rating is an R.  I saw the cooler, unrated version no less, and I didn’t even notice her pubicness quite honestly.  Chole Sevigny’s face enjoying an extremely long orgasm, just her face now in ‘Boys don’t Cry’, NC-17.  Natasha Lyonne masturbating, fully clothed mind you in ‘But I’m a cheerleader' (another lesbian themed movie), NC-17.  But watching Jason Biggs ass bounce up and down while humping an Apple Pie?  Well that’s all right.

What one is able to glean from these, and other examples, despite Jack Valenti’s outright lies in various media outlets, is that sex being enjoyed is bad, but violence is okay.  Violence that involves sex, like rape and torture is okay, but if anyone seems to really be having a good old sex time, particularly if you’re female, and especially if you’re gay then you can go ahead get ready for the dreaded NC-17.  Personally, I’m not trying to see too many hard dicks in a movie, but if you do happen to show one, then that erection will most certainly land you an NC-17.  However if you strap a bomb to that erection then pump 8 in the chest from a semi-automatic Glock, then we’re straight.  Hmmm, I may have my next screen play…


At the heart of ‘Not Yet Rated’ is Kirby’s search for the anonymous members of the rating board, because he feels, as anybody should feel, that an organization with this much power, making these kinds of decisions should be public domain.  This ain’t the CIA for goodness sakes.  Valenti claims that they are kept anonymous because he doesn’t want them influenced, but seeing as how the MPAA is run by the studios, the somewhat low paid raters can’t avoid influence.  Also, as Kirby submits his film to the MPAA, which he already knows is going land an NC-17 since his films show the deleted clips of films that got NC-17 ratings, he also goes through another secretive clandestine process, the appeal.  The appeal again consists of mysterious secretive folks whose identities the appealer cannot know.  Kirby, again, exposes this organization as well and discovers that the individuals on the appeals board consist of various clergy and executives who work for the industries that control the MPAA. This means MPAA itself is judging to reverse a decision that they, essentially, have already made.  This is akin to being found guilty of crime and upon appeal, they drag out the same judge and jury and tell you it’s fair.


The evidence that Kirby presents is clear an irrefutable in that the MPAA rating organization is as corrupt a monolith as it comes, but, and surely we can admit, a necessary one at its basic core.  I suppose that’s the problem with the MPAA as it takes something that's certainly necessary, I can’t imagine a world without film ratings, and has corrupted it, politicized it, bastardized it and demonized it to the point where you almost wish it would just go away.  The three things I personally despise most in the world are Racism, censorship and inequality and though I wouldn’t call the MPAA a racist organization is it obviously one built on inequality and censorship.  Now as a father I censor my son heavily, it’s my freaking job.  I will not stand for anyone or anything censoring me, and when my son comes of age, I hope he feels the same.  Kirby Dick’s outstanding documentary exposes an organization which should be nothing more than an informative aid to parents, as a hypocritical lobbying group serving those who have the most.  As are far too many of our ‘public service’ intuitions are in this great country of ours.

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