For the Strength of Youth

December 7, 2007

For the Strength of Youth

I was looking through different church publications to see what kind of information was out there regarding movie ratings. The following passage is from the For Strength of Youth pamphlet:

  • Our Heavenly Father has counseled us as Latter-day Saints to seek after “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (Articles of Faith 1:13). Whatever you read, listen to, or watch makes an impression on you. Public entertainment and the media can provide you with much positive experience. They can uplift and inspire you, teach you good and moral principles, and bring you closer to the beauty this world offers. But they can also make what is wrong and evil look normal, exciting, and acceptable… Don’t attend or participate in any form of entertainment, including concerts, movies, and videocassettes, that is vulgar, immoral, inappropriate, suggestive, or pornographic in any way. Movie ratings do not always accurately reflect offensive content. Don’t be afraid to walk out of a movie, turn off a television set, or change a radio station if what’s being presented does not meet your Heavenly Father’s standards

 This particular edition of the For Strength of Youth does not say “do not watch rated R” movies specifically. Instead, it says that movie ratings “…do not always accurately reflect offensive content.” I think this pretty much supports the point that we cannot just think that because something is rated PG-13 it is okay to watch it.

Do you think this applies to rated R movies as well? Could some rated R movies be “okay” to watch?

My Kid Could Paint That

December 7, 2007

My Kid Could Paint That 

This is an incredible film.  It’s a documentary about a little girl who paints beatiful abstract paintings that have been selling for tens of thousands of dollars in galleries.  But there’s controversy…

The question is: is the girl really painting by herself, or is someone helping her?

Anyway, this is why you go to the movies.  This was very well done, interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking.  It’s the kind of film you can’t stop thinking about when it’s over.  As soon as it ends you’ll want to discuss it at length with whoever saw it with you.  Seriously, it should come up in Oscar discussions. 

So, now that I’ve plugged this thing (I had to go to a theater in downtown SLC to see it, but it’s worth it),  let’s talk about the rating: pg-13.  Unlike some of the other posts I’ve written, where I’ve sort of been pointing out the flaws of the rating system, I think they got it just right with this movie.  After it was over (and I think this is the mark of a tastefully done film) I couldn’t remember anythng offensive whatsoever about it.  No language, no nudity, no violence.  But then I looked on IMDB and remembered that they did show some scenes in art galleries that included a few nude paintings and a flashing neon sign of the f-word that was supposed to be modern art. 

I guess they could have slapped this thing with an R rating if they wanted, but the context of the art gallery scenes didn’t warrant it.  REally, it was kind of just pointing out how absurd some “art” is and exploring the idea of how to define what’s art and what isn’t. 

In this case, pg-13 was perfect becuse the movie probably wasn’t right for small children (those few art gallery scenes, and the overall them would probably be over their heads anyway) but I think any 14 year old would benefit from seeing this movie.  It really raises some interesting questions about art, honesty, genius, and life.  I’m very glad they didn’t arbitrarily exclude people for incidental things.

Another example of a movie that borders the line between PG and PG-13 is The Work and the Glory: American Zion, which is rated PG-13.  There is actually extremely little offensive content in the movie–mostly dark thematic elements and brief violence.  There is no profanity or innuendo.  In fact the MPAA said it would have been rated PG except for the fact that a character the audience has come to care about, Joseph Smith, is a victim of the violence.  Scott Swoford, who produced all three Work and the Glory films, as well as the films shown in the Legacy Theater on Temple Square (Legacy, Testaments, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration) said the Church movies he produced are much more violent and bloody than American Zion

However, many LDS families still refused to see the movie solely because it was rated PG-13 and “our family doesn’t watch PG-13 movies–no exceptions.”  So many members of the Church missed out on a beautiful and spiritual film about the prophet Joseph Smith that tastefully hinted at some of the violence that took place in that period of history.  Because of this, the final movie in the Work and the Glory trilogy was edited to make sure it would be PG.  It is readily apparent that certain violent scenes were shortened because of this.  The movie was still great, but it could have had even more impact if the audience had supported the addition of some of the darker material. 

These movies are a prime example of why ratings sometimes just don’t matter.  They are very important as an initial warning that there could be objectionable content, but it’s also important that we realize a PG-13 movie about Joseph Smith is probably much more uplifting and worthwhile than the Pokemon movie, even if it is rated G. 

American Zion

No Country For Old Men

December 6, 2007

no_country_for_old_men_coen.jpg

Well, it’s sad to say, but I was convinced to see this R rated movie by some friends and some really great reviews. No Country For Old Men is a Coen Brothers movie. If you don’t know some of the other movies they’ve directed, here are a few: Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou, and The Big Lebowski.

 This movie is set in the early 1980s in West Texas. A psychopathic killer is looking for a briefcase full of almost two million dollars, while a local man, who found the money after stumbling onto a drug deal gone bad, is trying to make sure he’s not discovered. The majority of the movie deals with the man who found the money trying to get away from the killer. This plot line is a return to the dark, noir themes which have provided the Coens with some of their most successful material. There is a style of comedy present in the film, but not as strongly as their other films. There is a very subtle comedic element throughout the movie, but if you’re looking for a good laugh, you might need to look elsewhere.  As much as this sounds like I’m trying to justify myself for watching an R rated movie, I thought this movie was done quite tastefully. There was no nudity and hardly any language in it; I’ve heard worse in PG-13 movies. There was a significant amount of violence, but I guess for me nudity is more offensive than violence. However, both nudity and violence are offensive.  

After watching this movie I was a little surprised at the rating, to be honest. This led me to think that many directors and producers have been adding certain elements to their movies in order to get an R rating. I don’t know if producers believe that their movies will be more credible if they have a higher rating, or if they want to attract an “R-rated audience.” Either way, I find this to be a slightly disturbing trend. Hollywood seems to place more importance on R rated movies so more directors and producers are making them. Good movies, such as this one, could quite easily be made PG-13, but won’t because the R supposedly makes them better. What will make producers move away from R-rated movies?

Beowulf

December 5, 2007

beowulf_poster.jpg

A little while ago I had the unfortunate opportunity to see the movie Beowulf after I was given free passes to it. Beowulf is the animated film adaptation of the Old English epic poem of the same name. This film was created through motion capture, which is a technique similar to the one used in The Polar Express. All of the actors look like their characters; however, it is clear that they are animated.  The movie stars such actors as Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, John Malkovich, and Crispin Glover. Rober Zemeckis directed the film and took several directorial liberties to change the story to make it more appealing to general audiences.

 

Despite changing the original story of Beowulf, the greatest injustice to the public was the needless addition of nudity to the movie. Zemeckis decided to take every opportunity that presented itself to portray the animated characters with barely any clothes on. Although the film is animated and obviously not trying to portray reality, the nudity was still offensive and unnecessary to the general understanding of the film.

 

Beowulf is rated PG-13 for the violence and nudity, but for as many sexual references as the movie has and the nudity, it seems like the movie should have been rated higher. There is no strong language in the movie or profanity, but there are many anatomical and sexual terms that would very inappropriate for children.

 

I definitely wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone, especially children. The fact that it is animated seems to attract many children, but it would be highly irresponsible to let them see this film.

What’s the point?

December 5, 2007

What is the point of movies having unneeded and unwanted explicit material?

 I’ve found that most people are uncomfortable with explicit scenes or intense swearing, so I wonder why movies are so heavily endorsed which contain those sorts of things. Many people don’t like it, but they support movies that contain these things anyway and just say “it was good, except for that one scene…”

 It almost seems like movie producers are competing with each other to be the most controversial, and the ones who aren’t are less of a producer because they have standards. I think all the explicit material in movies is not there because people want it there, it is there because people have become convinced that if it is rated pg or g that it is for children. The only way to appeal to adults it seems is to provide some sort of sex, violence, or swearing.

 Do you guys agree or disagree?

Return with Honor poster Becoming Jane poster

I thought it was an interesting trend this summer that there were so many PG-rated movies geared toward adult audiences (Hairspray, Evan Almighty, etc.).  It seems that PG movies are usually mostly kids fare.  Two other examples of “adult” PG movies are two of my favorites this year: Return with Honor and Becoming Jane.  Neither contained content that was substantially offensive, but I felt that they bordered the line between PG and PG-13. 

Return with Honor is about a returned LDS missionary who dies in a car accident and then is given 60 days to convert his mother.  As cheesy as the premise might sound, it is actually a beautifully nuanced film about the judgment we can impose on others.  Thematically, it is definitely not meant for children, as it deals with domestic abuse, alcoholism, violence, sex, and prostitution, though tastefully.  The movie doesn’t have any gratuitous sex, but it is sometimes intense and includes some mild language.  Becoming Jane is about the love life of Jane Austen.  It is very similar to other movies based on her novels, but much more naturalistic, dealing with the hard facts of life.  Life isn’t as clean-cut–or as clean–as her novels.  I was a bit shocked to see two completely naked men from behind in a PG movie.  The sexual innuendo was also very prominent and much more explicit than many PG-13 movies I’ve seen. 

As I said before, I thoroughly enjoyed both movies.  However, I would not want young children to be watching either of them until they are old enough to understand what they are watching.  Maybe they should be rated PG-13, but then again, most PG-13 movies are much worse than either of them.  I sometimes wonder if there should be a third rating in between PG and PG-13 for movies like these that don’t seem to fit either rating.  Or, conversely, these could be PG-13 (they are definitely fit for a 13-year-old to watch), and another rating could be added in between PG-13 and R for movies with more offensive content. 

At any rate, it will always be difficult to pidgeon-hole so many widely varying movies into only five or six ratings.  That’s why, even though ratings are a good guide, it’s also important for us to know what’s in movies before we go to see them or allow our children to watch them.  Kids-in-mind.com is a great place to go for that.  Before I see a movie, I usually check it out there first to see if there’s anything in it I might find offensive (although the site usually makes the content seem worse than it is).  If there is, I wait for the movie to come out on DVD so I can watch it on my Clearplay player with the content filtered.