This Film Is Not Yet Rated – DVD Review

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Kirby Dick


Kirby Dick
Kevin Smith
Maria Bello
John Waters
Matt Stone
Becky Altringer

DVD Release Date: January 23, 2007
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 97 Minutes

The Movie

The Motion Pictures Association of America (aka the MPAA) is the organization that generates the ratings for the films we see in theatres and on DVD. They will view a film, sometimes as much as 10 a day, and dissect it to some degree in order to see if it will receive a G, PG, PG-13, R, or the dreaded NC-17 rating. This group sits there with a pen and clipboard and virtually decide what we should think about fictional exploits on the big screen. Should we consider the material too violent or too graphic? Perhaps we should view sex scenes as being too intense for those under the age of 18. No need to worry everyone for those are apparently decisions we don’t need to make because the MPAA does it for us.

But who are they?

That is what director Kirby Dick aimed to find out for not only his own benefit, but for all of those who watch movies, almost all the time. Dick took it upon himself to find out exactly why particular films get the ratings they do while others get a pass. He interviews many directors such as Kevin Smith (Clerks), Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry), Wayne Kramer (The Cooler), and countless others to get their opinions on the MPAA and its practice of rating films. No one actually knew what kinds of specifications were needed to get each rating. Sure, one could get a general idea by watching a number of films and comparing, but as we come to find out, comparison is frowned upon with the MPAA.

By watching Not Yet Rated you’ll learn that the MPAA is actually made up of people who have nothing really to do with the film business, but are just common everyday folk. There are specifications set forth by the brass of the company for who serves on the ratings board, but those aren’t by-the-book practices. Rules that are constantly overlooked include: serving for too long on the board; having children older than specified; and having no prior affiliation with anyone else on the board. I knew much of this before ever receiving this DVD to review, but one thing I did not know is that the rater’s identities were always kept secret.

That is where the sub-plot of the film comes in as Dick went out and hired a private investigator to crack the case of secrecy and find out who exactly were the raters. Dick interviewed many and finally came to a decision to hire Becky Altringer who staked out the MPAA offices and even followed the raters to restaurants and to their homes. Not only were identities revealed, but many little secrets and discrepancies were found while tailing them, and digging in their trash. It really is a fascinating look to discover exactly who the people are that decide a film’s rating, because they are no different than those you pass on the street.

But with all the info found out about the MPAA, it’s brought to realization that there is more corruption inside the organization with lies we would have never known had it not been for Kirby Dick and his probing mind.

As a documentary, This Film is Not Yet Rated is your basic doc with a strong topic. The director takes the subject, grabs a lot of people associated with it, and gets their experiences and opinions on tape. A lot of the information which is revealed is quite astonishing when you hear it firsthand from directors and the ordeal with trying to please the MPAA; a few cuts could spell the difference between a R and NC-17 rating. The only problem is that there are also the opinions of critics and reporters and former MPAA raters that make the film start to drag. It honestly gets tedious to watch because the information keeps getting repeated over and over again. Like once wasn’t enough.

It’s the undercover work of Becky that keeps you from dozing off and focusing your attention back to the action at hand. She stakes out the building with binoculars, uses hidden cameras, and even goes through the trash of some of the raters to see if she can find some discarded reviews or notes. It’s quite interesting to witness how much work and time she puts into finding out the information that Kirby Dick requested she retrieve. She really goes all out and seems almost like a detective from an action movie speeding through the streets to tail someone and taking the table next to them at a restaurant so she can eavesdrop.

And don’t worry, the sound bites from directors and entertainers is mostly informative, but don’t be surprised if it does begin to lull at times. There are always the words and experiences of John Waters to perk you back up though because he tells some stories that will either have you cracking up or grimacing in disgust. Never in my life did I think I would hear the word “felching” on film, but leave it to John Waters.

If you don’t know what it means, then go get the film and wait for one of his interviews. Or look it up, you have the Internet.

The Video

The film is presented in a 4×3 Letterbox Matted Format which is to preserve its original theatrical aspect. You really can’t ask for much when it comes to how a documentary looks, because there’s a bit of everything. There are hidden cameras, interview segments, deleted scenes from various films, home video cameras, and even news clippings that give us such a variety in style that there is no way else to describe it except for that it’s a documentary and it looks like one.

The Audio

The film is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound and once again, it sounds like a documentary should. All there is during the duration of the film is dialogue, but let it be known that it’s heard very well throughout. I am not sure what kinds of hidden microphones they bought, but they picked up every thing they needed to clearly and cleanly so they got some fantastic equipment.

Special Features

Theatrical Trailer

Audio Commentary – Commentary from Kirby Dick, producer Eddie Schmidt, film critic Drew McWeeny (Moriarty at AICN), and private investigator Becky Altringer. Not quite sure what Moriarty is doing on commentary unless he’s personal friends with Dick or others. Honestly, there isn’t much need for a commentary track to accompany a documentary, anyway. Documentaries are made to be informative. Besides, most of the time on camera interviews is sufficient enough in getting points across. They might as well have had a “making of” featurette instead.

Deleted Scenes – A grouping of scenes that could have made it into the film, but their importance is minimum. Except for one. There’s one deleted scene where Kirby Dick is on a few different telephone calls and keeps getting reassurance that his there have not been copies made of his film once the MPAA got it for ratings review. After about three or four calls, an attorney for the MPAA lets him know that a copy of the film was made without any authorization from Dick or his people. This disclaimer from the MPAA Web site is then shown on screen: “Manufacturing, selling, distributing or making copies of motion pictures without the consent of the copyright owners is illegal. Movie pirates are thieves, plain and simple.

This scene is both ironic and hilarious and should have been left in.

Q&A With Kirby Dick – From the 2006 SXSW Film Festival, Kirby Dick answers a series of questions about the film dealing with the budget, the MPAA, and much more. It’s actually quite humorous to listen to the story of Dick trying to get the rating for the movie from the MPAA when the entire film is about the inner workings of the MPAA itself.

TrailersStreet Fight, Cowboy del Amor, Hopeless Pictures, Heading South

The Inside Pulse

I must say that I learned more than a few things, seeing Kirby Dick and his PI’s sneak out the MPAA. The This Film Is Not Yet Rated DVD many not come with many extras, but the ones that are provided are informative and amusing. For the big-time movie fan, I would suggest picking this up, because it can always be used as a good resource tool in case you come up with a personal dilemma while watching a DVD from your collection later on. For the so-so moviegoer, grab it as a rental sometime. No matter whom you are, you’re bound to come away from this documentary with a lot more then you ever expected.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for This Film Is Not Yet Rated
(OUT OF 10)