In yet another not-so surprising lame decision by the MPAA, "The King's Speech" has been rated R. Yes, the festival favorite, historical epic and leading Oscar contender has been deemed unsuitable because of one scene where the future King George VI (Colin Firth) unleashes a slew of expletives at the encouragement of his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). This would be shocking if it wasn't typical of the film ratings board.
This pundit won't argue the industry doesn't need the MPAA for a variety of reasons and ratings, in theory, certainly serve a need, but the studios who fund the organization have got to realize things have gotten out of hand with a number of recent decisions. When the critically acclaimed "Blue Valentine" receives an NC-17 for an emotional sex scene deemed as too intense for parental supervision (really?) and when any "Saw" film has enough deplorable violence to call the filmmaker's choices into question something is wrong. Whether standards need to be changed or a new system needs to be created is up for a debate, but the MPAA can no longer sit in their Sherman Oaks, CA offices (that's the Valley people) insisting only they know the moral standards of the country. Enough is enough.
What's most disturbing about the "Speech" decision in particular is that its a key emotional moment in the film -- mostly impossible to cut -- and it's a true story most Americans know little about. As a teaching guide, the MPAA is absolutely limiting the access to a picture that could be a valuable tool in history classes for years to come with a PG-13 rating. Meanwhile, there is a laundry list of PG-13 action films that have enough death and destruction to send a kid -- or their parents -- to therapy.
As the film's director, Tom Hooper, told the Los Angeles Times, "I’m a filmgoer as well as a filmmaker, and I know what it’s like to see something disturbing that puts an image into your head that you can’t get rid of. I felt that way in ‘Salt,’ when Angelina Jolie had a tube forced down her throat against her will to simulate drowning, and I felt the same way in ‘Quantum of Solace’ where Daniel Craig’s [testicles] are smashed in through a chair with no bottom."
Hard to argue with that. No doubt the subject will come up once again when "Speech" has its gala Los Angeles premiere at Mann's Chinese Friday as part of AFI Fest 2010.
In other awards season news…
- The Museum of Tolerance is holding it's first annual Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival this month. Between Nov. 13-18 the Museum's three theaters will show an impressive lineup including opening night picture "The Way Back," "Made in Dagenham," "100 Voices: A Journey Home," "Boys Don't Cry," a Special Presentation of "To Kill a Mockingbird, “Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny," "Iron Cross," “Change in the Wind,” “Down For Life,” “Ingelore,” “From Philadelphia to The Front,” “Goodbye Mothers,” “Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn,” “Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle,” “Strangers No More,” “The Bang Bang Club,” “The Calling,” “When We Leave,” and “With Honors Denied.” If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and want to attend, find out more here.
- Paramount has moved the Coen Bros. "True Grit" from Christmas day to Dec. 22. This actually puts it on a busier day as "Little Fockers" and "Gulliver's Travels" open on that Wednesday, but should increase its opening weekend box office. In a rarity, that will leave no movies opening nationwide on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. "The Illusionist," however, will debut in New York and Los Angeles on the holiday.
- DreamWorks released a slew of new images for its August release "The Help." Based on the Kathryn Stockett novel, the drama is set in the '60s and stars Emma Stone as a returning college student who turns her Mississippi town upside down when she decides to interview the African American women who have spent their lives taking care of the rich folks. It may or may not be Oscar bait -- Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard also star -- but its certainly going after the female friendly release date that turned "Julie and Julia" and "Eat Pray Love" into nice hits.