Going Down in Hollywood: It’s a Girl Thing!

The Wolf of Wall Street

We love a bit of film classification chat here at Mild Concern. The whole idea of judging what age a person can be before they see a film based on the amount of sex, violence, and swearing absolutely fascinates me. We’ve previously looked at the specifics surrounding the age rating for Pulp Fiction, mused about racist remarks, and even tried to calculate the amount of blinking you need in order to use your eyelids as your very own censorship tool.

More importantly we had a proper look at the classification debate for Shame when it came out two years ago. In short the issue was that the film had been given an NC-17 rating in America due to its abundance of sex and nudity. NC-17 is essentially an 18 certificate and while in the UK an 18 for a grown-up film is not ideal but by no means a death sentence, in America there are cinemas that won’t even screen a film branded with the NC-17 label. Frequently films will work with the MPAA (the American film classification association) to edit their film to attain the much more consumer friendly R rating which allows anyone under 17 to see the film if they take an adult with them.

There is an argument for such cuts when a studio is looking to appeal for a mass market and need a lower certificate and yet the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. When you cut a film not for artistic but for commercial reasons then you are in danger of ruining the vision of the piece for the sake of improving your profit margins. There is a fine line between offering advice on classification guidelines and out-and-out censorship. When you have the power to label a film with a black mark that will severely diminish it’s market value and you do so based upon a questionable moral code then you are essentially holding a film to ransom; if they don’t edit out the bits the MPAA doesn’t like then their movie won’t get seen by very many people.

Film is a murky world where artistic and commercial concerns collide and so often when it comes to a matter of getting an R or NC-17 rating then it is the money men that rule.

Just this week there have been two cases of censorship editing as films strive to get themselves a friendlier rating. The first is the news that Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Wolf of Wall Street had been blessed with an R rating after the much lauded director agreed to trim down sex and nudity to avoid being branded NC-17.

Charlie Countryman

In addition to this actress Evan Rachel Wood took to Twitter yesterday to complain about edits that had been made to her new film Charlie Countryman. It would seem that an earlier cut she had been shown included a scene of her receiving cunnilingus from a character played by Shia LaBeouf (soon to trouble censors in Nymphomaniac) but now the film is in cinemas the scene has been edited so that the film could avoid being rated NC-17. Here is what Wood had to say:

After seeing the new cut of #CharlieCountryman I would like 2 share my disappointment with the MPAA, who thought it was necessary to censor a woman’s sexuality once again. The scene where the two main characters make “love” was altered because someone felt that seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people “uncomfortable” but the scenes in which people are murdered by having their heads blown off remained intact and unaltered. This is a symptom of a society that wants to shame women and put them down for enjoying sex, especially when (gasp) the man isn’t getting off as well! Its hard for me to believe that had the roles been reversed it still would have been cut OR had the female character been raped it would have been cut. Its time for people to GROW UP. Accept that women are sexual beings. Accept that some men like pleasuring women. Accept that women don’t have to just be fucked and say thank you. We are allowed and entitled to enjoy ourselves. Its time we put our foot down. Thanks for listening.

I think Wood touches on what is by far the most concerning thing about the way classification and censorship is carried out. While we can probably agree that there needs to be some level of control on what various ages can see, and that studios are well within their rights to ruin a good film with cuts, there is a huge imbalance in what they think should be kept away from the eyes of the young. Violence is much acceptable in the mainstream than sex and nudity as images of hate are seen as far less harmful than images of love. Worse still is the patriarchal and misogynistic attitude that Wood is accusing the MPAA of possessing. She would not be the first as in 2010 it took an appeal for Blue Valentine to be lowered from NC-17 to R without removing its cunnilingus sequence. It certainly looks like there is an uneven policy at the MPAA when it comes to which gender is participating in sexual activity.

Film classification is an important part of the world of film, and something our own BBFC do with admirable transparency, but I find it hard to endorse any system that finds violence to be more acceptable than sex and runs scared when faced with an expression of female sexuality. Cinema is an art form and when edited to suit commercial interests is suffering from censorship plain and simple. In America the MPAA is a shadowy organisation that somehow has gained the power to ruin a film’s box office if the group does not approve of its contents. Unlike the BBFC the MPAA answers to no one and seems to decide for itself what is deemed acceptable.

Fight censorship!

Fight the patriarchy!

Fight for equal rights for oral sex!

Top 10 Films of 2012

2012

It’s finally here! Welcome to my obligatory annual blogger’s list in which I try to rank incomparable films that share one thing in common – a 2012 UK release date. I tried to limit myself to just 10 films this year after finding 20 a bit too many in 2011. I managed to whittle my list down to 10, then added two I felt I just couldn’t leave out. It’s my top 10, I can have 12 if I want to.

12 - Holy Motors

Holy Motors starts the list in a cautious manner. I slept through a lot of the film and confessed as much in my review. Watching a famously mind-boggling film in French while half asleep was a terrifying experience. I could barely read the subtitles and would often wake up to find the lead actor was playing a different character to when I was last conscious.

The film follows a mysterious man as he travels between appointments in a stretch limo. What appointments are these? I couldn’t even begin to explain. Suffice to say that each time the limo stops a different character step out to play a minor or major role in someone elses lives. The end is so bizarre I thought I had actually dreamt it. One of the Jo(h)ns I saw the film with has tirelessly defended it over the past three months and I couldn’t not include it in my extended top 10. In Jon’s own words:

“It came out of nowhere, it was beautiful, strange, intriguing and was utterly compelling even though I don’t think I really understood it. Just like a girl I used to fancy.”

No other film on this list includes two erect penises.

11 - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

How could I not? This film about a retirement home in India catering only to British actors of the finest pedigree. It was a film featuring both Dame Judi and Maggie, comprised of a myriad of storylines and was consistently funny and touching for the entirety of its two-hour running film.

Many have said that the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is down to its ability to pick up the grey pound. While I admit that this is one of very few films last year that could be said to specifically cater to the older generation I think the appeal expands far beyond the wrinkled amongst us. As I exited the screening at 20th Century Fox in Soho Square (ahem) I instantly texted both my mum and my sister (such is the life of the single blogger) to let them know that their new favourite film was hitting cinemas in a couple of months.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a warm hug that everyone can enjoy and famously (well, not really) made me want to whisk Judi Dench off to India and retire in a dilapidated hotel.

And now for the proper Top 10: Continue reading

Infrequently Asked Questions 2012

Shame Full Frontal

People of the internet find Mild Concern through a wide variety of search terms and one of the more curious ways I spend my time is keeping an eye on what people Google to end up on this humble blog. I do feel sorry for a large number of Googlers when I can see that they aren’t going to find what they searched for here.

By far the most popular unsuccessful search the film fans of the world embarked on was trying to find some images of the nudity in Shame. They wanted to see Michael Fassbender and, to a lesser extent, Carey Mulligan in the all-together and were surely disappointed to find not a single bit of genitalia on display. I apologise to you, the internet, and to make it up to you I will now answer a selection of questions people entered into Google in 2012 which led them erroneously to Mild Concern. Now if they do their search again their questions will be answered.

All of these questions are genuine, and tell you a lot about the world today…

Is The Skin I Live In in English? No, it is in Spanish and is not for the squeamish.

How old is Yoda’s actor now? Frank Oz is 68.

Is that a wig? No, my hair is all natural.

Is there nudity in 388 Arletta Avenue? No. It does contain “one scene of strong gore and horror”.

How many times is “Harry Potter” said in the movies? I counted 107 but then I did fall asleep a lot.

Is Die Hard a survival movie? I guess so… although I’d say a survival movie would be someone battling against nature or the supernatural not Alan Rickman with a dodgy accent.

Is Cool Runnings a Christmas film? It is in my family.

Why is Rupert Giles called Ripper? Giles gained the nickname Ripper in his younger days when dabbling in the dark arts with five friends. Presumably it is an allusion to Jack the Ripper.

When is Fast Girls out on DVD? It’s out! Sorry we didn’t get to this question sooner.

Where was We Built a Zoo filmed? We Bought a Zoo was filmed in California.

Heroes Season 3 what is with Claire’s hair? Hayden Panettiere cut her hair and so had to wear a terrible, terrible wig.

What is the twist in Cabin in the Woods? There isn’t one.

What episodes of Misfits have sex in them? A lot of them so I wouldn’t watch if you’re too prudish nor skip any episode for fear of a sex deficit.

What football team does Nicholas Hoult support? I don’t know. I’m really sorry.

Who is on the front of After Porn Ends? Mary Carey

Why do people like Doctor Who? It is scary, funny, and has a lot of heart. Also, Karen Gillan is hot.

Is the Life of Pi film made not in non 3D? It was made in 3D so… yes? 3D is not in non 3D.

Why don’t people like Dr Who? They find it childish, silly, and irritating? Stephen knows.

Does After Porn Ends have nudity? Yes. Not one for the family.

How big is Kevin Smith’s fan base approximately? He has over 2 million Twitter followers and one fan who thinks I am a parasite.

How violent is Sightseers? Violent in short bursts with plenty of blood and caved-in skulls. All the deaths are swift though, this is no Hostel.

What happened to Cameron Crowe? He returned! With We Bought a Zoo and Pearl Jam Twenty. I saw neither.

How accurate is Lawless movie? It doesn’t matter, the film is boring as hell.

Is Ethan Hunt married in Ghost Protocol? Yes, to Julia Meade played by Michelle Monaghan.

Is Michael Cera mean? He seems lovely.

Is NOW TV worth it? Certainly not. Though they provide lots of lovely cocktails.

What is the guy’s name from Footloose that plays on Third Rock from the Sun? John Lithgow

Where can I see the complete pilot episode of BBC Lizzie and Sarah? Nowhere legal I’m afraid. Ask your most internet savvy friend and see if they can help.

Is there a disorder consisting of rape, dismembering, necrophilia, and cannibalism? I don’t think that is a disorder. That is you doing unthinkable sexual things to someone before and after killing them and then eating the remains. GET HELP!

How violent is the film I, Anna? “In one scene of violence a man and woman fight before a heavy ornament is used to strike a blow to the head. In another scene the victim of a violent death is found lying on a heavily bloodstained carpet with a bloodied face.”

What is pyjamas party? Attractive young women spend the night together gossiping, playing games, and fighting with pillows in slow motion and skimpy pyjamas. That or you stay up all night watching films at the Prince Charles cinema.

What’s the film about couple gets handcuffed together at a music festival? You Instead

I hope that clears things up. (If you want to see Fassbender’s penis Google will show it to you. The thing terrifies me.)

Shame – Review

In Shame Steve McQueen directs Michael Fassbender as sex addict Brandon, a man who is forced to take a second look at the way he lives his life during a visit from his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), as he finds they have too much in common when it comes to their attitudes to sex.

Shame has been a popular topic for discussion for months, and we certainly weren’t immune, not for the assured acting or dazzling direction on display, but for the (frankly intimidating) full frontal nudity and apparently endless sex scenes. Having now actually seen the film I was surprised to find that the sex wasn’t such a huge presence throughout, yes there was plenty there but it never felt excessive or unnecessary. McQueen also made a good job of filming the sex in a static, matter-of-fact manner without the soft focus and close-ups of body parts we’re so familiar with. Only one particularly sleazy sex scene towards the end is given the glossy treatment, but is all so seedy and Fassbender looks so miserable that it can’t be described as titillating.

On the subject of McQueen’s direction, isn’t it gorgeous? The film is filled with stunning shots with some inspired camera placements (bear with me). Often in Shame the camera remains still throughout a scene, allowing the action to play out around it whether fully on-screen or not. At various points the camera is left behind the heads of two characters as they talk, this seemingly bizarre choice is well-judged. By having the audience essentially lurking in the room behind the characters McQueen makes the actions on-screen seem all the more real and transforms the viewer from an audience member into a trespassing voyeur. Editing can often serve to distance us from a film, but leave us standing just behind a couple on a station platform and we could just as easily be eavesdropping on a conversation out in the real world.

As the damaged pair of siblings, Fassbender and Mulligan are both playing characters hiding their fragile underbelly. Mulligan as Sissy is an outwardly outgoing individual masking her internal suffering while Fassbender’s Brandon is a more reserved soul, seemingly completely in control while unable to tame his libido. Powerful acting from two of Britain’s future national treasures. My biggest worry with Shame was that I would find it hard to empathise with an oversexed Lothario but gradually Fassbender managed to coax some sympathy from me. While I was never exactly rooting for Brandon, by the closing credits he had earned my pity at the very least. Curse you Fassbender, you got me in the end.

Stunning, provocative and surprisingly emotive; Shame is a film which keeps its cards close to its chest and never truly lets you in as it has its way with you. Go and see it, just not with your nan.

5 Stars = Absolute Amazement.

Out Now – 13th January 2011

War Horse
Michael Morpurgo (who I met when I was about nine) wrote a book about a young man who joins the army to follow his horse after it is sold to the cavalry. The book was adapted into an acclaimed stage show and is now a “major motion picture” directed by Stephen Spielberg that looks so epic, worthy and heart-warming I’m left completely numb.

Shame
Considering the amount of hits my discussion of this film has had from nudity seekers with poor Google skills, I think people may be expecting a sexy romp with nakedness aplenty. While the nudity quota certainly seems to be present, what we have here is a serious drama about a sex addict so may be more grim and less sexy than you expect. Go for the nudity and stay for the quality film-making. Probably one to take your “bit of stuff” to rather than your partner, or your gran. This is not a film about love and fidelity.

Margin Call
An impressive cast of TV faces and Kevin Spacey tell the story of the first 24 hours of the financial crisis. According to IMDb the film contains 85 swear words, but two of those are “ass” which hardly counts. Since first writing this dismissive summary I have heard lots of good feedback about this film, so give it a go if bleak sex and horse-love aren’t your cup of tea.

The Darkest Hour (limited release)
Remember how good Emile Hirsch was in Into the Wild and Milk? Well, hold onto those memories as now he is starring in a 3D film in which “five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.” Expect lots of frantic unplugging… IN 3D!!!

Tatsumi (limited release)
“A story based on the life and short stories of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, a mangaka known for his gekiga style of alternate Japanese manga.” I gave gekiga a tentative Google and apparently it just means “dramatic pictures” distinguishing them from other Manga or “irresponsible pictures”. Phew, no tentacles.

A Useful Life (limited release)
“A movie-theater employee adjusts to a new life after the cinema he worked at for over 25 years is forced to shut down.” Let’s hope he doesn’t go around killing people and stealing their ears as that would be surprisingly boring.