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  1. chillinwill
    The romantic comedy “It’s Complicated” arrived at the multiplex on Friday complete with an R rating, ranking it in the same category as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Basic Instinct” in the eyes of the Motion Picture Association of America.

    But there is no violence in “It’s Complicated,” and the bedroom scenes are decidedly tame by contemporary standards. Instead, the R rating — which experts say could limit the box-office potential of the Universal Pictures film — comes largely from a sequence in which Steve Martin and Meryl Streep smoke marijuana.

    Giggles ensue.

    The rating has kicked up dust in Hollywood, with movie bloggers starting blistering attacks on the M.P.A.A. for being out of touch. The marijuana lobby is equally miffed. “This is an absurd ruling rooted in old cultural thinking,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Universal and Mr. Martin unsuccessfully appealed, seeking a PG-13 rating.

    Conservative groups, meanwhile, find themselves in the rare position of cheering the ratings system instead of condemning it. Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, which also monitors movies, said “It’s Complicated” was a “rare instance” of the board getting a rating correct.

    “The last I checked, smoking pot was still illegal, illicit behavior,” he said. “Too often material gets rated lower than it should be.”

    Figuring prominently in the brouhaha are other depictions of marijuana in cinema, particularly the scene in the 1980 comedy “9 to 5” showing Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin getting high and raiding the refrigerator. Its rating was PG.

    “This demonstrates a real hilarity and inconsistency, especially given how far the medical marijuana movement has come,” said Martin Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society at the University of Southern California.

    The rumpus comes amid informal discussion about tweaking the ratings formula, particularly where R is involved. The M.P.A.A., a trade organization financed by the major studios, has ruminated about dividing the R rating into new categories. Already, the industry refers informally to movies that are “soft R” or “hard R.”

    Nancy Meyers, who directed the film, declined to comment, as did Universal and the film’s producers.

    But financial forces are at work against any changes. If the difference between a PG-13 and an R rating can be tens of millions of dollars at the box office, the last thing studios want is to slice the pie thinner. “In general, the more child-friendly the rating is — even for movies that might not be aimed at teenagers — the more tickets you sell,” said S. Abraham Ravid, a business professor at Rutgers University who has published many studies on movie economics.

    Joan Graves, the chairwoman of the film industry’s Classification and Rating Administration, declined to comment on “It’s Complicated,” citing internal policy barring the public discussion of a specific picture. But she dismissed criticism of her board members.

    “They react the way that most people react,” she said. “America is not just two coasts.”

    Some in the industry see something deeper at work, arguing that the trade organization is on its best behavior because it has a lame-duck leader in Dan Glickman (who is to step down as chief executive in September) and because Congressional elections will take place next year. The Federal Trade Commission harshly criticized the movie industry this month for inappropriately advertising movies with PG-13 and R ratings to children.

    It was not specifically the actual drug use that got “It’s Complicated,” about a divorced woman who has an affair with her remarried ex-husband, into this pickle, according to people with knowledge of how the decision was reached. Instead, the ratings board was concerned about what the movie did not have: a negative consequence for the behavior. (Ms. Graves said that “no scrutiny or outside influence impacts the rating of any film — period.”)

    The board, according to these people, thought the scene was uproariously funny and could leave children with a strong message that smoking marijuana is fun. The opposite, of course, could be argued: One way to make young people think that marijuana is uncool is to show the white-haired Mr. Martin, 64, smoking it.

    This emphasis on consequences has long been part of how Hollywood has navigated taboo subjects, dating back to the Hays Code era, said Robert Sklar, an emeritus professor of cinema studies at New York University and the author of “Movie-Made America.” “If somebody transgressed — infidelity, alcoholism — they had to pay for it,” he said.

    The M.P.A.A. is often accused by conservative groups of “ratings creep,” a loosening of standards as the years go on, and of pandering to the studios, which resist R ratings because it could limit the audience. But “It’s Complicated” may be an example of the reverse.

    Ms. Graves said the board has grown more strict about drug use over the last two decades. “In the ’60s and ’70s, drugs were considered fun and recreational, but then parents started to wise up and standards shifted the other way,” she said.

    In other words, “9 to 5” was born of a different cultural time.

    It is hard to argue, however, that cannabis has become anything but more routine over the years. There are now about 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries in the Los Angeles area alone, according to city estimates; as a point of reference, there are fewer than 300 Starbucks outposts.

    By BROOKS BARNES
    December 24, 2009
    NY Times
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/business/media/25ratings.html

Comments

  1. dyingtomorrow
    I SERIOUSLY doubt that anyone under the age of 18 wants to see this movie.

    That aside, yeah, it's stupid that smoking marijuana would automatically make a movie rated 'R'. I'm sure that will go away soon enough.
  2. bcubed
    What DT said.

    I mean, from a teen's perspective, this is a movie about the sex lives of one's parent's generation.

    That has to be creepy on a variety of different levels.

    I think it can be safely said that this movie was NOT intended to appeal to the < 30 set.
  3. Euthanatos93420
    Watch 'This film is not yet rated'

    It's a documentary on the MPAA.
  4. bcubed
    I went to see this movie last night. Pretty funny actually--Meryl Streep's character winds up having an affair with her ex (Alec Baldwin) after he re-marries to woman like 30 years younger.

    I's agree with the "R" rating, too: although there wasn't much in the way of "full-frontal," most of the movie is about sex in one way or the other, and it really is what one might call "adult" in natrure. I'd feel that way even if the pot scenes were deleted entirely.

    And (in reference to the "how gay is male-on-male shotgunning?" post) there's a hilarious scene where Alec shotguns his daughter's fiance!
  5. cra$h
    Think it's time to change who gives the ratings to movies.... They seem to be getting a lil senile if you ask me. I wouldn't doubt though that just the tone of the movie would make it something "R" worthy, but like what DT said, what 13 yr old wants to see this movie? They're going to be sneaking into Saw 10.000, not this movie.

    As far as the whole argument that they smoke marijuana and there were no bad consequences. Well, in real life, swim got high, and was fine. Just about every time, he was fine. And there has never been a time were there were serious consequences to his pot smoking. And that's about the same for all his friends too. None of them ever hurt anyone because they were high. True story too.
  6. GG_mali
    Movies like this are good for our future!
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