30 October 2013

There is Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

          So, this is something new I'm going to be adding to my blog.  I'm going to start posting some of my favorite poems.  I have mixed feelings about poetry.  Some of it I really like; other of it does not make any sense.  As a whole, I'm not a big poem guy; there are just a few that catch my attention.  Take this first poem for example:  I really like the first 5 lines (and will italicize them) but the rest of the poem I could care less for.

          This poem is called "There is Pleasure in the Pathless Woods" and it is actually part of a longer, narrative poem called Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.  I have not read anything from that.  It was written by George Gordon Byron.  Anyways, here it is:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean--roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin--his control
Stops with the shore;--upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man's ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths,--thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,--thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth's destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send'st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: —there let him lay.

By: George Gordon Byron

          I just really like nature, being in the outdoors.  I like going out by myself, away from everyone and everything.  It's great.  And I stole this poem from HERE.

     But that's just my opinion...

18 October 2013

Carrie (1976) and Carrie (2013)

          Essential plot rundown:  Bullied high schooler Carrie discovers she has supernatural power and fights back.  I've been waiting to see this movie for a long time because I'm a fan of Chloë Grace Moretz.  And I barely watched the original with Sissy Spacek for the first time the other week.

          I'm fairly open-minded when it comes to remakes, but I feel that the new Carrie is unnecessary.  I like remakes that change and reinterpret the original.  However, the new one does not do that.  It is essentially the same movie.  It even has a lot of the same dialogue, which I assume came from the book.  The only real difference is that the new one has less nudity and more special effects.  I feel if you're going to remake something, make it your own, don't photocopy the original.

          With that said, I liked both movies.  (But I would say that I liked the original better).  I wasn't too impressed by them, but I can see why the original is a classic.  My problem with the story is that there is no real character arcs in either film.  The characters are the same at the end of the movie as they were in the beginning.  While I was watching the '76 version, it reminded me of a joke and that we're just waiting for the punchline.  There's no real change in story, character or anything.  Carrie could just be the first act of a three act film.

          One of the reasons that I think the original is better is because of Sissy Spacek.  She was perfect for the role.  She's kind of creepy looking; she's also small and weak.  She's totally the type of person that would be bullied in high school.  And her being weak makes the climax that much better.  Chloë, on the other hand, is not that.  She's really pretty and doesn't look like an outcast.  And she's a lot stronger person that Sissy.  I've really only seen Chloë in Kick-Ass and Let Me In and she plays strong characters in both of these; so it was hard for me to imagine her taking crap from people.  Don't get me wrong, she did a good job; she was just miscast.

          And I felt that in the original, Carrie and Tommy had way better chemistry than they do in the remake.  When they were at prom, I thought Wow, he's really enjoying himself with Carrie.  What a nice guy.  I didn't get that at all in the remake.

          The climax starts off better in the original, but ends better in the 2013 remake.  It was so creepy/terrifying to see Sissy Spacek wide-eyed, closing all the doors; the split screen was effective.  But, fire hoses aren't that scary.  The remake was better because of the advanced SFX; Carrie really was able to display her telekinetic powers.

          So, overall, both are decent films, but I think I liked the original a little better.  The remake isn't bad, it just doesn't bring anything new to the table; so, to quote Col. Stars and Stripes:  "What's the point?"  Oh, I also liked the original ending better.

     But that's just my opinion...

15 October 2013

The Wolf and the Ewe (2011)

          This is a BYU short film that I saw a few years ago and recently rediscovered.  Unfortunately, it was made before my time so I was not able to work on it.  But, I really like it so I thought I'd share it.

     Watch it HERE.

          I really like the visuals.  And it's in Romanian, so that's cool too.  It also has werewolves and it's Halloween, so there's that.  Enjoy.

     But that's just my opinion...

02 October 2013

Nobody's Business (1996)

          Essential plot rundown:  Filmmaker, Alan Berliner, tries to find out more about his family history by interviewing his father.  I had to watch this for a documentary class I'm taking.  And I don't write a lot about the movies I watch in class so I thought I'd do this one.

          I have mixed feelings about this film.  I liked some parts and disliked others.  First of all, I liked the style.  Alan takes the audio from the interview with his father and plays it with archival footage, home movies, b-roll and photographs.  Other than making for a visually interesting film, I think that the video grounded the interview in reality.  It made Alan's father, Oscar, and the people he was talking about real and not just some person from a story.  He also adds a lot of sound effects that add to the style.

          However, after a while, the style starts to get boring and repetitive.  The film is only an hour long, but he uses the same sounds and footage over and over again.  I think it would have worked a lot better if the film had only been 20 minutes long or so.

          I also felt like Alan was trying to manipulate me.  Because we actually see very little of the interview, I felt like he was editing sound bites together out of context.  Without a visual cue, audio can be edited together to make the speaker say anything the editor wants.  And I felt like this was happening.  I'm sure an audio professional could listen to it and hear if there were changes in the audio that would indicate that they were taken out of context, but I can't.  But I sensed that they were.

          And the interaction between Alan and Oscar felt off to me too.  They seemed to be getting mad at each other for no real reason other than to spice up the interview.  Alan seemed like he was provoking his father into getting excited.  I don't know, that might as well be how they really interact (and it probably is) but it seemed like to was a little staged and unnatural.

          But, overall, it's a decent documentary.  It was interesting to learn about Oscar and I could relate to him.  I liked the style but it eventually became redundant.  It's worth watching, but not a must see.

     But that's just my opinion...

29 September 2013

Metallica: Through the Never (trailer)

          So, a while ago I heard that Metallica was going to do a 3D concert movie.  And my thought was: Really?  You're going to be like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Bros and do this?  Man, if people thought you sold out before, wait until they see this.  But then, I recently saw "this" and by "this" I mean the trailer.  And my thoughts changed completely.

     Check it HERE.

          This actually looks really good.  I'm loving the whole combining the concert footage with a narrative; it could be really interesting.  But, in all fairness, I've never seen any other concert movies so I don't know how they usually play out.  Maybe they have more than just concert stuff.  But I am eager to see how they connect the two; will it be 50/50 or some other ratio?  I just think it looks pretty cool.  Even if there is no story other than a riot, that riot looks cool enough for me.

          And the concert looks cool too.  They're on a huge stage, there's lasers, tesla coil stuff, looks like it could be impressive.  And I like Metallica.  They've got some sweet stuff.  I am very excited to see this.  But I wish there was an IMAX closer to where I lived, cuz that would be awesome.

     But that's just my opinion...

21 September 2013

Prisoners (2013)

          Essential plot rundown:  Two little girls are kidnapped, so their fathers go after the kidnapper.  When I first saw this trailer, I thought it looked amazing.  It looked like it would be emotional and hard to watch.  I was expecting a powerful film.  However, what I actually got was a little bored.  Prisoners wasn't a bad film, it just wasn't that good either.  And that is the biggest problem with the film: it had lots of potential but didn't deliver.

          Let's start with the plot.  The story itself was really good.  It tackles an interesting subject and asks some hard questions.  But, something was lost in the transition from page to film.  The script could have been a little tighter; it's a 2 and 1/2 hour long movie and there were times when I felt bored.  So quickening the pace would have helped.  Some of the dialogue was awkward and there were some small plot-hole things; but those are inconsequential.

          The biggest problem, I felt, was the lack of character development.  The girls are literally kidnapped in the first five minutes of the movie, so I never got the chance to get to know them or their family.  They were strangers to me.  It's like seeing those missing child posters and feeling bad because they are missing, but you don't get emotional over them because you don't know who they are.  If they would have pushed the kidnapping back further into the movie and given us time to get to know the characters, see the parents interact with their kids, it would have been an a lot more effective film.  But, I didn't really care about the girls nor their parents.  Intellectually I understood why Wolverine was doing what he was doing but I wasn't invested emotionally.

          And I didn't think the acting was too great either.  Hugh Jackman has the most screen time.  And while not bad, he did seem to over act at times.  I like Terrence Howard as an actor, but he doesn't do much here.  But that's because he isn't given much to do.  I wanted to see more of him.  But the worst was Jake Gyllenhaal.  I didn't like him at all.  He just seemed weird and I never knew what he was feeling.  And what was up with the old lady makeup?  They couldn't just cast an older actress?  That was kind of distracting.

          But, overall it's a decent film.  Not anything to rush out and see; but it's also not a waste of time watching.  It had a lot of potential with a strong story, but it fails to deliver.

     But that's just my opinion...

13 September 2013

Insidious (2010) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

          Essential plot rundown: A family is being haunted.  I never saw the original before, but I kept hearing how scary it was.  So, when I saw that it was screening before the sequel, I took advantage and saw them both in the theatre.

          And I'm glad I did.  Insidious was terrifying.  It's been a while since I've seen a movie that gave me goosebumps and I had never seen a movie that made me want to cover me eyes.  It was that scary.  A lot of the scares are jump scares (which I'm not a big fan of) but the filmmakers use them effectively.  And there are some atmospheric chills as well, so that was a plus.

          And the story was good too.  I thought it was interesting how they explained the whole haunting scenario.  And it resonated with what I personally believe.  I thought the actors were believable.  Overall, it was a really well made, effective movie.

          But there are some parts when the film shows too much of the ghosts; which I always find cheapens the mood.  Showing too much takes away from our imagination, which is scarier than anything on screen.  And that was really my only complaint.

          There is also a part in the first one that may or may not have been a homage to William Castle's 13 Ghosts.  That scene dreadfully made me want to cover my face.

          Insidious: Chapter 2 virtually takes place right after the first one.  And this one was different from its predecessor.  The sequel is a natural evolution from how the first ended.  And because it continues the story instead of trying to rehash the first, it has a different feel to it.  It wasn't as scary, but it was funnier.  The story was also a little more complicated, which I think worked against it.  

          There are some flashback scenes, so they have other actors playing younger versions of some of the characters.  And they worked great.  Sometimes when they have a different actor playing a younger version of a character, it seems weird.  But the actresses chosen looked and acted like the older characters.  I totally bought that they were suppose to be the same people.

          And there are some parts when the filmmakers combine traditional cinematography with the found footage style.  I found it distracting.

          Overall, they are effective films.  The first one is truly spine tingling.  I thought I was going to die.  Insidious: Chapter 2 is a scary film, but not on the same level as the first.  But they are both worth watching.

     But that's just my opinion...

11 September 2013

Cargo (2013)

          I stumbled upon this short today and decided to share it.  It is a refreshing take on the current zombie craze.  It also has a lot of heart; I may or may not have gotten a little choked up watching it.

     HERE is the link for the vid.

          You don't have to be a zombie fan to like this.  And there's not much gore in it.  So go ahead and watch it.  You won't regret it.  Unless you don't have a soul, then you might.

     But that's just my opinion...

06 September 2013

Robocop (trailer)

          I am a huge fan of Robocop.  And I have been as along as I can remember.  People ask me what my favorite movie is.  Robocop.  No hesitation.  It's great stuff.  So, when I heard that it was being remade, I was excited.  Now, I am a fan of remakes; so I was interested in seeing how the classic would be updated.

          I debated on whether or not I should watch this trailer.  Sometimes I don't watch the trailer so nothing in the movie is given away or so I don't have any preconceived notions.  But, I can't resist Robocop, so I watched it.  And I have never been so nervous watching a trailer before.

     And HERE is said trailer.

          And I really liked what I saw; though it will take some time getting use to Joel Kinnaman as Robocop instead of Peter Weller.  (But, in his defense, Weller only played Robocop in 2/3 of the movies and none of the tv shows).  I liked the design of the suit.  It still is undeniably Robocop, but sleeker, more modern. I also liked the nod to the original suit, with the gray color scheme before they paint it black.  I feel the same about ED-209: still looks like ED, but different.  And Gary Oldman is in it; he's badass.

          But I wonder who the bad guy will be.  In the original, it was Clarence Boddicker, played brilliantly by Red Forman.  He added a whole other something to the original film.  But here, at least judging by this trailer, there doesn't seem to be a "villain".  It seems to focus more Murphy becoming Robocop.

          And that is one of the things that excites me about this movie.  It appears that the film will explore more of Robocop trying to find equilibrium between his past life and his new.  Making his wife aware that Murphy is Robocop is an interesting choice and I'm eager to see how that plays out.  Also, the whole "who is in control" thing could be intriguing.

          Anyways, I am super excited to see this movie.  I love Robocop and am curious to see a new interpretation of him.  However, regardless of how good the remake actually is, Robocop is awesome and always will be.

     But that's just my opinion...
          (Except for the part of Robocop being awesome.  That's pretty much fact).

02 September 2013

Blackfish (2013)

          Essential plot rundown:  This documentary looks at how a captive whale, Tilikum, had killed 3 people specifically and at captive orcas in general.  I never heard of this movie until Magnolia Pictures started blasting their Facebook page with it.  So naturally, I checked it out, thought it looked good, and drove a half hour to go see it.

          This is a pretty interesting documentary, but not without it's problems.  The orca footage is pretty cool.  They are such majestic creatures that it's hard not to be in awe of them, especially on the big screen.  And video of the whale attackings is horrifying.  It doesn't show anything graphic, but it is still pretty intense because you know those whales can kill those people without hesitation.  The filmmakers also do an effective job humanizing the captive animals.  It is quite sad watching a calf being separated from its mother.  And that's actually all I have to say about the good stuff.

          And now to the bad.  The biggest and most obvious is that this documentary is pretty one-sided: SeaWorld is bad.  They interview a lot of former SeaWorld trainers which is good; but they only have one person who is pro-marine parks.  It did say that SeaWord refused to be interviewed, but they could have found some more pro-SeaWord people to talk with to make for a more balanced discussion.  But you know going in that this type of movie has an agenda.

          The only other complaint was that, as times, I was a little disorientated. They start talking about one incident, then move to another one without much of an indication.  Sometimes I was confused on which whale was attacking who and I never knew when the attacks occurred.  Also, there are times where there were too many interviews and not enough killer whale footage.

          But overall, it is a pretty good documentary.  A little one-sided (ok, a lot one-sided), kind of slow in some parts, but when it gets intense, it's intense.  I'd recommend it to anyone, whether they're pro- or anti- SeaWorld.

     But that's just my opinion...

17 August 2013

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

          Essential plot rundown:  Chris D'Amico seeks revenge for what happened to his father while Kick-Ass and Hit Girl try to balance being a superhero with their daily lives.  I really liked the first one, so obviously I had to see the sequel.

          This was a great film.  I was pretty much pleased with most everything. However, I have only seen Kick-Ass once, so I can't really compare the films in their style, seeing as they are directed by two different people.  There seemed to be some disconnects between the two films.  But, that could just be because I'm remembering the first one wrong.  And Todd, who is in the first film, is played by another actor here.  So, that threw me off.

          I thought all of the characters were interesting.  I liked the group that Kick-Ass joins with.  I thought they all gave solid performances.  And their reasons for wanting to fight crime made them all realistic and relatable.  But, by far the best was Col. Stars and Stripes, played by an almost unrecognizable Jim Carrey.  I really liked his character and what he was doing and wanted to get to know him more.  While he does have a decent amount of screen time, it wasn't enough.  I wanted to see more of him.  I was surprised to also like John Leguizamo's character.  I wasn't expecting much from him.  Though, in all fairness, I only know him from Super Mario Bros, Spawn and the trailer for The Pest.  Basically, I liked all of the characters.

          As far as the plot goes, it is good.  It was intriguing to see how both Kick-Ass and Hit Girl try to deal with being superheroes.  The only problem I had was when Hit Girl makes a promise to Marcus and then devotedly follows it.  It is in complete violation of a promise she had previously made to her father, Big Daddy.  And when Kick Ass confronts her about this decision, she says that she never breaks an oath.  But you just did by making that one to Marcus.  It seemed off to me.

          There were really only two other things that bothered me.  One was a scene where these people begin projectile vomiting and pooping themselves.  It was too over-the-top and comical; it felt out of place in the movie and didn't really add anything.  The other thing was that at the end of a very dramatic scene, someone would say something funny/stupid and would totally ruin the mood.  This happened a couple of times and was annoying.

          But the best part of Kick-Ass 2 was the emotions it evoked; and it was able to do that because of the compelling plot and relatable characters.  I cried multiple times throughout the movie.  Sometimes I could feel the passion the characters had in what they were doing and found it very motivational; and it moved me to tears.  Other times I was just afraid that someone would die or they did die that I cried because I was sad.  For me, one of the signs of a great film is its ability to elicit emotion in the audience, whether it be happiness, fear, apprehension or sorrow.  If I'm feeling something, the movie is doing it's job.  (Though, not all great films have to do this).  And Kick-Ass 2 was able to make me cry.  So props to the filmmakers.

          So, overall, Kick-Ass 2 was a great film.  I want to go see it again, now. It had relatable/likable characters with a persuasive storyline.  It would be interesting to see if they make a third, but I think they could end perfectly with the second one.

     But that's just my opinion...

     *author's edit (19 August 2013)

          I've been thinking a lot about the movie ever since I saw it.  And my thoughts keep returning to a pair of scenes involving Kick-Ass and his did.  In the first scene they get in an argument.  And as I was watching it, I totally sided with Kick-Ass.  I agreed with his motives.  I understood and rooted for him.  However, a few things happen and they later confront each other again, finishing the argument.  But this time I totally sided with his dad; I sympathized with him.  His motives for doing what he did made sense.  As I watched this argument span these two scenes, I could see a little of myself and my dad in the characters (though, not nearly as extreme).  They were very relatable.  I loved these scenes; I found them effective and moving.  Whenever I thought about them, I kept getting choked up, which is why I wanted to write about them.  They were great story telling.

10 August 2013

Elysium (2013)

          Essential plot rundown:  A poor guy from earth must fight his way to the rich space station above to save his life.  This is from the same writer/director of District 9, which I thought was really good, so I had to go see it.  And I had nothing else going on today.

          I really liked Elysium.  However, I do have to say that it started off a little rocky, but was rolling smoothly by the time it was over.  The biggest problem for me was how some of the characters were introduced; it felt too rushed.  The audience is blatantly told that the villain is bad, instead of being shown he is bad.  And when Matt Damon's buddy is introduced, I just thought he was just some random guy.  But it turns out that he is kind of a big shot; I didn't get any of that when he was first introduced.  (And on a similar note, the story that the little girl tells Matt feels shoehorned in there and rushed.)

          But those were really they only complaints I had.  I thought Neill Blomkamp did a good job building worlds; this was a believable and realistic (as realistic as a futuristic sci-fi flick will be) environment.  I believed and felt for the poor living on desolated Earth and I believed that a space station exclusively for the rich existed.

          Speaking of believability, the SFX were amazing.  The spaceships look real, the robots looked like real characters.  Everything was seamlessly put together.  It all looked great.  (Interestingly enough, the director graduated from film school with an emphasis in animation and visual effects.)

          Actually, I did have another complaints: some of the accents.  I found Kruger's accent distracting (yes, I know he's from South Africa).  And I had a hard time understanding Spider at times.  So I was a little confused on occasion when I missed some expository dialogue.  However, I liked Jodie Foster's accents and felt it added a little to the character.

          Right before I wrote this, I was looking through the message boards on IMDB.  And most of them were political debates.  Yes, this movie does have a moral; but I when I saw it, I didn't see the 1% vs the 99% or Wall Street vs Main Street.  I saw it on a personal level.  And I personally liked it.  But there is much a heated debate on those message boards.

          Overall, I really liked it.  There were a few things that bothered me and a couple of plot-holes.  But it is entertaining and it does give you something to think about.  Also, Neill must like blowing people up because in Elysium and District 9 that happens a lot.

     But that's just my opinion...

27 July 2013

Star Trek: The Original Cast

          So, ever since they rebooted the Star Trek franchise, I've been wanting to watch the original movies.  I'm not a trekkie, but I grew up watching The Next Generation and Voyager, but I had never seen anything with the original cast.  So during the last few weeks, I went through them and watched them all.  Here are my brief thoughts.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

          The beginning of this movie feels abrupt.  Kirk no longer is captain and all of his crew are scattered about.  I felt like that I missed something for not having watched the last few episodes of the series; but my brother told me that there is no connection.

          The first half was boring, but once they reach V'ger, it got pretty interesting.  I really liked the ending.  It was the ending that made the film for me.  It it had ended in a different way, it merely would have been a "meh" movie and not a "that was really good" movie.

The Wrath of Khan (1982)

          This one is held to be the best of the series; but I was disappointed.  I liked it, but it wasn't the best.  I did like the fact that they used one of the TV episodes as a launching pad for this movie.  But I never felt like Khan was a threat.  He's suppose to be a superior being but he spends the whole movie being outsmarted by Kirk.  Khan was lucky that he had those brain control slugs for those were the only things that gave him an upper hand.

The Search for Spock (1984)

          This was the worst of the lot.  I don't remember anything about it other than I liked seeing Bones act like Spock and Christopher LLoyd in black face is far funnier than it is menacing.

The Voyage Home (1986)

          This was probably the funniest of the series; but there was way too much tree hugging and not enough star trekking.  The plot was kind of dumb and didn't really fit in the series very well.  It started out promising with the Klingons after Kirk, but then it took a left turn.  This movie was lucky I thought it was pretty funny.

The Final Frontier (1989)

          I like movies like this one; movies that combine space and religion (e.g. Prometheus and Contact).  And while I liked the concept of the ending, it was kind of cheesy due to bad special effects.  I just really like the quest they went on, to go where no man has gone before.

The Undiscovered Country (1991)

          For overall entertainment value, I would say that this was the best one. I was invested in it, waiting to see who dunnit and how.  While it didn't deal with the same topics that I really liked from The Motion Picture and The Final Frontier, I would probably say it was my favorite.

          So, overall it is a pretty good series.  I wonder how different my experience would have been if I had seen the original series first.  But I did really like Bones.  Now I want to check out some of DeForest Kelley's other work.

     But that's just my opinion...

30 June 2013

Man of Steel (2013)

          Essential plot rundown: Superman tries to keep his existence a secret until Gen. Zod comes looking for him.  I had never seen a Superman movie before this, but I never really have been a fan of Superman either; he's too powerful with too many powers.  But, this movie looked pretty awesome.  Unfortunately, it wasn't awesome; good, but not awesome.

          My biggest problem with the movie is its non-linear story telling for most of the movie.  The movie uses a lot of flashbacks, jumping from Clark Kent doing one job to him as a child.  Then it cuts to Krypton and then back to Clark working somewhere else. Not that that is bad in and of itself, it just doesn't work in this type of film.  The film jumped around too much which made it hard me for to connect with and care for the characters.  I didn't really feel that there was any character development.  I never felt what the characters were going through.  And because of this, I wasn't invested in the film, which made it good instead of awesome.

          Visually the film is pretty sweet.  I liked all of the production design.  The costumes looked cool, the vehicles and technology were interesting.  Everything looked great (I just didn't care for the characters).  Speaking of looks and characters, I thought Henry Cavill looked the part of Superman.  When I looked at him, I saw Superman.  But, I didn't think he acted the part very well; something was lacking.

          And the ending sequence lasted too long.  There were a lot of people fighting and things getting destroyed way before the final showdown between Superman and Zod.  So by the time they finally confronted each other, the whole novelty of watching things being annihilated was beginning to wear off.

          While I liked it, Man of Steel wasn't as good as I was expecting.  But, it did make me want to watch the original movies with Christopher Reeve, which is always a good thing for a remake/reboot to do.  But it'll have to wait while I watch the Star Trek films because Star Trek Into Darkness did the same thing.

     But that's just my opinion...

18 June 2013

MPAA: Time for a Change

      This was my research paper for my English class.  I hated that class.

         Millions of people go to the movies each year and many rely on the ratings assigned by CARA (the Classification and Rating Administration) to choose which movies are appropriate for their children to watch. CARA, which is an affiliate of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), was established on November 1, 1968, as a tool for parents (Ratings History). As stated on their website, the purpose of the MPAA’s ratings system is to “provide parents with advance information about the content of films, so they can determine what movies are appropriate for their young children to see” (“Film Ratings”). While the ratings system does give a general idea of a movie’s content, the system is inadequate in helping parents decide which films their children should see. The ratings system does not sufficiently inform parents of movie content because the system suffers from ratings creep, inconsistency, and vagueness. The MPAA needs to revise the ratings system to remove these problems. The current ratings system, which assigns a letter grade to a movie designating who should be allowed to see it, should be changed to a system that, instead, quantifies the amount of objectionable content (i.e. violence, nudity, drugs, etc.). CARA also should not look at context or restrict audiences. The MPAA will be able to correct the problems that are presently in the ratings system by changing to a classification system that looks purely at content and not at what may or may not be offensive to prospective audiences.

         One of the problems that the ratings system has (and one a change in the system could fix) is ratings creep. Ratings creep is when content that used to be predominantly assigned to one rating (such as R) begins to “creep” down into another (PG-13). A study done in 2010 by Priya Nalkur, Patrick E. Jamieson and Daniel Romer, provides evidence of ratings creep. Nalkur et al. compared the content from the highest grossing films from 1950 to 2006 to their ratings. Nalkur et al. found that “differences in violence between R and PG-13 were often blurred” and “PG-13 has absorbed films that would previously have been assigned R, and has exhibited an increasing trend regarding the explicitness of violent content” (Nalkur). According to their studies, PG-13 movies are becoming increasingly more violent (Nalkur). A PG-13 movie from 2004 is likely to be more violent than one from 1990.

          A similar study was done by Richard Potts and Angela Belden. However, instead of looking at the actual content of the movies, they only looked at the rating descriptors. (Ratings descriptors explain why a film received a certain rating.) They came to the same conclusion--that there is “increasingly more adult content in movies at all the rating levels examined . . . ” (Potts). Potts and Belden write that “children are exposed to more mature content . . . in today’s G, PG, and PG-13 movies than they were only a few years ago” (Potts). If movies aimed at kids contain more mature content than they used to, then the ratings are not doing their job.

          In addition to reporting their findings, Potts et al. give possible reasons why ratings creep is happening. They point out that CARA is part of the MPAA, which is an “organization whose primary function is to maximize the financial success of motion pictures” (Potts). Because of this affiliation, they continue, a “competing profit motivation exists for CARA to apply the most liberal rating assignments possible and thus facilitate the largest audiences possible for each movie to be released” (Potts). Restrictive ratings, such as R, limit the number of prospective audiences; therefore, these movies are more likely to make less money. By giving more movies PG-13 ratings than R, CARA is increasing their profitability. However, Potts et al. point out that this reason is only “speculative” (Potts).

          Another possible reason Potts et al. give is the raters on the board are becoming desensitized to adult content (Potts). They write that “ratings creep could also result from a natural psychological process in which CARA raters themselves, in the execution of their jobs, become involuntarily desensitized to evocative adult content, resulting in collective assignments of more ‘lenient’ ratings” (Potts). If the act of them doing their job compromises the integrity of the ratings, then a revision is needed.

          One way to fix ratings creep is to quantify the content instead of assigning an age category. If the raters scaled the amount of violence or sex on a scale from one to ten, instead of deciding whether the movie should be given a PG-13 or R, it can prevent ratings creep. The amount of adult content is objective, whereas assigning content to an age category is subjective. While a better way to rate movies than today’s standard, it is still not perfect. In order for a quantitative rating to really work, there has to be a definitive way of quantifying. But, establishing a standardized way to quantify content is beyond the purpose of this paper.

          The second problem a change in the ratings system could fix is inconsistency. In an article for “The Hollywood Reporter,” Joan Graves, head of CARA, wrote, “Our most important job is consistency: Whether a film is educational, delightful, terrible or insightful, ratings are applied based on the level of content in a film” (Graves). However, by examining the content/ratings from different movies, a lot of inconsistency can be found. One example would be the documentaries Gunner Palace (2004) and Bully (2011). Gunner Palace is about the war in Iraq and Bully raises awareness about bullying in public schools. Both movies were originally rated R for language and both appealed to the MPAA to get their ratings changed (Tucker; Sacks). Gunner Palace’s appeal was successful and the film was given a PG-13 rating (Tucker). However, in order for Bully to achieve a PG-13, it had to remove some swearing (Sacks). While one movie was able to get a PG-13 rating without any editing, the other had to be re-cut. Bully removed half of the f-words used, taking it from the original six down to three (Zeitchik ‘Bully’). Gunner Palace, which was not edited, contains forty-two f-words (“Gunner Palace”). If CARA cannot consistently rate language, then something needs to be changed. By quantifying the content, Gunner Palace would have rated higher on the language scale than Bully, allowing for more consistency. A quantification also would have alerted parents of the actual content better than a letter would have.

          Language is not the only thing that is unsystematically rated--sexual content also is. In 2010, two movies with similar sexual content were released, Black Swan and Blue Valentine. However, Black Swan was rated R while Blue Valentine received a NC-17.  The distributor of Blue Valentine appealed the NC-17 rating and won, allowing the rating to be dropped to an R without any change in content (Zeitchik ‘Blue Valentine’).

          These movies show two different inconsistencies. One, they show that the MPAA does not always give the same rating to movies with similar content. One would assume that movies which contain similar content, such Blue Valentine and Black Swan, would receive the same rating. It also shows another inconsistency:  changing the rating without changing the content. Bully had to be edited to receive a PG-13 rating. It had different content, so it deserved a different rating. However, Blue Valentine kept all of its content intact while obtaining a lower rating. So, whether it was rated R or NC-17, it was the same movie with the same content.

          If the MPAA changed their ratings system to one that quantifies material, it would help decrease the inconsistency in the current ratings. Instead of the board members trying to decide whether something deserves a PG-13, R or NC-17, they only have to measure the amount.  By simply quantifying the amount (in whichever way CARA decides is best), it will be able to more consistently describe a movie’s content.

          Another concern a revision of the ratings system could change is the vagueness of the ratings themselves. The MPAA assigns a rating (G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17) to each movie and then offers a description. According to their website, the purpose of the rating is to signal “the degree of caution parents should exercise in weighing whether a movie is suitable for children” (“How to Read a Rating”). However, not all R-rated movies require the same amount of “caution.” Some R-rated movies, such as The King’s Speech, only have a few f-words, whereas other R-rated movies contain horrendous acts of violence. Not all R-rated movies have equal content and, therefore, should not have equal ratings. Scott Wampler, a writer for Examiner.com, wrote about his surprise that The Human Centipede, a movie “where three characters were stitched together, mouth-to-anus, and forced to parade around a mad scientist's lair,” received a less restrictive rating than Blue Valentine initially received, both of which were released the same year (Wampler). After Blue Valentine’s appeal, they both have an R-rating. But, are parents sufficiently “cautioned” about the movies’ content? According to the rating, the true story about a man overcoming a speech impediment, as seen in The King’s Speech, deserves the same amount of caution as torture-porn films such the Saw franchise. Movie critic, Michael Phillips, in an article for the “Chicago Tribune,” wrote “If ‘The King’s Speech’ and ‘Saw 3D’ warrant the same rating, then the system underneath leaves me speechless” (Phillips). It is arguable whether the profanity used in The King’s Speech is offensive, particularly to younger children; however, one cannot argue that The King’s Speech is equally offensive as Saw 3D or The Human Centipede. If they are not equally offensive, they should not have equal ratings. The vagueness of the ratings system necessitates that it be updated.

          In attempts to make the ratings clearer, the MPAA started including descriptions with the rating during the 90s (“Motion Picture”). As described on their website, the rating descriptor “aims to convey with precision why the film received its rating” (“How to Read a Rating”). Adding these descriptions did help, allowing parents to know the general content of a movie. However, the descriptions are still too vague. The MPAA does modify the content, but these modifications are also unclear. Some PG-13 rated movies contain “violence,” “combat violence,” “sci-fi violence,” “fantasy action violence” and “intense war violence” (“PG-13”). Essentially, these modifiers only name the genre of the movie. Is there a difference between “combat violence” and “war violence”? It can be seen that these descriptions are not very precise.

          While the present ratings system is useful, it is not as effective as it should be. It does provide general information about movie content, but it needs a revision. In a study similar to the ones mentioned above, Lucille Jenkins et al. suggest that the ratings could be improved by “the addition of a quantitative component” (Jenkins). However, this idea needs to be taken further and the current letter system replaced by a quantitative system. Referring to how they rate films, Graves wrote, “When we assign ratings to films, we do not make qualitative judgments; we are not film critics or censors” (Graves). However, they are making a “qualitative judgment” when they decide whether certain content is worth a PG-13 or an R-rating. A quantitative system would help CARA achieve its goal and reduce ratings creep, inconsistency and vagueness.

          To make the ratings system more effective, the MPAA should adopt a system similar to the one used by Kids-in-Mind.com.  As posted on their website, Kinds-in-Mind claim, “We do not assign an inscrutable rating based on age but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE & PROFANITY, on a scale of 0 to 10, and we explain in detail why a film rates high or low in a specific category” (Kinds-in-Mind). Instead of giving a movie an R-rating, the MPAA should assign a rating similar to four-seven-six (reflecting the amount of sex, violence, and profanity) and then have a detailed outline of the content on their website.

          While not a perfect solution, a quantitative ratings system would cut down on the amount of ratings creep. Instead of deciding from movie to movie which deserves an R-rating and which deserves a PG-13 rating, they determine up front how to scale content when the quantitative system is implemented. This will give them a baseline for consistency. Establishing a standardized way to rate films will, of course, be the tricky part. Will sex be measured by screen time, body parts shown or some other way? But, once a way has been chosen and implemented, it will help prevent the amount of ratings creep. One way in that it would help ratings creep is that it would be more transparent; it would be a lot easier to keep track of one specific category and to tell when ratings are creeping.

          Another problem that a quantitative ratings system could solve is inconsistency. A scale of one to ten is objective whereas a letter rating is subjective. Saying a movie, in regards to violence, earns a seven out of ten would be easier than deciding whether it deserves a PG-13 or an R rating. Because the one letter grade would be changed to a three category content grade (or whatever is decided upon), it would be more consistent. The rating given to one category would not be influence by the amount in another, thus making it easier to be consistent in scaling it. The raters would only have to look at and measure one category at a time, instead of weighing all of the content and coming up with an average rating for the entire movie.

          The four-seven-six example would not necessarily remove the vagueness of the current ratings. However, having a detailed description on a website explaining each category would. Instead of saying that a movie contains “war violence,” it would describe the violence--people are shot with blood splatter, a man gets his arm blown off, etc. It would also clarify the sexual content by saying whether it was consensual or forced, a same sex encounter, etc. Also, some parents may be more concerned about one type of content over another. By having the content divided, the specific content in question would be more accessible to parents and will better help them decide which movies are ok for their children to view.

          In addition to preventing ratings creep, inconsistency and vagueness, a switch to a quantitative system would prevent the MPAA from interpreting context and establishing restrictions. Context is more subjective than content. It is true that a war movie might be a more realistic portrayal of violence then the glamorized action blockbuster; but, violence is still violence and some people may want to avoid all of it. A person who wants to avoid all forms of violence would be more easily able to do so with a categorical rating of content.

          This type of ratings system would also prevent the MPAA from restricting audiences. It could be argued whether the MPAA should have the right to do so, but I am not going to go into detail about that here. However, Joan Graves, did write that “The ratings system exists for one purpose: to inform parents about the content of films” (Graves). Therefore, they should not censor who sees what, but should leave that to the individual and parents. Potts et al. point out that “The assertion, or assumption, by the MPAA . . . that CARA raters are somehow valid representatives of the American public, and that their judgments reflect the public's values, is implausible” (Potts). The members of CARA cannot represent the American norm and they should not try; parents should decide what their children see.

          In addition to censoring children, the ratings system is also censoring filmmakers. Filmmakers try and earn money from their movies; but a restrictive rating would decrease the prospective audience and, subsequently, box office earnings. So, in order to reach the widest possible audience, filmmakers edit, and censor, their movies to get a lower rating. Steven Zeitchik, in an article for the “LA Times,” wrote that 

An NC-17 rating means anyone younger than 17 cannot see the movie in theaters — even if they are accompanied by an adult. Many theater chains have a policy of not exhibiting NC-17 films, and some media outlets refuse to carry ads for NC-17 movies. That means the box office receipts and cultural impact of an NC-17 film are likely to be much more limited than an R-rated movie. (Zeitchik “Two Films”)

Many NC-17 rated movies are mature takes on adult themes, but they are not available because of their rating. In an interview with “TIME,” Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the MPAA, said, “Some people still see this as a censorship board. It's not. It's an information system. It's actually designed to keep censors at bay” (Cruz). The MPAA may be defending movies from government-imposed censorship, but the structure of the current system is only shifting the censorship to distributors and theaters.

          In order for the present ratings system to better fulfill its purpose, it needs to switch from the subjective letter grade based system to an objective quantitative system. Ratings creep, inconsistency and ambiguity in ratings prevent the system from fulfilling its purpose. The ratings system also is imposing its own interpretations on context and is restricting people from seeing certain films. However, a change to a ratings system that objectively assigns content (sex, violence, etc.) a number from one to ten and provides an explanation of the number on its website would greatly help in reducing the current system’s problems.  The next question is to decide how to quantify content.

Works Cited

     Cruz, Gilbert. "Happy 40th Birthday, Movie Ratings." Time.com. Time, 30 Oct. 2008. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

     "Film Ratings." MPAA.org. Motion Picture Association of America, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

     Graves, Joan. "MPAA Ratings Chief Defends Movie Ratings." The Hollywood Reporter n.d.: n. pag. 23 Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

     "Gunner Palace." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     "How to Read a Rating." MPAA.org. Motion Picture Association of America, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     Jenkins, Lucille, Theresa Webb, Nick Brown, A.A. Afifi, and Jess Kraus. "An Evaluation of the Motion Picture Association of America’s Treatment of Violence in PG-, PG-13–, and R-Rated Films." Pediatrics 115.5 (2005): E512-517. 1 May 2005. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.

     "Kids-In-Mind." Kids-In-Mind.com. Kids-in-Mind, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     "Motion Picture Association of America Film Rating System." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     Nalkur, Priya G., Patrick E. Jamieson, and Daniel Romer. "The Effectiveness of the Motion Picture Association of America's Rating System in Screening Explicit Violence and Sex in Top-ranked Movies From 1950 to 2006." Journal of Adolescent Health 47.5 (2010): 440-47. ScienceDirect. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

     "PG-13-Rated Movies (MPAA)." MovieInsider.com. The Movie Insider, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     Phillips, Michael. "There's a Word for the MPAA...." ChicagoTribune.com. Chicago Tribune, 4 Nov. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     Potts, Richard, and Angela Belden. "Parental Guidance: A Content Analysis of MPAA Motion Picture Rating Justifications 1993–2005." Current Psychology 28.4 (2009): 266-83. SpringerLink. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

     Sacks, Ethan. "‘Bully’ Rating Reversal: The MPAA and Weinstein Co. Agree on Compromise That Nets Documentary PG-13." NY Daily News. Daily News America, 5 Apr. 2012. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

     Tucker, Michael. "War May Be Hell...But Fighting the MPAA Over an 'R' Rating Is F*@#in' Lethal." Documentary.org. International Documentary Association, Feb. 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     "Ratings History." MPAA.org. Motion Picture Association of America, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.

     Wampler, Scott. "Why Did the MPAA Give 'Blue Valentine' an NC-17 Rating? You'll Never Guess." Examiner.com. Examiner, 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     Zeitchik, Steven. "'Blue Valentine' Wins MPAA Appeal, Will Be Released as an R-rated Film." 24 Frames. Los Angeles Times, 8 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

     Zeitchik, Steven. "'Bully' Rating: Some, but Not All, Profanity Cut to Get PG-13." 24 Frames. Los Angeles Times, 5 Apr. 2012. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

     Zeitchik, Steven. "Two Films, Two Sex Scenes, Two Different Ratings." 24 Frames. Los Angeles Times, 4 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.