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Ratings war


Guess which film received an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America: one containing eight seconds of sexual activity (not showing penetration) or one beginning with 26 consecutive minutes of bodies being blown to pieces, decapitated heads rolling around and other realistic violence and gore.

If you’ve played “The Ratings Game” ( ratingsgame) on L.I.E.’s official Web site, you already know the first film referred to above is L.I.E. itself, rated NC-17 (now playing at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak), while the other is the R-rated Saving Private Ryan.

In addition to the game, the creators of L.I.E. have posted essays lambasting the MPAA and its rating process, calling it blatant censorship. All this in response to their film being “rated NC-17 for some explicit sexual content,” for containing a frank conversation about pedophilia, teens contemplating homosexual feelings and a few seconds where a man’s bare rear end is visible. There’s even a form letter calling for a revision to the rating system that people can e-mail directly from the site to their state’s senators.

While films distributed in this country are not required by law to be submitted for an MPAA rating, practically all movie theater chains refuse to carry an unrated movie. In order to be shown at New York City-area United Artists theatres, L.I.E. was submitted to a board of 12 anonymous parents that single-handedly decides the rating that motion pictures receive, and was branded with the rarely used NC-17.

The MPAA’s official mission statement, carried out by the mysterious dozen, reads, “… the rating system is a simple one: to offer to parents some advance information about movies so that parents can decide what movies they want their children to see or not to see.”

However, parents won’t have any chance to decide if their children can see L.I.E. until it becomes available on video. Minors are strictly prohibited from attending any movie rated NC-17, even if accompanied by their parents.

For more on the MPAA rating process and its effects on the film industry, visit and

Metro Times editorial assistant Nicole Jones contributed to The Hot & the Bothered, which is edited by George Tysh. E-mail him at

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