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While the general public is familiar with the MPAA ratings that accompany the movies they watch–G, PG, PG-13, R–and what the ratings mean, it is safe to say that most moviegoers don’t really know, or care, what the Motion Picture Association of America is or how its members decide what film gets what rating. But documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick thinks that consumers should be aware of the intricate politics and enormous hypocrisy of the MPAA. With satirical humor–not to mention two female detectives who hunt MPAA board members down and make them confess everything–he unravels the mystery of the MPAA’s secretive ways in “This Film Is Not Rated,” which opens in limited release this weekend before airing on the Independent Film Channel this fall.

In theory, the MPAA is simply a voluntary ratings system in which movie executives from different studios serve for a predetermined length of time on the ratings board that hands out a rating based on a film’s content. No filmmaker is required to submit his or her film to the MPAA ratings board for approval. However, the MPAA works closely with the National Association of Theater Owners, and they like the ratings system. So if a film is not rated, or has the dreaded NC-17 rating, the chance of a film having commercial success is slim.

However, the MPAA system becomes even more complicated in light of the fact that the members of the board are from conflicting studios, so there’s just a teeny bit of sabotage going on in the ratings decision making process. For example, if you think a fellow studio has a potential blockbuster on its hands, maybe you want it to get an “R” rating instead of a “PG-13” rating, so its audience will be smaller. On the other hand, all studio execs want to reach that target demographic of young white males, so violence and women’s breasts don’t receive the same kind of rating as male nudity or other controversial elements.

Dick supports these claims by interviewing numerous directors, including Kevin Smith (“Clerks”) and Matt Stone ( “South Park”), who have attempted to do battle with the MPAA and have often lost those battles. With both humor and anger the directors recount the notes they have been given by the MPAA instructing them on how to achieve a different rating by editing the film differently–even though the MPAA is not supposed to give such suggestions.

I don’t agree with some of the conclusions “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” comes to when exploring how to solve the problem of the MPAA , but I still think this movie is important viewing for anyone who has bought a movie ticket based on a movie’s MPAA rating. The MPAA does not exist to be a friendly moral gatekeeper to guide or protect you or your family but is a corrupted system that is arbitrarily legislating morality and censoring content. And it’s the degree of corruption that makes “This Film” so shocking.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” received an NC-17 rating for its objectionable content.

Thumbing through the latest celebrity-strewn Gap ad, part of the company’s new “t-shirt shop” campaign, I found the usual melange of supermodels, iconic rockers, film legends, and rising stars. All looking enigmatic, gazing into the camera, straight at you, saying–what?

Then I turned the page and found “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven, flaunting his Star of David pendant.

The advertising masterminds behind this campaign want us to equate shopping at the Gap with individuality, personal style, and self-expression–so says the p.r. Isn’t that why you shop at the Gap? I hope so, because you can hardly see the t-shirts in the artsy photos.

If that’s the case, consider what we learn about Piven, or ourselves, from his pose. He’s contorted into a pretzel-like arrangement, with arms entwined, one hand over his face. Clenched between his lips, in one version of the ad, is a chain, and from it dangles a large metal Mogen David. (In another version, right, the chain is around his neck, the Mogen David resting on his chest.)

Maybe Piven–who plays the ruthless, trash-talking, wife-dissing Hollywood agent Ari Gold on “Entourage” and starred in the movie “Keeping Up with the Steins,” about a driven Hollywood agent competing with other Hollywood Jews to throw the most expensive, extravagant Bar Mitzvah party in history–is all tied up in knots about the fact that it’s 2006 and he’s helping to perpetuate hoary media stereotypes of Jews.

Against a backdrop of slams at the U.S. government and lectures on how the architectural industrialization and tourist culture is ruining the local flavor of N.Y.C. neighborhoods, “Looking for Kitty” (opening today) is a story of friendship between two men, both of them chasing memories of the women who have left them.

Edward Burns’ grieving widower is a private detective who is hired by a high-school baseball coach (Paul Krumholtz) to help him find his missing wife. Krumholtz plays a good, if insular guy from Peekskill (which Burns’s character constantly calls “Poughkeepsie”) whose entire life was centered on the local level–his job as a Little League coach and his wife, nothing else. Each character in his own way has excluded himself from experiences outside the parameters of his comfort zone; by being in each other’s lives they teach each other to embrace the reality of their circumstances and engage with the world around them. The two protagonists are themselves “New York holdouts,” old-school guys who refuse to relinquish their hold on their emotional geography and persist in standing strong against the winds of change.

Krumholtz’s dogged adherence to the belief that his wife was seduced by a culture of excess and that she really wants to come back is pathetic–but it is also relatable. To varying degrees, we’ve all been there, adhering to ideals that we’ll never reach or wanting people who are out of our reach. For his part, the detective explains that he’s not using the internet because he likes to do things the old-fashioned way, “the way Bogie woulda done it.” Yet, he has rejected one of the more old-fashioned elements with which he was raised, Catholicism (a common theme in Burns’s work), because he notes that even without the religious guilt, “I felt sh—y enough about myself already.” The two help each other change, and even though each one goes home alone, they ultimately “leave because it is time to go,” which is a subtle lesson that not everyone learns.

Portraying a neighbor, Connie Britton provides Burns’ character with a moment of distraction and a tortured smolder, while Rachel Dratch, playing a woman in a bar, serves as a temptation to the fiercely loyal Krumholtz. This film is also noteworthy for the return of Ari Meyers (of TV’s “Kate and Allie”), and features some odd but evocative and moving moments from both Burns and Krumholtz.

All of the women are underused, which is probably intentional, since the press kit talks of the “mechanics and mysteries of male bonding.” Though it’s pretty clear that the connections between Burns’ and Krumholtz’s characters are superficially about beer and baseball, there is something deeper that binds them: the brotherhood of loss and a lingering obstinacy when it comes to accepting what life has dealt.

I left the theater feeling sadder, but not significantly. The experience felt a little like tofu–spongy, with an indeterminate texture; I knew there was protein to the dish as a whole. But when lasting satisfaction eluded me, it was hard to admit that it was over. Which is, perhaps, the point.

There’s something about the word fluid, and it’s not something good. It conjures up Ben Stiller and untraditional “hair gel”; or Bill Clinton and a Navy Gap dress; or in its least offensive incarnation, “lighter fluid.” But when you add the word “Madonna” to the word “fluid,” you know it’s gonna be trouble.

But since mentions of Madonna these days are usually tempered by the word “Kabbalah,” the newest result to this equation is:

Madonna+Kabbalah+fluid=nuclear waste disposal.

Of course. MSNBC reports:

The singer and her hubby, director Guy Ritchie, have been “lobbying the government and nuclear industry over a scheme to clean up radioactive waste with a supposedly magic Kabbalah fluid,” according to London’s Sunday Times. The power couple has approached various British government agencies, urging the detoxing powers of a “mystical” liquid developed by the mystical offshoot of Judaism, which is currently trendy among some celebs.

One London official called the Material Girl’s scientific methodology “bollocks.” Frankly, I’m no scientist, but I think that pronouncement errs on the side of being overly kind and respectful. I was just in Safed, Israel–the home of real Kabbalah–less than two weeks before Katyusha rockets fell on the region, and there was no evidence of a science research facility producing a magical liquid that cleans up radioactive waste. Maybe it was hidden between the candle factory and the handmade-jewelry vendors. However, I remember hearing that Kabbalah mystics were in the midst of working on a product called Shimmer, which is both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

Perhaps because this “fluid” story is so out there, more Madge news–with this item far less controversial or wacky–also recently hit the media. Now that she has her kids Lola and Rocco, she says, she understands how important it is to help the orphans of the world, and she’s starting in Malawi:

Madonna plans to raise at least $3 million for programs to support orphans in Malawi, and is giving $1 million to fund a documentary about the plight of children there. She has also teamed up with developing-world economic leader Jeffrey Sachs on programs to improve the health, agriculture and economy of a village in Malawi, and she’s met with former President Clinton about bringing low-cost medicines to the area.

Good. Help the children. Bring Bill Clinton (but keep him away from Gap dresses). And definitely bring in the low-cost medicines. As long as they’re not in fluid form.