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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Grandma
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some drug use
Release Date:
August 21, 2015

 

Iris
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Release Date:
May 1, 2015

We Are Your Friends
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexual content and some nudity
Release Date:
August 28, 2015

 

Aloha
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments
Release Date:
May 30, 2015

Z for Zachariah
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, partial nudity, and brief strong language
Release Date:
August 28, 2015

 

Big Game
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some language
Release Date:
June 26, 2015

New in Theaters

grade:
B+

Grandma

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language and some drug use
Release Date:
August 21, 2015
grade:
B-

We Are Your Friends

Lowest Recommended Age:
Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexual content and some nudity
Release Date:
August 28, 2015
grade:
B+

Z for Zachariah

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, partial nudity, and brief strong language
Release Date:
August 28, 2015

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New to DVD

pick of the week
grade:
B+

Iris

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Release Date:
May 1, 2015
grade:
B

Aloha

Lowest Recommended Age:
High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments
Release Date:
May 30, 2015
grade:
B

Big Game

Lowest Recommended Age:
Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some language
Release Date:
June 26, 2015

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MPAA Trailer Rule Update

posted by Nell Minow

Top entertainment reporter/commentator for the LA Times Patrick Goldstein wrote a terrific blog post about my story on the MPAA’s secret change to the rules governing the content of trailers, calling the consequences of this change “a whole new level of unintelligibility.” My story in the Chicago Sun-Times and commentary here got nice mentions in Christianity Today (thank you, Brandon Fibbs), Reel Fanatic (thank you, Keith Demko), and Movie Marketing Madness (thank you, Chris Thilk). And thanks to Kevin “BDK” McCarthy for inviting me to discuss this issue in his weekly podcast.
I heard from the MPAA, too. Elizabeth Kaltman, MPAA vice president for corporate communications, who was quoted in my article, wrote a comment here on my blog post. Here it is in full, followed by my response:

Ms. Minow got it wrong. The MPAA’s Advertising Administration has not eliminated restrictions on film advertising; rather, we have further enhanced the process to ensure appropriate content is put in front of the right audiences. To be clear, what this means is that the content of the trailer is appropriate for the audience viewing the trailer with the movie they have chosen to see.

The intent of the change from “All Audience” tags to “Appropriate Audience” tags is to indicate to the audience that we consider the placement of the advertising material is appropriate for that audience, but that it may not be appropriate for all audiences. This change allows distributors greater freedom to accurately target and promote their movies, while at the same time honoring our pledge to parents that stronger advertising material will not reach younger audiences.

As Ms. Minow accurately points out, the Advertising Administration goes to great lengths to limit access to content which is intended for mature audiences.

Over the course of many years we have received feedback from parents that content for some movies in a trailer with an “All Audiences” tag was misleading. This new change reflects the Advertising Administration’s increased vigilance to target advertising to appropriate audiences, in keeping with the purpose of ensuring that advertising content reflects the true spirit of the film.

First, I want to thank Ms. Kaltman, who was extremely helpful and responsive as I was writing my article. I appreciate the difficulty of her position. I know how hard it is to have to try to justify actions and positions like the ones taken by the MPAA here. I well understand the techniques of spin and distraction. I appreciate that she has tried her best, but her comment further reveals the failure of any credibility in the MPAA’s arguments. She is unable to dispute any of the facts or arguments I presented.
Ms. Kaltman begins by saying I am wrong, but she then explicitly or implicitly concedes every point I made. She says “To be clear, what this means is that the content of the trailer is appropriate for the audience viewing the trailer with the movie they have chosen to see.” Well, if some determination has been made about the content of the trailer, why not disclose it? Since a significant number of movie trailers are assigned to films by the theater manager, wouldn’t it be helpful to them as well as to parents to have enough information to be able to understand the basis for the “appropriate” determination? She does not respond to my point that a trailer with PG-13-level violence could be paired with a movie like this week’s “The Informant!” that is rated R for language only.
Significantly, Ms. Kaltman does not address the two most significant objections I made to the policy. The first is that the prevalence of trailers online, uncoupled from any “appropriate” feature films, makes it impossible to limit them to “appropriate” audiences. Aggregator sites like Yahoo! Movies, Apple Trailers, and YouTube show dozens of trailers that can be accessed by anyone, so there is not way to limit them to “appropriate” audiences. She says:

The intent of the change from “All Audience” tags to “Appropriate Audience” tags is to indicate to the audience that we consider the placement of the advertising material is appropriate for that audience, but that it may not be appropriate for all audiences. This change allows distributors greater freedom to accurately target and promote their movies, while at the same time honoring our pledge to parents that stronger advertising material will not reach younger audiences.

But she does not explain how to ensure that “stronger advertising material” that “may not be appropriate for all audiences” will “not reach younger audiences” when they can access the trailers online without any guidance for parents at the beginning of the trailer about the “stronger” material it contains.
My second objection is to the MPAA’s decision to make this change without any public announcement, explanation, or opportunity to comment. In what way is this “honoring our pledge to parents?”
Ms. Kaltman was unable to find a single factual error in what I wrote. She objects only to my characterization of the change in policy as “eliminating restrictions.” In her view they have “further enhanced the process.” I believe the dictionary supports my language. Material that previously was not permitted in a trailer is now permitted. That is what eliminating restrictions means. It is now harder to figure out whether a trailer contains material that may not be suitable for all audience members. That does not meet any definition of enhancing the process. Trying to sneak this change past parents is about as far from an enhancement as it is possible to be. I believe the MPAA knew they were doing something parents would not like and that is why they did not tell anyone.
I have written to the MPAA to ask them to reconsider this decision and to make a commitment to public disclosure of any further changes to the rules. I have also written to the Division of Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to ask them to investigate whether this change violates the rules about marketing inappropriate films to underage children. I have asked for meetings with both, and will keep you posted on any replies.

Fame

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:R
Movie Release Date:1980
DVD Release Date:2009
B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: R
Movie Release Date: 1980
DVD Release Date: 2009

Less a movie than a mosaic, this remake of the 1980 classic with the Oscar-winning title anthem about the high school for the performing arts has been re-imagined for the hyper-linked and just plain hyper 21st century. As in the original, we follow the stories of aspiring performers from their first audition through four years of high school. But this time, so many characters are thrown at us that we never connect with any of them. This film is as much an artifact of its era as the dancing-in-the-streets first one, perhaps in ways it did not intend. It is a revealing reflection of its target audience: kids used to keeping up to date via tweets and Facebook status lines, the generation that cannot see the line between access to information and understanding the information’s context and import.

It indicates more than it shows, not because it is subtle, but because it is frantic, trying to follow the lives of ten students over four years in less than two hours. Narrative is pushed to one side. Even the too-brief but excellent musical numbers are chopped up and intercut not so much as an artistic statement as a recognition that society as a whole now meets the clinical definition of ADD.

The talented cast passes by so quickly it is like watching a 107-minute trailer. Naturi Naughton makes a strong impression in vocal numbers that include “Out Here on My Own” from the 1980 film. Kay Panabaker has a sweet honesty that comes across well on screen and more than any of the others she shows us the difference in her character as she grows up and gains confidence. An exceptionally strong cast of adults adds some depth to the faculty roles, including “Will and Grace’s” Megan Mullally and “Frasier’s” Bebe Neuwirth and Kelsey Grammer along with movie and theater veteran Charles S. Dutton. If only they had been able to sit down writer Alison Burnett and director Kevin Tancharoen to give them the kind of stern pep talk about craft and discipline that they give to their students, this would have been a better movie.

A Teacher’s Inspiration

posted by Nell Minow

There’s a great essay in today’s Washington Post by a high school teacher named Nancy Schnog who found inspiration in a book written by another high school teacher, Bel Kaufman, in 1964. It is Up the Down Staircase. Kaufman, the grand-daughter of beloved writer Sholom Aleichem, whose stories inspired “Fiddler on the Roof,” wrote an epistolary novel (made up of notes, letters, memos, reports, fliers, and other written ephemera) about

an English teacher’s struggles with school bureaucracy, with students up and down the axis of caring to couldn’t-care-less, and with her inner self as she strives to do a job that asks everything — oversee, organize, proctor, chaperone, coach — except the thing she’s there to do: teach.

The book was an enormous hit in the 1960’s, translated into 16 languages and made into an award-winning film starring Sandy Dennis.

Schnog writes:

The novel poses the question that still haunts many an English teacher: Should I stay and fight on behalf of literature, or go earn money at a job with intellectual challenges, edible food, bathroom breaks and a blissful absence of school bells?

This was the dilemma ruining my sleep. Even though as a private-school teacher I benefited from small class sizes, the multitasking high school grind was dragging me down. My daily rounds included five literature classes with roughly 10 minutes to review assigned books before class. That was all the time I had to prepare lessons and grade papers too. In between 250 minutes of instruction each day, the “free periods” were a mind-numbing dash from students’ questions to parents’ e-mails to administrative duties. Throw in, too, the daily troubleshooting: investigating a case of plagiarism, fixing the Xerox machine (again), explaining to the girl texting during class why she is going to the discipline committee.

All this, plus the biggest problem of all: how, while on the run, to instill passion for serious literature in a generation of students with a shrinking interest in reading, as iPods, Facebook and YouTube consume their mental universe.

Schnog was able to speak with Kaufman, now 98 years old and glad to explain “that the human encounter between teacher and student is often a more powerful teaching tool than the academic content on a paper or test.” Now that is a good lesson.

Tribute: Larry Gelbart

posted by Nell Minow

Larry Gelbart, one of the most acclaimed and prodigiously productive writers of almost seven decades died this week at age 81. If you’ve laughed since the 1940’s, you almost certainly know his work. He got started as a teenager writing for Danny Thomas’ radio show and went on to work with Neil Simon, Woody Allen, and Mel Brooks on the legendary writing staff of the Sid Caesar show. He went on to co-create the television version of “M*A*S*H,” to co-write the script for “Tootsie,” and to write the Broadway hits “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (made into a movie with Zero Mostel) and “City of Angels” (now being adapted into a film).

And as this lovely tribute by Bob Elisberg notes, he was also a man of great principle and kindness.

There may have been more renowned writers in a single medium, but his versatility was breathtaking, and so he may have been the most successful and best writer ever in America who wrote in all three major media — the theater, movies and television.

Be sure to read Elisberg’s piece, especially the quote at the end from Gelbart about being a writer.

Here is Gelbart, talking about how television has changed society and how he’d like to be remembered.

Here is my favorite scene from “Tootsie” (second on the American Film Institute’s list of the hundred funniest American films of all time).

And here is the trailer for the hilarious “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

NPR’s Scott Simon also has a fine essay about Gelbart, describing him as “a great wit, who wrote with great heart.” It’s good to know that we still have another movie from him to look forward to.

Previous Posts

Worst Accents in Movies
Thanks to Indiewire for including me in this great rundown of the all-time worst movie accents. Critics vented frustration and fury, many picking Quentin Tarantino and Dick van Dyke, but I went with two actors who played Robin ...

posted 2:13:18pm Aug. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Grandma
Lily Tomlin is cranky, feisty, tough, and utterly irresistible in this story of a grandmother who has to visit past decisions about her own life in order ...

posted 5:50:55pm Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

We Are Your Friends
Director Max Joseph brings some of the "Catfish" sensibility to "We Are Your Friends," with an intimate, documentary feel and a storyline ...

posted 5:35:22pm Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Z for Zachariah
In 1959, a movie called The World, The Flesh And The Devil imagined a post-apocalyptic world with three surviving humans. In the words of the 1960's television series, "The Mod Squad," they could be described as "one black, one white, one ...

posted 5:31:48pm Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Being Evel
Evel Knievel was an international celebrity in the 1960's-70's, known for three things: showmanship, stunts that succeeded, and stunts that failed. He was recognized for jumping over 19 cars in his motorcycle, for crash-landing after trying to ...

posted 5:13:51pm Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

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