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Just to show I am not really Grinch-y about Christmas specials, I’m very happy that Christmas with the King Family is out on DVD. Those of us who grew up with the King Family in the 1960’s remember their cheery good humor and lovely harmonies. This show, also broadcast on PBS, has highlights from the 17 holiday specials they did over the years, with reminiscences from the King Sisters and the cousins. In one touching moment that will resonate with today’s audience, one of the sisters gets a surprise visit from her son, who was in the military, captured on camera for the 1967 show. The King family is still going strong — you can follow them on Facebook.

Following my phone meeting with Joan Graves and Marilyn Gordon of the MPAA and the FTC’s report (citing my article) criticizing the motion picture industry, the MPAA has informed me that it will be making some changes to its rules after the first of the year. While they did not give me any details, I believe that the new rules will improve the alerts on “green band” trailers. As I reported in September, the MPAA made an unannounced change in April of this year, switching the “green band” language that begins most movie trailers from the unambiguous “approved for all audiences” to the meaningless “approved for appropriate audiences.” They may also address some other concerns in the FTC report, including the marketing of promotional tie-ins for children that market PG-13 movies, un-rated DVD versions of previously rated movies, and some response to the FTC’s finding that “In its review of marketing plans and ad placements, the Commission found explicit and pervasive targeting of very young children for PG-13 movies,” including specific attempts to disguise the level of violence in the marketing campaign.
I am hopeful about their willingness to address the concerns I raised and I will provide the details of the MPAA’s new rules as soon as they are available.
On a related note, the LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein has a very good point to make today about the MPAA’s poor judgment in giving the new Meryl Streep movie, “It’s Complicated” an R based not on a scene of pot smoking by people in their 50’s but because there are no bad consequences.

Apparently, everything would’ve been fine if only the characters had been killed in a gory car crash because their reflexes were slightly impaired after sharing the joint, which surely would’ve served as a stern warning to kids not to ever touch the evil weed.

It’s another outrageous example of the lunatic priorities of the MPAA, which claims to serve the interests of parents but actually dances to its crazy drummer, happily handing out PG-13 ratings to unbelievably violent movies like “Terminator: Salvation” while whipping out the R rating at the first sign of a few naked breasts or, God forbid, an unsheathed penis. In Rob Marshall’s upcoming film, “Nine,” Daniel Day-Lewis smokes non stop through the entire film, but since it’s only cancer-causing tobacco, the MPAA had no problems giving the film a PG-13 rating. That’s a travesty. If you’re going to restrict kids from seeing a movie because of pot smoking, you certainly should apply similar standards to heedless cigarette smoking.

The R rating for “It’s Complicated,” which hits theaters Christmas Day, is especially ludicrous. It would be one thing if we saw Kristen Stewart smoking weed in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” since the movie is right in the sweet spot for teens and tweeners. But if the MPAA is really sticking up for families everywhere, it hardly seems to be a parental concern that impressionable kids are going to be flocking to see a romantic comedy featuring actors who are — in the case of Streep and Martin — even older than some of their grandparents.

Sarah Ferguson, former wife of Prince Andrew and mother of two of Queen Elizabeth’s grandchildren, is the producer of “Young Victoria,” the new movie about her children’s great-great-great-great grandmother, who ruled the British Empire for 63 years. Ferguson has a touching essay in the Huffington Post about her inspiration in making the movie. Clearly, as one young royal bride, she identified with the queen’s challenges in finding privacy and connection in the midst of palace intrigue and public scrutiny.

I became fascinated by the love story of Victoria and Albert. Maybe because my own great love — my Andrew — was not at home. But whatever it took I would study with vigour the love story of these two incredible people.

When I wrote the book Victoria and Albert: Life at Osbourne House in 1991, extracts from Victoria’s diary hugely inspired my idea that this great love story had to become a movie.

Ferguson studied the queen’s letters, reading her description of her husband as
“father, mother, friend, companion, advisor, lover, guardian angel.” She wrote,

“He did everything — everywhere! Nothing did I do without him, from the greatest to the smallest, from State Affairs, from Political Questions to the arranging (of) our Albums, our little photographs, the designing and ordering of Jewelry, the buying of a dress or a bonnet … all was done together; my first word was ‘I must ask Albert.'”

Ferguson, working with top talent behind the camera and on screen, has produced, as she hoped, a movie Her Majesty would be proud to watch. I hope it inspires viewers to learn more about this remarkable woman and her true love story.

There’s no one I enjoy talking to about movies more than Nick Digilio, and it was a blast to hear his thoughts on the holiday season releases. Thanks for having me on the show!

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