A Letter to Momo
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The Society, which is made up of 61 of the country's most prominent movie critics, held its 45th annual awards voting meeting at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City. 46 members voted. Scrolls will be sent to the winners.
FILM HERITAGE AWARDS: 1. The Film Foundation (on its 20-year anniversary) 2. "Chaplin at Keystone" (Flicker Alley) 3. "Elia Kazan Collection" (Fox) 4. John Ford's "Upstream" (1927), one of 75 films recently found in the New Zealand Film Archive and repatriated to the U.S. with the cooperation of the National Film Preservation Foundation 5. "On the Bowery" (Restored by Davide Pozzi of the Cineteca del Comune di Bologna's L'Immagine Ritrovata in cooperation with the Rogosin Heritage and Anthology Film Archives and distributed by Milestone.) 6. "Word Is Out" (Restored by Ross Lipman for the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Outfest Legacy Project and distributed by Milestone.)
The meeting was dedicated to the memory of our colleague Peter Brunette.
Additionally, the society issued two statements, one protesting the "inconsistent and censorious" practices of the MPAA ratings board, the other condemning the Iranian governments harsh treatment of the filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. The full texts of the statements are below:
STATEMENT ON THE MPAA RATINGS SYSTEM The members of the National Society of Film Critics applaud the recent decision by the Classification & Ratings Administration of the Motion Picture Association of America to change the rating of "Blue Valentine" from NC-17 to R. But several other recent decisions by CARA have been allowed to stand, and these call into question the integrity and legitimacy of that office as it is presently constituted.
"The King's Speech," the drama about King George VI's attempt to overcome his speech impediment, was rated R for "language," specifically, several moments where the King is instructed by his speech therapist to swear to relieve the pressure of his stammer.
"The Tillman Story," the documentary about the military cover-up of the death of Corporal Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, was similarly rated R for "language." In the case of that film the offending content is the agitated language of soldiers in combat fearing for their lives.
"A Film Unfinished," which contains footage taken by the Nazis inside the Warsaw Ghetto, was given an R for "disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities, including graphic nudity."
In the case of the documentaries "The Tillman Story" and "A Film Unfinished," this amounts to CARA assigning a rating to reality.
In an editorial on the MPAA's web site, Joan Graves, the head of CARA, claims, "These ratings are purely informational."
This is simply untrue.
An R rating restricts who can get in to see a film and thus its potential earnings. An NC-17 rating, such as was originally assigned to "Blue Valentine," will keep a film out of many theater chains and can deny its being advertised on most television networks and in many newspapers.
This can have an especially damaging effect on the earning potential of independently made films, such as those mentioned above, which do not have access to the large advertising budgets at the disposal of the major studios -- studios, which, as CARA's record indicates, have received much more lenient ratings for similar content.
Another damaging inconsistency is CARA's record of judging sexual content more harshly than it does violence. We by no means advocate condemning violence in movies, and we do not believe we are doing so by pointing out that there is no equivalence between an R given to the most explicit horror images and the same rating given to a drama in which King George VI utters a four letter word. And certainly no equivalence to a historical document showing the emaciated bodies of dead Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Despite Ms. Graves' contention that CARA decisions are "purely informational," it's clear that the board has become an agency of de facto censorship. There is a difference between giving parents the information they need to make a decision as to which films they want their children to see, and a system whose decisions make it harder for adults -- and their children -- to see films clearly meant for them.
The National Society of Film Critics believes that CARA has for too long demonstrated these inconsistencies and has refused to explain itself. We would like to believe that the major studios who constitute the membership of the MPAA care enough about the availability of movies to recognize that the ratings system should be open and consistent, not arbitrary and unfair, and that films from independent distributors should be judged by the same criteria as their own releases. It has become a system that enforces the kind of moral policing that, when it was founded in 1968, it was intended to prevent.
STATEMENT ON JAILED IRANIAN DIRECTORS On December 18, 2010, an Iranian court sentenced Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof to six years in prison and banned both from filmmaking for 20 years for "colluding in gatherings and making propaganda against the regime."
The members of the National Society of Film Critics add their voices to those of the many other individuals and organizations who have protested this injustice. We strongly urge the Iranian government to release both artists, whose work can only further the advancement of such values as justice, compassion, tolerance, and human dignity. Jafar Panahi's films in particular have won international awards, earned the accolades of critics all over the world, and delighted and inspired audiences everywhere they are shown.
Not only does the court's decision impose an outrageous penalty on artists whose sole crime is telling the truth, but it deprives Iran and the world of future works by filmmakers of outstanding talent and vision.
We intend our protest to affirm the value of artistic expression and the power of cinema to transcend political differences and unite people in their common humanity. We hope that the Iranian government will recognize the wisdom of releasing Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof immediately in the name of these universal principles.
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