BULLY Update

Happy Saturday, b-rollers! A few updates on Bully, per my earlier post on the topic.

First of all, the film opened yesterday in New York and Los Angeles – unrated. After failing to resolve the dispute with the MPAA, the Weinstein Company decided to release the film without a rating, though according to company reps, talks are ongoing.

Despite the lack of a rating, several cinemas are planning to show the film Рbut are treating it as if it were rated R, so no one under 17 can get in without an adult present. AMC Theatres are taking a more lenient stance, allowing children and teenagers to see the film with signed permission slips. (Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Weinstein Company may cave after all and re-cut the film for a PG-13; the rating would require the excision of the offending language, so the PG-13 Bully would not be just a bleeped version but a different cut entirely.)

The film will be expanding in the coming weeks, but it’s likely headed only to big, urban theaters (on April 13th, the film expands to Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Philly and Minneapolis, but no other cities are posted yet). However, there is a “Bring Bully to your city!” campaign on the website where you can petition for the film to appear in your area.

Thanks to the MPAA controversy, the film has received a groundswell of support from celebrities (many of them, ahem, affiliated with the Weinstein Company). The cynical among us may say that the MPAA’s decision was the best thing that could have happened to Bully, since it’s created a firestorm of publicity that a small, indie documentary could never have hoped to gain on its own. Either way, it will still certainly get its ass kicked at the box office by The Hunger Games, a post-apocalyptic tale of teenagers killing each other for sport…that is rated PG-13.

What a wonderful world.

 

Well, this was unexpected…

Happy Friday, b-rollers! Just a quick note because OH MY GOD, A NEW JOHNNY DEPP AND TIM BURTON MOVIE.

Sorry, I get a little excited by these things. I adore most of their creepily fantastic collaborations, such as Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood. I was even one of the apologists who liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; that movie was subtly awesome, and I will not hear otherwise.

Now, I shouldn’t have been surprised that their next film, Dark Shadows, would be filled with odd, sly humor. That’s kind of their thing. But I was not expecting a peppy laughriot, a kind of man-out-of-time, Austin Powers-meets-Twilight, with a vampire that is intentionally funny.

That’s not a bad thing; I’ll definitely go see this. But just like I’m ready to see Liam Neeson play something other than a rampaging badass, I think it’s time for Johnny to play a normal(ish) human in a thriller, or a drama. (The Tourist doesn’t remotely count.) I guess I’ll have to keep waiting.

What say you, b-rollers? Will you see Dark Shadows?

Bullied

One of my great pet peeves is when people treat complicated issues – moral, political, spiritual – as black-and-white, me-vs.you arguments. They take a side, dammit, and scream across the fence at those hollering back. This childlike stubbornness is the primary reason why I find the political landscape so abhorrent; moderation is considered a weakness, failure to take a stand, and issues are boiled down to their most basic and digestible parts. But real life is shaded, intricate, and as reasonable adults in a free(ish) society, it’s our job to consider the context, rather than just wishing it away.

So let’s talk about the MPAA’s film ratings system.

I’m not trying to take a sarcastic left turn here. I’ve never been much of a fan of this ratings system; sure, it nobly tries to give parents the information they need to keep questionable content away from their children, which is a service that provides real value. But in placing moral codes on the work (art, I’ll say it) of others, the MPAA also plays a huge role in actually determining what audiences can and cannot see. (For example, most theater chains refuse to show an NC-17-rated film. If you wanted to see Shame and didn’t live near an arthouse, enjoy the six-month wait for a DVD release.)

But even more frustrating is the arbitrary nature of the ratings. Say “fuck” more than once and you’re guaranteed an “R” rating, no matter the context. Show “graphic” sex (define “graphic,” by the way) and you’re in real trouble. A bloody battle scene should be fine, though. Heads can roll in a PG-13. (For the sake of brevity – and ironically, I admit – I’m simplifying, and these are my own opinions, but for a more in-depth – though occasionally over-the-top – breakdown of the secretive and often infuriating ratings process, check out the doc This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which is streaming on Netflix.)

It’s an absurd prioritization in which violence is preferable to sex and foul language, which is a terrible and inaccurate reflection of the human experience.

Which brings me to the film Bully. A documentary that follows several bullied youths (and families that lost children to bullying-related suicides), Bully received an “R” from the MPAA for the sin of showing real kids speaking to each other the way they do in those gaps between adult supervision: in the salty, show-off way that they think grown-ups talk, less Disney Channel than Showtime. Because that’s the way kids speak. Everyone, even the “good” kids. You spend your adolescence wishing you were already an adult, and that’s an outward manifestation. (Remember?)

But an “R” rating means that these same adolescents can’t see Bully, which is desperately sad. Every teenager, every parent needs to see Bully. Every single one.

I saw it last year, when it was still called The Bully Project, and the film absolutely broke my heart. I was touched by the grief of those who lost a child to bullying, but on a most basic level, I understood the kids who were struggling to stay above water. We’ve all been there; if you weren’t bullied in school, you certainly saw it. The film was easier to see from the other side, with the extra fifteen years of life behind you (and I hoped that the roaring ovation that the audience gave to the film’s subjects, who were in attendance, conveyed that: Thank you for sharing your story, and please know that this won’t always be your life).

But this movie’s not primarily for me. It’s for the teenage bullies, who need to know the daily hell their victims face, and the even more grievous pain of a family’s loss; they need to know that their actions can have unspeakable consequences. And it’s for the bullied, who need to know that they’re not alone; someone is watching, and trying to make sure they don’t have to suffer anymore.

But Bully won’t get to many teenagers, not in theaters or in schools (where the producers most want to see the film screened). Despite the impassioned plea of Alex Libby, one of the film’s subjects, the MPAA rejected an appeal to lower its rating due to “some language.” The decision has caused widespread outrage, and the studio behind the film, the Weinstein Company, is now discussing releasing the film without a rating at all. Meanwhile, an online petition asking the MPAA to reconsider has gained nearly 200,000 signatures (as of this post), and it’s worth noting that the petition was authored by a teenager who shared her history of being bullied, and wants this movie seen.

Full disclosure: I signed it. As I said, I want every teenager to see this movie. And if you’re a parent who doesn’t want your kids exposed to the language in the film, then that’s fair; it’s your decision. But my hunch is that they’ll get a lot more from¬†Bully than the curse words. Most people do.

It’s all about the context.

*Update: I’ve been asked when the film opens, and according to the film’s website, it opens in “select theaters” (read: New York and Los Angeles) on March 30th. I’m not sure when it opens in wide release – and where it opens may depend on how successfully the studio and filmmakers are able to lobby the MPAA to get a PG-13 rating – but I’ll try to keep you posted, folks!

Trailer: John Carter

Happy Friday, everyone! The new trailer for the Disney blockbuster John Carter premiered last week (a teaser was released this summer), and I’m curious to see what everyone thinks. I’ve seen a bunch of different reactions on the interwebs: Looks amazing! Totally disappointed. Total Star Wars ripoff. This will be incredible!!!! I just hope it doesn’t suck. The next Avatar! (I think this was meant in a good way; for me, it’s the tempered praise of “beautiful, but oh, how plotless.”)

John Carter does look a little Gladiator-meets-Star Wars, and “fantasy epic” is not usually my genre (for real), but I actually want to see this for two reasons.

One, it’s directed by Andrew Stanton, the (freaking genius) director of WALL-E and Finding Nemo, which, as you know, I hopelessly love. But live action is a whole different game, so I’m hopeful (but not sold) that he can pull it off.

Also, remember that post in which I talked/gushed about how much I adore the show Friday Night Lights, and the character of Tim Riggins? Well, in a related story, Riggins – his real name is Taylor Kitsch, but he will always be Riggins in Casa b-roll – is the star of this film. Incidentally, the runner-up star of the film: Riggins’ abs. I don’t know who decided that his Martian warrior armor should consist of a thin strap across his chest, but God bless, costuming department.

So will I see this? Yes. I will. And I expect Riggins’ abs this Martian world to look spectacular in 3D IMAX.

What’s your verdict, b-rollers?

The Hunger Games Trailer!

Just a short post today after taking the weekend off (because come on, two blog posts in two days? EXHAUSTION), but I just want to mention that while I am thrilled to be blogging again, my timing in rebooting this may have been – oh, what’s the phrase? – incredibly boneheaded. I’m going to be the maid of honor in a wedding this weekend, so I’ll be caught in a whirlwind of travel and to-do lists and chiffon. I’ll post when I can, but bear with me.

Anyway, the trailer for The Hunger Games premiered today! On the scale of “How embarrassed am I to have read this tween book series despite being an otherwise functioning adult?,” I’d put Hunger Games much closer to Harry Potter (Potterphile and proud!) than Twilight (Team Edward if forced to choose, and deeply mortified). So I’m excited for the movie – and the trailer looks really, really good. (My favorite quibble that I’ve seen, and it isn’t much of one, was that the trailer looked “much darker and more violent than expected.” It’s a film about a fight-to-the-death arena match set in a post-apocalyptic world; what EXACTLY were you envisioning?)

So here’s the trailer! Who else is excited, and will cop to having read this series? Who will be willing to see this with me, in public and everything? Anyone? Bueller?