Thursday, April 19, 2012

Is There Any SHAME in an NC-17?

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Is There Any SHAME in an NC-17?

In the MPAA’s early years, X-rated movies were understood to be non-pornographic films with adult content. However, when adult films began to self-impose the non-trademarked X rating, “rated X” became a symbol to many for pornography. Thus in 1990, NC-17 was born! The MPAA introduced the rating NC-17 ("No Children Under 17 Admitted") as its official rating for adult-oriented films and later, the rating was amended to “No One 17 and Under Admitted.” This scarlet letter of movie ratings remains a hot issue for many in the industry who want to take risks in filmmaking but fear the stigma attached to it. But like this year’s critics’ darling, Shame, some movies have managed to find success despite the label.
Henry and June (1990)

H&J was the first film to bare the mark of “No one under 17.” It’s 1931 in Paris and Anaïs Nin’s husband is conflicted, drifting from his art to working in a bank, leaving Anaïs very bored. When Brooklyn writer Henry Miller (Fred Ward) enters her life, she embarks on a journey of seduction and sexual exploration that eventually leads from the writer to his wife, June (Uma Thurman). Despite earning much attention for being the first film of its kind, it was slammed by critics, often cited for having a weak script and poor direction.

Showgirls (1995)

When “Saved by the Bell” alumni Elizabeth Berkeley was looking to break into film, it’s a wonder that she chose the part of Nomi Malone, a naïve drifter who lands in Vegas, where she tries to make it as a dancer. Widely considered one of the worst movies EVER, it set an all-time RAZZIE Award record with 13 nominations (one or more in all 11 categories of the 1996 Awards). Its seven "wins" tied it with Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 as the second most dis-honored film in RAZZIE history at that time. 

Crash (1996)

No, no, not that Crash. In 1996’s Crash, a scientist discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to heighten their own sexual experiences. A recent survivor of his own crash, the scientist tries to use this new world to add a little boost to his and his wife’s love life. 

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1990)

Helen Mirren stars as the wife of a barbaric crime boss who engages in a secretive romance with a gentle bookseller between meals at her husband's restaurant. It was originally released without a rating at all so that theaters would be less discouraged from distributing it. Roger Ebert was a huge fan of the film, singing praises of its tasteful director’s skill and courage, despite the film’s rather… cannibalistic ending. 

Bad Education (2004)

Gaining only a New York City and Festival release in the U.S., Bad Education is a Spanish drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Gael García Bernal.  The film, considered to be Almodóvar’s return to “dark films,” focuses on two reunited childhood friends (and lovers), touching on several heated topics such as murder, sexual abuse, religion, transsexuality and drugs. 

Lust, Caution (2007)

Explicit sex scenes in this Ang Lee espionage flick earned it its racy rating. The story is mostly set in Hong Kong in 1938 and in Shanghai in 1942, when the Imperial Japanese Army occupied it. It depicts a group of Chinese university students from Lingnan University who plot to assassinate a high-ranking special agent and recruiter of the puppet government using an attractive young woman to lure him into a trap. The film was still deemed to racy in Asia, however, and the director had to cut seven minutes. 

The Dreamers (2003)

Set to the backdrop of 1968 Paris, The Dreamers tells the story of an American university student (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt) studying abroad who, after meeting a peculiar brother and sister who are fellow film enthusiasts, becomes entangled in an erotic conflict.  Even with its NC-17 rating, the film grossed $2.5 million in its United States theatrical release – a respectable result for a specialized film with a targeted audience. For its Italian release, the film was rated viewable by age 14 and up.

Where to purchase: You are able to purchase the Shame (Blu-ray/ DVD + Digital Copy) from Amazon and local retailers for $29.99.
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