UPDATE: The MPAA has overturned its initial NC-17 rating for "Blue Valentine" and has given it an R rating instead after Harvey Weinstein himself appeared at a hearing to plea the film's case, Deadline reports.
For years, the MPAA has made movie ratings decisions that make you smack your head and shout, "Are ya high?"
Their odd, puritanical aversion towards sex and acceptance of violence (they gave "Star Wars" entry "Attack of the Clones" a "PG," even with a scene of a child watching his father get decapitated) has stirred a recent L.A. Times article to point out an even weirder discrepancy between two new films: "Black Swan" and "Blue Valentine."
Both films feature a nudity-free oral sex scene, one with some drugged-out Mila Kunis-on-Natalie Portman action, the other with Ryan Gosling sweetly exploring Michelle Williams' garden of earthly delights. "Swan" got an "R"-rating, while "Valentine" has been slapped with a prohibitive NC-17.
At a recent junket, we talked with Williams, who also executive produced "Valentine," directly about this mind-boggling ratings decision.
"It has incited my passion and fighter spirit because what it's doing is limiting where the movie can be seen," she tells NextMovie. "You can't play ads for it on television. So what it comes down to essentially is censorship."
The actress hadn't seen "Black Swan," but thinks the anonymous board's ruling may have something to do with her film's realism.
"What's frustrating about it is that we don't know," she said. "They don't comment on it publicly. From what I understand, it's the oral sex scene. I wonder if this is a first, if it was the ratings board trying to process a first oral sex scene that's about a woman's pleasure, between a man and a woman? Is that it?"
We asked "Valentine" writer/director Derek Cianfrance, how he would convince a prohibited young person to go see the movie… or at least sneak into it.
"That’s the job of the parents," he said. "That’s my problem with the MPAA rating right now is that they're taking control away from parents. We tried to take a responsible approach towards sexuality, not try to sensationalize sexuality. It's not eroticism. It's a movie that shows sex as an essential part of a dialogue and relationship. You can't have a relationship without sex."
The sex in "Blue Valentine" has real consequences: Williams' character gets pregnant, and that child has wide-reaching effects on both her and Gosling's character's lives, but not in an After-School Special kind of way. Cianfrance would show his own kids the first 20-minutes of the film, and if they got older maybe the whole thing, and with good reason.
"If I think that they’re ready I would let them see it because I feel like it’s a cautionary tale. And I would rather have a teenager see a film that treated sex with responsibility and honesty rather than see sex as a sensationalized kind of like slow motion hot tub… just fakeness."
So far the media and fans are on Williams and Cianfrance's side, and with an appeal decision due next week all eyes are on the MPAA to see if their organization still stands for "Mindlessly Prude Anonymous A**holes."
Said the director, "I feel like we're getting punished in a way but I think we'll be able to overturn it. There's enough support and I think audiences deserve a choice."
(Originally published on Dec. 8, 2010, at 10:34 a.m. ET)