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Spike Lee's 'Red Hook Summer' MPAA Rating: R or NC17?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 20, 2012 at 1:50PM

Reading THIS piece on the Los Angeles Times' website to learn that Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, will be given an R rating by the MPAA - at least, that's what the LA Times says/.
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Spike Red Hook

Reading THIS piece on the Los Angeles Times' website to learn that Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, will be given an R rating by the MPAA - at least, that's what the LA Times says/.

But no surprise, especially since I've seen the film (the Sundance Film Festival version anyway). Then again, it's Spike. Most of his films have been rated R.

But what got me about the LA Times piece was this added sentence: "... with the film avoiding the more severe NC-17."

Perplexing that the MPAA would even consider giving it an NC17 rating. I've seen the film, as I said, and unless something has been radically altered in the new edit, I can't understand why an NC17 rating would even be an option for the MPAA.

The LA Times report adds:

"Red Hook" addresses a difficult adult subject -- to explain further would be to offer a major spoiler -- that conceivably could have warranted an NC-17 rating. Though it's impossible to make comparisons between the explicitness of two films, there was precedent: In the past few months, the MPAA has handed NC-17s to several movies with adult subject matter, including the serial-killer picture "Chained" and the upcoming revenge thriller "Killer Joe" (the latter primarily for a lone provocative scene).

I'm not sold on that argument at all!

There's little about the film that I'd call *explicit.* Yes, there's the usual language - cursing specifically - but certainly commonplace in film and real-life today.

The only sequence that I can see causing a bit of a stir, is all suggestion.

It is disturbing, yes, but nothing that we really haven't seen before. In fact, we've seen similar scenes handled far more explicitly and overtly (not to in any way lessen the gravity of what happens by the way, but I'm just really surprised that the MPAA even considered giving this the Scarlet Letter of ratings).

And thankfully, they came to their senses... but only after "some back-and-forth among the MPAA and those associated with the film," says the LA Times. Adding that this is...

... a win for Lee and executives at distributor Variance Films, who have been trying to avoid giving away exactly what the disturbing element is so as not to undermine the film's impact.

So the R rating, according to the MPAA (via the LA Times) is for "brief violence and language," as well as a "disturbing situation" - all warnings that will accompany the ratings label.

Not exactly for the same reasons, or the same situation but it reminded me that Spike's debut feature She's Gotta Have It was initially given an X-rating by the MPAA? Why? The exact quote, according to Spike, was that the MPAA said it was "saturated with sex."

Thus, Spike had to re-edit the film three times, and still then, it was considered too risque; so he released it first in New York unrated, but was contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated movie, if he wanted to get paid, and eventually did.

If Ya'Ke Smith's Wolf gets an MPAA-rated general theatrical release as well, I can only imagine what they'll say about that film. 

The almighty MPAA.

Red Hook Summer opens in New York on August 10, and expands nationwide (USA) in successive weeks; if you missed my post on what cities and theaters it'll screen in through September, click HERE.

This article is related to: Red Hook Summer, Spike Lee


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