24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Blue Valentine

The filmgoers' guide to getting your drink on

January 12, 2011 |  3:24 pm


With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner and a movie may figure in your night-life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a drink associated with your movie.

Film-cocktails With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick ("The King's Speech," "Black Swan," etc.) to your firewater (Scotch, tequila, you get the drift...). Check out the gallery at right, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Colin Firth sips a Scotch in "The King's Speech." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner-and-a-movie may figure in your night life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a cocktail associated with your movie.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick to your firewater. Check out the list, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

'Blue Valentine' wins MPAA appeal, will be released as an R-rated film [Updated]

December 8, 2010 |  1:46 pm

The MPAA has overturned the rating for the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams romantic drama "Blue Valentine," downgrading the movie from an NC-17 to an R. A controversial sex scene that initially landed the film the NC-17 rating will not be changed.

The decision -- which comes as a result of an appeal by distributor the Weinstein Co. -- means that the movie can now be released to a broad array of theaters when it opens Dec. 31, and that it can be seen by people under age 17 if they are accompanied by an adult.

The Weinstein Co. cofounder Harvey Weinstein and counsel Alan Friedman both presented their case in front of a 14-member board  Wednesday. Gosling said last week that he had hoped to attend the appeal hearing but that he wouldn't be able to make it because of scheduling commitments.

[Updated, Dec. 8: Weinstein Company Chief Operating Officer David Glasser said he believes that "the message the MPAA is sending here is that it’s a new era." He added that Harvey Weinstein went in front of the board with a 200-page dossier of letters and arguments, as well as 3,000 tweets, in support of an R rating.] 

The film had initially been given the strict rating because of what the Weinstein Co. said was a scene in which Gosling's character performs oral sex on Williams' character. The studio and director Derek Cianfrance had argued for several weeks that the scene was integral in showing the development of the couple's relationship and that, without any nudity, it was not exploitative or gratuitous.

The MPAA said the "Blue Valentine" case marks the sixth time this year that a film's rating has been appealed. Traditionally, the MPAA and its Classification and Rating Administration win the appeals, forcing studios either to alter their movies or live with more severe ratings.

The decision, then, marks a victory for the voluble Weinstein and avoids a potentially thorny situation in which he either would have been forced to back down and cut the scene or release the film as an NC-17, which would have limited its distribution and marketing opportunities.

The ruling comes after several weeks of media campaigning by Harvey Weinstein -- a campaign that culminated in a special screening Saturday inviting members of the Hollywood community to see the film and weigh in via an online petition. Last week, Cianfrance told The Times that the appeal was a "chance to stand for something," citing what he believed was a "form of censorship" on the MPAA's part.

He also said he couldn't see any way the scene could be altered without undermining the point of his movie. "Cutting the scene would have been cutting into the heart of the film," he said.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in ''Blue Valentine." Credit: The Weinstein Co.



The MPAA's 'Black Swan'-'Blue Valentine' double standard?

December 4, 2010 | 11:16 am

If a film scene lasting a little more than a minute depicts oral sex performed on a woman without showing nudity, does the movie in which the scene appears merit an R rating or an NC-17?

Both, apparently.

In "Black Swan," Mila Kunis' character performs oral sex on Natalie Portman's character after a night of partying. In "Blue Valentine," Ryan Gosling's character does the same to Michelle Williams' character after a date. There's not much difference between the scenes, save maybe for the fact that "Black Swan" is put together with action and reaction shots and "Blue Valentine" is filmed in one take.

Yet as we explore in a piece in Saturday's Times, the MPAA has given an R rating to "Swan" but an NC-17 to "Blue Valentine" for what is reportedly that scene.

Some have a theory about the disparity, but none are really convincing, and no one is really convinced.

"I've heard the 'Blue Valentine' scene is more emotionally authentic," said Darren Aronofsky, who directed "Black Swan" (but still has harsh words for the MPPA on its double standard between sex and violence).

"Maybe it's a case of selfish love?" Gosling quipped to us, jokingly (?) wondering if a male-dominated group might go easier on a movie with girl-on-girl activity than it would if a man performed the oral sex, thereby reminding them that it's something they could be called upon to do.

"I don't have an answer for why that movie would be OK and ours wouldn't," "Blue Valentine" director Derek Cianfrance told us in what may be the most lucid description of all. (He wonders if it indeed is a matter of the authenticity, but in that case wonders if his film is being punished because its actors are too persuasive?

Either way, it looks for all the world that "Valentine" will get hit with the NC-17 when the MPAA appeal comes down next week -- the Weinstein Co. and Cianfrance say they aren't changing the scene, and there's almost no precedent for a rating changed on appeal without a change in the movie.

Which means, given many theaters' resistance to showing anything with an NC-17, a lot fewer people will see "Blue Valentine." And which means the cries against the MPAA will go up.  Again.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Scene from "Blue Valentine." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Blue Valentine ratings war (of words) continues

Photos: Sex, movies and the MPAA

Harvey Weinstein on the Blue Valentine controversy

The MPAA"s mystifying call on Blue Valentine

'Blue Valentine' ratings war (of words) continues

November 18, 2010 |  8:05 am

The Weinstein Co. dispatched a message to reporters Thursday morning that it had "engaged a formidable legal team" to challenge ratings on "Blue Valentine" and "The King's Speech," though the takeaway was mainly that it had engaged a formidable press release.

In a release titled "The Weinstein Company Accepts NC-17 Rating on Blue Valentine in Order to Appeal It" (and, just below that,  "TWC Also Protests R Rating on The King’s Speech"), the company said it had hired a legal team that included heavy-hitting/press-happy attorneys Bert Fields and David Boies to engage in said pursuits.

It also rounded up some, um, emphatic quotes from filmmakers and actors. "Blue Valentine" star Ryan Gosling was quoted with, "You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen."

And "The King's Speech" director Tom Hooper chimed in that "I hope that language can be judged by its context just as violence is currently judged in context.  The f-word in ‘The King's Speech’ is not being used in its sexual sense, or in its aggressive sense, but as a release mechanism to help a man overcome a stammer in the context of speech therapy."

You have to give Harvey credit for making the most of this opportunity, getting two indie films further into the spotlight by using an issue (the standards of the MPAA) that gets many people's blood curdling. But the fact is that as disagreeable as it may be, unless the string of obscenities Hooper refers to is removed from "Speech," -- something the director and the Weinstein Co. have made clear they won't do -- the MPAA probably won't drop the R. And unless the much-touted hotel (non-)sex scene comes out of "Valentine," the NC-17 likely stays too. So basically the ball is in the Weinstein Co.'s court.

In the meantime, we have some priceless quotes. Perhaps none is more entertaining than Fields' statement in Thursday's release that the MPAA's R for Hooper "violates The Weinstein Company’s right to freedom of speech under the state and US constitution." Er...

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in 'Blue Valentine.' Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Gosling: NC-17 for Blue Valentine is a 'buzzkill'

The MPAA's mystifying call on Blue Valentine

Harvey Weinstein on Blue Valentine controversy: Can't we all just get along?


Ryan Gosling: NC-17 rating on 'Blue Valentine' is a 'buzzkill' [video]

November 8, 2010 |  5:32 pm

When "Blue Valentine" was slapped with an NC-17 rating last month, many in the industry were stunned — including Ryan Gosling, who stars in the film opposite Michelle Williams and said he found the MPAA's decision confounding.

"It's a buzzkill, you know?" he told reporters on the red carpet Saturday in Hollywood at AFI Fest, where the film was screening. "We worked so hard ... and it's about to come out, and they hit us with that, which means that so many people can't see the film. It really limits us."

When one journalist suggested that the Oscar buzz surrounding the movie might help get the word out about it, Gosling scoffed. Awards chatter, he said, means nothing if movie theaters refuse to screen the film altogether because of its NC-17 rating — which means the movie includes "violence or sex or aberrational behavior or drug abuse or any other elements which, when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children," according to the MPAA's website.

"It helps you know about it, but if you can't go see it, what good does that do?" he asked. "The rating really hurts your chances of getting into theaters so people can see the film."

Director Derek Cianfrance, who spent over a decade trying to get the film made, also said he found the rating shocking because he doesn't view it as an "exploitation film."

"We're still fighting it," he said of the MPAA ruling. "Hopefully, we can get in with an R rating so people can see the film. Because that's the biggest bummer of it all ... I think anyone can watch it and see something in there that they can relate to — that they can see themselves in."

— Amy Kaufman



Ryan Gosling rates at Hollywood premiere of 'Blue Valentine'

Harvey Weinstein on the 'Blue Valentine' controversy: Can't we all just get along?

The MPAA's mystifying call on 'Blue Valentine'

Harvey Weinstein on the 'Blue Valentine' controversy: Can't we all just get along?

October 14, 2010 |  6:56 am

When all is said and done, we have a feeling that "Blue Valentine" will end up with the R-rating that it's been seeking. But getting there will require some negotiations with the Motion Picture Assn. of America over a controversial scene featuring the characters of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in a hotel-room sexual situation.

The trade group wants the scene cut or it will slap the film with an NC-17. Executives at distributor the Weinstein Co., citing the importance of the scene to the film's narrative, have said privately they won't do it, although how much of that is a bid for negotiating leverage is impossible to say. [Update: 12:23 pm: A spokeswoman for The Weinstein Company says that, as expected, an appeal will be filed within the next few days.]

A few minutes ago Harvey Weinstein showed that he is, as ever, interesting in playing the PR game when he sent out a thank-you-to-our-friends statement. He also showed in that same statement that he's willing to play ball with the MPAA, offering a bit of praise for an organization and, in so doing, implying that he still believes the group will come around, possibly with some accommodations on his part.

The statement:

"We want to express our deepest gratitude to our colleagues in the industry and in the media for their recent outpouring of support for Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine after the film surprisingly received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. We are taking every possible step to contest the MPAA's decision. We respect the work of the MPAA and we hope, after having a chance to sit down with them, they will see that our appeal is reasonable, and the film, which is an honest and personal portrait of a relationship, would be significantly harmed by such a rating."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine.'"Credit: The Weinstein Co.


The MPAA's mystifying call on 'Blue Valentine'


The MPAA's mystifying call on 'Blue Valentine'

October 8, 2010 |  2:55 pm


Pretty much since the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams romantic drama "Blue Valentine" screened to enthusiastic reaction at Sundance in January, executives at distributor the Weinstein Co. have all but boasted that the movie was being cut down from the original.

Indeed, when we saw the movie at Cannes, a few scenes had been trimmed from the two-hour-plus Sundance version. At Toronto last month (where we didn't see it again), we were told by Weinstein executives that more minutes had been lopped off.

That makes it all the more bizarre that the movie was given an NC-17 by the Motion Picture Assn. of America ratings group CARA this week. (The group doesn't offer much detail on why it gives the rating it does; we're awaiting further word from the Weinstein Co.)

Derek Cianfrance's movie shows plenty of harrowing moments of a couple arguing and brutalizing each each other psychologically. It's not easy to watch, but it's hardly graphic or hardcore in any conventional sense of the term; it's emotional brutality and explictness, nothing more. There was no scene we could find in the film's extended version that would merit something stronger than an R. 

And certainly if the movie was cut down from its earlier versions it wouldn't include more offending material. (There's also an irony in that the company was shortening the movie to make it more commercial, but then got slapped with an NC-17 anyway.)

The "Blue Valentine" ruling (which, incidentally, can still be appealed) surfaces on the same day Universal was moved to change a trailer for the upcoming Vince Vaughn-Kevin James buddy dramedy "The Dilemma." The short version of the controversy -- about which my colleague Patrick Goldstein has an insightful post here -- is that the film's trailer (which you can see below) begins with Vaughn going on a riff that "electric cars are gay," before he explains that he doesn't mean "homosexual gay" but "my-parents-are-chaperoning-the-dance gay."

Continue reading »

A new Harvey Weinstein?

July 28, 2010 |  4:53 pm

Looking at the Weinstein Co.'s official fall slate, which landed in our in box a few hours ago, we were struck by just how art house it all felt.

To read the mini-major's upcoming releases in succession is to read the program guide for the Sunset Laemmle -- a lot of very solid, but nonetheless small, movies. There's a British biopic about the young John Lennon ("Nowhere Boy"). A Julian Schnabel Palestinian-themed historical drama ("Miral"). A Swedish-language thriller ("Snabba Cash"). A performance-driven  romantic drama ("Blue Valentine"). An assassin movie set in ancient China ("Reign of Assassins").  A story about the reign and speech impediment of King George VI ("The King's Speech").

The most commercial release on the slate is "The Company Men," the executive-layoff drama directed by John Wells and starring Ben Affleck. And that's hardly a major work of populist entertainment --  it had a solid cast but sat for several months without a distributor after Sundance as buyers worried about its relatability.

(Notably not dated is "Shanghai," the pricey John Cusack period war movie that was considered a high-profile release ... in 2008.)

The slate seems even more niche when read alongside the headlines about Ron Tutor and Colony Capital closing a deal with Disney to acquire the bigger-budget breakouts of years past.

With his fall lineup, Harvey has kept his word about returning to the movies he's passionate about; of the roughly half we've seen, they're all noble undertakings, and all of them radiate that air of accessible prestige he practically invented. Now that he's been forced to cut costs, he can afford to distribute just these types of films,  since there's much less pressure for a big box-office return.

In fact, all but one of these films are movies he picked up after they were made, which means he had a lot less financial risk, if also a lot less control over how they turned out. (It should be noted that the Weinsteins  have benefited from the closure of some of their competitors, who might have otherwise chased a "Miral" or a "Blue Valentine"; Harvey may have run short on cash, but so did a lot of other people, which has allowed him to buy some pretty good movies at pretty low prices).

But with all that cost-cutting, he's also not able to make as many brash or bold statements. Compared to the bigger-budget Harvey of the immediate post-Disney days, the heyday Harvey of the  "English Patient" days or even the 2009  Harvey, when the late summer and fall were filled with splashier movies such as "Inglourious Basterds" and "Nine," this slate feels downright boutique. The strategy of the last few years -- put a lot of chips down on a few big productions -- seems to have given way to something different: Scatter one or two chips on a lot of small movies and hope one of them gets big.

Some of them indeed might (here's hoping for "Blue Valentine," an astoundingly well-made chronicle of a couple's demise). But it's no guarantee in this climate.

At the very least, these films will ride a wave of goodwill, since nearly all of them have come out of some festival buzz or early media interest, the kind of movies chased by the heat-seeking Harvey.  Some things, we suppose, never change.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

With 'Miral,' Harvey Weinstein jumps into the Israeli-Palestinian fray

Cannes 2010: The Euros love 'Blue Valentine' like Nutella

'Blue Valentine': Finally, a Sundance drama that works

Toronto lineup suggests indie crisis has affected quantity, not quality

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