Moviegoers beware [false advertising]

I was at a really cool theater in Denver this evening, the Landmark Esquire. Highly recommended. I went to see a movie called Certified Copy, by Abbas Kiarostami, starring Juliette Binoche. A pretty good movie, and well worth watching if you like Before Sunrise, et. al.

When I came out of the theater, this is what I saw in the lobby, under the exuberant heading “The film that won BEST PICTURE of the year is now the family event of the year”:

The King's Speech recut poster

Rated PG-13

If you haven’t already heard, here’s how we got to this point: after The King’s Speech won a Best Picture Oscar, the Weinstein Company decided to re-release the film to theaters, recut to receive a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. The “family-friendly” version. It’s not a huge change; basically Colin Firth says “shit” instead of “fuck.” There are a few reasons, though, why it’s significant:

First, director Tom Hooper had no involvement at any level with this recut version—that’s Best Director Tom Hooper. Just goes to show that no matter what level of critical acclaim you reach as a filmmaker, you will never be able to escape this bullshit as long as you work with major production companies (that’s fucking bullshit, Harvey Weinstein, not shitty bullshit).

Second: this change throws the insanity inherent in the Classification and Rating Administration into sharp relief. Can you honestly argue that the film is more family-friendly now that Colin Firth—that’s Best Actor Colin Firth—says “shit” more often and “fuck” less often? What is our definition of family-friendly? Keep in mind that slasher flicks and action movies targeted at teenage audiences are frequently awarded PG-13 ratings despite truly ludicrous levels of gore and violence—not to mention depraved stupidity, which I would argue is far more dangerous than crude language—particularly when said language is used with real artistic purpose, as is unequivocally the case in The King’s Speech.

Winner: 4 Academy Awards

Finally, and this is the big point of contention: this new release of the film is being marketed as an Oscar winner. It is not. The PG-13 version of The King’s Speech has won no awards. The film that won Best Picture is the R-rated version, the version shot from a script by David Seidler—that’s Best Original Screenplay writer David Seidler, and the cut approved by Tom Hooper—again, that’s Best Director Tom Hooper—not by studio slimeball Harvey Weinstein.

This is not the first time that a studio has recut an award-winning film against the filmmakers’ wishes, and it won’t be the last (see Terry Gilliam’s mammoth struggle in getting Universal to release an un-ruined version of Brazil). But it is one of the most egregious examples in recent history. It is now no longer possible to see the Oscar-winning version of The King’s Speech at any movie theater in the United States. My recommendation is a simple one: if you haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, don’t. Or better yet, rent the DVD—that’s the R-rated version.

Watch it with your kids. It’s a great family movie.

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