By Michael J. ARVIZU
ow that the glitz, glamour and excitement of the Academy Awards has come to an end for another year, it’s time to look forward to the crop of new movies that will make the rounds at movie theaters in 2015.
As we all know, attached to each movie is a rating, prescribed by the Motion Picture Association of America, which serves as a barometer to the type of audience the movie is directed to, as well as the type of material (dialogue, sexual content, drug use, violence, etc.) that may be contained within the movie.
My CV Weekly colleague and entertainment reporter Charly Shelton can speak more intelligently on the dynamic between motion picture ratings and content, but suffice it to say, some parents and guardians use the motion picture ratings as an indicator on whether or not to let their 15-year-old child watch the latest war or adventure flick.
From Hollywood’s point of view, ratings can sometimes be a bad thing, because they may prevent potential audience demographics from watching their movie. In other words, a film will work to prevent an R rating in order to get those under 17 into the theater. Of course, this isn’t always possible if the content of the film cannot help but to ensure an R rating.
Catholic News Service (CNS), the news reporting arm of the bishop’s conference in the United States – the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – years ago established its own movie rating system. This system rates motion pictures like a fine-tooth comb, and assigns them specific letter ratings – not unlike the MPAA’s system.
The first tier of ratings from A-I to A-IV categorizes movies based on the level of appropriateness from children to adults. A rating of A-I denotes the film is appropriate for all audiences, while a rating of A-IV is a “stronger” version of a MPAA R-rating. The A-IV rating means the film is not for casual viewing by younger audiences because adults may need to explain to them the content of the film to avoid misinterpretations and false impressions.
For example, this year’s “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” which won the Oscar for best motion picture, was rated R in theaters. CNS gave it their highest adult rating of A-III, meaning the movie was more appropriate for adults only and not adults and adolescents, which would have given it an A-II rating.
The highly acclaimed Clint Eastwood-directed “American Sniper” was rated R by the MPAA, and was rated, once again, A-III by CNS, meaning the film was for adults.
And the BDSM-themed “Fifty Shades of Grey,” starring Dakota Johnson, was rated R in theaters, while unsurprisingly, CNS gave its highest rating of O – simply put, it is morally offensive and ranks just above A-IV.
Sometimes both rating systems will give the same film a different rating. For example, Disney’s “Frozen” was given a rating of PG (parental guidance is suggested). CNS seemed to disagree when it gave the film a rating of A-I, meaning the film was suitable for general audiences, not unlike a G (general audiences) rating by MPAA.
You can find the list of ratings on the CNS website at www.catholicnews.com/ratings.htm. For a list of film reviews by CNS staff, visit www.catholicnews.com/data/movies/list.htm.
Film ratings by MPAA can be found at www.mpaa.org/film-ratings/.
Whatever rating system you wish to use, rest assured you will be able to find a film that is suitable for your entire family to watch.
Reach Michael J. Arvizu at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @thedjmichaelj.