Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Oscars and the Razzies for the BBFC, 2016

The Razzie shortlist was leaked and I see Cara Delevingne didn’t make the Worst Supporting actress shortlist, once again illustrating that the Razzies don’t deliver on their promise of honouring the worst of the year (which Blahra undoubtedly was), but instead, jumping on the bandwagon of critically panned films and knocking A-listers down a peg or two.

Anyway, I digress. I’m a massive BBFC nerd (you don’t say), and they release an Annual Report every June or so, and I love poring over it, because they discuss high-profile and contentious decisions at each age category. I’m just as fascinated as to why something’s a PG rather than a U as I am why something’s a 15 rather than an 18, and the equal exposure they give to all the ratings, as well as revealing which films got the most complaints each year, makes for fascinating reading.

That report is compiled by the BBFC, and I thought I’d do my own personal Razzies and Oscars of the BBFC for films that came out last year, just to add another dimension/point of view to BBFC reviews!

Before I discuss some decisions I strongly agreed (the Oscars) and disagreed (the Razzies), I will blather about some random thoughts which don’t fit into either category. My current eighth favourite film of 2016, High or High Water, was rated 15 for ‘strong language, violence, sex’. I have no qualms with the age rating, nor the first two classification issues. The ‘strong sex’ in question, however, gave me false hope; I was hoping it might feature dishy Chris Pine. Instead, it was his on-screen brother, played by Ben Foster, being ridden. Not the BBFC’s fault, I know, and says more about my dirty mind than their choice of lexicon. But I felt quite let down. 

At least the sex scene in Hell or High Water could be classified as strong, however brief it was. In 2016 I caught up with a couple of films that featured in awards season for the previous year, two of which were Wild Tales and 45 Years. Argentinian film Wild Tales was an anthology of six short films, wonderfully inventive and blackly comic. 45 Years, a film about a wife who discovers her husband’s secret in the week building up to their 45 year anniversary, was less gripping, but anchored by an amazing performance by Charlotte Rampling. Two completely disparate films, connected by one thing: their BBFC insight promised me strong sex. What strong sex?? I’ve seen raunchier 12s!

In terms of short insight which did deliver on what it said on the tin, the starkest case has to be, to this date, still the only 18-rated 2016 release that I’ve seen (although this will surely change with the release of foreign films Elle and The Handmaiden), The Neon Demon. Rated 18 for ‘strong bloody images, sexual assault, necrophilia’, no one could argue it didn’t have each and every one of those three articles. The last one, in particular, must have been the main reason the film obtained its adult certificate. Jena Malone’s acting in the scene in question was brilliant and I thoroughly commend her for her dedication for making that 18-rated scene so credible, however aberrant the act.

Now, onto the prizegivings!

The BBFC Oscars
Decisions that the BBFC made that were different from rating bodies of other countries, but for which I commend them for exercising independent though believe the BBFC to be right and other countries wrong. (I'm only listing films where the BBFC deviated from other rating bodies because it goes without saying that in the majority of cases, I agree with the BBFC in their choices.)

01. Batman v Superman: Extended Cut’s 12 rating
shit film is shit, but it gives me an excuse to post a picture of Gal Gadot

I imagine this will be one of their most complained-about decisions when they release the figures in their Annual Report, given I read in the BBFC minutes that Batman v Superman the non-extended cut has already lead them to have a sizeable share of complaints last year, and the director’s cut was considered bloodier than this.

Batman v Superman: Extended Cut got an R in the States and a 15 in Ireland, meaning the BBFC are outnumbered 2-1 in terms of this decision. But I'm #TeamBBFC here. Personally, there was nothing in Zack Snyder’s laborious snorefest that I haven’t seen before in other 12-rated films. As I remarked in my reaction post to the film, the most aversive scene was probably when a prison inmate gets stabbed, but the stabbing in question happens off-frame, making the violence more impressionistic than detailed. 

There are the odd bloodspurts in fight scenes but when the characters are so disposable (and the director treats them thus), the violence didn’t register with me. Finally, the ‘moderate threat’ consists of murky shadows of bats, but those are so incompetently directed that I just put it down to bad lighting rather than anything remotely scary. 

02. When Marnie Was There’s U rating

Rated U for ‘very mild threat, scenes of emotional distress’ over here, this is another example where the BBFC is outnumbered 2-1; the film got a PG in both Ireland and America. Whilst I might quibble with their declaring the threat was ‘very mild’ (‘mild’ is more accurate), I’m strongly in agreement with the BBFC when they say that U-rated films don’t need to be squeaky clean. 

When Marnie Was There is a perfect example of a film that might momentarily frighten the viewer or even make them cry (the ‘emotional distress’ in question), but given cinema is supposed to make us feel, that is no bad thing. Any brief scares in When Marnie Was There had reassuring outcomes pretty swiftly, so there should have been no undue concern for any children watching. U for universal, and surely, such a beautiful film with a profound message deserves to be seen by all.

03. Love & Friendship’s U rating
Whit Stillman’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novella Lady Susan was rated U for ‘no material likely to offend or harm’, and that really was the case; one of the most harmless films I’ve seen. I’m not a prude, but there was something refreshing about watching such a witty, charming film that was devoid of any bad language or smutty jokes, and much of the kudos for that belongs to Kate Beckinsale and Tom Bennett, who gave fine comedic performances, performances that have sadly been completely overlooked during this awards season.

The IFCO, who are fairly sensible, were in concordance with the BBFC, rating it G, with their boxes featuring ‘none’, but the MPAA, amazingly, decided the film was worthy of a PG certificate. Just… how? There was literally nothing offensive in it!!!

04. Finding Dory’s U rating
As with Love & Friendship, an example of the BBFC and IFCO being sensible, rating it U/G, and the Americans being obtuse, rating it a PG. A Pixar cartoon about a forgetful fish, who’s forgetfulness occasionally gets her into trouble, is never going to end any way other than with a happy ending. The only remotely ‘threatening’ scenes were when Dory was chased by bigger fish, but these were resolved almost immediately, and so, again, I’m not sure what the Americans were playing at.

05. Nerve’s 15 rating
This is an example where the BBFC and IFCO rated it 15, the MPAA rated it PG-13, but I don’t think anybody incorrectly classified the film. The American PG-13 rating allows for more in the way of dangerous behaviour than the 12A does, so the Americans were within their rights to rate it PG-13. The British and Irish however, take a dimmer view on such actions, and there certainly were risky imitable behaviours in this film. The BBFC and IFCO erred on the side of caution with Nerve, and I applaud them for their responsibility.

The BBFC Razzies
Dubious decisions which I cannot for the life of me comprehend, however hard I try.

01. Sausage Party’s 15 rating (should be an 18)
I’ve ranted about this at length so I won’t bore you again, but episodes of Transparent have gotten 18 for just one use of the c-word, and in one episode it was directed from a woman to another woman. In Sausage Party, one of the uses was from Jonah Hill's character to Kirsten Wiig's. So the c-word double standards in Sausage Party is ridiculous. And of course, the protracted, nasty orgy scene. Gaaaaaaah. 

Also, not the fault of the BBFC’s in the slightest, but how did Jonah Hill get third billing in this film? That's almost as deceptive as him being on the film poster in Hail, Caesar!. #StopLyingAboutHowMuchJonahHillisInFilmsAndMisleadingHisFans

02. 10 Cloverfield Lane’s 12A rating (should be a 15)
As with Batman v Superman, I expect this to generate one of the highest volume of complaints when the BBFC release their annual report, but unlike with BvS, I completely agree with the complainers here. I was terrified throughout this film, and several elements contributed to my fear: John Goodman’s creepy abductor as well as the jump moments. 

The strongest instance of violence in this film happened off-screen, like in Batman v Superman, but unlike in BvS, where the only characters I cared about were Gadot's and Adams', in 10CL you spend the majority of the film with the three principal characters so you form an attachment to them. Thus, the violence really made an impact.

I also felt the threat in 10 Cloverfield Lane was pretty much unrelenting and the strength of it certainly exceeded the ‘moderate’ descriptive that the BBFC gave it (threatening to use acid, anyone?). I'm going to defer to the IFCO again, who's insight for this is much more accurate than the BBFC's:

03. So Young 2 Never Gone’s 15 (should be a 12A)

An unusual case of where the low quality of the acting contributed to the film getting incorrectly classified. Kris Wu and Liu Yifei's rubbish performances (both made the Wall of Shame of worst performances of 2016) lacked any kind of spark, and their chemistry was comparable with Blahra Delevingne/Joel Kinnaman and Felicia Vikander/Michael Fassbender in the invisibility stakes. 

As such, the predominant scene that the BBFC took umbrage with was when the male love interest gets in bed with the female, tries to spoon her, she initially resists, then succumbs. They read this scene was rapey, which it most certainly was not. It was flirtatious, and could easily be contained at 12A. It's just a shame that the actors lacked the passion to properly convey the flirtation. 

I feel this flirtatious repartee may have been lost in translation slightly, but, being a native Chinese speaker, I was never bothered by the issue of consent in this scene. Furthermore, #RealTalk: it's hardly an alien concept that the girl in an established relationship might occasionally put up a fight just because she gets off on the thrill of making her boyfriend work for it a bit more. I believe the term for that is ‘playing coy’. I didn’t know playing coy was 15-rated. 

04. The Shallows’s 15 rating (should be a 12A)

I've queried why this was a 15 and 10 Cloverfield Lane was a 12A to the BBFC, and they said the real-life setting of The Shallows was an aggravating factor to the film's tension. This is a massive non-answer; are they saying Mary Elizabeth Winstead getting kidnapped isn't 'real world' enough? 

Personally, I would never go swimming in a sea, so the threat of a dim shark trying to eat me isn't as tangible as getting abducted. Although I was tense during The Shallows, it was not a 15-rated-film levels of tense and I was far more afraid during 10 Cloverfield Lane, because what could happen there could happen to me, whereas I would never be in the situation where I would be in the vicinity of a shark.

Kudos to both Blake Lively and Mary Elizabeth Winstead for carrying their films with aplomb, but in terms of antagonists, I was far more afraid of the latter’s. 

05. High-Rise’s 15 (should be an 18)
The Irish rated this 18 for DVD release but 16 (their bespoke borderline 15/18 rating) for cinematic release, and High-Rise is a perfect example of a film which would benefit from such an in-between rating over here. 

There isn’t a particular thing that screams 18 about High-Rise, but it does have strong sex scenes (including sex parties), aggressive sexual dialogue, implied rape, uses of the c-word, cocaine use and some rather gory violence. Individually, each of these things are all top-end 15. 

But, put together, along with the unsavoury nature of the film, about the anarchy, rape and pillaging that occur in a high-rise building, I believe this film would be better suited for an adult audience only. (Ideally, nobody should see it. It's absolute shit.)

06. Your Name’s 12A rating (should be a PG)
This is lowest down the list because it’s rated 12A for two reasons, the first of which I can sort of understand. The BBFC insight is ‘infrequent moderate bad language, sex references’, and the bad language in question is one subtitled usage of ‘prick’. Whilst I’m OK with this word in most PGs, seeing it written the screen did give it more focus than if you heard it, so I can survive with this film as a 12A.

However, I would contest the 'moderate sex references' which was, after the boy and the girl swapping bodies, the boy being fascinated with the female body he's in, and groping his own boobs. This was done in a playful, cheeky way, and I didn't find it that rude. For reference, Eddie the Eagle is a PG for 'mild sex references', and I would argue that the sex jokes there are considerably naughtier than one playing with their boobs. 

Grimsby (rated 15) is a borderline complaint, as the elephant scene was really, really crude, but I know that the BBFC wanted to rate the original version of that an 18, and the distributors cut it for 15, so I believe there was a bit of give-and-take there. Suicide Squad's 15 is debatable as its short insight boasted of 'sustained threat', yet 10 Cloverfield Lane only had 'moderate threat' and 10CL was MUCH scarier. But I’ll give the BBFC the benefit of the doubt because there was one VERY scary thing about Suicide Squad: the fact that Cara Delevingne can get film roles. And finally, the crappy Chinese 'comedy' Mission Milano was fairly placed at at 12A, but the BBFC dropped the ball massively in forgetting to flag a comedic scene of toe-sucking in their extended insight (probably because they assumed no-one would watch it).

How about you? What BBFC decisions did you strongly agree or disagree with this year?


As you can tell, I'm obsessed with the BBFC. Here are all my blogs on them!


Golden Geek said...


1. Rating the anime Hanayamata as U. It got a TV-14 over in the States for no real reason other than the distributor being afraid a G-rated anime won't sell (though the same distributor happily sells at least one 18-rated anime as PG).

2. Rating Sing as U. I swear every animated kids' film in 2016 was rated PG by the MPAA. The G rating is going extinct.


1. 'Your Name.' rated 12A for one use of 'd*ck' and some boob-grabbing. Almost every country has rated the film as a G or PG equivalent. (Australia:PG / Hong Kong:I / Ireland:PG / Japan:G / Malaysia:P13* / New Zealand:PG / Philippines:G / Singapore:PG / South Korea:12 / Taiwan:GP / UK:12A)

*Malaysia's P13 is their PG. Even Moana was P13.

2. One Day a Time: Season 1, Episode 10: 'Sex Talk'. Rated 15 for 'frequent moderate sex references, innuendo'. This one episode bumped the whole family show up to a 15 on Netflix, despite the episode thematically feeling like a 12. There was limited discussion of a child viewing Internet porn and threesomes, but there were no visual or crude sexual references. The episode had a very sweet/heartwarming scene at the end in which a girl comes out to her mom as lesbian which in my opinion would be beneficial for 12-14 year olds to see.

3. Future Diary episode 2. Rated 12 for 'moderate threat, injury detail'. A girl gets stabbed in the eye with a dart!

Emma said...

Golden Geek, thank you for an amazingly comprehensive response! I want to watch ONE DAY AT A TIME now just to see whether that episode was harshly rated at 15!

I can't believe a U-rated show got TV-14 in the States. Hannibal is a TV-14! So that's the same as a U rated show getting the same rating as an 18 rated show... crazy!!!