Art, Communication & The Lure of the R-rated Film

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately.  I can think back on movies I've seen throughout the years and the ways in which audiences reacted, and the fanfare or fallout that comes with a film.  Take a film like Moonlight, voted Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards, and fill a room with 10 people who have seen it.  I am willing to bet that five people thoroughly enjoyed it, and five absolutely loathed it.  In my opinion, that means the film accomplished something, because yes, films like these are made with the audience in mind.  However, I also believe that the best Writers, Directors and Producers make films with solely their vision in mind, and that's it.  

"I have an idea for the film and how it should sound, feel, look and pace, and by God, we are going to make it that way."

Hollywood gets a lot of shit from people these days.  Self-importance and the "look at me" attitudes are not always well-received by the masses.

"You direct movies for a living?  Your life isn't that hard, get over yourself."

"You get to work out all day for a role and eat healthy to star in an action film that might make millions?  Please."

As artists put their work out there, that is the risk you take with your art.  Not everyone sees another person working in an office or out of their home doing business all day.  But, many people do see films.  Many people do listen to music.  And, many people do take the film going and music listening experience very seriously.  And, they should.  It's an important part of culture that can help you identify your likes, dislikes, fears, insecurities, stress relievers, memories, communication skills and so much more.  

I'm about to finish up Amy Poehler's great auto-biography titled Yes Please and there is a certain segment of the book that really stood out to me.  In it, she speaks of how she learned many of her communication skills by watching television and seeing how characters interacted with one another.  

While reading her book, I feel there are certain aspects of her life and style in which we are direct "spirit animals."  It's actually kind of crazy.  This chapter really made me reminisce on my own childhood and direct experiences with television, feature films, music and so much more. You see, I grew up in a house where Parental Advisory stickers ran the show.  Every kid from my generation knows about the Parental Advisory sticker and every single one of them hated those things.  

Attention parents!  This music contains content that may be innappropriate for young suburban children and you should not let them listen to it.

Similar to the video games rating systems (it took my mom a year to realize the title of Grand Theft Auto and its implications), ratings eventually started to rule the world.  So, I was usually stuck with the edited versions of albums and had to sneak in ways to find the unedited ones.  It was probably more exciting that way, as sneaking around your parents is the biggest thrill of all growing up.  

Now onto movies and their rating systems.  For whatever reason, my parents were extremely loose with their restrictions on which movies I watched growing up. 

Why?  I have zero idea.  I do know that my dad did not want to completely shelter me from the world and both of my parents absolutely adored watching films.  Rap wasn't his thing.  He just didn't get it and I know that he still does not, and most likely never will.  That's okay.  But, he did get movies and so did my mom, and that was the greatest gift of all.  I was that kid who could watch PG-13 films at age eight, and I was the kid who watched his first R-rated film at age 11.  It was Air Force One by the way.  

When you're that kid growing up, a lot of parents become leery of your home.  I watched Air Force One at my buddy, Evan's house, played Grand Theft Auto for the first time at my buddy, John's house, and then watched Scary Movie at my house with Evan and my younger brother Kevin, who was about 7 at the time.  

Mom: What's Scary Movie about?

Me: Oh just a spoof on the scary movie genre.

Mom: Is it bad? Inappropriate?  Can Kevin watch it?

Me: It's not that bad.  Kevin will be fine.

Mom: Okay sounds good.

And that was that.  My 7-year-old brother watched Scary Movie as his first R-rated film and basically, I scarred him for life.  Sorry mom.

What about you?  Were you the kid who had to call home and ask if you could watch a movie at a friend's house? The first time I had to do that was for Air Force One because Evan's parents forced me, but once I got the green light, I never called again.  It's my life, right? Parenting and watching your children is important, but it's a big world, and sometimes, I think you need to let children grow up a little on their own.  Hell, they might watch a movie that is way too scary for them, or something that goes completely over their heads, but sometimes that is the risk you have to take.  Now, I get it.  Some movies are not for children. Period.  Their brains aren't quite there yet, and hell, I've seen filmsin my late 20's that have affected me for extremely long periods of time. 

However, life is about experimentation, trial-and-error, stepping out of our comfort zones, and finding our passions, likes and dislikes in this world.  Films are an important medium that can open up minds, provide beauty and raw emotion, create laughter, angst, discomfort, fear, sadness and so much more.  Films have a way of getting in touch with all of the human elements of emotion and the best filmmakers know exactly how to push these buttons.  

So, think back on that first R-rated movie you watched and how it made you see things a little differently moving forward.  How did it affect you?  What did you like about it?  What did you dislike about it?  Was it worth the wait?

I bet you'll take a nice little trip down memory lane.