"The Pianist," or My Movie Rating System
After a conversation with a co-worker a few weeks ago, I found myself thinking about R-rated movies -- rather, why I don't usually watch them. He'd asked me why I didn't, and I answered as plainly as I could, but since that day at the office, I've thought about it a bit more.
Eight years ago, my friend Shannon told me she quit watching R-rated movies, and it impressed me. Why it impressed me so much at that particular time, I'll never know. But I quit watching R-rated movies, too. For a long time, I missed the movies I couldn't watch; after a while, I didn't even care. And after a long while, I got to the point that I often didn't see lots of movies -- whether they were rated "R" or not. I became more selective in general -- skipping out on "PG-13" movies because they seemed just as offensive as the R-rated ones. Then some "PG" and "G" movies didn't make the cut, either -- not for their crudeness or immorality, but for their utter ridiculousness.
My own personal rating system seemed to be all over the charts; that is, there were no hard rules. I based my movie decisions on trailers, published reviews, and word-of-mouth. I developed my own gauge on which movies were acceptable and which weren't. And then one day, I decided to make an exception to the "No Rated-R" rule. It was one instance in a handful. I can't even remember what movie it was, though I think it was a re-watching of something from my teenage years (some 90s grunge-era movie, no doubt). Did I regret it? Yes. Have I regretted all the exceptions? No, not by a long shot.
One such movie is The Pianist. Although it could be described as a "war movie," I didn't watch it because of that. (Many people who don't watch R-rated movies will tell you they make exceptions for the ones about war; I don't subscribe to that philosophy.) I watched it, in part, because of the music. I figured a movie that featured ten works by Chopin was probably worthwhile, and I was right. It was a wonderful movie. It is a wonderful movie. I would recommend it to anyone, even if they don't usually watch R-rated movies, too.
Why am I blogging about this? Well, because I just bought "The Pianist" on sale at Target . . . And because I wanted to talk about why I do what I do, I guess. What I know about making my own rating system is this: My life has been better because of it. My thirst for popular culture and celebrity gossip has dramatically waned, and my sensitivity to foul language, violence, and unhealthy romantic (especially sexual) relationships portrayed in media has increased. Considering the amount of movies and television I used to watch and the resultant skewed perspective I had on such subjects (especially romantic relationships), I think these changes have been a good thing. I don't think avoiding R-rated movies is a good rule, nor do I think media that doesn't follow MPAA guidelines is a free-for-all. (I'm looking at you, television.)
I guess I'm saying that I think it's good to use your head and your heart to make decisions about media consumption.*
And that if you have the chance, watch "The Pianist."
*In 1981, Keith W. Merrill, director of The Great American Cowboy (1973), gave some excellent advice about relying on movie ratings.
Thing I'm thankful for: sleepy afternoons