Friday, September 12, 2003
Will the New York Times warn us about all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world?
So I'm reading today's New York Times at lunch — section B, "Weekend: Movies, Performing Arts" — and in particular a very favorable review of "Lost in Translation," a new movie starring Bill Murray.
The good grey Times tells me that Murray
plays a vodka-and-bitters version of himself and the persona that made him famous. His character, Bob, is an American movie star who is in Tokyo to participate in the celebrity not-so-secret shame: he's picking up a boatload of dough to perform in commercials for Suntory whiskey. He arrives in Japan just in time to gaze, slightly embarrassed, at the sullen billboards of himself that are starting to appear there.
Now with this, the Times' improbably named reviewer — "Elvis Mitchell," uh-uh-huh, huh, hey-yeah — has confused me a bit. Is it vodka-and-bitters (presumably all shook up)? Or is it whiskey?
I'm particularly confused because there really is a Japanese company named Suntory, and it really does sell whiskey, or "whisky" (as Scotch whisky-makers and -drinkers prefer to spell it). I know this because I've seen the caption on the Suntory website page that reads, "Maturation warehouse at Yamazaki Distillery where barrels of molt whiskies, including the ones made in 1924, slumber for aging." I've taken the free-sample tours at distilleries in the Scottish Highlands, Midlands, and Lowlands, and the overpowering smells of malted barley there I'll never forget. But I've never had a molt whisky or a molt whiskey, so if I ever go to Japan I'm planning to try both. (Probably not the 1924 one, though; I might like it too much and then go invade Manchuria. Let's let that one keep slumbering.)
So anyway, this is a really flattering review, very effusive, and I've about decided that this is one I'll at least add to my Netflix list. And so I get to the end of the review, and I'm about to flip the page when I read this:
"Lost in Translation" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has sexual content as well as strong language and alcohol consumption.
Rated R for ... alcohol consumption?
Or is that "strong" intended to modify both "language" and "alcohol consumption"? As in, "Hey kid, lemme see some ID! ... What? No ID? Hey, youz geddowdahere then! This movie has strong alcohol consumption! I'm talkin' EverClear-strength, baby, 180 proof! Just watchin' it'll have a kid like you pukin' an' cryin' fer yer mama!"
A quick Google site-search of the Motion Picture Association of America website reveals no new ratings rules requiring that movie advertisements and disclaimers warn of "alcohol consumption." Tucked away in the archives, there are some comments made by the MPAA on some proposed FCC regulatory amendments for satellite broadcasting in 1996 which proclaim that "MPA member companies distribute their programming in markets all around the world, conforming to non-discriminatory standards — whether those standards are motivated by public health policies, such as bans on depiction of alcohol consumption, or local cultural values with respect to sex or violence." But it says nothing about new warnings for boozy scenes. Which is comforting: he's never invited me for one, but I've always thought that Jack Valenti would be a great guy to sit down and have a stiff drink with, or maybe two or three. I'd really like to hear him tell some LBJ stories that I suspect go better with one or more tall whiskies — not much ice.
Now I'm beginning to wonder if I've violated the Kyoto Treaty or the Geneva Convention or something like that by snatching and republishing the photo in this post from the Times, which presumably got it from the film's distributor, Focus Features, which presumably has it copyrighted. I'm pretty sure I'm okay with the copyright laws under "fair use," and I'm spending my own rather than leaching off the Times' bandwidth. But should I have a new warning label for BeldarBlog? I mean, that amber color in Murray's glass probably isn't from apple juice, is it?
"DANGER: This blog features strong men taking strong measures to satisfy their strong thirst for strong drink! STRONG alcohol consumption may be depicted here without prior warning or apology!
Still, what would we all do without (respectively) Hollywood to offend, and the New York Times to protect, our sensibilities? I shall sleep more soundly tonight, boy, knowing that I won't accidentally stumble into a theater and be shocked — shocked! — to be caught unawares watching someone slam down a Miller Lite.
And hey — maybe I could get the concession for the restickering project, adding the new warning labels to every DVD and videocasette for every film Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and Clint Eastwood ever made!
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(1) LazyMF made the following comment | Sep 16, 2003 4:44:31 PM | Permalink
Maybe the NYT has melded the MPA standards with those of the Catholic League of Decency. My mother said the CLD prevented her from seeing any movies involving Bob Hope (immoral Protestant), Doris Day (immoral slut!) and Jimmy Dean (wore his shirt open too far). On second thought, drinking...Catholics...nevermind.
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