Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in likely Oscar contender, Blue Valentine.
Like a bad grade in college that you don’t think you deserve, a Motion Picture Association of America movie rating is something you can sometimes appeal. There are many instances of Hollywood films being slapped with ratings that their producers and studios abhor. After all, filmmakers want the biggest audience possible for their movies. There are a few celebrated cases of movies doing well despite “extreme” ratings—Last Tango in Paris and its X comes to mind—but for most filmmakers, anything stronger than an R is too risky. The appeals process is somewhat opaque and involves meeting with an appellate board and presenting the case. Victories are rare, but Harvey Weinstein just claimed a big one for Blue Valentine, the Oscar hopeful starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Back in October, the ratings board inexplicably laid an NC-17 rating on the indie film. That’s considered the kiss of death financially. Some major theater chains won’t even distribute a movie with that rating because it’s associated with pornographic content. Weinstein did what Weinstein does best: he milked a lot of free publicity for his movie. Gosling accused the board of sexism, presumably because the rating was over a scene where Williams’s character received oral sex. “There’s plenty of oral-sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it’s a man receiving it from a woman, and they’re R-rated,” Gosling said. Then Weinstein rolled up his sleeves, and on Dec. 8 met with a special appeals board himself. It worked—Blue Valentine is now rated R. Here’s a look back at some other successful (and unsuccessful) ratings battles in the last decade: