You really had to hand it to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein this week.
After generating tons of press coverage for his anger over the Motion Picture Association of America’s R rating for the documentary “Bully” — stirring up more publicity for a non-fiction film than most big-budget action movies ever receive — and then vowing to release the film without a rating, Weinstein’s company yesterday said it would make the cuts necessary to secure a PG-13.
The Weinstein Company tried to frame this decision as a victory over the MPAA — claiming it kept in one raw-ish scene that was part of the original R decision — but it has trimmed out all but a few of the F-bombs.
The MPAA has always allowed two non-sexual uses of the F word in a PG-13 and now the Weinstein people are bragging that they are creating a milestone by getting three uses.
I was surprised when so many members of the movie press got sucked into this flap — drawing who-knows-how-many incensed op-ed page writers along with them — when ratings hysteria is one of the oldest PR gambits in the Weinstein playbook.
Going all the way back to 1990, Weinstein (then head of Miramax) got a lot of press for protesting the X-rating for the Peter Greenaway film, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.” Weinstein said it was wrong to lump the British import with “pornographic” films.
After a few weeks of back and forth-ing with the MPAA, Miramax released the movie with the original rating and no doubt made a lot more money from a very obscure and very arty picture by drawing so much attention to its graphic sexual content.
I might have been more sympathetic to the “Bully” ratings protest — I am no fan of the MPAA’s censorship power — if I didn’t remember what the Weinstein Company did early last year after the R-rated “The King’s Speech” won the Oscar for best picture. In a shameless attempt to maximize profits for the film, the company made cuts to get a PG-13 after the picture received the movie industry’s highest honor.