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antiTainment NEWS: 'Fahrenheit 9/11' R Rating, Larger Release, and Slate Attacks


06-22-04
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Michael Moore won and lost on Tuesday. He lost the appeal to have the R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America downgraded to a PG-13 rating for 'Fahrenheit 9/11', but he won a wider audience for the film.  Estimates last week set the amount of screens the movie would open on at between 400 and 600, but Reuters reports that the distributors of the film, Lions Gate Films and IFC Films, have said that the movie is now set to open on 868 theaters in the U.S. this Friday. 

The MPAA does not disclose the reasons for their ratings.  Speculation is that the reported war scenes in the film are what earned the restricted rating, which bars those under 17 from viewing a film without a parent or guardian. 

On another front, Moore came under fire from Slate magazine over comments he made in the New York Times last week. “Any attempts to libel me will be met by force,'" Moore told the Times. "The most important thing we have is truth on our side. If they persist in telling lies, knowingly telling a lie with malice, then I'll take them to court."

The times further reported that "has consulted with lawyers who can bring defamation suits against anyone who maligns the film or damages his reputation." Slate’s Jack Shafer took exception to Moore’s pronouncement and wrote an op-ed piece about it and ended it with a challenge to sue Slate over a review of the film that they published. “Moore isn't likely to find a more severe appraisal of his film and his work than this Slate piece by Christopher Hitchens. Read it, Mr. Moore. We invite your suit.”

In his editorial, Shafer wrote that it is unlikely that Moore would follow through with such lawsuits, and even if he did, he isn’t likely to win them. “It is unlikely that Moore could win such cases…This sort of subjective expression of opinion is protected under the law, and there's nothing the blustering Moore can do to stop his critics from making them. Given the thousands of wildly hostile film, book, and restaurant reviews published each year, court dockets would be overflowing with libel suits if bringing one was as easy as Moore pretends to think it is.”

Later on Shafer writes, “He knows that nobody is likely to get very far by suing him for his opinions, as expressed in Fahrenheit 9/11. Since he clearly understands the law, it's plain that if we take Moore at his word, he appears to believe in free speech only for himself.”  (click here to read the Slate article). 

The film has already generated headlines across the world, from the Disney decision, to the content of the film, to the protest over the R rating, to Ray Bradbury wanting Moore to change the title (see story), to organized efforts by a rightwing group to pressure theatres not to show the film. Once the film opens, it’s like that critics will cry loudly over the content of the film, while supporters will cheer Moore on for his efforts. But will Moore really resort to suing his critics and risk the negative publicity that would bring? Mr. Shafer doesn’t seem to think so. But Moore hasn’t shied away from controversy before, so we will have to wait and see what happens.  We do know that Moore is ready to challenge anyone that challenges his film, to the point of setting up a “War Room” to answer any attacks on the film’s accuracy. 

So one thing is for certain, even if the film doesn’t entertain you, watching the fireworks surrounding it might. Maybe someone should do a documentary about the controversy about this documentary?  Especially if Moore follows through with his threat to sue those who criticize the film, that might bring in the “Law & Order” fans.  .



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