Periscope Depth

let the bodies hit the floor

The Wizard: The conclusion of Gene Wolfe’s The Wizard Knight series, his oddly revisionist fantasy epic from 2005. Having read the series to completion, I see a lot more of traits I’d just started to recognize in Wolfe’s earlier writing. Such as: long conversations on ethics that prove more interesting than the swordplay. Recognizable fantasy tropes repurposed and made fantastic once again. Epic quests that keep getting spun off into side quests. Fluid re-imaginings of the nature of fatherhood, motherhood and family as a whole. If you like any sort of fantasy fiction, I give this my strongest recommendation.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated: A savage takedown of the mysterious MPAA Ratings Board. Indie director Kirby Dick interviews actors and directors whose films have skirted the edge of NC-17 – Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Atom Egoyan, Maria Bello, Kimberly Peirce. He makes the case that sex will earn an NC-17 faster than violence, female sexuality faster than male sexuality, and “aberrant” sexuality faster still. And if you’re that rare skeptic who says, “I see your point, but I’d need side-by-side clips of Natasha Lyonne and Kevin Spacey masturbating as proof,” relax – you’re covered.

Dick learns that the MPAA will not make the names of either the Ratings Board or their Appeals Board public, for fear of undue “pressure” being exerted on them – a fear that the Supreme Court has somehow lived with for more than two centuries, but hey. So he hires a private investigator to surveil the MPAA compound and do some basic detective work, coming up with a rough but reliable list of names. Almost none of them have children under the age of 18 (the ostensible purpose of MPAA ratings). Many of them have extensive studio connections themselves. And the Appeals Board – whose meetings cannot be recorded, whose members cannot be named and whose precedents you are not allowed to cite while appealing – comprises the largest theater chains in the country.

The movie makes a very one-sided case, as most documentaries do, but I can’t really see what’s being omitted. There’s a lot of cheerleading for indie films, and one unwitting guffaw when someone suggests that a government ratings board would at least be more “transparent.” But I can’t imagine a better critique made more artfully than this cynical, hilarious little film.