By Katey Rich
The awards handed out at ShoWest are usually the same from year to year: Female Star of the Year, Female Star of Tomorrow, Director of the Year, etc. But every now and then an accomplishment comes up that warrants its own award, and hey, who better than ShoWest to hand out an award that no one else might? That's how Ang Lee and James Schamus will be honored at ShoWest this year, with the ShoWest/NATO Freedom of Expression Award.
You may remember how Lee's latest film, Lust, Caution, was slapped with an NC-17 rating, limiting the film's possible release locations and audience. But it turns out, that's exactly what National Association of Theatre Owners president John Fithian wanted to happen. As he said in a press release issued today, "One year ago at ShoWest, I called upon cinematic artists to take the NC-17 rating seriously. Ang Lee and James Schamus answered that call with Lust, Caution, demonstrating uncompromising integrity in their filmmaking."
Given how much meddling is done with the ratings before a movie comes out, adding an extra f-word here to get an R rating or cutting short a sex scene to get a PG-13, it's truly remarkable to find a filmmaker willing to stick with what the MPAA will give, even if that significantly damages the film's chance of getting a large audience. Does this mean a future in which NC-17 movies are considered respectable enough for the local multiplex? Maybe not. But as Fithian also points out, the rating guarantees that it is an adult movie for adults; so were Before The Devil Knows You're Dead and There Will Be Blood. The rating reflects the subject matter-- for Lust, Caution, a sexual relationship-- more than the film's quality.
It was a shame to see that Lee, after being rewarded so widely for Brokeback Mountain two years ago, was largely shut out of the awards race this year. But hey, that's ShoWest: always going with the unexpected.