October 9, 2021
Toronto Sun
By Antonella Artuso

Nemo nearly a no-no

Fish-eating barracuda, tooting in Shrek 2 enough to give pause to Film Review Board

  When the toothy barracuda shot across the big screen and devoured little Nemo's mom and siblings, he did more than scare the daylights out of the diaper pull-ups set.

Bill Moody, retiring chair of the Ontario Film Review Board, said the Disney film presented an "agonizing" decision for the people whose job it is to protect such tender sensibilities.

A PG rating -- as the first panel allotted Finding Nemo -- would mean fewer people would see the charming movie. The G rating the appeals panel eventually gave it led to angry phone calls from parents whose little ones had woken in the middle of the night with nightmares.

The fart scene in Shrek 2, which Moody's own 5-year-old grandson found hilarious, also drew complaints.

Moody, who retires this Tuesday, said the board's role has evolved since he first joined in 1996.

Where once the board's focus was "cut, snip and censor," now it attempts to help adults make educated decisions for themselves and their families. Since the ground-breaking Glad Day court decision, the board no longer has the right to censor mainstream movies.

"If it's adult sex product ... we have the right to censor product that is sex with violence, dehumanizing, degrading, bestiality, necrophilia or underage," he said.

It has not gone unnoticed by the board that scenes that would get a porn movie banned are often found in mainstream movies.

"Fat Girl was a good example of that where there was an underaged girl (who) was a participant in that she watched the entire (sex) scene and fondled herself, and watched her sister being raped," Moody said. "That was artistic merit."

The former guidance teacher said he favours the current system.

"I happen to believe that when a person's an adult, they have the right to pick and choose what they want to see," Moody said. "My job is really, really important -- to inform people of the content of movies so that they can protect their kids."

As in the case of Finding Nemo, however, the classification of a film is no small matter. The more restricted the film is, the smaller the potential audience. Panel members also fretted over The Green Mile, an artistically important film with a six-and-a-half minute, eyeball-melting execution scene.

The horror genre poses a constant headache -- teenagers are the fans but most of these films rate an 18A or restricted classification.

An animated film rated this past week got an 18A rating, something that had to be explained to a bewildered distributor.

The board received numerous complaints from callers wanting it to ban the cat-killers documentary, Casuistry.

On a tour this week of the board's office tucked away in a leafy corner of the upscale Leaside community, Moody explained how panels classify all movies headed for the theatre or video stores.

Bob Cardwell, who once operated the projector at the legendary Roxy Theatre in Toronto, screening the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, now runs the show in the theatre set up for panel members.

Two male panel members were viewing a straight-to-video prison film. So far, the F-word count was upwards of 20 and counting.

"In a PG-rated movie, we will allow a maximum of four F-words, roughly one every 30 minutes," Moody said.

With one scene involving rear male nudity and a prolonged fight, the movie was rapidly working its way upwards through the classification guide -- G, PG, 14A, 18A and restricted.

Innocent nudity can be found in a G movie. Implied sexual activity earns a film a 14A rating.

"They're moving under that blanket, you know they don't have their clothes on but they could be playing monopoly," Moody said.

When Moody first joined the board, all explicit sex was censored out of movies. Now, these films get R ratings.

In the next screening room, a two-person, male and female panel are reviewing a video that is of the most common variety reviewed by the board. Moody said 65% of their work is classifying "adult sex product."

New panel members are given an orientation session. "The second day we introduce them to adult sex product and in doing that, usually we know right away whether they're going to stick or not."

In his final year at the board, Moody took the bold step of classifying the extremely violent videogame Manhunt as restricted -- a first for Ontario. Although he took heat from anti-censor groups, Moody said much good has come from that decision, which made it illegal to sell the game to anyone under 18.

The province is moving to make industry ratings on video games legally binding and retailers are launching a massive public campaign to educate parents about the content of the games.

Moody said that now that he's retiring, he wants to go back to just watching movies for fun.

One of his all-time favourites? Finding Nemo.