Barry Jenkins cements himself as an essential voice with "If Beale Street Could Talk"                "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is the best animated film of the year                Snubs and surprises mark the Screen Actors Guild nominations as "A Star Is Born" leads the way                2018 Critics Choice nominations led by Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Favourite"                Nicole Kidman: Boy Erased and Destroyer - Hollywood Film Tribute                “Beautiful Boy” – Timothée Chalamet: Hollywood Film Tribute                “First Man” by Damien Chazelle: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy - Hollywood Film Tribute                Natalie Portman shines in the otherwise confounding "Vox Lux"                Golden Globe nominations announced! "Vice" leads the charge!                “Green Book” - Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali: Hollywood Film Tribute                "Mary Queen of Scots" can't live up to its royal lineage                "Ben Is Back" sees father and filmmaker Peter Hedges direct his son Lucas Hedges to a brilliant performance                Hollywood Film Tribute: GLENN CLOSE for her excellent performances                A final crack at Golden Globe nominations before Thursday's announcement                “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Once Upon a Deadpool”: Films to see in December        

Oscars: On “Shame,” and its NC-17 rating – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell Steve McQueen’s frank, demanding “Shame” arrives in theaters on Dec. 2 – at the height of its Oscar campaign – with a dreaded NC-17 rating due to the film’s graphic nudity and cold, unflinching approach to sex. And while one of the film’s stars thinks its ludicrous that “Shame” is held to a different standard than nudity-happy teen sex comedies, the National Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

First, there’s Carey Mulligan, who plays Michael Fassbender’s wayward sister in McQueen’s film and contributes to the NC-17 rating by appearing bottomless in one of the film’s scenes. There’s nothing sexual about her nudity, and Mulligan thinks the rating – which hurts the film’s distribution chances because no one under 17 is allowed to see the film – is unfair.

“You know, so many of the teen movies will have so much sex and so many people walking around in bikinis and bare-breasted, and that all seems to be okay,” she tells HitFix. “And then the minute you show it and it’s not funny, and it’s not sexy, and it’s actually unattractive, then it becomes a problem, which seems so odd.”

But Fithian, speaking to The Wrap following a recent “Shame” screening at AFI Fest, says he applauds McQueen and Fox Searchlight for not editing down what amounts to a masterful vision of sexual addiction, of cravings and destructive behaviors.

“It would have destroyed this film to cut it down to an R rating,” said Fithian. “Too many filmmakers and too many studios do that, and I applaud Steve McQueen and Fox Searchlight for sticking to their guns.

“This is the kind of film that the NC-17 is designed for, and I think we need more bold filmmakers and distributors to make content appropriate for the rating and release it that way.”

Now we need to see if audiences will show up. I hope they do, as “Shame” is one of the year’s finest films. But the NC-17 rating alerts them to what’s in store, because while “Shame” is honest, it’s also uncomfortable, which is a necessary component to McQueen’s vital message.

“Shame” opens in limited release on Dec. 2.

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