Saoirse Ronan’s Lovely Bones outraged movie goers in 2010
Saoirse Ronan’s movie The Lovely Bones attracted most complaints last year.
Peter Jackson's dramatisation of the novel prompted the biggest postbag of 2010 to the British Board of Film Classification. Some cinema-goers were unhappy it was rated suitable for audiences aged 12 and upwards, when they thought it should be restricted to adults.
In its annual report the BBFC said many viewers found the 12A-rated film to be a "shocking and unsettling experience".
Alice Sebold's novel was about a young girl who is murdered and watches over the subsequent lives of her family and her killer from heaven. People wrote to the BBFC to say they believed a scene in which the main character Susie (played by Saoirse Ronan) is trapped by the killer, who is later seen soaking in a bath after the murder, was more suited to an 18-rated film.
But affirming its position, the BBFC said the film did not contain explicit detail of the killing, many teenagers would have been familiar with the book's themes and the film acted as a precautionary tale.
The newly published annual report by the BBFC - which classifies 214,000 film and DVD releases - reveals that it also received complaints about disruptive cinema audiences, ticket prices and rude box office staff.
The BBFC said that their main concerns in classifying films were sexual violence, strong language and the sexualisation of children. They gave certificates to 654 films - the highest total since 1974.
Among the films that particularly concerned them were Srpski Film (A Serbian Film) on which they imposed 49 cuts, deleting a total of four minutes 12 seconds of footage. I Spit On Your Grave took 17 cuts, deleting 43 seconds of footage.
The 92-page report details some of the complaints from viewers, including:
* Toy Story 3 was considered 'too dark and upsetting to be rated 'U' by some viewers. "The one-eyed Baby Doll character was compared to the Chucky Doll character in the horror film series," the report said. There were 12 complaints.
* The Princess And The Frog was criticised for its use of voodoo and tarot cards. Disney's film attracted anger over allowing 'black magic practices' in a children's film. Six complaints
* Kick-Ass was criticised for the violence and the use of very strong language by the child character superhero. 21 complaints.
* Mike Leigh's Another Year was criticised - by only one viewer - for showing 'excessive alcohol drinking'.
Of course, the credibility of the complaints varied. One 'rural viewer' wrote in to complain that the sheep-chasing scene in Scouting For Boys would encourage teenagers from towns to come to the country and copy that behaviour.
The Board also highlight in their report that there were no complaints about the digital film submission of the 1970 classic The Railway Children - "despite several scenes showing child characters in danger while on or around railway lines."
Racial awareness has obviously moved on since the 1970s and the report goes into detail about the colourised version of the 1942 Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire musical comedy Holiday Inn.
The film contains a routine in which Crosby blacks up and pretends to be Abraham Lincoln emancipating the slaves - remained as a U Certificate "despite the potential to cause offence" but the BBFC updated the Consumer Advice to read: 'Contains scene of racial stereotyping'.
The BBFC also now has a warning on films that this 'contains outdated racial attitudes'. To illustrate this they report on a joke about tomatoes not being cowboys because they are 'Redskins' in Tickle On The Tum, a 1980s pre-school children's series, for which they posted a warning on the DVD box.
Another change in attitudes concerns smoking. There are plenty with cigarettes in From Here To Eternity and The Big Sleep but the BBFC says: "There is some concern about portrayals of smoking which glamorise or promote the activity but the adult characters in these historical works "were considered unlikely to register as role models to a contemporary younger audience.
Sometimes the straightforward language of the report masks something of a critic's insult. The film of the A Team was allowed to carry a 12A certificate despite being full of violence, because "there was a lack of detail or realism" in the movie.
The BBFC are also make it clear they are alert to scenes of animal cruelty. The film Carlos required cuts to remove three scenes of cockfighting while a horse being '"dangerously tripped" was removed from the Mandarin historical action drama True Legend. On DVD scenes of horses being "dangerously tripped' were also removed from By The Will Of Genghis Khan, Little Big Soldier And Confucius.
Bad Language also sets alarms bells ringing for the BBFC. Neds, the coming-of-age drama following teenager John McGill in 1970s Glasgow, was given an 18 certificate because of the 'very strong language'.
Jimmy Carr's comedy DVD Making People Laugh got an 18 because of the frequency of the "use of the word c--- rather than the manner of delivery."
What on earth difference the 'manner of delivery' makes is not explained.
After reading the report you do emerge with a sense of sympathy for the people who have to watch some of the nasty bilge out there - a Thai film called Meat Grinder - about a female psychopath who kills victims and grinds their flesh into meatballs - wouldn't be high up the list of my Saturday night DVD choices.
You also emerge with a sense that the future holds ever greater challenges to test the Board's vigilance and sense of fairness, balance and artistic freedom.
Next year is the BBFC's centenary and they will have to contend with a growing video game market (Red Dead Redemption was only one such game that earned an 18 for its 'strong violence') and the ever-growing porn industry. Add to that the new challenges of a film industry where special effects and 3D techniques can heighten the impact of scenes of violence and you have a testing time ahead.
Let's hope Jimmy Carr's having a year off.