Liz vs. Jim: Should we praise Woody Allen?

Woody Allen (AFP)

Woody Allen (AFP)

Jim Slotek and Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 PM ET

Jim says...Feel free to call me an Allen supporter

Remember when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews - in pushing for a law giving the feds unprecedented online privacy-invasion power - said you, “either stand with us or with the child pornographers”?

It comes to this in defending Woody Allen’s legacy as a filmmaker, let alone as one whose films have given actresses more room to breathe onscreen than any other. The result of his works: a total of 12 Oscar noms or wins for 10 actresses (four for men).

This week’s Oscar nomination announcement brought it to 13 noms - Cate Blanchett was a lock for her Blanche Dubois-esque performance in Allen’s Blue Jasmine, on the heels of last Sunday’s Golden Globe win.

Well, I’m a fan of Woody Allen, and no matter what vigilantes might say, I don’t “stand with child molestation” (a crime for which, one must remind oneself, Allen was investigated with a fine-toothed comb because of his ex’s angry, public allegations, and never charged).

I cherish the experience of his early comedies (“the early, funnier ones,” as they’re referred to in Stardust Memories), Take The Money and Run, What’s Up Tiger Lily, Bananas, Sleeper, Love and Death and Play It Again, Sam. And though he’s not in his creative sweetspot at this point in his career, I still find something to like in about every third movie (Vicky Christina Barcelona, Midnight In Paris, Match Point and yes, Blue Jasmine for the acting alone).

It may be inevitable that people’s works can no longer stand on their own. Gossip-mongers have assumed the right to shape one’s legacy. But it’s not always equitably applied. If it did, Broadway darling Matthew Broderick would be remembered for killing two people with his car in Northern Ireland

in 1987. Mark Wahlberg’s name couldn’t be mentioned without someone snarking about him beating a Vietnamese immigrant nearly to death in his younger days. Tim Allen would always be a drug-dealing ex-con.

The difference between Allen and those other guys? Allen was never charged with anything relating to the complicated and sordid scandal in his life. He married the woman he “had an affair” with - the one who was neither his daughter nor his adoptive daughter - and they have been wed for nearly 17

years. At worst, this makes them the Charles and Camilla of the Wronged Woman Society, Hollywood Chapter.

It’s possible Woody Allen is not a nice guy. I don’t care. And - in absence of legal proof - I’m not going to let TMZ tell me other people’s private lives are any of my business.

I suppose I could have simply reprinted Diane Keaton’s Golden Globes tributeto the guy. Suffice to say, the list of witnesses for the defence in the court of public opinion would include her, Mariel Hemingway, Penelope Cruz, Samantha Morton, Dianne Wiest (one win and one nomination), Mira Sorvino,

Jennifer Tilly, and Judy Davis.

The late Maureen Stapleton and Geraldine Page might also chime in via séance.

Twitter: @jimslotek

jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca

Liz says... Woody’s celebrity status can’t erase family damage

When Lostprophets' frontman Ian Watkins got 35 years in prison recently for sexually assaulting children, it's unlikely anyone criticized his singing voice.

So it's entirely possible that Woody Allen makes good movies. That's got nothing to do with the fact that he is married to his own stepdaughter and accused of inappropriately touching another child in his care.

Where those two pursuits — moviemaking and allegations of child molestation — dovetail is in the apparent willingness of actors to work with Allen regardless. That seems weird.

And in the willingness of the public to continue seeing the director's work. The Woody Allen debacle has a lot in common with Roman Polanski's situation; how fame or success or the passage of time can be been seen to mitigate this level of moral failure remains a mystery to us.

Of course, Hollywood is a place where people only kick you when you're down, so Allen is safe for now. He has a hit movie in Blue Jasmine and his material wins awards for actors, so he's still useful.

Nobody ever had a bad word to say about Mel Gibson until he crashed and burned, as you may recall. Then it was a feeding frenzy.

Many people seem to believe that Woody Allen is some poor genius who got caught up in a weird situation — falling in love with one of the adopted children of Mia Farrow, the woman he was seeing at the time. The fact that Allen and Soon-Yi Previn eventually married and had children together is Part II of the sanitized version of events, as if somehow their enduring love now makes everything okay.

Allen was not some outsider who somehow found himself attracted to both a mother and a young adult daughter. In fact, he was Farrow's partner for about 12 years, and as other of Farrow's children have attested, he was regarded as a father figure. His relationship with Soon-Yi, which is said to have begun when she was 19, was devastating to Farrow's family. He had been in Soon-Yi's life since she was nine or 10.

According to a 2013 Vanity Fair story, only a month before Allen and Soon-Yi were found out, the filmmaker had formally adopted two of Mia Farrow's children, 15-year-old Moses and 7-year-old Dylan, "Even though he was in therapy for inappropriate behavior toward Dylan." The filmmaker is alleged to have been obsessed with the child.

The following summer (1992) Dylan accused Allen of sexually abusing her. In the implosion of the family that followed, Farrow "won decisively" the lengthy custody battle over Dylan, Ronan and Moses.

Dylan, who has changed her name to Malone, is now 28 and happily married. She says in the same Vanity Fair story that her fear of her father is crippling and she cannot bring herself to so much as speak his name.

Was Allen investigated with a fine-tooth comb or did his celebrity complicate the case? According to the Daily Mail, a judge dropped the case against Allen 20 years ago, "To avoid the trauma of Dylan having to appear in court, but said he had 'probable cause' to prosecute him on sexual molestation charges."

It isn't gossip-mongering that shapes one's legacy. It's the truth. This may surprise Mr. Slotek, but people indeed remember Matthew Broderick's car accident, Mark Wahlberg's criminal past and Tim Allen's stint as a drug dealer. They remember Jay-Z's too, for that matter. Some would say the difference here between all those guys and Woody Allen isn't legal charges. It's unfinished business.

What any of the women who appear in Woody Allen's movies might think of him personally is a mystery — maybe a job is just a job. But Allen's former partner and Allen's son would prefer that the filmmaker's celebrity not be allowed to obscure what he did to his own family. There are no legal charges required to appreciate that damage.

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca


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