April 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm #1201819681
Something like every other or every third Woody Allen picture is a good one, right? He’s due for a winner and this definitely gives off Midnight in Paris vibes.
OSCAR FLASHBACK: Best Original Song (1947) – The Oscar Win Disney Won’t Speak OfApril 22, 2016 at 8:40 pm #1201819796
Should have an easy time getting the Original Screenplay nomination. In a field of 9 or 10, if it delivers box office-wise (big stars should help), it could even get in for BP.April 22, 2016 at 11:05 pm #1201819846
Bruce Willis was fired from Café Society early in production and replaced with Steve Carell.
One of the interesting aspects of Allen’s 16 nominated screenplays is that he notoriously writes to the strengths of actors he wants to direct. While Allen has fired some of these actors who inspired him, such as Michael Keaton from The Purple Rose of Cairo, this technique has resulted in 18 actors receiving nominations or Oscars for performances in his work.
I find it fascinating that not all of these Oscar nominated performances were from the actors Allen originally wrote for and sought out for the roles. Some received Oscar nominations for roles specifically written for other actors.
Geraldine Page starred in Allen’s Interiors though the part of Eve was originally written for Ingrid Bergman. The three time Oscar winner opted to film Autumn Sonata for Ingmar Bergman instead. Both actresses wound up with Oscar nominations for Best Actress that year. They lost to Jane Fonda for Coming Home.
While Mariel Hemingway was nominated for her work as Allen’s on screen teenage love interest in Manhattan, the character was written for Jodie Foster. The role was partially based on Allen’s correspondence with 13 year old Nancy Jo Sales (who later documented her epistolary relationship as an adolescent with Allen in a Sun-Sentinel article). Foster declined to play Tracy though she later played a prostitute in Allen’s Shadows and Fog.
Judy Davis was considered the frontrunner for her Oscar nominated, rage-filled, white hot work as Sally struggling with a failing marriage in Husbands and Wives. The role originally went to Jane Fonda who abandoned the production when she and Allen could not come to terms on specific aspects of the character.
Lastly, Samantha Morton was a surprise Oscar nominee for her characterization of a mute woman who loved a jazz musician in Sweet and Lowdown. She was not the first choice for the role of Hattie. Allen repeatedly asked Rosie O’Donnell to star opposite Sean Penn. O’Donnell publicly refused to work with Allen due to her disapproval of Allen’s sexual relationship with Mia Farrow’s daughter.April 23, 2016 at 1:02 pm #1201819943
“Life is a comedy…written by a sadistic comedy writer”
Ah Woody. Never change.May 2, 2016 at 9:46 am #1201824370
I hope that by doing period Woody Allen will finally give us a motion picture that will land in top half of his filmography and maybe earn him 17th writing nod. He did wonders with classics “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “Bullets Over Broadway” and slightly overrated “Midnight in Paris” still had its charms (especially performances given by Marion Cotillard and Corey Stoll, the latter of them returns here). Acting nomination here and there would be nice, although I don’t expect him to ever write as phenomenal role as Jasmine was for Cate Blanchett (the film itself wasn’t half as good, though).May 2, 2016 at 10:00 am #1201824376
RE: casting changes in Allen’s films
Bruce Willis is actually underrated as comedian (“Death Becomes Her”, anyone?) but Steve Carell fits Woody Allen’s style more.
I’m very curious to see Michael Keaton’s footage on “The Purple…”. Jeff Daniels did phenomenal job, though, and should have been nominated for Oscar. It might be his best role(s).
Ingrid Bergman preferred to do real Ingmar Bergman movie instead of the one only influenced by him. Surely it was for the best – both Bergman in “Autumn Sonata” and Geraldine Page in “Interiors” act circles around Best Actress winner, Jane Fonda in “Coming Home” and Ingrid Bergman, working with her almost namesake for the first and only time, found a perfect final role to end her rich filmography. Speaking of Fonda, I can’t imagine anyone doing better work than Judy Davis in “Husbands and Wives”. Her signature role. If it wouldn’t be for behind the scenes scandal, she would have won this Oscar.
Jodie Foster in “Manhattan” would be interesting to see. No question she would make Tracy tougher and more self-centered while Muriel Hemingway wins by making her character emphatic and fragile behind the facade of wiser beyond her years. Still, relationship between Isaac and Tracy irks me but otherwise it’s a classic. Re: “Shadows and Fog” – what a waste of two recent Best Actress winners, Jodie and Kathy Bates.
I don’t think much of Samantha Morton in “S&L”. She was perfectly charming but not worthy of Oscar nomination in super-strong 1999! Still, she captured aura of silent movie star, something that Rosie O’Donnell, I’m afraid, wouldn’t be able to do.
So, all in all, it ended up very well for those productions.May 8, 2016 at 6:41 am #1201825883
from The Hollywood Reporter
With ‘Cafe Society‘ set to open the French festival, the director reflects on his unreflective stance on aging (“If you focus on mortality, the house always wins”), his movies (“I would erase all but a few”), saving wife Soon-Yi, working with Miley Cyrus, why TV is “harder” than he thought and his willful avoidance of his own press: “I scrupulously have avoided any self-preoccupation.”
“People often have said, ‘Gee, you live in a bubble’ — and maybe I do,” admits Woody Allen as he settles into an armchair inside his private screening room on New York’s Upper East Side. A creature of habit, he has been watching movies (and taking meetings) in this somber little theater for the past 35 years. “I get up in the morning,” he says, “take the kids to school, then do the treadmill, then get into my room and work, have lunch, go back and work, practice the clarinet, see friends or go to a basketball game. It’s a bourgeois, middle-class worker’s life. But it’s enabled me to be productive over the years.”
Productive is putting it mildly. Allen has churned out a movie a year — from classic New York comedies (Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters) to Bergman-esque dramas (Interiors) to stylish London-set crime capers (Match Point) — since the 1980s, with combined grosses of nearly $600 million. He barely missed a beat even during the tumultuous 1990s, when his split from Mia Farrow threatened to blow up his reputation (accusations that Allen abused their then-7-year-old daughter Dylan were not pursued by police after an investigation, but the battle still rages, with a grown-up Dylan reasserting the claims two years ago in The New York Times).
Right on schedule, Allen is about to bring his 47th picture to Cannes — Cafe Society, a coming-of-age tale set in the 1930s about a young man (Jesse Eisenberg) who moves from New York to Hollywood, where he lands a job with a big-time agent (Steve Carell) and falls in love with a pretty assistant (Kristen Stewart). “It was such a glamorous time in California,” says Allen. “You’d read about the Mocambo and the Cocoanut Grove and Ciro’s and all the movie stars going out at night. And then there was New York nightlife — socialites and politicians and gangsters.”
At 80, Allen no longer is the bespectacled, saddle shoe-wearing comic genius who famously was too busy playing clarinet at Michael’s Pub to collect his Oscar for Annie Hall (at least he doesn’t wear saddle shoes anymore). But on this April morning, the razor-sharp director invites THR inside his “bubble” for a conversation covering everything from his 20-year marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, now 45 (they have two daughters, 15 and 17; he also has three children with Farrow), to his nonexistent relationship with technology. He doesn’t use a computer but, ironically, is now part of the Amazon revolution. The internet giant not only bought Cafe Society for $15 million — marking the end of Allen’s six-film run with Sony Pictures Classics — but also is funding Allen’s first streaming TV series, a limited-run comedy in which he will co-star with Elaine May and Miley Cyrus.
You’re 80 now. Mortality was always a theme in your early work. Does it still worry you?
Well, yeah, sure it worries me. First of all, it did worry me when I was 5. And it’s worried me throughout my entire life. And yes, it does worry me, sure. The only thing you can do, I think, the best solution, is to try and push it out of your mind, not think about it and just focus on, “Gee, am I going to be able to get the right scene for Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carell in this movie?” To focus on problems that, if you strike out and they don’t succeed for you, you are still OK. If you focus on mortality, the house always wins.
Have you changed over the years?
I do think I evolved artistically. When I first started making movies, I was interested in just the jokes. Then, over the years, I became more ambitious and wanted to do deeper works or better works. And this is either a good thing, depending on where you sit, or a bad thing. There are people that would say, “I think this is great and very healthy and you went on to make some very good films,” or they could say, “You never should have done [that].”
You had to reshoot part of Cafe Society. What happened?
I shot a few scenes in California with Bruce Willis, and Bruce was going to do something on Broadway [Misery] and it was just too much for him. So we replaced him with Steve Carell.
How did the movie come about?
I wanted to do kind of a novel on film, about a family and the relationships of the members toward one another, and the protagonist’s love relationship. I wanted it to have the structure of a novel, so I could move around and dwell on various members of the family. That’s why I narrated it because I was sort of the writer of the novel that you were experiencing when you saw the film.
Was the agent played by Carell based on anyone specific?
Yes and no. When I first started in the business, I was 16, 17, and I would go up to agents’ offices. And these agents were very powerful figures to me. I remember going out to California once, going to William Morris, and there was a very beautiful receptionist there. And I thought, “My God, she’s as beautiful as any of the movie stars.”
Do you still hate L.A.?
No, no. You know, that was always a myth. I never hated it. It’s just not a place that I could live in because I don’t like sunny weather and I don’t like being dependent on a car. I like cities like New York, where I can walk out of my house and I’m right in the middle of everything and there’s noise and traffic and we get gray, cloudy days and snow. But I have many friends in California. I enjoy going out there for short periods of time. I don’t like to drive. I can drive, but I don’t like to.
What kind of things did you read for research to make the movie?
Well, you read the [old] gossip columns, the Hollywood columns, [which] were in New York as well. So much of what you knew from California, you knew from the columns that you got in New York — Hedda Hopper and Sheilah Graham. They would give you the Hollywood news, and it sounded very exciting.
Do you read a lot in general?
I never enjoyed reading. I was not a bookish guy. I read comic books till I was 18. I read over the decades because one has to read to survive in life. But it’s not what I do for pleasure. I’d always rather watch a baseball game or a basketball game or go to the movies or listen to music.
Which newspapers do you read?
The [New York] Times because it’s habitual since I was younger. And then somehow or another I catch up with the tabloids. My driver has them when I’m sitting in the car.
Do you read about yourself in the tabloids?
I never, ever, ever read anything about myself. Not my interviews, not stories about me. I never, ever read any criticism of my films. I scrupulously have avoided any self-preoccupation. When I first started, that was not the case. [But now I] just pay attention to the work and don’t read about how great I am or what a fool I am. The enjoyment has got to come from doing the project. It’s fun to get up in the morning and have your script in front of you and to meet with your scenic designer and your cinematographer, to get out on the set and work with these charming men and beautiful women and put in this Cole Porter music and great costumes. When that’s over, and you’ve made your best movie, move on. I never look at the movie again — I never read anything about it again.
In the early 1990s, when you were criticized for starting your relationship with Soon-Yi, were you immune to all that? Were you unaware of it?
I was immune, yes I was. You can see I worked right through that, undiminished. Made films all through those years and at the same rate I was making them. I’m good that way. I am very disciplined and very monomaniacal and compartmentalized.
So you weren’t traumatized by the scandal?
Oh, no. Not in the slightest.
I assume you haven’t seen Mia Farrow at all?
No. I don’t think she lives in New York. I think she lives in Connecticut. I’m not sure. Or travels for UNICEF or something.
How has your wife, Soon-Yi, changed you?
Oh, well, one of the great experiences of my life has been my wife. She had a very, very difficult upbringing in Korea: She was an orphan on the streets, living out of trash cans and starving as a 6-year-old. And she was picked up and put in an orphanage. And so I’ve been able to really make her life better. I provided her with enormous opportunities, and she has sparked to them. She’s educated herself and has tons of friends and children and got a college degree and went to graduate school, and she has traveled all over with me now. She’s very sophisticated and has been to all the great capitals of Europe. She has just become a different person. So the contributions I’ve made to her life have given me more pleasure than all my films.
You’re saying how you changed her. How has she changed you?
(Allen pauses.) Well, she’s given me a lot of pleasure. I adore her, and she’s given me a wonderful life. We’ve been married 20 years. And we were together for a few years before that. And she has given me the great years of my life, personally. She’s a great companion and a great wife. She has given me a stable and wonderful home life and great companionship. I guess whenever you meet somebody and they’re the right person for you, there is a great emotional contribution they make to your life.
But has she changed you in any way?
(Pauses.) Changed me? I don’t know if you could say she changed me. I don’t know if I’ve changed. I might be the same person I was when I was 20. I’m not sure. I mean, I seem to have the same habits, the same work habits, the same phobias, the same enjoyments. I don’t think I have changed much over the years at all. When you mention it, I try and think about the ways . I don’t know if I’ve changed much.
Do you still watch a lot of films?
There aren’t a lot of films that interest me. When I first had this screening room 30 years ago, 35 years ago, I used to be able to come here every Saturday night and see something with my friends. But that doesn’t happen anymore.
What have you seen that you liked recently?
I saw a picture called Rams, which I liked, an Icelandic film. But I don’t see many American films. I used to be able to. When I grew up, there were a dozen films to see every week. Then we went through that period in the ’60s where the director emerged as a formative figure in American filmmaking, and there were a lot of terrific films. And then the industry realized they could make more money making big blockbuster films. But none of them have ever interested me.
Have you seen any of the superhero films?
Have you ever watched any of your own movies again?
No. Never seen them again. I made Take the Money and Run in 1968 or so; I’ve never seen it again. Never seen any of them.
This is your 12th film in Cannes.
It could be. I don’t know. For years, I would send the film and not go. I don’t know [why]. I never liked to fly on an airplane for six hours and get the time change. It makes me crazy; it takes me six months to get [over the time change]. Just from daylight saving time, I can’t recover. So then I started to go, and my wife likes to go, she enjoys the South of France. I mean, I like the South of France, too. It’s a film-oriented event, and so it’s enjoyable.
Of your films, is there any one that you would erase if you could?
Of mine? Well, I would erase all but a few. (Laughs.) There’s probably six or eight of my films that I would keep, and you could have all the rest. Purple Rose of Cairo I would include, and Match Point and Husbands and Wives, probably Zelig, probably Midnight in Paris. It’s starting to get harder …
Annie Hall, Manhattan?
I made them so long ago, I don’t even remember them well. I don’t have the same affectionate feeling for them as the public had. When I made Manhattan and saw it, I was very disappointed at the time. And I spoke to Arthur Krim [the head of United Artists] and said, “If you don’t put this film out, I will make a film for you for nothing.” He said: “You’re crazy. We like the film and we have an investment. We borrowed money to make [it]. We can’t just spend a few million dollars and then not put a film out. It’s insane.” So they put it out, and it was a very big success. I have often said, it’s great luck, and we take credit for stuff that is out of our control.
How far along are you with your Amazon show?
By tomorrow I’ll have edited it and finished it. Six half-hour episodes.
Do you have a title?
No, I do not have a title for it, but it’s six half-hour episodes. And it ends. It’s not the kind of thing that could go on in perpetuity. It’s one story. It’s a comedy that stars me, Elaine May and Miley Cyrus primarily, a domestic comedy that takes place in the late 1960s. And hopefully people will find it amusing. It’s not going to start any new religions, I can tell you that.
When did you first meet Miley Cyrus?
I met her for this project. I noticed years ago that my kids would be watching Hannah Montana. And I would say: “Who is that girl? She’s got such a good delivery. You know, she snaps those lines off so well. The show is a silly little show, but she’s very good at what she does.” And then she emerged as a singer, and someone showed me a little clip of hers from Saturday Night Live, and I said, “It confirms what I always thought about her: She is very good, she is really a talented girl.” She wanted to take some time off, but she [agreed to do the series] because the role interested her. So I met her right here.
In this screening room, where we’re sitting now?
Right here, yeah. She came in here one day while the casting people were here. She came in and we chatted for a few minutes — a perfunctory chat, just getting to know the person. But I wanted to hire her. I didn’t need that five minutes of silly chat.
Last year, you seemed to regret embarking on a TV show. Do you still regret it?
It was much harder to do than I thought. I thought, “I’ll sandwich this in between two films and knock it off. What’s the big deal? It’s tele¬vision.” But over the years, television has made enormous strides, and wonderful things are being done on television. And I found as soon as I started to get into the project, I couldn’t bring myself to slough it off because this is not television of 50 years ago, where every silly thing was acceptable. You’re working in a medium that has grown up and has got wonderful things being done in it, and, yes, you may prove to be an embarrassment, but you don’t want to be a total embarrassment.
You don’t watch those other great things on television? Mad Men, Breaking Bad?
I don’t watch them. I’m not home. I don’t have the incentive. I’m out having dinner with friends, and when I come home, I’m tired and I want to quickly see the last quarter of the Knick game or the last couple of innings of the Yankee game or the Mets game. I’m just not interested enough.
Do you have a DVR to record things?
I can’t work any of that stuff. My wife could work it, but I can’t.
Do you still have no computer?
No. I have none of that stuff. And I’m not good at that. I’m not good technically. I have a cellphone, but it’s very limited. I know this: I can make calls, and my assistant put all my jazz records on it. It used to be when I would go out of town and I’d practice the clarinet, I was always schlepping a lot of vinyl recordings from city to city.
No, never emailed anybody.
Will you do more TV with Amazon?
No, I don’t think so. The only other deal I made with them was to put out Cafe Society. But I didn’t want to put it out and then go stream it right away, so we said it would have to be a normal putting out of a picture. It would have to play for several months in the theaters, the way I normally put a picture out — in a few theaters and then a larger amount. Depending on what the box office is, it either goes larger quickly or slower or whatever voodoo strategies those companies have. But that seemed fine with me.
What are your dreams like? Do you have nightmares?
Every once in a while, I’ll have a nightmare, yes. Not often. But I will occasionally be screaming in my sleep, and my wife will be shaking me. But not often. I sleep like a dead person.
Has growing older changed your views of religion?
My views on religion are the same. I feel it’s a pleasant fantasy for people to try and mollify the pain of the reality of existence.
How about politics? Who are you supporting?
I’m a Hillary fan. I like Bernie very much. I think what he espouses is wonderful. But I think Hillary will get more done of what Bernie would like than Bernie could get done.
Have you met Hillary?
No. I’ve met Trump because he was in one of my movies, Celebrity. He’s very affable, and I run into him at basketball games and at Lincoln Center. And he is always very nice and pleasant — [which is] hard to put together with many of the things he has said in his campaign.
I read that you once met Samuel Beckett.
I did. I chatted with him for five minutes at I think it was Les Deux Magots [a cafe in Paris]. I was there having coffee, and someone said: “Samuel Beckett is over there. Would you like to meet him?” And I said, “Sure,” and I went over and we chatted for a little while. He was very nice. I was never a great Beckett fan. But I wanted to meet Jean-Paul Sartre. I wanted to do that, and someone connected with him said, “It can be arranged for a price.”
No, no. I didn’t follow up on that because the whole thing was too sinister for my psyche.May 8, 2016 at 3:02 pm #1201825952
Great interview, thank you. I really thought he would be a Bernie supporter.May 11, 2016 at 9:35 am #1201830551
Ronan Farrow responds to the interview posted above.
My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked (Guest Column)
Despite Dylan Farrow’s damning allegations of sexual abuse, the director of Cannes’ opening film today remains beloved by stars, paid by Amazon and rarely interrogated by media as his son, Ronan Farrow, writes about the culture of acquiescence surrounding his father.
“They’re accusations. They’re not in the headlines. There’s no obligation to mention them.” These were the objections from a producer at my network. It was September 2014 and I was preparing to interview a respected journalist about his new biography of Bill Cosby. The book omitted allegations of rape and sexual abuse against the entertainer, and I intended to focus on that omission. That producer was one of several industry veterans to warn me against it. At the time, there was little more than a stalled lawsuit and several women with stories, all publicly discredited by Cosby’s PR team. There was no criminal conviction. It was old news. It wasn’t news.
So we compromised: I would raise the allegations, but only in a single question late in the interview. And I called the author, reporter to reporter, to let him know what was coming. He seemed startled when I brought it up. I was the first to ask about it, he said. He paused for a long time, then asked if it was really necessary. On air, he said he’d looked into the allegations and they didn’t check out.
Today, the number of accusers has risen to 60. The author has apologized. And reporters covering Cosby have been forced to examine decades of omissions, of questions unasked, stories untold. I am one of those reporters — I’m ashamed of that interview.
Some reporters have drawn connections between the press’ grudging evolution on Cosby and a painful chapter in my own family’s history. It was shortly before the Cosby story exploded anew that my sister Dylan Farrow wrote about her own experiences — alleging that our father, Woody Allen, had “groomed” her with inappropriate touching as a young girl and sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old.
Being in the media as my sister’s story made headlines, and Woody Allen’s PR engine revved into action, gave me a window into just how potent the pressure can be to take the easy way out. Every day, colleagues at news organizations forwarded me the emails blasted out by Allen’s powerful publicist, who had years earlier orchestrated a robust publicity campaign to validate my father’s sexual relationship with another one of my siblings. Those emails featured talking points ready-made to be converted into stories, complete with validators on offer — therapists, lawyers, friends, anyone willing to label a young woman confronting a powerful man as crazy, coached, vindictive. At first, they linked to blogs, then to high-profile outlets repeating the talking points — a self-perpetuating spin machine.
The open CC list on those emails revealed reporters at every major outlet with whom that publicist shared relationships — and mutual benefit, given her firm’s starry client list, from Will Smith to Meryl Streep. Reporters on the receiving end of this kind of PR blitz have to wonder if deviating from the talking points might jeopardize their access to all the other A-list clients.
In fact, when my sister first decided to speak out, she had gone to multiple newspapers — most wouldn’t touch her story. An editor at the Los Angeles Times sought to publish her letter with an accompanying, deeply fact-checked timeline of events, but his bosses killed it before it ran. The editor called me, distraught, since I’d written for them in the past. There were too many relationships at stake. It was too hot for them. He fought hard for it. (Reached by The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Times said the decision not to publish was made by the Opinion editors.)
When The New York Times ultimately ran my sister’s story in 2014, it gave her 936 words online, embedded in an article with careful caveats. Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and advocate for victims of sexual abuse, put it on his blog.
Soon afterward, the Times gave her alleged attacker twice the space — and prime position in the print edition, with no caveats or surrounding context. It was a stark reminder of how differently our press treats vulnerable accusers and powerful men who stand accused.
Perhaps I succumbed to that pressure myself. I had worked hard to distance myself from my painfully public family history and wanted my work to stand on its own. So I had avoided commenting on my sister’s allegations for years and, when cornered, cultivated distance, limiting my response to the occasional line on Twitter. My sister’s decision to step forward came shortly after I began work on a book and a television series. It was the last association I wanted. Initially, I begged my sister not to go public again and to avoid speaking to reporters about it. I’m ashamed of that, too. With sexual assault, anything’s easier than facing it in full, saying all of it, facing all of the consequences. Even now, I hesitated before agreeing to The Hollywood Reporter‘s invitation to write this piece, knowing it could trigger another round of character assassination against my sister, my mother or me.
But when Dylan explained her agony in the wake of powerful voices sweeping aside her allegations, the press often willing to be taken along for the ride, and the fears she held for young girls potentially being exposed to a predator — I ultimately knew she was right. I began to speak about her more openly, particularly on social media. And I began to look carefully at my own decisions in covering sexual assault stories.
I believe my sister. This was always true as a brother who trusted her, and, even at 5 years old, was troubled by our father’s strange behavior around her: climbing into her bed in the middle of the night, forcing her to suck his thumb — behavior that had prompted him to enter into therapy focused on his inappropriate conduct with children prior to the allegations.
But more importantly, I’ve approached the case as an attorney and a reporter, and found her allegations to be credible. The facts are persuasive and well documented. I won’t list them again here, but most have been meticulously reported by journalist Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair. The only final legal disposition is a custody ruling that found Woody Allen’s behavior “grossly inappropriate” and stressed that “measures must be taken to protect [Dylan].”
On May 4, The Hollywood Reporter published a cover interview with Woody Allen, quirky auteur. To me it is a sterling example of how not to talk about sexual assault. Dylan’s allegations are never raised in the interview and receive only a parenthetical mention — an inaccurate reference to charges being “dropped.” THR later issued a correction: “not pursued.”
The correction points to what makes Allen, Cosby and other powerful men so difficult to cover. The allegations were never backed by a criminal conviction. This is important. It should always be noted. But it is not an excuse for the press to silence victims, to never interrogate allegations. Indeed, it makes our role more important when the legal system so often fails the vulnerable as they face off against the powerful.
Here is exactly what charges not being pursued looked like in my sister’s case in 1993: The prosecutor met with my mother and sister. Dylan already was deeply traumatized — by the assault and the subsequent legal battle that forced her to repeat the story over and over again. (And she did tell her story repeatedly, without inconsistency, despite the emotional toll it took on her.) The longer that battle, the more grotesque the media circus surrounding my family grew. My mother and the prosecutor decided not to subject my sister to more years of mayhem. In a rare step, the prosecutor announced publicly that he had “probable cause” to prosecute Allen, and attributed the decision not to do so to “the fragility of the child victim.”
My mother still feels it was the only choice she could make to protect her daughter. But it is ironic: My mother’s decision to place Dylan’s well-being above all else became a means for Woody Allen to smear them both.
Very often, women with allegations do not or cannot bring charges. Very often, those who do come forward pay dearly, facing off against a justice system and a culture designed to take them to pieces. A reporter’s role isn’t to carry water for those women. But it is our obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously. Sometimes, we’re the only ones who can play that role.
Confronting a subject with allegations from women or children, not backed by a simple, dispositive legal ruling is hard. It means having those tough newsroom conversations, making the case for burning bridges with powerful public figures. It means going up against angry fans and angry publicists.
There are more reporters than ever showing that courage, and more outlets supporting them. Many are of a new generation, freed from the years of access journalism that can accrete around older publications. BuzzFeed has done pioneering reporting on recent Hollywood sexual assault stories. It was Gawker that asked why allegations against Bill Cosby weren’t taken more seriously. And it is heartening that The Hollywood Reporter asked me to write this response. Things are changing.
But the old-school media’s slow evolution has helped to create a culture of impunity and silence. Amazon paid millions to work with Woody Allen, bankrolling a new series and film. Actors, including some I admire greatly, continue to line up to star in his movies. “It’s not personal,” one once told me. But it hurts my sister every time one of her heroes like Louis C.K., or a star her age, like Miley Cyrus, works with Woody Allen. Personal is exactly what it is — for my sister, and for women everywhere with allegations of sexual assault that have never been vindicated by a conviction.
Tonight, the Cannes Film Festival kicks off with a new Woody Allen film. There will be press conferences and a red-carpet walk by my father and his wife (my sister). He’ll have his stars at his side — Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg. They can trust that the press won’t ask them the tough questions. It’s not the time, it’s not the place, it’s just not done.
That kind of silence isn’t just wrong. It’s dangerous. It sends a message to victims that it’s not worth the anguish of coming forward. It sends a message about who we are as a society, what we’ll overlook, who we’ll ignore, who matters and who doesn’t.
We are witnessing a sea change in how we talk about sexual assault and abuse. But there is more work to do to build a culture where women like my sister are no longer treated as if they are invisible. It’s time to ask some hard questions.May 11, 2016 at 9:41 am #1201830557
Going into a new Woody Allen film, there’s always the hope that it’s going to be major, like “Blue Jasmine,” and not one of his trifles, like the Allen movies that have opened the Cannes Film Festival in recent years (“Hollywood Ending,” “Midnight in Paris”). At this point, however, his track record vastly favors the probability that it’s going to be a trifle, at which point the question then becomes: Will it be one of his good ones — that is, one of those Allen fables that really sings? “Café Society,” starring Jesse Eisenberg as a sweetly naïve Bronx nebbish who journeys to Hollywood in the 1930s to seek his fortune, has been made with all the verve and high-style panache and star magnetism of a small-scale Allen gem. Yet the film, watchable as it is, never quite overcomes the sense that it’s a lavish diagram working hard to come off as a real movie. With intermittent romantic sparks struck between Eisenberg and his co-star, a poised and glowing Kristen Stewart, “Cafe Society” is likely to draw a larger swath of the Allen audience than his last two, “Magic in the Moonlight” and “Irrational Man.” But there may be a limit to its success, since it’s one of those Allen films that keeps talking about passion instead of actually making the audience feel it.
Eisenberg, looking handsome in wide pleated pants and a curly pompadour, is the latest in a long line of actors who have been given the obvious directive to channel Allen’s onscreen spirit. But he does a more appealing job of it than most, because the Eisenberg mannerisms – the antic verbal dexterity, the slight sputter of people-pleasing insecurity – match up so organically with Allen’s own. Eisenberg plays Bobby Dorfman, who arrives in Hollywood looking to get a job in the office of his uncle, Phil (Steve Carell), a veteran agent so powerful that he can’t turn around at a pool party without being badgered about some deal he’s negotiating for Ginger Rogers or William Powell. We suspect — or maybe hope — that Phil is going to be the oily player who lures Bobby into his world of corrupt glamor, but Carell, looking appealingly fleshy, plays Phil as a busy, babbly Type A mensch who gives his nephew errands to run and finds the time to introduce him to all the right people.
One of those is Phil’s secretary, Vonnie (Stewart), a willowy but disarmingly level-headed former ingénue who claims to reject the Hollywood game. She takes Bobby on an impromptu tour of celebrity mansions, and they discuss the larger-than-life quality of movie stardom, which prompts Vonnie to insist: “I think I’d be happier being life-size.” Stewart makes you touch the reality of that line. She sheds some of her own halting mannerisms to play a woman of warmth who, with a twinkle, holds her ardor close to the vest, and the mood of quiet confidence fits the actress beautifully. It’s that quality that attracts the guileless Bobby, and it isn’t long before puppy love ensues.
There’s a twist, of course: Vonnie already has a boyfriend — and that lover, it’s revealed early on, is none other than Uncle Phil, who has promised to abandon his wife and marry Vonnie. There’s nothing very original about this love-triangle dilemma, especially in a Woody Allen film, where it directly mirrors so many of the setups in his earlier work, notably the adulterous tangle of “Manhattan.” The question is: Where will he take it this time? And the answer turns out to be: not somewhere very interesting. Carell’s Phil, even though he’s betraying his wife, is portrayed as such a victim of his own romantic devotion that it’s hard to root against him — and Vonnie, in fact, insists that she loves both men.
There’s a hint of novelty in the way this plays out against a lusciously visualized period-Tinseltown backdrop. And, indeed, Vittorio Storaro’s scrumptious, dark-toned cinematography is so breathtaking that it almost seems to be telling a story of its own. Storaro, that maestro of color and shadow, turns the wood-paneled offices and restaurants into an Art Deco daydream, and when Bobby and Vonnie are seated in Bobby’s motel room and the electricity goes out, the sudden illumination-by-candlelight looks like something out of “Barry Lyndon.” Every shot in “Café Society” glows with lustrous classicism. Yet all of this just makes you wish that Allen had brought the Old Hollywood setting to life with a richer sense of drama and play, the way that the Coen brothers did recently in “Hail, Caesar!”
If you’re wondering what the title means, “Café Society” refers to the high life back in New York City, where Bobby returns after being spurned by Vonnie. He goes to work in the nightclub owned by his cliché gangster of a brother, Ben (Corey Stoll), and he supposedly finds his place among the swells, but it’s hard to escape the slightly disappointing sense that the movie is starting all over again. And this time, more than ever, it’s telling rather than showing. Allen has chosen to narrate the film himself, which seems like a harmless enough gambit, but his voice, after a while, begins to sound almost syrupy with didactic melancholy, and we can’t help but notice that a lot of the stuff he’s telling us — Bobby gets to know politicians and gangsters! He becomes a man of the world! — should, in fact, have been the very substance of the movie’s plot.
Eisenberg’s likable performance never gets a chance to grow; the character development mostly comes down to the fact that in the nightclub, he starts wearing a white tuxedo. He remains that same sweet kid, pining away.
By the end, that seems to be the point: that a great many people walk around carrying the ghosts of love – a dream of what might have been. But that’s a message we need to feel in our hearts, rather than our heads, if it’s going to haunt us. Mostly, “Café Society” leaves you dreaming of the movie it might have been had Woody Allen made it by doing what he’s done in his best work: nudging himself out of his comfort zone.May 11, 2016 at 11:55 am #1201830622
Hmm sounds to me like Globe noms for the film, Eisenberg and Stewart and perhaps not much beyond that. Depending on the strength of the category (and the loudness of the anti-Allen forces during the Oscar season), perhaps Allen can return to Original Screenplay.
OSCAR FLASHBACK: Best Original Song (1954) – The Biggest Robbery Since Brink’sMay 11, 2016 at 5:04 pm #1201830760
Reactions at Cannes for Woody’s films are not to be trusted. They were likely to be underwhelmed anyway.May 12, 2016 at 7:44 am #1201832512
I’ve heard that Stewart is Supporting in this- do you reckon she’ll be campaigned in Supporting Actress, but be put in Lead for the Golden Globes (a la Christian Bale, Christoph Waltz, and Catherine Zeta-Jones)? Or are they better off just campaigning her as lead as Globes are her only real chance (at this stage) of a precursor nod?May 12, 2016 at 8:25 am #1201832527
I’ve heard that Stewart is Supporting in this- do you reckon she’ll be campaigned in Supporting Actress, but be put in Lead for the Golden Globes (a la Christian Bale, Christoph Waltz, and Catherine Zeta-Jones)? Or are they better off just campaigning her as lead as Globes are her only real chance (at this stage) of a precursor nod?
I suspect Stewart and her handlers will prioritize their efforts into campaigning for her work in Ang Lee’s expected end of the year Oscar bait Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.