Friday, February 7, 2014
Our Man in Manhattan
Unlike Mel Gibson, who shouted uncontestably psychotic things and then, willingly or not, disappeared from public view, this Woody Allen situation will actually require a decision on our part. After all, this is the family member who has come to Thanksgiving every year since 1967. Magic in the Moonlight, starring Emma Stone, will be showing up on your doorstep very soon. Are you going to serve it pumpkin pie?
As for me, I was always weirded out that he had taken those naked pictures of his teenage not-stepdaughter, but the rest of the family seemed to forgive him, so I went along with it. But I began to feel a palpable disconnect from the critical establishment, who continued to view Allen as a vital and important force in cinema. Novelist Francine Prose summarized my feelings perfectly, in her (pre-second wave scandal) review of Blue Jasmine, "I've reread Manohla Dargis and David Thompson, whose criticism I respect. I've been trying to figure out how we could have seen such different movies. Was there something I missed?"
Given the terms in which she couches her review, I suspect that her personal distaste for Allen had begun to color her perceptions long before events of the last few weeks. I know it has mine. Are the films really this shallow and annoying, or are we distracted by the icky home movies forever running simultaneously in our heads? I'm long past the point where such questions can be answered productively. And while it's essentially true, as Allen advocates assert so smugly, that no new information has really come out with Dylan Farrow's letter in the New York Times, it does solidify the queasy feeling I've experienced for years on that annual family trip to the Cineplex. It smells so strongly of shark in there.