Bill Murray on the Late Show through the years.
I will take Tom Hardy over Mel any day! This looks fucking sick!
In this instance I have no words, but Mark Boal does
Groundbreaking Vice Docu-Series Takes on Internet Dating
Like many things in our modern world, the internet giveth and taketh away. It has given us knowledge (although on a sparing level), who wants to read a news story in the New York Times let alone a Supreme Court decision when all one needs to know is blasted on a Facebook post or scrambled together on Buzzfeed? Knowledge is at our fingertips, yet our brainwaves prefer headline and scroll. The same can be said of the dating world which is mainly just scroll and a quickie. As Paul Brunson, a professional matchmaker put it in the new three part docu-series Alone/Together, “we are reaching the point where we don’t know how to date anymore.”
This docu-series is something we haven’t seen since MTV’s Sex in the 90s with the pre-jersey shore’s Dog Brothers, clubbing with a van in tow because who has the time and energy to take her back to your place? But this time around women are getting in on the game as one online dater describes, the girl wrote “my bedroom will be open, a crack […] come in and do your thing and leave.” Twenty years later one would assume we have evolved from club hopping degenerates to inquisitive internet daters who have a profile instead of purely physical traits to go by. On dating sites such as OKCupid one fills out a profile and messages are exchanged a couple of times before meeting. With Tinder, a dating app for your phone, pictures and a tagline are what users go by, typically resulting in casual sex (although I am not really sure I tried to download the app but it wouldn’t let me do so without logging in via Facebook. You know for research purposes).
As Together reveals there is a disingenuousness to this type of dating. No one wants to admit it, but even in the highly controlled internet age (I am still waiting for the app that magically washes my clothes and gets rid of roaches) destiny and all that bullshit are still valued, deeply in fact. This is where the matchmakers and life coaches come in. Matchmaker Amy Van Doran, a cute and petit woman with orange hair and lipstick who looks like she just might be your fairy godmother, does the searching for you. As she eludes in the series, we want love to be “something that happens to [us] as opposed to something [we] pick,” because if it doesn’t happen maybe we didn’t deserve it in the first place?
This is when online dating gets tricky, the fairy tale and chemistry is taken out of dating, causing it’s users to dismiss the relevance of each other, who are treated more like cattle than individuals. Internet dating is for a distinct personality, perhaps the twenty-something’s will be better at it than the thirty-something’s? Our parents listened to Buddy Holly for Christ’s sake and some of our first class papers were written on type writers! Pre-device life akin’s itself to our childhood, after He-Man the backyard and running down the block was far more exhilarating than candy crush.
Technology continues to bother us to an extent; we are still on the cusp of calling people on their birthday or leaving a Facebook prompted message on your “wall.” You still need to call someone on their fucking birthday, its important! When I am not writing a movie blog that nobody reads I look up who is staring in the latest Shakespeare adaptation. A digestive disease keeps me out of the bars and at times I feel like I am living in a world of antiquity. The movie Her scared me because we are already there, talking to people we will never meet in person, disregarding the actual people in our life because they require more time and patience.
Swinging really isn’t a “thing” anymore, so perhaps we will grow tired of electronic speed dating, but chances are it’s only going to get worse. Maya, an attractive woman who appears to be in her early thirties, describes that despite her two master’s degrees and a recent job as a professor, her identity as a woman is not complete until she has a child and a family. As the story goes Maya hires her fairy god mother, Van Doran, to find her prince. But as Together shows, the Y2K impulsiveness is hard to crack:
I do believe that someone’s intention’s initially for using tinder are to yes, meet somebody, but what happens is swiping right, swiping left and saying ‘oh, I match with that guy,’ […] but then you go, but wait, there is somebody else I could meet, that could be even better.
-Anthony Recenello, Social Development Coach
Yes we have become so socially inept that we now need social development coaches. Relying on technology to date for you, is like asking a six year-old to save his cookie for after dinner—“I want the world. I want the whole world. I want to lock it all up in my pocket. It’s my bar of chocolate. Give it to me now!”
Perhaps if we want to be more like Charlie than Veruca Salt, we should shut off our devices and go looking for our hearts desire on the street, the same place Charlie found his golden ticket (I know, I know he “technically” found it in a gutter). The docu shorts can be found on Vice.com (http://www.vice.com/alonetogether), a provocative smorgasbord of news and pop culture. My hope that in the same vein as MTV’s Sex in the 90’s, Vice will continue to show this series online or at least develop programming that is similar, as a self-inventory through programming.
THERE’S THIS passage in Gemara about whether the angel of death can make a mistake. Gemara is part of the Talmud, and so the—I think about that. You know, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. But I don’t know, I—I just think it’s not a question I’ll ever answer.
–Robert Swartz, The New Yorker
Before Steve Job’s and Steve Wozniak invented Apple computers they began by phone hacking with a blue box device, which allowed users to make unbillable long distance phone calls, essentially defrauding the telephone company. In his initial design of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard Connections, enabling private student Facebook accounts to become public as users were able to vote on which profile was “hotter.” Zuckerberg received academic probation and Woz and Steve, we know the rest…
As Aaron Swartz’s father, Robert Swartz, points out in the filmThe Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz directed byBrian Knappenberger, the difference between those people and Aaron was that “Aaron wanted to make the world a better place, he didn’t just want to make money.” Unfortunately Aarons fate did not match that of his predecessors, last year he hung himself in his Brooklyn apartment while facing thirty five years in prison for hacking into M.I.T.’s JSTOR accounts in order to (as some have suggested in the film) make the academic journal’s accessible to the public, or research the journals funding sources to ensure credibility. As Aaron saw it, he was on a mission—ideas crushed limitations, and if boundaries did exist it was his job to cross them.
Aaron’s personal ciaos, like most prodigies, was his inability to cope with the rest of the world. As described in a New Yorkerarticle written shortly after his death, Aaron’s commitment to compassion was almost “pathological,” he had immense difficulty living in the world and therefor dedicated his life to changing it. In one of his blog posts Aaron describes sitting on a plane unable to ask the flight attendant for water, thirsty as hell. He lived in a place of vast ideas where everything mattered, learning how to read at the age of three and creating “The Info Network” at twelve (Wikipedia before Wikipedia), and the thought of asking a flight attendant or any waitress for something was unsettling, as those vocations were degrading to Aaron.
By the age of 19, after merging his software company Infogami with Reddit, a social networking website, Aaron was a millionaire. He attempted to work as a “civilian,” but by day one he was in the bathroom crying. As Aaron mentioned in his blog Raw Thought “Wired has tried to make the offices look exciting by painting the walls bright pink but the gray office monotony sneaks through all the same. Gray walls, gray desks, gray noise.” (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/officespace)
While the New Yorker Article attempted to go beyond prosecutorial zeal to explain his suicide (Aaron had ulcerative colitis which resulted in a compulsion to only eat white foods and often led to depressive episodes), Knappenberger’s film primarily focuses on the court case while exploring Aaron’s genius and social conciseness. Like many documentary’s, it is activism at its most illustrative and perhaps profound form. These days people only remember shit if it’s presented visually and let’s face it, the “occupy” movement stained protests.
The film begins with Aaron as a small child reading Paddington at the Fair; Paddington’s curiosity is endless as he tries every ride. With family and news footage weaved throughout the film, Aaron’s curiosity is palpable—the instructor of the family, teaching his younger brother Algebra, and at fifteen joining Creative Commons, barely reaching the podium as he presents an archetype for computer licensing at the launch in 2002.
Beginning at a young age Aaron wanted everyone to question the nature of restrictions and why they were put in place. And as a freshman at Stanford he downloaded Westlaw while working on a project with Stanford Law students. His goal was to research the legal databases funding sources and determine if financial interests affected judicial decisions. But academic life did not hold his attention for long and he dropped out after a year.
When Carl Malamud, the founder of Public Resource.Org, asked for participants to download PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) in order to establish a free marketplace for court documents, Aaron obliged by downloading 2.7 million federal court records. Although Aaron caught the attention of the FBI, considering the laws were, well, public, the government decided not to press charges.
In the winter of 2011 Aaron went a step further by downloading JSTOR (a database for electronic journals) at M.I.T., an institution which prides itself in its hacking culture. Once M.I.T. become aware that their system was in breach they contacted the Government who, instead of stopping the downloads, kept them going in effort to prolong the investigation and establish a stronger case. Once Aaron was spotted on surveillance video he was arrested, arraigned and released on $100,000 bail.
Initially Aaron was only arraigned on two state charges of breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony. Once indicted on federal charges including wire fraud, computer fraud, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, it was clear the government was more interested in precedence than justice. Hacker cases and the laws designed to prosecute them are toddlers, with slight equilibrium, therefore cases such as Aarons are prosecuted in order to establish president for future cases.
Aaron decided not to accept the plea bargain of six months in prison. Although the film makes it clear that he had political aspirations and therefor did not want to be a convicted felon (felons are not allowed to hold public office nor are they allowed to vote), one would also assume a public trial was in line with Aaron’s principles—the governments case and namely the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (responsible for eleven of Aaron’s thirteen charges) would be put into question.
The most remarkable aspect of the film and Aaron’s story, aside from his tragic death, is the legal framework behind his case. As Cindy Cohen, the legal director and general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation describes, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was “inspired by the film War Games.” You know the one; a then pretty Mathew Broderick plays a hacker who unknowingly starts a nuclear war. During the cold war the film was scary enough to get congress to pass the bill in 1986, listing broad computer abuses. It would be safe to assume that all of us commit these crimes daily.
Penalizing terms of service is an example used in the film to explain the illogical nature of the Act. For example, according to Seventeen Magazines terms of service on their website (which was taken down last year), you must be at least eighteen years old to read the magazine. Technically if one does not follow these terms of service agreements they are committing a felony.
With federal prosecutors refusing to be interviewed for the film, the dissension was provided by former U.S. attorney Orin Kerr where he clarifies why the government went after Aaron with an incredible amount of zeal:
I think the government took Swartz’s “Gorilla Open Access Manifesto” (Aaron’s online declaration supporting free knowledge) very seriously. They saw him as someone who was committed as a moral imperative to breaking the law, to overcoming a law that Swartz saw as unjust […] What was driving the prosecution was the sense that Swartz was committed, not just to breaking the law, but to really making sure that law was nullified, that everyone would have access to the database in a way that you couldn’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. Ultimately [this is] a decision for the American people to make working through congress […] We are now entering this different environment of computers and computer misuse and we don’t yet have a really strong sense of exactly what these lines are.
Aaron committed a crime, several in fact, and was attempting to null aspects of those laws through illegal actions as he did by downloading the Pacer documents. While Kerr establishes a masterful legal argument, the human argument would go a little something like this:
My friend told me a story once about a cop who pulled him over while he was drunk; the cop had every right to give him a DUI, but told him to call a friend instead. My friend, twenty-two at the time, was able to keep his job (you were fired at Costco if you got a DUI) and go about his young life, a bit wiser and perhaps more thankful. Unlike my friend, Aaron was not putting anyone in danger.
Those featured in the documentary would conclude that Aaron’s actions were not harmful, why not just take him aside after the JSTOR incident? O.K. kid the gig is up. The only entity he seemed to be harming were the publishers in JSTOR. Authors of research studies are paid a flat fee, either by a University or the public. Once all of their labor intensive work is done they hand over their research and copyright to publishers, often multimillion dollar corporations.
We needed Aaron more than he needed us. Like Jobs, Gates and Zuckerberg (although I don’t really like to use his name with these other dudes), Aaron would have been a force in the technical and social world. Imagine if Harvard had decided to take up federal charges against Zuckerberg? There would be no check-in’s at Pet Smart and Lil Kim’s baby name, Royal Rein would not be #Trending. Aaron was prepared to do much more than provide a social network of sonograms, but the universe couldn’t hold him long enough.
Currently a campaign is underway to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Legislation which has been introduced by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon (my home state, Ra Ra Ra!)
Watch the Film Online
Normally I do not include free links to films, but Aaron would have wanted it this way. The link can be found at The Internet Archive, which provides free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public.
The Returned now on Netflix
In between Liza Minnelli’s blue jumper (or whatever that was) and Ellen’s Samsung inspired mirage our Oscar buzz was greatly diminished by those creepy ads for the new ABC drama Resurrection, where the formerly dead eerily come back home unscathed. In true network TV fashion the sentimentality and white lighting seems over the top and melodramatic. I seem to recall an FBI agent (Omar Epps) and a John Mayeresque song in the mix, come on! With networks like ABC (who have little web presence) drowning in their own vomit, adapting the French series The Returned, seems like a skilled move. Not so fast. There is no need to remake this. It’s only a click away. All eight episodes of The Returned are currently streaming on Netflix. Mediocrity Dead. On. Arrival.
The Returned (filmed in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France, which lies on the northern tip of Lake Annecy, bordering Switzerland and Italy) is an exquisitely haunting series created by Fabrice Gobert which premiered on Canal+ in 2012. Camille (Yara Pilartz), Simon (Pierre Perrier), Victor (Swann Nambotin), Serge (Guillaume Gouix) and Madame Costa (Laetitia de Fombelle) all return, but home is not as they left it. Simon is confused, “has the code changed?” “No.” He is baffled as to why he can’t get into his fiancés apartment. Victor, a young boy and the master of ceremonies, is less confused as he sees Julie (Céline Sallette) at a bus stop and follows her home. He is not interested in finding his real mother and claims Julie, a depressed nurse, as his keeper. Camille, who died only four years prior, has no trouble finding her home; the kitchen, bathroom and her bedroom are all as she left them. The only thing abnormal is her mother, who is so stunned she can barely speak.
Despite their unaltered appearance, the dead do not bring back the joy they once shared with loved ones, only the grief their deaths created. It’s like the dream just before 4am; the deceased are so vivid and convincing. Yet once consciousness takes over uncontrollable sadness creeps in. In all its melancholy The Returned is not depressing in a conventional sense. Revelations about the dead align themselves like lines of coke through a dollar bill; the past is so intoxicating the entire first season can be scooped up in a day.
The subtlety of the French is an amazing thing, a refinement that American television’s supposed golden age is trying to match. The French have nudity and violence but like a fine wine, it’s smooth to the palate and not as forced. Distinctive to The Returned is the emotional turmoil the characters are faced with, while torturous, is not sentimental. With the unnerving music written by Scottish melodic-synth band Mogwai, a heartbeat is composed: a flat line that has just awoken, becoming a slow lull, pacing, but never truly alive.
The nuances and austerity of the plot allow us to confront our own relationship with not only death, but forgiveness, denial and all that other crap that makes life so Goddam unbearable at times. When loved ones come back an expectation exists that life is somehow fair in that moment. Wait, God DID get it wrong! I WAS right all this time. When life’s cycle is interrupted, physical life may be granted, but spiritual life is in ruins.
A second season is slated for production in late 2014, with a debut set for early 2015 on the Sundance Channel. The beauty is there are so many places a storyteller can go, not relegated to simply hitting zombies over the head (can we all agree The Walking Dead is the most overrated show in history!) The Returned can introduce international audiences to actors, directors and writers once only relegated to art cinemas.
"You’re primarily known as a director and you just won an oscar for screenwriting. How does it feel to win as a writer?"
The Academy’s Fuck You to Actual Heroes
Despite what Matthew McConaughey may think heroes are not self-important visions of the future and should not be relegated to cheese-ball montages. The Academy’s salute to “heroes” had me at “wax on wax off” and the crane kick, but I slammed the door at Jayden Smith. Which dumb fuck edited this montage? The complexity of Superman in a Hero’s montage is more mind-numbing than its half dead presenters attempt at language. Cinema has far greater heroes than the ones Sally Field introduced.
Prior to 2008 Honorary Oscars have been given to honorees at the ceremony. Men and women whose careers have spanned entire lifetimes—the stuff of montage gold! Michael Kidd’s actors dancing in unison in Seven Brides and Seven Brothers, Lumets yelling Pacino in the humid New York air, Poitier’s “they call me Mr. Tibbs”—chills. The inspiring speeches of pure raw talent tug at our heartstrings, not the ramblings of actors who are simply having a moment (although Cuba Gooding JR did show up in a Pepsi commercial during the ceremony).
A claim was made that the telecast did not have enough time for the tributes, although the tidbit about the new film museum being built in Hollywood was fascinating. If ya had enough time for EVERY best song nominee to sing their ENTIRE song onstage, let Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, Francis Ford Coppola, James Earl Jones, D.A. Pennebaker, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Angela Lansbury, and yes even Steve Martin (whose achievements have been shut out of the live telecast) have an opportunity to speak. Leave the half-assed musical talent for the Grammy’s. Idina Menzel I am sure you are super talented but you owe your appearance on The Tonight Show to John Travolta for slicing your name into tiny little pieces.
The Honorary Oscars have now been relegated to the Governors Ball, which takes place in November. Typically a beautiful Hollywood actress (this year it was Angelina Jolie who received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award) comes out during the Oscar telecast and synopsizes the technical and honorary awards. Last Sunday we heard one line from Steve Martin, Angela Landsberry and Piero Tosi. I get it you don’t have time for all three, but give the eighty eight year-old Ms. Landsberry her kudos! Let the kids know she did a lot more than Murder She Wrote.
Saul Zaentz, who died in January after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, ran the biggest Jazz label in the world, a label which produced Credence Clear Water Revival. After viewing a stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest Zaentz produced the film version, later forming The Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley, California.
I still remember his “cup is full” speech after receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1997 during the telecast. Unless there was a commercial everyone teenager at my Oscar party that night was told not to speak. The next day I watched the montage dedicated to Zaentz’s work over five times which featured the films he produced: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Amadeus, The Mosquito Coast, At Play in the Fields of the Lord and The English Patient. I had never seen so much achievement mingled together in a twenty year period. The award was appropriately presented the same year his film, The English Patient won best picture, giving Zantz his third best picture award.
As Al Pacino pronounce his name as Z-A-N-E-T (you had one fucking job!) while presenting Best Picture, in a succinct, graceful fashion Zaentz declared, “my cup runeth over.” In that moment the world seemed a bit less limiting. If Zaentz’s honorary speech had not aired that night during the main ceremony his impact on the film industry and on future filmmakers would not have been felt as deeply. In all honesty I would not even know his name, but I do and I did because for one fleeting moment pop culture chose to celebrate a man for his talent.
In a sentimentality runeth over Academy Awards last Sunday it seems ridiculous not to recognize those who contributed the most. Once the McConaissance has ended and Narcissus drowns in the backwaters of Louisiana, the hope is that substance will float above it.
All things considered last Sunday’s show was one of the more entertaining fetes in years. Ellen in all her edgeless glory has the right temperament for the show—good for Mom, Dad and Grandma too. We get it the show is long. You figured out the Debbi Allen dance numbers were as essential as Kim Novak’s appearance, but please know the Achievement Awards are an essential ingredient to the flowering of Hollywood dreams. Drop the singing, besides Bette of course. Let people clap for dead people! It’s fun! And let Seymour Hoffman and Gandolfini get the most applause!
Once network television dissolves into the abyss of mediocrity, the audience will have more control over what they watch and we want our real heroes back!
Saul Zaentz Acceptance Speech:
This Years Governor Awards:
Bury My Skate at Wounded Knee
30 for 30: The Price of Gold, Streaming on Netflix
The lunch line at James Monroe Middle School was long, often forming two lines between a medal divider so as to face each other while discussing pop culture, teachers and that dumb bitch in the courtyard who dressed like a hooker. It was a place where the nice girls and trailer park collided. Kristin had long crunchy yellow hair and a disposition towards older Mexican men (she was eleven). One day in the lunch line she pointed to her shirt, pants and the choker around her neck, “I stole this from Meier & Frank, I stole this from Meier & Frank, I stole this from Meier & Frank.”
Then there was Holly, a heavy set black girl whose outlandish form of communication makes me admire her to this day. She often wore a shirt that read “Just Did It,” then only considered a “harmless” statement and told my friend, “Kellie you’re like a door knob, everybody gets a turn!” Which made no sense, none of us were having sex at this point, but perhaps Holly was?
Corn nuts, fruit rollups, and monster chocolate cookies were a staple as students rarely purchased a “real” lunch. In 1994 the first ladies agenda had nothing to do with nutrition in schools, it was an era when cops would come to our middle school and literally teach us step by step how to make meth, with the ingredients spread out on a table near the principal’s office.
A pop culture moment of particular note in the lunch line was the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan scandal, with Nancy’s “why, why, why,” repeated on a loop on every news station. By this time O.J. had already happened, the line between real news and sensationalism had been crossed. Nancy and Tonya had become more of an obsession than a topic— running through the lunchroom yelling, “bang, bang,” then dramatically falling to the floor screaming “why, why, why,” was something I did with my friends on a regular basis.
It was more farce than tragedy for young teenage girls growing up in Oregon, a state known for sexually charged senator Bob Packwood and now as it turned out a poor white trash ice skater whose only legacy would be knocking down the swan princess of American figure skating. In the ESPN documentary 30 for 30: The Price of Gold Harding gets her chance to set the record straight, at least according to her records. Harding’s story was first presented to the public in a 60 Minutes piece which detailed her troubling childhood, mainly focusing on her abusive mother LaVona Harding. A made for TV movie would present two stories, the events according to Harding and those according to Jeff Gillooly, premiered on NBC. It could be assumed Harding got her turn a long time ago and Kerrigan would continue to remain mum to this day.
As filmmaker Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stay’s in the Picture) points out when introducing the film, Tonya’s story had more layers—the childhood, the husband, the crime—you can’t make this shit up. Watching it all play out again is a riveting experience, and as Kid proved Burstein knows what to do with mountains of footage. The pictures tell a riveting story and the commentators are old friends—her subjects were at ease, as if Burstein were a family member.
As I watched the scandal unfold for a second time, texting those same girls I stood in the lunch line with twenty years ago, it was like magic, time machine indeed:
“Is this OK for my kid to watch?”
“It’s fine. The only thing indecent are the scrunches.”
“My coworker said that Jeff Gillooly’s team was as competent as Joaquin and Casey Affleck in To Die For. P.S. Bob Costas looks like he has the rage virus now.”
Stock footage from Harding’s early days, thanks to childhood friend and filmmaker Sandra Luckow add insight into Harding’s troubled childhood. We see Harding in all of her duckling glory—frizzed out hair, blue and pink eye make-up, and home-made skating costumes that would put Jem to shame. In many ways her story could have been perfect for the trappings of a Campbell soup commercial, overcoming adversity and an abusive mother to become a skating star. Harding could have done it on talent alone. She won gold and beat out Kristy Yamaguchi and Kerrigan in the 1991 world championships. In many ways she was the better skater, athletically astute and the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, but Harding was not Revlon material and not interested in playing the game, unless of course it was rigged.
Something happened along the way, a decision was made, and dimwitted thugs were called upon. The idea that Harding’s husband at the time, Jeff Gillooly, went out of his way to hire inept goons to injure Kerrigan unbeknownst to his wife is ridiculous, yet a claim Harding stands by to this day. Vengeance never leaves her lips as she describes Kerrigan’s snubs at the 1994 Olympics, six weeks after her attack. “I thought we were friends … and for her to treat me like that, like she was above me, I mean that’s rude.” Harding does not mince words and either do others interviewed for the doc. After twenty years of shade, no one has the time or patience for nuance. Luckow, the childhood friend who followed Harding around with a video camera when the girls were teenagers and speaks compassionately of her throughout the film, leaves us with a stunning assertion:
I have avoided the question for twenty years (long pause) but of course she was involved. Tonya is her own worst enemy and her tragic flaw is the inability to take responsibly and culpability for her actions. Tonya learned to re-invent and create her own reality, maybe that’s a survival tactic, but it’s really an unexamined life.
With Harding standing by her claim that she knew nothing until after the fact, only so much can be illuminated in this doc. Harding’s delusion is so deep there is no concept of moving on, everything about her is clinched, ready to take a verbal punch. “[Kerrigan] is the crybaby who didn’t win the gold. I’m sorry I have never said this before but just shut up! Nobody wants to hear your whining, you got a silver medal.”
Harding had a childhood with unimaginable pain no doubt, but when personal responsibility and actions are not accounted for, it’s difficult to feel sorry for her and the idea that she is innocent is farfetched. There is something still child-like about her, a bully mentality ready to growl at anyone who doubts her. The staged answers of 1994 are no longer and Tonya is pissed! In her last statement to the camera Harding addresses her new family (Tonya married for the third time in 2011 and shortly thereafter gave birth to a son). “I love me, my husband loves me and my son loves me and that’s the most important.” This is all that should matter, but something tells me Tonya may need more convincing.
A “rival” documentary if you will, featuring Nancy Kerrigan (who needed a lot of convincing, doesn’t hurt when NBC makes you a correspondent) will air with Mary Carillo during the Olympics. 30 for 30 is now streaming on Netflix and if I were a betting woman Tonya gets the gold for this one! A swan can’t outrun a pit bull.
We have all been waiting in the wings for Robin, seeing her here and there knowing the only reason she was never a HUGE name only stemmed from the fact that she enjoyed being a human being— a mother who happened to be a great actress. It’s safe to assume she put up with a lot of shit, watching her famous husband bloom and swoon, but now it’s her time and what a time it is. David Carr profiles her in this New York Times piece as she directs House of Cards premiering appropriately on Netflix February 14th— because love is only deceit in slow motion.
What is Your Favorite Woody Allen Movie?
Isn’t all mankind ultimately executed for a crime it never committed? The difference is that all men go eventually, but I go six o’clock tomorrow morning. I was supposed to go at five o’clock, but I have a smart lawyer. Got leniency?
-Love and Death (1975)
That’s a tough one there are so many! I am going to be a bit trite and say Annie Hall. I have watched it well over fifteen times and can quote it better than an evangelical can distort the bible. The film begins with the indisputable Groucho Marx valuation of human nature, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.” One of cinema’s greatest romances opens with cynicism. Woody Allen’s assessment of life has made him one of the most relevant writers and filmmakers for the past forty years. Pain and suffering is not something relegated to Eli Wiesel or Sylvia Plath, with a twisting of the senses satire would emerge and find no better home than the typewriter of Woody Allen.
As I checked my Facebook on Saturday, to the right of infants whom I will never meet nor care to and “Which Character of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose Are You?” was a “trending,” section (or perhaps another Zuckerberg ploy to re-configure status updates to slow down the extinction of his site)? According to this new configuration Woody Allen was trending which could only mean one thing in light of recent events —molestation.
An Allen fan or not, this is not jaw dropping information. Here is a man that married his girlfriends adopted daughter and whose son, Ronan Farrow, claims his real father is Old Blue Eyes (but where is this genius I.Q. coming from? Frank didn’t even write his own songs). Beyond his personal life are Allen’s movies—cowardice illuminated. His characters are broken beyond repair, cheaters, murderers, lairs, pseudo-intellectual frauds, and sex addicts drawn to a life of success that masks their limitations towards true intimacy. This is why we watch Allen and this is how he continues to remain relevant. There is no lie, no Elmo fitted to his hand, he makes damage look so good, perhaps too good.
Allen’s camp has made a statement, claiming his daughter Dylan Farrow’s accusations of sexual abuse are untrue and allude to the fact that she was coached by the scorned Mia Farrow as a child. The case was heard in court via custody hearings amongst the the couple. The court would find insufficient evidence for the molestation claim. Allen has never been charged with any crime. It would be fair to suggest his movies say it loud and clear but he never has. Everything he did with Soon-Ye was after the age of consent? Hmm. It is easy to conclude that he has molested children and will probably never admit to it.
So where does that leave us, his glass half-empty fans? We accepted the fact that the world was a cold and dark place long ago. It seems appropriate for a man who writes about brokenness to be broken. We are drawn to Allen due to this lack of like-ability, his neuroses, but can we separate the two—the child molester and auteur? If we stand in line for his next film will we be showing “contempt for her & all abuse survivors,” as Mia Farrow tweeted after Allen received a lifetime achievement award from the Golden Globes last month? Should I stop watching his movies—cinematic experiences which have changed my life and the way I view the world?
I hear you Mia and Dylan. But his writing opens up a vulnerability that no other man or woman for that matter has ever been able to capture. In Annie Hall his relationship with women began to change, female characters became more than sexual centerpieces, but dynamic active leads. Allen would share in Robert B. Weide’s Woody Allen: The Documentary that after working with Dian Keaton he began to write in the voice of women, “eventually it was more interesting to me than the male perspective.”
Mia Farrow would become the manifestation of his new writing style, a muse beyond reproach. From vivacious dame Tina Vitale in Broadway Danny Rose to unsettled Judy in Husbands and Wives, Allen had a range that Farrow understood and perfected. When it all came crashing down during the filming of Husbands and Wives, Farrow showed up for the last three days of filming and was able to be professional under the guidance of a man who cheated on her with the unlikeliest of women.
How many molested children will it take before I stop watching Woody Allen movies? Will it be a Sandusky or Polanski style revelation before I stop? If he does go to prison will camera equipment and a typewriter be allowed? I fully realize I am a bad person for the statements above and if it were me or someone I loved who was molested I would be asserting different feelings.
Yet a seed of doubt remains and before people make assumptions they need to read Weide’s Daily Beast article on the Allen debacle. Weide did extensive research on Allen’s life, including the child abuse case which was investigated, but charges were never brought.
If these allegations are true, what brought Allen to this strange state and should we care? A story he told in Weide’s documentary comes to mind:
My mother used to leave me with these maids all the time because she was working and I remember one of them, I was in my crib at the time, explaining to me that if she wanted to she could kill me, that she could smother me and she demonstrated she could wrap me in a blanket completely, cutting off all my air and smother me and then just dump me in the garbage outside. But she did do it and I couldn’t breath for a few seconds and then she let me out and one wonders how close I came?
The documentary goes on to describe Allen as a happy child until around the age of five he “turned grumpier or sour, I became aware of my mortality. I didn’t like that idea, what do you mean this ends? You vanish forever?” From his satirical depiction of Russian bleakness in Love and Death to a curious Alvy Singer in Annie Hall, death was his signature style:
Mrs. Singer: He’s been depressed. All of a sudden, he can’t do anything.
Dr. Flicker: Why are you depressed, Alvy?
Mrs. Singer: Tell Dr. Flicker. It’s something he read.
Dr. Flicker: Something you read, huh?
Alvy Singer: The universe is expanding.
Dr. Flicker: The universe is expanding?
Alvy Singer: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart, and that will be the end of everything.
Mrs. Singer: What is that your business? He’s stopped doing his homework.
Alvy Singer: What’s the point?
For Allen death was the only known “we all know the same truth and our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.” For him this distortion meant “non-existence, black emptiness,” mixed in with some slapstick. Allen would “put a higher value on the tragic muse than the comic muse, [because it] confronts reality head on.” As his sister Letty Aronson emphasized “the dark side of him, is a very important part of him, in his work and in him, it’s a great thing and it’s a torture.”
This dark and twisted man would need to latch on to innocence, eighteen-year-old Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, Juliet Lewis in Husbands and Wives, and his young wife who would never appear in one of his films. Hana and Her Sisterswould be his definitive female tale where, according to Allen, is “only optimistic in the sections where I failed.”
If what the audience latches onto is a twisted man in his darkest moments perhaps they can convince themselves that his actions as a pedestrian have no moral implications for them? Allen already seems imprisoned by his thoughts, but this tale will never have a conclusion, it will linger like the death of Dolores Paley (Anjelica Huston) in Crimes and Misdemeanors. The only thing worse than the actual criminal is the bystander, but without a crime beyond an editorial (with no charge or conviction) all we have are the senses—those tricky emotions which cause us to endear Allen’s work. In the end the only person who will need to face these transgressions is the tragic poet himself.