Monday, February 17, 2014

Only fools dis films they have not seen

By Steve Evans

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up to witness the idiocy du jour -- the religious organization "Faith Driven Consumers" says it has conducted a survey showing 98 percent of its supporters are "not satisfied" with the upcoming movie Noah starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan). Nevermind that the $125 million movie has not been released or that no one surveyed -- not one single person -- has actually seen the picture. But what truly makes this idiotic is the way the survey questions are phrased. In the interest of pleasing that Old Testament God, we'll just say the questions are a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Faith Driven Consumers is the same group of yahoos who support the crackers on Duck Dynasty when those hillbillies make public jackasses of themselves. At this point, Faith Driven Consumers has about as much credibility as the ingredients list on a hotdog stand at the county fair.

Slap the word "faith" on something and certain groups of people will march after it -- goosestepping their self-righteous asses off -- right over a cliff.

A tip o' the hat to Variety for breaking this story.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2014 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A 10 Gallon Hat: Blazing Saddles Turns 40

By Steve Evans

One of the great American western films, Blazing Saddles, was released 40 years ago today by Warner Bros. It's still just as funny -- and offensive -- as ever. And that was the point. Mel Brooks held a mirror up to racism and discrimination of almost every kind and showed it to be what it always has been: stupid. At the same time he managed to send up that uniquely American film genre, the Western, while subverting every audience expectation imaginable. If Brooks can be said to have created a masterpiece, this is the one (although I like The Producers with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder a helluvalot).

Comedy is all about timing, and with Blazing Saddles Brooks showed pin-point control of his material. Brooks had help on the screenplay from several writers, including Richard Pryor, who was supposed to be cast as Sheriff Bart, but Warner Bros. was afraid of Pryor's partying reputation and scotched that plan. Gene Wilder was Brook's second choice to play the Waco Kid, but when Gig Young took ill, Wilder won the role. There are many stories about Brooks' battle with Warner Bros. over various aspects of the production, use of racist and racy language, even the classic scene of Alex Karras (as Mongo) knocking out a horse with one punch. Brooks had negotiated final cut into his contract, so all of the elements that gave studio executives a fit remained in the picture.

Brooks conceded in a 2012 interview that he could not make Blazing Saddles in today's politically-correct environment, where satire sails over the heads of the overly sensitive.

As an 11-year-old I saw this R-rated film on original release by bluffing my way into the long-gone University Theater in Charlottesville, VA. I remember laughing the hardest during the infamous campfire scene, although you can really pick any random 10 minutes of this movie and enjoy a laff.

This clip is NSFW nor for those with delicate sensibilities. But you already knew that, didn't ya?

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2014 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why Woody Allen Is Innocent

By Steve Evans

I waited a good long while and was leaning heavily toward just staying silent while the lingering accusations against Woody Allen seem to take on a life of their own. I truly grow weary of this tub-thumping and should probably find better things to do with my time. But silence isn't an option, not when so many ignorant people are determined to voice an opinion in the absence of any knowledge of this issue or any of the facts related to it.

So for the moment I'm going to tee off on stupidity. I doubt I'll make a dent in it, but I'm a-gonna try. If you are already convinced that there are too many fools running loose in the world, feel free to skip ahead to the explanation of why Woody Allen is innocent, beginning immediately after the section break.

A woman I knew for years couldn't wrap her mind around the possibility that calling for Allen's head on a platter might just be premature or worse, morally repugnant -- or even worse, inappropriate for creating a game for her own amusement. She would rather stir up emotionally fragile people and steer them toward her trite blogs than make any effort to get at the truth of an issue. That's the worst sort of sensationalism and reflects the desperate tactics some so-called journalists now use to grab readers. Nothing sadder than a middle-aged reporter trying to remain relevant by exploiting Woody Allen's misfortunes -- hell, twisting them around and deliberately ignoring facts that don't support her position -- all for her own personal attention-whore gratification. Using social media to propagate disinformation is irresponsible conduct, unbecoming a serious writer. Folks, this is the world we live in. Social media now makes it possible for flakes to spread gossip and lies faster than they could just by hanging out on a street corner. It makes me ill.

So I was tempted to turn this piece into a cautionary tale of wasting one’s time on an admittedly faded friendship with someone. Occasionally you think a person has a brain, only to find out she was bluffing all along. Even after I went against my better judgment and apologized for pushing the pro-Allen argument (hey, there's more to life than winning arguments) she dug in her heels and still wouldn't acknowledge her own culpability in fostering groupthink by convicting Woody Allen in a kangaroo court of public opinion. That her small subset of the public consists of cretins on Facebook doesn't really matter. Stupidity is like a carcinogen. It will take hold, mutate and eventually spread.

Ah, but fools squeal like piglets in hot oil if you turn up the heat and force them to confront facts. Indisputable facts scare the simpleminded. It demolishes their delicate worldview. They run away, shaking their heads in confusion. It may cost you a friendship or two, but really: are these the kind of friends you want? People change through the years and so does your impression of them over time, not necessarily for the better. Sometimes you have to let them go and move on.

I would rather stand on my principals than fall for anything.

Woody Allen's situation is a crucible into which we can pour our better instincts, use our intelligence and emerge with our dignity intact, or we can become our own worst enemies by wallowing in a salacious interest in the sensational. Why is this story being dredged up again? Why, for assorted selfish purposes of course (selling magazines, stirring up click-bait for gossip websites, etc.). You didn't think it was so the horror of sexual assault would finally be addressed and resolved once and for all, did you?

Why is it wrong to scream mindlessly for a man's blood and to declare his guilt based on, at best, sketchy circumstances? Because condemning Woody Allen or anyone who has not been convicted of a crime -- much less ever even been charged -- is tantamount to ignoring nearly two and a half centuries of American jurisprudence. God almighty: even Frankenstein's monster got better treatment at the hands of those villagers. If you are carrying a torch or pitchfork and hollering for Woody Allen's spleen, shame on you.

Here’s a reasoned view of the Woody Allen situation, reached only after extensive research. Daring to put this forward -- gasp! -- cost me a friendship, which in hindsight was really a favor. Life is too short to waste on dummies.

This “latest” allegation by Dylan Farrow is nothing new. It was raised, investigated and dropped 20 years ago. It should either be raised, investigated and prosecuted now, right now, or the individuals raising the allegations should recognize that they are lurching into slander and libel territory.

Given the negligible amount of “proof” being bandied about and the wheelbarrows full of emotionally explosive rhetoric being deployed in the absence of proof, I find it no less likely that Mia Farrow is hell bent on destroying Woody Allen’s career and reputation, the latter of which he has done a good job of harming all by himself. Woody didn't court any favorable public opinion when he dumped his middle-aged girlfriend and took up with her adopted daughter, who was also an adult, by the way. That's what he did; nothing less, nothing more. Judge that however you wish.

Every time Allen releases a film or is up for an award, such as the recent Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed at the Golden Globes, it obviously galls the shit out of Mia Farrow, who takes to the Twitterverse like an avenging angel of hellfire. But let’s focus on one of her other adopted daughters, Dylan, since Dylan Farrow felt compelled to write an email to a New York Times blogger (who is also a family friend of Mia Farrow) and stirred up this nonsense over the weekend.

I have no doubt Dylan Farrow believes she was sexually assaulted by Woody Allen when she was 7 years old. I have no doubt that it never happened. Why? Because I have no doubt that Mia Farrow planted the notion in Dylan's mind, nurtured it, and helped it to grow.

Let’s go back 20 years for just a moment.

As part of the case, a team of investigators at Yale-New Haven Hospital had studied Dylan and her accusations (in 1993) and concluded that no sexual abuse had taken place, and described Dylan as having “difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality.”

That quote is not insignificant.

Just because someone says something with conviction doesn’t make it so. Regardless, the latest “revelations” are nothing different than what was alleged and dropped 20 years ago. What does this latest barrage accomplish? Nothing, unless Allen is prosecuted. The goal here is to keep the story alive in an effort to make Allen uncomfortable. Whose goal is it? Mia Farrow's. She is the only person with everything to gain and nothing to lose by using pawns to strike out at a former lover. The she would use her own children in service of this agenda is simply despicable.

Also worth noting is the fact that Allen and Soon-Yi Previn since their marriage in 1997 have adopted and are raising two daughters of their own.

Does anyone commenting on this case know anything about adoption? I do.

The screenings, evaluations and background checks are as absolutely comprehensive as technology and fact gathering can possibly be. The evaluation of an adoptive parent’s suitability for the role is independent of that person’s power, fame, money or influence. If there is any question in the slightest about an individual’s moral standing, the adoption will not occur.

It is simply not possible to believe that any adoption organization would be unaware of the allegations against Allen regarding his other adopted daughter, Dylan, made a few years earlier. That two adoptions were completed for Allen and Soon-Yi speaks for itself. I am confident the adoption organization had access to a helluva lot more information about Woody Allen than the little peanut-headed commentators ripping into him on the Internet. As an aside, I will quickly debunk some common myths surrounding this story. Contrary to what many people believe, Soon-Yi Previn is not Allen's daughter, nor his adopted daughter nor even his step-daughter, as Allen and Mia Farrow were never married. Both Allen and Farrow have also acknowledged that in a 12-year relationship he never spent the night with Farrow and her children under the same roof.

It is also worth noting that young Dylan’s accusations against Woody Allen came to light only after his relationship with Farrow imploded and she went on a rampage against him. Mia Farrow has also been very publicly criticized for coaching Dylan prior to the child being interviewed by prosecutors and social workers about her claim of sexual molestation. That's right, we're talking about an award-winning actress coaching the child on what to say and how to perform. This has not been disputed, least of all by Mia Farrow.

Clinical research has shown that pedophiles do not strike once and simply stop. Woody Allen is 78 years old at this writing. He has been accused of something terrible once. One time, and by a jilted woman. A team of doctors, psychiatrists and a prosecutor looked at the accusation inside-out and upside down.

The prosecutor said he had “probable cause” to charge Allen, yet Allen was never charged and the rationale for probable cause has never been revealed. It doesn’t matter, anyway, although an awful lot of people don’t seem to understand the difference between an accusation and a conviction. Allen wasn’t convicted of anything. Hell, he wasn’t even charged and a lot of resources were put into the investigation only to come up with a handful of nothing.

Why can’t more people comprehend that there is a very good chance this story is about nothing more than a woman who despises her former lover and will do anything to ruin him? There is more evidence to support that theory than any other in this sordid little tale.

Yes, these are messed up families all right. No doubt in my mind something bad occurred with these people 22 years ago. Whether it involved wrongdoing on Allen’s part with respect to Dylan Farrow has not been proven. Not even close. She and her mother Mia have been singing the same song for 20 years — what else are they gonna do? They can’t very well recant at this point.

Let’s get real: an accusation like this doesn’t go on and on for two decades without a prosecutor stepping up to the plate and doing something about it.

And anyone who says Allen is untouchable doesn’t know what they are talking about. There’s no statute of limitations on sex-abuse crimes. Here’s a novel idea: Charge him and let justice be done, or shut the hell up. That’s the system we all agreed to when we decided to live in America.

What is abundantly clear and proven is that emotion trumps facts and headlines ignore reason.

Being accused of something like this is like being called a wife beater or a racist. Once the allegation has been levied it seldom requires a shred of proof to gain traction and get folded into that oxymoronic catalog of human experience known as “conventional wisdom.”

It is anything but.

If Mia Farrow & Co. still feel more than 20 years later like they have been wronged by Allen, then let them focus on the actual wrong — an emotional betrayal of the worst sort by his decision to start an affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi. But the campaign has broadened and grown much more corrosive than that. Mia Farrow has dragged many individuals, including her own children, into the vortex of her hatred in order to destroy Allen.

I say she has done so at the cost of her own soul, without proving anything. And she continues to fan the 
flames for her own vindictive purposes. Mia Farrow has defended Roman Polanski, who has actually been convicted of a sex crime. Apparently her concern for victims of sexual assault extends only to family members, but not to the victim of the director who cast her in one of her most famous films, Rosemary's Baby. So in Mia Farrow's world, Polanski gets a pass and Woody Allen should be punished. Even though he's never been charged with a crime.

That's sad and pathetic. Just like the people who would rather censor any dissenting opinion than face up to the increasing likelihood that they are wrong. You wanna spew your ignorance and drink the Kool-aid? I have nothing but contempt for you.

Maybe the simple, perhaps even obvious answer is that idiots will be idiots and we would all do well to ignore them. After all, they have an inalienable right to be wrong. It just takes up more of my time to block their news feeds, such is the ubiquitous and pervasive nature of social media.

Okay, for the cheap seats, let's summarize: 

Woody Allen is innocent. Time will bear me out.
Cinema Uprising copyright © 2014 By Steve Evans. All rights reserved.