If you refuse to watch art from people you in some way disapprove of, only Tom Hanks and Julie Andrews are left.
-– The Chair
Make me watch Forrest Gump or The Ladykillers again and I’d probably punch you in the face.
Not to mention, Hawaii and the 1980 remake of Little Miss Marker would be a very tough slog. (Note: Sorry, Jules).
And truly, if you’re going to watch some classic films why not simply go to the acknowledged mainstream top of the list choices. Perhaps Chinatown or even… ROSEMARY’S BABY?????????
Uh, oh. Both films were directed by Roman Polanski and Mr. Polanski is best known these days by a new generation of filmgoers as the man who had sex with an underage girl and fled the U.S. before he could be properly punished for it.
Rightly or wrongly – and it’s not either one – this issue came up recently in a writing class when we were analyzing story elements of a classic sequence in Rosemary’s Baby where the lead character is raped by….
Well, who did it is not important for the subject of this discussion. The pertinent part was the past deeds of this director and how much his personal actions influence what a viewer now sees or can’t see in the piece of art being offered to us.
My knee jerk reaction is that we must separate the art from the artist and realize that times change, truth reveals itself in increments and people who live in glass houses, which means ALL of us, shouldn’t throw stones.
On the other hand, to NOT acknowledge that the personal is not only political but pertinent and influential, is to ignore the extreme cultural moments we are living through these days.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody but I’m not so sure I want to support ANYTHING director Bryan Singer does/did again.
As a gay guy, I’ve heard about his penchant for younger men for years and the fabled parties where they gathered with him (Note: Or were gathered up for him). On the other hand, I was never there and certainly never saw him doing anything inappropriate with a 15 or 17 year old boy elsewhere so who was I to judge? What is my responsibility? And does it mean he shouldn’t direct Millennium Films’ upcoming big budget remake of Red Sonja?
The Sundance Film Festival this week previewed the upcoming 4-hour HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, which chronicles in painstaking detail Michael Jackson’s sexual relationships with pre and early adolescent young boys when he was in his thirties.
British filmmaker Dan Reed is a respected documentarian and by all accounts the personal testimony of Jackson’s victims, their families, and the similarity and specificity of details make it as devastating to watch as the current Lifetime series Surviving R. Kelly, which centers on that singer/songwriter/producer’s longtime sexual abuse of numerous underage women.
I have not felt comfortable with Mr. Jackson’s music for DECADES given that we were close in age as I watched him parade to endless premieres and show biz photo ops in the eighties and nineties in the company of 9, 11, 13 and 15 year olds boys, sometimes two or three at a time and occasionally strangely holding hands with the odd one as he spoke of playful sleepovers at his dreamy playground of a ranch.
I remember thinking to myself, what would someone my age conceivably EVER be doing with those boys overnight and, if it wasn’t overtly sexual, could it EVER conceivably be appropriate, even with their parents’ approval? What I concluded then and now was that it could not and, hence, I never was able to listen to or watch Mr. Jackson in the same way ever again.
I have no proof and I’m not faulting anyone who jams out to Billie Jean or who will forever see him as the King of Pop. But there was and is something so questionable in my mind about Mr. Jackson’s personal life that sucks the goodness and fun and joy out of anything I could possibly see or hear him do. Even the famed Motown anniversary moonwalk – the younger, gentler version of what he left behind – leaves me at best sad for all concerned when viewed in the context of the entirety of his life.
One teaching colleague of mine recently shared the difficulty of talking to college students about Miramax/Harvey Weinstein when recounting the history of the Hollywood independent film movement. It’s not that you don’t do it, but how do get them to appreciate what that studio accomplished without the stench? And how do you write a book about the history of television in the last century and not give The Cosby Show its due? That’s a topic someone else very close to me (Note: VERY) is dealing with at the moment.
To say nothing of Louis CK and his recent jokes about the students of Parkland or Woody Allen movies in general. How do I look at Annie Hall these days?
As a baby boomer I can only speak to Annie Hall, one of my favorite films of all time, and confess that it will forever make me laugh because I am able to block out all reality and focus in on the joy it brought me throughout my life. Yes, I am that strong or that weak where these feelings overwhelm everything else past and present and take me back to a time when it at least FELT like we were all a lot more innocent and unsullied by the realities of a hopelessly stained contemporary world.
Of course, that is/was a fantasy in itself but at the very least it got me through my twenties and thirties. Though when you shove Manhattan in my face now and I’m forced to watch Woody with Mariel Hemingway’s 17 year-old character, (Note: As happened several months ago on cable TV) it’s cringe worthy. Meaning denial only works in certain cases and, in this case, I suddenly froze up and couldn’t help but turn away.
So yeah, in this light I totally get some of my students’ aversion to Rosemary’s Baby and Mr. Polanski. How many of us Jews interested in movies have ever had a tough time with academic articles fetishizing the filmmaking talent of Adolph Hitler’s favorite director, Leni Riefenstahl? (Note: Whose Triumph of the Will is coincidentally used as a bittersweet punch line in said Annie Hall)
Perhaps the answer is a film festival featuring Triumph of the Will, Rosemary’s Baby Annie Hall and maybe…oh…Cosby in Uptown Saturday Night? We can also add in Kevin Spacey ‘s Oscar winning performance in American Beauty and two of Singer’s X-Men movies for good measure.
But how many of us would go? Not as many as would watch any one of the six in the privacy of our own homes and keep it a secret.
Great essay, Steve. I wrestle with this a lot. Now I’ve learned Chris Pratt is a member of a Pentecostal (i.e. anti-gay marriage) church. And what about Scientologist Elisabeth Moss? I’ll just look at selfies of myself, I guess.