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Why We Applaud Woody Allen’s Misogyny

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Mimi Kramer has an excellent analysis of Woody Allen’s cruel and mean-spirited speech at the American Film Institute’s tribute to Diane Keaton:

A friend asked me, a few months back, whether I’d seen Woody Allen’s speech at the American Film Institute tribute to Diane Keaton in June, when she was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award.

I hadn’t. I’d seen most of the event. It was shown on TCM, and I often have TCM on in the background. But I’d turned the sound down when Allen made his surprise appearance at the end.

I don’t like Woody Allen and haven’t for a while — since around 1979, when he made a movie about a self-involved, middle-aged comedy writer dating and dicking around a 17-year-old. I thought Manhattan was creepy, but not half as creepy as the way Allen got lionized for basically filming his own life in black-and-white and giving it a Gershwin soundtrack. So I missed the part of the AFI tribute when Allen proved, yet again, that being him means you can do almost anything and get people to shower you with praise.

“He did what?” I asked my friend.

“He called her a ‘fellatrix.’ I think that’s what he said.” She was sounding a little less sure now.

She warned me that the video clip of the speech on YouTube, while short, was hard to take, but said I should watch it through to the end.

Much of what I’ve accomplished in my life I owe, for sure, to her. She’s really astonishing. This is a woman who is great at everything she does — actress, writer, photographer, fellatrix, director. Diane Keaton, winner of the 45th annual AFI Life Achievement Award.

I called my friend back.

“Is that what he said?” she asked.

“That’s what he said,” I said.

“And that’s what it means?”

“That’s what it means: ‘a woman who gives blow jobs.’ Only he pronounced it funny, almost as though he were speaking Latin.” I embarked on a lecture on how the word fellatrix should be pronounced in English — with a long a, like dominatrix. Or like fellatio. Allen had given it a flat a, so that it rhymed with the plural of Patrick. We set about pronouncing the word fellatrix, and then fellatio, with long a’ s and short — and also dominatrix, but mostly fellatio and fellatrix — back and forth, over and over, until we were helpless with laughter.

I was still laughing when I went to bed that night. But I keep thinking about Allen’s speech, especially as his character has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks. Yesterday, Alec Baldwin went on Twitter to defend Allen against his stepdaughter’s account of having been molested by Allen as a child. Baldwin called Dylan Farrow a liar — an actress, in fact, suggesting that the rage and anguish she has expressed at what she’s perceived for decades as Hollywood’s complicity is a performance. But of course, Allen is the veteran actor in this scenario. If you look closely at his own performance at the AFI tribute last spring, you can see some of the tactics he uses to project a demeanor of plausibility and harmlessness, and how they mask the deliberation and craft behind his routine. You can also watch him making Hollywood complicit before your eyes.

Allen’s speech at the AFI tribute to Diane Keaton was an example of stealth misogyny. He engineered things so that at the climax of the award ceremony, when everyone thought they were applauding Keaton, they were actually applauding him for demeaning her. Allen was the very last speaker; he was to present the award in the next moment. So he knew that, no matter what he said, at the end of his speech everyone would jump up and cheer. By dropping the word fellatrix into the list of Keaton’s professional accomplishments, though, Allen completely undercut everything he seemed to be saying. And by giving it an unconventional pronunciation, he made it unlikely that anyone would understand or be sure what he’d said.

It’s a classic–if byzantine–example of how covertly abusive men force or seduce others into collusion. The AFI tribute to Diane Keaton was covered by five or six industry publications, but none of them commented on Allen’s use of the word fellatrix in his speech. In general, most of them characterized it as a comedy routine or a roast that ended in a loving tribute. Which isn’t at all what it’s actually like. What you miss on the page are the mannerisms, the fake pauses and stammers, the gestures (Allen bringing his hand to his face, fingering his lip, playing with his ring) that made it seem like he was nervous or considering what to say, creating a patina of spontaneity.

It’s a highly rhetorical speech, for all the assumed hesitancy, full of devices drawn from classical oratory as well as classic misogyny. Allen starts with a coercive joke, likening Keaton to “the fictional movie character Eve Harrington.” (The audience is forced to laugh or risk giving people around them the impression that they’ve never seen All About Eve.) “Which is not to suggest,” Allen goes on, “that Diane, when I met her, was ruthlessly ambitious.” That’s called “praeteritio” — where you say something in the act of saying that you’re not going to say it. But the rhetorical flourish there isn’t in the words so much as in the moue of disgust Allen makes after he says “ruthlessly ambitious” — an expression which seems to be saying, “And that’s putting it mildly.”

The speech relies heavily on a combination of aposiopesis (breaking off from speech and not finish a thought), paralepsis (drawing attention to something by seeming to ignore it), and a kind of non sequitur (sometimes called anacoluthon), where you purposely start a thought in a way that creates a false expectation as to how it will finish, then change direction. One striking example of this occurs when Allen is talking about Keaton’s appearance. “She dresses, as you know, to hide her sexuality — and always has, and has done a great job, ’cause it’s never emerged over the years. But,” he goes on, “she’s a beautiful girl.” It feels there as if Allen is going to say something nice, or quasi-nice, or not awful. Then he finishes, “And she’s never succumbed to any face work or anything. She’s very uncompromising. She prefers to look old.” (At this point the camera dwells briefly on Reese Witherspoon, looking at her phone and shaking her head, a pasted smile on her face.) . . .

Continue reading. And do read it all.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

All science-fiction fans: Watch Season 4 Episode 1 of Black Mirror

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If you haven’t already seen it. Absolutely terrific.

I somehow hadn’t seen the series, so that episode was my introduction.

Season 4 is on Netflix here, but not seasons 1-3.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 2:13 pm

In ‘Brave,’ Rose McGowan Exposes Hollywood Exploitation

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In the NY Times Michelle Goldberg reviews Rose McGowan’s new book:

If I had read Rose McGowan’s new memoir, “Brave,” in a vacuum, absent the feats of investigative reporting that took down the former Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, I would have thought it overwrought and paranoid. McGowan describes a life of almost ceaseless abuse, of falling into the clutches of one sadistic ogre after another as powerful forces conspired to crush her rogue spirit. “My life was infiltrated by Israeli spies and harassing lawyers, some of the most formidable on earth,” she writes on the first page. “These evil people hounded me at every turn while I went about resurrecting the ghosts that have made up my time on earth.” Come on — Israeli spies?

Of course, we now know: Yes, Israeli spies. In October 2016, McGowan posted three tweets accusing a “studio head” of rape, using the hashtag #WhyWomenDontReport. She was referring to Weinstein, who, it’s since been revealed, had paid her $100,000 for her silence about a 1997 encounter at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. As Ronan Farrow reported in The New Yorker in November 2017, shortly after McGowan’s tweets Weinstein hired several private security agencies, one run largely by veterans of Israeli intelligence, to try to stop the story of his longtime sexual predation from coming out. Agents were explicitly directed to spy on and undermine McGowan. “It was like the movie ‘Gaslight,’ ” McGowan told Farrow. “Everyone lied to me all the time.”

One of the greatest tricks that the patriarchy plays on women is to deliberately destabilize them, then use their instability as a reason to disbelieve them. Much of “Brave” reads like the diary of a woman driven half-mad by abusive men who assume no one will listen to her. In this case, the truth was finally — and, for McGowan, triumphantly — exposed, but reading “Brave,” I kept thinking about how many more women must be written off as crazy and crushed under the weight of secrets no one wants to hear.

Even before she met Weinstein, McGowan had been through hell. She was raised in the polygamous Children of God cult, though her family fled when its leadership started encouraging sex with children. She then spent years bouncing back and forth between her cruel father and her unreliable mother, who for a time dated a vicious man who McGowan says was later charged with sexually abusing his own daughter. McGowan did a brief stint in rehab during junior high school and later lived as an itinerant street punk. Eventually she made her way to Hollywood and was emancipated from her parents before she was old enough to drive.

This bitter history clearly left a mark, and her book is furious and profane, wild and a little unhinged. “Very few sex symbols escape Hollywood with their minds intact, if they manage to stay alive at all,” McGowan writes early on. There’s no glamour in “Brave,” and very little joy; I’ve never read anything that makes being a starlet sound so tedious and demeaning.

The book hinges on McGowan’s encounter with Weinstein, whom she refers to only as “the Monster.” Here, for the first time, she tells the story of what he did to her. It’s both disgusting and, if you’ve followed the Weinstein coverage, very familiar. She was summoned to a morning meeting in the restaurant of an exclusive hotel in Park City, Utah. When she arrived, the restaurant’s host directed her to Weinstein’s suite, saying he was stuck on a call. “I was certain we would be working together for many years to come, and we were here to plot out the grand arc of my career,” McGowan writes.

Instead, Weinstein pushed her into a room with a Jacuzzi and pulled off her clothes. “I freeze, like a statue,” she writes. As she describes it, he put her on the edge of the Jacuzzi, got in, and performed oral sex on her while masturbating. Her experience sounds similar to the one that the actress and director Asia Argento described to The New Yorker. Like Argento, McGowan says that she feigned pleasure in the hopes of bringing the event to a quicker conclusion. “He moans loudly; through my tears I see his semen floating on top of the bubbles,” she writes.

Afterward, McGowan writes, she was taken to a photo-op with Ben Affleck, her co-star in “Phantoms,” a movie she was promoting. Seeing her shaken and hearing where she came from, the actor said, “Goddamn it. I told him to stop doing that.” (It’s unclear what Affleck meant by that statement; he has never responded to the accusation that he knew about Weinstein’s abuse.) Others, McGowan writes, “counseled me to see it as something that would help my career in the long run.” Wanting to press charges, she spoke to a criminal attorney who told her she would never be believed.

Soon she heard that Weinstein was calling around town telling people not to hire her. “It seemed like every creep in Hollywood knew about my most vulnerable and violated moment,” she writes. “And I was the one who was punished for it.” Her film career was derailed.

McGowan would eventually find success playing one of a trio of witches on the TV show “Charmed.” She describes working on the show as a deadening experience, a “prison for my mind.” Her sense of martyrdom can be a bit much; she writes of feeling “robbed” by having to get married on TV before her real wedding. “Your entertainment comes at a cost to us performers,” McGowan writes. “You should know this and acknowledge.”

Yet it’s McGowan’s profound dissatisfaction with her profession — one she seems to have fallen into rather than pursued — that has given her the freedom to gleefully burn bridges. She loathes the entertainment business, describing Hollywood as a cult worse than the one she grew up in. Though she’s in her 40s, she sometimes writes with the grandiosity of an alienated adolescent whose mind was blown by “The Matrix.” “You may think that what happens in Hollywood doesn’t affect you,” she writes. “You’re wrong. My darlings, who do you think is curating your reality?”

For most adult readers,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 10:29 am

“Harvey’s Concern Was Who Did Him In”: Inside Harvey Weinstein’s Frantic Final Days

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Like the previous post, this one concerns a deeply damaged and dysfunctional man. Adam Ciralsky writes in Vanity Fair:

On Monday, October 2, 2017, Harvey Weinstein arrived at work earlier than usual. As was his custom, he barked orders and moved from room to room inside his spacious office suite at 375 Greenwich Street, the New York City headquarters of the Weinstein Company (T.W.C.), a beautiful old red-brick factory building that had been converted into a center of the film universe.
The producer had formed the enterprise some 12 years earlier after he and his brother and partner, Bob Weinstein, exited their fabled Miramax operation, home to such critical and commercial successes as Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. And during an equally successful tenure at T.W.C., the brothers, whose films have generated an astounding 81 Oscars since 1999, had ushered into the world The King’s Speech, Inglourious Basterds, Silver Linings Playbook,and The Artist. Now, however, T.W.C., the cinematic supernova, was suddenly imploding. And it was about to consume Weinstein the man and the brand.
The New York Times and The New Yorker, Harvey Weinstein knew, were moving forward with exposés of his personal behavior, going back decades. At first, the producer hewed to a strategy that, in the past, had served him well. He enlisted marquee attorneys to defend him, in this case assembling a legal dream team that eventually came to include renowned litigator David Boies, celebrity lawyer Lisa Bloom (the daughter of high-profile attorney Gloria Allred), and Charles Harder, who had filed the lawsuit that put Gawker out of business. Using combative advocacy for cover, Weinstein also deployed former intelligence operatives and a private-security firm, who were tasked with investigating his potential accusers, journalists reporting the story, and those who might be ratting him out to the press.

But as Weinstein saw that his time and his options were running out, he began to scramble. And as revealed here for the first time, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Weinstein and a coterie of loyalists—according to a dozen current and former T.W.C. employees and Weinstein advisers, as well as the initial findings of an internal company investigation—would allegedly spend his last days at the company searching for and trying to delete documents; absconding with others; surveilling ex-employees’ online communications; and seeking to discover who, in the end, had orchestrated his downfall.

Today, as the #MeToo movement (amplified by allegations about Weinstein) continues to gain strength, and as an array of investor groups have been circling T.W.C. with bids to raise the company from the ashes, this is a tale of the tawdry battle that was waged from inside the Weinstein bunker last fall as the movie mogul made what may prove to be his last stand.

For months, members of T.W.C.’s senior staff had heard rumblings that journalists were combing through Weinstein’s past. And yet, management asserted it did not know the depths of his alleged misdeeds or that, in some cases, he may have misled them about the focus and intensity of the reporting. “Look, anybody who tells you that we didn’t know [certain] things about Harvey is full of shit,” a close Weinstein confidant admitted. “We knew he was a bully, we knew he had a bad temper, and we knew he was a philanderer.” But, as the source went on to explain, “what I know today is somebody completely different. Black ops, Mossad agents [working to gather dirt on his enemies], covering stuff up, [alleged] rape . . . despicable behavior. . . . We heard the r-word only two or three weeks before [the Times storybroke].”
Nicole Quenqua, T.W.C.’s head of publicity, said she had been kept in the dark as well. Seven days before the Times piece would become public, Weinstein invited her to join him at the Tribeca Grill, Robert De Niro’s restaurant downstairs from the T.W.C. offices. And even though Quenqua was in charge of publicity and marketing, it was the first time, she said, that her boss had opened up to her, if cryptically, about the forthcoming news stories about him. “Everything’s going to be fine,” she recalled him assuring her as he ate a serving of sorbet covered with colored sprinkles. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I mean, I might have done some things that are immoral. But I didn’t do anything that was illegal.”
In those frantic final days, Weinstein’s appearance—haggard in the best of times—was deteriorating. “He looked awful and could not focus,” said one colleague, who added that the producer was under tremendous financial pressure. “He was burning through [money]” on attorneys and other advisers and, whether related or not, was working to unload some of his real estate. (He reportedly became so strapped for funds that he requested suspension of child-support payments to two daughters from his marriage to Eve Chilton, a former assistant of his.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2018 at 10:24 am

Dynamite movie on Netflix: “Kill the Messenger”

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I was living in Santa Cruz at the time, and the Mercury-News was my daily paper. I remember the stories vividly, and also the attack by the LA Times.

Well worth watching, lest we forget.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2018 at 12:25 pm

Netflix Original “Bright” well worth watching

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Gritty fantasy and police movie with good comic touches. (Will Smith is a star, so naturally.) Not a serious movie, but an enjoyable movie, and exploring extended racism.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2017 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Experts pick their favorite movies about their area of expertise

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The Washington Post column by Monica Hesse, Ben Terris, and Dan Zak includes the explanations of why they made the picks, and those are definitely worth reading. The picks themselves and the pickers:

Astronaut: “The Martian” (2015)
Charles F. Bolden, former administrator of NASA

Attorney: “My Cousin Vinny” (1992)
Robert Spagnoletti, chief executive of the D.C. Bar, former attorney general of the District of Columbia

Bank robber: “Heat” (1995)
Shon Hopwood, former bank robber, current Georgetown law professor

Baseball Player: “Bull Durham” (1988)
Cal Ripken Jr., retired shortstop and third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, National Baseball Hall of Famer

Chef: “Eat Drink Man Woman” (1994)
Anthony Bourdain, chef, host of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”

Chess Player: “Queen of Katwe” (2016)
Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion

Cable Guy: “The Cable Guy” (1996)
Tim Hess, former cable installer: “It was an awful movie but it’s the only movie we have.”

Doctor: “Something the Lord Made” (2004)
Anthony Kalloo, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Engineer: “No Highway in the Sky” (1951)
Bill Nye, mechanical engineer/science guy

Farmer: “Charlotte’s Web” (2006)
Breanna Holbert, student at California State University at Chico, president of National FFA Organization

Firefighter: “Ladder 49” (2004)
Mark Treglio, director of strategic campaigns for the International Association of Firefighters, former Jacksonville fireman

Hairstylist: “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001)
Jane Bruner, barber at Hell’s Bottom barber shop

Inventor: “Joy” (2015)
Elizabeth Dougherty, senior adviser to the undersecretary of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Law enforcement: “Donnie Brasco” (1997)
Peter Newsham, D.C. chief of police

Librarian: “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)
Carla Hayden, librarian of Congress

Magician: “The Dark Knight” (2008)
Penn Jillette, magician

Military: “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946)
Joe Davis, director of public affairs for Veterans of Foreign Wars

Miner: “Matewan” (1987)
Phil Smith, director of government affairs for United Mine Workers of America

Musician: “The Breath Courses Through Us” (2013)
Luke Stewart, D.C. musician

Nun: “The Trouble with Angels” (1966)
Sister Rachel Terry of the order Immaculate Heart of Mary, who is a music teacher at Little Flower School in Bethesda, Md.

Politician: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

Schoolteacher: “The Emperors Club” (2002)
Casey Bethel, Georgia’s 2017 Teacher of the Year

Trucker: “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977)
Greg Alden, Brotherhood of Teamsters, freight division

Union Rep: “Hoffa” (1992)
Jose Arroyo, United Steelworkers Union representative

Zookeeper: “Jaws” (1975)
Brandie Smith, associate director for animal care sciences, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Written by LeisureGuy

25 December 2017 at 9:59 am

Posted in Movies & TV

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