DID YOU READ

Eight offensive quotes on the Polanski situation.

Eight offensive quotes on the Polanski situation. (photo)

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In a case as tangled with moral, legal and straight-up emotional arguments as the ongoing Roman Polanski one, there’s plenty of room for reasonable people to disagree. But wherever you stand, you’d hope at least people would avoid making the debate needlessly glib. And you’d be wrong. Here are eight of my favorite stupid statements made, in the interest of being fair and balanced, by both the media’s prosecution and defense of Polanski:

Prosecution

1. “He raped her in a lot of different ways. We’re talking sodomy and… other styles of rape.” –Wendy Murphy on MSNBC’s “Hardball”.

Without being too flippant about it, Ms. Murphy’s imprecision isn’t exactly making the best case; I wonder how many “styles” of rape there are, and I have to point out that sodomy can be perfectly consensual. A few sentences later, she notes that abroad, Polanski was “hanging around on the Left Bank,” which kind of gives the game away; Murphy, a noted Bill O’Reilly compatriot, knows how to tie in her undeniably sincere rape-victim advocacy to a broader culture war. Because really, why does it matter if he was on the Left Bank or in a Trappist monastery?

2. “Polanski is a great film director — although the much-acclaimed “Chinatown” has a muddled script — but his true talent is to make fools of his friends.” –Richard Cohen editorializing in the Washington Post.

In an incoherent editorial, Cohen basically proposes that Polanski doesn’t have to be prosecuted as long as Cohen gets to punch him just once. A lot of the prosecution crowd accuse Polanski’s defenders of having a double standard for anyone who’s a “great director,” and wonder how they’d feel if he was “Polanski the Plumber”; Cohen pulls the same trick in reverse. If “Chinatown” isn’t that good, then we really have to prosecute him. Wait, what?

3. “None of this, as my grandmother used to say, is ‘good for the Jews,’ especially at a time they have far bigger fish to fry. It is also worth noting, although cruel, that Polanski has admitted to being unfaithful to Sharon Tate during their very brief two-year marriage, an admission made only under oath many years after carrying the torch for Tate as if she were his own personal second Holocaust.” –Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media.

Blaming Polanski for being arrested at a time when the world needs to focus on Iran potentially launching a missile at Israel — or, uh, being a bad Jew and encouraging anti-Semitism? — is a total non sequitur. Also, it actually isn’t worth noting Polanski cheated on Sharon Tate; it has nothing to do with the matter at hand.

4. “He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in 1977, then beat it for France,
where I’m not sure that’s even a crime.”
–Andrew Klavan, also on Pajamas Media.

Ha! Another joke about the French! Order up one more batch of freedom fries! (For the record, the age of consent in France is 15, one year younger than in most American states.)

Defense

1. “I suggest, in the finest American tradition, we protest this absurd and deplorable act by smashing our cuckoo clocks, pawning our Swiss watches, and banning Swiss cheese and chocolate.” –Joan Z. Shore on the Huffington Post.

Shore ends up blaming the Swiss for it all. It’s obviously tongue in cheek, but she begins the column by reminding us of Switzerland’s dubious “neutrality” in World War II. Surely Nazi complicity and the arrest of Polanski aren’t quite on the same level?

2. “The jury of the international Zurich Film Festival has decided to proceed in honoring films and filmmaking despite the philistine nature of the collusion that is now occurring.” –Debra Winger, speaking at the festival.

Because the only reason Polanski would be arrested is a lack of appreciation for his movies.

3. “I know it wasn’t rape-rape. It was something else but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.” –Whoopi Goldberg on “The View.”

Beyond this being phrased like a teenager wondering “Does (s)he like me, or like-like me?”, rape doesn’t work like that, and few are really disputing the facts of what Polanski did.

4. “Whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time.” –Harvey Weinstein editorializing in the Independent.

“So-called crime”? Really? That’s not helping.

[Photo: “Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired,” 2008, HBO.]

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

When Judi Dench swears, people cry.

When Judi Dench swears, people cry. (photo)

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Here in the U.S., Judi Dench is gazed at with the same gauzy reverence given to all British actors with crisp enunciation, but in the UK she’s a bona fide cultural treasure (she was once voted second only to the queen as the most-liked and respected Brit in a poll). Which is what makes the long, prickly profile of her by Kira Cochrane in the Guardian so great. For one, she doesn’t care for the designation: “That sounds pretty dusty to me. It’s [playwright] Alan Bennett and I behind glass in some forgotten old cupboard. I don’t like it at all.”

I suppose the closest America has to the actor-as-cultural-institution is someone like Jack Nicholson, but he doesn’t come close to the remarkable ubiquity Dench has in her home country. She credits it to Harvey Weinstein and television: Weinstein for taking “Mrs. Brown” from BBC TV movie to unlikely star vehicle (“Harvey’s name [is] tattooed on my bum,” she claims) and veteran sitcoms like “As Time Goes By” for keeping her in “in people’s sitting rooms a lot,” where her beatific, unthreatening glow can thrive in perpetuity. So saintly is her perception, in fact, that the BBFC (the UK’s MPAA) reported that every film she swears in generates complaints, something that makes her wonder if she’s failed as an actress: “Can’t they for a minute think that I am playing another person, in another world, with another personality? Must they write and complain that it came out of my mouth?’ I was very depressed about it.”

There are more memorable quotes — in response to Ian McKellen’s suggestion that audiences fall in love with her no matter the role she plays, Dench sasy “Crap! Crap. He’s talking through a hole in his arse” — though in particularly British fashion, the profile gets uncomfortably invasive, with Cochrane asking Dench, whose husband of 30 years, Michael Williams, died in 2001, if she is sometimes lonely. It’s hard to imagine any American as comparatively famous who’d put up with such a question, which makes the articles just as much a cultural lesson in how even the most venerable British people have to put up with some kind of ritual humiliation.

[Photo: Judi Dench in “Rage,” Adventure Pictures, 2008]

When indie studio heads direct.

When indie studio heads direct. (photo)

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On the press tour that will not end, Quentin Tarantino took a break from dishing about his favorite films and talking up “Inglourious Basterds” to shed some light on the lone film directed by his bosses, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, on last night’s episode of Craig Ferguson. Following an amusing anecdote about strong-arming an Italian film festival jury into giving a 1994 Russian film called “The Dove’s Bell-Ringer” a prize (and then subsequently getting snubbed by the film’s producer at an afterparty), Tarantino stumbled onto discussing “Playing for Keeps,” a 1986 comedy most notable for the Weinsteins’ involvement as co-directors and an early appearance by Marisa Tomei, that gives insight into why the Weinstein Company heads have stayed away from the camera since then (starting at 1:49):

On the flip side of the coin, “Adventureland” producer Ted Hope’s blog Truly Free Film has unveiled another of the invaluable Sundance ’09 conversations he and Killer Films’ Christine Vachon conducted with filmmakers, this time with Jeff Lipsky, the co-founder of Focus Features forebearer October Films, who shares how being on the distribution side helped him be a more respectful director to actors on films like “Flannel Pajamas”:

[Photo: “Playing for Keeps,” Universal Pictures, 1986]

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