Memo to Amazon: Free Woody from #MeToo Jail

It’s time for a jailbreak. Every year from 1969 to 2017, auteur filmmaker Woody Allen released a movie. Every single year. Many of them were masterpieces. “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” and “Match Point” are among what I consider his works of genius. Not all of Allen’s films were great, but his volume of good has no peer. No Hollywood figure is responsible for a more consistent run, or a more awarded run of films than Woody Allen. Allen’s writer-director career begins with “Take the Money and Run” and ends with 2017’s “Wonder Wheel.”

Thanks to almighty Amazon Studios, Allen’s run may be over for good.

There’s an old saying that in order to be funny you have to be willing to watch yourself die. Nothing imbues a Woody Allen film quite like the duality of existence and death, and Jeff Bezos is navigating Styx dressed like Charon.

It could be said that Allen made the mistake of signing a multi-movie deal with Amazon, and when #MeToo hit, politically correct Amazon got skittish about releasing any Allen movies. So there sits his 2019 unreleased picture “A Rainy Day in New York,” gathering dust on a hard drive somewhere in a dark server farm.

Not, it should be noted, because Allen faces any actual #MeToo allegations. He doesn’t. And it’s not because of Allen’s relationship with his wife of more than 20 years, Soon-Yi Previn, who recently unleashed a well-earned rebuttal to the decades of slander she has endured.

Amazon is claiming it cannot find distribution to release the film in theaters, but in reality, they could just release it on their Prime Video streaming service.

The premature burial of “A Rainy Day in New York,” is because, way back in 1992, Allen faced an allegation of child molestation from his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, by former partner Mia Farrow. To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. Could it be released in 2019? Let’s not hold our breath.

Allen faced down that allegation in 1992, he strongly denied it, it was investigated and he was never charged. The accusation was absurd and never went anywhere. (Read Moses Farrow’s account of what happened and why the story falls apart under scrutiny.) It was likely the means by which a vindictive and spurned former partner, Farrow, attempted to sabotage him.

But apparently to Amazon, the accusation is enough to find Allen guilty. That’s the message Amazon is sending by burying “A Rainy Day In New York,” starring Jude Law, Selena Gomez, and Timothée Chalamet. Amazon is also saying a deal is not a deal, and that it will bow to the whims of the outrage machine and stand for nothing, including due process.

Allen’s career spans a lifetime and the sheer number of awards he, his actors and others associated with his films have been nominated for and/or won is mind-boggling. It numbers well over 100 by now. His career is staggering and quite frankly peerless.

No other director has made more actresses’ careers and written such brilliance for them to shine. In 2014, Cate Blanchett became the seventh actress to win a major Oscar thanks to starring in a Woody Allen film.

That’s an insane number of Oscars, never mind these are in just two categories—Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. No other director’s work with female stars even comes close to Allen’s. With this in mind, Allen himself even said he should be a #MeToo poster boy. Many of those stars stand with him now. Some, such as Mira Sorvino, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Allen’s film “Mighty Aphrodite,” has come out stating she will never work with him again. That stance earned her some #MeToo credibility, but the fact is Allen was unlikely to cast her in another film anyway. For her part, Blanchett has taken the sensible stand that social media should not be anyone’s judge, jury or career executioner.

#MeToo is trying to sweep Allen’s entire career under a cheap but quickly delivered with two-day shipping Amazon rug. Even though he doesn’t even face a real #MeToo accusation, and the one allegation against him is decades old, flimsy, and may be based on his former partner’s ulterior motives.

Is Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York” any good? We don’t know, and that’s the point. Amazon knew about the allegation against Allen when it signed that multi-movie deal with him. Nothing about that allegation has changed. The only thing that has changed is Ronan Farrow’s central role as the #MeToo lodestar, and the fact that he was involved in the 1992 accusation against Allen by his sister. No facts about that singular, unproven, and vehemently denied accusation have changed at all.

Amazon’s actions are a form of censorship. Typically, censorship involves government action, and this isn’t that. But given Amazon’s enormous power as one of the FAANG corporations (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) that control everything and collectively gather and hold our personal data on what we buy, what we watch, and what we think, it effectively can destroy  careers—including the career of the most prolific and awarded writer-director in Hollywood history.

If Amazon can destroy Woody Allen’s career, whose career can it not destroy? Something similar has happened to comedian Louis CK.

Apparently, it’s now quaint to point out to Bezos, and to others in media and Hollywood—many of whom are undoubtedly terrified to cross anyone as powerful as Amazon Studios—that “innocent until proven guilty” means something. It means when you face a charge, and face it down as Allen did way back in 1992, it should not destroy you decades later.

Woody Allen was doing a film festival movie promotion a few years back and was asked, “what is your relationship with death?” His answer he said, “remains the same… I am strongly against it.”

It’s past time Amazon released “A Rainy Day in New York.” Art shouldn’t be held hostage.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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