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Will moral issues mar Woody Allen's Oscar chances?

The question that will be troubling Woody Allen now is whether the 6000-odd members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be guided by allegations of sexual abuse against him or will they only look at his work, The Blue Jasmine.
By Gautaman Bhaskaran | Hindustan Times, Chennai
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2014 06:52 PM IST

Often, juries can be idiosyncratic. Often, they make judgements which are emotional, which are moralistic. But there are times, when juries are logical and rational, firmly setting aside their personal compulsions.

The question that will be troubling the American director, Woody Allen, now is whether the 6000-odd members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be guided by ethical questions. Or, will they look at his work - and work alone -- with precision and professionalism, ignoring the recent allegations of sexual molestation by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow.

(The members will begin voting in the next few days. The Oscars will be presented on March 2 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Allen's The Blue Jasmine is running for several Academy Awards.)

Farrow is now 28, and she wrote an open letter to the media accusing Allen of molesting her when she was seven - which was a good 21 years ago. She described in detail how her foster father had abused her after asking her to lie on her stomach and play with a toy.

Incidentally, the charge of molestation was first made by Farrow's mother, Mia Farrow, in 1993, when she was fighting a custody battle with Allen over her three children. The charge was probed, but never proved. And Allen has now denied the whole thing.

In the case of Dylan, while the psychiatrists examining her in 1993 gave Allen a clean chit, the judge had been with the mother and daughter.

The raging debate now is on how the Academy members ought to view the Allen episode. Should they strictly look at his art - The Blue Jasmine in this case - or take into account the director's personal behavior?

In the past, the Academy voters had focussed on art (though not always), firmly ignoring all other aspects of a competitor. In 2003, they gave the Oscar for direction to Roman Polanski (The Pianist) even though he was still wanted for a rape which happened 25 years before that in the USA. Adrian Brody got the best actor Oscar for the film, and Ronald Harwood for the screenplay.

Again, I recall a 2011 incident when the Cannes Film Festival jury awarded the best actress trophy to Kirsten Dunst in Lars Von Trier's Melancholia. Only a couple of days prior to that, Von Trier had been declared persona non-grata by the festival and asked to leave Cannes after he had joked at a media conference about being a Nazi sympathiser.

The jury, led by Robert De Niro, did not bother to look at the Von Trier quip and his subsequent expulsion. Instead, it looked at his art and art alone.

In line with this, an Academy spokesperson said: "The Academy honours achievement in film, not the personal lives of filmmakers and artists."

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