February 1, 2014

OSCARLAND: WGA Awards and The Woody Allen Issue


Tonight the Writers Guild of America followed the lead of the Golden Globes and gave its award for Best Original Screenplay to Spike Jonze for HER rather than to AMERICAN HUSTLE.  The WGA awards were seen as Hustle‘s chance to recapture some of the momentum it had lost after 12 YEARS A SLAVE and GRAVITY split the Producers Guild award, and then Alfonso Cuaron won the Directors Guild prize for Gravity, but it wasn’t to be.  All of this possibly ends up helping 12 Years, since Gravity is still viewed as a longshot Best Picture winner–or it could set things up for a true Oscar surprise.  (In addition, the WGA gave the Adapted Script award to Billy Ray for CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, but since 12 Years wasn’t eligible for nomination under WGA rules, that’s not considered a telling win.)

Another nominee for the WGA Original Script award who didn’t win tonight was Woody Allen for BLUE JASMINE, but the reasons all eyes are likely to be on him for at least the new few days have nothing to do with that loss.  Today the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who describes himself as a friend of Mia and Ronan Farrow, posted an open letter written by Dylan Farrow, who has maintained for more than 20 years that when she was 7, Allen, who had adopted the girl with Mia Farrow, sexually molested her.  This letter marks the first time Dylan Farrow has publicly written about her charges, and her post is a furious, detailed denunciation, one that calls out not only Allen himself, but a variety of performers who have worked with him in the years since she first made her accusation, specifically including this year’s Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett.

It is extremely important to note that Allen has never been either charged nor convicted of a crime.  A panel of psychiatrists at the time doubted the story, and although Dylan Farrow’s letter claims that her “mother declined to pursue criminal charges,” the record says that it was the District Attorney who made that decision.  One could also note that the timing of this post, in the middle of Oscar season, and on the heels of Ronan Farrow’s much-discussed anti-Woody Allen tweet written during the director’s Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement award (not to mention Ronan Farrow’s brand-new high-profile career as an MSNBC host), is striking, especially since Allen actually won the Oscar not long ago for his Midnight In Paris script without any of this being raised.

Nevertheless, one can only wonder whether it will have an impact on Oscar voters, especially with Dylan Farrow’s decision to very specifically cast scorn in Cate Blanchett’s direction.  It can strongly be argued that for a man who’s never been found guilty of a crime to be ostracized and professionally punished based on an accusation, as Dylan Farrow clearly advocates, isn’t the way the legal system works.  But if this issue doesn’t go away, Academy members may want to make sure it doesn’t intrude on Oscar night by giving the award to someone else–the utterly noncontroversial Judi Dench, for example, or Amy Adams, who’s well-liked and deserving, and who’s never won.

In a chaotic year where the only sure favorite seemed to be Blanchett for Best Actress, this development at the very least counts as a live grenade.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."