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‘Allen v. Farrow’ renews questions about Woody Allen, and separating art from the artist

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Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
Updated 3:10 PM ET, Fri February 19, 2021

(CNN) — Woody Allen didn’t cooperate with “Allen v. Farrow,” a four-part HBO docuseries that goes beyond tabloid headlines in examining the director’s relationship with Mia Farrow and sexual-assault allegations by their daughter Dylan. Extensive access to the Farrows makes this an intimate look at that history, while renewing questions about separating art from the artist and Hollywood’s embrace of problematic figures.

Directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (“The Hunting Ground”) draw upon a rich trove of material — some previously unheard and unseen — including recorded conversations between Allen and Farrow, court documents and home movies. Allen’s version of events is largely culled from the audiobook reading of his 2020 autobiography “Apropos of Nothing,” as well as old interviews.
The conversation surrounding Allen — and how he is viewed in the entertainment industry — has evolved, as the series notes, in part due to a cultural shift related to what has come to be known as the #MeToo movement. Those changes were spurred by the work of journalists such as Dylan’s brother, Ronan Farrow, who is among those interviewed.
Allen has staunchly denied that he ever abused Dylan, a disclaimer affixed to each chapter. “Allen v. Farrow” methodically explores the case against him while presenting various facets of the story, including admiration of Allen as a cinematic genius, Farrow’s personal and acting history, and their unorthodox relationship before its abrupt end.
 
 
There’s little doubt where the filmmakers’ sympathies lie. The docuseries underscores how coverage at the time — focusing on Allen’s affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn — only told part of the story.
 
Dylan was seven when the alleged assault happened in 1992, and “Allen v. Farrow” exposes the bruising legal and public-relations battle that ensued — including the bare-knuckled tactics the normally press-shy Allen and those working on his behalf employed.
Allen’s contention was, and remains, that the “scorned” Farrow coached or cajoled Dylan to level accusations against him — referred to as “parental alienation” in psychiatric terms — as retaliation for his betrayal with Soon-Yi. Dylan, meanwhile, discusses finding the resolve to speak publicly, from her essay asking how the world could continue celebrating Allen to saying, “I’m tired of not being believed.”
 
In addition to interviews that contradict aspects of Allen’s account, Dick and Ziering perhaps most effectively capture the way Hollywood continued to revere him after the allegation surfaced. Clips show high-profile talent defending him or insisting it wasn’t their business, combined with adulatory displays at the 2002 Oscars and 2014 Golden Globes. (A number of actors have since expressed regret about working with the director or said they wouldn’t do so again.)
Adding context to that, the project cites other examples of entertainment figures that have faced sexual-assault allegations, including director Roman Polanski, who fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, and who, like Allen, kept steadily working in the years since.
Arguably, the most illuminating section details a 1993 hearing in which Allen sought custody of his and Farrow’s three children. The judge issued a damning ruling against him, writing that Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was “grossly inappropriate.”
Allen declined to be interviewed for the documentary and told the New York Times he had no comment about it. His manager has not responded to a request for comment.
Creatively speaking, there are some missteps. The producers incorporate a few stilted sequences in the final hour, such as Dylan’s meeting with former Connecticut prosecutor Frank Maco, discussing his decision not to pursue charges against Allen.
The project also wades through Allen’s filmography and writing, critically analyzing his habit of romantically pairing young women (and in a few instances teens) with much-older men as a window into his psyche.
In her interviews, Mia Farrow says she didn’t want to believe the worst about Allen and could understand the skepticism of some fans. Yet there are those like Washington Post critic Peter Marks, who, having covered the 1993 proceedings, concludes, “I could never watch a Woody Allen film again after this.”
At the outset, Dylan states, “No matter what you think you know, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.” Despite the painstaking research, viewers might come away not entirely sure what they “know,” as opposed to what they believe. There’s a lot to digest, complicated by events and recollections involving children over the course of a tale that spans decades.
 
Even a generous reading of Allen’s behavior, however, casts him in a troubling light. And a harsh judgment in the court of public opinion, at this point, might be the closest thing to a true verdict that “Allen v. Farrow” can deliver.
“Allen v. Farrow” premieres Feb. 21 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.
 

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The third ‘Spider-Man’ film finally has a title

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By Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
Updated 6:49 PM ET, Wed February 24, 2021

(CNN) — Until Wednesday, rumors about the title of the third Spider-Man film have been a web of lies. But the truth has been revealed.

Tom Holland will swing into theaters in December in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Sony and Marvel have confirmed.
The film will be the third installment of the Holland-led franchise that has also included “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
Director Jon Watts, who directed the first two, returns for this film.
    Earlier this week, cast members Holland, Zendaya and Jacob Batalon presented a series of fake titles (like “Spider-Man: Home Slice” and “Spider-Man: Phone Home”) on social media, drumming up speculation that the official title would soon be revealed.
    The film is set to be released December 17, 2021.

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    DWI charges dropped against Bruce Springsteen, who pleads guilty to just drinking in the park

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    By Evan Simko-Bednarski, CNN
    Updated 12:54 PM ET, Wed February 24, 2021

    (CNN) — Bruce Springsteen pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he imbibed alcohol at New Jersey’s Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, despite knowing it was prohibited.

    “I had two small shots of Tequila,” Springsteen said in a virtual appearance before New Jersey Federal Court.
    The plea came after federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges that Springsteen was operating a vehicle under the influence and driving recklessly, charges Assistant US Attorney Adam Baker said the government would not be able to prove.
    “The evidence we reviewed indicates that after the defendant’s arrest, he submitted to a breath test at the ranger station, and his BAC reading was .02, which as the court is aware is well under the legal limit of .08,” Baker said.
      Noting that the prohibition on alcoholic drinks at Sandy Hook was two years old, and noting Springsteen’s otherwise clean criminal record, Judge Anthony Mautone sentenced The Boss to pay a $500 fine plus $40 in court fees.
      While Springsteen has often sung about driving “suicide machines” down the New Jersey Turnpike, bragged of having his “carburetor, baby, cleaned and checked — with her lines blown out she’s running like a turbo jet,” and sang of being “sprung from cages on Highway 9 — chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and stepping out over the line,” Mautone remarked on the singer’s clean driving record.
      “I have in front of me the driver’s abstract of this defendant, going all the way back to 1973,” Mautone said. “There’s three violations in the whole abstract. In fact, two of them aren’t even violations and the third one is use of a hand-held cell device. Rarely would you see a driver’s abstract so devoid of any entries as I see before me, Mr. Springsteen.”
      Springsteen was arrested at Gateway National Recreation Area on November 14 and charged with DWI, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area, according to a spokesperson for the National Park Service.
      That night, a source close to the singer said earlier this month, Springsteen took a shot of alcohol with fans in the park after taking a photo with them. The source added that Springsteen is known to take photographs with fans. “That’s typical Bruce,” the source said.
      One officer said they observed Springsteen “consume a shot of Patron tequila and then get on his motorcycle and start the engine,” according to a probable cause statement obtained by CNN.
      Springsteen told the officer he had consumed two shots of tequila in the previous 20 minutes, according to the probable cause statement.
      “SPRINGSTEEN smelt strongly of alcohol coming off his person and had glassy eyes,” the officer said in the statement, adding he “was visibly swaying back and forth while I observed his eyes.”
        Springsteen, according to the officer, took 45 steps during the “walk and turn” test “instead of the instructed 18.”
        Prior to the screening, the officer said he approached Springsteen and informed him alcohol was prohibited in the park and asked whether Springsteen was leaving, to which “he confirmed he was going to drive out of the park,” the statement said.

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        BTS covers Coldplay and more on MTV Unplugged debut

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        By Chloe Melas, CNN
        Updated 10:15 AM ET, Wed February 24, 2021

        (CNN) — BTS made their debut on MTV’s Unplugged Tuesday night and played some of their greatest hits.

        The international K-pop sensation, which is comprised of Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook, performed “Telepathy” for the first time live, along with “Blue & Grey” during Tuesday night’s broadcast. BTS, which stands for Beyond The Scene, broadcast live from Seoul, South Korea.

        The group recently told CNN that they felt they needed to give their audience new music amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
        “If everything went according to plan, we’d be on tour right now, but the pandemic has changed everything,” Suga said. “So we thought about what we can do, and what we can do best at this point, in this situation. Everyone is going through such a difficult time, so we wanted to cheer them up.”

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        Taylor Swift’s re-recorded ‘Love Story’ is back on top of the charts

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        By Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
        Updated 9:08 PM ET, Mon February 22, 2021

        (CNN) — Taylor Swift’s re-recording of “Love Story” is now a success story.

        “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” debuted at No. 1 on this week’s Hot Country Songs chart, according to Billboard.
        The song is shockingly Swift’s first No. 1 debut on that chart. It is also her 8th career No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, the last one being 2012’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
        “Love Story” was originally on Swift’s album “Fearless,” which was released in 2008. Swift has been hard at work re-recording that album after losing the rights to her master recordings predating 2019’s “Lover” after they were sold to a company owned by music manager Scooter Braun. (Braun’s company sold them in late 2020.)
          Swift’s re-recording — titled “Fearless (Taylor’s version)” — will be released April 9.

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          Mandy Moore welcomes baby boy with husband Taylor Goldsmith

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          By Marianne Garvey, CNN
          Updated 6:19 PM ET, Tue February 23, 2021

          (CNN) — Mandy Moore has welcomed her first child.

          The “This Is Us” actress took to Instagram on Tuesday to announce that she and her husband Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer of the folk rock band Dawes, are now parents to a baby boy.
          “Gus is here,” Moore captioned a picture of the baby in an adorable blue onesie. “Our sweet boy, August Harrison Goldsmith. He was punctual and arrived right on his due date, much to the delight of his parents. We were prepared to fall in love in all sorts of brand new ways, but it goes beyond anything we could have ever imagined. M + T.”
          In January, Moore told Romper that she had high expectations for her child.
            “I want to raise an intelligent, feminist, loving, compassionate young man, who respects women, and who understands boundaries,” she told the publication.
              Moore also sang her husband’s praises, saying he was born to be a dad.
              “I think he’s been suited to be a father pretty much his whole life,” she said. “He’s been gearing up for this. Like in the morning, it’s funny, I’ll reach for my phone and he’ll reach right for whatever baby book he’s reading.”

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