It's a topic that comes up all the time: can you appreciate the good a politician has done in the past -- once he's proven himself to be a liar? Will you cheer for an athlete who is currently under investigation for assault (or worse)? And the one that hits closest to home for me: can you enjoy a film if you think the director is, well, a big, fat freakin' ass? I certainly know where I stand (and you can probably guess my position), but instead I'll offer a few pertinent examples, and then see where we go from there...
Crimes: Consistently saying terrible things about anyone who's not male and/or white. Except white male Jews. He doesn't like those either. (The facts at Wiki.)
Key Films: Braveheart, which features one of the ugliest examples of period-piece gay-bashing you'll ever find; The Patriot, which offers one of the clumsiest "white fool finally acknowledges black worth" subplots imaginable; What Women Want, which was a stunningly shallow and pandering piece of faux-feminism; and The Passion of the Christ, which was widely criticized for being a blatantly anti-Semitic film. (Note: I'm Jewish, and I didn't think Passion deserved those criticisms.)
-- So where do we stand on Mel? Can you enjoy his legitimately strong work in films like Lethal Weapon without hearing him call someone a racial slur? Does it enter your mind as you watch his stuff, but not enough to ruin the flick? Or perhaps you find the man reprehensible at this point, and you simply don't want to support him with your movie-appropriated spending money.
Me? I don't care. The man is an actor, not my dinner companion, and I frankly don't care if he's got bottled-up hatred in his heart. I know I certainly don't, which is why I can easily separate the artist from the ass-face. Plus, if it's true that the man has some dark issues to deal with, then, based only on what I know from the past 30 years, I also believe that Mel Gibson has a warm, generous, and very funny side to his personality.
Crimes: Molesting a 12-year-old boy on the set of Clownhouse, his debut film. (wiki)
Key Films: Jeepers Creepers, Powder, Jeepers Creepers 2, Peaceful Warrior
-- This raises a question that comes up a lot. For example, here in Philadelphia we have a football player called Michael Vick. As you probably know, this is a guy who did jail time for running illegal dog fights. Obviously I find that despicable. But Salva, like Vick, was duly punished for his crimes, and I don't think any of us have the right to tell someone they cannot have a JOB after spending time in jail. Still, I found it both creepy and alarming that Jeepers Creepers 2 looked more like young gay porn than it did a horror film.
Crimes: Giving drugs and sex to an underage girl; fleeing from indictment and avoiding America forever. (wiki)
-- This is the big one among movie geeks. Polanski's crimes were committed in 1977, and since then he's produced films both good and not so good, including Tess, Pirates, Frantic, Bitter Moon, Death and the Maiden, The Ninth Gate, The Pianist, Oliver Twist, and The Ghost Writer. Every time one of his new films hits cinemas, the movie world is abuzz with opinions on Polanski's legal problems. Given that Polanski's latest was actually produced while he was under house arrest, well, that just gave Polanski's detractors another reason to hate the guy.
Frankly I'm not qualified to judge a man like Roman Polanski. This guy escaped the Warsaw ghetto and lived to see his pregnant wife murdered by the Manson family ... so clearly he has some emotional issues. Obviously that does not excuse a man from committing statutory rape and then fleeing from justice, but I just see Polanski as a tragic figure altogether. A truly gifted filmmaker who's survived some horrible things (and committed some unpleasant acts), but ultimately ... I don't have to like a person to admire their films. And I guess that's where I stand in general: my job is to evaluate and appreciate a film. Anything beyond that is simply not all that interesting to me.