Good riddance to Harvey Weinstein, a repugnant pig who brutalized both women and cinema
Michael McCaffrey is a writer and cultural critic who lives in Los Angeles. His work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog. He is also the host of the popular cinema podcast Looking California and Feeling Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @MPMActingCo
The first blockbuster that Harvey Weinstein produced was Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. In that movie there is a male rapist named Zed, who gets his comeuppance at the hands of one of his victims, crime boss Marsellus Wallace. Once Wallace escapes Zed’s clutches, with the help of Butch (Bruce Willis), he promises to extract revenge on Zed by getting “medieval on his a**”.
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead,” Butch tells his girlfriend Fabienne, after he returns with Zed’s chopper as a trophy.
Zed is Harvey Weinstein: grotesque and vile… and about to get payback for his depravity.
Unlike Zed, Weinstein isn’t dead… but his iron grip on Hollywood certainly is. With Weinstein’s conviction today on one count of sexual assault and another on rape in the third degree, he is either going to prison or into exile, with any chance of a return to the film business he so dominated for the last thirty years, long gone.
As the Weinstein era officially comes to an end, it is worth looking back on the good, the bad and the very ugly of it all.
It is sort of amusing that Harvey’s most notable accomplishment is that he was the unwitting father of the #MeToo movement. It was when his degenerate, lascivious and predatory behavior over the course of his remarkable career finally became public in 2017, that #MeToo was born.
Weinstein’s also culpable for instigating the relentless campaigning for Academy Awards, a nasty sport that began in the 90’s and continues to this day. His most striking victory at the Oscars came in 1998 when he willed Shakespeare in Love over the Best Picture finish line ahead of the odds-on favorite, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.Also on rt.com Weinstein found GUILTY of 2 counts sexual assault and 3rd degree rape, acquitted of more serious charges
In terms of cinema, Weinstein’s greatest legacy was that he was directly responsible for the glorious independent cinema movement of the 1990’s. The movie that started it all was, ironically, Steven Soderbergh’s 1989 Palme d’Or-winning hit Sex, Lies and Videotape, which Weinstein produced.
Weinstein not only made the career of Oscar winner Soderbergh, but also 90’s cinema darlings and current Hollywood cornerstones Quentin Tarantino, David O. Russell, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow – among many, many others.
Harvey’s business blueprint was simple: He would take art house movies and market them aggressively. His brand was that of independent cinema with big bucks behind it…and it worked exceedingly well, especially in the 90’s.
Despite his success at elevating independent movies, Weinstein was also notorious for being a brutish bully and egotistical control freak when it came to the films he produced and distributed.
Weinstein was a pig in the china shop of cinema, and would often demand directors make enormous cuts to their films in order to get them to his preferred running time. He didn’t just do this with nobodies; he even strong-armed cinematic masters like Martin Scorsese, whom he demanded cut 40 minutes off of Gangs of New York. Scorsese, like nearly everyone else in Weinstein’s world, acquiesced – and the movie and the art of cinema suffered for it.
Like Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn and Robert Evans before him, Weinstein was the archetypal overstuffed movie mogul. But with Weinstein’s conviction, his time in Hollywood is thankfully over, and it seems the movie mogul era itself is waning in Hollywood.Also on rt.com As Weinstein verdict comes in, what has #MeToo wrought?
Yes, there will still be perverts and predators among Hollywood’s most powerful. That is unavoidable. But at least women will no longer be silent about it. And in terms of artistic freedom and directors being forced by power-hungry Hollywood big shots to take a hatchet to their films, those days too are receding very quickly.
The obsolescence of Weinstein’s world-view is highlighted by the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, who have a very different business model than the coarse and crass studio approach.
These streaming services have very deep pockets and an insatiable hunger for new material – but unlike Weinstein, they offer artistic autonomy, not arrogant authoritarianism.
For instance, Netflix wanted to work with Martin Scorsese so they financed his last film, The Irishman. That movie ran three hours and thirty minutes, and in the hands of Harvey Weinstein would have been, like Gangs of New York, butchered beyond recognition. Netflix, on the other hand, didn’t lay a glove on it, and let Scorsese do exactly what Scorsese does best – make the movie he wants to make – and the art of cinema was better for it.
The bottom line regarding Harvey Weinstein’s conviction is this: good riddance to bad rubbish. The women of Hollywood and the art of cinema are much safer today without Harvey and his filthy hands pawing all over them.
Zed is dead, baby. Zed is dead. And we are all better off because of it.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.