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The Integrity Of Harvey Weinstein’s Work

Look, I think it is a very good thing that film producer Harvey Weinstein is getting his comeuppance for the way he treated women over the course of his career. But this is outrageous: [1]

On the heels of Harvey Weinstein’s ouster from The Weinstein Company, his name is being removed from all of the company’s TV series, on which he had served as an executive producer, sources told Deadline. The same step is expected to be taken on movie releases. Additionally, we hear TWC brass are auditioning ad agencies today that will be tasked with finding a new name for the overall production and distribution company.

We hear TWC has been making calls to TV networks and producers informing them that Harvey Weinstein’s name will be scrubbed from credits going forward. They were prompted by strong reaction from TV executives and creative auspices involved in TWC series who practically demanded the name removal as they wanted to distance their projects from Weinstein following the New York Times‘ devastating Thursday expose detailing decades of sexual harassment behavior. That report has been exacerbated by numerous subsequent accounts by women who have come out in the past couple of days.

Notice that this purge of the historical memory of Harvey Weinstein is being pushed by the leadership of his own company. Former company. Still, it is disgusting, and frightening. Harvey Weinstein was and is a bad man, but as a producer, he also happens to be an extraordinarily gifted maker of films. Weinstein’s work must be judged on its own merits. If we were to start deciding on the merits of artworks based on the personal sins and failings of artists, our museums, theaters, concert halls, libraries, and record collections would empty out.

This is Stalinist. Fine, take away Harvey Weinstein’s power, take away his good name, take all that away. He deserves it. He brought this onto himself. But it is very, very wrong to deny the good work that he did, and to make him professionally a non-person. Artists are very rarely saints, but that does not compromise the worth of the work that they do. Purging his name from the artistic record is an injustice not simply to Harvey Weinstein, but to the truth. We cannot allow ourselves to get into the habit of lying about history for moral reasons. This is corrupt. Yes, this involves standing up for Harvey Weinstein, but more than that, it involves standing up for the truth.

When I was a film critic, many of the best films of any given year came from Miramax, the company Harvey Weinstein co-founded. Again, Harvey is manifestly a wicked man, but he was extraordinarily good at his work, and that should not be forgotten.  It doesn’t redeem him morally, but it remains true nonetheless.

 

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79 Comments To "The Integrity Of Harvey Weinstein’s Work"

#1 Comment By jxk On October 10, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

“What would a boat mast have to do with Hollywood?”

I’m sure the obvious association has been made somewhere among Hollywood’s many ouevres.

We’ll make an English prof out of you yet, Uncle Chuckie. (If you learn to proofread first.)

#2 Comment By Nancy E. Head On October 10, 2017 @ 2:48 pm

This situation shines more light on the “controversy” over Cam Newton’s comment expressing surprise that a female reporter comprehended the concept of routes in football.

Harvey Weinstein can’t apologize enough. He has to go away, do penance, and come back squeaky clean, at least in appearances, to redeem himself. He’ll be allowed to do that.

If Newton had not apologized for his horrific comment, he too would be ostracized. As it stands, he’s already lost a Dannon endorsement deal.

Weinstein’s crime? Harassment, coercion, and worse. Newton’s crime? One spoken sentence. A failure to recognize what is politically correct. So the world will correct his thinking for him.

#3 Comment By David J. White On October 10, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

What artistic achievements?

Weinstein (was) just a producer and studio head (with his brother).

Who does the credit belong to? The screenwriter (who may write an original script or adapt a book, etc.?), the director, or actor(s)?

Among other things, the satirical movie Wag the Dog talks about the importance of the producer to a creative enterprise.

#4 Comment By KD On October 10, 2017 @ 4:12 pm

Enjoying your post-France posts, but please, this is not Stalinism, this is brand management.

To stay alive, a company has to out-compete its rivals for consumer’s entertainment dollars. The Weinstein Company from a brand standpoint is up there with Dr. Mengele’s Coffee at this time, it has to keep up appearances or flounder.

In contrast, Stalin didn’t have to worry about staying alive, he died peacefully in his sleep. He simply wanted to alter space and time itself through his exercise of power, eradicating all evidence of the existence of his enemies, as if he could veto God himself.

Hollywood may be powerful, but they are not that powerful!

#5 Comment By Olivier On October 10, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

This kind of damnatio memoriae is exactly what you would expect from today’s censorious left.

#6 Comment By JCM On October 10, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

Oh, Hollywood will get over this soon. In thirty-years they’ll make a movie about how poor Harvey was back-listed by right-wing moralists. Whoever is the Brad Pitt of the day will play Harvey and whoever is the Lillian Hellman of the day will write the script. An industry that trades in “magic” will always have it its way.

#7 Comment By EngineerScotty On October 10, 2017 @ 5:52 pm

It’s like saying that Yo Yo Ma is a “good conductor.” Really, he’s just waving a wand around while musicians do the work. I could do that!

Yo-Yo Ma is a cellist, not a conductor.

Now while the “cult of the conductor” is probably a bit too overstated in symphonic music circles (unless there is a featured soloist, the Maestro is always the star of any classical concert, and the excellent musicians in the orchestra are playing–heh–second fiddle), ’tis equally folly to suggest a conductor does little more than wave a stick and keep time.

#8 Comment By KyleW On October 10, 2017 @ 6:48 pm

And this is what bothers me about Confederate statues, turning every controversial right-wing speaker into total persona non-grata on campuses, all of it. The sense that the woke of today are so uniquely righteous, we can’t simply recognize evil for what it is. Anyone who falls short of the full standards of the socially just must be subject to total damnatio memoriae. (You non-Classicists, give that a look on Wikipedia.) And these commissars will carry the revolution forward without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

#9 Comment By kevin on the left On October 10, 2017 @ 7:17 pm

“actually “do,” creatively? I’ve lived in La La Land my entire life, and I still can’t fathom what makes a “good producer” over a mediocre one. A producer gets money, a script and talent together and makes deals. It’s like saying that Yo Yo Ma is a “good conductor.””

It’s like the old joke about the guy going the the mechanic because his engine won’t start. The mechanic had a look at the engine, tightens one screw, and the engine starts working. Then he asks the guy for 300 dollars. The guy, aghast, ask for a breakdown of the costs. Mechanic writes down: “turning a screw, 10 dollars. Knowning which screw to turn, 290 dollars.”

Producers don’t do much more than picking the right scripts and picking the talents. But that’s what makes a movie!

#10 Comment By James Banks On October 10, 2017 @ 7:49 pm

While I would have to know more about the specific cases, it is my understanding that executive producer is often just an honorary title. E.g. the Coen brothers are producers on the television series “Fargo” though they are not involved with the production of the show directly.

#11 Comment By redfish On October 10, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

I’m not arguing for his name to be removed from the films he helped produced… but from what I’ve read, film-makers who he worked with weren’t always exactly happy the way they inserted themselves in their work.

For example, Terry Gilliam, who said a few year back — “Unfortunately I got caught with the Weinstein brothers. That was not a happy experience. It was not a marriage made in heaven. They’re great salesmen but they want to be film-makers. Stick to selling, let the film-makers do the films.”

In this case, Gilliam was complaining about how they fired his cinematographer and changed his lead actress.

Its something that maybe was worth mentioning given how much credit you’re giving them for what they produced.

#12 Comment By JonF On October 10, 2017 @ 8:35 pm

Re: This is Stalinist.

It goes back a lot father than old Uncle Joe. The female Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s name was chiseled off every public edifice where it appeared by her long-frustrated nephew when he finally took over the throne after her death. The Roman Senate passed an occasional decree of damnatio memoriae against persons deemed too wicked to be allowed historical mention.

Re: And this is what bothers me about Confederate statues

Not the same thing at all. It’s more like removing statues honoring Lenin, Saddam Hussein etc when their regimes had fallen from power– but without any attempt to erase their names from the history books.

#13 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 10, 2017 @ 9:12 pm

whoever is the Lillian Hellman of the day will write the script.

The Hollywood Ten were not blacklisted for sexual escapades. Those would have been of no interest whatsoever. If you can’t tell the difference between navel oranges and horse apples, don’t try to construct analogies.

Newton’s crime? One spoken sentence. A failure to recognize what is politically correct.

Actually, it was a pretty stupid thing to say. But we should never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity.

#14 Comment By Tyro On October 10, 2017 @ 9:48 pm

Credits in the movie industry are sacrosanct, so I understand how sensitive people are to removing credits.

But… Harvey Weinstein does not have any artistic achievements. That’s like calling a venture capitalist an inventor or an innovator.

#15 Comment By collin On October 10, 2017 @ 11:53 pm

Newton’s crime? One spoken sentence. A failure to recognize what is politically correct. So the world will correct his thinking for him.

Well Newton still gets to play quarterback on Sunday (unless he kneels or whatever) but his stupid statements cost him a Dannon yogurt money. If you want to paid millions for a product spokesperson, Newton or Paula Dean, you have to be very careful of what you say.

Weinstein is like Ailes in which he will not ever return because of his behavior.

That said Why in the heck is Bill O’Reilly on the TeeVee?!?!?

#16 Comment By veronica On October 10, 2017 @ 11:54 pm

“[Weinstein was an] extraordinarily gifted maker of films.” Seriously? I had to Google his so-called body of work. A series of Pokeman movies? Project Runway? I’m not impressed. Nine was pretty good. I’ll give him that, but I don’t really think producers and distributors are the artistic talent behind these projects anyway. In any event, Weinstein’s “artistic achievements” will likely not endure so purging or retaining his name is largely irrelevant, but I get Rod’s point.

#17 Comment By Jeremy Buxton On October 11, 2017 @ 4:11 am

Very wise comments. This bad man gave us the “Lord of the Rings” enabling Peter Jackson to bring to life the greatest (other than Gospel) story ever told.

#18 Comment By Tony Papert On October 11, 2017 @ 6:54 am

What about another possibility, Mr. Dreher?

That when you were a film critic, you got it wrong? That all these prestigious movies were just as rotten as the man who made them?

–Tony Papert

#19 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On October 11, 2017 @ 8:03 am

It’s like the old joke about the guy going the the mechanic because his engine won’t start. The mechanic had a look at the engine, tightens one screw, and the engine starts working. Then he asks the guy for 300 dollars. The guy, aghast, ask for a breakdown of the costs. Mechanic writes down: “turning a screw, 10 dollars. Knowning which screw to turn, 290 dollars.”

Well, surely you’d agree there is legitimate debate about how weighty the producer’s contribution is to the quality of the final product, just as one would have analogous debates in other industries over the importance (and compensation) due to managers vs. workers.

This is me speaking as someone who has very little knowledge and less interest in how the movie business operstes, and also a fairly dim view of some of Mr. Weinstein’s oeuvre like “Pulp Fiction”. (I loved that movie when I was 15, but the thing is, the movies you love at 15 are probably not the ones you should be appreciating as an adult).

#20 Comment By sherparick On October 11, 2017 @ 1:45 pm

Its not Stalinist, its capitalist. These folks (including probably H. Weinstein himself) are trying to save value of all those movie productions by removing Weinstein’s name from the label. By the way, Hollywood told Weinstein’s story 60 years ago in “The Bad and the Beautiful.” [2]

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 11, 2017 @ 2:26 pm

This bad man gave us the “Lord of the Rings” enabling Peter Jackson to bring to life the greatest (other than Gospel) story ever told.

Counter point: Jackson turned an epic tale with something of a moral compass into a big screen comic book, making a hash of the plot and reducing the characters to caricatures, introducing irrelevant titillating themes, and leaving out important segments of the original story. So, Weinstein enabled this?

I’m also not so sure about second greatest story ever told. For a lot of reasons, I really prefer Narnia to Middle Earth, although the Disney series, like Jackson’s work, leaves a lot to be desired.

#22 Comment By JCM On October 11, 2017 @ 4:28 pm

Mr. Siarly:

The Hollywood Ten were not blacklisted for sexual escapades. Those would have been of no interest whatsoever. If you can’t tell the difference between navel oranges and horse apples, don’t try to construct analogies.

Yes, you are right. The analogy was inapt. Miss Hellman until her dying say was an apologist for Stalinism. Throughout her life, she showed an indifference to individuals sent to the GULAG. If a future apologist ever rises in the form of a scriptwriter for Mr. Weinstein, the offense would be minor in comparison. After all, he merely sought to satisfy his urges at the expense of no-bodies, while donating to “great causes” for the common man.

#23 Comment By redfish On October 11, 2017 @ 4:45 pm

@Siarlys,

Counter point: Jackson turned an epic tale with something of a moral compass into a big screen comic book, making a hash of the plot and reducing the characters to caricatures, introducing irrelevant titillating themes, and leaving out important segments of the original story. So, Weinstein enabled this?

And introducing PC themes like a female elf warrior and an elf-dwarf romance.

This is me speaking as someone who has very little knowledge and less interest in how the movie business operstes, and also a fairly dim view of some of Mr. Weinstein’s oeuvre like “Pulp Fiction”. (I loved that movie when I was 15, but the thing is, the movies you love at 15 are probably not the ones you should be appreciating as an adult).

When you label Pulp Fiction part of Weinstein’s “oeuvre”, it was the kind of thing that prompted me to my earlier comment. I think Tarantino would disagree with you crediting his film to someone else.

I was most familiar with Gilliam’s experience with him, so that’s why I mentioned him, but a quick websearch reveals this,

Harvey Weinstein is an abusive & incompetent person.

You have to read what Guillermo del Toro said about his bad experiences directing
“Mimic” (1997) for the Weinsteins…He never worked with them again for a reason. They destroyed the movie he wanted to make by forcing budget cuts and an edit, he didn’t like. Many years later, he could create his superior Director’s Cut, but it’s still compromised.

Terry Gilliam told in multiple interviews, that the Weinsteins forced him to cast actors
he thought were wrong for the parts & tried to change “The Brothers Grimm” (2005) in other ways he didn’t like.

James Gray at least finished “The Immigrant” (2014) the way he wanted, but this was against the will of Harvey Weinstein, who told him to shoot a different ending & make other changes. Gray had the power to say ‘No’, but Weinstein’s revenge was, that he buried the movie and it didn’t get a proper release in spite of glowing reviews. Only after Marion Cotillard started to win major awards for her performance, he was wiling to send screeners around and start a small campaign for her. Too late.

Something similar happened to the masterpiece “Snowpiercer” (2013), which could have been a hit, if it would have been a wide release. The film still did good as a limited release, but the Weinsteins made a huge mistake.

Bernhard Schlink – the author of the novel “The Reader” (2008) – sued Weinstein because he never received a penny from him, because they denied that the movie made money. Which it did of course. Everybody knew it was a hit.

The Oscar nominated producer Stefan Arndt (“Amour”) once complained in front of a live audience about the dirty business ways of the Weinsteins and vowed to never work with them.
These are just a few stories that made news…check them out.

Why is Weinstein still regarded as some kind of ‘patron of the arts’, when the truth is, that he’s just a greedy, abusive, incompetent & vulgar man ?

I’m not really trying to bandwagon on this guy and really don’t know for sure about the description by this guy of Weinstein as “greedy, abusive, incompetent & vulgar” and am not willing to judge his character from afar. But his interference with directors is what I knew of him before the scandal broke, and I think people should really stop aggrandizing his artistic reputation just on the fact that he helped produce some good films, since its just a fact that many of the directors he worked with later came to regret it.

I would also opine that the artistic merit of a film isn’t completely tied with the values it conveys, and this is why film critics were able to appreciate in the past directors like Leni Riefenstahl and D.W. Griffith, and why we’re able to study and appreciate philosophers like Machiavelli and de Maistre. But I guess we’re entering an age where if someone’s expressed views are on the wrong side of our politics, their thought worthless, or their art is merit-less.

#24 Comment By DRK On October 11, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

ValuJet changed its name to AirTrans after that crash in the Keys. Blackwater went from Xe to Academi, trying to distance themselves from all the innocent Iraqi civilians they wilfully killed. After the UK phone hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch changed his company’s name from News International to News UK.

It’s a pretty common strategy, is all I’m saying. And dropping Weinstein’s name only seems to be applying to projects going forward. Of course they don’t want the millstone of that name around their necks, they’ll have boycotts and worse. Seems reasonable to me.

#25 Comment By David J. White On October 11, 2017 @ 11:22 pm

Producers don’t do much more than picking the right scripts and picking the talents. But that’s what makes a movie!

When a movie wins an Academy Award for Best Picture, who gets the Oscar? Isn’t it the producer?

#26 Comment By Jeremy Hickerson On October 12, 2017 @ 1:39 pm

good post, Rod.

#27 Comment By Mia On October 12, 2017 @ 8:43 pm

This sort of thing is actually very consistent with the police brutality issue. There’s a similar lack of restraint when it comes to punishment, and a desire to destroy a person completely instead of restoring or rehabilitating them. In a way, it’s a form of self-righteousness and maybe some schadenfreude While I see nothing wrong with changing his company name, his name should remain otherwise where it has been all of this time. He doesn’t need to become a non-person, especially since these cases haven’t been tried in court. Sometimes the courts can’t give proper justice, but we should still have our limits.

#28 Comment By Adam On October 13, 2017 @ 8:38 am

I’m surprised at all the comments asking what value a producer is. A producer literally makes the film, they find the script, hire the director, agree casting and manage the budgets. I think its being confused with exec-producer.
To stop doubting whether Harvey was good at it you just have to look at the list of movies produced by Miramax since the 90s.
Finally I understand removing him from current productions but from the back catalog is crazy, imagine removing Spielberg as director or John Lennon as song writer, or Picasso as painter if they were alledged to be rapists.

#29 Comment By Scott On December 21, 2017 @ 12:38 am

“Artistic achievements”.