October 14, 2017

NASTY, BRUTISH, AND FAT: John Podhoretz on Hobbes and Harvey Weinstein.

Harvey Weinstein is an exceptionally clever man who spent decades standing above and outside the system, manipulating it and gaming it for his own ends. He’s no cog. Tina Brown once ran Weinstein’s magazine and book-publishing line. She wrote that “strange contracts pre-dating us would suddenly surface, book deals with no deadline attached authored by attractive or nearly famous women, one I recall was by the stewardess on a private plane.” Which means he didn’t get into book publishing, or magazine publishing, to oversee the production of books and articles. He did it because he needed entities through which he would pass through payoffs both to women he had harassed and molested and to journalists whose silence he bought through options and advances. His primary interest wasn’t in the creation of culture. It was the creation of conditions under which he could hunt.

Which may explain his choice of the entertainment industry in the first place. In how many industries is there a specific term for demanding sexual favors in exchange for employment? There’s a “casting couch”; there’s no “insurance-adjustor couch.” In how many industries do people conduct meetings in hotel rooms at off hours anyway? And in how many industries could that meeting in a hotel room end up with the dominant player telling a young woman she should feel comfortable getting naked in front of him because the job for which she is applying will require her to get naked in front of millions?

And then there’s the nihilism and moral inversions that run rampant in so many of his movies.

His 2002 biopic of Frida Kahlo starred Salma Hayek as the unibrowed unrepentant communist who covered all the bases – she had an affair with Trotsky, but one of her final paintings was titled “Self Portrait with Stalin.” As Nick Gillespie wrote at Reason last year, “That is some fucked-up art right there. Uncle Joe had died the year before and only the most deluded bitter-clingers were under any illusions about his reign of terror.”

2008’s The Reader is based on a bestselling, Oprah-approved German novel that attempts to wipe away German guilt for the Holocaust. It starred Kate Winslet as a sexy slimline version of Sgt. Schultz, who knew nothing – nothing! – while serving as a guard at a concentration camp, because she was illiterate (and apparently deaf as well). Regarding an earlier Weinstein WWII movie, as John Nolte wrote in 2010 at Big Hollywood, “For those of you who haven’t seen ‘The English Patient,’ just imagine what Satan would’ve done with ‘Casablanca:’”

This film’s appalling philosophy all comes together in the final act after Laszlo and Katharine’s wicked ways come home to roost and they find themselves stranded deep in the desert. He can walk the three days out but her ankle is broken. Having to leave her behind with only a few days’ supply of water and food, her mortality clock is ticking and after a series of complications back in civilization, our “hero” deliberately sells out the British — the West — to the Germans in order to secure the plane necessary to save Katharine. He gives the Nazis (the Nazis!) crucial maps. Afterwards, when he’s informed that this act likely caused the death of thousands of Allied soldiers and civilians, Laszlo’s reply is like something you would normally hear from a James Bond villain…

“Thousands of people die. They were just different people.”

….except that rather than be chilled and repulsed by this response, we’re supposed to put finger to chin and bask in the poetic profundity of it all.

His whole review is well worth your time to get a sense of the film’s nihilism and heads-is-tails morality. And then there’s pretty much the entire Tarantino oeuvre, which Weinstein produced, not least of which Pulp Fiction. While it’s admittedly loads of fun, the N-word is uttered endlessly throughout the film, including by Tarantino’s character himself — simply because the filmmakers could. (Incidentally, Tarantino now claims he knew nothing — nothing! — about Weinstein’s exploits during his 25 year career under his aegis.)

Exit quote from Podhoretz’s article:

“You know what? It’s good that I’m the fucking sheriff of this fucking lawless piece-of-shit town.” Weinstein said that to Andrew Goldman, then a reporter for the New York Observer, when he took him out of a party in a headlock last November after there was a tussle for Goldman’s tape recorder and someone got knocked in the head.

Sadly, he was a law unto himself in Hollywood as well. Weinstein of course didn’t bring what Paul Johnson dubbed moral relativism to Hollywood. The 20 year gulf between the 1948 Alfred Hitchcock film Rope, a post-WWII attack on the Nietzschean uberman, to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which yearns for his arrival, illustrates how radically the industry’s moral underpinnings had shifted in the postwar era, a collapse accelerated by the scrapping of the Hays Code. But by the 1990s, Hollywood product meant two things: mindless “blowed up real good” CGI summer action movies and the Oscar-bait Weinstein specialized in. The latter are beautifully photographed movies cast with beautiful women — who no doubt did, witnessed, or at the very least heard stories of unspeakable things with Harvey to land their roles. And in many cases, these films are a clear insight into Harvey’s abhorrent worldview. He was the sheriff of that lawless town indeed.

UPDATE: “Harvey Weinstein has been expelled by the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Science in an unprecedented condemnation of decades of sexual harassment.”

As Stephen Miller sardonically tweets, “That’ll fix everything.”

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