Revisiting Harvey Weinstein’s 2014 Appearance On The Howard Stern Show

On January 15, 2014, Harvey Weinstein appeared on The Howard Stern Show.  He was in to promote two new movies, August: Osage County, which starred Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, and Philomena with Steve Coogan and Judi Dench.  Much of the fawning discussion revolved around successful moneymakers for Miramax and The Weinstein Company which helped solidify Weinstein’s professional reputation as an art house mogul with the golden touch.

But in the wake of the endless deluge of sexual harassment and assault stories that have recently plagued the now fired co-founder of TWC (who also just got banned from the Motion Picture Academy) (October 16 UPDATE: he’s also been kicked out of the Producers Guild of America.), some parts of the interview are worth another look.

According to MarksFriggin.com, Mark Mercer’s superfan site that’s been summarizing daily broadcasts of The Howard Stern Show for decades, at one point during the interview, Weinstein volunteered a story he claimed was an exclusive:

Harvey said he’ll tell him a story that he’s never told.  He said he had a script called Good Will Hunting years ago.  He said that they needed 1 million dollars to make the movie.  Harvey said he walked in and had a meeting with Kevin Smith and someone else.  He said at one point there was a blow job scene.  He said they put that scene in the movie to test the movie studio heads.  They were wondering who read the script and he was the only one who noticed it.  He said that’s how the movie got made.”

The official HowardStern.com website relayed the same story this way:

MATT DAMON, BEN AFFLECK AND ORAL SEX

First up, Harvey wanted to tell a story that he could never tell before (because he’s never been in a long-form, uncensored environment like Studio 69 [in the Sirius/XM building]).  He met with the young, unknown duo of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon when they were shopping around their script Good Will Hunting.

Harvey liked the script, except for one odd scene where the professor (played by Robin Williams) gives another professor a blow job.  Ben and Matt said they put that scene in as a test – Of all the executives they met, Harvey was the only one who noticed.  He’s one of the few ‘moguls’ who actually reads scripts.”

A little later on in the interview, according to MarksFriggin.com but curiously not mentioned on HowardStern.com, there was this now uncomfortable exchange:

“Howard said he has to imagine that every starlet in Hollywood wants to blow him.  Harvey said it works that way for the actors.  Howard said actresses could be made a star overnight.  Harvey said the risks are too great and he can’t do that.  Howard said he’s saying he can’t just go into a room and pull down his pants and tell someone to do something to him.  Harvey said there are some that may have done that but that’s not what he does.

Howard said he knows some directors who have said the same thing.  There’s not that much of that going on.  Harvey said there really isn’t.”

With the massive, ongoing fallout following several damning exposes in The New York Times, The New Yorker and more recently, The Washington Post, among numerous other publications online and off, which has inspired other women to publicly accuse other prominent Hollywood talent for similar abuses, this part of the interview has aged rather poorly, to put it mildly.  Stern, a supposedly good interviewer, looks really dumb here buying into Weinstein’s load of bull without question.  (October 16 CLARIFICATION:  TMZ has released audio from the interview.  Reading Stern’s quoted questioning plays very differently than Mark Mercer’s admittedly imperfect summary.  Although he did not call him out for lying, the way Stern premised his question (“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work like that.”) reveals that he wasn’t a naïve observer.)  (Also, Katharine Hepburn won 4 Oscars so Weinstein’s daughter was wrong about no woman in Hollywood ever achieving that.  Weinstein claimed she said that Streep would win her fourth for her work in August: Osage County.  She didn’t.) 

After briefly discussing politics (Weinstein supported NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and vowed to take on the NRA which he called “a disaster area”), according only to MarksFriggin.com, Stern brought up his second marriage:

Howard said sex with his wife must be through the roof.  Howard asked if he worries about his wife, Georgina Chapman, running around behind his back.  Harvey said it’s a solid marriage.  He said she’s great.”

Oh, the irony.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 15, 2017
6:59 p.m.

UPDATE:  From MarksFriggin.com’s report of today’s broadcast:

“Howard said he knew he was lying…Howard said he knew a girl who told him years ago that she had met with Harvey and he had come on to her and she laughed.  Howard said she was laughing about it and said she got up and left.  Howard said she made it seem like it was no big deal…[With regards to Hollywood in general] Howard said there’s a lot of pedophilia going on too.”

So, why didn’t he call out Weinstein for lying to him right there and then in 2014?  And why did he seem to agree with him by noting that other directors had told him the same thing about the lack of harassment and abuse, another big whopper?

Later, during Robin’s news, as a number of Weinstein stories came up for discussion, there was this summarized exchange:

“Howard asked why it didn’t come out back then.  Robin said no one jumped on it.”

Indeed.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 16, 2017
5:49 p.m.

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Published in: on October 15, 2017 at 7:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Alien: Covenant

There’s a pivotal moment early on in Alien: Covenant that will feel very familiar to those who remember the original.

It’s December 2104.  2000 colonists, 1140 embryos and a small crew made up mostly of couples are en route to a distant planet to start a new civilization.  While in hyper-sleep, they float right into a dangerous energy storm, the outer space equivalent of turbulence.  Unable to be freed in time, Captain James Franco burns to a crisp in his locked pod emotionally crushing his devoted girlfriend Daniels (Katherine Waterston in a breakout role).  All the other crew members manage to get out of their confining spaces no problem.  Everybody else remains safely tucked away as before.

While fixing the damaged sail outside, Tennessee (the capable Danny McBride in a rare dramatic performance) picks up interference in his helmet.  Once safely back onboard, the badly recorded message is played back.  Some mysterious person is singing a John Denver song.

The message comes from a planet, one of five the Covenant is about to reach.  It looks inhabitable.  Instead of waiting seven years and four months to land on the original planet they were planning to colonize, why not drop in on this one right now?  The trip will only take three weeks.

Oram, the shaky, resentful new captain (well played by Billy Crudup), is all for it.  So is everybody else, except Daniels who pulls him aside and questions the wisdom of this sudden gesture after a decade of carefully preparing the original mission.  He dismisses her concerns.  She insists he’s making a terrible mistake.

Outvoted, Daniels reluctantly joins the landing party in the middle of a terrible storm.

Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching these Alien movies over the years, it’s this:  no matter what, never ever respond to a signal sent from a planet you’ve never visited before.  As John Hurt and the crew of the Nostromo found out the hard way, when your hyper-sleep is interrupted, you’re in serious shit.

So, it’s not exactly a surprise that our colonist heroes find themselves landing right into a carefully laid trap.  The brilliant Michael Fassbender returns as David, the sneaky synthetic from Prometheus that lured them here on purpose.  Briefly sporting long blonde hair like Iggy Pop, he finds himself deeply attracted to his doppelganger, another synthetic named Walter (also played by Fassbender) who arrives with the colonists.

Fassbender not only uses different accents but distinct personality traits to neatly distinguish the two characters.  While the British David is coldly seductive and deceptive about his motives, American Walter is loyal and good in a crisis whether it’s putting out a fire on the temporarily damaged Covenant or protecting an appreciative Daniels from an attack.  There’s a wild scene where David teaches Walter how to play a homemade wooden flute.  As you watch, you marvel at how far special effects have come since the original Alien.  It really looks like Fassbender played both parts at the same time.

Almost immediately upon their arrival, it’s clear that Oram should’ve listened to Daniels.  (To his credit, he sheepishly admits this later on.)  Two colonists quickly fall ill and die horrible deaths.  A third gets murdered.  A fourth accidentally blows up their shuttle while doing battle with that recently birthed and very hungry xenomorph (not to be confused with the also insatiable neomorphs).  Over time, more are decimated by these rapidly growing malevolent predators.  (Notice the floating head in the water.)  Unless the Covenant is willing to risk catastrophic structural damage by moving in closer to this deadly scene, our heroes will be stranded here forever.  The unapologetically sinister David is surely counting on this for a whole lot of depraved reasons.

When Alien: Covenant was being previewed on TV this past Spring, it didn’t look too good to me.  (I try not to pre-judge films based on their trailers but they usually predict how you’ll feel about the finished work.)  I had no idea the film was a follow-up to Prometheus, which I admired.  So, when it begins with David and his creator Weyland (Guy Pearce in a wonderful cameo without all that old man make-up on this time) having an intriguing, ironic conversation about determining the elusive origins of man, I found myself drawn in right away.  (What a beautifully photographed scene it is, too.)

Ridley Scott’s decision to do a series of prequels leading up to the original Alien was a risky one.  (Remember all the rightful grumbling about George Lucas’ second and less inspired Star Wars trilogy?)  And, to be fair, not everyone is a fan of Prometheus like I am.  But it’s clear he made the right call.  Alien: Covenant is more jolting in its scares than its more philosophical and restrained predecessor.  It’s also much gorier, usually a cheap shock tactic for more desperate horror films, but here, because the film takes its time building up to these very effective moments with characters that are intelligently developed, the use of blood doesn’t feel excessive.  In fact, it adds to the tragedy of this doomed mission.

A surefire contender for a number of technical Oscars next year, most especially for its incredible visual effects, Alien: Covenant is a beautiful looking film about the ugliness of creation and the foolish nature of human impulsiveness, recurring themes in this ongoing series.

While you might wonder how that switcheroo is able to take place in the film’s final act (something you see a mile away), it leads to a rather good ending that neatly sets up the next installment.  If Ridley Scott directs that one, too, based on all his previous Alien movies, including Covenant, the odds of it being a compelling thriller, as well, are very much in his favour.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
7:54 p.m.

Published in: on October 3, 2017 at 7:54 pm  Comments (2)  

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

First, there was the Sith.  Then, there was the Galactic Empire.  Now, there is the First Order.

Led by a mysterious deep-voiced giant named Snoke, the new Supreme Leader, these ruthless savages are out to crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all.  Meanwhile, there’s a certain Jedi, the last one of his kind, they are desperate to find and kill.

I have waited two years to find out what everybody else already knows.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an absolute delight, a restoration of faith after a globally beloved franchise disappointingly lost its way with The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones, Revenge Of The Sith and the oddly animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  No more boring tax disputes, no more stiff Canadians bombing their heel turns, no more Jar Jar fuckin’ Binks.

Thanks to the absence of George Lucas, who was wisely cast aside after bungling the prequels, J.J. Abrams ably steps in and achieves almost the impossible.  He’s made a film that comes oh so close to being as great as Return Of The Jedi.

Let’s face it.  The original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are untouchable classics.  You’re never gonna top them.  With that firmly in mind, Abrams leads his vast team of talented co-creators through a clever story that nonetheless sucks you right back into this saga.  With two follow-ups in the works, we will finally have our nine-film series.

I cannot praise Adam Driver enough for his memorably cruel performance as Kylo Ren, the new Darth Vader.  Maintaining the multi-generational arc of this entire franchise, he is Han Solo’s son and he is troubled and torn.  He actually talks to the dead skull of his grandfather, Anakin, as he struggles to maintain his villainous ways.

His mission at the start of the film is to locate an elusive piece of a map that will lead to the missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill in a brief cameo), the First Order’s number one target.  It’s on a futuristic looking flash drive that is placed in a cute BB-8 droid.  (Imagine a softball placed on a basketball that chirps its dialogue.)  After a rebel village is burned down and wiped out by the First Order, the BB-8 manages to escape with this valuable piece of intelligence fully intact.  It ends up finding an irritated Rey (Daisy Ridley), a loner who literally lives in a fallen Imperial snow walker out in the desert wastelands of Jakku and makes ends meet by scavenging for food rations.  She’s patiently awaiting the return of her long absent family.

During the raid, a reluctant stormtrooper refuses to participate in the carnage.  When the Rebel Alliance’s best pilot Poe (Oscar Issac) is apprehended by Kylo Ren and his team (he was given the flash drive by Max Von Sidow before placing it in BB-8), they return to one of those awesome Imperial Destroyers for the inevitable interrogations.

Poe’s no Jedi.  He can’t resist Kylo’s magical brain squeezes for long.  Once he learns where the map piece is, the dark one delegates responsibility for a return trip to Jakku.

Picking his spot, that reluctant stormtrooper (John Boyega) rescues Poe and shortly thereafter they’re trying to escape in a locked down tie fighter.  Only given a code name rather than a proper one by the First Order (who plucked him from his parents when he was a wee lad), Poe nicknames the terrified deserter Finn.  When they crash land in the hot deserts of Jakku, Finn fears the worst.  Have to admit, I thought he was right.

Severely parched, he eventually finds liquid refreshment in an unusual place and meets the fiercely independent Rey.  But they don’t get much time to get acquainted.  The First Order have arrived right on schedule in a scene with uncomfortable parallels to America’s heartless drone wars in the Middle East.

For years now, Rey has been trying to repair the Millennium Falcon which has somehow made its way here having had several unauthorized owners.  With not a second to spare, it’s go time, Chewie.  This leads to one of several exhilarating action sequences as our heroes inevitably reconnect with the rightful owners of this iconic spacecraft.

Speaking of Han Solo (who else but Harrison Ford could play this part?), things aren’t so great with his betrothed Leia (Carrie Fisher), mostly because of their only child Kylo Ren being lost to The Dark Side.  (He was actually named after Obi-Wan Kenobi.)  After surviving an incident involving unpaid debts (guess he didn’t learn his lesson from the unforgiving Jabba The Hut), Han and Leia reconnect following yet another awesome battle scene.

Also keeping with tradition, the First Order have developed another diabolical, planet-sized weapon of mass destruction, a starkiller (Luke’s original last name during early drafts of the original Star Wars script).  In a bit of luck for the rebels, it relies on the energy of the sun in order to incinerate its victims.  That gives our heroes plenty of time to organize a counter-attack in the film’s familiar but still highly entertaining finale.

When it was announced several years ago, there was a flood of excitement for Star Wars episode 7.  That only intensified with the early teaser trailers that merely hinted at what was to come.  I must confess that one reason I waited to experience The Force Awakens for myself is because I hadn’t forgotten the immediate sting of frustration I felt for the prequels.  Besides, it’s often better to watch movies long after their release because you get a more honest sense of whether it works or not now that the hoopla has died down.  I also wanted to be in the best possible mood before pressing play.

Right from the start, The Force Awakens knows it must grab your attention and never lose it.  It must catch you up to speed in the classic opening motif used for every one of these pictures.  In three paragraphs, we are locked in, thankfully.  Over its two-hour running time, the film never drags nor meanders.  Even when there isn’t any action, there are revelations that keep you focused.

Rey discovers by accident a secret power she never knew she possessed.  Finn’s doubts about his uncertain future become firm convictions.  And Kylo Ren makes a decision he can never take back.

The Force Awakens reminds me a bit of Star Trek Generations and the tricky balancing act it must perform to satisfy its often difficult to please audience.  Bringing back key surviving characters from the first trilogy was a no-brainer.  Watching Ford, Fisher and Hamill appear on screen playing their most famous parts again for the first time in over 30 years can’t help but warm your heart.  You never thought you would ever see them again.

The more difficult task was to invent new characters to care about.  Thankfully, the screenwriters have given us a bunch of well-written babyfaces to rally behind as the series reignites its long dormant creative spark.

Casting British actor John Boyega in the role of Finn was a particularly smart move.  Like the original Night Of The Living Dead, a black man finds himself surrounded by hostile white people.  Finn isn’t exactly Edward Snowden (he was just a sanitation guy on the starkiller base and has no idea how to lower the shields that protect it), but over time his touching concern for Rey, his new friend, transform him and motivate him to do the right thing.  His natural impulse is to run but now that he’s found a real community of individuals to join forces with, he finds a new purpose.  He can finally be his honest, questioning self without fear of deadly reprisal.

Daisy Ridley injects Rey with a feminist determination not unlike Carrie Fisher’s Leia in the original trilogy.  Notice how upset she gets when a well-intentioned Finn twice tries to take her hand as they flee those relentless First Order tie-fighters.  She is fiercely independent and she can handle herself.  Finn can’t help but find comfort in that.  I’m not sure pairing them romantically is believable, though.  (You wonder if that feels a bit forced.)  Thankfully, their relationship does work platonically.  You most certainly buy them as friends.

I could go on and on about the film’s technical achievements, particularly its stunning, Oscar-nominated special effects.  As you watch the battle scenes, you never feel lost in the chaos.  Even when the camera rotates, you always know where to focus your eyes.  And the wit so sorely lacking in the prequels has made a triumphant return.  I was surprised how much I laughed.  Although the screenwriters manage to successfully spread the one-liners around, no one is funnier than Harrison Ford.

There’s an unmistakable sense of deja vu when Solo, Chewbacca, Rey and Finn walk into an alien bar filled with colourful extras, including another funky house band (Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music they play).  It’s here we meet Maz Kanata, the diminutive, digitally rendered, wise old matriarch beautifully voiced by an unseen Lupita N’yongo.  She plays a major role in Rey’s evolution.  Who knew Wookies had love lives?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has reset this franchise in a really intriguing way even if it doesn’t always surprise you.  As the movie ends, two important characters connect for the first time.  You can pretty much anticipate how they’re related.  But here’s the thing.  We want that to happen.  The possibilities are promising.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
7:18 p.m.

Published in: on October 3, 2017 at 7:18 pm  Comments (3)