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138: Why We Said You Can Skip ‘She Said.’ Plus: Where does Junot Diaz go to get his reputation back?

November 29, 2022
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason), talk about the sad state of Junot Diaz. Semafor’s Ben Smith interviewed the novelist about his odd career limbo; why can’t folks who were accused of misbehavior before being exonerated get their reputations back? Then the gang shifts to a cleaner Me Too target: Harvey Weinstein and the movie She Said, based on the book by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor about their efforts to unveil the producer’s monstrous behavior towards women. Sadly the movie isn’t that good, and we try to understand why. (On this episode we also mention Ken Auletta’s book, Hollywood Ending; Sonny talked to him a couple of months back about Weinstein and his enablers.)

Make sure to swing by Bulwark+ on Friday for our bonus episode on Chinese protests against draconian Covid lockdowns and the desire among the people for “cinema freedom.”

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to across the movie isle presented by Bulwark Plus. I am your host, Sunny Monch, Culture Editor of The Bulwark, I’m joined as always by a list of Rosenberg of The Washington Post and Peter Zimmerman A recent magazine, Alyssa Peter. How are you today? I am well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:23

    I am happy to be talking about movies with friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:27

    First up in controversies and controversies, why does novelist Juno Diaz remain in a state of limbo? That’s the question Samaphores, Ben Smith, asks in his latest media newsletter. Diaz is the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist whose novels often deal with difficult, some might say, abusive men and the people around them. Popular speaker on the touring circuit and a t shirt of creative writing out of all places, MIT, Diaz was caught up in the early wave of Me Too accusations. When simply whispering that a powerful man was abusive with tantamount to a professional death penalty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:57

    As Smith notes in his newsletter, if you google him, Top results include headlines like Juno Diaz canceled, then he’s included in a vox dot com list of two hundred sixty two people that are, quote, accused of sexual misconduct end quote. And while his accusers kind of they just refused to back down from their dis denunciations, his progressive minded peers looked into the charges. And found them to be basically nonsense. Right? An investigation into allegations.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:21

    The Diaz, quote, forcibly kissed and the quote, a woman at a conference reveals that the kiss was actually a pack on speak. And audio recordings revealed his behavior was norm and another one of these spat, an investigation of a, quote, verbal sexual assault end quote, whatever that means turned up nothing. It seems like he’s a guy who, like, had people who didn’t like him and said bad things about him and people looked into it. Nothing came of it. And yet, Diaz remains on a sword of purgatory.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:46

    Look, he hasn’t been purged from the masthead of the Boston Review. His contracts haven’t been formally canceled or anything, but his publisher is sitting on his latest, which is a children’s book. There’s no timeline for publication, and Diaz isn’t really pushing the issue. He’s not really being written about negatively anymore, but publications ranging from the New York Times to the the New Republic have refused to run essays from colleagues and friends defending him. Even after accepting those essays.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:09

    And his his offers of blurbs are rejected by publishers who are scared that the controversy will hurt. Book sales his speaking career, it’s dried up. Andy can’t write. I mean, this is the kind of saddest part of the the Ben Smith’s newsletter. You know, Diaz tells Smith that he’s too depressed.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:24

    To even be around books. The novelist met with Ben Smith in a book story, and and Diaz said that that’s the first time he’s been in a bookstore in like four years. So in the main event in a few minutes, we’re gonna talk about She said. It’s a movie about The New York Times’ efforts to expose Harvey Weinstein. And Harvey Weinstein is a pretty straightforward case of how to handle sexual misconduct in the world of business and the arts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:44

    Right? Bad guy. Get him out of there. Get him to prison if that’s what it if that’s you know, warranted, whatever. In theory, Diaz offers a pretty straightforward case of how to handle accusations of sexual misconduct in the world of business and arts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:58

    Right? He was accused, he was investigated, and he has more or less been exonerated, but the reality of it is different. As pundits or board member, Eugene Robinson noted, there’s an irrational mob thing happening. Right? And it seems wrong that this has impacted him the way it has.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:12

    You know, it’s funny, Alyssa. I was gonna describe Diaz as a sort of edge case. Right? Like one of these weird edge cases. But as I was writing, I realized that I’m that’s playing into the absolute wrong narrative.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:23

    Right? He’s not actually an edge case at all. He seems to be like innocent. And there seems to be no real question of his innocence. Again, some people feel wrong, but everybody who has looked into it seems to think that that’s kinda kinda not what’s going on?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:38

    And yet, here we are discussing it years later. Here we are. He can’t, you know, get it up to right anymore. Here we are. He can’t get out there and get speaking engagements.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:46

    What’s gone wrong.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:47

    So first full disclosure, I am Eugene Robinson’s editor. So Jean, if you’re listening at home, none of this has taken this criticism of you or any web thing. But yeah, no, I think you’re right that describing this as sort of an edge case is a mistake. And I think it gets at, you know, one of the complexities that comes in the wake of the Me Too movement, which is that, you know, the movement was obviously and it galvanized by cases like Weinstein’s like Bill Cosby of people who are just clearly, in in this case, convicted sexual predators. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:21

    Harvey Weinstein is a convicted serial sexual predator and will spend the rest of his life in prison and that’s a good thing. But it also movements like this often become a frame in which people try to express other discomforts or other interactions with someone that have made them feel not good. And because it’s sort of the available framework. Right? It is the, you know, the language that becomes universally recognized to just scribe wrongdoing.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:50

    It is a movement that has sort of moral force. And so I think it’s possible to believe two entirely separate things. One that shouldn’t yet did not sexually harass or assault anyone. And second, that he may not be like a completely charming person who everyone who’s come into contact with him has had good interactions with. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:13

    Like, both of those things can be true. But it is troubling if sort of sub, you know, like behavior that’s unpleasant or, you know, awkward or, you know, even, like, kind of aggressive or mean or uncaring in a relationship becomes, you know, grouped in with sexual assault. And look, I think it’s, you know, it is useful in some ways to have a more expensive definition of sexual assault and sexual harassment than one that might have prevailed like fifty or sixty years ago. Right? I mean, we’ve all watched mad men like the way that, you know, men at Sterling Draper, other than Don Draper, treated the women in that company probably should be considered sexual harassment.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:59

    Right? Like, there’s it is appropriate to expand some of these definitions. But there needs to be some sort of boundary. There needs to be some sort of limit. And that’s I mean, that is true for a movement against sexual violence to be effective on any level.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:15

    Right? I mean, otherwise, it overextends its resources and its credibility. And it’s, I mean, it’s useful to have a collective moral agreement about behavior that is unpleasant interactions that are not nice. But that are not criminal. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:31

    Or that are not even necessarily immoral by a commonly understood definition. Of them. And the second thing I would say about this, you know, this piece from Ben Smith, you know, points out that at least one of the women I think has said that, like, oh, there are other things I don’t wanna talk about them. I’m not gonna sort of articulate what they are. And, you know, I think that
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:51

    I have
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:51

    never been a huge fan of the Silicon believe women. Right? Like, I think women should be because in part because it’s a shallow ask. Right? I mean, if you’re, you know, a plea a police department if a woman comes in and says, like, I’ve been raped and the pool investigating officer says, well, I believe you, but I’m not gonna investigate it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:10

    That’s not useful to anyone. Right? And so I think a scenario where you want people to just sort of believe that your experience with Junidea should be the universal moral under standing of him, but you’re not willing to explicate what that experience was is not a viable standard for anyone to accept. Right? I mean, you know, I think that a movement that says, like, take women seriously, investigate women’s claims thoroughly, makes much more sense in terms of promising women something of substance beyond mere belief, but it also is gonna lead to scenarios like this one where you know, a relevant body commissions a serious investigation and finds the charges not to be substantiated.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:51

    And so I think that is, you know, that is standard that gets women more in terms of style commitments to regressing the wrongs that have been done to them. But that also offers men who have been accused of something, some chance at sort of explanation and exoneration, where the process doesn’t seem to have here is that he has not really had an opportunity to win his reputation back. He’s sort of it’s like he exists in this weird twilight zone. And that I think is a mark of the sort of procedural and moral incompleteness of me too is a movement. And that’s a really hard thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:24

    Yeah. Peter, one of the thing that’s interesting in Smith’s newsletter is DS talks a little bit about, you know, there’s like a second act for folks from the left who wanna go to the right. And be like, you know, like, I I was a good progressive and I have been canceled for my and he wants no part of that, but it is kind of interesting to think about the different avenues of rehabilitation here and what rehabilitation actually looks like in a world where it is almost impossible to rehabilitate yourself in a situation where everyone seems everyone in a position of power seems to agree that nothing wrong has been done.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:00

    Yeah. I think this is a story of the complicated legacy of me too, like Alyssa says. Right? And it’s it’s a story about the ways in which a clear cut case, you know. We have we have a clear cut case against a flagrant abuser Harvey Weinstein.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:17

    And there’s a bunch of other clear cut cases. Bill Cosby, another one. Right? But that story gave way to cases that are either edge cases or just as you said, Sunny. Not edge cases, accusations that are, if not, flatly false or completely made up, then then not agreed upon even by sympathetic contemporaries.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:38

    And right. I mean, so, like, the one of the accusations came in at event that was recorded. And if you listen to the recording of the event, it just doesn’t match up to the allegation. Another one was at a party where there were a bunch of other attendees, and the other attendees just didn’t hear the remarks that Diaz supposedly made. Didn’t hear them in the same light.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:57

    They didn’t seem aggressive. I he may have said some of the the the words that he was alleged to have said. But they didn’t understand it as hostile or as aggressive. It was only the one person who was making the allegation. And so it’s really just remarkable that after being effectively completely cleared not just by his friends who kinda talk to some people, not just even by not even by like a journalistic investigation, but by a law firm that was commissioned by the Pulitzer board.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:26

    Right? This is a five month investigation by a a DC law firm who specializes in this sort of thing. And their conclusion was we talked to every witness, we did we analyzed hundreds of pages of documents and audio tapes were available. We had examined steps taken by the relevant institutions to investigate this matter. The review did not find evidence warranting removal of Professor Diaz from the board.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:47

    Period. Like, it’s a total exoneration. And what
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:50

    we
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:50

    end up with here is, is something like that line in tar Right? Where if you remember when when Tara is talking to her mentor about sort of the accusations swirling and the mentor says something like Well, these days, allegations are the same as evidence. And in this case, the allegations have survived even in the absence of evidence. Even in instances where the evidence at least appears to be something like contrary to the allegation. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:21

    There appears to be affirmative evidence that the allegations are again, I’m not saying they are simply made up, but that the allegations are are are sort of don’t stand, that they are not correct, that they are not what they are sort of being said to be. And and there doesn’t seem to be a recourse here. Now, maybe maybe Ben Smith’s column will sort of start, you know, Diaz on on track to having something more like a career again. And as you said, Sunny. It’s not like he has absolutely nothing at this point.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:53

    He’s still, you know, writing for the book reviews. And he still, you know, sort of has he he still he has not been completely professionally cast out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:03

    But I don’t
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:04

    have you guys read the a brief Wonder’s life The brief Wonder’s life of Oscar Wild? Yeah. It’s amazing. It’s a fucking phenomenal book. It’s just fucking it is, like, a literary, like, contemporary literary masterpiece.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:19

    And the way it, like, weaves in geek culture references and sort of builds out, like, oh, you sort of how this this kid’s whole life was defined in some ways by, like, comic books and and genre fiction and sort of these, like, super low brow influences. And then make something upper, you know, high kind of eyebrow out of it. Right? Make something really, really original, really readable, and just fascinating and is not just like a a compendium of, like in some ways, it’s it’s a a good counterpart Ready player one, which I thought was an okay movie and a terrible, terrible book. Because Ready player one is just a book about, like, hey, spot the reference for no reason.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:00

    Except, hey, I recognize that. And Diaz takes all of these reference points, all these geek things that, you know, have Batman fans are are are aware of and just weave something incredibly rich and real and powerful out of it. And we’ve lost that. We’ve lost a writer because of this. And he has lost a big part
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:20

    of his life and his identity. And it’s it’s it’s wrong and it’s really unfortunate. Yep. So what do we think? Is it a controversy or a controversy that mister Diaz still has trouble getting work?
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:34

    And frankly, hasn’t gotten his reputation back, Alyssa. It’s a
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:38

    controversy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:39

    Peter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:40

    CONTROVERSY? Yeah. CONTROVERSY.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:42

    And I I do hope as Peter says, I I hope that Ben Smith’s piece here kind of gets some of the COGS moving again on that. Because, I mean, you know, it’s a it seems like a a bad situation. And bad, as Alyssa says, for for the movement, I I really think this sort of thing only works if we all agree on what death penalty cases are. And, you know, this is clearly not what And what the and
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:06

    what the evidentiary standard for death penalty cases are? Frank,
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:09

    and even beyond that, just what the actual behaviors that warranted — Yep. —
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:13

    are. I mean,
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:14

    it’s a
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:14

    bit clear, we should we should say, I don’t think Sony means the actual death penalty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:20

    Well, you know, you never you can’t be you don’t wanna rule things out. And we as we’re we’re sitting here discussing the slate of movies, you know, protests over the very very harsh COVID protocols are unfolding in China, moving story. You know, this the the bonus episode that we’re gonna tape maybe out of date by the time we get to it. But you know, one of the things that they are protesting, one of these slogans that they are chanting, is the right to go see movies in a theater. They want freedom of cinema.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:49

    And that is a movement that I can get behind. We’ll discuss it in more depth next on Friday’s bonus episode at a t m a dot the bulwark dot com. So make sure to tune in on Friday, check it out there. And now on to the main event. She said, this is the story.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:05

    Of how New York Times reporters Megan Tuohy is played by Carrie Mulligan and Jody Kantor who’s played by Zoe Kazan broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal wide open. We see them talking to actresses out Ashley Judd who’s playing herself and on the phone with Rose McAllen, who’s voiced by somebody else. We see them trying to track down old Weinstein assistants, and we see them pressing Miramax executives for documents that would prove the company has been buying silence from women for years. We see them working hand in hand with patient and supportive editors who never doubt their work. We see him finally break the story open and take Weinstein down and it vaguely mirrors to his inability to take down Donald Trump the year prior history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes and sometimes the rhyme is a little bit off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:50

    We see all of this and we’re working kinda bored. Because this overly earnest movie is not only shot with the love and care that you might expect of a TV movie. I mean, it’s just it’s seriously just all shot, reverse shot. Exposition dumps. There is nothing even approaching an interesting visual idea in it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:07

    The movie is completely lacking intention. And it’s not lacking intention because we all know how the story plays out. Lot we see lots of movies where we know how the story plays out. Right? And those movies don’t necessarily lack intention.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:19

    There’s no tension because nobody is actually trying to stop Tuohy encounter from reporting what they’re reporting. It’s just a boring process of journalism story. Is what I’m saying. And if you could compare it to other movies about journalism that work better of the Insider. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:31

    The Insider is interesting because CBS is trying to kill the story about Philip Morris and how they’re making cigarettes more addictive. Shattered glass. Super interesting because it’s about the perversion of journalism. Right? All the president’s men is interesting.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:44

    In addition to all the cloak and dagger going into parking garages and talking to deep throat stuff, it’s interesting because it culminates with them messing part of the story up, right, at least at first. It’s it’s about the long process of uncovering truth. Spotlight, which I I enjoy, but you think is a little bit overrated. Feature some internal pushback. The post, right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:04

    It’s it’s it’s actually more of a legal thriller than a journalism movie. And it helps that it’s directed by Steven Spielberg. So even, like, little things like conversations in living rooms don’t again look like they were shot for HBO circa two thousand and two. But she said it’s just a story about reporters reporting a story. And they’re supported the whole time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:22

    And then the things that they’re reporting, they discover, and then they print it, and it’s good journalists. It’s good journalism. It’s it’s a great story that they told, but it’s just a boring movie. It’s it’s boring visual content. The most citing part of this movie involves one reporter taking photos of a source’s phone.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:38

    I mean, that’s like literally the the most interesting tension filled moment of the film. My big takeaway from from watching this and sitting in and thinking about it for two minutes is that they really should have made a movie about Ronan Faroe’s book. Because Ronan Farrell’s book involves real and enormous obstacles being thrown in his path, right, from his bosses at NBCUniversal, spiking his story about Harvey Weinstein, to being literally spied on by Israeli intelligence agents. Right? He has a personal stake given all the controversy swirling around his father, Woody Allen, and his sister Dylan Ferro.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:11

    It all ends with him being scooped by TUI and Kantor by a matter of days. Right? Like, he spends years working on this thing, he gets scooped by a couple days. And it it has to be a a heartbreaking sort of moment. You know, they all went on to win I’m pretty sure they all won the fewlets.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:25

    Right? All all all all three of them. But the but, you know, it’s it that’s a great story. And look, none of this none of what I’m saying here is intended to downplay what do we encounter or accomplished. The story behind the story just isn’t that interesting.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:39

    Peter, why was this movie so freaking antiseptic? So I I wanna start by saying I
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:45

    I don’t think this movie worked. I think it was kind of dull and earnest and and worthy. But I also think there’s some good things about it. And I I wanna start there because I think the good things about it actually reveal where the movie went wrong. This movie is in fact a pretty good movie about the process of investigative journalism, you know, basically a healthy news organization.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:06

    It gets the aesthetics of of of the New York Times that have sort of a a big city reporters and reporting basically right. Like, that’s what their houses look like. That’s how they address, that’s the kind of car that they that they drive. Right? Like, the the feel of it is actually kind of kind of correct.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:25

    The movie spends a lot of the first act building this sort of secondary conflict that it drops just a little bit sort of in the second half of the film, but building the secondary conflict in which the two reporters are constantly just having to deal with personal family stuff. In a way that is totally relatable to anybody who does journalism. You’ve constantly just like, oh, am I you know, I’ve gotta take care of a sick parent. I’ve gotta drop the dogs off at the vet. There’s, you know, there’s a baby crying.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:53

    There’s whatever it is in your life. And it’s just, right, like, because be sources call you at all sorts of hours because the process of editing of of and producing news sort of is a twenty four hour ongoing process. And and the movie gets all of those little tiny details right. And it also doesn’t overplay or oversell any of them. Nor does it overplay or oversell the big message at the end.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:18

    Right? This isn’t a movie that ends in a stirring monologue about how we got him and how this is gonna change everything Well, like, it it doesn’t do that. It actually underplays the ending. Right? The the big climactic moment in this movie is you’ve got your group of editors at writers staring at at a content management system.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:39

    And it’s actually it it looks as far as I can tell like The New York Times is content management system, which is Gold Scoop. And they all say yeah or something like yeah. And then the little cursor
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:50

    moves over and clicks. Is that is literally how
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:53

    stupid things And that’s how it happens, folks. It’s it’s just a cursor over a button in a content management system. Right. It’s a boring thing. And I can totally see I can totally see why this script that underplays all of those moments.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:10

    That doesn’t end up with a sort of big you’re sort of in, like, kind of climactic confrontation. Right? They don’t sort of re rebuild the the moment in which Harvey Weinstein comes into New York Times into, like, oh, he gets told then and he finally he realizes. They don’t make it that because it wasn’t that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:28

    I can see
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:29

    why that script was appealing to producers and to, you know, to this creative team because they might I can see what them looking at it and thinking, oh, here’s finally the journalism movie that gets it, like, sort of, the the gritty in some ways, but all reality of it. The problem is it does it does get it the banal reality of of producing journalism. And in fact, the biggest conflict is like I’m I had to drop my kid off at daycare and I felt sick or sad that day and, like, I it was, you know, like, I had to I just had to convince a bunch of people to say it was okay that I could write the thing that they told me. Right? And so and and the movie is the movie is so committed to this sort of kind of bland reality.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:13

    Of of producing a story like this. There’s a lot of tension if you are the reporter, if you are the editor. But it they don’t manage to translate that to the screen because it’s just not inherently visual. It’s the kind of thing that you can write. It’s not the kind of thing that you can stage well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:30

    And I think the other thing if I wanna make us somewhat more I don’t know. But the other the other thing here is
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:39

    The
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:39

    movie for totally understandable reasons has to treat all of the stories of the of women’s experiences with real sort of respectful kind of earnest kid gloves, not this kid gloves isn’t quite right. I’m not because there’s not like a great way to sort of handle those things, but it just sort of has to let them play out and say, mhmm, we validate you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:02

    Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:03

    And this constant like these stories, and that is that is the correct way to to, like, do the reporting. Is the correct way to be a good person. That’s the correct thing to do. If you are, like, taking these stories as as truth, like, you’re sort of like hearing them from a friend, if you’re talking about them on a podcast, like — Yeah. — I hear
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:20

    those stories
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:21

    and I validate them. And that that’s again, it’s a completely understandable impulse. It’s so cinematically inert. It just, like, drags those moments down and, like, into a kind of dramatic sort of flatness. And this movie is just it’s very flat in in its affect and in and in its presentation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:42

    And it doesn’t manage to ring out kind of internal personal drama that I am sure Meghan TUI felt as she was reporting this out because I I have worked on much lower stick stories and it’s like it just you know, your heart’s just, like, thumping thumping thumping thumping as you’re about to press that button and see your work go out into the world. And it just doesn’t translate, I think, to to viewers. If I can just drive home
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:09

    or I think make make more explicit your point. I mean, what you’re saying here is you cannot show Harvey Weinstein’s attacks, which would be a cinematic thing a, like, visual you just can’t show you have to show them talking about it, which is hard it’s hard to make work on in a movie. Like I said, this movie is just nothing but, like, shot, reverse, shot, reverse, shot. Here’s here’s talking and here’s like a reporter’s like, uh-huh, that’s terrible. I can’t believe it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:38

    Yeah. I I just it does it does not work as a as visual storytelling. Peter, is what
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:44

    you’re saying actually that the movie doesn’t deal with the fact that a lot of these women had ongoing professional or even in some cases sexual relationships with Weinstein. Like, it doesn’t delve into the complexity of that at all because that was actually something I was struck by. So
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:00

    I I wasn’t even saying that I was just saying that it it lets these it lets these told anecdotes of abuse unspool in the way that you should if you are listening to your French in the way that you should if you’re a good reporter listening to a story like this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:16

    Right? It
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:18

    treats them the way the reporter is treated them, which is they need to tell their story and you just need to give them space to do it. That’s again, that is absolutely what I would counsel reporters working on a story like to do. And also, what I would counsel anybody like hearing a story like this from a friend or an acquaintance, that is the right way to to treat those stories. They kind of go on to build tension in journalism. You have to wonder kind of what’s gonna happen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:44

    You have to wonder like, oh, is this gonna go wrong? Is this gonna is something going to happen? You know what’s gonna happen? They were hurt. They had bad experiences that, in some cases, impacted the course of their lives.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:01

    It’s awful. It’s awful. And Harvey Weinstein deserves to be in jail as he is for it. Doesn’t work on screen. Alyssa,
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:09

    you were saying that the the movie fails to really get at the complexity of some of these stories. Man,
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:15

    this maybe fails to get with the complexity of everything. And so I want a full disclosure. I was the person who said we should watch this in part for scheduling reasons. And then even after I saw it and thought it was awful, I said we should discuss it in part because I think it is an excellent movie to use as an example of a very bad script. And I think it’s bad on two levels.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:36

    The first is that the movie doesn’t on any level get the system. Right? There’s a lot of talking about, like, we need to get the system. We need to expose how this is systemic. We need to explain sort of how it functions, how it works.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:46

    It can’t just be about, you know, these individual stories, which is the same sort of mount trans outlight. But you
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:51

    know what,
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:51

    name never comes up in this entire movie? I’m curious if you guys noticed this too. What
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:59

    name never comes up? Never. The other Weinstein brother? Yes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:03

    Bob Weinstein is never mentioned in this movie, not once. And I’m, you know, I I’m irritated by this in part because I just read Canela’s Hollywood ending, which is his Weinstein book. And, you know, that he explains, among other things, that Bob Weinstein, like, personally paid some of the settlements that Harvey Weinstein negotiated with these women and sort of justified it to himself is that he was covering up for his brother’s infidelity’s, which is, like, not great, but also, you know, the Even if that’s truly what he believed, he ended up enabling this kind of monstrous system. The movie doesn’t get into, like, the total supine nature of the Weinstein Company board. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where TUI calls Lance
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:51

    Mirav. Who
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:51

    is a director of the company. And it’s it’s totally it’s it made me so an irritated scene because, like, why is she making this critical call for her reporting from, like, the lobby of The New York Times that she’s, like, headed into an elevator. It’s so stupid.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:05

    But
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:06

    so Lance Baron was, like, he’s a real person, but he was actually the one sort of responsible director. At the Weinstein company. He pushed to, like, sort of, look into these settlements. He tried to wait ring in Weinstein’s spending. He tried to get access to Weinstein’s personnel file.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:19

    And in fact, negotiated a compensation agreement that would put sort of more reins on Weinstein’s personal behavior. And the movie does not at all establish the extent to which Weinstein played a critical role, not just in the independent film industry, but if you were a woman who wanted to do interesting work in independent film, Miramax was in many ways the only game in town and not just Miramax but Weinstein personally. And so by not establishing any of that, I mean, this is a very repositioning movie. Like, this is very much a we said this. I’m going to do this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:52

    This is what I’m thinking movie. And yet it omits all of these key facts that would lend sort of any gravity to the movie or that would be systemic in any
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:02

    way. And second,
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:03

    it is just so poorly written. Like, just a line by line, scene by scene level. Like, there’s a scene early in the movie where Jody Kanterer asks Megan, how did you persuade women to tell you what happened to them? And Megan just says, it’s really hard. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:18

    I mean, that is terrible writing. It is, like, it takes you nowhere, but also compare it to a scene in spotlight where Sasha Pfeiffer was played by Rachel McAdams is meeting with Invicta for the first time, and they’re in a coffee shop. And she’s asking him to explain what was done to him, you know, she said, like, Phil, specifically what happened. And he says, specifically, he abused me. And she, you know, she says, she’s like, look, I think, you know, I know this is hard to talk to it about.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:48

    The language is gonna be so important for people to understand this. You know, I think we like, I know it’s unpleasant. Talk about, we really have to have the details. And he said, and they get up and go out of the coffee shop, and talk about it and she’s like scribbling these notes. But you see her actually do the work of convincing a source to talk.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:09

    Right? And there are a bunch of other scenes like that in the movie where you know, Mike Rosendes, who’s played by Mark Ruffalo, goes and sort of courts this very prickly lawyer Mitch Garberdian. He was played by Stanley Tucci. And what he has to do is convince the guy that they’re serious. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:23

    That, you know, they’re they’re gonna follow-up on the story. And he finally lets slip. He’s like, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but this is for spotlight. It’s a big investigative process. It may so it may seem like we’re taking a long time, but we’re serious about it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:35

    And so just comparing the sort of granularity of those scenes in spotlight. Versus the sort of bluntness and kind of nothingness of so much of the dialogue in you said. I think it’s just a really good example of a script that, you know, structurally is not that interesting as you guys have already discussed. But like, line by line for a movie that is about you know, sort of people’s testimony and the power of their experience. And that is about a journalistic organization and about writing is just so uninteresting line by line and scene by scene.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:07

    I mean, there’s a I mean, there’s a similar Dreddy Kantor’s character, she’s on the phone with me. She’s like, I’m staring at an actual brick wall and all I can pick is fuck. It’s like
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:16

    I’m sorry.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:17

    It’s a that’s a bad line of dialogue, you know. The questions that Meghan is is asking Lanny Davis are like not well written journalistic questions. Right? Like, you know, do you want to expand on that? Like, that’s I
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:33

    I will say I did kind of like that that sequence where she was she was kind of being palsy with Lanny. Like, come on, man. We’re like, that was that was one I I I will say that the performances in this movie are all very, very good. It’s one thing I I I did wanna mention when I was kind of running it down. I I think I think the actresses are great.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:53

    I I think all the supporting roles is great. Or great. Andre Brauer, fantastic. You know? Oh,
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:59

    Jennifer Jennifer Yule just outclassed since everyone in the movie though. As she does in basically everything, she’s then. But this is just, you know, it is it is not it has a movie that explains but does not reveal. Right? And it’s it’s interesting for example that the newsroom is basically compressed down to a couple of characters.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:15

    Right? I mean, spotlight has this record, and I’ve rewatched Like, this is just why I’m bringing it up a lot, but I think it’s a useful point of comparison because it’s, you know, a movie about similar subject material. But for example, you don’t learn anything about The New York Times as a publication in this movie. Right? I mean, like, you get the sense that the lead editors will just like hang up on people, but be tough, but you have had no idea of its financial position, like how it was attempting to grapple with the post Trump years.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:42

    You know, Sonny, you mentioned that there’s never any meaningful pushback on the reporters. And again, in spotlight, you learn immediately. There’s a new editor new owners of the paper, so there’s financial pressure. You learn among other things that there are a bunch of people at the globe who messed up this story previous. And in different ways.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:00

    You have this great recurring sort of joke about there’s like a sports reporter who’s just like always hanging around and keeps, you know, peep piping up being like, you know, we recovered that then or we talked to this person this time and everyone’s like, you’re not supposed to be listening. He’s Not listening. I’m not listening. You know, you have the characters do things that place them in the community. Like, the characters have community ties.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:24

    They went to an important Catholic school. They are involved in various charitable organizations. Robbie Robinson, Michael Keaton’s character, you know, golfs with a prominent lawyer for the Catholic church. There’s world building
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:36

    in that movie. Yes. Because world building is something we associate with, oh, it’s you know, superhero and sci fi franchises, but it’s something you can do in the context of it essentially is sort of contemporary dramatic adult film for adults because your world building is about establishing the the wider context of the world. This movie does very little of it. That’s a very good point.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:59

    It’s bizarrely
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:00

    arrogant. Right? Like, yes, you’re right. Okay. It’s like journalists have kids.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:04

    But, like, journalists in this movie, you have, like, no real allegiances or pressures or interests. Like, it’s very much, you know, okay, like, mega we got harassed some in the context of the movie. I’m not being at all flip about what she may have experienced in real life. But it’s very much like a view from nowhere. It’s very it’s a very odd erid movie.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:25

    I actually just highly recommend Hollywood ending if you want sort of an actual story about the system in Harvey Weinstein. It’s a much better use of your time than this movie even though it will take you much longer to read it. That’s Kennelet his book. I had Kennelet
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:36

    on Borrco’s Hollywood a few months ago. He’s he was it’s it’s it’s fascinating book. Great story. You should definitely check it out. Let me let me ask you quickly as kind of a parting thought here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:50

    Do do you guys feel like this movie downplayed or whitewashed the complicity of both Hollywood and the media more generally in the in the Harvey Weinstein story. I mean, whitewashed is maybe the wrong word. But I, you know, everybody, in this movie, you you never see anything. Like, again, from Candelletta’s book, there’s there’s a whole bunch of stuff about how Harvey Weinstein ingratiated himself with journalists, with editors, with, you know, he he he had Tina Brown, create a whole new magazine, they were throwing out tons of money, tons of Disney money, it should be noted. The the, you know, in in this movie, the only mentions we have of other filmmakers are Martin Scorsese, who is immediately described as hating Harvey once.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:37

    He wants nothing to do with him, you know. And that’s it. And that’s other than, like, sad actresses. Like, that that’s the only reference to basically anybody working in the industry. And it feels like it feels like just a total I get White Wash might be too strong a word here, but it feels like they are just downplaying everything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:58

    Yeah. I believe No.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:00

    It’s yeah. It’s very it’s very very weird. And maybe to a certain extent, like, they didn’t get all that in the first story. Right? I mean, maybe it’s supposed to be narrowly about the first story, but, you know, it’s Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:16

    And it doesn’t get at why it was hard. Right? I mean, I I’ve sort of joked about this before, but the real hero of this story is Doug Ellen, the creator of entourage. Who is the only person who was like willing to portray how abusive and gross Harvey Weinstein was in the early odds. And even then, he didn’t have the stuff about through about Weinstein as sexual predator.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:36

    He just had him as, like, a gross awful, like, violent bully. But yeah, I mean, I look, Owlette had tried to report it and, you know, couldn’t get anyone to go on the record. And all he had was to isles from Weinstein. Like, legally, David Romnack probably couldn’t let him publish that. But yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:52

    I mean, Weinstein was buying up people’s book projects, you know, he was again sort of this critical conduit for good parts if you were an actress. And, yeah, there’s not a lot of that. I mean, huge, like, huge Democratic donor, charitable fundraiser, all of that. And, yeah, none of that’s in the movie. Except Weinstein saying, like, oh, I’ve done x on
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:14

    the phone. I
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:16

    think that the story is the screenplay is overly committed to telling a very narrow just to this sort of here’s what we did to report this out kind of story that doesn’t translate very well. And again, it’s this I I can see why they went this route. And I could see why the producers looked at the screenplay and thought, oh, actually, this is good. Is because it feels in a way like they’re making a deliberate choice to underplay the actual thing that they did, which was ask people a bunch of questions and just slowly build trust and try and get them to say yes, you can use my name on the story. And they flew around the world and did a bunch of stuff like that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:55

    And there’s there is something realistic about that. Right? There is something
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:03

    that is that you don’t
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:04

    see on screen very often, right, in in tales of journalistic investigations because In fact, a lot of it is just sort of you’re all you’re standing around the screen with your editor, you’re arguing about this phrase or that phrase, you’re waiting for somebody to call you back. Somebody calls you back while you’re in the doctor’s office or trying to, you know, take a kid to soccer practice. But that’s because the choice to make to tell that very narrow story, I think, was ultimately the wrong one. It’s one that, you know, again, if they had the rights to the one book, into one story, not to the whole sort of universe of things, and maybe there were rights issues. Maybe there were also, you know, I can imagine that the legal complexities around a movie like this are non trivial, and that may, you know, sort of, inform the way that the the choices made by the screenplay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:56

    But I I don’t think it ultimately works very well and it’s it is not
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:01

    it
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:01

    it is in some ways, I think, an interesting movie about journalism. I just don’t think it’s a very good movie. So what do
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:08

    we think? Thumbs up or thumbs down. On she said, Elizabeth, Move
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:12

    thumbs down. Sorry to both of you for making you watch this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:15

    Peter. I’m glad you made Swatch it and but thumbs
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:19

    down. Yeah. It’s a thumbs down. It’s not it’s not a good way. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:22

    That’s it for this week’s show. Make sure to swing by at m a dot forward dot com for our bonus episode on Friday. Make sure to tell your friends a strong recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast audiences. If we don’t grow, we will die. Did not love today’s episode, please reply to me on Twitter at study button shop and mention that it is in fact the best show in your podcast feed.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:40

    See you guys next week.
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