In a season of audience indifference and uncertain awards prospects, one thing is certain about the Oscar ceremony on March 4: Harvey Weinstein will be there.
Barring a lapse in security, you won’t actually see him — Weinstein has been banished from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for sexual misconduct. And you probably won’t hear his name from the stage. That will be confined to whispers in the multi-floor lobby of the Dolby Theater.
But Weinstein will hover above virtually every segment of the show as if he had a seat in that sluggers’ row of stars up front. When host Jimmy Kimmel ventures some sort of harassment barb in the opening monologue — maybe he’ll twist it into something about Donald Trump — Harvey will be there. Viewers will get the reference and media critics will have a field day if Kimmel, still haunted by those The Man Show jokes, doesn’t find some sly way to confront Topic A: Hollywood sex abuse.
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If and when Casey Affleck, winner of last year’s Best Actor Oscar, later shows up to present this year’s Best Actress award, Harvey will be there. So will Roy Price, late of Amazon Studios, which distributed Manchester By The Sea, for which Affleck won his prize. Whether or not Affleck addresses his own past settlement of sexual harassment suits is still up in the air. Both his association with Price, who was toppled by harassment accusations as well as his deep Weinstein roots in Miramax films like Good Will Hunting and Chasing Amy will haunt the premises.
Affleck’s brother Ben, of course, would make a first-class celebrity presenter, except for his own recent brush with a groping allegation and his association with Weinstein through the years. Pesky viewers will be wondering, “What did Ben Affleck know? When did he know it? Why didn’t he and his friend Matt Damon— perhaps an Oscar contender this year for Downsizing, if not the poorly received Suburbicon — do more to protect all those actresses and others from Weinstein abuse?”
If any actor has been dogged by rumors of sexual abuse, this is probably not Ben’s year at the podium. Why risk a last-minute accusation, and more thoughts of Harvey?
Will Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o be on hand? They are Weinstein accusers. Someone should design a ribbon.
If the Academy’s new president, John Bailey, takes the stage, he will almost surely mention the group’s decision to create an anti-abuse code. However carefully Bailey might choose his words, the audience will think of Harvey.
If Battle Of The Sexes, about workplace equality for women, gets its moment, it will be hard to avoid at least a few words that somehow lead back to Weinstein. And don’t expect the makers of Darkest Hour to dare show that scene in which Winston Churchill, with seeming innocence, warns a young female assistant that he is about to emerge from his bath “in a state of nature” because it would certainly evoke all those bath-towel stories about Harvey.
At the Governors Awards banquet this Saturday, Academy insiders, you can be sure, will be craning their necks to see whether the Weinstein Company contenders — say, Jeremy Renner from Wind River or Benedict Cumberbatch from The Current War — are brave enough to make an appearance. But Harvey will be there in spirit like Banquo’s ghost. Because this year, finally, the Oscars are all about him.
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