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#MeToo marches on

Culture | Judge’s ruling means Harvey Weinstein will likely stand trial
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 12/21/18, 02:57 pm

The court of public opinion pronounced Harvey Weinstein guilty of sexual abuse in a matter of days last year, but the criminal justice system moves much more slowly. This week, however, the case against the disgraced movie mogul took a significant step forward when a New York judge upheld a grand jury’s indictment.

Weinstein, 66, is charged with raping an unidentified female acquaintance in a hotel room in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. Earlier this year, prosecutors dropped a separate charge that Weinstein forced a woman to perform oral sex on him. That case was compromised by evidence that a detective might have urged a witness to keep quiet with information that could have cast doubt on the alleged victim’s accusations.

Weinstein’s lawyers argued the detective’s actions “irreparably tainted” the case. They also said the grand jury that indicted Weinstein should have been shown emails he exchanged with his two accusers after the alleged attacks that could show the encounters were consensual.

Weinstein, 66, has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

“This court has found the grand jury presentation to be legally sufficient to support the charges and that the proceedings were properly conducted,” Judge James Burke said in a six-page opinion detailing his decision Thursday. #MeToo supporters watched the motion closely and breathed a collective sigh of relief after Thursday’s hearing. About half a dozen women, including actresses Amber Tamblyn and Marisa Tomei, showed up to court wearing T-shirts from the anti-abuse organization Time’s Up.

“Today, here in New York, we saw the first steps towards justice,” Time’s Up President Lisa Borders said after the judge’s ruling. “Frankly, we are relieved that Harvey Weinstein failed in his efforts to avoid accountability for his actions.”

The case is likely headed to trial now, with pre-trial motions scheduled to begin in early March. Weinstein’s lawyers have indicated that part of their defense will include a witness who will say Weinstein and the woman accusing him of rape had been having a consensual sexual relationship for a while. The lawyers also have emails from his movie studio’s servers they say showed Weinstein had friendly, consensual relationships with both women.

Weinstein’s trial will be a crucial moment not just for past sexual assault victims but also for future ones. When women wonder whether it is worth it to report their abusers to police and cooperate with lengthy investigations, they will look to the outcome of the Weinstein criminal trial.

Associated Press/Photo by Pavel Golovkin Associated Press/Photo by Pavel Golovkin Rapper Oxxxymiron performs in Moscow on Nov. 26

Rhyming for the motherland

In Russia, a burgeoning rap feud is underway, but not between dueling emcees. 

A government crackdown on contemporary music that officials claim promotes the wrong values has led to worsening fears about Soviet-era censorship and freedom of expression. In recent months, dozens of rappers have had their shows canceled, and at least three musicians have been detained.

Rap music has emerged as the nation’s most popular musical genre in recent years, and artists have angered authorities with their frank portrayals of daily life and mockery of the government.

President Vladimir Putin acknowledged last weekend that rap is “part of our common culture,” but he said its emphasis on “sex, drugs, and protest” merits governmental oversight. “If it is impossible to stop, then it is necessary to navigate and guide accordingly,” Putin said at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

Last week, the Russian parliament announced a counteractive measure: It is holding a rap song competition, but the songs must depict travel in Russia. The winner receives a trip around Russian cities. “We want to give a platform for open discussion and highlight the opportunities as well as drawbacks of this or that town,” said lawmaker Mikhail Degtyarev.

This measure comes after the arrest of a rapper known as Husky last month for an impromptu performance on top of a car after his show was canceled. His YouTube videos have garnered more than 6 million views, and footage of his arrest was widely circulated.

At a solidarity concert calling for Husky’s release, musician Oxxxymiron told a crowd of 3,000 people that rappers should not face blame for the modern world’s “darkness, debasement, drugs, guns … [rap is] just a reflection, not the root cause.”  —Mary Jackson

Associated Press/Reed Saxon Associated Press/Reed Saxon Director Ang Lee with the Oscar he won for Brokeback Mountain at the 2006 Academy Awards in Los Angeles

Moment in history

Brokeback Mountain, the 2005 Western film depicting a homosexual relationship between two cowboys with wives and children, was one of 25 films selected this year for induction into the Library of Congress National Film Registry. Now in its 30th year, the registry released its annual slate of inductees last week with movies spanning 107 years, including Steven Spielberg’s 1993 sci-fi blockbuster Jurassic Park, Disney’s 1950 animated classic Cinderella, and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror flick The Shining. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden praised the collection, now at a total of 750 films, as “cinematic treasures” with “cultural, historic, and aesthetic importance,” that merits preservation.

Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, one of the first mainstream homosexual romance movies to make it to the big screen, is now the most recently released movie in the registry. In a 2006 review, WORLD film critic Gene Edward Veith refuted claims that it presented a love story so sympathetic that it would win over conservatives to gay love, saying it was “too condescending to ordinary Americans and too anti-marriage to make … an impact.” It’s hard to know if it did much winning over, but LGBT rights have forged ahead in the last dozen years, and Lee seems to believe his film played a part. “I didn’t intend to make a statement with Brokeback Mountain,” Lee said during the induction, but noted the film struck a deep chord with audiences and “became a part of the culture.”—M.J.

Screens big and small, Hollywood loves them all

Contenders for the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced last week, with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s film A Star is Born leading with four nominations.

The musical drama was nominated for outstanding performance by a cast, leading actor (Cooper), leading actress (Gaga), and supporting actor (Sam Elliott). Historical dramedy The Favourite and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman each earned three nominations.

On the small screen, Netflix’s Ozark and Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel each picked up four nominations, and several co-stars from the same shows, like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie, are competing in categories against each other.

The awards ceremony will air on Jan. 27. —M.J.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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