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Amid Weinstein scandal fallout, film academy president pledges the group will support the 'vulnerable'

John Bailey, cinematographer and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images)
John Bailey, cinematographer and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images)

On Tuesday, just days after the film academy expelled disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein from its ranks, academy President John Bailey emailed the group's more than 8,000 members to reinforce the organization's support of the battle against sexual harassment.

In its statement kicking Weinstein out of the group in the wake of allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him, the academy's board said that it was working to establish "ethical standards of conduct" for all members.

To many, that immediately raised questions about whether other members who've been charged with sexual misconduct, such as Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski, might also be purged.

In his email to members, Bailey, who is a respected cinematographer, did not address those questions head-on but suggested that the academy "cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court." 

Rather, he wrote, "We can be a part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior, and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers."

What form that "larger initiative" might take remains to be seen. But at Elle magazine's Women in Hollywood event Monday night, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who is a member of the academy's board of governors, said that she has asked her fellow board members to take steps toward creating a commission that would be "charged with the task of developing new, industrywide protections against sexual harassment and abuse."

Read Bailey's entire letter below:

In the Matter of H. Weinstein... and Beyond

Dear Fellow Academy Members,

Danish director Carl Dreyer's 1928 film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is not only one of the visual landmarks of the silent era, but is a deeply disturbing portrait of a young woman's persecution in the face of the male judges and priests of the ruling order. The actress Maria Falconetti gave one of the most profoundly affecting performances in the history of cinema as the Maid of Orleans.

Since the decision of the Academy's Board of Governors on Saturday October 14 to expel producer Harvey Weinstein from its membership, I have been haunted not only by the recurring image of Falconetti and the sad arc of her career (dying in Argentina in 1946, reputedly from a crash diet) but of Joan's refusal to submit to an auto de fe recantation of her beliefs.

Recent public testimonies by some of filmdom's most recognized women regarding sexual intimidation, predation, and physical force is, clearly, a turning point in the film industry— and hopefully in our country, where what happens in the world of movies becomes a marker of societal Zeitgeist. Their decision to stand up against a powerful, abusive male not only parallels the cinema courage of Falconetti's Joan but gives all women courage to speak up.

After Saturday's Board of Governors meeting, the Academy issued a passionately worded statement, expressing not only our concern about harassment in the film industry, but our intention to be a strong voice in changing the culture of sexual exploitation in the movie business, already common well before the founding of the Academy 90 years ago.

It is up to all of us Academy members to more clearly define for ourselves the parameters of proper conduct, of sexual equality, and respect for our fellow artists throughout industry. The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court, but we can be a part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior, and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.

Yours,

John

Academy President

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