By Miscellaneous | | January 28, 2010 |
By Miscellaneous | | January 28, 2010 |
Is it wrong that I’m more upset about the death of Miramax Films than of J.D. Salinger? The latter was just a reclusive author (of at least one novel I hated) who hasn’t written in years anyway. The former was an independent film distributor that was releasing films as recently as December. (And as someone reminded me today in response to the news, these days there’s not much difference between a corporation and a person.)
Miramax was nearly as old as me, and it matured about the same time that I did, in the mid-90s. I feel like we grew up together. But like me, it hadn’t done much of significance in the last few years. I fear now that I too will be put to sleep, at least until Harvey Weinstein tries to give me mouth to mouth and save me.
Indeed Harv and his brother, Bob, are looking to now
save rebuy the company, at least in brand, partly because it was named for their parents and partly because they haven’t had a whole lot of luck since separating from Miramax/Disney. Some people think it’d be a bad investment. I think Disney should just hand it back to the guys, as long as they’re not going to use it.
And then indie film will be good again. I can’t wait.
Here are some other obits about the death of Miramax:
The closure will put 80 people out of their jobs, and your Pulp Fiction and Clerks DVDs will stop working by the end of the week. Truly, the end of an era, and of course it happens the day after I finish writing a film with lot of really clever dialogue that may be too edgy for mainstream audiences.
They were kind of easy to poke fun of, especially after Disney bought them in 1993 - Harvey’s personality rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and at a certain point Miramax seemed to stop being about putting out great movies and more about winning Oscars. The Weinstein’s business model of “buying” Oscars for smaller, quality films spawned a whole cottage industry of mini-majors as the big studios sought to replicate Miramax’s success.
The landscape of both independent cinema and the awards race were completely changed. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a dead end and Miramax appears to be the latest victim of the revolution it started.
Sure, there is something very Hannibal Lechter about the idea of appreciating just how important Miramax was to the film industry. Charming, brilliant, and as likely as not to eat your liver with a glass of Chianti and some fava beans… and some M&MS for dessert. But they didn’t actually kill anyone. And they did actually change the industry in many great ways, whether it was their intention or not.
Rumours of the Weinsteins’ bullying tactics and hard demeanor were rife, but they certainly seemed to have a keen eye for talent and an understanding of how to channel that into success.
The studio did many things that were infuriating, notably when dealing with Asian films that were heavily recut or simply shelved, but there’s no question that the last thirty years of cinema would be very different without Miramax.
A time when kids like Kevin Smith and little Matty Damon could plant their flag on Hollywood’s dusty foothills, borne up on the shoulders of the great Weinstein boys. Sure there are far better indie houses these days — the elegant and tasteful Focus Features springs to mind — but Miramax was where it all began. And for that we say thank you.
Today, the indie world and the film world at large lost a giant in the field, watching Disney close the doors and turn the lights off on Miramax. As sad a day like today is, and as uncertain as the future is, we can still hold on to the memories. Most of them are now on Blu-ray. Or at least Laser Disc (because we all own one).
Because we’re still at Sundance, I’ll also suggest reading Peter Biskind’s book Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film, which chronicles the early days of Miramax and its big acquisitions at Sundance, since the studio is responsible for introducing Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino to this world (you can buy the book on Amazon). It’ll be very sad to see Miramax shut down, however, this may make room for smarter and better indie distributors to strive in this industry.
It was only a matter of time until Disney pull the plug altogether. The lingering question: With Miramax gone—and the likes of Paramount Vantage and Warner Independent kaput, too—how much longer will the studio “indie” model be viable at all? Will the market be pre-1989 all over again? And will that be better or worse for the art of independent filmmaking?
So who fulfills that role now? The first company that came to mind was, er, the one resembling the masthead up there, which looks all kinds of suspicious, but I get my paychecks from a separate division. Sony Classics and Magnolia are also strong labels in terms of acquiring notable festival titles, as is former Picturehouse prexy Bob Berney’s Apparition, which seems to be on the same wavelength as Miramax in midstream, where they can pick up movies like “Bright Star” and have a production pipeline of films like “The Runaways.”
More than a name is dead. There are six movies waiting for distribution, three of which we’ve noted before.
The movies are said to be indefinitely shelved, or perhaps get a very limited release before going straight to video. But these aren’t simply little nothing sorts of projects. Last Night is a Keira Knightley-led movie about a married couple dealing with temptations to cheat, The Debt is a remake of an Israeli thriller with John Madden at the helm, and finally and most painfully: The Tempest. This is the Shakespeare adaptation I wrote about in October of 2008, which sex-changed Prospero into Helen Mirren, and included the likes of Jeremy Irons, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, and Geoffrey Rush. Oh yes, and it is Julie Taymor’s latest Shakespeare adaptation after the wonderful Titus. (Frak.)