We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog to note the passing of an giant of the entertainment industry. Like so many who die too soon and too young, the full impact of their death cannot be immediately measured.
Miramax Films died January 27, 2010. The film company named by Harvey and Bob Weinstein after their parents, Miriam and Max, was laid to rest by it’s new owners/masters, The Disney Company after a long illness. Miramax was 31 years old.
Whether or not you know it or not, you probably enjoyed at least one Miramax film.
A lot of people didn’t like Harvey Weinstein, the mastermind behind Miramax, but his films were both popular and made lots of money. Don’t believe me. Try this list on for size: No Country For Old Men, Pulp Fiction, Clerks, The Piano, The English Patient, There Will Be Blood, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Chicago, The Queen, Reservoir Dogs, Trainspotting, The Crying Game, Sling Blade, Shakespeare In Love and My Left Foot. My favorite film of the last decade, City of God, was a Miramax import. Once upon a time the Weinstein Brothers built the little art house that could and it went on to become the darling of the “best of” list of critics everywhere and collect Academy Awards by the bus load.
Which doesn’t mean it was all about art. Miramax also released such cheesy classics as Hellraiser: Bloodline and Pokemon 4Ever.
You can credit or blame the Weinsteins for kick starting the careers of Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith or travesties such as Shakespeare In Love beating out Saving Private Ryan for the Best Picture Oscar. Smith, a guy who got lucky with an over glorified student film, Clerks, blogged a brief condolence for the end of Miramax films:
I was never a brand-name whore in my life, except when it came to indie film. And from the moment I knew I wanted to be in film, there was one label I wanted on my ass: Miramax…I’m crushed to see it pass into history, because I owe everything I have to Miramax. Without them, I’d still be a New Jersey convenience store register jockey. In practice, not just in my head.
What killed Miramax? Oh, the usual things. Ego, greed, hubris, and a lot of lousy movies nobody went to see like the 2009 releases of Everybody’s Fine, The Boys Are Back, and Extract that played to empty theaters and hastened the end of the company. Mostly it was Diseny’s disinterest in the kind of smaller, character-driven films that won Miramax both acclaim and notoriety. The Weinsteins sold Miramax to Disney for $70 million and after disputes with Disney CEO Michael Eisner over economic and creative control issues, the due bailed to start The Weinstein Company which has not been able to repeat the success of Miramax.
Every film studio releases its share of dogs and Miramax produced their share, but taken as a whole, there’s a body of work there that we won’t soon see repeated in a Hollywood that celebrates cash cow sequels and reboots over edgy, original and risk-taking films.
In lieu of flowers, friends should watch a Quentin Tarantino movie instead.