Once upon a time, Harvey Weinstein and Mirimax, the company he started with his brother Bob and named after their parents, was as powerful a name in the movie industry as any. First as the premiere indie film label and then as a major studio with a seemingly golden Oscar touch. Many didn’t like Harvey’s heavy-handed methods, but few could resist them. A falling out with parent company Disney and a move to his own company with Bob led to the creation of the aptly named shingle The Weinstein Company, and Harvey was only suppose to be moving onward and upward. The power slipped away though without the money, and the brothers were unable to match their original creativity, but then a funny thing happened; Harvey seemingly snapped out of a funk and became Harvey Weinstein again. Now, TWC resembles Mirimax in many ways, and Harvey is again, catnip to Academy members. He’s won back to back Best Picture Oscars, and he’s got a trio of strong potential contenders again this year in ‘Django Unchained’, ‘The Master’, and ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’, plus other films like ‘The Grandmasters’, ‘Killing Them Softly’, ‘Lawless’, and ‘Quartet’ (not to mention James Gray’s currently untitled period piece formerly known as ‘Low Life’, which is now coming out in 2013), each with the possibility of awards in their future. In short, Harvey is back, and possibly better than ever…
It wasn’t always like this. For a time, it appeared that Harvey Weinstein had changed forever and the man who built Mirimax was more interested in politics than movies. He’s still a political junkie (and actually guest hosted for Piers Morgan on his CNN show and had Bill Clinton as his guest, so he’s as active as ever in the field), but his quest for Oscar glory and the fire in his belly has again been stoked. Just look at how he handled the recent NC-17 rating for ‘Blue Valentine’ and the R rating for ‘Bully’. That was vintage Harvey.
Basically, if you look at the output of The Weinstein Company, you can see when Harvey got back into really being the Harvey we all know and (some of us) love. It was 2 years ago, and he was able to push ‘Blue Valentine’, ‘The Fighter’, and ‘The King’s Speech’ to Oscar nods, with the latter two being real big players, of course. The way he handled these was much more in line with how he handled things like ‘Clerks’ (and most Kevin Smith movies, even if they never got any Oscar love), ‘The English Patient’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Shakespeare in Love’, and other success stories, as opposed to things like ‘Derailed’, ‘The Great Debaters’, ‘The Libertine’, and plenty more films that, despite sometimes being excellent, seemed to have been released without any real care (just look at the list of the films The Weinstein Company has put out. An inordinate number of them wound up with only token releases and had to find their second lives and audience on Blu-Ray and DVD). The Best Picture win for ‘The King’s Speech’ really set him off, and it led to his masterful work last year.
Even if you’re like me and don’t especially love ‘The Artist’, you just have to tip your hat to how Harvey Weinstein handled the campaign. Even as far as the late summer/early fall, I was hearing from a few different Academy members that “Harvey has a real winner this year.” He gets you talking about the movie and anticipating success even before the flick comes out. That’s the mark of when Weinstein is on. Kevin Smith has more than once spoken (in his podcasts) of the first bit of advice he ever received from the man (and also wrote about it in his recent book). It was right after Mirimax had bought ‘Clerks’, and Smith was in Weinstein’s office along with his producer Scott Mosier. Harvey told him “the movie doesn’t begin and end when the audience gets into the theater, that’s what you gotta understand. If you’re good at your job, the movie begins for them long before they leave their houses, and if you’re a magician, the movie never ends, even when the credits roll…it just keeps going”. That may not be a piece of advice that’s exclusive to Weinstein, but it really summarizes what he does so well. He makes a narrative out of a release that’s not just about the film, but about as many different things as possible. Harvey Weinstein is a showman, not just a film mogul.
As previously mentioned, this year could be another strong one for Weinstein. In fact, after back to back Best Picture wins for TWC, he’s going for a three-peat. His best chance appears to be with ‘The Master’, but don’t count out ‘Django Unchained’ just yet, and there’s always the possibility that he Harvey could pick up an Oscar player at Venice, Telluride, or Toronto. Time will tell, but I think it’s silly to bet against him at this point.
The types of movies being handled by The Weinstein Company haven’t changed that much over the years, but I think the return of the old Harvey has given him some important perspective and possibly made him the best possible version of himself to date, which benefits the flicks and has led to this recent run of success. You hear a lot less about his rage, and more about his films, which is how it should be. He’ll always be a divisive figure, but when he’s on, it leads to the release of some very interesting films. I’m more than happy to take him as is, as long as the care he’s again giving to distribution stays in play. Yes, books like ‘Down and Dirty Pictures’ may not paint a flattering portrait of the man at times, but really…who cares? As long as The Weinstein Company puts out quality cinema (with this year being an especially promising one), I’m going to be glad to have Harvey around.
Let’s end this on an interesting note. What do you all think of Harvey Weinstein? Will his company take Best Picture for a third year in a row? Even just simply…what’s your favorite Mirimax film? The Weinstein Company film? Whatever you want to talk about, the floor is yours!
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!
Tags: Bob Weinstein, Django Unchained, Harvey Weinstein, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Oscar hopefuls, the artist, The King's Speech, The Master, The Silver Linings Playbook, the weinstein company