RIP Miramax

miramax

It’s always a tricky business to declare the death of any company before all the deals are really done, but if it’s final enough for Anne Thompson, I’m loathe to disagree that the studio founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and named after their parents, Mira and Max, is winding up on a financial ash-heap.

The Weinsteins are not just any producers and Miramax was not just any company. For good and for ill — not all their movies were great by any means, a few I even hated (don’t get me started on “Chocolate”)  — they were and are throwbacks to the moguls of the past. They make decisions in a mercurial, seat of the pants way that always seems to generally produce better material than the cool logic of an MBA, which may be safer but rarely produces the kind of movie that really blows anyone’s mind. You don’t produce a “Pulp Fiction” by thinking like a marketing major, you produce it by thinking like a showman.

As I understand it, Disney wanted a certain amount of cash for the 700 or so titles in the company’s library, and they got it from a construction magnate with apparent close ties to the least trusted and most widely disliked person in an industry with a high quotient of untrustworthy and unlikable people. Disney has done a lot of things right over the years and they’ve done a lot of things wrong, I make no claims to being able to really look inside this as a business decision, but this certainly feels wrong. The film studio that launched some of the greatest behind-the camera talents around, including Quentin Tarantino, Alexander Payne, Jane Campion, Anthony Minghella, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh and even (in the U.S. market) Hiyao Miyazaki, among many others, deserves better.

For more, I definitely suggest you read the Anne Thompson piece I linked to above, and check out her links as well. Wikipedia has a partial and awe-inspiring list of films made and released by the company.

And now, your moment of Miramax.

  

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”

If you’re not already familiar with Alexander McCall Smith’s series of books about a female private detective in Botswana, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that HBO’s “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” was some sort of premium-cable equivalent of ABC’s defunct “Women’s Murder Club.” It’s actually a rich look into modern day African culture that has as much to do with spotlighting the gorgeous landscape and establishing the personalities and quirks of its characters as it does with solving a mystery.

Fans of McCall Smith’s novels were chomping at the bit to see who would be cast to play the novel’s central figure, Mma Precious Ramotswe. The slightly surprising victor: Jill Scott, a woman known far more for her work as a singer than as an actress. It must be said, however, that Scott does a great job in the role, offering the appropriate notes of both humor and drama throughout the production. For his part, however, McCall Smith couldn’t say whether or not she truly fit his idea of what Precious would look like, if only because it’s something to which he ever gave any thought.

“As a writer, curiously enough — and people sometimes don’t believe me when I say this — but I don’t actually see my characters,” said McCall Smith. “I hear them, but I didn’t have a picture of what Mma Ramotswe would look like. So when Jill came along, I said, ‘That’s fine. That’s perfectly all right by me.’ And indeed, I think you have certainly given me a picture of my characters which I didn’t have before. But when I actually write, I don’t see people. I just hear things. And I see a countryside, but I don’t actually see the characters, which is a strange thing. So that was fine. I thought they were just right.”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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