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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Kinda midweekish movie news

Again, plenty to do so I’ll try to keep things efficient this evening as I go over a few stories. Some of them, I must admit, are left overs from last night. Still, just like the way cold chicken can be even better after sitting in the fridge, maybe this news will have improved slightly with time.

* If we can believe the Wall Street Journal, it appears that the Weinstein/Burkle deal to kinda-sort retake Miramax is off, writes Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical.  Since the company is actually named after the parents of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, I imagine this might hurt a little.

Dominic Cooper in * John Slattery of “Mad Men” was one of the more pleasant surprises of “Iron Man 2” as a middle-aged (actually long-deceased) Howard Stark. Now, we know who’ll be playing Stark as a young man in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” It’s Dominic Cooper, the male ingenue of “Mamma Mia,” whose other recent parts includes playing Uday Hussein, so he’s definitely running the gamut.

* Jesse Eisenberg, who had a rather good weekend with two films in limited release, is reteaming with his “Zombieland” director, Ruben Fleischer. The picture sounds like a pretty fun black comedy about a bizarre bank robbery. Aziz Ansari is also in the film as a middle-school teacher which, right off the bat makes me laugh.

* Sam Rockwell as…Joe Christ?

* There’s very little reason to expect the Paul W.S. Anderson 3-D version “The Three Musketeers” is going to be anywhere near one of the better versions of the oft-filmed adventure tale, but I actually like the idea of elf-to-punching-bag actor Orlando Bloom as a bad ass villain. I’ve missed most of his non-elven performances, so I’m not yet a Bloom-hater. Anyhow, it’s good for actors to stretch a bit.

*  I might have been tempted to run clips from the ongoing “Star Wars” spoofery going on at “The Family Guy” only I have this strange, yet deep, inner conviction that Seth MacFarlane should in no way be confused with someone who makes funny shows. The clip from a table read embedded on a  post by Geoff Boucher only strengthens that conviction. I seriously do not understand what those people are laughing at. I’ve asked this question before and have never received a good answer: is the “joke” of his shows that all the jokes are bad?

* If the movie adventures of young Jack London get more kids to actually read Jack London, I think that’ll be great. Confession time: I’ve only read The Sea Wolf. The movie, despite having Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, and Ida Lupino in it, didn’t begin to do it justice. Steling Hayden or Robert Ryan were the only men ever born to play the half-insane, ultra-macho, pseudo-intellectual control freak Wolf Larsen. Actually, Russell Crowe could not only play Wolf Larson, I suspect he is Wolf Larsen.

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Maximum Miramax

If you’ve been reading the various hard-news entertainment blogs and sites over the last few days, you’ve no doubt noticed the continuing drama of the sale by Disney of Miramax, the “mini-major” studio which once bridged the gap between indie and mainstream filmmaking. The studio was pretty much the creation of mogul brothers Harvey and  Bob Weinstein, who famous named it after their parents (Mira and Max Weinstein). Now, they may well be poised to reclaim the studio they once sold to Disney and ran for them, before leaving to start The Weinstein Company in 2005.

You also may have noticed Nikki Finke’s attempts to lay claim to the latest on the story and crudely and not very convincingly bash her competitors. THR writers Elizabeth Guilder and the man I always call “Jolly Carl DiOrio” may have been guilty of jumping the gun or overstating the case a bit since the negotiations do appear to be ongoing. Also, I didn’t get the e-mail alert of which she speaks and can only see the story I linked to, which duly notes Disney’s denial of the apparent scoop. However, right now it sure looks to me like they got the story essentially right  and it’s not like La Finke has never slightly overstated things on a news story herself — though she does get some very good, detailed inside dope, there’s no doubt of that. To Finke’s credit, she has left up the offending piece and not tried to hide the evidence of her being the mean girl much of her audience, but not me, wants her to be.

Anyhow, at a time like this, it might be appropriate to consider the compelling admixture of quality, marketing, and occasional appeals to a certain kind of middle-brow film snobbery that highlighted Miramax, courtesy of Mad TV, who bring you the ultimate Miramax trailer from the day.

  

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Your post-Good Friday movie news dump

A few remaining items worth mentioning this late evening/early morn…

* RIP John Forsythe. The watchably stolid actor with a nice touch at both melodrama and low-key comedy and a memorable voice passed away at 92 late Thursday. He worked a great deal on stage and in kept his hand in at the movies, but he’s did most of his work in multiple television series and, ironically, is probably best known today as the disembodied voice of Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels.” Still, he was a strong presence in a number of notable movies, including playing opposite a very young and very adorable Shirley Maclaine in Alfred Hitchcock‘s black comedy, “The Trouble with Harry” and as a vicious judge taunting a youngish but far less adorable Al Pacino in Norman Jewison’s “And Justice for All…” He also dealt with a murderous Robert Blake in “In Cold Blood” and fended off a nasty, nasty Ann Margaret in, yes, “Kitten with a Whip.”

* Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg — the Jewish-American twosome who struck a blow for the depiction of Asian-Americans as actual human beings, albeit hilariously stoned ones, by creating “Harold and Kumar” — are set to reboot the “American Pie” franchise with a film that is also a sequel. Also, the third go-round with ‘Roldy and Kumar is in motion, even if Kal Penn is currently employed outside of Hollywood. I mean, good roles for Asian American males should not so rare that they are all forced to go to work at the White House.

* The lovely and talented Emily Blunt will not be romancing “Captain America,” according to the Playlist’s Edward Davis. I’m not sure why he’s so convinced it won’t be a very good movie except for the fact that, of course, most movies aren’t very good and the bigger the budget, the more often that turns out to be true. But even so, I don’t quite get it.

On the other hand, I completely agree with the premise of another post by Davis: Yes, the thought of Tom Cruise uglying himself up in a major way to play Phil Spector really does have some demented genius to it. I’m not Cruise’s biggest fan but, well cast, he can be brilliant and playing lunatics seems to work for him. I have no idea why that might be the case.

And, yes, I like a third Davis post about a long-delayed movie being labored over by Cameron Crowe about the equally great and equally demented Marvin Gaye. Re: casting, I’m rooting for Jesse L. Martin of “Law & Order” — a terrific actor and the physical resemblance is pretty eerie.

* Another comic book adaptation for Ryan Reynolds.

* Don’cha just hate it when a star and director team up, get plenty of compliments, and then just repeat themselves? Well, fresh off their mostly good reviews and general decent business on “Greenberg,” about the personal travails of a bitter forty-something musician-cum-carpenter,  the two are simply rehashing the same basic premise with “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” Oh, wait…

* From a couple of days back, Anne Thompson nicely summarizes the spreading conventional movie-geek wisdom on the making and consumption of 3-D films. Shorter version: really, not every movie should be in it, it’s worth a little extra to see movies actually shot in 3-D in 3-D, but the conversions from 2-D to 3-D are pretty much best ignored and may even end up ruining the fun.

* Sharon Waxman writes that a mystery bidder has entered the fray to purchase the studio original named for the Weinsteins’s parents, Mira and Max. Could it be Harvey and Bob W.’s long lost older brother, Mogul X, who fled in shame after his first producing effort sold exactly three tickets at Sundance, and vowed only to return only after he had become the world’s greatest movie executive? It’s a thought.

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Friday movie news dump: the first Salinger movie, the Sundance beat goes on, etc.

Hey folks. I’ve got a relatively limited amount of time today and, just to add to the drama, the usually excellent free wi-fi at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf slowed down today to a relative crawl for a time while I was researching this. Let’s see how much I can cover.

* Just as I was ready to wrap things up, we have a breaking story. As I sorta alluded to yesterday regarding J.D. Salinger, it’s inevitable his death will pave the way for some new films. It turns out I was, if anything, way behind the curve. Working screenwriter Shane Salerno — whose work, like the planned James Cameron-produced “Fantastic Voyage” remake, bends toward the geek — has been working on a documentary about the writer who became almost as famous for his escape from the public eye as for his actual work, and it’s apparently nearly completed. Mike Fleming has not only broken the news of the formerly under-wraps project, he’s seen most of the movie

* Of course, Sundance continues slogging away, and word of acquisitions by film distributors have been making their way round the usual spots. Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez has news on the well-regarded “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. He also gives a quick nod to such other highish profile films as “The Tilman Story” (a documentary about the late Pat Tilman), “The Kids Are Alright” (not to be confused with the old rock-doc about the Who) and “Hesher,” a not very appealing sounding film that nevertheless has Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead. The “Valentine” sale is of particular interesting as it was the troubled Weinstein Company that picked it up. Coincidentally, the company named for Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s parents, Mira and Max, has gone on the block.

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