Miramax movie moment #1

As I wrote Friday, things are looking bad for the studio founded by the Weinstein brothers, which is now officially being sold Disney. So, consider this the start of an online mini-wake for the greatest of the mini-majors.

  

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RIP Miramax

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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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It’s your end of week movie news dump…

And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

* Champion poker player Chris Ferguson is making movies, writes Mike Fleming. He’s probably as well prepared for the business as anyone could be.

* I can’t help but think that this Anne Thompson item about two sets of brothers bidding for Miramax — one pair of them being Mira and Max’s sons, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, and the other being the wealthy Tom and Alec Gores — is somehow related to an odd claim by actor Michael Madsen. In a radio interview, the voluble and consistently amusing Madsen stated that Quentin Tarantino‘s long shelved concept for a combined “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs” prequel about his and John Travolta‘s characters has been revived. How? Well, it will now be a sequel and…well, you have to go over to Peter Hall’s post at Cinematical, but it also involves two pairs of siblings.

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Do I buy this? Well, it does sounds like Tarantino in that it’s kind of a doubling up of a gimmick used by a favorite director of his to overcome a similar sequel obstacle.  (If anyone out there has seen John Woo’s great 1980’s Hong Kong pistol operas, “A Better Tomorrow” and “A Better Tomorrow II,” they’ll know what I’m getting at.) Still, the whole thing has a shaggy dog story vibe to it that I suspect means we’ll never, ever see a “Vega Brothers” movie of any sort. I also get the vague feeling that it’s just possible Mr. Madsen and/or Tarantino is having us all on, as the Brits say. Still, I’m sure Mr. Tarantino’s trips to Tijuana can have a way of stimulating the imagination.

* Anne Thompson also brings up a very real issue that we Angelenos will recognize regarding the move of the Los Angeles Film Festival to Downtown L.A. L.A.’s downtown is in the middle of, I guess, a rebirth of sorts, but the issues associated with setting it there are legion. We’ll start with the exorbitant cost of parking.

* The porno “Big Lebowski” is upon us. Great production values for porn but, otherwise, I can’t say the (sex free) trailer looks in any way “good,” though I guess Tom Byron does qualify as the Jeff Bridges of the porn world. (Ron Jeremy is it’s Pacino/De Niro, I suppose.) Also, spoofs of comedies almost never work. Still, kind of gives a whole new meaning to “Achievers.”

* I’ve never heard anyone say they miss Michael Ovitz and his noxious effect on Hollywood back in the eighties and nineties. However, Nikki Finke’s lingering venom towards him fifteen years after his departure from the scene is utterly pointless.

* Could it be? An Asian-American comic headlining his own comedy and his character is named neither “Harold” nor “Kumar”? Yes, maybe. The very funny Indian-American stand-up/actor Aziz Ansari, who first came on my radar screen championing the cause of movie consumer rights, could be in the new comedy from “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer, writes Jeff Schneider of the Wrap.

* RIP Meinhart Raabe who has passed on at age 94. He was the Coroner of Munchkin City, so I’m not sure who’ll confirm his passing. (I’m so sorry for that, really, but I’m sure the late Mr. Raabe had a sense of humor about that kind of thing, assuming that what I wrote qualifies as something resembling humor.)

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Some not very newsy awards news (updated)

The Writers Guild and the Sound Editors gave out their awards last night and it’s safe to say that, winners aside, no one’s world was too terribly rocked.

Journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal was rewarded for his hard-earned real-world experience as an embedded reporter with a Best Original Screenplay nod for “The Hurt Locker.” In another completely unsurprising award, the well-liked and respected Jason Reitman was similarly rewarded for his critically acclaimed work on the adult-aimed topical comedy, “Up in the Air.” The documentary category wasn’t much of a surprise either, with the muckraking “The Cove” picking up yet another award.

This isn’t quite on the level of a statistical study, but it’s worth noting that, for the last couple of years at least, the WGA awards and the Oscars have been lining up 100% in the writing categories, so Oscar betters should take note.  This is a bit of a blow to any fans of Quentin Tarantino“Pulp Fiction” screenplay and the writers tend to be a bit more openminded about offbeat films than Oscar voters as a whole. who might have been hoping for some Oscar wins, as Best Original Screenplay has been “his” category in the sense that his only Oscar win so far has been for his

Still, older and/or less geeky fans of old-school post-war (as in WWII) realism are likely impressed by the real-life underpinnings of Boal’s work and Kathryn Bigelow’s film is just edgy enough, while not marred in the minds of some by being a “fun” war movie, and “Inglourious Basterds” is definitely fun. It’s also controversial to some degree, perhaps not the best combination if all you want out of a movie is award wins.

James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy in In the adapted screenplay category, I personally wouldn’t have minded seeing the award go to the brilliant and scabrous “In the Loop,” but that film was less widely seen and it’s humor might be bit too nasty (in a good, cleansing way) and British for some.

[UPDATE: Aren’t you people supposed to correct me when I write complete nonsense? If I had bothered to check a bit more carefully this morning before I wrote this, I would have noted/remembered that “Basterds” was not nominated for a Writers Guild award and therefore might have somewhat better Oscar screenplay chances than I initially thought. The same applies to “In the Loop.” These scripts were not eligible under the WGA’s rather arcane rules which also disqualified such worthy films as “An Education.” If you’re curious about the reasons why, Steve Pond, via Anne Thompson, had a partial explanation back in January. Anyhow, thanks to Anne Thompson, whose post on this showed me the error of my ways, or whatever. We now resume our regularly scheduled blog post.]

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“Inglourious Basterds” DVD launch: A less deadly Operation Kino kicks some Nazi ass

So, while I was procrastinating conducting in-depth research for this post, covering a promotional screening for the rather glorious “Inglourious Basterds,” I found myself going over numerous reviews and think pieces. One piece for a very respectable and staid looking website started out normally enough but, while praising “Pulp Fiction” and other older films in the Quentin Tarantino catalogue, it quickly became unusually vicious. Tarantino is a filmmaker who has a special gift for generating a certain degree of critical anger, the cinephile hubbub kicked up by critic and film historian Jonathan Rosenbaum over the film’s non-portrayal of the Holocaust being one prominent example, but this was different.

As I noted the attention this particular review seemed to be paying to the ancestry of the cast, crew, and characters, I realized that the hate was not over anything so conventional as concerns that “Basterds” might be trivializing the Holocaust or World War II. I was reading a “white nationalist” web site. Yes, even more than some overly sensitive liberals, Nazis hate “Inglourious Basterds.” Considering it’s a movie in which a bunch of Jews, a part Cherokee good ol’ boy lieutenant, an African-French projectionist, a traitorous movie star, and a few odd others defeat the Third Reich in a painful and fiery manner, displeasing Nazis is kind of the whole idea.

IB Cast LR

Certainly, no one was feeling conciliatory towards facists or racists of any stripe as a good portion of the “Basterds” cast and crew turned up at the last of L.A.’s revival houses, the legendary New Beverly Cinema, to celebrate the DVD/Blu-Ray release of the the award-winning, genre-blending war flick. Indeed, as neighbors from the heavily Hasidic West Hollywood-adjacent neighborhood ignored the commotion, a few of us less observant entertainment scribes got the chance to talk to a select group of not-quite superstar basterds, including players in two of the more acclaimed sitcoms of all time, a personable musician and Tarantino-buddy turned actor, and a passionate producer who is not about to let any conservative climate deniers take away his Oscar…but that’s all ahead.

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