Posted by: ckckred | February 16, 2012

Harvey Weinstein: The Oscar Man

It’s come to a time where Harvey Weinstein knows the Oscars better than the Oscars do themselves.  Only about a few years ago Weinstein lost control of his crown jewel Miramax, yet he managed to get back on his feet.  Weinstein is the master of Oscar campaigning, and gave way to victories for small films like Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech, which he managed to turn into a blockbuster (it got over $100 million domestically).  And by the looks of it The Artist is going to reign on Oscar night.

My opinion on Weinstein is that I greatly admire him while dislike him at the same time.  How?  Well, I admire the films that have run under both The Weinstein Company and Miramax (I’d be a fool not to, and I loved this year’s The Artist).  And Weinstein has a great method of taking in small indies or foreign films and putting them into America, which before him no one had ever done before.  His method gave great attention to films that may have been ignored by audience.  I mean if Weinstein weren’t there, what would have been the chances of The Artist or The King’s Speech being the frontrunners of the Oscars.

On the other hand, he turned the Oscars into a campaigning game more than of the shouts of critics.  In 1998, he launched a full on campaign for Shakespeare in Love, a romantic comedy that was good but no way deserving for Best Picture.  It resulted in a victory for Shakespeare in Love over the presumed (and far more deserving) winner Saving Private Ryan, which is, in my opinion, the greatest war film ever made.  Weinstein also led to dirty campaigning for the award shows.  Case in point: in 2002, Robert Wise said he liked Gangs of New York, a Martin Scorsese film Weinstein produced.  Soon Weinstein pulled out a full ad saying, “Robert Wise says Gangs of New York should win Best Picture”, causing great controversy at the Oscars.  He has robbed great filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and David Fincher of the golden award, and caused some of the greatest upsets in Academy history.

Your opinion on Weinstein may be different than mine, but I have to admit he is the best in touch with the awards show.  Last year, The Social Network was sweeping most critic and award shows, until Weinstein’s ad campaign for The King’s Speech turned the race around.  All of the sudden, the battle turned against The Social Network as The King’s Speech won at the SAG, the DGA, and eventually the Oscars.

This year has a similar sound to it.  Months before the Oscars, award analysts predicted The Descendants was going to be the winner of Best Picture.  But Weinstein had masterfully campaigned for The Artist and played in select cities, where critics cheered with praise and many anointed as their best film of 2011, and eventually spread it out for more viewers.  Award shows picked by critics started splitting between The Artist and The Descendants (though mostly favoring The Artist) and even managed to pull off wins that surprised everyone.  Jean Dujardin, the star of The Artist, took home the SAG and BAFTA for Best Actor, an award everyone thought would go to George Clooney of The Descendants.  Now Weinstein changed the ads of The Artist in newspapers of a picture of the entire cast to just one of Dujardin.

If Dujardin can pull off a win at the Oscars, it would be Weinstein’s ultimate achievement.  Dujardin, a French Actor not really well known here in America, is favored ahead of George Clooney, whom Time Magazine anointed as the last great movie star, for Best Actor.  It would mean the fall of studio and stardom at the Oscars and the rise of indies, which has started ever since The English Patient won Best Picture.  This is not a bad thing and I wouldn’t hate it (I judge movies by quality, not by big names), but would unbalance the idea of Hollywood from Day 1 that stars had the biggest and ultimate power in the movie industry.  Weinstein may have set off the biggest game changer in film history.  And that’s something to be looked upon.

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