Would Movies Have Been Better Off Without Harvey Weinstein?
by Jason F. Koenigsberg Back in December of 2016, before all the allegations about Harvey Weinstein came out, I wrote an article about his best and worst contributions to […]
by Jason F. Koenigsberg Back in December of 2016, before all the allegations about Harvey Weinstein came out, I wrote an article about his best and worst contributions to […]
Back in December of 2016, before all the allegations about Harvey Weinstein came out, I wrote an article about his best and worst contributions to cinema under his Miramax banner. His unscrupulous method of campaigning for Oscars changed award ceremonies and resulted in many nominations and wins for his Miramax prestige pictures, some were very well deserved like Pulp Fiction (1994) and Good Will Hunting (1997) while others most certainly were not and have not stood the test of time twenty years later such as Best Picture winners The English Patient (1996) and Shakespeare in Love (1998).
We all know that dozens of women would have been much better off if Harvey Weinstein never existed. For about ten years he was one of the most powerful people in Hollywood as we have learned that he sabotaged many young beautiful actresses careers for not being cooperative with his slimy sexual advances. A-listers such as Mira Sorvino, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, Rose McGowan, and many others have come out and shared their grief that he was their personal demon. But I am proposing, what if he never reached that point? What if his career started and stopped in the 1980’s as a writer/producer of the cult slasher film The Burning (1981) and ended with obtaining US distribution rights to My Left Foot (1989) a UK production that brought Daniel Day-Lewis his first Academy Award for Best Actor and helped launch his career as one of Hollywoods most elusive and sought after leading men. Between 1992 and 2002 Miramax studios had at least one Best Picture nominee every single year. A streak that is particularly remarkable by todays standards considering there were only five Best Picture nominees during each of those years.
The streak ended in 2003 with Cold Mountain. Even though Cold Mountain was the Miramax prestige picture of 2003 it failed to earn a Best Picture nomination, however Miramax co-produced Master and Commander with Fox and that earned a Best Picture nomination so their Best Picture streak was still technically alive. But soon after Miramax parted ways with Disney/Buena Vista which long supported and helped distribute their films in theaters and on home video. Harvey Weinstein with his brother Bob formed the now recently defunct Weinstein Company label which had its own degree of success with Academy Award winning titles such as The Queen (2006), Best Picture Winner No Country for Old Men (2007), and Django Unchained (2012). But their real glory period when they had the most power came throughout the majority of the 90’s and early 2000’s when the Miramax Best Picture streak was alive. So much so to the point that it became expected to see one of their titles read the morning the nominees were announced.
They also had a reputation of butchering a directors vision on their non-awards bait films based on test screenings. Just ask recent Best Director winner Guillermo del Toro about his experience working with Harvey Weinstein on Mimic (1997) and he once described it as being more heartbreaking than when his parents were kidnapped in Mexico because at least he understood the kidnappers motivation. He earned the nickname in some circles as Harvey Scissorhands because he would cut the films the way he wanted and squander the directors vision. Under their Dimension label also in partnership with Disney and Buena Vista, the original cuts of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), The Crow: City of Angels (1996), and Reindeer Games (2000) were all butchered by Harvey Weinstein during post production and denounced by their directors. The results for most of those films were turned into mediocre action films some of which with plots borderline incomprehensible.
So now we are going to take a look back at all of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees during the ten year period of 1992-2002 when Miramax was one of the most important studios and when Harvey Weinstein was at his peak as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Let us see if we would be better off without the films Miramax heralded and what other pictures could or should have replaced them as Best Picture nominees. The Miramax film is underlined, the Best Picture Winner has an * next to it.
The Crying Game was the Weinstein contribution to the Academy Awards that started their Oscars hot streak. Personally I was never a fan of the film which is well acted and created a tense mood when it needed to. Early on the atmosphere worked but then turned into a film that relied on a twist for shock value as much as any M. Night Shyamalan picture. Plus it ripped off the ending of Sleepaway Camp (1983). Since the Weinstein’s got started making horror movies, they surely were aware of this.
The best movie of 1992 not nominated for Best Picture was Malcolm X starring Denzel Washington as the Civil Rights leader and was directed by Spike Lee. However as great as Malcolm X was the Hollywood community was much more racist and the Academy voters were far more narrow-minded than they are today so it is highly unlikely that film would have made the cut for Best Picture with its only other nomination being Best Actor for Denzel Washington. A more likely answer would be Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the romantic action packed historical drama. Even though The Player earned the legendary Robert Altman a Best Director nomination, Last of the Mohicans most likely would have taken that fifth slot and become Michael Mann’s first Best Picture nominee.
The Crying Game did temporarily boost the careers for its writer/director Neil Jordan and stars Stephen Rea and Miranda Richardson. But after a few years their careers would end up back where they were prior to the attention they all earned from The Crying Game, so since Last of the Mohicans is a better film, yes we would have been much better off if The Crying Game was not the controversial thriller de jour for the Academy to adore in 1992.
The Piano was a beautiful, intricately detailed historical romance taking place in 1850’s New Zealand. It was ahead of its time because writer/director Jane Campion became only the second woman to earn a Best Director nomination. She would win for her original screenplay and she certainly deserved it as well as Holly Hunter and a young Anna Paquin winning Best Actress and Supporting Actress respectively.
The Academy that year was all about Spielberg finally winning Best Picture and Director for Schindler’s List and taking home nine Oscars by the end of the night. Whatever other film was nominated to replace The Piano would not have mattered since it would lose rightfully so to Spielberg’s Holocaust drama. From looking at the nominees I think it would have been Martin Scorsese’s costume drama The Age of Innocence, since it earned a lot of other nominations although I would have much preferred to see Robert Altman’s Short Cuts make the cut for Best Picture. It is arguably the directors greatest film and one of the best ensemble dramas in cinema history.
Not if it was The Age of Innocence, Possibly if it was Short Cuts so more people would have seen that outstanding three hour plus drama. The Piano is a fine film and deserved its recognition that year.
This is the year that put Miramax on the map. A game changer for cinema and announced Quentin Tarantino as the leader for the next generation of filmmakers to emerge from the 90’s. Pulp Fiction losing to Forrest Gump is still often regarded as one of the Academy’s biggest blunders of all time.
I would have loved to have seen Ed Wood or Nobody’s Fool earn a Best Picture nomination but judging by the nominees in other categories I think that the Oscar voters would have replaced Pulp Fiction with Bullets Over Broadway written and directed by Woody Allen, another man of questionable moral values in recent years but wait, his Bullets Over Broadway was produced and released through Miramax, so it would have to be The Madness of King George, a typical Oscar film that earned enough nominations in other big categories to warrant a Best Picture spot.
No way! As good as The Madness of King George is, it is your regular Awards bait release of November/December. In fact it is more like the type of picture that Miramax would usually release. Whereas Pulp Fiction is one of the best and most influential movies of its time. Without it John Travolta would not have had his incredible career comeback with a slew of big hits in the late 90’s, Samuel L. Jackson might still be a struggling actor and not a household name and one of the biggest box office stars of all time. Uma Thurman, although she suffered sexual assault and harassment from Harvey Weinstein did end up having a career collecting huge paychecks for major motion pictures for the next ten years or so. And the world would have been deprived of Quentin Tarantino and his films which are some of the most innovative of all time. Plus none of the Tarantino rip offs that Pulp Fiction spawned which are some great films on their own such as Get Shorty (1995) which also starred John Travolta, along with Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (1998), and even David O. Russell’s screenplay for his Persian Gulf war film Three Kings (1999).
Il Postino was a foreign film that Miramax produced and paid distribution rights for was their lone Best Picture nominee in 1995 and it was surrounded by some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters with some of the biggest box office draws at the time. Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Emma Thompson, these were forces to be reckoned with back in 1995. Mel Gibson, another Hollywood star that has fallen on harder times because of his own personal issues, would direct and star in Braveheart which the Academy would reward his efforts with both Best Picture and Director Oscars. Judging by these five nominees, the Academy got it right.
There are a lot of films that could have replaced this little seen but much beloved Italian import. From looking at the nominees and winners in other categories I think that The Usual Suspects would and should have earned a Best Picture nomination especially considering that it won Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey (another now disgraced star) and Best Original Screenplay for Christopher McQuarrie. It won its only two nominations so putting it up there with the Best Picture nominees would have made sense. Leaving Las Vegas had a chance to get a Best Picture nomination since it earned Mike Figgis a Best Director nod and won Nicolas Cage Best Actor, but its bleak and depressing subject matter probably turned a lot of voters off.
Heck yeah! It is a much more memorable film than Il Postino. In fact The Usual Suspects is one of the best movie mysteries with one of the best surprise endings of all time. It would have earned the small film more recognition early on rather than gaining a well deserved following on home video. Neither its director nor writer have managed to top their achievement with The Usual Suspects and although Kevin Spacey would win another Academy Award a few years later for American Beauty (1999) many people still look back at his work in this little indie movie as the best of his career.
Miramax’s first Best Picture win is one of the worst films to ever receive the Academy Awards top prize. Overlong, over dramatic, extremely boring and just plain dreadful. The fact that this pathetic excuse for a prestige epic won Best Picture over Fargo is one of the Academy’s biggest blunders of the past 25 years. It’s nine Academy Awards out of twelve nominations robbed so many more worthy films of honor and recognition. The lone positive to come out of The English Patient is a great Seinfeld joke about Elaine and her disdain for the film. I am with Elaine on this one.
There are plenty to choose from but I would have loved to see Milos Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt replace The English Patient in the Best Picture category and other than Fargo, I would not have minded if that film won. It is one of the best films ever made about our freedom of speech and how the first amendment right makes us the great nation that we are. I am sure its subject was off-putting to many of the older more conservative Academy members that preferred the long and dull English Patient, but knowing what we know now and how The English Patient has aged, I think everyone would be better off if The People vs. Larry Flynt was one of the five films to represent cinematic greatness from 1996 regardless of the fact it glorified a pornographer. Plus Woody Harrelson deserved the Best Actor Oscar that year, sorry Geoffrey Rush.
I certainly think so since there are probably dozens of films more worthy of Best Picture that year than The English Patient. I would have rather seen any of the other four nominees win, or The People vs. Larry Flynt, or Sling Blade, or Primal Fear, or Hamlet, or Lone Star, or… I think you get the point. The English Patient helped director Anthony Minghella get bigger budgets and attract bigger stars to his pictures before his untimely passing. It also boosted the careers briefly of actresses Juliet Binoche and Kristen Scott Thomas, although they still get parts just not in as high profile roles, and made Ralph Fiennes more of a household name and his career has not stumbled since, consistently working for the past twenty five years in both big budget and independent pictures. Other than that, The English Patient robbed other, better films from receiving recognition.
This represents quite possibly the best and most influential picture Miramax ever produced other than Pulp Fiction. Good Will Hunting represents a lot of talented people collaborating on a great film. The film that launched the careers of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon while simultaneously earning the late-great Robin Williams his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Let’s not forget this film earned Affleck and Damon the Best Original Screenplay Oscar as well. Another big victory for independent producer Lawrence Bender who also produced Pulp Fiction. This is hailed as a modern classic and rightfully so. Unquestionably one of the best Miramax productions and one of the best films of the 1990’s.
There are quite a number to choose from. Good Will Hunting was a sentimental favorite that year up against Titanic but there were other films from looking at the nominees that the Academy probably considered and came up short in the vote totals. Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry probably just missed the cut. Even Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights probably earned a lot of votes but turned off many older members because of its subject matter about the porn industry and its copious amounts of violence and nudity on display. Realistically I think Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter would have been the one to take the fifth spot if Good Will Hunting never existed. It earned Best Director and Screenplay nominations and was a heavy critical favorite on many critics top ten lists.
Funny how such a small thing as earning or not earning a Best Picture nomination could change the course of so many careers. Robin Williams never had another Oscar nomination and was only a big box office draw for another few years after Good Will Hunting, perhaps he stopped challenging himself and settled for mediocrity and easy paychecks. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Stellan Skarsgard, Minnie Driver, and even Casey Affleck would probably not have the successful careers in Hollywood that they now have. Gus Van Sant has managed to balance his time between small indie films that struggle for financing like Gerry (2002) and Elephant (2003) and Hollywood productions with big stars such as Finding Forrester (2000) and Milk (2008). Whereas Atom Egoyan remains an unknown figure to most people other than movie buffs and the actors that gave terrific performances in The Sweeat Hereafter like Bruce Greenwood, Sara Polley and Ian Holm, are either unknown to most of the general public, or known by many for their roles in other pictures. Both Good Will Hunting and The Sweet Hereafter are terrific works of subtle beauty and deal with human tragedy, but I think Miramax did all of us a favor when they produced and promoted Good Will Hunting against its inevitable loss to Titanic during that awards season.
One of the worst Best Picture lineups of all time. You have three World War II films against two Queen Elizabeth films. Each film here has their own strengths that merit commendations, but all in the same place? The Academy was not interested in diversity or variety at all in 1998, only two specific eras of history and two of them were Miramax productions. When Harrison Ford opened the envelope and announced Shakespeare in Love as Best Picture, it sent shockwaves throughout the country. Steven Spielberg had won Best Director earlier that night and it was all but certain that his troops would be storming the stage at the end of the ceremony. But that did not happen. Instead the Weinstein’s rigorous and ruthless campaigning for their precious period piece payed off in one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history. As many people feel that Miramax was robbed when Pulp Fiction lost to Forrest Gump in 1994, Miramax became the villain and robbed Saving Private Ryanof the top prize. Shakespeare in Love is a very good film, but not Best Picture material.
There are two films that need to be omitted if we are hypothetically imagining a world where Harvey Weinstein never had sway over the Oscars. Both Life is Beautiful and Shakespeare in Love are very good films. The former was a blip on the radar, a foreign film that the Academy fell in love with and never translated to success for its writer/director and star Roberto Benigni. The latter would go on to win Harvey Weinstein an actual Oscar trophy as a producer when it won Best Picture. It also got actress and Harvey accuser Gwyneth Paltrow a Best Actress Academy Award. Realistically the two films that were two of the best films from 1998 would have replaced them are Gods and Monsters and The Truman Show. Gods and Monsters is a film that the Academy loved about the life and death of homosexual filmmaker James Whale and won a screenplay Oscar. The other was Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, a film the Academy liked and mainstream audiences loved. It was honored with every award it could have expected a nomination for with the exceptions of Best Picture and Best Actor for Jim Carrey. The fact that Peter Weir received a Best Director nomination when the film did not receive a Best Picture nod shows that it was probably up there in the voting but the Academy members disdain for Jim Carrey and his previous films kept it from being in the top five.
Yes. Even though I love Life is Beautiful and like Shakespeare in Love, rewarding variety with Gods and Monsters and originality with The Truman Show would have made for a much more interesting Best Picture group. You’d still have one Queen Elizabeth movie and two World War II epics going at it, but maybe the best film which was Saving Private Ryan, would have actually taken home Best Picture.
An all around good movie, vastly superior to Hallstrom’s other Miramax produced Best Picture nominee that you will read about next. However 1999 was one of the best years for film in recent memory. The fact the Academy chose to honor this feel good fluff with seven nominations including Best Picture and winning two for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine) and Adapted Screenplay was really preventing other great films from earning the recognition they deserved. Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Three Kings, Topsy Turvy, Man on the Moon, and at least a dozen other films were more deserving. Even The Talented Mr. Ripley, a Miramax co-production with Paramount directed by Anthony Minghella who was a Harvey Weinstein favorite, should have earned the accolades The Cider House Rules achieved. Plus, it’s marketing campaign was undeniably racist only showcasing the beautiful white actors Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron and the cute little orphans while they ignored Delroy Lindo (whos performance was just as good as Michael Caine’s), Erykah Badu and other actors of color from advertisements. Shameful indeed, but the Weinstein’s knew how to get results and their Oscar formula worked again to the dismay of much better films released that year.
There are several more than worthy replacements listed above. I personally would have loved to have seen Being John Malkovich and the fact that it had nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress means that a fourth nomination for Best Picture is not that unfathomable. One of the most original and inventive movies from a historical year in film. Even The Matrix which went four for four that night winning all the Academy Awards it was nominated for would have been a better choice to fill out the Best Picture nominees than The Cider House Rules.
Absolutely. If you go by the Academy Awards 1999 looks like a very mundane year for film when in actuality it was one of the most exiting times for movies with blockbuster hits as diverse as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, The Blair Witch Project and Fight Club. The Academy dropped the ball big time with The Cider House Rules.
A Best Picture nominee about the charms and dangers of chocolate. Really? This was actually a nice throwback and simple romantic comedy but there is absolutely nothing Oscar worthy about it. It earned nominations for Best Picture, Actress (Juliette Binoche), Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Adapted Screenplay and Music Score. All of which could have gone to more deserving films such as Almost Famous, Wonder Boys, Quills, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, High Fidelity or Requiem for a Dream. It’s inclusion in the Best Picture category alongside Gladiator, Traffic and Crouching, Tiger Hidden Dragon is just embarrassing. This was the least deserving of all the Miramax Best Picture nominees.
The titles listed above all would be films I would have selected over Chocolat, however from looking at all the nominated films that year it most likely would have been Billy Elliot, a British picture about a boy living in a blue collar coal mining town that wants to dance ballet much to the displeasure of his masculine father.
Both films are good, neither are great Oscar worthy films but Billy Elliot would have been more refreshing to a sentimental awards bait romantic comedy. So sure Weinstein did not deserve to keep his streak alive at this point.
That’s right two films again. An independent family drama that could have come out anytime in the past twenty years In the Bedroom is a typical albeit powerful and emotionally moving Miramax production, and both Harvey and Bob Weinstein helped produce The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They even encouraged Peter Jackson NOT to hire Mira Sorvino for reasons we now know are because Harvey Weinstein had her blacklisted. So that is why it is worth putting The Lord of the Rings on here and replacing it with something else.
From looking at the nominees there are plenty of other great options. As much as I would love to have seen Mulholland Drive, and Amelie make it to Best Picture contention, realistically I do not think the Academy would have given them that honor. Shrek probably had a good chance of making it had this not been the first year that they created the Best Animated Feature category thus eliminating its realistic chances for Best Picture and forcing the lovable green ogre and his friends to the consolation prize of winning the first ever Best Animated Feature Oscar. That leaves Ridley Scott’s war drama Black Hawk Down and Christopher Nolan’s breakout indie hit Memento as more than deserving options for the Best Picture Award.
Yes and No. Even though In the Bedroom is a powerful and emotional journey it is nothing special in the grand scheme of things. Lord of the Rings first film not making it to the Best Picture inner circle would have been a devastating blow for its future Oscar chances, it already had the money and the respect and admiration from critics and audiences, but I honestly think that Black Hawk Down and Memento are superior pictures for totally different reasons. Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott’s careers both received a boost after these two pictures were released and they have continued to thrive in Hollywood making bigger budgeted blockbuster productions ever since. In 2017 Scott had Alien: Covenant and All the Money in the World released and Christopher Nolan scored his first Best Director nomination for the Best Picture nominee Dunkirk. Not getting a Best Picture nominee for these two films did not slow down their careers at all and they have been more successful this decade than Todd Field who directed In the Bedroom and Peter Jackson who helmed the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It did not make a difference what the Best Picture nominees were that year. These Oscars are mostly remembered for being a landmark moment in history when Halle Berry became the first African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball and Denzel Washington became only the second African-American to win Best Actor for Training Day. That same night Sidney Poitier the first African-American to win Best Actor won the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Harvey Weinstein may have reached the pinnacle of his career when he produced or executive produced four of the five Best Picture nominees. The apex of his power was truly flexed that night since those films earned the bulk of the other nominations and won many awards. Even Frida, the Salma Hayek vehicle was getting a strong push and could have easily earned a spot among the Best Picture nominees. If you did not like the Weinstein’s who already had a toxic reputation in Hollywood for spending millions to campaign for their films during awards season, then The Pianist was your only choice to vote against them. Luckily it was a terrific movie and won well deserved Academy Awards for Best Actor Adrien Brody, Best Adapted Screenplay Ronald Harwood, and ironically Best Director for Roman Polanski, who was then and is still a fugitive from the United States because of a rape allegation back in the 1970’s. Even though Polanski could not attend the ceremony he won Best Director and received a standing ovation from the Hollywood elite. A sign of the times and something that could never happen today.
If we replace those four films we are talking about a completely different Academy Awards. Steven Spielberg could have benefited first and foremost with his two pictures released that year Minority Report which was mostly ignored because it was viewed as a sci-fi action picture but received high praise especially from Roger Ebert who called it the best film of the year, and Catch Me If You Can which had a few Oscar nominations most notably for Christopher Walker as Best Supporting Actor. Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her won Best Foreign film and Best Original Screenplay so that could have become a Best Picture contender. Realistically I think there were enough other prestige pictures that the Academy tends to gravitate towards that would have earned those Best Picture spots and won several other awards replacing the ones that were taken home by the Weinstein produced pictures. Those films would be About Schmidt, Adaptation, Far From Heaven and as much as I hate to say it, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Three of those films (the first three I mentioned) rightfully could have been nominated for Best Picture all along and few would have complained. The last one, well sometimes fluke things happen and a funny inexplainable film catches on with mainstream audiences and critics and captures lighting in the bottle. Life is Beautiful did that (although I did appreciate that film) and four years later Nia Vardalos somehow managed to get an Oscar nomination for her screenplay. Take the Weinstein films out of contention and there is no doubt in my mind that My Big Fat Greek Wedding would have earned a Best Picture nomination and I shudder at the thought of it winning over The Pianist or any of the other films mentioned above.
Kind of. All of the Weinstein produced films were varying degrees of good and great with the exception of The Hours which I found to be a dreadful slog. Gangs of New York totally rejuvenated the careers of Martin Scorsese, Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio. They were all on the brink of irrelevance and then this turned them around. All of them have won Oscars since Gangs of New York, in the case of Daniel Day-Lewis he added two more to his shelf. So whether you liked Gangs of New York or not its success led to many other great movies. Chicago is one of the Best movie musicals of the past fifty years, and one of the best musicals to not star Gene Kelly, I do not think it deserved Best Picture, but it was a delightful romp. Finally, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, was the weakest of the trilogy but still contained one heck of an epic final battle and state of the art CGI effects that were new for its time especially the motion capture performance from Andy Serkis as Gollum, and his performance and the film still hold up today. If ever there was a time for ten Best Picture nominees, 2002 would have been the year to do it.
From that point on Harvey Weinstein still co-produced other Best Picture nominees with other studios or produced his own films under his Weinstein Company, but the Miramax Award winning machine was over by 2003.
So the final tally. Basically other than The Piano, Pulp Fiction, and Good Will Hunting, Hollywood, the Oscars, movie goers and most of all beautiful actresses in their twenties all would have been a lot better off if Harvey Weinstein and his Miramax studio and their ruthless Awards campaigning never existed. Steven Spielberg was a name that kept coming up as a director who lost out on having his films earn Oscar nominations, so maybe he is a slight casualty of Weinstein’s dirty awards campaign tactics of rewarding awards bait pictures that robbed better films from getting recognition. Bottom line, other than three outstanding classic films we all would have been better off without Harvey Weinstein.
Wow, your article about Harvey Weinstein”s influence good or bad as to how a movie did at the box office
was great! It refreshed my memory of all the other great movies that came out over the years as well.