Harvey Weinstein

The ‘Selma’ “Controversy” Isn’t About History; It’s About Oscars

Late last week, The Washington Post ran an Op-Ed titled “The movie ‘Selma’ has a glaring flaw,” penned by Joseph A. Califano Jr., “President Lyndon Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969.” In it, Califano contends that Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed new film — covering events that transpired, by the way, before Califano took that position in the Johnson White House — takes “dramatic, trumped-up license with a true story that didn’t need any embellishment to work as a big-screen historical drama.” He contends that the film’s central conflict, between an LBJ who asks for patience on the voting rights issue while he pursues other agendas and an MLK who will not wait, does not jibe with the historical record, and attempts to shame the filmmakers for “feel[ing] no obligation to check the facts” and “fill[ing] the screen with falsehoods.” (“In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea,” Califano writes, with “in fact” a spiritual stand-in for “Actually…”) And what does Mr. Califano demand in exchange for this betrayal? An amendment of the film? An on-screen correction? A public apology? Nope: “The movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season.” That line, which ends Califano’s “editorial,” is a rare bit of transparency — because that piece, and the furor that has accompanied it, is not about correcting the record. It’s about keeping Selma from winning Oscars. … Read More

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Why Is the Weinstein Company Dooming Two of Its Best Oscar Prospects? [UPDATED]

If you have more than a passing interest in the Academy Awards, you’re probably well past the realization that the presumptive criteria for those awards — high quality — often has very little to do with the films that are nominated and awarded. Sure, merit doesn’t hurt, but it certainly isn’t necessary; far more important is the quality and quantity of a film’s Oscar campaign, mounted by studios and distributors with the intensity (and sometimes the cost) of a political operation, complete with advertisements, mailings, and glad-handing. And the modern Oscar campaign was perfected by Harvey Weinstein, the face of the Weinstein brothers, who turned Mirmax and the subsequent Weinstein Company into Oscar factories, via notoriously aggressive campaigning (and occasional alleged “dirty tricks” against opponents). And yet, as 2014 draws to a close, The Weinstein Company is all but burying two viable awards contenders — and the only plausible explanation is ego and spite. … Read More

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The Phantom Limbs of ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’

The medical name for the phenomenon is “phantom limb.” It holds that when a limb is missing or amputated, a person still feels as though it’s attached — and feels pain and other sensations connected to said limb, in other parts of the body. None of this has anything to do with what’s onscreen in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, but it has everything to do with what’s going on outside the frame. You see, Them is a combination of two other, standalone films, and as lovely as it would be to ignore that fact, the knowledge that the picture was originally something else hangs over it like an albatross. It’s a very good film, but throughout it, its phantom limbs tingle, hinting that it was something much more special before its Frankenstein job. … Read More

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How ‘sex, lies, and videotape’ Changed Indie Filmmaking Forever

It began with three brief items in his notebooks. “A film about deception and lost earrings,” went one. “Everybody has a past,” went another. And finally, “Friend on the couch. Affair with the wife.” The filmmaker jotted down those three ideas in 1986; three years later, the movie those three ideas spawned became the sensation of the nascent Sundance Film Festival, the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and an international box office smash. The young writer/director was Steven Soderbergh, the film was sex, lies, and videotape, and its release 25 years ago was, author Peter Biskind would later write, “the big bang of the modern indie film movement.” … Read More

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