Saturday, May 25, 2024

Oscars: Harvey Weinstein’s Oscar Run Is Over, But His Taste Informed 30 Years of Academy Awards


Harvey Weinstein may be gone from his company, and at the end of his run with the Academy Awards. But his rein over the Oscars comprises 30 years– three decades of his taste changing the movie awards and reinventing them. Prior to 1989, Oscars were won by the studios– Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox, Universal, MGM, etc. Indie companies had rare victories (“Tender Mercies” or “Annie Hall”).

The first Best Picture nomination for Miramax was “My Left Foot” released in 1989. At the 1990 Oscars, Daniel Day Lewis won Best Actor. Brenda Fricker won Best Supporting Actress. And there were nominations for Jim Sheridan for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Also that year, “sex lies and videotape” was nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Laura San Giacomo.

The next year, “The Grifters” picked up four nominations — Director (Stephen Frears), Best Supporting Actress (Annette Bening and Anjelica Huston) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Donald E. Westlake). Suddenly, Miramax– a word no one in Hollywood had before– was becoming a problem.

What followed was an avalanche. “The Crying Game” got six nominations and one win. “Passion Fish” had two noms. Then came 8 nominations in 1994 for “The Piano” with three wins– Best Actress (Holly Hunter), Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin) and Best Screenplay (Jane Campion). “Pulp Fiction” came next, then “Bullets Over Broadway” (7 noms, 1 win for Dianne Wiest).

The Hollywood establishment wasn’t happy. Who were these people from New York scooping up awards? Bu the truth was, Weinstein’s taste (and that of his exceptional staff) had already changed Hollywood. It wasn’t just the Oscar nominees. The other releases, too, like “Like Water for Chocolate,” “The Long Walk Home,” “Mediterraneo”– all of them were top notch, first class, beautifully made. “Cinema Paradiso” put Miramax on the Oscar map for Best Foreign Film. Everyone talked about “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.” Everyone. Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” was a milestone launch of a new director. “Clerks” became the template for indie films. “Priest” was controversial.

And then came “The English Patient.” Anthony Minghella’s watershed epic won the 1997 Best Picture and 8 other Oscars. It was nominated for a total of 12. It became a recurring joke on “Seinfeld.” I will never forget all the winners and nominees, plus people like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards pouring into the Mondrian Hotel for the studio party that night. Sunset Boulevard was totally blocked. It was madness, with A listers clamoring for invites. That was the watershed.

All together, Miramax scored 68 Oscars during its run including Best Picture wins also for “Shakespeare in Love,” and “Chicago.” Robin Williams, Michael Caine, Judi Dench, Juliette Binoche, Gywneth Paltrow, Catherine Zeta Jones all took home gold. So did Roberto Benigni for “Life is Beautiful” — 4 wins at the 1998 Oscars with a total of 7 nominations. Cate Blanchett won Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for”The Aviator,” which had 11 nominations. In between there were Best Picture nominations for “Chocolat,” “Cider House Rules,” “Frida,” “In the Bedroom,” “Finding Neverland.” And of course there was “Good Will Hunting,” which put Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on the map with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

And let us not forget “Fahrenheit 911,” which Harvey and Bob Weinstein co-produced. But when Disney wouldn’t let them release, it, the Michael Moore film went on to make over $200 million.

When the Weinsteins formed their own company in 2005, more Oscars came– two Best Pictures, “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist,” not to mention multiple nominations for “Philomena,” “Lion,” “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” and more Tarantino films. Meryl Streep became a regular Oscar nominee at Miramax/Weinstein, eventually winning for “The Iron Lady.” Nicole Kidman also became a favorite, winning for “The Hours” (a co-production). The Weinstein Company also won Oscars Best Documentary for “20 Feet from Stardom” and “Citizenfour.”

And now the whole thing is over. Without Harvey, there is no Weinstein Company. And the Weinstein Company is changing its name. “Wind River,” “The Current War,” and “The Upside”– all intended to be TWC candidates for Oscar noms this year, will suffer. Who knows what the future will bring. But the Oscars– airing March 3rd, 2018 — will be a much different show.




Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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