Miramax in Mothballs
BY DENNIS KING
With the closing of Miramax Films’ offices in New York and Los Angeles last week, a move that essentially scuttles the most innovative, aggressive (and at times aggravating) off-Hollywood film distributor ever, it’s tempting to launch into a weepy eulogy on prospects for indie films.
Sad as it is to see the once robust company – launched in 1979 by wheeler-dealer brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein and famously named after their parents Miriam and Max – limp off into the sunset, it’s not likely kill off the production of independent movies. But it might make the field a lot less colorful and competitive.
Even after the Weinsteins sold their company to Walt Disney in 1993 and then split off with their own leaner self-titled firm a few years ago, the name Miramax remained synonymous in the minds of film buffs with risky, original, literate, high quality pictures produced outside the big-budget confines of the Hollywood studios.
Even when Miramax later strayed into over into bloated prestige pictures and lost itself in ancillary ventures and highly successful but slightly unseemly campaigning for Oscar glory, that rascally independent spirit that first defined the feisty company was still there.
From a film critic’s perspective, Miramax was both a joy and a headache. Its youthful operatives’ enthusiasm for even the most obscure, low-budget offering could be infectious, at times inspiring. They insisted on screening their movies, even in heartland cities that most Hollywood marketers smugly label as “fly-over country.” So Oklahoma’s two big film markets saw more than their share of offbeat Miramax films over the years.
But just as often, those same buzzing, black-clad Miramax worker-bees could be pushy, demanding and maddeningly disorganized. Opening dates shifted on a whim. Movies were hectically screened, then never opened in our markets. Junkets were a comic circus of assistants scurrying around with cell phones pressed to ears, and interviews were often juggled, re-juggled, then cut short.
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