Today Hollywood mourns the death of a movie studio. The Walt Disney Co. shut it down today, leaving its 80 employees jobless and remaining projects in development limbo. I’m no film historian, but I’m guessing this doesn’t happen very often, especially to a film company as prominent as Miramax, which some call a cultural force of the 90s. I don’t claim to know much about the company, only the fact that it was started by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein in New York (hence the NY skyline logo animation), and that they named it after their parents Max and Miriam.
Well-known for being brash and bullying even by Hollywood standards, Miramax is also known for distributing independent movies considered financially risky by major studios. Unlike other major studio honchos, the Weinsteins seem to genuinely love movies as much as the business side of it, as this article alluded: “They discovered new directors. They carefully built actors’ careers. They imported and promoted foreign films.” Per Wikipedia, Disney bought the company for $70 million in 1993, but granted creative freedom to the Weinsteins who still operated the business. But they relinquished their power in 2005 after years of butting heads with then Disney CEO Michael Eisner over creative & financial differences, and the brothers in turn formed The Weinstein Company. It’s been reported that they want to buy back the Miramax name back from Disney, and naturally the name is very personal to them.
Many of their films were commercially successful (7 of them gross more than $100 million), and perhaps one of the most successful one was Chicago, which earned $300 million worldwide. Their films were also Oscar favorites, as The Wrap article says, “Over the past 25 years, no studio has dominated the Oscars the way Miramax did, in ways both good and bad.” Nobody campaigned for Oscar noms like the Weinsteins did, treating the Academy Awards as golden marketing opportunity that’d boost the commercial value of their smaller, quirkier fares against major studios domination. You can take a peek at The Independent article that list their record Oscar nominations and winnings, or saunter over to their official site (before it’s taken down) that boast a plethora of Oscar-winning films, such as The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love and Chicago. Many, many actors partly owe them their Oscars, as the likes of Michael Caine, Daniel Day-Lewis, Quentin Tarantino, Anthony Minghella, Gwyneth Paltrow, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Billy Bob Thornton, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck — all got their golden statues for starring in a Miramax movie. No doubt this news will continue to be the water-cooler topic as Oscar nominations are to be revealed February 2nd and during the big event itself in March.
Now, the demise of the studio also means several movies awaiting distribution face uncertain future. Cinematical pondered what will happen to those, two of which I’ve blogged about before, coincidentally starring Avatar star Sam Worthington: One is Last Night, a romantic drama with Keira Knightley and Eva Mendes; and the other called The Debt, an Israeli-themed thriller with Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson. Oh, I hope these don’t end up being straight-to-dvd flicks, especially the later, it sounds like one worth-seeing on the big screen.
Well, looking back at hundreds of movies under their belt in the last 30+ years, here are ten of my favorites (in order of release):
- Working Girls (1986)
- The English Patient (1996)
- Mrs. Brown (1997)
- Mansfield Park (1999)
- Chocolat (2001)
- Finding Neverland (2004)
- Dear Frankie (2005)
- Cinderella Man (2005)
- Hollywoodland (2006)
- Gone Baby Gone (2007)
edit: Thanks to Samantha who pointed it out to me, I’m adding Dear Frankie to my top ten, as well as a few honorable mentions:
- Emma (1996) – mainly for Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley!
- Shakespeare in Love (1998)
- The Queen (2006)
- The Cider House Rules (1999)
- The Aviator (2004)
- Extract (2009)
What about you, readers? What are some of your favorite Miramax films?