Friday, December 4, 2015

Harvey Weinstein is Disappointed With This Oscar Season

Harvey Weinstein
If you're someone who follows Oscars culture annually, there's certain names that you have on your Rolodex. There is, of course, Meryl Streep, David O. Russell, and Steven Spielberg. Among the producers that will usually be good for a news piece or two, there's Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company and former head of Miramax. At The Oscar Buzz, he is someone of constant reference, especially in the Failed Oscar Campaigns column; of which he's been the subject of using bizarre tactics for Oscar nominations. However, the man who helped to give the world films like Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love has come forward in a recent op-ed piece regarding his personal thoughts on Oscar season. Apparently, he's not happy with how things have turned out.

More than any other year in recent memory, this Oscar season has been full of surprises. Alongside many believing that Spotlight is the guaranteed front runner, there remains plenty of speculation regarding who else is out there. This is largely because, well, many films that were expected to come up strong have pretty much petered off. Remember Southpaw, Our Brand is Crisis, and most infamously Steve Jobs (of which even director Danny Boyle has come to blame the bad roll-out schedule)? They all bombed. Nobody is talking about them. With only three weeks left, there hasn't been too many guaranteed favorites. Maybe the upcoming Golden Globes nominations will help in some part, but it's still suspect that nothing's really stood out.

If you follow the theory of Weinstein, it's a very basic cause. Today in a Hollywood Reporter piece, the producer went on at great length about how disappointed he was with this awards season. He notably cites how The Weinstein Company's entries from earlier this year (specifically Southpaw, The Lady in Gold, and Burnt) weren't able to stand their own because films released earlier in the year aren't taken seriously. While there's a bent of egotism thrown in (it is Harvey Weinstein after all), he does make very personal statements about how other films should have done better, had it not been for the crowded market. He believes that it's unfair to crowd Oscar contenders solely to the last four months of the year. 

You know what? He is right. Longtime readers will likely recognize that my biggest complaint about 2013's Best Picture nominees was that every single one came out post-October, with Gravity being the earliest on October 4. In what felt like an editing point, 2014's Best Picture nominees covered a wider array of dates with the earliest being The Grand Budapest Hotel on March 28 (a film that would go on to receive 9 nominations). It seems futile to claim that every year has good films only during one part of the year. In a subjective medium, it's important to note that there's likely great films opening in the middle of February next year, including the latest from The Coen Brothers with Hail Caesar!. Are these films any less valid? Nope.

Weinstein has a point that I have been harping on for years now. I'm sure it's more than accepted as a common opinion by people who love and digest cinema frequently. In the piece, Weinstein goes at length about how certain performances deserve more attention. It's true. However, it still feels odd considering that The Weinstein Company's major players this season are Carol and The Hateful Eight. While he argues that they wouldn't stand a chance if released months ago, it also helps that unlike Southpaw or Burnt, these got good reviews (and Quentin Tarantino has a built-in audience anyways). Also, to be fair, Tarantino's first Best Picture nominee since 1994 (2010's Inglourious Basterds) came out in August - so his point is kind of lost. Of course, this is murky commentary from a man who has done some shady business for the sake of Oscar nominations. Still, his point is nevertheless valid.

He claims that we should be recognizing cinema year round. While he cites independent cinema specifically (it is his trade), I think that this should be true for all film period. So while Weinstein may be controversial in practice, he does make good points from time to time. I don't know that it's revolutionary for someone to say what he said, but it definitely feels good to hear from a man with power. Considering last year's nominees, I think that we may be already fixing that. However, it will take more than one year to fix that. Get back to Weinstein in January when the nominations are announced. Let's see if he's still as disgruntled as he is right now.

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