Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film Hardcover – Jan 6 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
According to Biskind (Easy Riders, Raging Bulls), most people associate independent filmmaking with such noble concepts as integrity, vision and self-sacrifice. This gritty, ferocious, compulsively readable book proves that these characterizations are only partly true, and that indie conditions are "darker, dirtier, and a lot smaller" than major studios' gilded environments. The intimidating image of Miramax's Harvey Weinstein plows powerfully through Biskind's saga; the studio honcho emerges as a combination of blinding charm and raging excess, a boisterous bully who tears phones out of walls and overturns tables. Former Miramax exec Patrick McDarrah, in comparing Weinstein with his brother and partner, Bob Weinstein, concludes, "Harvey is ego, Bob is greed." These two volatile personalities directly-and fascinatingly-contrast with the book's other protagonist, Sundance creator Robert Redford. Biskind presents Redford as passive aggressive, an invariably polite conflict avoider, but also notorious for keeping people waiting and failing to follow through on commitments. Because of the actor/director's elusive persona and his artistic tastes0which Biskind describes alternately as puritanical, conservative and mushy-the Weinsteins dominate throughout. Biskind brilliantly covers their career hits, from the high-profile acquisition of Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies and Videotape through backstories for Cinema Paradiso, Good Will Hunting and Chicago to brutal clashes with Martin Scorsese over Gangs of New York. And Quentin Tarantino's lust for stardom, Billy Bob Thornton's "ornery, stick-to-your-guns" personality and Ben Affleck's frustration about being underpaid are just a few of the other mesmerizing elements Biskind includes. Above all, Biskind conveys a key truth: the Weinsteins and Redford, whatever their personal imperfections, possess courage and a deep, overwhelming love of film.
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Entertainment Weekly Dishy, teeming, superbly reported...packed with lively inside anecdotes...[a] juicy and fascinating exposé.
Frank Rich, The New York Times In Down and Dirty Pictures, Biskind takes on the movie industry of the 1990s and again gets the story....Peter Biskind captures his era as John Dunne did that of the Zanucks.
Patrick Goldstein, Los Angeles Times Sensationally entertaining. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you are a lover of film, you will greatly enjoy reading the behind the scenes manouvering and infighting behind scripts, endings, and actors. Biskind's brilliant research and matter-of-fact writing will reveal much of the business in his chapters, so if you do not want to know too much and like to enjoy just the film itself, keep walking by this book.
However, if you do like to know the decisions that create film, and especially independent film, this is the book of the year. Soderbergh and Tarantino feature prominently, along with Hawke and Damon. Good Will Hunting is looked at closely, as the script of two young men, their first, rose to Oscar fame through Miramax's direction.
The books prominent questions include: is now the time for a new indie movement with the Weinsteins and Redford becoming formulaic and looking for hidden blockbusters, more than hidden art; and who will fill the void if these two studios do go for bigger-grossing goals; and should the men and women behind films suggesting humane themes be of a certain moral character?
In the end, the accomplishemnts of the indies are explored and they are amazing: sex, lies..pulp fiction, good will...Biskind, being a believer in the force of film, plays the gadfly to hopefully protect genuine indie enthusiasm and creations and their futures. The book is as provocative as it is historical. I highly suggest it for lovers of the medium.
There have been numerous ultra low budget indie flicks that were bought by Harvey Weinstein's Miramax and turned into monster hits. These include Reservoir Dogs, sex lies and videotape as well as The Crying Game. Weinstein is the true kind of both Holloywood and of the independent film sector.
Biskind paints both Weinstein and his chief competitor, Robert Redford as being profit-crazed would-be moguls whose activities threaten to turn the world of independent films into just another facet of the mundane Hollywood culture.
Down and Dirty Pictures is an excellent book about an under-publicized area of the film industry by a longtime entertainment reporter. It is recommended reading to everyone who is interested in the world of movies.
The ultimate tragedy of this book is its misguided focus. One could easily come away from Down & Dirty Pictures with the impression that indie film is all about business. Big business. Really big business. Pages upon pages upon pages are spent investigating the finer details of acquisition and distribution. Pages upon pages upon pages are spent following the rising and falling careers of various unlikable executives, and their bad-boy behavior. But what about the films? What about the filmmakers? What about the passion associated with the original indie movement? What about films truly made outside the Hollywood system?
Biskind blows by the formative years of indie film in the introduction. Hardly more than a mention of filmmakers like Cassavetes, Jarmusch, Hartley, even Spike Lee. And folks like Caveh Zahedi, forget it. We do however hear about Robert Redford, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon. We hear about Weinstein and Katzenberg. We hear about Universal and Disney and Fox.
The book is subtitled, "the rise of independent film" -- but it's not about independent film at all. It's about studios. It's about executives. It's about MONEY. This book is about selling out. And in the end, the biggest sellout of all is Peter Biskind.
Not that Weinstein is a bad choice of subject, he is practically a caricature to begin with and with Biskind's in dept interviewing the stories about Weinstein are endless. I would have to say that is the main gripe I have with the book. It is ironic that a book that obviously needed a stronger editor goes on and on (and on) about "Harvey Scissorhands" and the damage he did to films.
Biskind shows no mercy, and little objectivity, with Weinstein. He notes how 'ol Scissor hands cut up "Cinema Paradiso" much to everyone's chagrin. But he doesn't mention that the "uncut" version was later released to almost universal critical pans.
Yet, clearly, in the end, Biskind does much to support the argument that the Weinstein brother's did as much damage as good to the indie film world (and movies in general). It is a fascinating read, although towards the end the repeated examples of Harvey blowing his lid become tedious. That and Biskind's habit of reconstructing conversations and putting the "f" bomb every third word. People may really speak that way in Hollywood, but for the reader it becomes tedious.
The stuff about Sundance and October films seems pretty thin (maybe there simply wasn't much to report). Redford comes across as a sort of uncaring jerk, but hey, think about how many vanity record labels and films imprints have been run into the ground by egotistical stars.
Interesting stuff, makes me want to check out "Easy Riders..." also by Biskind.
Most recent customer reviews
Although I really loved Peter's narrative, I couldn't help thinking how well does he really know the people he is describing. Read morePublished on July 6 2004 by Martin Moore
If you are not in the business of making movies this long exposition on the politics of the industry is a total dud. Read morePublished on July 1 2004
Biskind has written another fascinating book about the film industry, again focusing on a few colourful personalities to drive the narrative. Read morePublished on June 7 2004 by samizdat7
Biskind has topped his previous book and that one was great. In this book he exposes the reader to the behind-the-scenes stories behind Miramax, Sundance
and the indie film... Read more
Harvey Weinstein likes to tell people he will do them bodily harm. He likes say these things in loud voices while breaking things. Read morePublished on May 13 2004 by N. Siefers
The inside scoop about how Miramax and Sundance operate and the pros and cons of robert redofrd and harvey weinstein. Read morePublished on May 13 2004 by William D. Tompkins
This book was written by Peter Biskind who was the executive editor of Premiere Magazine and is also the author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Read morePublished on May 11 2004 by Edsopinion.com
Do you love movies, or do you love backroom business gossip about the movie industry? If it's the former, skip this book. Read morePublished on March 24 2004 by Mike Spearns
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