Monday, December 1


So I finally finished Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film. By Peter Biskind, it's a long, chaotic, sometimes over-the-top read, with lots of interesting characters, soundbites, and way too many interviews. The movie business really is all for show, where people just kiss in public and look like they're all friends. This book is about the fracas behind the scenes.

Straightaway the limelight is grabbed by the gigantic Harvey Weinstein - whom the author presents as a chain-smoking, gutter-mouthed businessman who clawed his way out of the relative nothingness of Queens, and who believes all the hubris he spews about himself. The non-confrontational, passive-aggressive Robert Redford takes another prime role in the book, and he is pilloried as an irresponsible diva of an artist. Then there's Quentin Tarantino, who comes off as the world's greatest KSP, and Matt Damon/Ben Affleck, Kevin Smith, Uma Thurman... it's a famous cast with Miramax and indie films to thank for making them famous.

Don't read the book if you want to keep your illusions. Peter Biskind rips the cover off the business of producing and promoting movies, and shows you how crappy it really is underneath. Now all I can think of whenever I watch movies is how many scenes got left on the cutting room floor, who's fault it is it if it's so crappy, who had to be wined and dined to actually get the picture promoted. It's a shady business, all of it.

Or maybe it's just because this is a story about putting indie films on the cultural and consumeristic road map. It's also a chronicle of how offbeat, crazy, weird movies became a staple of our movie-goers diet, how we went from the feel good movies with happy endings, courtesy of major film studios, to the dirty, realistic view of the indie film and how, in the end, indie film isn't nearly as independent as it professes to be.