Harvey’s Oscar

Weston’s Christopher Plummer got some well-deserved honors at last night’s Oscars.

So did “The Artist.” It snagged 5 “bests”: picture, directing, costume design, original music score and actor.

Harvey Weinstein

None of it, though, might have happened without the backstage direction of one man: Westport’s Harvey Weinstein.

The longtime movie industry mover and shaker — and co-founder of Miramax Films — created a marketing plan for the silent, black-and-white French film that may have been, in CNN’s words, “a triumph of marketing over art.”

In a long piece today, CNN.com‘s Nick Thompson writes:

For many, the film’s triumph at the Oscars was a foregone conclusion, the result of a marketing process set in motion months ago by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who snapped up the U.S. distribution rights before anyone at the Cannes film festival had a chance to swoon over the French film last year.

“There wasn’t any doubt when it came to the top awards who the winners were going to be,” Total Film deputy editor Jamie Graham told CNN. “Harvey is the best in the business at getting that awards attention, and it became clear with ‘The Artist’ two months ago that this was the film that had caught the tailwind.”

The mercurial movie promoter and co-founder of Miramax Films, credited for discovering “Pulp Fiction” director Quentin Tarantino and a string of commercial and critical successes including “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love” and last year’s “The King’s Speech,” is famous for harnessing the momentum of his films at the right time and riding waves of publicity to wins at the podium and at the box office.

No sooner had Jean Dujardin taken the top actor award for his portrayal of silent film star George Valentin at Cannes than Weinstein had the film’s stars and directors hitting the award campaign circuit to capitalize on its surprise success….

Empire magazine’s Ian Nathan says that by the time the Golden Globe Award nominations came around, the race for Oscar glory had narrowed to a two-horse race between George Clooney’s “The Descendants” and “The Artist” — a race Weinstein’s relentless campaign strategy began to win by the end of last year.

“Something about what Harvey managed to do — getting these three very charming leads and the director out there, getting the dog out there, screening it to everyone who mattered, milking the nostalgia and old Hollywoodness of it — lifted it from the competitor to the favorite long before the show came around,” he told CNN.

“Once one film has a foothold — once it’s become the thing like ‘The King’s Speech’ did last year — then even Clooney can’t compete,” he said.

Weinstein’s strength, says Nathan, lies in his ability to catch a “middle-brow” film right before it becomes popular and turn it into the frontrunner.

Nathan told CNN: “He’s very good at picking the middle-brow films… and the Oscars are a mainstream event which celebrates the best of the middle. Harvey’s been a very wily player in that, and you have to give him that credit, he knows how to map that out over a year.”…

While the money may not follow, Nathan says one thing seems certain — after a relatively dry decade, the back-to-back successes of “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist” means Harvey Weinstein is back in business.

“Harvey’s come out of his fallow years as the guy to beat at the Oscars,” he said. “It’s a bit of a second coming — clearly he’s still got a little bit of that magic.”

5 responses to “Harvey’s Oscar

  1. Not only magic, the guy is brilliant. Watched him one night on Bill O’Reilly. He had a total command of the history and insight of every film mentioned. And he spoke in clear, simple language. It was a pleasure to listen to him. BRAVO !

  2. All the money and Harvey’s chutzpah aside, “The Artist” was clearly the best feature film made last year. Producing a Black & White, virtually
    silent film , with all the monster/ET/3D/ear-splitting junk so popular today was a gamble that could have turned out to be an expensive bomb. Perfectly cast and perfected directed, it was a shining light among a lot of
    good but not great films. “The Descendants” was good. “Hugo” was good. “Moneyball” was OK. “The Help” and “Midnight in Paris ” were very good.
    “The Artist” was clearly the winner.

  3. The Dude Abides

    Welcome to the 21st century, Academy. The technology of “Hugo” and the reminder of “The Help” was far more entertaining than watching a cute dog for 103 minutes. For some reason, the voters had to prove they were not xenophobic. “The Artist” was rubbish and the show, as always, boring BUT FOR the last 30 minutes. Indeed, a “victory of marketing over art” with the audience the sucker. Connecticut’s own P.T. Barnum must be smiling from above (or below).

  4. It is still a truism, alas, in Hollywood competition, that enough money thrown into the stimulus pot for publicity will get you the buzz needed to elevate a mediocre novelty into an artwork. Anyone who lived (or learned) the art of the silent film must know what’s seriously missing in “The Artist.” However, Mr. Weinstein deserves credit for backing risky ventures — it was painful to see so many viewers leaving the theatre during the screening.