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Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Filmby Peter Biskind
"Down and Dirty Pictures is Peter Biskind's utterly engrossing sort-of sequel to his fantastic 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls....Biskind's witty, impeccably researched and hopelessly entertaining new saga chronicles the birth, and demise (at least spiritually) of the two 'twin towers' of independent film, Sundance and Miramax." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
It wasn't so long ago that the Sundance Film Festival was an inconsequential event somewhere in Utah, and Miramax was a tiny distributor of music documentaries and soft-core trash. Today, of course, Sundance is the most important film festival this side of Cannes, and Miramax has become an industry giant, part of the huge Disney empire. Likewise, the directors who emerged from the independent movement, such as Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, and David O. Russell — who once had to max out their credit cards to realize their visions on the screen — are now among the best-known directors in Hollywood. Not to mention the actors who emerged with them, like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Ethan Hawke, and Uma Thurman.
Down and Dirty Pictures chronicles the rise of independent filmmakers and of the twin engines — Sundance and Miramax — that have powered them. As he did in his acclaimed Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind profiles the people who took the independent movement from obscurity to the Oscars, most notably Sundance founder Robert Redford and Harvey Weinstein, who with his brother, Bob, made Miramax an indie powerhouse. Biskind follows Sundance as it grew from a regional film festival to the premier showcase of independent film, succeeding almost despite the mercurial Redford, whose visionary plans were nearly thwarted by his own quixotic personality. He charts in fascinating detail the meteoric rise of the controversial Harvey Weinstein, often described as the last mogul, who created an Oscar factory that became the envy of the studios, while leaving a trail of carnage in his wake. As in Easy Riders, Biskind's incisive account is loaded with vibrant anecdotes and outrageous stories, all of it blended into a fast-moving narrative. Redford, the Weinsteins, and the directors, producers, and actors Biskind profiles are the people who reinvented Hollywood, making independent films mainstream. But success invariably means compromise, and it remains to be seen whether the indie spirit can survive its corporate embrace.
Candid, mesmerizing, and penetrating, Down and Dirty Pictures is a must-read for anyone interested in the film world and where it's headed.
"[A]bsurdly entertaining....[Biskind's] new book is an even bouncier ride [than Easy Riders, Raging Bulls]....Down and Dirty Pictures is the best account we're likely to get of how Miramax both jump-started the indie movement and ultimately harmed it..." Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review
"[G]ritty, ferocious, compulsively readable....Above all, Biskind conveys a key truth: the Weinsteins and Redford, whatever their personal imperfections, possess courage and a deep, overwhelming love of film." Publishers Weekly
"Success, inevitably, brings its own difficulties, and, as in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls...Biskind shrewdly shows a vanguard becoming the establishment." The New Yorker
"Biskind...has done some exploratory surgery on the underbelly of the indie-film scene and found it has plenty of ulcers....Whether or not Biskind's book becomes a pulp nonfiction hit, one thing seems certain: he'll never eat lunch in Tribeca again." Jeffrey Ressner, Time
"[A] folklorist's survey of broken dreams, blinkered optimism, outright treachery and...striking dualities....Is there a moment between the covers where you think art will actually vanquish commerce? No. But there are certain classic things about it." John Anderson, The Washington Post Book World
"[B]oth fascinating and maddening. [Biskind] is a wonderful writer, but his story often gets away from him, lost in a wealth of incidental detail....Yet there's a craning-the-neck-at-a-car-crash fascination...which abounds in memorable scenes..." Gregory McNamee, The Hollywood Reporter
"Biskind's book, however flawed, must be welcomed for attempting to interpret the entertainment industry with at least some seriousness of purpose. Not to mention full sentences." Sharon Waxman, The New York Times Book Review
Book News Annotation:
Biskind chronicles the development of independent filmmaking and of its supporters, the Sundance Film Festival and Miramax Films, by focusing on the personalities involved. The result is a gossipy, and sometimes outrageous, anecdotal account of the machinations of the film industry's biggest players. Despite his breezy tone, Biskind offers some thoughtful analysis about the future of independent film and the perils of its success.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The author of the sensational classic Easy Riders, Raging Bulls delivers anastute account of how film powerhouses Miramax and Sundance nurtured and then transformed independent filmmaking, changing the face of Hollywood. Photos.
About the Author
Peter Biskind is the author of three previous books, including Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. He is a contributor to Vanity Fair and formerly the executive editor of Premiere magazine. He lives with his family in Columbia County, New York.
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