By Val Dunn
Upon announcing the Oscar nominations for best supporting actress, Seth MacFarlane had the following to say: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” Though the comment received mixed reactions, MacFarlane as ever has a knack for pointing out the painfully obvious. Painful, because it seems that in order to win an Oscar an actor or actress must first be willing to sell his or her soul to Harvey Weinstein.
Though his name might not have settled into households across America, his is an inescapable mention during acceptance speeches. Harvey Weinstein has served as producer for more than 250 films. As a co-founder of Miramax films and the Weinstein Company, Weinstein has long held the position to push these films to their highest Oscar potential. More than 70 of his films have in fact achieved gold. Some have even achieved Oscars for best picture including: “Chicago” (2002), the “Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King” (2004), “The King’s Speech” (2011), and most recently “The Artist” (2012).
If the name Harvey Weinstein is unfamiliar, these titles are not. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gives Oscars to great films. So why the ragging on Weinstein? Weinstein’s films are not the only great films. Those familiar with the Oscar races know that politics often weigh equally with performance. Campaigning has become a feature of the race as nauseatingly prevalent as in the presidential elections. If a film does not have the funding necessary to give it that extra push across the finish line, it has little chance of succeeding at the Oscars. It is the producer’s job to find this crucial money, and Harvey Weinstein is very good at his job. Almost too good, as many argue he has monopolized the Academy Awards. Which begs the question: Should the Oscars be renamed the Harveys?
Sophomore Alison Percich, an avid film watcher, similarly has less than fuzzy feelings for Weinstein. “Harvey Weinstein has turned what was once supposed to be a recognition of film into a dirty, political competition.” This year, however, marks a notable change. Of the nine films nominated for best picture, Weinstein has backed only two: “Django Unchained” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” The result is a best picture race flourishing from more diverse social and economic backgrounds. If either “Django” or “Silver Linings” wins, however, Weinstein naysayers will surely have their complaints heard.
Percich said she would be among the complainers. “Making a film takes years, passion and endless perseverance. That alone is worth recognition. And there are films that had an extra push of passion and dedication. Those films are what the Oscars are about. However, Weinstein has managed to turn an art into a popularity competition,” she said.
The Oscars have become a famous, rather than landmark, American institution. How telling, then, that money and political campaign have corrupted the race. Artistic mastery falls to the wayside if a film is not first exploited with meticulous marketing. At the heart of this money game is Harvey Weinstein. Though he has undoubtedly brought great films to our attention, similarly wonderful but smaller pictures have been lost in the shadow Weinstein has cast.