By Gabe Toro | The Playlist January 7, 2014 at 1:33PM
Big Bad Harv Continues To Hold Sway
Harvey Weinstein had another banner year of chaos, drama and tension. The thorniest issue was "The Butler," a title that was used both for Lee Daniels' new film and a 1916 short belonging to Warner Bros. WB blocked the studio from using the title, claiming they had the rights, and the MPAA agreed, forcing The Weinstein Company to re-title their summer release "Lee Daniels' The Butler." Classic Harvey didn't let this deter the film, which went on to become a box office hit. Later, the organization would do him the Weinsteins a solid: when the original R-rating of "Philomena" seemed excessive to the studio, a Dame Judi Dench-powered appeal won them the newer rating.
2013 didn't curb his tinkering spirit, however. He was at loggerheads with Olivier Dahan over "Grace Of Monaco," which eventually landed a surprising spring 2014 bow. His monkeying with Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster" also turned a lengthy, mournful film into a shorter, more "audience friendly" cut that openly condescended to audiences. And "Snowpiercer" was a box office sensation overseas, but a battle was waged where the Weinsteins sought the need to trim heavily from the film for American consumption, a controversial issue that remains unresolved. For them, at least the year ended on a good note: the Weinsteins recovered the rights to the films they made at Miramax, and are pushing ahead with sequels to several of their most beloved titles.
One of the more deceptive mergers of the year occurred when Focus Features, a highbrow wing of Universal Pictures, absorbed genre-friendly FilmDistrict. But with the change, which meant Focus would effectively run FilmDistrict, came a switch at the top, with Focus CEO James Schamus being displaced by FilmDistrict CEO Peter Schlessel. The shift was an open acknowledgement that Focus would attempt to "broaden" their brand, which is loaded, given that this year Focus brought us "The Place Beyond The Pines" and "Dallas Buyers Club" while FilmDistrict was the home to "Olympus Has Fallen," "Oldboy" and "Insidious Chapter Two."
It's no coincidence that Focus is also now the home of Universal's would-be blockbuster "Fifty Shades Of Grey." It's part of the consolidation and elimination of smaller studios in favor of a bigger, multi-conglomerate piece of the pie. Universal is, like most other studios, heavily protective of a tentpole culture that includes franchises like "Jurassic Park," "The Bourne Identity" films, and cross-brand efforts like "Warcraft." The effort to make expensive entertainments for young male audiences is enough to turn Focus from a boutique arthouse division into a downmarket genre vending machine of sorts. It's indicative of a larger industry shift, but it was easily the year's most disheartening example of that trend. We discussed it further here.
Unemployed Guy Rails Against Dying Industry
All it takes is for a guy to get his pink slip, and suddenly the sky is falling. Okay, fine, Steven Spielberg has never been "fired," per se, but this was a pretty frustrating year for the legend, who lost the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars and ends the year with no current directorial commitments. First the mega-budgeted "Robopocalypse" shut down. Then he had to drop out of "American Sniper." It wasn't long before he joined George Lucas in front of a massive audience, telling scads of young people that they were entering an industry set for an "implosion." It wasn't dissimilar to the fiery statements Steven Soderbergh had made days earlier about why he retired from directing movies, suggesting that this wasn't an isolated opinion, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we're at the end times. If that's true, at least we went out with 2013. Could have been worse.
Any new items that stuck out for you in 2013? Let us know below!