November 28, 2011
Harvey Weinstein plays to Hollywood’s nostalgia with ‘The Artist’
The Academy should have an Oscar honor named for Harvey Weinstein, the mega-producer whose name has become synonymous with “Oscar” and who is widely credited for transforming the way campaigns are played.
Thus far this year, Weinstein’s Oscar buzz is coming in the form of the black-and-white silent-era homage, “The Artist” which screened before a group of Academy voters last Monday night, reports Michael Cieply in The New York Times.
Weinstein can sometimes be more entertaining than his movies. He has a way of upstaging his product with his popularity; his legend—some of which radiates, some of which repulses—is a presence that infuses everything he does. In some sense, Weinstein is The Artist he’s promoting. And it is precisely that egocentric approach to campaigning may prove fortuitous for “The Artist,” which, as Cieply suggests, appeals to Hollywood’s sense of itself.
In other words, pump them up with nostalgia. Reminding Oscar’s eldest elders of the way things used to be, especially at a time when those things seems to be fundamentally changing or dying out altogether, may prove an effective tactic at winning one. But the appeal of the past carries more weight than the eight-and-half-pound statue Weinstein could add to his collection.
As A.O. Scott wrote in a recent Times think piece, movies are by nature, objects of nostalgia. They are things of the past; by the time we watch the scene playing out before us, it has already happened.
A spate of recent articles have explored dying mediums—the death of movies, the death of the sitcom. The general complaint being, they don’t make ‘em how they used to. Part of that is a product of the times and changes in technology, and part of it, I suspect, is a lost ingenuity in filmmaking that has become so greatly overshadowed as an artistic medium by its commercial possibilities.
For the Academy itself, it represents a confrontation with mortality. Hollywood is not what it once was (and neither are they) because the industry is older. In some ways it is better and wiser, in other ways, it begs for a youthful rediscovery—a Harvey Weinstein passion for all the sight, sound and story possibilities that made film so wondrous in the first place.