Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film

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Down and Dirty Pictures chronicles the rise of independent filmmakers and of the twin engines — the Sundance Film Festival and Miramax Films — 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.
Today Sundance is the most important film festival this side of Cannes, and Miramax has become an industry giant. Likewise, the directors who emerged from the independent movement, such as Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, and David O. Russell, 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.
Candid, penetrating, and controversial, Down and Dirty Pictures is a must-read for anyone interested in the film world and where it's headed.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (January 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684862581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684862583
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

Customer Reviews

Too much to live up to

36 people found this helpful.
 on January 19, 2004
By Daniel Friedman
Peter Biskind has in recent times become one of my favorite writers on the movies, alongside Roger Ebert, Peter Travers, and David Ansen. His latest, Down and Dirty Pictures, is good but it has a couple of things working against it from the outset. First, it will always be in the shadow of Easy Riders Raging Bulls, Biskind’s seminal book on 70’s Hollywood which was an excellent work from start to finish. Second, because most of what Biskind chronicles is fairly recent memory, it seems a bit like overload. Diehard film fans will simply be rehashing old news (for them), whereas the stories in Easy Riders were far enough in the past to be almost new again.

Easy Redford & Raging Harvey

20 people found this helpful.
 on December 18, 2004
By Westley
Peter Biskind’s last book, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” was a tremendously fun read; “Down and Dirty Pictures” is a sequel of sorts. Whereas “Easy Riders” traced the rise and fall of 1970s film auteurs (Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman), “Down and Dirty” examines the next wave of potentially great filmmakers – the independents of the 1990s. After a fallow period in films during the 1980s where bloated epics ruled the Oscars and vapid blockbusters predominated, the indies of the 1990s were welcome relief, and the story is quite interesting.

A Dynamic and Fascinating View of "Indie" Films

14 people found this helpful.
 on November 14, 2004
By Edsopinion.com
This book was written by Peter Biskind who was the executive editor of Premiere Magazine and is also the author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. It is a very readable history of the independent film business from its beginnings as sub-titled foreign movies in art houses to the development of American films made outside of the studio system. Central to this story is the rise of Miramax and the Sundance Institute, Festival and Channel. Sundance was formed to help new talent develop their projects and give advice on script development, shooting and editing problems. Miramax began as a marketing company.

Top-notch book about "independent" film

10 people found this helpful.
 on January 18, 2004
By Wayne Klein
Biskind’s book focuses on how independent film became just another product for the movie studios during its rise in the 80’s and 90’s. His focus, though, is on two of the most important movers and shakers in the independent world; Harvey and Bob Weinstein the founders and driving forces behind Miramax films and Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute and film festival for independents. What makes Biskind’s book unique is its inside information (frequently provided by people who are afraid of going on the record for fear of being black listed by the Weinsteins).

Pete Biskind and his Hatchet

4 people found this helpful.
 on February 20, 2004
By Rick Spell
This book is a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. It is a very good example of investigative journalism and also an example of poor editing. Please don’t include everything you learned. Maybe he needed Harvey Weinstein to edit the book!

Miramax employees need not read

4 people found this helpful.
 on March 10, 2004
By Steven Bailey
“Down and Dirty Pictures” is Peter Biskind’s sort-of sequel–in spirit, for certain–to his previous film book, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.”

A timely sobering assessment of the indie film dream

6 people found this helpful.
 on January 6, 2004
By Lee Hill
When Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders Raging Bulls came out, I thought I had had my fill of the 70s New Hollywood, but that book made me see the period afresh without the usual mythologizing. The American independent film boom of the nineties, which became symbolized for the mainstream media by The Sundance Institute and Festival and Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s Miramax, is the subject of this equally well written, well researched and engrossing tome. This is a particularly brave book because so many players have a vested interest in keeping the idea of “independent cinema” alive even if the truly innovative and maverick filmmakers remain a minority in America film, while much of the highly touted product promoted by Miramax and New Line is as exciting, dangerous or refreshing as a prestige picture from the factory system of the 30s and 40s (but with less staying power). Unlike Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the filmmakers here emerge as nicer, more earnest, generally focused on their craft and less in love with the perks of success. Biskind saves most of his critique for the mini-majors like Miramax, the passive-agressive tendencies of a certain New Hollywood superstar, and the cynical goldrush mentality that has turned a nice little film festival into an uber-Cannes nightmare for desperate young filmmakers. A great book that I hope signals a sea-change in the current state of entertainment journalism. Yeah right. Well, it is still a great book anyway.

Absorbing as ever, but…

2 people found this helpful.
 on February 15, 2005
By E. Kutinsky
There are two unavoidable criticisms attached to Peter Biskind’s recount of the Independent movie era of the 90’s, and they both do and don’t have merit to them. First is that the book is, essentially, also swallowed by the figure of Harvey Weinstein, destroying careers and making enemies with one tantrum after another. The other is that there just isn’t enough love of movies, at least not to the extent of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, perhaps the most definitive book ever written about what it means to be a movie artist and movie businessman. As for Harvey, I find his character the center of Down & Dirty Pictures in a way that reads like a great soap opera villain, if not a great antihero – his rants and explosions are the maniacal work of a movie lover who just couldn’t quite be an artist – a Salieri to a Mozart. His is the figure you love to hate, the raging cloud of doom hovering over one career after another – which is a compliment to Biskind’s ability to characterize. The other criticism, though, is far more valid. Despite its occasional praise on the occasional unsung great movie (Out of Sight, In The Bedroom), I think Down & Dirty is plagued by having just too much ground to cover. Not only are there a dozen or more important movies, both in and out of Miramax, that are totally ignored (Blair Witch and Boogie Nights both changed the industry in their own way, and both merit about a sentence to Biskind), but the focus of the movies we do see can tend to even softpedal the story of what went on – for example, although the stint of Harvey’s insanely aggressive marketing of Chocolat is brought up, it’s Oscar campaign is almost wholly ignored. Biskind could probably fill a second volume of this book, one that will certainly be a point of major importance for all future discussion about the era as a whole, because what’s here, even at its most absorbing, feels like the quickest 15 years you’ll ever experience.

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