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The indie film is dead. Long live the indie film.

The sale of Miramax by Disney to an investment conglomerate would probably mean more if it were 2003 and we could still look at Miramax as “The Scrappy Little Indie That Could” (though even then they were owned by the House of Mouse, but still …)

No, sadly, the best days of Miramax are long behind them. Look through a list of their 90s flicks, particularly the 1990-1995, and you’ll see some of the finest films the decade had to offer. Miramax was the engine of change for the explosion of indie films in the early 1990s, a direct response to the bloated excess of the 1980s. The studio managed to release some of the edgiest films, ranging from the neo-noir “The Grifters” (1990) to Tim Robbins’ brilliant slaughter of the American political system “Bob Roberts” (1992) to the haunting “The Piano” (1993).

And there was 1994. Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” (one of his last good movies). “Clerks,” which introduced a foul-mouthed new voice in Kevin Smith (who sadly hasn’t quite paid off on that investment in years). The stunning “The Crow,” a hint of what Brandon Lee might have been. Egoyan’s masterful “Exotica.”

And “Pulp Fiction.” Yes, “Pulp Fiction.” The premier film of the 1990s, probably the single most important movie of the decade, the one that revolutionized almost every movie made after it, the one obnoxious college kids quoted ad infinitum and film school hacks slavishly devoted themselves to imitating. The film that lost the Best Picture Oscar to “Forrest Gump.” Sigh.

That was the beginning of the end, though, really for Miramax as an independent film studio. Purchased by Disney in 1993, the studio’s slate of releases still ran the razor’s edge, ranging from “Trainspotting” (1996) to “Good Will Hunting” (1997) to “Princess Monoake” (1999). (They also dumped “Shakespeare in Love” on us, which NEVER should have won Best Picture over “Saving Private Ryan,” but that’s another screed entirely).

 Through it all, the Brothers Weinstein remained a contentious force to be reckoned with, never afraid to battle with the higher-ups while also never afraid to go toe-to-toe with their filmmakers, occasionally reeking their revenge through a piss-poor release pattern and no promotion. That said, they remained a righteous force for years, putting artistically daring and different movies into theaters not always accustomed to playing such films. The success of Miramax led to other major studios developing their own independent arms, the dawn of the “major mini.”

The dawn of the 00s didn’t serve Miramax well, however, though there were flashes of brilliance in “Amelia” (2001) and the vastly underrated “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” But by 2005 when the Brothers Weinstein left Miramax over conflicts with Disney chiefs, the studio was essentially nothing more than a name to slap on before opening credits. Their best films in the past five years have been co-productions with other studios.

The sale of Miramax marks the final nail in the coffin of the major mini, pointing toward the obvious time where movies will become little more than vehicles to market merchandise (cut me some slack and let me dream that it’s not happened already). Disney’s focus on Pixar and Marvel, both hugely profitable branches of the studio, says nothing more than the House of Mouse is looking to maximize profits, as movies become easier to pirate and the real money is to be made not in ticket sales but merchandising. None of this will come as any big shock to anyone who follows these things, but it does point toward a dispairing future for film, where risk and innovation won’t be rewarded in movie theaters, but perhaps, like “Ink,” it will find its audience in a new way.

The queen is dead. Long live the queen.

The indie film is dead. Long live the indie film.

Categories: Movies, Pop Culture Tags: , ,