Not to step into Steve Pond’s, well, pond, but I have this terrible feeling that, in fact, despite the vicissitudes of Academy voting, Harvey Weinstein may actually pull it off and get Quentin Tarantino an Academy Award.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he will — though clearly with eight, count them, eight Academy nominations, Quentin’s picture “Inglorious Basterds” is guaranteed to win a few, most obviously for Christoph Waltz as Best Supporting Actor.
But that won’t satisfy Harvey or his creditors. (And, as we all know, he desperately needs a hit to keep them at bay!) Now, I’ve written enough about Quentin and “Inglorious Basterds” — and been excoriated by the socalled “fanboys” for same. That’s not what this column is about.
Actually, I started out writing a column called “The Re-Running of America” about the fact that our current generation of motion-picture executives (of which, regrettably, I was once one) can’t even be original enough to come up with new ideas or remake classics like, say, “Huck Finn,” or “Sense and Sensibility.” Instead, they’ve already burned out so many brain cells that the best they can do is make remakes of movies they saw when they were kids — I mean, did the world need another “Hitcher” (my ex-wife worked on the first one and even she didn’t like it) or “Fame.”
And I just heard about another because, in my minor career as a talent manager, a client just got called in on — “True Grit.”
Which is what brings us back to Quentin. Remember, “True Grit” wasn’t a hit — critical or otherwise — when it first came out in 1969. What it was was an attempt by the Tinsel Town establishment (then on its last legs) to give an award to one of its own — John Wayne (as “Rooster” Cogburn) – -before he keeled over, (Believe it or not, he hung on for another decade, finally dying on the exact date, June 11, that “True Grit” had been released 10 years before.)
It worked — in a year that featured such breakthrough movies as Cannes winner “Easy Rider” (which changed everything), Wayne nonetheless won “Best Actor”… a payback for the former USC footballer (who reputedly was part of a gang tackle of legendary “It” girl Clara Bow during his playing days) for his years of solid service in everything from the “They Were Expendable” to the“The Searchers.”
And now they’re remaking that? What’s next — “Cat Ballou II”?
Anyway, it seems in his desperate, fat, flailing-to-stay alive, Harvey Weinstein’s resorting to the same strategy — with the bomb that was “Nine” (the Weinstein Company’s big hope for an Xmas hit and financial salvation), Harvey had to hike up his pants to cover his plumber’s crease and go back to the only thing he’s ever been truly successful at — promoting Quentin Tarantino.
Again, before the hate mail starts pouring in from the fanboys (who wouldn’t know Quentin if they tripped over him), I’ve been one of Quentin’s biggest fans and, at least in the media, his biggest supporters, going back to my rave story in the New York Times, before his first picture,“Reservoir Dogs,” even came out.
But, as you know from my columns last summer, I have severe problems with “Inglorious Basterds,” most of which have nothing to do with Quentin but all to do with Harvey. For instance, should the Academy, split between the ex-husband-and-wife team of James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, divide, I find it entirely conceivable that Quentin could — á là John Wayne in “True Grit” — get a “makeup call” as Best Director for being snubbed on “Pulp Fiction.” For which he most assuredly deserved it — instead, he shared the 1994 screenplay award with his erstwhile best friend, Roger Avary.
And I wouldn’t have any problem with that — “Inglorious Basterds” is obviously well directed, with a great cast and, besides, “makeup calls” in Hollywood are as common as they are in Jack Nicholson’s beloved NBA.
What I have a problem with is Harvey Weinstein’s desperate attempt to (last summer) promote the film as Quentin’s “biggest hit” (as TheWrap conclusively proved, only half as many people bothered to see it as saw “Pulp Fiction”) and now as a Best Picture and a Best Original Screenplay.
Best Director? As noted, I have nothing against “makeup calls” — but “Basterds” is not even close to a Best Picture. But what’s really insulting — particularly to Harvey’s target audience — is the push for Best Screenplay.
First, Quentin’s already won one — and many people (and books, for that matter) dispute his “originality.” More shamefully, for Weinstein, is that his adopted son wrote a screenplay that made Weinstein money by exploiting the same audience he was supposed to be glorifying. As I noted last summer, the large majority of the fans for “Inglorious” were elderly Jews living out one last, private fantasy.
I know this for two reasons — one, the Weinstein Company itself heralded the age of the audience and, two, living in Malibu I had to check the theaters in Westlake and Agoura with my own eyes to understand how many 80-year-olds in their wheelchairs made up Harvey’s audience. (If you just opened the door in any theater, you couldn’t believe how many red wheelchair battery lights you saw.) And they came back over and over.
Now, as mentioned, I’m all for “revenge fantasies” (a category Quentin seems to not only have mastered, but invented). But I do mind Harvey exploiting his own ethnicity with blatant lies. Forget the fact that no one ever did kill Hitler (except himself) — the whole premise of “Basterds” (as depicted in the film) is that Churchill himself ordered the operation Tarantino describes.
Nothing could be further from the truth — in reality, as modern history book will tell you, in 1944 British snipers twice had Hitler in their sites (in time to save several million Jews) … and both times Churchill ordered them to stand down.
If Hitler was killed, the new German leaders would sue for peace and he, the U.S. and the Russians wouldn’t get to crush Germany into the ground, as we eventually did. Churchill traded the lives of all those Jews for “unconditional surrender.”
So for Harvey Weinstein, a Jew himself, to promote a film that, as his latest ads read, “rewrote history,” for 30 pieces of silver is more than immoral, it’s disgusting — and you can’t blame Quentin for that.