“It’s a shame ‘Slumdog’ is going to come in second.”

Posted by · 4:35 pm · February 6th, 2009

Kate Winslet in The ReaderYep, those would be Harvey Weinstein’s words right there. EW has an interesting piece positing the theory that “The Reader” is really the film most likely to spoil the party for “Slumdog” on Oscar night — even if the writers admit that it’s unlikely to happen. (I agree on both counts.)

It’s a handy precis of the comeback narrative that Weinstein has forged this year — both for himself as a major Oscar campaigning force, and for the movie, which some months ago looked like an awards-season casualty after suffering tepid reviews and unwelcome behind-the-scenes controversy.

How did he do it, given a campaigning budget that’s a mere fraction of the millions he spent back in the “Shakespeare in Love” days? The answer, the article says, lies in Weinstein’s self-professed new “low-key” strategy with an emphasis on simply screening the film, especially in certain well-targeted areas:

Weinstein’s first salvo was to home in on the Academy’s aging Jewish population. Although he’s been trying to get all voters to see the movie, it’s no coincidence that he has screened The Reader at such Jewish cultural hot spots as the Skirball Center in Los Angeles and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, places where one is likely to find older voters with a deep connection to films about the Holocaust. ”When I went to a screening, I was one of about four people who didn’t have blue hair,” says one Academy member and former campaign engineer. ”And I was the only WASP.”

Weinstein also invited Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to The Reader‘s New York premiere, and courted an endorsement from the Anti-Defamation League, a group whose mission is to call attention to anti-Semitism … Weinstein says, ”It must have been the hand of Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, because Elie Wiesel asked to see me after the screening and he hugged me and said how much he loved the movie.” (Wiesel, through his agent, declined to comment.)

Ahem. While there may be a lot of people (Roger Ebert among them) protesting that “The Reader” isn’t a “Holocaust movie” — and beneath the surface, it isn’t really — it doesn’t appear that Weinstein has got that particular memo. The point is that he’s marketing it as a Holocaust movie, and it seems to be working.

Of course, I’m all but certain that “The Reader” isn’t actually going to win. From where I’m standing, it’s closest forerunner is “The Cider House Rules,” another middlebrow adult drama with okay reviews, weak box-office and spotty precursor support that Weinstein nonetheless strong-armed into the Best Picture race. With his “Shakespeare” mojo still fresh in people’s minds, some pundits suggested Weinstein could dethrone the inevitable frontrunner, “American Beauty.”

Of course it didn’t — it probably never even came close. But the film got more attention than it would ever otherwise have received, and wound up grabbing a pair of big prizes. And the same fate likely awaits “The Reader.” (Well, one prize at least). When he hasn’t got the most promising material to work with, you can’t say Harvey Weinstein doesn’t know how to make lemonade.

Finally, also at EW, Dave Karger runs through his Best Picture pecking order, which goes like this:

1. “Slumdog Millionaire”
2. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
3. “Milk”
4. “The Reader”
5. “Frost/Nixon.”

Are we still buying “Button” at No. 2? I’m not.

→ 26 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

26 responses so far

  • 1 2-06-2009 at 6:13 pm

    KB said...

    The real shame is that Kate Winslet’s chances might be affected by this arrogant prick. “The Reader” is good, but if Harvey Weinstein thinks this film is better than “Slumdog” or even “Milk”, then he is delusional.

  • 2 2-06-2009 at 6:48 pm

    Brian Kinsley said...

    It doesn’t matter what he thinks about quality. A Best Picture win for The Reader is a huge triumph for him and his company, let alone the tens of millions the films box office will jump. It could save TWC.

    And really, the two-punch of Pollack and Minghella is the real key here. When you even just think about the sheer number of likely Oscar voters that those two worked with, as opposed to the entire cast and crew of Slumdog, The Reader is leaps and bounds ahead. It just comes down to who votes which way.

  • 3 2-06-2009 at 6:49 pm

    Mr. Harmonica said...

    If ANYTHING upsets Slumdog millionaire, it’s going to be Milk.

  • 4 2-06-2009 at 7:33 pm

    skdfhk said...

    I love Harvey

  • 5 2-06-2009 at 7:45 pm

    Casey Fiore said...

    i really hate him with a passion

  • 6 2-06-2009 at 7:46 pm

    THE Diego Ortiz said...

    you hate harvey milk?

  • 7 2-06-2009 at 9:23 pm

    Willa said...

    It’s seems like everyone in the business hates Weinstein. Yet he keeps getting his crap nominated.

    No comprendo.

  • 8 2-06-2009 at 10:02 pm

    Erin said...

    To be fair, he hasn’t had any type of contender since leaving Miramax. I don’t think it is fair to lump The Reader in with previous efforts such as Chicago and Shakespeare in Love as they had major studio funds at their disposal. I don’t think The Reader deserves to come anywhere close to winning, but there is something comforting about having Harvey in the mix. And I still believe that if there is any move in the Best Picture lineup to complain about, it is Frost/Nixon.

  • 9 2-07-2009 at 12:08 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    And I still fear it wil win ever since that nominations got announced. I really do.

  • 10 2-07-2009 at 1:21 am

    par3182 said...

    does it really matter what film is in the number two spot? ‘slumdog’ is (unfortunately) such a sure thing that the order of the others is irrelevant. one winner, four losers.

  • 11 2-07-2009 at 2:01 am

    Glenn said...

    Despite getting some truly retched movies into the BP race and being a despicible distributor… I’m actually glad Harvey’s back in the Oscar racecourse. You can’t say he’s ever boring, that’s for sure.

  • 12 2-07-2009 at 4:23 am

    PJ said...

    It’s despicable enough that “The Reader” is nominated…

  • 13 2-07-2009 at 5:29 am

    Michael said...

    Anyone of the four other nominated films is better and more deserving best picture winners than the frontrunner. So I would love if Harvey got his mojo working so much that a surprise win would happen. The Reader or one of the others doesn’t matter. As long as they can take away votes from the engaging and well directed but empty and hollow Slumdog.

    And it would be kind of entertaining to see the online hatred spewed against Harvey if he pulls it of. I bet even he will find it entertaining!

  • 14 2-07-2009 at 5:30 am

    Glenn said...

    See, that’s what I don’t get. Why is it “despicable”? And why isn’t it despicable that “Frost/Nixon” is nominated? Isn’t it strange that movies can get nominated and go “ya know what, nobody thinks we’re the best movie of the year so let’s not bother.”

  • 15 2-07-2009 at 6:00 am

    BurmaShave said...

    Yeah but THE READER is wretched, whereas FROST/NIXON is well-made and entertaining even if it doesn’t inspire any kind of passion. Plus it’s a movie that deserves an audience, and the Best Picture nomination helps it with that.

  • 16 2-07-2009 at 7:11 am

    A.J said...

    I really really dislike this man with a burning passion. However, I can’t deny his genius even if he still makes me want to die.

  • 17 2-07-2009 at 8:14 am

    Glenn said...

    Yeah… that audience? Doesn’t exist.

  • 18 2-07-2009 at 8:17 am

    Cliff said...

    I have to say, I’m no Frost/Nixon enthusiast, but I do think it’s probably the only non-“despicable” movie of an incredibly weak best picture field.

  • 19 2-07-2009 at 8:30 am

    David L said...

    I think The Reader’s poor box office will keep it from winning the top prize more than its lack of quality.

  • 20 2-07-2009 at 8:48 am

    Average Joe said...

    David L has got it, box office matters, which is why I think The Reader has almost no chance in hell. To quote Herzog, I will eat my shoe if it happens. It might be foolish to rely on previous statistics, but one of the most reliable ones is that the no. 1 or 2 films in terms of box office usually wins. This is why I think it was foolish to predict Letters in 2006 (sorry Kris) and why I think it’s foolish to predict The Reader this year. It would be the lowest grossing best pic winner ever (adjusted for inflation).

    Of course, I don’t think voters look at the actual box office numbers, but I think they are a sign of the general reception and popularity of a film.

    Box office and no. of nominations is why I still buy Button at no. 2. Like someone said though, it doesn’t matter because Slumdog is winning.

  • 21 2-07-2009 at 9:25 am

    Jeff Cash said...

    This is the problem with the Academy Awards: it becomes a popularity contest.

  • 22 2-07-2009 at 11:01 am

    Aaron said...

    THANK YOU jeff! exactly what I was about to say.

  • 23 2-07-2009 at 5:16 pm

    Ryan M said...

    Harvey Weinstein is the most exciting person in the movie business right now. He has so much power and such a fascinating persona. I hate everything he stands for, but I can’t say I don’t respect him for being good at his job.

  • 24 2-07-2009 at 9:16 pm

    Andrew said...

    Why give him the publicity of threads like this??

    I think Reader would come 4th or 5th in votes and I agree that he could be hurting Winslet’s chances

  • 25 2-08-2009 at 5:21 pm

    Ryan M said...

    I disagree that he’ll hurt Winslet’s chances, because the Academy loves her regardless of her movies (as proven by her record number of nominations for someone her age) and they love The Reader (hence its strange and unexpected amount of nominations).

    It’ll definitely come before Frost/Nixon

  • 26 4-29-2010 at 7:52 am

    stan said...

    The more I think about it, the more I think Forrest Gump deserved to beat Pulp Fiction.

    Harvey Weinstein is a pretty messed up bastard. I bet he attempted a vicious campaign to get voters to vote Pulp Fiction over inevitable winner Forrest Gump.