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Peter Biskind

Related: American cinema - New Hollywood - independent film - film history

Down and Dirty Pictures : Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film (2004) - Peter Biskind

Down and Dirty Pictures : Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film (2004) - Peter Biskind [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

You've heard the rumors. The film industry is filled with ruthless executives who think nothing of brow-beating their employees, of using creative accounting to cheat filmmakers, and re-cutting a director's vision into a soulless crowd-pleaser. Well, it turns out those rumors are often true--at least according to Peter Biskind's highly entertaining Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. Packed with industry anecdotes and history, the book chronicles the growth and eventual mainstreaming of independent films and offers the back-story to seminal works including sex, lies, and videotape and Pulp Fiction among others. Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, divides most of his time between Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford and Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. Biskind simultaneously credits these two as fostering, though ultimately ruining, the purity of indpendent film. Other indies are largely left out, although the now-defunct October Films appears prominently in the role of noble failure. Biskind has serious points to make, but he's not stingy with the war stories, either. (One particularly amusing scene involves October executives chasing Robert Duvall's agent through a Sheraton Hotel in an attempt to stop him from making a deal with Miramax to distribute The Apostle.) Those who have only a passing interest in the movie business may tire of Biskind's oft-repeated themes (Weinstein is an evil genius! Redford is a passive-aggressive control freak!) but for those who truly love film industry gossip, Down and Dirty Pictures is a feast of insider stories--each tidbit juicier than the last. --Leah Weathersby, Amazon.com

According to Biskind (Easy Riders, Raging Bulls), most people associate independent filmmaking with such noble concepts as integrity, vision and self-sacrifice. This gritty, ferocious, compulsively readable book proves that these characterizations are only partly true, and that indie conditions are "darker, dirtier, and a lot smaller" than major studios' gilded environments. The intimidating image of Miramax's Harvey Weinstein plows powerfully through Biskind's saga; the studio honcho emerges as... read more --From Publishers Weekly

It wasn't so long ago that the Sundance Film Festival was an inconsequential event somewhere in Utah, and Miramax was a tiny distributor of music documentaries and soft-core trash. Today, of course, Sundance is the most important film festival this side of Cannes, and Miramax has become an industry giant, part of the huge Disney empire. Likewise, the directors who emerged from the independent movement, such as Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, and David O. Russell -- who once had to max out their credit cards to realize their visions on the screen -- 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.

Down and Dirty Pictures chronicles the rise of independent filmmakers and of the twin engines -- Sundance and Miramax -- 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. Biskind follows Sundance as it grew from a regional film festival to the premier showcase of independent film, succeeding almost despite the mercurial Redford, whose visionary plans were nearly thwarted by his own quixotic personality. He charts in fascinating detail the meteoric rise of the controversial Harvey Weinstein, often described as the last mogul, who created an Oscar factory that became the envy of the studios, while leaving a trail of carnage in his wake. As in Easy Riders, Biskind's incisive account is loaded with vibrant anecdotes and outrageous stories, all of it blended into a fast-moving narrative. Redford, the Weinsteins, and the directors, producers, and actors Biskind profiles are the people who reinvented Hollywood, making independent films mainstream. But success invariably means compromise, and it remains to be seen whether the indie spirit can survive its corporate embrace.

Candid, mesmerizing, and penetrating, Down and Dirty Pictures is a must-read for anyone interested in the film world and where it's headed. --Book Description

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (1998) - Peter Biskind

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (1998) - Peter Biskind [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Not only is Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls the best book in recent memory on turn-of-the-'70s film, it is beyond question the best book we'll ever get on the subject. Why? Because once the big names who spilled the beans to Biskind find out that other people spilled an equally piquant quantity of beans, nobody will dare speak to another writer with such candor, humor, and venom again.

Biskind did hundreds of interviews with people who make the president look accessible: Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Geffen, Beatty, Kael, Towne, Altman. He also spoke with countless spurned spouses and burned partners, alleged victims of assault by knife, pistol, and bodily fluids. Rather more responsible than some of his sources, Biskind always carefully notes the denials as well as the astounding stories he has compiled. He tells you about Scorsese running naked down Mulholland Drive after his girlfriend, crying, "Don't leave me!"; grave robbing on the set of Apocalypse Now; Faye Dunaway apparently flinging urine in Roman Polanski's face while filming Chinatown; Michael O'Donoghue's LSD-fueled swan dive onto a patio; Coppola's mad plan for a 10-hour film of Goethe's Elective Affinities in 3-D; the ocean suicide attempt Hal "Captain Wacky" Ashby gave up when he couldn't find a swimsuit that pleased him; countless dalliances with porn stars; Russian roulette games and psychotherapy sessions in hot tubs. But he also soberly gives both sides ample chance to testify.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is also more than a fistful of dazzling anecdotes. Methodically, as thrillingly as a movie attorney, Biskind builds the case that Hollywood was revived by wild ones who then betrayed their own dreams, slit their own throats, and destroyed an art form by producing that mindless, inhuman modern behemoth, the blockbuster.

When Spielberg was making the first true blockbuster, Jaws, he sneaked Lucas in one day when nobody was around, got him to put his head in the shark's mechanical mouth, and closed the shark's mouth on him. The gizmo broke and got stuck, but the two young men somehow extricated Lucas's head and hightailed it like Tom and Huck. As Peter Biskind's scathing, funny, wise book demonstrates, they only thought they had escaped. --Tim Appelo

When the low-budget biker movie Easy Rider shocked Hollywood with its success in 1969, a new Hollywood era was born. This was an age when talented young filmmakers such as Scorsese, Coppola, and Spielberg, along with a new breed of actors, including De Niro, Pacino, and Nicholson, became the powerful figures who would make such modern classics as The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Jaws. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls follows the wild ride that was Hollywood in the '70s -- an unabashed celebration of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll (both onscreen and off) and a climate where innovation and experimentation reigned supreme. Based on hundreds of interviews with the directors themselves, producers, stars, agents, writers, studio executives, spouses, and ex-spouses, this is the full, candid story of Hollywood's last golden age.

MARTIN SCORSESE ON DRUGS: "I did a lot of drugs because I wanted to do a lot, I wanted to push all the way to the very very end, and see if I could die."

DENNIS HOPPER ON EASY RIDER: "The cocaine problem in the United States is really because of me. There was no cocaine before Easy Rider on the street. After Easy Rider, it was everywhere."

GEORGE LUCAS ON STAR WARS: "Popcorn pictures have always ruled. Why do people go see them? Why is the public so stupid? That's not my fault."

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (2003) - Kenneth Bowser

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (2003) - Kenneth Bowser [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is a book by Peter Biskind about 1970s Hollywood, a stand alone period of American film that produced such classics as The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, Taxi Driver, Jaws, Star Wars, The Exorcist and The Last Picture Show. It follows Hollywood on the brink of the Vietnam War with a group of Hollywood film directors known as the movie brats, beginning in the 1960's and ending in the 1980's.

Subjects Profiled In The Book:
Robert Altman Hal Ashby Peter Bogdanovich Francis Ford Coppola William Friedkin George Lucas Marcia Lucas John Milius Polly Platt Paul Schrader Martin Scorcese Steven Spielberg Robert Towne --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easy_Riders%2C_Raging_Bulls [Dec 2005]

This book was made in a documentary film with the same title.

This BBC production is a companion to Peter Biskind's 1998 book by the same name, an excellent dish on the 1970s American movie scene. It roughly follows the same path, tracing how maverick filmmakers revitalized Hollywood, from Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider to the triumphant quartet of Coppola/Lucas/Spielberg/Scorsese. Any fan will want to listen in as nearly 50 actors and artists remember the day. However, the star meter is on low wattage, with today's most successful directors only talked about, and seen in often bemusingly vintage clips. The better-produced, higher-star-wattage A Decade Under the Influence covers much of the same ground. An on-screen Biskind would have helped matters, but he is nowhere to be seen. Yet there are moments from the book that come to life, be it grainy home movies from Jennifer Salt and Margot Kidder's notorious beach house or Roman Polanski's emotional press conference after the murder of his wife Sharon Tate. The DVD boasts a second disc of extended interviews on numerous subjects, many of which were not covered in the 119-minute film. --Doug Thomas

Product Description:
This 2-DVD set is Kenneth Bowser’s BBC-produced documentary of Peter Biskind’s controversial, best-selling book. It chronicles the evolution of a new breed of filmmaker who, in the late ’60s and ’70s, exploded old Hollywood, in the process redefining the very nature of movies. The results were edgy, impressionistic pictures—The Godfather, Easy Rider, Mean Streets, Midnight Cowboy, Rosemary’s Baby, Taxi Driver—by maverick, now-legendary directors: Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, Altman, Polanski, Peckinpah.

In bringing the celebrated book to the screen, director Bowser employed some adventurous filmmaking of his own. Narrated by William H. Macy, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls features vintage clips of the directors who defined the movement; original interviews with such directors as Arthur Penn and John Milius, actors such as Peter Fonda and Richard Dreyfus and more. --via Amazon.com

The second assumption which I would challenge is that it was a limited group of people who were responsible for this ‘Golden Age’. The documentary suggests that it’s, broadly, the group who assembled at John Milius’ Malibu beach house in the early seventies and that it was their reliance on drugs that destroyed the ascendancy of the directors. The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, it ignores the fact that some of the key directors didn’t use drugs, or at least not to a career-damaging extent – Steven Spielberg, John Milius, Brian De Palma, Arthur Penn – and secondly it ignores the importance of all the other filmmakers who weren’t in the closed circle. It seems incredible to me that anyone could create a history of the era and not mention Dirty Harry, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Klute, Annie Hall or Alien. --http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=6140 [Dec 2005]

Julia Philips (1994-2002)
However, along with many of her 70s cohorts, creative explo­ration and suit rejection ran hand in hand with embracing the perceived creative liberation provided by excessive drug and alcohol use. All night and all morning parties at her Malibu beach house were the norm. They were attended by hungry, penniless nobodies named Scorsese, De Palma and Schrader, and a frail dweeb named Spielberg. The late, great screenwriter Waldo (Midnight Cowboy) Salt said of her, "Julia had a real eye for spotting talent, and she would throw herself bodily upon it." These relationships led to her being a truly creative producer on Steelyard Blues and The Sting (both 1973), the latter of which brought her the first Oscar ever won by a woman for producing. As she would later say, she survived Oscar night with the aid of "a diet pill, a small amount of coke, two joints, three Valium and a glass-and-a-half of wine." --http://www.moviemaker.com/issues/46/crossing.html [Dec 2005]

Margot Kidder
She showed real personality opposite Gene Wilder in the wacky Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970), but after becoming disillusioned with the Hollywood machine she left Los Angeles to study acting in New York City. Upon her return to L.A., she and close friend Jennifer Salt moved into a beach house in Malibu and regularly hosted a circle of young, struggling filmmakers that included Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg, Susan Sarandon and others. After toiling for several years on the television assembly line, she made audiences and critics sit up and take notice with her eerie interpretation of separated Siamese twins in De Palma’s breakthrough feature, Sisters (1973). --http://www.filmreferencelibrary.ca/index.asp?layid=46&csid1=1403&navid=46 [Dec 2005]

Roger Corman
Another godfather to the new movement was producer Roger Corman, who gave early career opportunities to Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and Jonathan Demme on low-budget projects that allowed them to learn their craft. --http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=281374 [Dec 2005]

See also: documentary film - Peter Biskind - Roger Corman - American cinema - New Hollywood - 1970s film

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