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

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,566 ratings  ·  114 reviews

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. 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 indi

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Paperback, 560 pages
Published January 3rd 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2004)
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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter BiskindPictures at a Revolution by Mark  HarrisHitchcock by François TruffautThe Great Movies by Roger EbertAdventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
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Community Reviews

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Sam Quixote
I'm one of those who came of age in the `90s and who loves film, remembering all the great films that that decade produced is great fun as well as finding out how they came about from the mouths of the filmmakers themselves. That said, I loved the book but it goes further than talking about the directors and actors, to the guys who held the purse-strings and the exposure, namely the Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob, who created Miramax and Dimension, and Robert Redford, the movie star who foun ...more
Trish
I finally polished off Peter Biskind's "Down and Dirty Pictures," the saga of the rise and fall of independent film in its Sundance and Miramax incarnations, from "sex, lies, and videotape" to the big-budget, mainstream not-really-indie flicks Miramax now supports (Kate and Leopold? She's All That?)

I'm a big fan of Biskind's gossipy dissection of the "golden age" of 70s cinema, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," and "Dirty Pictures" shares the same dedication to movie minutiae, the same exhaustive sou
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Inna
Very amusing description of the US independent film scene during the 1990s, especially of its business aspects. I am not sufficiently familiar with the field to judge each argument on its merits. In any case the notion that during the 90s there was an attempt to create a middle ground between the traditional independent film scene and large Hollywood studios, an attempt that eventually failed, makes sense.
Sean
Having read "Easy Riders and Raging Bulls" - I thought I'd check out the sequel, about indie cinema in the 1980s and 1990s. The subject itself seems very interesting and is worthy of being studied in greater depth. There was an excellent book to be had in the subject matter - it's just that Biskind didn't write it.

While I can't fault his research and scoring interviews with most of the key people involved, which seem impeccable - I didn't find the various machinations and double-dealings quite
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John Spillane
After loving Easy Riders and Raging Bulls I dismissed this because I thought the description was boring. I still think the description is boring but audiobook-wise it was great!
Josh Cornelius
I enjoyed Biskind's 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls' more, like so many others. It's not so much the writing but the spirit of the game in the 90s that makes this book different. Since this one is so Weinstein-centric and so much of their world revolves around dollars, the book gets pretty dense at times with money talk. Bob is sketched as the Luigi to Harvey's Mario, by which I mean he sits a large portion of the book out, relatively undeveloped. Most of the book is solely dedicated to above and bel ...more
Troy Blackford
This was a great and illuminating read. I just read Peter Biskind's examination of the rise of the 'New Hollywood' directors of the 70s, 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,' and this one was even more interesting. A thorough and engaging look at the Indie film renaissance of the 90s, up through 2004, focusing primarily on Mirimax and Sundance. Sundance plays far less of a role, primarily because (as this book reveals) Robert Redford has a hard time focusing enough on a particular thing to make sure it g ...more
Bubbly
This book could have been subtitled 'Why Harvey Weinstein is a terrible human being and everything is his fault and you should really hate him'. Far too often, reading this book felt like reading one of those celebrity gossip magazines and I came very close to giving it one star.

It's full of unsourced quotes which are then "balanced" by parenthetic sourced quotes saying literally the exact opposite. I'm sure Harvey W. probably isn't a nice guy, probably has done a lot of not very nice things an
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Aj
UGH, FINALLY finished this. I have to say that most of the reason that I hated this book had little to do with the research or the author's ability to string together a history narrative. I hated reading this book because basically everyone in it is terrible. I was indifferent regarding most of the known players in this book (the Weinsteins, Redford, etc.) prior to reading it, but am now in full on loathing for everyone. It makes me glad I'm not much of a movie fan anymore because I feel dirty h ...more
Hervé
After 100 not really interesting pages, here arrives the true Indie figures of the American cinema : Tarantino, Soderbergh, Coen brothers, David O. Russel, etc...

And the book becomes suddenly much more intense, and we can easily relate to all the adventures of this bunch of idealists who thought they could build a New Hollywood, or at least make the films they wanted to make. However, there was a big obstacle : Harvey Weinstein.

He is truly the Hero of this book, both the good, the bad, and the
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Chris
As a movie fan, I find the subject of the independent film business fascinating. However, this book is an ordeal to read. It is literally twice as long as it needs to be, because author Peter Biskind had to include every last bit of second-hand evidence that Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the brothers in charge of Miramax Pictures) are manipulative, abusive, psychotic monsters. According to Biskind's very obviously biased viewpoint, the independent film business is filled with stories of tantrums, li ...more
Medeyle
Very interesting, but narrowly focused. Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in film or film history. The subtitle leads you to believe more time will be spent on Sundance than you get - I'd say the overall proportion is about 80/20 in Miramax's favor. Overall, an absorbing look at Miramax's birth, life cycle and gentle fade, with the occasional side trip to Utah. I'd say the writer really can't stand Redford personally and that makes it tough to judge how much of the stuff he says abou ...more
Chris Adams
This wasn't as good as "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," but it was a good follow up. I guess what you see is the birth of the fractured film landscape we have today. The thread started in Easy Riders, how the smart, mid-level adult aimed movie disappeared, is continued here. We see independent cinema rise in opposition to the formula blockbusters of the 80's (themselves birthed from Jaws/Star Wars phenomena that did in the 70's auteur). But we see them quickly gobbled up by mini-majors that might as ...more
Caracalla
This book focussed on two distribution companies, Miramax and October-USA-Focus, and the Sundance Film Festival, and aims to understand the independent film movement. This focus might help him deal with something as inchoate as this movement but it is a move away from the focus his last book on the personalities of New Hollywood, that makes the gap between his interest, personality and gossip, and his subject, the businesses and institutions behind the indie movement, a little uncomfortable. Apa ...more
David
This is a book of office gossip: who stabbed who in the back, who screwed up the big deals, who did or didn’t say x about y. Except that it’s a book of office gossip about the movie industry, so of course we’re all interested. Starting with Sex, Lies and Videotapes winning the main prize at the Sundance Film Festival and ending with Martin Scorsese failing to win an Oscar for Gangs of New York (I still like that movie), this is a book about the rise of independent film in the 1990s and it’s colo ...more
Taylor
After Biskind's book, I cannot think about the film industry the same way again. Filled with episodes of backstabbing, double-crossing, petty rivalries, idiotic disputes, and all sorts of people dragging all sorts of other people through the mud, my eyes have been opened. Most of the book is dedicated to the vivid portraiture of Harvey Weinstein - the pseudo-Messianic figure who rules over his company, Miramax, with an iron fist. (Though his brother Bob is also clearly no pushover.)

If there's a
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Mark R.
It's not easy to imagine a more thorough (and entertaining) report on independent and quasi-independent filmmaking from 1989 and beyond. Biskind starts his book by noting that it's a sequel of sorts to his chronicle of filmmaking in the 1970s, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" (which I have not yet read but certainly will, in the not-too-distant future). His introduction provides a summary of the time between that era of film school-educated directors and the indie explosion of the early nineties, pro ...more
Robert
A quasi-sequel to Biskind’s Easy Riders Raging Bulls, which I re-devoured recently, Down and Dirty Pictures illuminates how the seeds the 70’s filmmaking mavericks planted sprouted a decade or so later. It is less about independent movies themselves as it is about the complicated process of how they are funded, how they get made and how they get distributed (or not distributed as it turns out). It starts in the mid-80’s but really gets going with the 1989 release of Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies ...more
Caroline
Whilst somewhat lacking in the outrageousness and salacious detail of his previous book, 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls', this is a more than worthy follow-up. It details the rise and fall of 'indie movies', movies made outside of the studio system, often by unknown or first-time directors. Many of these movies were championed and sold at the Sundance Film Festival, which was initially set up to give these directors a pulpit and a place for their movies to be seen and sold. And many were bought by H ...more
Hunter Duesing
Like 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls', this book is VERY entertaining to read and hard to put down. However, this book as a whole amounts to far less than the sum of its parts, and most of the book is comprised of anecdotes designed to convince me of something that I was already convinced of prior to reading this book, which is the fact that Harvey Weinstein is a greedy, mean-spirited sack of douche. While 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls' at least did a good job of chronicling an era, this book is really ...more
D.M.
I'd been loaned Easy Riders, Raging Bulls way back when it came out, and wasn't too crazy about it. The film did a better job condensing that story to its salient points and doing away with Biskind's business-heavy and often trivial writing. So, when I saw this for only a pound in a store, I felt that would be just about the right amount to pay for a second ride on the Biskind train. And I was right.
While the tale of the rise and assimilation of independent film, Sundance and Miramax is certainl
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Byron
I read Easy Riders, Raging Bulls when I was a kid, a million years ago. You'd think this book would do for the kinda great '90s quasi-independent film renaissance what ERRB did for the Altman, Scorsese, Coppola era in the '70s, and you'd be mistaken. This is much less about filmmakers than it is about the sleazebags filmmakers work for - mostly just Harvey Weinstein from Miramax. They could have just as easily put a picture of his ugly mug on the cover and called it "Harvey," but who would have ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Trust Biskind. You don't know half the story behind the movies you see. In this gossipy, titillating expose on the marriage between Sundance and Miramax, Biskind vilifies everyone: Redford, the Weinsteins, those greedy little actors just trying to earn a modest living. It's a fascinating read--even if you don't believe every word. Nor should you. Biskind dishes out insider's tales of lost dreams, treacherous motives, and thuggish corporate warfare. But Down and Dirty is repetitive and rife with

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Phil
Dec 12, 2008 Phil rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
the book was held my interest b/c all the movies and directors are right in my formative wheelhouse of film-watching. "IF" all the stories about Harvey Weinstein are true, I am amazed that the man's heart is still beating (wait...what heart!?).

The book comes in at a bloated 480pgs. There were some stories and interviews that could've been dropped. This book needed an editor like Harvey "Scissorhands" to come in and shave about 100pgs from it. That would have been more manageable. As it was, i wa
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Peter
Peter Biskind delivers another juicy read, and that goes a long way, even if the book seems relentlessly one-track-minded about painting Harvey Weinstein and Robert Redford in the most unflattering possible light. Biskind must have decided what he wanted to hear before going into any interview, so his extensive reporting merely corroborates his opening thesis -- that Harvey's a boor and Redford's a control freak.

Still, it's fun to hear all that dirt, even if (in Harvey's case) it amounts to lit
...more
Drew Raley
A dead-eyed sequel to his book on The New Hollywood, Biskind desperately trowels on the gossip. Unfortunately, the figures at the center of this installment are less than compelling. Dennis Hopper sat in a chair surrounded by exploding dynamite for an audience. Harvey Weinstein recut some middlebrow awards-bait films. Coppola actually lost his mind in the Philippines, having mortgaged his house and shattered his Godfather Oscars in a fit of rage. Steven Soderbergh got angry at Robert Redford for ...more
Michael
Far worse than "Easy Riders Raging Bulls" wayyyy more interested in the politics of movie making and creating a sensationalistic list of things that Harvey Weinstein has done, than providing much meaningful insight into independent film or the directors behind them.
Marc
A lesser sequel of sorts to 'Easy Riders and Raging Bulls.' It chronicles the world of independent movies during the the 90s and early 00s. I felt the book dwelt way too much on the Weinstein Brothers but maybe that was the point. These two bullies removed our joy of discovering independent movies by shoving them down our throats. Worse, they took creative control away from auteurs like Scorsese on Gangs of New York, Thorton on All the Pretty Horses, and many many more. Only big studios should b ...more
Mike
Sigh. After reading Biskind's "Raging Bulls and Easy Riders" I'd hoped for great things from this book, which covers the rise '90s independent movies, notably Pulp Fiction and other Miramax fare.
But the book can be summed up like this: The Weinsteins are assholes. Everyone says so. Sure, they love movies, but they're assholes.
Jesus, Peter, did we need 400 pages for that?
My eyes glossed over most of the Weinstein trashing after the first 50 pages, but the book did have some interesting tidbits, u
...more
Dominik Hammes
Very entertaining, very informative. Due to the often foul language of the people the authors quotes, it has a yellow press ring to it.
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Peter Biskind is a cultural critic and film historian. He was the editor-in-chief of American Film magazine from 1981 to 1986, and the executive editor of Premiere from 1986 to 1996. His writing has appeared in scores of national publications, including Rolling Stone, Paris Match, the Nation, The New York Times, the Times of London, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as film journals such as Sight ...more
More about Peter Biskind...
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