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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,723 ratings  ·  168 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

Paperback, 560 pages
Published January 3rd 2005 by Simon Schuster (first published January 1st 2004)
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Sam Quixote
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of books on new Hollywood
Want to know how horrible a person Harvey Weinstein is? I mean, apart from being a rapist.
Harvey's always been a right bastard and so has his brother Bob.
Favorite part was the segment on the Weinstein-Billy Bob Thornton feud.
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's a summary of Down and Dirty Pictures:

1) Harvey Weinstein acts like a lunatic because of some movie deal
2) Another either repellent or uninteresting Hollywood exec has a bad business experience because of some movie deal
3) An either repellent or uninteresting actor or director has a bad creative experience because of a movie deal
4) Repeat above for 12 chapters

Possibly the most interesting thing about the book is how the author, Peter Biskind, somehow manages to bring himself across as
Jen Crichton
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
You know why I started to read this book in October 2017. And having liked Peter Biskind's Raging Bulls about 70s moviemaking, I should have read this sooner. But I had heard that Down and Dirty Pictures was sloppily written, could use tightening up by a good editor and was ultimately depressing. All true. But I listened to this as an audiobook where the lack of tightening up means you can miss a sentence or two while the water is running when you're doing the dishes and still come away with the ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: movies, history
Biskind researched the crap out of this book and the portrait of Miramax is even more terrifying than you can believe. I kept wishing they'd come out with one more flop at the right time to finally doom them but the book also convinced me that every other straight white male in the film business also admired their relentless misogyny, homophobia and starfucking. I loved the presence of Spike Lee in this book, constantly goading Miramax and all of the film studios, calling the Ws "Satan" and that ...more
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
12/13/18: Still a completely addictive read. And who knew that Harvey Weinstein would turn out to be even more of a complete monster than this book had already painted him as? Oy veh.

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
Dec 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: films, socio-cultural
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
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, with some great insider information and thoughtful perspective on the industry. I'd say it's as good or better than Easy Riders, Raging Bulls but the 'in-progress' nature of the subject matter causes this to end on a "to be continued" note rather than providing an opportunity for reflection and retrospective.

I'd love to read an updated version that ends with either the Weinsteins leaving Miramax in 2005 or - better yet - one that runs up until 2017.
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooked
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!
Sean Condon
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Tries to push the idea that the distributors are the true heroes of the indie film business; I do not buy it. Pretty interesting but nowhere near as good as Easy Riders Raging Bulls.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book makes Miramax and the Weinsteins out to be a pox on, not just independent cinema, but the film world as a whole.

The Weinsteins sound like the worst caricature of Hollywood producers. Demeaning to everybody around them, almost psychotically so to interns, but having no sense of what makes movies good, driven solely by greed and their own ego.

It made me not so much want to watch more independent movies, but viscerally angry that they have been able to thrive despite destroying people's
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Using the same blend of cultural history, sharp-witted (occasional waspish) film criticism, and pull-no-punches gossip as in his earlier (and brilliant) Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Biskind tells the story of independent US cinema in the 1990s and early 2000s, with a particular focus on the Sundance Festival and production company Miramax. Unlike with Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which I treated in part as a guide to which 70s films I should I add to my rental queue, I'd already seen most of the ...more
Dank Wit
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was the first time the primary means of my reading was via audiobook, and it left an impression. I actually feel this might be the best way to approach this text, as it rendered the miasma of suits and backstage players secondary to the narrative and disguised some of the author's flabbier writing. But i also kind of felt like taking a nice, long, scalding hot shower every time I paused the playback.

While ERRB awoke a passionate drive to fill some of the less (and most) seminal gaps in my
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly comprehensive and interesting work.

Personally, this was probably more like a 4.5 stars for me, but that's just because one strand of the history it follows was not something I found grippingly interesting, and so it's comprehensiveness made those bits drag, but those strands I was interested in were amazingly researched and written.

Your own enjoyment of it will probably vary depending on how interested you are in one or more of the three main strands the book follows, which I would
Dillon Hawkins
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
While the history Biskind constructs is fine, to a degree, because it leans to the side of tabloid too often, reading it in 2019 is frustrating because Biskind, without a doubt, encountered the rumors about Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct while researching this book and did not pursue it. The man is a journalist and he let his journalistic ethics fall to the wayside. He could have blown it open—and in 2004, no less. So, if you want a history of the Indiewood moment of the late 1990s, early ...more
Michael Jolls
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Published in 2004, “Down and Dirty Pictures” explains so much about Harvey Weinstein, which in hindsight, dominates the entire book. Stories of sexual assault are nowhere to be found (whereas with Mark Whitaker's book on Bill Cosby, you get a sense of something amiss), yet Weinstein's monstrous behavior remains jaw dropping. As with his previous book, Peter Biskind writes the history of Hollywood's mid 1980s into the early 2000s with such finesse that you could stretch the book out for two ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film
Want to read a near endless series of anecdotes about Harvey Weinstein’s horrible behaviour? Then this is for you! It’s enough to make you wonder how he’d managed to avoid what ended up happening to him for so long. It’s one awful jerk thing after another. Less about Redford and sundance but still dirt on them, this book could simply be called why Miramax was terrible. Fascinating if a little too numbers focused, it’s still a biting expose of one trash person after another.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wanting to read this for a while, and in the wake of the Harvey sex scandal now is the perfect time. Man, and I thought he was a vile human being before! A fascinating insider account of many many movies I love. I learned more about movie making than I ever had before and appreciated the personal interviews of a number of my favorite actors and directors. Miramar is now bankrupt. To that I can say, Good.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Especially in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, this book almost seems like a prognostication. Fortunately, this is more of a story of the process of the independent cinematic uprising of the late 1990s and onward. Weinstein is portrayed as a obsessed right bastard, but the book is more about how indy film took shape. Also (rightfully) spends a lot of time on Robert Redford and the Sundance Film Festival. Basking really knows how to delve deep into film.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I docked a star because the first 15-20% was a bit of a slog but then I mowed through it after it got to the early 90s. It flicks between Miramax and Sundance but Miramax was more fascinating. He reads like a cartoon villain and can’t believe half the stuff that happened. Now I know what happened to some of the great movies that disappeared. Hopefully there’s an update because it was written in 2005 and there’s enough in the news for another book.
Mike Schuh
May 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thought that this would be more like RBAER, but the focus was less on the filmmakers and more on Sundance and Miramar. It was 400 pages about how the Weinsteins were dicks. Since it was about the independent films of the 1990’s, it would be more interesting to read more about the filmmakers that lead to the rise and fall of independent film
Nick Savage
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. Start to finish. It starts off sprinting and never slows. Peter Biskind has the ability to take reality and pace it like a non-stop action movie. The insights into the film business are better than most industry books I've read. call into work, cancel plans, set aside a day or two to read this, once you pick it up you won't put it down.
Alex Thompson
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Interesting, but maddeningly focused on Miramax (and to a lesser extent Sundance, though it comes across as squeezed in to benefit the book's sales pitch to aspiring filmmakers) when the era clearly deserves a more comprehensive history. It's also strange that in this 400+ page book there is no mention of Harvey Weinstein's consistent predation and subsequent blackmailing of women.
Grindy Stone
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is really about Miramax, not Sundance. The Robert Redford portions are almost a subplot. Also, while Biskind is well aware that Harvey Weinstein is a pig, with several dozen anecdotes abounding, there is nothing in here about the severe allegations that have come to light in the past year. Still, a very good read.
Greg Condon
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was pretty boring.Not as gossip-y as Easy Riders, just bunch of wheels and deals of "indie" studios. Though everyone in this book seems to have plenty of money before and after they make it in this shallow industry. Hard to drum up a lot of sympathy for these peoples' stories especially in light of recent revelations about many of the main subjects.
Mark Suffern
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Is this the truth and nothing but the truth?Who knows but the picture it paints of Weinstein makes it hard to believe that he was such a darling of so many liberals,the excuse that they didn't know about the abuse of women may be true but the fact that he was such an obnoxious bully should have made him a person non grata.With hindsight it's amazing to read about him "me tooing" the studios.
Sonny Dyon
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great look at the burgeoning indie film scene of the early 90's. Really gives a glimpse into the monster that Harvey Weinstein was nearly three decades before he was revealed. Also shows how the democratization of filmmaking has changed the industry and the world of cinema.

I found it interesting and challenging and highly entertaining.
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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