Today Harvey Weinstein and his team invited journalist and industry folks here in Cannes to announce their upcoming slate of films, and to talk up their new partnership with a Chinese production company. China’s vast market, of course, is being touted as the heir apparent to the future of film and Weinstein Co is getting in on that action now before doomsday. But the reason many of us were there was to see what hand TWC would be playing this upcoming year.
Some of the movies are lighter fare not destined to be part of the Oscar conversation. Still others probably won’t be released in time for consideration this year. But there are a couple of significant films worth talking about. First up, Macbeth, starring Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender, directed by Justin Kurzel (Snowtown). Slated for release in 2015, it still seems theoretically possible that Macbeth could screen for early Oscar contention. On the basis of that hope alone I don’t know how you come out of today’s event and declare “no Oscar contenders in sight,” as Anne Thompson has just done over at Thompson on Hollywood. Opening Christmas Day, Tim Burton’s Big Eyes has Oscar cred, with a promising performance by Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, painter of immensely popular doe-eyed portraits for which she received no recognition because her husband, played by Christoph Waltz, took all the credit. Both of these films revolve around strong female characters. So once again we see Weinstein Co. bucking the recent trend in Hollywood of having women relegated to the shadows cast by leading men.
Representing a unique situation, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby will be seen this Fall in 3 versions. The saga of a marriage coming apart at the seams, Rigby was picked up by Weinstein Co. last year in Toronto when it was two movies. One film, Him, was told from the husband’s point of view, and the companion film, Her, gave the wife’s side of the story. The version to be released in September will be called Them, and combines the two angles woven together in counterpoint. Each individual film in expanded form will get a limited release as well. The opportunity to explore shifting perspectives sounds like an acting tour de force for both and McAvoy and Chastain.
Naomi Watts and Ryan Reynolds were on hand as both are working with Weinstein on upcoming films due in 2015 — Watts for St. Vincent de Van Nuys and Reynolds for an upcoming film called The Woman in Gold, about a renowned painting by Gustov Klimt and its recovery.
In fact, most of the films Weinstein previewed tonight feature strong female roles, including The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy; Imitation Game, starring Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch; and the upcoming Suite française, with Margot Robbie, Ruth Wilson, Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas and Sam Riley. Those last two films are Academy catnip — World War II period films.
Perhaps Thompson meant there are relatively few Weinstein prospects with release dates already scheduled this year, assuming MacBeth won’t be in the mix. Either way, many of the movies unveiled tonight have the pedigree to be strong Oscar contenders, sight unseen. I don’t understand what Thompson’s “friend” means by saying that Harvey Weinstein is “off his game.” On the contrary, I’ve never seen anyone engage a fairly listless audience the way he did a few hours ago. If he sensed a lack of enthusiasm — no raw-meat Tarantino shoot-em-ups, no blood-soaked Only God Forgives to get the audience jacked up — he gracefully accommodated the perceptible thirst for passion by launching into an eloquent story about an upcoming documentary about Angelina Jolie and then talked about a inspiring personal journey Weinstein had recently taken to Jordan.
So, sure, you didn’t get the fist-pumping when a rockstar like Tarantino is involved in Weinstein Co’s immediate plans but what you did get, I thought, was ample evidence that Weinstein Co still believes in backing films that tell important stories, even if they aren’t spoon-feeding the target demographic its fattening formula like all of the other studios are doing.
Only three days into the festival many journalists in attendance this evening seemed surprisingly blasé or already burnt out from being courted. Tough room, dodgy crowd. But whatever the reason for the lukewarm reaction by some at the gala, to my eyes there are several fine films to look forward to.