Miramax, the master of Academy Awards campaigning, is sitting out the top Oscar race this time after “Cold Mountain” was snubbed Tuesday, ending the company’s 11-year streak of fielding at least one best-picture candidate.
In the 1990s, Disney-owned Miramax pioneered the modern marketing blitz that has become the norm for studios seeking awards attention on their films.
Miramax’s campaign machine has helped produce such best-picture winners as “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago,” along with other Oscar successes that include “Good Will Hunting,” “Life Is Beautiful” and “The Cider House Rules.”
This time, Miramax was unable to sway voters in favor of the Civil War epic “Cold Mountain,” directed by Anthony Minghella, the filmmaker behind “The English Patient.”
“Cold Mountain” did earn seven Oscar nominations, among them best actor for Jude Law and supporting actress for Renee Zellweger. But despite solid results in earlier Hollywood honors, the film lost out on nominations for best picture, lead actress for Nicole Kidman and screenplay and directing for Minghella.
Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein said “Cold Mountain” was hurt by this year’s shorter Oscar season. The ceremony was moved up three weeks to Feb. 29, and “Cold Mountain” was the last major contender to hit theaters on Dec. 25, leaving less time for Oscar voters to see it, he said.
“If I had to do it all over again, I’d have opened it in November. It wasn’t ready then, but that’s what you would do,” Weinstein said. “I don’t want to take anything away from the films that were nominated. And seven nominations is not so bad.”
The company did score multiple nominations for two other films, the stark Brazilian drug-crime drama “City of God” and the Canadian tale “The Barbarian Invasions,” a French-language reunion story centering on a dying man.
“City of God” was a surprise choice for best director (Fernando Meirelles) and earned three other nominations, for adapted screenplay, cinematography and film editing.
“The Barbarian Invasions” received two nominations, for foreign-language film and original screenplay.
“City of God” had been Brazil’s entry for foreign-language film a year ago, but when it missed out on a nomination in that category, it became eligible under academy rules for other awards this time around.
Weinstein held off on the film’s video release and kept it in theaters for the past year, hoping to build awards buzz.
“Harvey has been very supportive with ‘City of God’ from the first time he saw the film,” Meirelles said. “It’s not a big film, so it’s not about making money. He really likes the film.”
Weinstein said his campaign for “City of God” shows up critics who say Miramax has grown to put money before art.
In the new book “Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film,” author Peter Biskind takes Weinstein and his brother, Bob, to task for the company’s metamorphosis from artsy niche distributor to big-budget operation.
“People say to me we’ve lost our focus on the small movies,” Weinstein said. “This shoots that down.”