Open Forum Friday: Do Harvey Weinstein’s Cuts Actually Make Movies Better?

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In recent months there has been a lot of discussion about Harvey Weinstein and his notorious reputation as “Harvey Scissorhands.” He is known for his magical ability to win Oscars, often by picking out diamonds in the rough but also by reshaping those films according to his own whims. This is especially true of foreign films such as Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster and Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer, both of which have reportedly been severely shortened for U.S. audiences. Harvey Weinstein helps bring films like this exposure and even Academy Award potential, but at what cost?

People often cry foul when they hear that a producer has imposed drastic cuts on a director, but the truth is that sometimes the changes are an improvement. In an article over at Grantland, Karina Longworth points out that Martin Scorsese credits Weinstein with saving Gangs of New York and he also helped Billy Bob Thornton win an Oscar for Sling Blade as well. When it comes to foreign films, however, the belief seems to be that Weinstein is just “dumbing down” these movies for American viewers. What do you think? Is Harvey Weinstein overstepping his boundaries or is he actually helping these films? Do you care if the North American version of a foreign film has been cut? Is it ever acceptable to make changes to a film for a different market? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

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  • Hell no! He’s a studio head who should stay away from the editing room.

  • Punctuation Films

    i don’t know, who know what really goes down. Lawless was a disappointment and felt like huge chunks were missing, but maybe it was even worse before Weinstein touched it. Things get cut, longer isn’t always better.

  • Sean

    True, but there are some situations where both cuts get released, which means you can make a direct comparison. For The Grandmaster for example, you can get a hold of the original cut without too much trouble. I’m curious if anyone has any examples like that where the North American version is actually better.

  • Sam

    I’ve heard many people say that the original cut of The Grandmaster is much better.

    I think there’s special circumstances when it comes to foreign films where cutting them probably has a far more negative effect than it would a domestic film, though it’s still tough to say that. It seems when they cut a Foreign film it’s to make it more suitable or marketable for an American audience or just to simply shorten the runtime which can damage the film and the original intention of the filmmaker.

    Especially with directors like Wong Kar-Wai and Bong Joon-ho, I’d very much rather see what they intended to be put out there.

    I’ve already put The Grandmaster on hold until I get around checking the original cut, and would also plan to avoid a Weinstein cut of Snowpiercer to see the original version as Bong Joon-ho is one of favorite current directors.

  • Kurt

    I hardly think that Harvey ‘saved’ Gangs of New York. That movie is a train-wreck in terms of narrative quality and coherence. I would have loved to see Scorsese’s longer pre-Harvey Rough Cut. Some people have and they have publicly declared it a far better film than the eventual Miramax Theatrical release. I hope we will get some sort of directors cut of that film at some point, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Kurt

    In all fairness, the studio hacked version of ARMY OF DARKNESS is far better than Raimi’s director’s cut. Likewise the studio cut of Donnie Darko is significantly better than the Director’s cut.

  • harvey horstein

    i am for making today’s movies shorter – because they’re unjustifiably long. you’re not orson welles, or kubrik! keep it to the point.
    i know that BBT’s slingbade was cut by a master chef – vs someone’s first directing job. it very much depends on who’s doing it. but as a stern principle i want it applied to every movie playing in theatres.

  • Snorfle

    As long as both cuts are available, I’m happy.

  • John Anthony

    he knows how to sell movies to audiences. its easy to say that he’s just a “studio head” and his cuts take away from the artists “vision.” without those cuts, there are a lot of films that would not have been seen. sometimes you have to move towards the middle and compromise. it sucks, but the whole fucking point is to have other people watch your movie. until you are good enough to get final cut, you have to bite the bullet.

    has anyone else read peter biskind’s “down and dirty pictures?” very in depth look at independent cinema and what filmmakers have to go through to get their work out there.

  • Wayne Regier

    Harvey knows how to sell. He is NOT a filmmaker nor an editor. What he is would be equivalent to P.T. Barnum in cinema. He campaignes, bribes, bullies, and wines his movies into top contention.
    He did give us Linklater, Smith, Rodrigez, and Tarrantino but I feel they would have found their way eventually.
    Then again, a guy must see the promise in certain projects to foot the bill.

  • Gerry

    I agree with that.

    In terms of dumbing down, Americans are no better, worse, different or less intelligent that anyone else but American distributors clearly have them pegged as morons with no attention spans.

    Hence dumbed down subtitles for the American releases of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Let The Right One In etc.

    Any self respecting American cinephile should always import the UK blu ray of a film if it’s region free and un-tampered with.

    I didn’t know there was a longer cut of Gangs Of New York. I’d like to see that and the three hour plus version of Wolf Of Wall Street.