The real ‘Master’ or, Harvey Weinstein triumphs again

Somewhere this morning, Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck must have been cursing the genius producer-distributor Harvey Weinstein who effectively denied them their expected Oscar nominations in the best directing category.

Weinstein pulled off another of his awards season promotion coups by getting director David O. Russell nominated for “Silver Linings Playbook” despite the fact that Russell was snubbed in the announcement of Directors Guild of America award nominations earlier in the week. (Bigelow and Affleck made the cut in that traditional Oscar indicator).

Since there is generally a strong link between the directing and best picture Oscars, today’s list of Academy Awards nominees basically ended the hopes of the producers of “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Argo” of taking home the best picture prize (the same is true of “Les Miserables” whose director, Tom Hooper, was not nominated).

Say what you will about Weinstein, but his passion for the movies he makes always includes pushing them hard for Oscars in somewhat mysterious ways that confound the major studios and most of the pre-nomination prognosticators. It seems safe to say that some of his best picture wins — “Chicago” and “The English Patient,” among them — would not have happened if the movies were put out by one of the major studios.

When he ran Miramax and now with The Weinstein Company, the mogul has managed to score upset after upset (“Shakespeare in Love” beating “Saving Private Ryan” for best picture) and earned big prizes for seemingly Oscar-proof fare like “The Artist” (who else could get best picture, director and actor Oscars for a French silent film?)

Today’s list of nominees feature a few other Weinstein triumphs — getting a nomination for Joaquin Phoenix and “The Master” after the actor in question has publicly disparaged the Oscar race, and landing nominations for all four featured performances in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Jennifer Lawrence was considered a shoo-in for a best actress nomination, but Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver were not locks in their categories. (No movie has scored nominations in all four acting categories since “Reds” in 1981.) 

With Bigelow (below) and Affleck out of the race, it seems pretty safe to say that “Lincoln” and its director Steven Spielberg will now win for picture and director, but with Harvey Weinstein behind it, I wouldn’t count out “Silver Linings Playbook” for many gold statuettes.

Joe Meyers