Alternately praised as the savior of modern film for his role in bringing such contemporary classics as Pulp Fiction (1994) and Chicago (2002) to the screen, and decried by fans of foreign film for his poor handling of foreign titles on domestic soil (Shaolin Soccer and Hero, in particular), it's difficult to deny that controversial producer and Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein has -- love him or hate him -- unquestionably changed the face of modern film. A Queens native, Weinstein, along with brother Bob, founded their small production company in 1979 when they acquired the rights to the film The Secret Policeman's Ball at the Cannes Film Festival. Drawing from the funds they made distributing the film to establish their company, the Weinsteins quickly made their presence known among the Hollywood elite. The company's namesake was drawn from a combination of their mother's and father's names (Miriam and Max, respectively).
Miramax's early distribution of the Errol Morris docudrama The Thin Blue Line in 1988 grabbed headlines when the film's protagonist -- the wrongly convicted Randall Adams -- was released from prison due in no small part to the attention drawn to his plight by the film. If that film had drawn attention to the fledgling company, it was their successful acquisition of Steven Soderbergh's breakthrough indie hit sex, lies, and videotape (1989) that cemented their reputation as true innovators to watch. The Weinsteins courted controversy the following year with the releases of the X-rated art-house flicks The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!; subsequently, Miramax leveled a lawsuit at the MPAA that was key in the subsequent implementation of the NC-17 rating. This new rating served to distinguish adult-oriented film fare from out-and-out pornography.