Miramax, the home of films ranging from "Jackie Brown" to "Shakespeare in Love," has been sold by Disney to an investment group with no immediate plans to do anything but exploit the company's library. Maybe it's time to give the brand its due. Even in its heyday (perhaps especially in its heyday), when it was run by its co-founders, Harvey and Bob  Weinstein, serious critics in America's top art house cities -- like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco -- loved to complain about Miramax. They accused Harvey and his brother Bob of buying up all the promising art and independent movies and then releasing them piecemeal and sometimes not at all. They criticized Harvey Weinstein, in particular, for fiddling with movies in post-production, for ruthless strategies in awards season, and for demanding never-ending loyalty from many of the talented men and women who first made their name in Miramax releases.

But the Weinsteins really were throwbacks to the studio heads of yore. (That's Harvey Weinstein with Kerry Washington, center, above.) They liked to play hardball with competitors but they also backed the films they truly loved, whether as traditional as Lasse Hallstrom's "The Cider House Rules" (which I loved, too) or as cutting-edge as Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (which drove me nuts). When I arrived in Baltimore nine years ago, after a decade and a half in San Francisco, I found that Miramax under the Weinsteins was the one independent or "studio boutique" company that would back films here the way they did in larger media markets. (Miramax became a division of Disney in 1993.) Miramax set screenings not just in time for reviews, but also in time for advance feature coverage. Even if they fiddled with the release schedule, they and their ace local publicist, Kevin Perkins, at Sharon Weiss' top-flight Baltimore branch of Allied Advertising, kept the press on top of things.

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They supported their films with ads and they respected reviewers. I was a lonely negative voice on Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now Redux," but I have always thought the making of that film was one of the  great 20th-century misadventures. Miramax made many of the cast and filmmakers available so I could do a major, multi-sourced feature piece.

The Weinsteins understood that what's essential for the vitality of making, releasing and even reviewing movies is generating energy for this entire form of art and entertainment, so that people feel they have more life in them when they leave a cinema than they do when they walk in. After the Weinsteins left the company in 2005 (taking the Dimension Films genre brand with them), neither they nor Miramax flourished. The new Weinstein Company ("Inglourious Basterds")  and Disney's Miramax ("No Country for Old Men") had some notable box-office and critical successes, but the excitement had leveled off.

I was rooting for the Weinsteins to re-acquire Miramax when Disney put it up for sale. I thought their emotional commitment to their old brand name might have fueled a fecund new era of filmmaking. Let's hope that in losing this battle they've gotten their fight back.

Did you ever have problems finding a major Miramax film in your marketplace? (I bet not!)

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