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Roger Ebert: Naif?

By | Thursday March 9, 2006 @ 4:15am PST

This week, Roger Ebert slammed my Oscar night scribble What Did I Tell You about why, eons ago, I predicted Crash would win Best Picture despite the hype for Brokeback Mountain. I cited the anecdotal evidence pouring in to me about hetero Academy members unwilling to screen Brokeback. (See my February 1st LA Weekly column How Gay Will Oscar Go.) Ebert not only panned LA Times film critic Kenny Turan’s morning-after Oscar analysis similar to mine, but tried to make the case that Turan and I were somehow in cahoots against Crash for Brokeback.
Here is my response to Ebert: HUH?
I’m a business columnist who reports first and opines later, not a film critic. (I obsess about the process, not the product.) So I merely wrote up my reporting and gave my analysis of it. Ebert disdained my use of anecdotal evidence. “How many anecdotes add up to evidence?” he asks. “Did anyone actually tell her they didn’t want to see the movie because it was about two gay men?” Why, yes, Roger, that’s exactly what Academy members were telling me. And what their friends were telling their friends in concentric circles of Oscar chatter. L.A. journalists who cover The Industry mix it up regularly with Oscar voters, and even more so during movie awards time. That’s how we get our stories about the feuding and the lobbying, the spite and envy. Surely, that’s no surprise to you.
But, Roger, there’s something else you’ve got wrong. There was no Finke-Turan agenda. There was no Finke-Turan conspiracy. Too ludicrous. Just the realization by us locals that … Read More »

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Oscar Hangover: Finke/LA Weekly Column

By | Wednesday March 8, 2006 @ 7:36pm PST

OscarHangover.jpgOscar’s got a hangover, says my latest LA Weekly column, and only a self-help step program’s gonna fix that. My advice to improve ratings includes: No more uncomfortable opening monologue, show us your tits instead! Create a mosh pit. Get rid of all the non-talent awards and sell that show to the Discovery Channel. Something rude about Angelina Jolie.

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Shorties: Waxman, Ovitz

By | Wednesday March 8, 2006 @ 5:48pm PST

Did you score? The newly released paperback version of New York Times Hollywood correspondent Sharon Waxman’s book Rebels on the Backlot was included in every Independent Spirit Awards goodie Waxman.jpgbag from Oscar weekend. That’s 1,900 copies looking at six maverick (my better word: overrated) directors and how they conquered (my better word: fooled) the Hollywood studio system: Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, Spike Jonze.

Quick! Only four more days to see the first of a two-part exhibition of recent painting, drawing, scultpture and multi-media art from the Ovitz Family Collection. Unfortunately, you have to shlep to Portland, Oregon by March 11, specifically to the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College. That museum’s curator worked a deal with Ovitz curator Andrea Feldman Falcione. But first read my LA Weekly column: Blame Ovitz: When Art Started Imitating Hollywood. Ovitz Part 2 is photographs. No, not “me with Dustin, me with Sydney, me with Minnie”.

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That Agency Urge to Merge (Updated)

By | Wednesday March 8, 2006 @ 5:11pm PST

When each agency urge-to-merge rumor surfaces, it’s the baby agents/ambitious assistants who worry. And why not? After all, they realize that, if it becomes a reality, it’ll take longer for them to rise in the new agency’s food chain. And these windup-toy-types aren’t a patient bunch. So the young’uns are fretting over the latest United Talent-Endeavor rumblings. I’m told Endeavor partner Richard Weitz is actually admitting to them, when they ask about it, that, “yes, conversations have taken place.” On the other hand, conversations also took place in the past with Endeavor-William Morris, and United Talent-William Morris, and CAA-Broder Kurland, and ICM-Endeavor and ICM-Broder Kurland and UTA-CAA, and all these shops are still operating independently. But for how long? True, UTA’s sell-by-date is expiring more quickly than previously anticipated because it’s been so poached by CAA. But don’t for a minute think UTA doesn’t have a helluva business despite the losses, especially re movie comedies.
Remember when I told you that the Los Angeles Times Business section is planning to report the rumors, look at possible combinations, and explain why they’d create in-house chaos because of all the warring ex-colleagues? Not exactly original stuff, but that article may be out this weekend. (FYI: Very soon, I’ll have a deeply reported agents column/s I worked on for nine months.)
By the way, I’m hearing that UTA partner (and TV packaging cash cow) Gary Cosay may be retiring come summer. That could make any UTA merger easier. Or not.

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My Sopranos Moment: Kissed by “Jr” Gotti

By | Wednesday March 8, 2006 @ 11:58am PST

Given the return to HBO this Sunday of Tony, Carmela, the kids, and everyone not already murdered, here’s my own Sopranos moment: the time in 1994 when I was on assignment for Vanity Fair to write a profile of the son also rises: John A. “Junior” Gotti,  who’s now on trial for racketeering in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. I found myself with a cup of coffee, a kiss and a few clues from the new reputed head of the Gambino family. (This is an unpublished excerpt.)

I can’t believe my luck: John A. Gotti, aka “Junior”, is coming after me.

I have been waiting in my car for seemingly forever, parked in the middle of what is Mafia Central exactly one block from the Gambino gangland haunt known as the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club. Certainly time enough for every black leather jacketed, blue-jeaned and Reebok-ed wiseguy in Ozone Park, Queens, to stroll by and give me the once over. Two lookouts carrying walkie-talkies come to an abrupt stop outside my vehicle, stare into the darkly tinted windows, then pantomime to one another–fingers imitating a camera going click, click–that I’m probably no more harmless than a photographer. Just to be certain, one of their colleagues with his ubiquitous beeper has taken up permanent residence at the outdoor pay phone a few feet from my auto. He doesn’t talk–just cradles the Read More »

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DHD Audience: First 48 Hours

By | Wednesday March 8, 2006 @ 1:41am PST

I’m in awe of you. Deadline Hollywood Daily has received 180,166 page views in just the first 48 hours of its existence. The live Oscar snarking was a draw. But the average per day DHD can expect, based on the traffic received, is about 45,000. Thanks!

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GOP Dissed Dana

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 11:48pm PST

On the sad occasion of Dana’s death, here’s the column I wrote right after her husband died in 2004: Where’s Their Sense of Decency? I learned that, just a day after the actor’s passing, one or more Republican senators put a surprise hold on the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act. The uncontroversial legislation had been expected to sail through committee, and then the Senate, as easily as the House where it passed 418 to zero. This was beyond cruel; it was like opposing Mom and apple pie. And Congressional sources confirmed to me that the hold on the legislation was placed from the Republican side of the aisle.
UPDATE: It’s still nowhere.

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Welcome Back, Sagansky

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 3:22pm PST

It wasn’t so long ago that Jeff Sagansky and Harry Sloan looked at buying into ICM together. They didn’t. But it was inevitable they’d pair up in the very near future. That time is now. I’m told that Sloan’s MGM has just agreed to an output deal with Sagansky’s showbiz companies. Yes, Jeff is about to reanimate as a Hollywood player, way beyond even Variety‘s 50-who-made-a-difference indie list of 2005.

“What ever happened to Sagansky?” was muttered after the one-time Sony and CBS and TriStar bigshot became exiled as CEO of Florida-based Paxson Communications. Hard to imagine which was worse: working for Sony during that top-to-bottom turmoil, or working for Pax during that nuttiness with NBC. After Sagansky left, he gambled on ex-Sony TV honcho Jon Feltheimer and invested in Lions Gate (and made a killing). Then Sagansky partnered up with Kerry McLuggage (ex-Paramount TV), which they’d talked about for 20 years. They’ve invested in or bought up two entertainment companies to reclaim the lower end of the movie market. Obviously MGM’s Sloan is on board with that strategy.

Welcome back, at least existentially. And, remember, it’s Sir Howard now.

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More MGM Output Deals

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 2:28pm PST

I can report that Harry Sloan’s MGM output deals are set with Bauer Martinez and Lakeshore Entertainment and the not-mentioned-before Jeff Sagansky. Yesterday’s news of the Harvey Weinstein pact didn’t cite what I’m told: it’s a 22-picture deal.

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DreamWorks Book

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 12:20pm PST

Henry Holt has bought Variety scribbler Nicole LaPorte’s non-fiction DreamWorks book for low six figures based on what I’m told was a very well-written 70-page proposal. Chummy deal. The seller was agent David Kuhn, who used to be an editor at Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair. The buyer was Holt’s executive editor George Hodgman, who used to be the deputy editor at Graydon Carter’s Vanity Fair. Kuhn worked for Rosalie Swedlin when she had her short-lived production shingle at Universal. Hodgman edited VF entertainment articles, including Hollywood issues.
Weirdly, I couldn’t find LaPorte’s deal announced in Variety, where her beat includes DreamWorks. Presumably this is an unauthorized book. (Otherwise, why bother to sacrifice the trees?) Fortunately for her, Holt isn’t owned by a U.S. Big Media company. (Update: It’s owned by big German media company, Holtzbrinck, based in Stuttgart.) Which means it may not cave under mogul pressuring. The big ? in my mind is whether LaPorte has deep enough sources to do more than scratch the surface. Her trade reporting doesn’t begin to break new ground. A DreamWorks book’s gotta have juice. Don’t bother sending me a galley unless that call girl anecdote is in there.

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Pissed Off Penguins?

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 10:56am PST

First, come the Oscars. Then the lawsuits. (Unless you’re Bob Yari.) I hear those French filmmakers may be about to sue Warner Independent Pictures for a bigger cut of the $77 million-to-date box office gross of March of the Penguins, winner of the Best Documentary Feature at Sunday night’s Oscars.

As everyone knows by now, Mark Gill picked up Penguins for $1 mil up front. (Premiere magazine was among those asking “what was Mark Gill thinking?” when he paid that princely sum for a mere doc.) The Frenchies also got back end, albeit just net. Warner’s: We always pay our obligations. The French guys: We just wish it was more. Studio execs know it’s not unheard of to throw guys like this a bone in the form of a bonus when the deal was cheap and the profit humongous. Attorneys tell me that, given a signed contract, a lawsuit will probably be thrown out. Or not.
Those Frenchies controlled all the March of the Penguins licensing and could have really cleaned up if they’d been savvy. But I’m told they repeatedly wouldn’t approve any licensing deals because they thought it cheapened the film. Yet they brought big stuffed penguins to the Oscars and, not only did it look like they were exploiting their movie’s message, but those dolls’ licensing is owned by someone else.

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HBO Grounded

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 3:35am PST

If HBO kahuna Colin Callender seems a tad taciturn, it may be because he’s missing his favorite toy. For months, Time Warner vituperative shareholder Carl Icahn kvetched about the NYC palace posing as its headquarters, the corporate support departments more crowded than Barney’s Santa Monica hangar sales, and other wasteful spending. Now Callender is telling friends that HBO has lost its pet G5. Yes, Icahn also targeted those multiples of corporate jets. But, sheesh, what’s one Gulfstream more or less?

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Sid Ganis, Real

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 1:56am PST

The very idea that AMPAS president Sid Ganis would use his brief TV face time during the Oscars to urge viewers to see movies in theaters and not just on DVDs at home was a laugh riot. Not because he stopped short of saying, sure, let’s scrap DVDs altogether and lose that vital revenue stream. Rather, it was because the vast majority of Academy voters judge the films for Oscars based on DVD viewing.
Which reminds me of my favorite Sid Ganis story.
Producer Ganis had an A-List Hollywood career, holding top positions at Sony Pictures, Columbia and Columbia/Tri-Star when the place was tanking in the early 1990s. Before that, Ganis was prez of Paramount Pictures’ motion picture group. This is where we catch up with him. Producer Ed Feldman was coming off Wired — the movie no friend of John Belushi’s wanted made — and couldn’t get a production deal at any studio. Not even a cheap housekeeping arrangement. Not even an office. (He’d offered to pay for a secretary and everything else.) So Feldman goes to his pal Sid Ganis, then Paramount’s new poobah and nervous about it. But Feldman and his wife were godparents to Ganis’ oldest daughter. A simple raise of an eyebrow from Ganis could have landed Feldman, who had a history of making money for that studio. Feldman went so far as to beg, but Ganis still said no. Feldman felt destroyed. (Agent … Read More »

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Clueless AMPAS Board

By | Tuesday March 7, 2006 @ 12:28am PST

Of the 42-member Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, those Oscar party circuiters amply demonstrated just how clueless they were about Sunday night’s telecast. To them, it went great, Jon Stewart proved a terrific host, and the hours flew by.
Unfortunately, they were sitting in the audience instead of watching on the tube. So it shocked them when Industryites they respected came up at the parties to give the thumbs-down. If the board needed proof, early overnights were down 10% from last year. It was the 2nd least-watched Oscar show in a generation.

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Stinko Oscars

By | Sunday March 5, 2006 @ 10:47pm PST

This was the most incoherent, inchoate Oscar telecast in recent memory. Nothing flowed, everything jarred, cut ins and cut outs weren’t preceded by necessary segues. Added up to a butt-ugly broadcast that even the biggest film buff had to gag through.
Stop the misery. End this hell on earth. 365 days is too little time before the next torturous show. Monday’s certain-to-be-dismal ratings will tell the Academy exactly where to shove Oscar. Alas, tonight, they kept jamming it down our throats.
(Opening of final envelope). And the winner is…
Best Oscar Reekfest

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What Did I Tell You?

By | Sunday March 5, 2006 @ 10:09pm PST


Way back on January 17th, I decided to nominate the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Bunch of Hypocrites. That’s because I felt this year’s dirty little Oscar secret was the anecdotal evidence pouring in to me about hetero members of the Academy of Motions Picture Arts and Sciences being unwilling to screen Brokeback Mountain. For a community that takes pride in progressive values, it seemed shameful to me that Hollywood’s homophobia could be on a par with Pat Robertson’s. So in the February 1st issue of LA Weekly, I warned that, despite the hype you saw in the press and on the Internet about Brokeback, with its eight nominations, being the supposed favorite to take home the Best Picture Oscar, Crash could end up winning.
Well, turns out I was right. Hollywood showed tonight it isn’t the liberal bastion it once was. That’s pitiful if you’re a progressive, and pleasing if you’re a conservative.
After my column came out, it was picked up by the Drudge Report. Hundreds of angry emailers accused me, and Hollywood, of trying to promote “the homosexual agenda” by somehow “forcing” them to see a movie they found sexually reprehensible. What those emailers failed to comprehend was that the Oscar voters shared their distaste for it.
At the time, I explained that the real Best Picture issue wasn’t which film was better. The real issue was which movie was seen by the … Read More »

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Clooney, Shmooney: Part Trois

By | Sunday March 5, 2006 @ 7:49pm PST

There’s the Sports Illustrated cover curse.
Will there be an Oscar telecast curse for George Clooney?
Let’s face it, no career can withstand the kind of excessive gushery that Clooney is receiving during this Academy Awards. Enjoy these hours, George.
Because the inevitable backlash begins tonight.
I have two words for you: Kevin Costner.

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Why Jon Bombed

By | Sunday March 5, 2006 @ 7:22pm PST

Yes, he bombed!

At least Jon Stewart admitted he was a poor choice to host the Oscars, given that his film experience amounted to little more than “the fourth male lead from Death to Smoochy.” That filmed bit of schtick at the start of the telecast underscored how hard it is to get a decent host for this nightmare of a show. So it was inevitable that he’d bomb. And, yes, bomb he did. He looked nervous and edgy, his timing was way off, his standup ran in super slow-mo, and his jokes flatlined. What’s more, he didn’t even try to make excuses for the movie industry; instead, he acknowledged, “Let’s face the fact that this has not been the best year for Hollywood.” Especially when they can’t get a better host than you, Jon-boy. Even his sharp political humor, what little there was of it, was dull. He slammed the Democrats twice, and told only one Cheney joke. (That got his biggest laugh.) He didn’t lay a glove on Bush, and what’s up with that? Isn’t that why we tuned in, to see Mr. Liberal get himself in trouble with the Red State Right? Then he sets up what starts out like a winner, noting how “a lot of people say this town is too liberal…out of touch with Mainstream America…a moral black hole where innocence is obliterated in an orgy of sexual gratification and greed…” But then he ends with, “I don’t really … Read More »

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Stop the Music!

By | Sunday March 5, 2006 @ 6:55pm PST

Everyone is hating that music playing over everything during the Oscar telecast.
Which moron made that decision?

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