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Finke/LA Weekly: LA Times’ O’Shea Hits Back At NY Times’ Keller; “Somebody Sitting In NY Isn’t A God Of Journalism”

By | Wednesday January 31, 2007 @ 5:27pm PST

My new lalogo.gif column, Goodbye Baquet, Hello O’Shea, [plus today's 1st update and 2nd update] features an interview with recently installed Los Angeles Times editor Jim O’Shea. (I’ll be posting the full Q-and-A online here tomorrow.) And the Chicagoan came out fighting. He had some very angry words for his counterpart at The New York Times, Bill Keller, who’s been trash-talkin’ a lot in recent days. Another surprise is that O’Shea resisted the opportunity to expand his turf to include the editorial/opinion pages. LAT editor John Carroll had been in charge of that section, but not Dean Baquet. “And when I came here, the new publisher David Hiller said to me, ‘Do you think we ought to change that since the Chicago Tribune editor oversees it?” And I said ‘No.’” O’Shea explained he had “enough mud on my shoes” without navigating that terrain, too. (Meanwhile, I urge Dean Baquet to come clean about the real nature of the too-close relationship he had with the Billionaire Boys Club — Burkle, Broad, Geffen, etc. — whom he and/or his surrogates were actively wooing to return the LAT to local ownership.) Besides focused on fixing the LAT‘s state-of-disaster website and increasing its near nonexistent local coverage, O’Shea wants to do something about the paper’s coma-inducing reporting and writing. “There’s some pretty well-written stuff in the paper. But my emphasis is on shorter articles. People don’t have a lot of … Read More »

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Another LAT Showbiz Reporter Exits

By | Wednesday January 31, 2007 @ 1:21pm PST

LA Times entertainment biz reporter (and I use that term loosely) Claire Hoffman has given her proverbial two weeks’ notice to go work for Portfolio, the Conde Nast monthly business magazine where Amy Wallace is working. Here’s background.

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Small Explosion Inside CAA’s New Home

By | Tuesday January 30, 2007 @ 4:52pm PST

News reports say several people were slightly injured in a small explosion inside the building that’s CAA’s new Century City digs. I hope everyone recovers fully.

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Their Dinner About Brad… Sumner Feasts

By | Tuesday January 30, 2007 @ 2:33pm PST

dinner-parties.jpgOn Saturday night, two tables of moguls and their wives were wined and dined at TV & movie producer Leonard Goldberg’s swanky home at a dinner party in honor of that geriatric Viacom jerk Sumner Redstone. Among the guests were present or past major players Mike Medavoy, Joel Silver and Les Moonves. Well, it turns out today Hollywood is talking about Brad Grey — because Sumner outed Brad during the meal. Sumner told the gathering that Brad explained to him that the reason Dreamgirls wasn’t nominated for an Oscar was because “everyone hates David.” As in Geffen, who controlled the rights to Dreamgirls and greenlit the project at DreamWorks. That the Viacom boss would be so indiscreet in such a public setting defies belief. To be fair, Grey made his comment in a private setting. [This corrects previous. To clarify, Grey himself was not at the dinner. Instead, Redstone at the dinner repeated what Grey had said to him.] But I’ve already warned Grey that the sharpest knives in Hollywood are out to get him, and that everything he does and says is being repeated around town. Even by his boss.

I’ve already written about Brad’s boorish behavior before, during and after the Golden Globes dinner and the bad blood between his studio and Dreamworks. And all my reporting was backed up two weeks later by Claudia Eller’s Los Angeles Times piece which ran on Monday. (Even down to my scoop back on September 5th that Geffen called up Redstone as … Read More »

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Eisner Busy Building Private Media Co.

By | Tuesday January 30, 2007 @ 1:41pm PST

We all heard the other day that Michael Eisner is an investor in the Internet TV network Veoh, an ad-supported YouTube-like consumer-generated video site that claims 4 million unique monthly users. Here’s more on what FrankenEisner is up to during his post-Disney days. eisnerrat1.jpgBusiness Week reports that, more than a year after leaving the rat hole following 21 years, ”thanks to the more than $1 billion in salary, bonuses, and stock options he raked in during his 21 years as Head Mouse, Eisner, 64, is quietly building a private media company. Freed from the prying eyes of shareholders and board members, Eisner can be Eisner–inking deals, acting snarky, and, well, being master of his own universe.” The mag says that universe is the five-person Tornante Co., staffed by an ex-Disney MBA and a coupla secretaries and dealmakers. Operating from Beverly Hills, Eisner, in addition to his stake in Veoh, “has gone all new media, plunking down an undisclosed sum to buy Team Baby Entertainment, which makes sport-themed DVDs for children… He got Regis Philbin and other buddies to lend their voices to Team Baby DVDs.” For Veoh, Eisner reportedly tracked down Jann Wenner, a former Disney partner in Us magazine, and persuaded him to put its celebrity sightings on Veoh’s new broadband Celebrity Channel. Interestingly, BW says it was Eisner who went to United Talent Agency and cut the deal whereby Veoh would create a special UTA site where aspiring filmmakers can … Read More »

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LAT’s Fired Dean Baquet Lands At NYT: Returning As Washington Bureau Chief

By | Tuesday January 30, 2007 @ 8:22am PST

baquet1.JPGUPDATED THROUGHOUT DAY: Dean Baquet, the fired editor of the Los Angeles Times, has landed at The New York Times as Washington Bureau Chief and Assistant Managing Editor. His return follows the Tribune Co.’s quiet rejection of the Broad/Burkle bid for the Chicago media company. (Broad and Burkle submitted their joint bid just a day after Baquet was forced out of his job November 7th and have been talking with him ever since. ”Everybody liked him. There were lots of meetings,” an insider told me earlier.) Realizing that his dream of returning to the LAT was dead, Baquet quickly made the move to the NYT. Once the Tribune board concluded that the Burkle/Broad offer for the company was not “an appropriate premium” above the current share value, insiders tell me, a management-led solution is now in progress. That meant there was no longer any reason for Baquet to wait on the sidelines because he’d been assured a return to the top spot at the paper by Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad after an expected takeover. (Then again, it’s always a zero-sum game waiting on the whims of any billionaire and Baquet was placed in the awkward position of having to search for an LAT buyer among very rich locals.) Baquet told the NYT that he had met with Broad and Burkle, yet characterized the conversations as casual, and claimed he kept his personal distance, thinking that he might someday be in the position … Read More »

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Billionaire Saves Bankrupt Air America; Franken Leaving Radio Network Feb. 14

By | Monday January 29, 2007 @ 12:48pm PST

al-franken.JPGFormer Saturday Night Live comedian and bestselling political author Al Franken announced on his radio show this morning that struggling Air America has been saved by the New York real estate developer brother of Manhattan politician Mark Green. At the same time, Franken announced that he will be leaving his radio show on February 14th to consider a run for the U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota. In Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since October, the progressive radio network will be bankrolled by Stephen Green, who is chairman of SL Green Realty Corp, a real estate investment trust specializing in office buildings with a market cap of $12 billion. Franken described him as a multibillionaire. Later, Air America CEO Scott Elberg confirmed the sale, which will be finalized in a week. “This is a great thing, for our affiliates, the company, the audience and every employee in our organization,” Elberg told The Huffington Post. Personally, I’m very disappointed that none of Hollywood’s many rich liberals stepped up to the plate individually or collectively to rescue Air America and put it on firm financial footing. This piece I wrote about Air America in 2005 outlines some of its problems back then. But recently, the radio network has had trouble hanging on to its stations in major markets. Franken’s leaving is a big blow to the network since he is its most famous host. But he recently moved his show from New York to … Read More »

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Going & Gone From The Showbiz Beat

By | Thursday January 25, 2007 @ 4:57am PST

kkelly1.jpgI’m told that the Wall Street Journal‘s very good showbiz reporter in the Los Angeles Bureau, Kate Kelly, is heading back to the NYC headquarters to cover Wall Street. Family reasons are behind the move. I’ll miss her Hollywood news and insights. On the other hand, one of the least savvy entertainment biz reporters at the Los Angeles Times is Claire Hoffman. So I’m surprised that today reports on an LAT-NYT tug of war over her. ”The NYT is said to be offering a pretty good starter gig in the Business section in New York, and the LAT might be countering with talk of a Las Vegas beat.” (NYT editor Bill Keller is predicting more LAT pick-offs.) The way I see it, she’s a features writer, not a business reporter. She should pen more self-involved magazine pieces similar to her well-hyped run-in with Girls Gone Wild jerk Joe Francis. But, on the Hollywood beat, Hoffman has allowed herself to be spoon-fed repeatedly and doesn’t bother to do homework or break news. Given her personal and professional style, she’d do well on the Vegas beat. In case you missed it Monday, see my NYT Hollywood coverage shake-up post.

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The Day Scooter Libby Met Tom Cruise…

By | Thursday January 25, 2007 @ 1:09am PST


Just when you think the news out of Washington can’t get any more bewildering… I hear that Tom Cruise’s name, and that of his then girlfriend Penelope Cruz, have surfaced during testimony in the recently begun Scooter Libby trial. A CIA official who appeared as a witness recalled a June 14th, 2003, intelligence briefing with Libby where the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney bragged about just having had a sitdown with Tom and Penelope. Libby told Craig Schmall, who was responsible for putting together the material for the daily morning briefings from the Agency for Libby, how excited he was that he had just met the actors, according to the briefing notations. The subject of the tête-à-tête was Cruise’s concern about Germany’s treatment of Scientology. cruiseappt.JPGMeanwhile, it was revealed last August that former State Department No. 2 Richard Armitage had a private afternoon appointment with Cruise the day before the sitdown with Libby in 2003. (See photo) Here’s what I find so utterly nauseating about this news: that the meetings coincided with a first wave of media stories about how morale was plummeting among U.S. soldiers three months after crossing into Iraq because there seemed to be no American postwar plan to control the chaos. I’m also infuriated by the obvious hypocrisy: after all, no White House has publicly hated Hollywood more than the Bush Read More »

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DHD Update: I’ll Head Out Of Town Soon

By | Wednesday January 24, 2007 @ 7:25pm PST

Fair Warning: I’ll be heading out of town for a few days beginning Friday. DHD posting will be lighter. Please communicate all news tips to me through email rather than phone until I’m back. (My public email is

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Finke/LA Weekly: The Scars Of Oscars

By | Wednesday January 24, 2007 @ 6:27pm PST

My new lalogo.gif column, The Scars Of Oscars, adds some fresh analysis to my previous online posting. Do read the whole column, but here are some excerpts:

“The negatives, not positives, will decide this year’s Academy Awards. That’s par for the course in Hollywood, where nastiness rules and niceness gets rolled. So, if you want to handicap the Oscars, just figure out who is envied most by the Academy voters and bet that those names probably won’t get called onstage at the Kodak Theater. letters.jpgTake Clint Eastwood (Letters From Iwo Jima), who scored Best Director and Best Picture noms. He deserves both, and the geriatrics who still make up the majority of Oscar balloters love the guy cuz he’s still got a prostate and balls. But Hollywood is also jealous of him because he’s won too many times. His Best Picture nominee Letters wasn’t anointed by any of the four major guilds (DGA, PGA, SAG and WGA). That hasn’t happened for eons. Give him more Golden Boys and the awards might as well be renamed the Clints (and remade with a big swingin’ dick besides). Problem is, this worshiped and wrinkly auteur won’t retire. So the Academy pries the viewfinder from his liver-spotted hands and picks from younger generations to make that walk to the podium. Yes, Marty Scorsese qualifies, even at age 64. Since … Read More »

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Here’s Oscar Tally By Hollywood Agency

By | Wednesday January 24, 2007 @ 1:46pm PST

caalogo-thumb.jpgNo wonder CAA wants to talk about sports these days. (Surely you saw that they’ve hired another three warm bodies, this time execs, to run CAA Sports division.) Maybe because they don’t want to talk about the Oscars. That’s right, things are not going that well for CAA in the motion picture literary department. Think about it. Endeavor.jpgThey hired a bunch of motion picture lit agents over the past 24 months to bolster their aging list of screenwriters and directors. And they spent north of $20 mil to do it. But CAA winds up crushed in the writer/director category this Oscar season by upstart Endeavor agency which is only 1/3 of CAA’s size. With a little luck, Peyton Manning is secretly scribbling a script.
OSCAR TALLY (Major Categories Only)

Acting:                    CAA  7    Endeavor 2      ICM 0    UTA 0    WMA 3
Filmmaking:           CAA 7     Endeavor 13    ICM 5    UTA 2    WMA 2

TOTAL:                    CAA 14   Endeavor 15    ICM 5    UTA 2    WMA 5

(Sorted by the major categories of actors, writers and producers, Oscar nominees were put into the site to find agency representation. When multiple names comprised a single nomination, it was weighted accordingly. )

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Ryan, I Hardly Knew You…

By | Tuesday January 23, 2007 @ 6:17pm PST


I’m writing my LA Weekly column so I won’t get back to Oscar analyzing here until later. (Thanks for all your cool comments. And, yes, I was channeling a filthy-mouthed gaffer named Bick.) But, in the meantime, I want to update you on the 411 behind Ryan Gosling’s wild card nomination. (I called it this year’s ”What the fuck?” Oscar noms moment, said those lost kids on the back of milk cartons are better known than this ex-Young Hercules, the TV series, and surmised that his father toils for the accounting firm who counts the ballots.) True, ThinkFilm was savvy enough to get that Half-Nelson screener out to Academy members early — it was among the first to arrive – and then ran a smart word-of-mouth campaign focusing on Gosling’s real-’n'-raw performance. That makes a huge difference for these blink-and-you-missed-the-release movies, especially this one and its 91% “fresh” rating. (In fact, New York mag film reviewer David Edelstein emails me that the critics loved Gosling, so much so that the kid came in second to Forest Whitaker in many awards picks.) Turns out this newbie is the Ed Norton of his day. Norton, remember, burst on the scene in Primal Fear and scored a 1997 Best Supporting Actor nod. Unlike Norton, Gosling is a pretty-boy type, but one who’s got a reputation more for his acting chops than for his giddy features in US magazine or on Entertainment Tonight which have killed the careers of too many of his better-known generation of thesps. That’s … Read More »

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Since It’s Tuesday, More Sundance Deals

By | Tuesday January 23, 2007 @ 5:42pm PST

More deals from Sundance…

  • Weinstein Co. and Fox Searchlight bought La Misma Luna for $5 mil.
  • Weapons sold to After Dark, the folks who gave you American Haunting.
  • Details later.

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    Oh, No: Rupe to the Chandlers’ Rescue

    By | Tuesday January 23, 2007 @ 4:59pm PST

    Those muffled wimpering sounds you hear emanating from Spring Street are Los Angeles Times staffers frightened by today’s news that Rupert Murdoch has entered the battle for Tribune Co. The Financial Times reports this afternoon that News Corp. has joined the Chandler family in its bid for Tribune “with an eye to taking a stake in New York’s Newsday newspaper.” Really, we’re not that naive: first Newsday, then the LA Times. Surely, Rupe can’t be satisfied with those crappy little New York Post boxes scattered sparsely in front of L.A. delis; that’s no way to take over the world, now, is it? There have been rumors for eons (long before the current auction nonsense) that Murdoch was interested in joining with fellow right-winger Phil Anschutz on a play for the LAT. Now Rupe has found other like-minded conservatives in the Chandler folks (since some of them are card-carrying John Birch Society nutters, i.e. the kind who still pay for those crazy billboards condemning the late Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren). I can’t believe Murdoch isn’t also interested in those 23 television stations which Tribune Co. owns. As for prehistoric media, “a person familiar with the situation said Mr. Murdoch wanted to combine back office and operational functions at Newsday with those of the New York Post, the News Corp. tabloid that has made big circulation gains in recent years but continues to rack up losses,” the FT reports. “Mr Murdoch would likely take a minority stake in a consortium owning the Tribune’s newspapers, rather than attempting to buy outright … Read More »

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    79th Oscar Nods: Dreamgirls’ Nightmare; United 93 Crashed; Mel’s Mayans Mauled

    By | Tuesday January 23, 2007 @ 5:48am PST

    It sucks having to wake up in total darkness for the 5:38 a.m. Oscar nominations, much less analyze them at that obscene hour. So be sure to keep clicking here throughout the day. Because I get nastier with every caffé latte. There’s so much to say about this morning’s 79th Academy Award nods. Let’s start with the bad since this is, after all, my website. But, first, you must recognize that to understand this process, you have to think like an Oscar voter. Which means you have to be cruel, quirky, and sometimes even incomprehensible. Let’s begin…

    So what that Dreamgirls leads with eight nominations. That’s a promotional wet dream starting tomorrow. Trust me, the folks at Dreamworks and Paramount who’ve been pimping this pic are having a nightmare today. Shut out for Best Picture. Shut out for Best Director. Shut out for Best Actor/Actress. Only Best Supporting Actor/Actress and Best Song among the big nominations. geffendreamgirls.jpgJust the artsy-fartsy categories left to get nods. Clearly, those prickish Academy Award members are sending a message here. What is it? That David Geffen, as rich and powerful as he is, will be denied what he wants – which is to exit the movie industry accompanied by Oscar. And the balloters do this simply because they can. Yes, year after year, spite plays a huge part in the Academy’s nominating process. Individually, none of the Oscar voters would dare take on David. But there’s safety … Read More »

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    Pellicano Hearing: NYT Covering Itself

    By | Monday January 22, 2007 @ 10:23pm PST

    Speaking of one of The New York Times‘ Hollywood correspondents (see Big NYT Hollywood Coverage Shake-Up below), how curious that Pellicano Scandal reporting duo of staffer David Halbfinger and freelancer Allison Hope Weiner were in court taking notes on today’s explosive hearing when the subject was, er, themselves. terrychristensen2.jpgAt issue are the ongoing leaks to the journalist pair. Big-shot attorney Terry Christensen, indicted in connection with his rep of billionaire investor and one-time MGM-UA owner Kirk Kerkorian in a child custody dispute, is none too happy over their January 11th audible scoop featuring Pellicano’s secret recordings of their telephone chats. (Audio and transcripts were posted on the NYT website.) As it turned out, Halbfinger/Weiner didn’t write the story on the hearing for the NYT; the article published Tuesday is penned by colleague Katharine Q. Seelye. Today’s hearing grew out of a motion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in which Christensen called on the court to force Halbfinger/Weiner to reveal the names of their sources for that recent article. Christensen’s lawyer Terree Bowers succeeded in obtaining Judge Dale Fisher’s pledge to review what authority she has to compel the NYT to talk about who is violating the her protective order. (The San Diego U.S. attorney’s office is investigating.) Unclear is whether anyone actually subpoenas Halbfinger/Weiner about the leaks.) Both journos … Read More »

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    The Horror of CAA’s ’424′ (Part Deux)

    By | Monday January 22, 2007 @ 9:41pm PST

    I’m told that if you try to reach CAA at what should be its new phone number, (310)288-2000, it’s the main fax line of another Hollywood talent agency, Paradigm. Now we know why CAA got stuck with (424)288-2000. What a laugh riot. Reminder, CAA finally made the move to its new office digs at 2000 Avenue Of The Stars when horror ensued: CAA lost its “310″ number and got stuck with the new area code overlay for L.A.’s Westside.

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    Big NYT Hollywood Coverage Shake-Up

    By | Monday January 22, 2007 @ 6:32pm PST


    EXCLUSIVE: I’m told of big news affecting Hollywood coverage by The Paper Of Record: The New York Times is shaking up its personnel. L.A.-based movie editor Michael Cieply will now become one of the newspaper’s Hollywood reporters. And former media editor turned writer Lorne Manly will take Cieply’s place as movie editor, moving the job back to NYC. nytlogo.JPGI gotta say this is a surprise: I’d heard Cieply was unhappy, but Manly’s move really floors me. This is also hard for me to write about because so many of the people involved are long-time friends. But here goes: Both Cieply and Manly are veteran journalists who’d been in their respective jobs since July 2004. (For more about their careers, read my 2004 LA Weekly online and column coverage.) Manly, a native Canadian (whom I call “my favorite alien”), came to the NYT from the New York Observer, Brill’s Content, and, and had many years on the media beat at both papers. He is by no means a Hollywood expert, though at the NYT he has, from time to time, edited and even co-bylined some showbiz industry stories. As movie editor, Cieply was the go-to guy for Hollywood since virtually all movie coverage in the Culture section passed through his computer. He also coordinated with the NYT‘s Business Section which also recently … Read More »

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