And now for something completely different: Gustavo Dudamel, the photogenic, tennis-playing globe-trotting music director of the L.A. Philharmonic brought a touch of levity to Cosi Fan Tutte this weekend by proving his chops as a baritone, singing just one line — all that was needed to win raves for what Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed described as a “nasty yet startlingly illuminating new production” of Mozart’s most sexist opera or his most ambiguous, or both, depending on Da Ponte of view. In the New York Times, Zachary Woolfe described Dudamel as “calmly and completely in command.” The charismatic Venezuelan has brought star-power and youthful vitality to Walt Disney Concert Hall, making the L.A. Philharmonic one of the hottest bands in the country. While this production took some hits from the critics, they weren’t aimed at the conductor. The presentation, which is being repeated on Thursday and Saturday, is the last in Dudamel’s exploration of the three operas Mozart wrote with Lorenzo Da Ponte (the earlier ones were Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro.
The added inducement was to have each production created by a superstar designers. In this case, the blanched, curving, set is by Zaha Hadid Architects (to my eye, a homage to Eiko Ishioka’s iconic set for M. Butterfly) and costumes by Hussein Chalayan. In Cosi, two men accept a challenge to disguise themselves and attempt to seduce their … Read More »
The time is rapidly coming when Hollywood studios can forget buying all those 6-page spreads advertising their awards movies in The New York Times. Because NYT Chairman & Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, told the WAN-IFRA 9th International Newsroom Summit in London that there won’t be a newspaper soon. Asked about his response to the suggestion that the NYT might print its last edition in 2015, Sulzberger said he saw no point in making such predictions and said all he could say was that, “We will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD.”
According to news coverage of the conference, Sulzberger also fleshed out plans for the paper’s introduction of a “metered” paywall in early 2011. (The NYT started and stopped its TimesSelect pay experiment in 2007 which was widely deemed a failure.) Readers will be allowed to access a certain number of articles free each month, Read More »
The New York Times and Politico report that the Washington Post Co will sell Newsweek to Dr. Sidney Harman, a 91-year old stereo equipment magnate, philanthropist, and husband of U.S. Rep Jane Harman (D-Calif.). The NYT reports that Harman began selling FM radios in the 1950s. Now, he’ll have to prove that a print newsweekly isn’t the equivalent of the phonograph. He’ll do it without longtime editor Jon Meacham, who’s going to leave. Harman is paying $1, and absorbing Newsweek‘s “considerable financial liabilities”. Newsweek, which has been redesigned as it switched from hard news to trends and analysis, lost nearly $30 million last year alone, Read More »
UPDATE: Bizarrely, LA Times entertainment chief Sallie Hofmeister didn’t bother to even mention that Julie Makinen, formerly Julie Bowles, worked at The Hollywood Reporter briefly. Very briefly.
Previous: Earlier this week, I pointed out that both the new Movie Editor and TV Editor for The New York Times have zero experience with Hollywood. (New Movie And TV Editors For NY Times) Now the Los Angeles Times has announced its new Movie Editor replacing the incredibly mediocre Tim Swanson: her name is Julie Makinen, and she’s never covered showbiz or overseen its reporting. But the memo says she makes great ice cream. How can we take these newsosaurs seriously?
Both editors are veterans of The New York Times but have zero showbiz expertise. Because we all know that it takes no special knowledge to cover Hollywood, right? As a result, Mary Jo Murphy leaves the Week In Review to take charge of the Hollywood and publishing beats. And Craig Hunter moves from the science desk to oversee the TV, music, and advertising coverage. Like their predecessors, both report to Bruce Headlam who top edits the Media desk. Hunter replaces the very able Steve Reddicliffe who moves to the NYT‘s sports section after a near-lifetime editing and writing TV coverage. Steve deserves a medal for dealing with that virtual network flack Bill Carter who’s never met a TV CEO he didn’t fawn over. (New York Times’ Bill Carter Is At It Again) But Murphy replaces Rick Lyman, who heads to the national desk and may go down in the paper’s history as the worst movie editor of all time.
First, Lyman was a lousy NYT Hollywood correspondent. He was told to stop writing a series of “Watching Movies With…” articles on the grounds they were long and boring. He regularly trailed major media outlets on showbiz news. And he allowed himself to be used as a mouthpiece by every movie studio publicist, most regrettably by Harvey Weinstein’s. Then Lyman took that lameness back to NYC. Helped by the fact that he and Bill Keller were friends from their concurrent time covering South Africa (Lyman for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Keller winning a Pulitzer for the NYT), Lyman scored some plum jobs and eventually landed as the Culture section’s Hollywood editor. Then the Media Desk formed, and he and Reddicliffe became deputy editors on it.
But the problem is that, under Lyman’s years of poor leadership, the NYT coverage of Hollywood became — and still is — largely irrelevant. Once known for breaking news and informed analysis and trenchant trends about the entertainment biz, the paper now regularly takes a backseat to Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal or Deadline or even a myriad websites. (I’m told Lyman would spend every hour of every day obsessing about Internet news breaks instead of doing anything about them.) Following instead of leading will be Lyman’s legacy. Read More »
It’s one of newsosaur journalism’s most coveted gigs, and always influential in terms of Hollywood coverage. Now the Grey Lady is expected to announce by next week that Gerry Marzorati will exit his post as editor of The New York Times Magazine before the end of the summer. Already, names of his replacement are circulating, most prominently former Timesman James Bennet, who has been editor-in-chief of The Atlantic since 2006.
Insiders suspect Marzorati will be drafted to help spearhead the NYT‘s content pay wall. First word of his impending exit came from the New York Observer today. The move was hardly voluntary, sources tell me. Insiders say morale had sagged at the magazine under Marzorati, that the articles had lost their edge, and that little attempt was made to bring in younger readers. If that seems a harsh assessment, then remember that working for the NYT also means routinely removing all the knives from your back.
I’m told his exit also is a direct result of Marzorati having alienated important staff members. One of them was Stefano Tonchi, who departed his post as “T” editor in March to run W magazine. T brought in millions of dollars in advertising under Tonchi’s stewardship, and I hear his exit took Times overlords by surprise. Following him to W recently was Lynn Hirschberg, T‘s and the NYT‘s magazine’s controversial editor-at-large who directed and wrote most of the magazine’s Hollywood coverage. Hirschberg had been brought in by Marzorati’s predecessor Adam Moss.
This morning I read in The New York Times that ”CBS shook up the upfront week on Wednesday with the most startling moves of any network for the coming season.” But then I read the Wall Street Journal, whose parent company News Corp also owns CBS’ rival Fox, and its headline ”Playing It Safe” for a story that said “CBS is doubling down on what has worked for the network in recent years — and four decades ago, too.” I’m loving this newspaper rivalry.
Conan O’Brien is returning to TV via CBS’ 60 Minutes whose Steve Kroft has landed the first interview with the former Tonight Show host. It’s already been taped and will air on Sunday, May 2. That’s a day after O’Brien’s ban on giving interviews under his exit deal with NBC is lifted. He still won’t be able to disparage his former employer but O’Brien “flirts with the restrictions”, Kroft told The New York Times. O’Brien has already done that with some pointed jokes on his comedy tour, including referring to the NBC compound in Universal City as the place where “bad ideas are being greenlit”. 60 Minutes won’t make the transcript of the interview available until Sunday.
While the Sean Penn-Naomi Watts drama Fair Game doesn’t officially premiere until its Cannes debut in competition on May 20, the finished film screened yesterday in Hollywood to a packed house of distributors. The Doug Liman-directed film tells the story of Valerie Plame, whose status with the CIA was compromised by leaks from Bush Administration insiders to journalists. These came after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote an op-ed column in The New York Times that accused the White House of manipulating intelligence to create the appearance of weapons of mass destruction and justify the invasion of Iraq.
I’m told that the screening’s goal is to arrive on the Croisette with a domestic distributor in place.
Word is that the screening went well and a couple offers are already in. While this film will never be a favorite of the Fox News Channel, its success might well hinge on how well it steers from polemic about a Bush Administration nobody much cares about anymore, and into a relationship drama akin to Michael Mann’s The Insider. From what I’ve heard, Penn’s Wilson character comes off a bit preachy and, given Penn’s liberal politics, it will be interesting to see how that plays.
Also worth noting is that of the handful of American films embraced by Cannes, there are three that could be construed as right-wing bashing: Fair Game, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the financial meltdown.
Fair Game was … Read More »
John Grisham’s decision to let Random House release his 23-book backlist in E-book format means one of the last big holdout authors has taken the digital plunge. Is it another symbolic nail in the coffin of indie bookstores and chains? “It’s too late for that, because there already was a corpse in the coffin, and those nails have already been driven,” said Otto Penzler, who has operated The Mysterious Book Shop for 31 years. It continues to struggle as he’s watched most of his fellow indie shops close. “One more author going to the dark side doesn’t make a difference, and I didn’t sell much Grisham anyway. It certainly is going to make a difference to Barnes & Noble and Borders.”
While most authors dove right into E-books, Grisham avoided them, partly due to his penchant for the brick and mortar bookstores. He is a principled guy that way. At one time in his career, studios were throwing as much as $7 million at him to make films from his books. Unhappy with some of the finished product, and his inability to have a voice in the process, he swore off film adaptations for years. Grisham’s longtime agent David Gernert said that it just felt like time to broaden into E-books. Undecided, Gernert said, is whether Grisham’s next novel, The Confession, will simultaneously be published in E-books and hardcover, as Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown did with The Lost Symbol. Many … Read More »
An oft-asked question — do reviewers matter anymore? — was the subject of lunchtime chatter today in theater circles, after the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Love Never Dies was pummeled by The New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley. Some wondered if the blows were enough to impact plans for a November Broadway bow of the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, which got mixed reviews in London papers. While Lloyd Webber comes closest to critic proof on Broadway, even his name isn’t always enough in this fragile Broadway climate. He’s hedging his bets, at least when it comes to a revival of the Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Evita that will come to Broadway in 2011-2012. I’ve heard that Ricky Martin has committed for a year-long run as Che Guevara. He’s no stunt casting–Martin has stage experience that includes Les Miserables–but he’s protection for backers who want Elena Rogers to play Eva Peron. She doesn’t have the name recognition here and Evita isn’t as branded as Phantom of the Opera is.
Several said the Love Never Dies review might be enough to sink many shows, especially those that don’t have big stars. Lloyd Webber and his Phantom brand are the draws–not Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess, who play the London leads. The shows doing best right now are the ones with stars. Both the Daniel Craig-Hugh Jackman play A Steady Rain and the … Read More »
And while I’m in the mood to bitchslap The New York Times, here’s more: In October, Sunday’s Business section ran a puff piece on Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal headlined “Sony’s Version of Tracy and Hepburn”. But Tim Arango failed to report that Lynton’s and Pascal’s 6-year “leadership display operating in sync” hit a big snag over the summer that’s still not entirely smoothed out. As a result, the mogul duo are little like Tracy & Hepburn and a lot more like Martin & Lewis.
In the article, the two moguls tried to portray themselves as “checking their egos” at the door in order to work well together. But the truth is their rift began in mid-July when Peter Bart penned a Variety love letter to Amy Pascal — headlined “Sony’s Free Spirit Shows Steady Hand” — and mentioned Michael Lynton only in passing. That, and the fact that Pascal gave an interview to Variety that was all “I, I, I” (and not “we, we, we”), did not sit well with Lynton. He accused her of engineering a professional slight. Amy proclaimed her innocence.
Fast forward to later in the summer when it was Pascal’s turn to feel hurt. The Hollywood rumor mill was churning about all the top studio execs who might get axed (and ultimately did exit: Dick Cook, Oren Aviv, Marc Shmuger, David Linde, Kevin McCormick) and Amy’s name found its way onto the list. When Lynton was asked whether Pascal was in trouble, he was noncommittal. And when he was asked why Pascal had no fresh franchises for … Read More »
UPDATE: The New York Times now says it’s linking to our article.
How dishonorable that The New York Times doesn’t properly credit us for our scoop last week, Summit Expressing “Very Preliminary” Interest In Miramax Name & Film Library, which was posted 3 full days ahead of the newspaper’s story that went online Sunday. We were first to break the news that Disney was entertaining bids for the Miramax name and library, and that Summit was expressing preliminary interest, and that the price is around $800 million (although the feeling is its actual worth is closer to $500M because studio library values have taken a hit as DVD/video has flattened.) And yet the NYT intends to charge for content that’s both late and borrowed. Sheesh!
If you think The New York Times television reporter Bill Carter’s usual suck-up coverage of the small screen biz has been even more fawning than usual to The Powers And Entertainers That Be, this is why: Carter is doing another book.
He made the deal with Viking’s Rick Kot during the summer and the 6-figure contract was recently signed. Though Carter is claiming it’s not a sequel to his 1992′s The Late Shift, he’s been “telling everyone” since the summer ”that he’s having access to all the players he’s writing about on the NBC contingent,” according to one of my late night insiders, “including Jay Leno.” I’ve learned he’s been asking Letterman’s people since the summer for access to Dave, but none has been forthcoming. Right now the book has a very flexible publishing date of Fall 2010, or well before the Comcast/GE/NBCU deal is expected to receive regulatory approval.
Carter is very touchy when folks like me accuse him of never having met a network boss whose knob he didn’t shine. In response, he likes to claim that he can’t find anyone with bonafides to go on the record with negative remarks. Yet in today’s paper, Carter thinks it’s fine to quote an agent and TV producer praising Zucker to the skies even though they sell to NBC. As a network insider explained to me about Carter, “The thing people dislike about him the most is what makes him most successful: that he gives people a good … Read More »
UPDATE (includes Harpo letter): Both Broadcasting & Cable & Variety, followed by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and every other media outlet just came out today with news headlines reporting what I did first on November 5th: That Oprah Winfrey will end her long-running talk show in 2011. They say she’ll air this on her program Friday. Here was my original scoop: THE END OF ‘OPRAH’ AS WE KNOW HER: Daytime Diva Giving Up Syndie Talk Show & Moving It To Her Cable Network In 2011. Before I recap the news from my story 14 days ago, here is the letter which Harpo Inc President Tim Bennett sent out to affiliates and others today:
Over the past several weeks, my team and I have had conversations with many of you to help address your questions about the future of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. Of course, the one question we couldn’t answer was the one that only Oprah could. And tomorrow, she will do just that.
But before she speaks to her loyal viewers, we wanted to share her decision first with you our valued partners for more than two decades.
Tomorrow, Oprah will announce live on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that she has decided to end what is arguably one of the most popular, influential
… Read More »
The 30 Rock diss of Ben Silverman is here.
Amazing that the “Advertising Hall of Achievement” is honoring Ben Silverman as one of its “Newest Stars”. Check out the full page ad in The New York Times on Page A11 today. It seems that just a few months into his new venture with Barry Diller, Silverman is already “significantly impacting the advertising industry”. Madison Avenue and IAC can only hope that he doesn’t “significantly impact” them the way he significantly impacted NBC. (Chimes, anyone?)
EXCLUSIVE: David Carr steps down and Melena Ryzik steps in as the new lead writer starting December 1st of The New York Times‘ “Carpetbagger” awards season blog covering the Oscar, Golden Globes, Sundance Film Festival, and other movie campaigns. She is a general assignment culture reporter who chronicles NYC life for The New York Times‘ “UrbanEye”, which is a video series and daily email events guide. Ryzik will also continue the Carpetbagger video series, which Carr launched on NYTimes.com. (Remember this one? NYT’s David Carr May Have Lost His Mind) Additional reporting for the blog will come from several other NYT journalists, including LA-based Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes. The UrbanEye video series will go on hiatus during Carpetbagger season; the UrbanEye e-mails will continue. So, after four seasons on the Red Carpet, David Carr who originated the blog now retires his tuxedo. These days, the media columnist and general assignment reporter primarily blogs for the NYT‘s “Media Decoder”.
So now the question is whether the “Carpetbagger” blog can be franchised. Its name was not only a play on Carr’s but also captured the notion of a NYC elitist coming to Los Angeles to poke fun at the film folks. His first year, Carr had a naive take on all thing Hollywood. But by the last year, he was as jaded as the rest of us. What never … Read More »
I’m receiving word that Tina Daunt who wrote the “Cause Celebre” column about Hollywood politics is included in a new wave of layoffs by the Los Angeles Times, which has already bought out or fired so many people that it’s a wonder the paper comes out every morning. But, so far, almost all of the LAT‘s entertainment and media coverage has stayed intact. Meanwhile, The New York Times announced yesterday it plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs — about 8% of the total — by year’s end, offering buyouts to union and non-union employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily. This follows a previous buyout/layoff there in the spring of 2008. In that round, about 15 to 20 journalists were cut.
UPDATES EXCLUSIVE! Dick Cook Fired From Disney
Disney CEO Bob Iger likes to keep corporate secrets. (Witness the Marvel-Disney deal. And the Dick Cook bloodletting.) So Hollywood is now desperately trying to sleuth out who’ll be in charge of Disney’s moviemaking. Pixar’s John Lasseter, DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider, Marvel’s Kevin Feige are all names in play. However, I can report that Iger is telling Hollywood that he’s already chosen Cook’s replacement yet won’t announce it for a few weeks. Still, last night, several of my sources heard that Disney Channels Worldwide president Rich Ross is being fitted with the glass slipper. They tell me Ross is likely to succeed Cook in some form, like a modified job without Cook’s lofty title of Walt Disney Studios chief.
First, I have no unofficial or official confirmation of this. But Bob Iger and Tom Skaggs love this guy who manages the global kids’ TV business — a total of 94 kid-driven, family-inclusive entertainment channels and feeds available in 163 countries and 32 languages. Also, Disney’s culture is so infamously cult-like and cut-throat that the Mouse House mostly promotes from within because its insiders distrust outsiders. And each other.
Those insiders who dislike Ross say he’s an “incredible political maneuverer and quite a back-stabber” who’s “into retribution”. (“There are likely … Read More »