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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Several top film names are taking a leap into television courtesy of hungry startup Ish Entertainment .. It's part of the ambitious development slate of Ish, the new(ish) production banner founded last year by former VH1 execs Michael Hirschorn and Stella Stolper, who count among their goals taking film and music names and steering them to television. The former exec vp original programming and senior vp celebrity talent at the MTV sister network have a kind of yin-and-yang dynamic. The New York-based Hirschorn is the guru of formats (he helped fuel the nonfiction boom this decade with the nostalgia franchise 'I Love the ...'). Stolper, based in Los Angeles, has leveraged her relationships with talent to bring big names to the TV universe. "The goal is to take talent and marry it to a format ,' she said. 'No format is strong enough without a piece of talent.'" (TheHollywoodReporter)



"Forget about the lopsided House and the 60-seat Senate; the real races to watch in 2010 could have nothing to do with federal government. This cycle’s 39 gubernatorial races are shaping up to be where much of the action is, with as many as half of them potentially switching parties and at least 19 open seats. Already, The Cook Political Report is listing 15 seats as toss-ups or leaning toward a takeover. And as the faltering economy and job losses take a toll on a number of governors’ approval ratings, that figure is on the rise. Throw in the fact that, for the first time in 20 years, the races are being held immediately before the redistricting process, and the environment is shaping up to be nearly unprecedented. Democratic Governors Association (DGA) Executive Director Nathan Daschle called it a once-in-a-generation gubernatorial cycle. 'This is our time right now,' Daschle said. 'In 2009 and 2010, the governors are the main event.' Democrats currently hold 28 of 50 governors’ seats, while Republicans hold the other 22. The GOP hopes to add two more seats to its column this year in New Jersey and Virginia, and it’s banking heavily on its success in those and next year’s governors’ races." (TheHill)



"'The scaling back of foreign investments like Dubai World certainly impacts the things that the government of Rwanda wants to do in terms of raising the standards of living for all Rwandans,' said Clare Akamanzi, an executive with the Rwanda Development Board. 'It was a major deal for us because tourism is a big part of our economy, and investments in that sector are what we need.' When the credit crisis erupted in September, many experts thought that Africa would be spared the financial turmoil of the American and European financial systems, because African banks had almost none of their assets tied up in the global subprime market. But it has recently become clear that Africa is being hit hard. The World Bank estimates that its economies will grow an average of 3 percent this year, compared with an annual average of 6 percent from 2004 to 2008. 'The crisis could not have come at a worse time,' said Jose Gijon, chief Africa economist at the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, based in Paris. 'Before the meltdown, many African countries had made significant progress in attracting foreign investment and private capital, and this could derail those efforts.'" (NYTimes)

"On my way to a charity event for ovarian cancer research. I am with Mayor and Mrs Guilliani. Pretty day." (Barbara Walters/Twitter)



"It was a media cage fight, televised every weeknight at 8 p.m. But the match was halted when the blood started to spray executives in the high-priced seats. For years Keith Olbermann of MSNBC had savaged his prime-time nemesis Bill O’Reilly of the Fox News Channel and accused Fox of journalistic malpractice almost nightly. Mr. O’Reilly in turn criticized Mr. Olbermann’s bosses and led an exceptional campaign against General Electric, the parent company of MSNBC. It was perhaps the fiercest media feud of the decade and by this year, their bosses had had enough. But it took a fellow television personality with a neutral perspective to help bring it to at least a temporary end. At an off-the-record summit meeting for chief executives sponsored by Microsoft in mid-May, the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose asked Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of G.E., and his counterpart at the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, about the feud. Both moguls expressed regret over the venomous culture between the networks and the increasingly personal nature of the barbs. Days later, even though the feud had increased the audience of both programs, their lieutenants arranged a cease-fire, according to four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal." (Brian Stelter/NYTimes)



"Obama’s irritation grew. 'Man, it’s late, I’m tired,' he snapped. 'I’m not going to any sorority event.' The three staff members knew what their only option was at this point. 'If you want him to do something,' Gunn would later tell me, 'there are two people he’s not going to say no to: Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama.' At the day’s penultimate event, a rally in Columbia, Gunn, Brayboy and Wade pleaded their case to Jarrett, the Obamas’ longtime friend and consigliere. When they were finished, Jarrett told them, 'We can make that happen,' as Gunn would recall it. Jarrett informed Michelle of the situation, and when the candidate stepped offstage from the rally, Obama’s wife told him he had one last stop to make before they called it a night. 'I told Anton I’m not going to any Pink Ice Ball!' Obama barked. Then Jarrett glided over to the fuming candidate. Her voice was very quiet and very direct. 'Barack,' she said, 'you want to win, don’t you?' Scowling, Obama affirmed that he did. 'Well, then. You need to go to Pink Ice.' 'And he shuts up,' Gunn recalls, 'and gets on the bus.'" (NYTimesMagazine)



"Comicbooks are starting to do double duty in Hollywood. It seems as if every day, a new deal is announced to turn a graphic novel into a high-profile feature like '300,' 'Watchmen' or 'Wanted.' Development executives love the books, since they give a visual sense of what a film and its characters may end up looking like on the bigscreen. But filmmakers are now hoping the launch of new comics will help promote properties moviegoers may not necessarily be familiar with before films bow at the megaplex. Paradox Entertainment, the company that's developing a reboot of the 'Conan the Barbarian' film franchise, inked a deal last week with Dark Horse Comics that will launch books for characters, created by pulp writer Robert E. Howard, that the shingle wants to turn into film franchises. While Conan may be familiar among the masses, Dark Agnes, El Borak, Cormac Mac Art and James Allison are more obscure characters. Earlier this year, Paradox and Dark Horse began publishing a series of Solomon Kane books to promote the shingle's upcoming actioner, based on the character played by James Purefoy." (Variety)



"Last night, the world premiere of Columbia Picture’s Julie And Julia took place at the Ziegfeld Theater. The movie is based on the real life story of Julie Powell (who was in attendance) who cooked her way through Julia Child’s cookbook and (what else?) blogged about it.The wonderful Meryl Streep and Amy Adams were present. The premier also brought out chefs– Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray as well as fashion/art ladies like Rachel Roy, Yoko Ono, Jazmine Gonzales." (Guestofaguest)



"IF money and fame are the yardsticks, Annie Leibovitz is one of the most successful photographers of all time. She has a seven-figure salary from Vanity Fair and commands tens of thousands of dollars a day from commercial clients like Louis Vuitton. Her latest book, 'At Work,' made best-seller lists, and an exhibition of her classic images — Demi Moore naked and pregnant, Mikhail Baryshnikov on the beach — has been touring the world for over two years. So as the news has spread in recent months that Ms. Leibovitz is facing extraordinary financial troubles, with the possibility of losing her Civil War-era town houses in Greenwich Village, a home in upstate New York and the rights to decades of her work, many have formulated the same questions: How is this possible? How could an artist of her standing be in such financial straits? If Annie Leibovitz can’t make it in New York, who can?" (NYTimes/Style)



"Ben Silverman wants to be the capitalist version of Andy Warhol. According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of his plans, Silverman is pitching his unnamed new venture with Barry Diller as an entrepreneurial version of Warhol's famous 'Factory,' the aluminum foil-wrapped workspace where artists, musicians and hangers-on gathered to create art in the 1960s. Sources said the new venture will have three 'pods' -- creative, advertising and digital distribution-international sales. Plans call for Silverman to act as a 'virtual chairman' for the creative pod, using the $100 million given to him by Diller as seed money to set up producers in individual 'pods' in which the new company would own a stake. Silverman, in essence, wants to shepherd the careers of content creators the same way that Warhol did with The Velvet Underground, except he wants to make money, too .. Among the names Silverman is said to have already approached or is considering for the creative pod are Ryan Seacrest, MTV's Brian Graden and Tony DiSanto, former VH1 programming chief Michael Hirschorn, Original Media's Charlie Corwin, former Epic Records president Charlie Walk and Eric Eisner." (Luria/NYPost)



"Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister and the man now coordinating Europe's foreign policy -- insofar as it has one -- has everything going for him. He's telegenic, charming, experienced, and ambitious. Savvy when it comes to the media, he has a cunning, deft touch for geopolitics. One month into Sweden's six-month presidency of the EU, Bildt has already provided a pleasant contrast to the equivocating, dissembling politicians that usually serve as Europe's public face. To put it kindly, he's a rare commodity among his colleagues in Brussels these days. That, however, is precisely the problem: Bildt is too damn good. Qualified, robust, and charismatic, Bildt is an odd fit for an EU paralyzed by the need for consensus among its member states. Before he ever came to Brussels, the assertive Swede had already upset some of the EU's heavyweights. The trouble began in Germany, which doesn't care for Bildt's career-long tough tone on Russia. France wasn't keen on Bildt's vigor for EU expansion into the Balkans and Turkey. He's ruffled feathers in Spain for marshalling Sweden's recognition of Kosovar independence. And Cyprus didn't take kindly to Bildt's suggestion that it may have provoked the Turkish military invasion that continues to territorially divide the island nation. So while Europe watchers are enjoying the Carl Bildt show in Brussels, it's no surprise that his colleagues in the EU bureaucracy are already angling to ensure he's denied any opportunity to stick around past his current six-month stint." (ForeignPolicy)



"'I was thinking we should do questions first and chat later,' says Rory Stewart, 36 and director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard’s Kennedy School. I ask if the distinction is absolutely necessary; we are, after all, settling down for lunch, not preparing for a seminar. 'There might', he says, 'be a holistic theory that there’s no real distinction between interview and personal chat, just like there’s a theory that there’s no distinction between development, state-building and counter-insurgency, but I like to see things in categories.' He pauses to gauge whether I’m still following: 'It’s like my belief that counter-terrorism is completely different from development.' It is perhaps not surprising Stewart has no time for small talk. He has walked 6,000 miles across Asia; written a bestselling travel book at 28, and last year was chosen as one of Esquire magazine’s 75 most influential people of the 21st century. Upon accepting the position at Harvard, he bought a huge house in Cambridge, where he now lives alone, filling it with furniture from his family home in the Scottish Highlands – evidence, perhaps, that he had renounced the life of an adventurer and charity director in Asia to settle down." (FT)



"In mid-May, as the Sri Lankan army completed its rout of the Tamil Tigers, President Mahinda Rajapaksa described the scorched-earth campaign as ‘an unprecedented humanitarian operation’. Others were more inclined to see it as a calamity. Among them was the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who had travelled to Sri Lanka with David Miliband to argue, in vain, for a truce. Rajapaksa’s remark was in one sense a tribute to how Kouchner has changed the world. It is Kouchner, more than anyone, who has eroded the distinction between philanthropy and combat. As a young gastroenterologist and self-described ‘mercenary of emergency medicine’, he helped launch Médecins sans frontières in the early 1970s. He broadcast the plight of the Vietnamese boat people in the late 1970s, advised Mitterrand in the 1980s, roused public indignation over events in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, and served as interim governor of Kosovo after Nato’s attack on Serbia; more recently he has become the most prominent of several socialists in Sarkozy’s cabinet. Kouchner may not have invented the concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’, but he has been its symbol for decades. Most French people would say this is a good thing." (LondonReviewBooks)



"Every Afghan ruler in the 20th century was assassinated, lynched or deposed. The Communist government tried to tear down the old structures of mullah and khan; the anti-Soviet jihad set up new ones, bolstered with US and Saudi cash and weapons supplied from Pakistan. There is almost no economic activity in the country, aside from international aid and the production of illegal narcotics. The Afghan army cannot, like Pakistan’s, reject America’s attempt to define national security priorities; Afghan diplomats cannot mock our pronouncements. Karzai is widely criticised, but more than seven years after the invasion there is still no plausible alternative candidate; there aren’t even recognisable political parties. Obama’s new policy has a very narrow focus – counter-terrorism – and a very broad definition of how to achieve it: no less than the fixing of the Afghan state." (Rory Stewart/LRB)



"Universal's R-rated Judd Apatow dramedy 'Funny People' enjoyed only mild chuckles at this domestic box office Friday, opening to $8.6 million, according to studio estimates. Tracking for the film, written, produced and directed by Apatow and starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, was strong going in, with all four quadrants showing pop and some estimates putting the film on pace for a $40 million weekend. However, the film, which also came in with a reported $70 million production budget and middling reviews, is on pace for a $25.6 million weekend, leading the North American market. In 2005, Apatow’s first hit, 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' opened to $21.4 million and ended up with a $177.4 million worldwide gross. In second place, Disney’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced, guinea-pig 3D film 'G-Force,' registered $5.7 million Friday, only a 50% drop from the first day of its box-office-leading $31.6 million opening weekend last week. In third place after three weeks of release, Warner Bros.’ 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' added $5.7 million to its domestic take, setting it up to finish the weekend with a $254.4 total. (TheWrap)



"HBO’s inside look at U.S. President Barack Obama’s two-year campaign will hit U.S. theaters for a limited run prior to airing on the cable network in November. The Oscar-qualifying release will open in New York City and Los Angeles on August 7th. The film will debut on HBO this fall on November 3rd. Directed by Amy Rice & Alicia Sams, 'By The People: The Election of Barack Obama' was produced by Edward Norton’s Class 5 Films. The film will screen for one week at the Sunshine in Manhattan and the Sunset 5 in Los Angeles on August 7th. The project was initially driven by Amy Rice, who lost her older brother in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She was inspired Obama’s now famous ‘04 convention speech and approached Sams and Norton and would eventually gain exclusive access to the candidate and his campaign." (IndieWIRE)



"VIOLENCE has often disfigured religion in Nigeria. Usually, it has been a matter of bloody confrontation between Muslims and Christians in the middle of the country, where the largely Muslim north rubs up against the mainly Christian south. This week, however, Nigeria experienced its most serious outbreak of another kind of religious violence, provoked by Islamic fundamentalists who take their inspiration from the Taliban of Afghanistan. At least 180 people were killed in five days of clashes between militants and the police. The fighting started on July 26th in Bauchi state after the police arrested several suspected leaders of an Islamist sect called Boko Haram, a local Hausa term that means “education is prohibited”. In particular, the group is against Western education and influence. It wants to impose a pure Muslim caliphate on Nigeria. In retaliation for the arrest of their leaders, militants went on the rampage in several northern states, attacking the police with anything that came to hand, from machetes to bows and poison arrows." (TheEconomist)

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