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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"On the desks of the heads of China's 50-odd biggest state companies, amid the clutter of computers, family photos and other fixtures of the modern CEO's office life, sits a red phone. The executives and their staff who jump to attention when it rings know it as the red machine, perhaps because to call it a mere phone does not do it justice. 'When the red machine rings,' a senior executive of a state bank told me, 'you had better make sure you answer it.' The red machine is like no ordinary phone. Each one has just a four-digit number. It connects only to similar phones with four-digit numbers within the same encrypted system. They are much coveted nonetheless. For the chairmen and women of the top state companies, who have every modern communications device at their fingertips, the red machine is a sign they have arrived, not just at the top of the company, but in the senior ranks of the Party and the government. The phones are the ultimate status symbol, as they are only given out—under the orders of the Party and government—to people in jobs with the rank of vice minister and above. The phones are encrypted not just to secure party and government communications from foreign intelligence agencies." (WSJ)



(image via usatoday)

"A common refrain at Cannes is that the films, the stars, and the glamour ain't what they used to be. This is disheartening to a relative newcomer to the festival. How far back in time does one have to travel to get a taste of Cannes in its prime? Is it 2001, when George Clooney and Brad Pitt walked up the steps of the Palais together for Ocean's Eleven? Or 1976, at the height of the auteur period, when Martin Scorsese won the Palme d'Or for Taxi Driver? Or 1960, when the prize went to La Dolce Vita? Certainly there were fewer film bloggers then. The answer is: last night. Scorsese brought the past to us in full Technirama glory with a pristine restoration of Luchino Visconti's masterpiece, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), 1963's Palme d'Or winner. Le tout Cannes assembled at the Debussy theater for the screening. Here were jury members Benicio Del Toro and Kate Beckinsale. There was festival darling Juliette Binoche. Salma Hayek accompanied her billionaire husband, Francois-Henri Pinault, who runs Gucci, a partner in the restoration effort by Scorsese's Film Foundation. Also in attendance were the film's two stars, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale, both fixtures of Cannes's golden age. The congregation waited for more than a half hour as Scorsese made his way through blocked Croisette traffic, and up the red-carpeted steps past paparazzi and the black-tie beau monde streaming into the Wall Street premiere. When he did arrive, his messianic aura rippled through the room, necks swiveled, and awestruck French film geeks shouted, 'Fuck, it's Scorsese!'" (VanityFair)



"Next week, New York welcomes the upfronts, the annual event at which TV networks hold glitzy presentations to announce their new fall lineups to the ad community, hoping to inspire them to spend, spend, spend. As opposed to last year, when the networks — shell-shocked from the plummeting recessionary ad market — announced their shows and then ran for cover, 2010 finds them feeling more confident amid expectations of a big rise in ad revenue. The spectacle and parties are back ... Before all the pomp, circumstance, and shameless promotion begins on Monday, it's a good time for a pregame analysis of the nets' likely moves this year." (NYMag)



"The professors in Hyde Park believe in something called the University of Chicago mind. It runs cold and analytical when the rest of the culture runs hot. Chicago scholars tend to be social scientists at heart, contrarian but empirical, following evidence to logical extremes. They are centrally interested not in what it is like to be an individual within society but in how society washes over individuals, making and remaking them. During the campaign, when his former Chicago colleagues were asked to detail Barack Obama’s intellectual evolution, many of them described him in these terms. But they knew Obama, at best, only partly exhibited this tradition. His friend Cass Sunstein, who is certainly the most productive and probably the most influential liberal legal scholar of his generation, inherited it in full. 'Cass has,' says Saul Levmore, a former dean of the law school, 'the quintessential University of Chicago habit of mind.' I met Sunstein for the first time last fall, at an Au Bon Pain near the White House, just after he abandoned some measure of academic fame to run the White House’s little-known Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The office, known in Washington as OIRA, reviews major regulations written by federal agencies (on matters like the environment, the financial system, Medicare and Medicaid and public health and safety). Republicans have seen OIRA as a powerful tool to check the regulatory instincts of some agencies." (NYTimesmagazine)



"The Chinese dream, like the American dream, has taken shape around the promise that each new generation will live better than the one before it. In recent years, that has meant more job options, more material comforts, and increasingly, home ownership. Last fall 80 percent of respondents to a China Youth Daily online poll said that home ownership was a prerequisite for happiness. Today's frenzied housing market in China's top-tier cities is rattling that aspiration, threatening to create a generation of agitated young people who work hard, play by the rules, but feel angry at the system and priced out of their chance at the Chinese dream. With residential prices and commercial prices in top-tier cities jumping 11.7 percent over the last year -- and jumping more than 50 percent in some particularly hot eastern cities -- the government in Beijing is worried." (ForeignPolicy)



(image via annieliebowitz/vf)

"UK reviews on Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps have come in after its Cannes debut. 'Utterly gripping. It’s been 23 years but it was worth the wait,' says London tabloid the Daily Mirror. 'A return to form for all involved.' Baz Bamigoye in the rival Daily Mail says the movie is packed full of great lines. But it’s this punchy insider dialogue that’s a problem for the Daily Telegraph: 'Without a close daily study of the financial pages, it's hard to keep up.' The Independent calls the movie riveting, bombastic and downright maudlin by turns, while the Guardian says, 'Money looks as if it's dozing a little here: my advice is 'sell'." (Deadline)



"Some of the aphoristic dialogue works. ('You’re the Ninja generation – no income, no jobs, no assets.'). But too often, the dialogue is glib and derivative, and not in the financial sense of the word. We know Gekko is a thief, but it’s strange to hear the character’s best bon mots have been previously used more or less verbatim. Uncredited sources include Adlai Stevenson ('If you promise to stop telling lies about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about you'), Mae West ('Whenever I have to choose between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven’t tried before') and Rita Mae Brown ('Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results'). Also distracting is the coy use of cameos: Charlie Sheen, co-star of the original Wall Street, pops up at a party to say hi. The director himself finds a way into a couple of scenes. And Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has a walk-on. Appearances by old-timers Langella, Sylvia Miles (as a real-estate agent) and Eli Wallach leave the misleading impression that Wall Street might be plagued more by senescence than avarice. For the most part, the movie, screened at Cannes on Friday, is a return show for Douglas, who adds some shades of vulnerability to his familiar, sleazily charming character." (GlobeandMail)



(image via orbitcast)

"Two nights ago, I sat in my parked car long past midnight, by the glow of the radio dial, listening to Howard talk about his parents. How they go to the yogurt shop every day. Drink lukewarm coffee and complain about it. How Howard's dad brings his own blueberries (from Chile!) in 'a Tupperware' to put on the yogurt. And he's doing the voices. That's what thirty five years of radio will do for you, hone your chops. To the point you're so good, we can identify. We've all got parents. And Howard is not always so charitable towards his. But today he told the backstory. How they were Depression babies. His father had to wear two left shoes, his mother wore the same pair of underwear every day. And how hearing these stories ad infinitum makes Howard feel guilty, that he's just not entitled to have anything. Whew. Hollywood doesn't tolerate imperfection. It pays lip service to everyman and parades beautiful twits to get you to watch, so you can fantasize about having sex with them. Oh, don't be aghast, admit it, if you don't want to fuck someone on TV, you don't turn on the set. You just don't want your cover blown. But that's what Howard Stern does. That's why we're drawn to him. His only problem is he's speaking to a tiny audience. Distribution is killing Howard Stern. Sure, he's being well-paid. But his impact is a fraction of what it once was, when he wasn't even as good. But no one with distribution will step up and make a deal. They're afraid of the Christian Right, the FCC, those people with a big voice but a tiny constituency. If you're dignified, wearing Armani and flying private, do you really want to associate yourself with Howard Stern? Absolutely. Because he's you. He's me. In a nation where elected officials are duplicitous and bankers are crooks and the poor people are hoodwinked, think they've got actually got a chance, aren't we ready for someone who's honest, who's willing to not only expose our underbelly, but the truth of the big issues? Of course we are. If Howard re-ups with SiriusXM it'll be a crime." (LefsetsLetter)



"As well as being world wide ambassadors for all things Kama Sutra - Sting and Trudie Styler still managed to find time to found the Rainforest Fund in 1989 to conserve rainforest's across the world and support the indigenous habitat's of the land. To celebrate the milestone 21st Birthday of the organization, they did what any 21 year old does and rocked out to Lady Gaga. Although not pumping through club speakers (or through the 'Telephone') Lady Gaga played to a packed house at Carnegie Hall, joined by elder statesman Elton John, Dame Shirley Bassey (hey big spender!), original Blondie IT girl Debbie Harry and naturally, Sting himself. A gala dinner at the always fashionable, legendary Plaza Hotel's Grand Ballroom served as venue for the grand after party ... Also spotted arriving at the dinner were Christopher Walken, Leslie Bibb, Sam Rockwell, record producer impresario Clive Davis and ubiquitous NY celebrity Radio Man." (GuestofaGuest)



"The situation had become so bad for Mr. Hilfiger that just a few years ago the company seriously considered selling his clothes at Wal-Mart. Magazines had stopped paying much attention to him. As had his customers — sales in department stores had dropped by as much as 75 percent. So the $3 billion sale of Tommy Hilfiger to the clothing conglomerate Phillips-Van Heusen that concluded May 6 was significant for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that it suggests that the fashion elite may have underestimated Mr. Hilfiger. The price was nearly seven times what Phillips-Van Heusen paid for Calvin Klein in 2003 and nearly five times what LVMH paid for Donna Karan in 2001, which has to give some satisfaction to a designer whose clothes once prompted the fashion critic of this newspaper to declare, 'You wanted to get the S.U.V. out and run them over a few times.'" (NYTimes/Style)



"Established and emerging names are debuting their latest in various sections of the Cannes Film Festival today, from the gala screenings tonight with Mike Leigh presenting 'Another Year' in competition and Woody Allen’s 'You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger' out of competition, to the midnight debut of Gregg Araki’s 'Kaboom.' Meanwhile, a pair of North Americans bring their second features to Cannes today. Xavier Dolan’s 'Les Amours Imaginaires' (Heartbeats) will be unveiled after his breakthrough last year with 'I Killed My Mother' in Director’s Fortnight and then there’s 'Shit Year,' directed by Cam Archer ..." (IndieWIRE)



"We are having an early lunch. Antonio Pappano, music director of the Royal Opera House, has blocked off the afternoon for a recording session at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in north London, and needs to be there by 2.30pm. The restaurant where we are to meet is five minutes away, but the choice is not purely one of convenience. L’Aventure, I discover during lunch, is Pappano’s favourite London dining place. He held his 50th birthday party there last December." (ft)

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