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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks prompted a radical rethinking inside the administration of President George W. Bush about the purposes of American foreign policy -- above all in the Middle East. 'Realism died on 9/11,' as an administration official said to me several years later. Changing the insides of states had become a matter of national security no less urgent than affecting their external behavior. Bush, previously a hardheaded realist, became an ardent proponent of democracy promotion. But the problem -- or at least the biggest problem -- was that while the terrorist attacks had changed the United States, they hadn't changed the place where the United States hoped to act. Terrorism had made democratic reform more urgent without making it a whit more likely. Autocratic leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere regarded the president's new preoccupation as a mere irritant.  Now, suddenly, unexpectedly, it's that world, not the United States, that's changing. The Tunisian people have taken to the streets and ousted a tyrant, just as the people in the Philippines, Chile, Romania, and Georgia once did. And that spectacle has inspired young people and activists across the region. The Tunisian drama may end badly, of course: Protests elsewhere may simmer down, and in any case the conditions that produced this one revolutionary upheaval may turn out to be sui generis. But Arab regimes are shakier today, and their critics more emboldened, than they were before. And Barack Obama, like Bush before him, must adapt to a Middle East different from the one he inherited." (ForeignPolicy)


"It was much more well balanced than their previous two state dinners, for India and Mexico. They covered a lot of bases, from the two Democratic former presidents to former secretaries of state and national security advisers—not only Democrats (Albright and Brzezinski) but also Republicans (Kissinger, Schultz, and Scowcroft). They had Governor Christie of New Jersey, the big Republican star, which I think was a smart move. There was a touch of high culture with Yo-Yo Ma, Barbra Streisand to represent Hollywood (I would have picked someone else, but…), and a big bow to Wall Street with Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon. Having the head of Goldman Sachs might rub some of Obama’s supporters the wrong way, but the point is, this is a social occasion, and that’s when you have an opportunity to reach out to people with whom you might have political differences or problems. It can only help to extend what is the highest invitation in the land to people who are causing you difficulties. People are very flattered by it. On Speaker of the House John Boehner’s absence: I think it’s disgraceful that Boehner turned down his third invitation from the Obamas for a state dinner. There’s no excuse for that. Sure, Harry Reid didn’t go to Bush’s state dinners, but Harry Reid has never been the epitome of etiquette, and two wrongs don’t make a right. As Mary Mel French, Clinton’s chief of protocol, told me for my article, there are only four reasons to decline a state-dinner invitation: a death in the family, a serious illness, a wedding, or an unavoidable absence from Washington. It’s not only a rebuff to the president but also to the Chinese leader." (Bob Colacello)


"Keith Olbermann, the liberal crusader whose combative style put him increasingly at odds with his network bosses, resigned abruptly from MSNBC Friday. The cable channel confirmed his unexpected departure as Olbermann was rather calmly announcing the demise of Countdown after an eight-year run that included a bitter feud with Bill O’Reilly, fiery denunciations of Republicans and occasional acknowledgements that he had gone too far. Olbermann said he had been 'told that this is the last edition of your show' and thanked his audience, saying: 'My gratitude to you is boundless.' He also thanked a list of people who have worked with him, notably excluding MSNBC President Phil Griffin, whom he has known for three decades. A knowledgeable official said the move had nothing to do with Comcast taking control of NBC next week, although the cable giant was informed when it received final federal approval for the purchase that Olbermann would be leaving the cable channel. This official described the dramatic divorce—Olbermann was about halfway through a four-year, $30 million contract—as mutual." (Howard Kurtz)


"Throughout the coming days, VF.com will be screening and chatting about the buzziest films at Sundance. Check back in with Little Gold Men to find out about what everyone’s watching in Park City—starting with these: Silent House, directed by Chris Kentis. Who’d have ever thought a Polaroid could be so terrifying? Silent House provides one of the scariest scenes ever in a movie, and it all comes down to a pitch-black room and one old Polaroid camera. On opening night, the crowds flocked to the Press & Industry screening of this horror film from the same writer-director team that brought us 2003’s Open Water. As one might guess, the title house in the film is anything but silent, and suspense, fear, fright, and horror lurk under every table, and even drip from the sink. But the real fun begins when we start to question the sanity of our heroine, Elizabeth Olsen—the youngest Olsen girl and a dead ringer for her older twin sisters." (Vanity Fair)


"Every year, the Sundance Film Festival seems to unearth an 'It' girl: She's the one with a number of films premiering who transforms overnight from an unknown to an up-and-comer. A couple of years ago, that girl was Carey Mulligan, then a little-known British actress whose turn in the indie film 'An Education' went on to earn her an Oscar nomination. This winter? Everyone in Park City seems to be buzzing about Elizabeth Olsen, the 21-year-old younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley whose only prior film credits include appearing alongside the twins in some of their children's films back in the 1990s. It appears, however, that she's studied acting seriously, having attended both New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School." (LATimes)


"The level of a director’s poise in front of a microphone is, I realize, no measure of his or her artistry. Years of faithful Sundance attendance have taught me to forgive the shy mumblings or nervous ramblings of filmmakers — especially first-timers — who step up to greet the audience. Heck, pros Joel and Ethan Coen are still terse mumblers on stage, and Lordy knows their movie characters know how to talk real good. But when director Dee Rees took the mic on Friday morning after the screening of her vivid, muscular feature debut, Pariah, her own charismatic energy and self-possession were in perfect harmony with the fearless, world-here-I-am! film she has made. Drawing on Rees’s own experience, Pariah follows a black teenage girl’s struggle to come into her own identity as a lesbian against tremendous opposition — including denial, threats, and psychological abuse — from her bewildered, frightened conservative parents." (EW)



"If you're in Park City enjoying Sundance 2011, use this as your handy guide to notable screenings and events popping up in the snowy mountain town. If you're stuck elsewhere, consider this your roadmap for navigating all the indie buzz. The forecast for Saturday, January 22: A High of 31°, with a really darn good chance of snow. 8:30 AM: 'Connected: An Autobiography about Love, Death and Technology' at Egyptian Theatre Saturday should kick off with Tiffany Shlain's look at how we're connected, and how that links to the major issues of modern time, like the environment and human rights. The Salt Lake Tribune dug it. 9:15 'Win Win' at Eccles Theatre Chew on this: Paul Giamatti as a high-school wrestling coach, who becomes the guardian of an older man, only to be stuck with the man's teen, runaway grandson. This was written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who you might remember from 'Boston Public' or '2012.' Noon: 'Miss Representation' at Yarrow Hotel Theatre Jennifer Siebel Newsom's documentary looks into how the objectification of women in mainstream media gets internalized by female viewers. The filmmaker talks to a whole slew of female names from Gloria Steinem to Geena Davis." (Moviefone)


"I’ve been reading W since it became a magazine off-shoot of Women’s Wear Daily back in the days when John Fairchild was running things, rustling the taffeta, and mussing up the hairpieces of the self-styled Smart Set in New York. All this while playing to both the curious and the shadenfreuders. It was the bible of the garment industry whose image morphed into the Fashion Industry. It was also the social arbiter in harmonious collaboration with Aileen Mehle writing as Suzy (and later with a column in W). It was the chronicle of the the rich, the chic and the shameless, throughout the 1970s and 80s. Somewhere in the later part, Mr. Fairchild abandoned his scythe and his plow and sold the farm. No doubt an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he 'getting to that age' where most people think it’s time to go. What could not be acquired in the business transfer, obviously, was the wit of the man and the time. I accept that. Everything changes, including the ideas and the people who transport them to the public arena. The 'Society' that existed when W first dominated the fashion magazines has passed. What remains of that era are literally a few, maybe just a couple of people. Gloria Vanderbilt, the ultimate modern American woman of the 20th and the 21st century. Otherwise, Babe Paley, whither thou goest?" (NYSocialDiary)


"Paramount was so worried about its No Strings Attached being a stinker that the studio didn't even bother to give me a pre-release briefing. ('You know I only like to write these notes after the film works. I'd rather you beat me up for no email than a flop!' an exec at the studio emailed me by way of explanation.') I don't necessarily blame them: any movie starring Ashton Kutcher is probably a bomb since his last one -- PG-13 Killers with Katherine Heigl -- opened to only $15.8M for Lionsgate. And rom-coms, especially sexy R-rated ones (Ed Zwick's Love And Other Drugs which opened to only $9.7M for Fox with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal) have been stillborn at the North American box office with this caliber of star. This $25 million-cost movie started out as a Black List script originally titled Fuckbuddies and written by Elizabeth Merriwether. Natalie Portman came on board as a producer and star for Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock's The Montecito Picture Company, which co-financed in partnership with Coldspring and Paramount's usual partner Spyglass Entertainment. Natalie is hot after her Oscar-worthy transformative performance in Black Swan and now finds herself with 2 movies in this weekend's Top 6. And perhaps risking overexposure because of her new pics opening in January, February, April, and May." (Deadline)


"Viacom has been very good to Philippe Dauman. A company proxy statement filed on Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the CEO amassed $84.5 million in stock, salary and other benefits during Viacom’s fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30. Included in the giant sum is a one-time stock award -- $31.7 million -- which is dependent on financial goals over the next five years and was part of his new agreement signed in April. The company’s three top executives -- Dauman, chairman Sumner Redstone and COO Thomas Dooley -- were paid $165 million in stock and other compensation. Dooley received a total of $64.7 million, while Redstone got $15 million. The amounts received were, according the proxy statement, based on performance; Viacom’s stock price rose 22% during the compensation period." (Deadline)

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