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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The year 2012 will see a stream of new books in the patented Thomas Friedman 'Oh My God the Chinese Are Eating Our Lunch with Environmentally Friendly Chopsticks' mold. Some will be more worthwhile than others. One book in particular, however, is sure to stand out, if only for the title: "Becoming China's Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now." The author, Peter D. Kiernan, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, explains in the introduction that 'it's not a book about China exactly. It's about how America got diverted and lost momentum, and a dragon leapt into the breach. It's also about getting our mojo back.' I spoke with him over the phone:FP: When did you first realize we were in danger of becoming China's bitch? PK: When it first occurred to me was in 2008, as a card-carrying member of a discredited class, everyone in Wall Street had to re-think everything. We had gone through a 30 plus year bull market. We now had to wrestle with the idea of who was going to fund the 42 percent of our government that has to be borrowed. Whenever you depend on one major source of finance, if it's too heavy in one area, it deserves a re-thinking.  We haven't really thought clearly about this as a nation. It was a part of this re-thinking everything. We have a much greater co-dependency on China than we'd like to acknowledge. The book is not solely about China, butBecoming China's Bitch is about the cost to our dithering." (ForeignPolicy)


"Anne Sinclair has quietly endured eight months of humiliation, troubling French-woman-of-the-year adulation, invasive speculation, and even disgust. In the time since the king-of-the-universe career of her husband, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, crumbled into a mire of sex-crimes allegations, Sinclair—who used to be a Diane Sawyer-meets-Barbara Walters-like figure in France—didn’t do a single interview with any of her former colleagues. But as she prepares for her journalistic comeback—she will be the editorial director of the French Huffington Post site (that launches January 23)—a feisty Sinclair has finally broken her silence. And her wide-ranging interview with Anne-C├ęcile Sarfati, the deputy editor in chief of the French version of ELLE magazine, will undoubtedly get people talking. (To pump extra mileage out of its exclusive, the January 20 issue of the magazine showed up in kiosks a day early.) mUnder the headline 'Anne Sinclair: ‘I am neither a saint, nor a victim. I am a free woman,’' Sinclair addresses her husband’s troubles in New York, feminism, stepping into Arianna Huffington’s footsteps, the 'Orwellian' invasion of her private life, and much more." (TheDailyBeast)


"President Obama’s fund-raising tour of New York was highlighted by a few funny moments — including Rep. Charlie Rangel falling asleep during his speech, and the president proclaiming he preferred Showtime’s 'Homeland' to the Republican debates. Obama raced through the city on Thursday, appearing at two events at Upper East Side restaurant Daniel, then at a dinner for 40 at Spike Lee’s townhouse, followed by a fundraiser at the Apollo ... Obama had started his evening at a reception and discussion with Jewish leaders at Daniel about relations between Israel and the United States. The event was thrown by UBS’s Robert Wolf,Aryeh Bourkoff, Dr. Daniel Fass and Jeremy Goldberg, among others. Before the discussion, there was a private reception where Obama met with Harvey Weinstein and Showtime’s Matt Blank. Sources tell us Obama 'congratulated [Weinstein] for Meryl Streep’s best actress win for ‘The Iron Lady’ at the Golden Globes.' Obama also congratulated Blank for 'Homeland,' his network’s counter-terrorism thriller, which took the Golden Globe for best drama series. Saying 'Homeland' was his favorite show, Obama declared from the stage that he didn’t enjoy watching Republican debates and 'prefers' the national-security series ...At Lee’s townhouse, guests included Mariah Carey, decked out in jewels, Nick Cannon, 'Fela!' producer Edward Tyler Nahem, MWW CEO Michael Kempner and Bobbi Brown." (PageSix)


"If you live outside Hollywood, work outside the film industry, or are not one of the lucky few to have found an official The Descendants ukulele on your doorstep, it’s likely that you’re not familiar with the grimy process of Oscar campaigning—the organized effort made by studios, publicists, and sometimes stars themselves to influence Academy members come ballot time. Consisting of everything from lavish parties and hilariously useless swag to print ads and highway billboards, For Your Consideration appeals, in the best-case scenario, are intended to call voters’ attention to little-known but virtuosic work; in the worst, they’re meant to dazzle voters into choosing less-than-deserving fare. Still, nothing says 'Oscar season' like finding a cute ukulele in your mailbox—and we found one. For years, the master strategist of award-season campaigns has indisputably been Harvey Weinstein, who practically re-invented the practice with in-your-face techniques considered gauche and shameless by more subtle studios. Just this season alone, he’s appeared at an Academy screening of the Weinstein Company’s silent-film homage The Artist with a granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin on each arm (both of whom told the audience that their iconic grandfather would have loved the movie); personally plugged The Iron Lady on The O’Reilly Factor; and wrote a gushy, 1,900-word Huffington Post essay about the making of My Week with Marilyn. (Less obvious is whether Harvey was behind Williams’s uncharacteristically sexy GQ cover, Uggie’s media tour and surprise Globes appearance, and the full-scale Meryl Streep tribute at the Kennedy Center Honors.) Warner Bros., meanwhile, has made a big, 11th-hour play for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2, which has included lavish For Your Consideration video billboards in Los Angeles recommending the final Potter film for major-category nominations." (VanityFair)


"Vulture has been living it up baller-style in an overstuffed condo at the Sundance Film Festival for a whole day now and already the atmosphere is tense with excitement. Chiefly, that’s because for the first time in Sundance history, none of the films in the Premieres section has a distributor. Why does this matter? Because the Premieres section is a showcase for crowd-pleasers with big stars and established directors; this year’s entries boast the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Richard Gere, Bruce Willis, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Andy Samberg, and Rashida Jones. They’re the films too commercial to be shown in competition with the rest of the upstart independents, and they’ve often already secured backing from the specialty branch of a major studio, such as Cedar Rapids, which Fox Searchlight brought to last year’s festival with a release date in place. That none of this year’s big films — let alone pretty much any other film in the festival — has been sold means that this Sundance is technically 'the biggest buyer’s market ever.' This is both a pleasing sign of Sundance returning to its roots — since every movie in the festival was independently produced — and also a troubling sign of the economic state of the movie biz. How did this happen? As programming director John Cooper told Vulture yesterday over a roundtable at the Bing Bar, the selection process was the same, there just weren’t a lot of presold movies to choose from. 'Yeah, they just didn’t come,' Cooper said." (NYMag)

"Why He’s On Our Radar: Only one day into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, first-time director Malik Bendjelloul is experiencing a high most filmmakers only dream of. His World Cinema Documentary Competition contender 'Searching for Sugar Man,' premiered to rave notices on opening night. The next day, Sony Pictures Classics, making the first buy out of the festival, snatched it up.

 It’s not hard to see why his film has people excited. 'Searching for Sugar Man' tells the strange-but-true story of Rodriguez, the greatest ‘70s rock icon you never heard of -- unless you live in South Africa. The Detroit-based artist was plucked from obscurity by two big-name producers; he recorded an album that was supposed to launch a lucrative recording career. That never happened. But thanks to a bootleg recording that found its way into apartheid South Africa, Rodriguez became an icon for the revolution. Funny thing is, he didn’t have a clue. Bendjelloul – who helmed a body of short documentaries about a number of musical artists including Bjork, Madonna and Elton John – unlocks the mystery behind the man, uncovering a tale that's almost too crazy to be believed." (IndieWIRE)


"There are certain places that, by their very nature, seem forsaken. Afghanistan is one. Another lies an hour and a half north of New York City outside the bucolic little Hudson Valley hamlet of Dover Plains. It’s a place called Oniontown. Despite its name, Oniontown isn’t an actual town—it’s more of a mountainside enclave filled with a haphazard collection of run-down trailers on a dead-end dirt road. The settlement has a notorious reputation that conjures up words like hillbilly, inbred, and drugs. Residents have a hard time finding jobs in town because of their addresses. There are stories about people throwing onions onto the court when the local high school basketball team plays away games. While in the past 100 years women attained suffrage, segregation was ended, and civil rights were established that protected minorities, the century-old stigma toward Oniontown has remained remarkably intact. In Dover Plains, the very word Oniontown causes people to frown, as if confronted with a foul smell or some unpleasant, long-repressed memory. Historically, Oniontowners seem to have always been thought of as somehow 'less than' people in Dover—gap-toothed hillbillies who dwell in a kind of medieval mountain darkness. 'Subhuman,' as a few locals put it. Even Dover’s post office, less than a mile away, doesn’t consider Oniontown to be worthy of receiving mail. No one, not even the residents of the settlement, can definitively say where Oniontown’s peculiar name originated. Some believe it’s a derivation of Youngintown, on account of people in the settlement having so many children. Others say it’s because people there smelled like onions. A third faction suggests that onion was once slang for 'uneducated.'" (Vice)

"Like legions of fans, I was saddened to learn of the death of Giuseppe Quintarelli, who died at his home in Negrar, near Verona, this past Sunday. Just two nights before I’d chosen a ’95 Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella as the dessert wine for my 57th-birthday dinner, and it had been a transporting and magical bottle of wine, which hardly came as a surprise—though it’s always amazing to experience a Quintarelli. Quintarelli raised the bar for the wines of his native Valpolicella, and inspired Romano Dal Forno and others who followed in his wake, but his wines were in a sense sui generis—ultimately unlike those of his neighbors or anyone else. Restaurateur Danny Meyer was a great champion of his wines, and many New Yorkers first tasted them at the Union Square Cafe. Ten years ago I visited Quintarelli at his estate, which sits at the end of a long driveway lined with meticulously pruned olive trees in the hills of the Valpolicella Classico region. Although I had an appointment to see him, he seemed surprised to discover me standing on his doorstep after I’d repeatedly rung the doorbell, hoping the sound would penetrate the din of the television blaring within. The great man was wearing a bib over his green herringbone jacket and he had tomato sauce smudged on his chin. Although he had no recollection of our appointment, he cheerfully agreed show me around after he finished his lunch. The cellar, when I reached it, looked very much as I’d imagined it might, moldy and cluttered and almost medieval, packed with ancient-looking Slovenian oak casks of various sizes. To me, Quintarelli’s wines, and especially his Amarone, taste as if they come from another era. Although they were almost inevitably ripe and voluptuous, they were also rustic and earthy, with nuances that seemed to invoke many of the ingredients of your spice cabinet along with herbs and spices you’ve never smelled or tasted before." (Jay McInerney)


"Charity alone will not solve the world’s problems. Capitalism can help and at the same time put people back to work. There has always been a gap between what the government can provide and what the private sector can produce, a gap charities have long helped to fill. But as our world and economies evolve, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to reconsider how to fill this gap – to rethink the relationship between economic and social challenges, so that benefits and opportunities are available to more people. First, this rethinking is necessary because people are demanding it. From Zuccotti Park to Tahrir Square, people are standing up and saying that for too many citizens the current systems are not working. Second, the financial crisis has made plain that the path we were on was unstable and unsustainable. While our global economic system has brought benefits to many, it has also exacerbated inequalities, both within and among countries. Too much inequality not only hurts the poor and stifles the dreams of the middle class, it also hinders productivity and growth. Finally, our increasing interdependence strengthens the link between our prosperity at home and prosperity abroad. It is hard to sell things people cannot afford to buy. Also, economic privation breeds political resentment with all its costly consequences. We therefore have a vital stake in the fates of others – a stake that extends beyond compassion to political stability and economic security.  How do we change course, to merge social and economic progress? Haiti offers us some lessons." (Bill Clinton)


"Tom Scharpling is a guy with a lot of irons in the fire. Not only is he the director of a recent string of popular music videos, but he’s also working on a new TV project for Comedy Central, maintaining a funny and inventive Twitter feed, writing a new album with comedy partner Jon Wurster, and, of course, hosting the weekly three-hour radio program The Best Show on WFMU. I’m exhausted just typing all that. Given his busy schedule, it was super nice of Tom Scharpling to take the time to talk to me about the plethora of projects he currently has going, how much of the banned alcoholic energy drink Four Loko he still has stashed in his garage, and why a puppet on the radio is the most ridiculous thing ever." (Splitsider)

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