Saturday, December 31, 2005

In Memorium, 2005


Entertainment world suffered big losses in ’05 Johnny Carson, Arthur Miller, Richard Pryor among celebrity deaths
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:35 p.m. ET Dec. 19, 2005

With Willy Loman, playwright Arthur Miller created a universal symbol of the struggles of the ordinary man and the fading of his dreams.

Willy was not the toiler in the fields so often portrayed in the arts, but a worker with a frayed white collar. A salesman.

"Death of a Salesman" made Miller famous in 1949 as an artist of the theater. By the time he died in 2005 at age 89, he was hailed as one of the great playwrights of the century.

We also said goodbye this year to Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow, who in novels such as "The Adventures of Augie March" explored the anxieties and cultural clashes of modern life.

We lost Johnny Carson, who night after night for three decades helped us laugh ourselves to sleep as host of "The Tonight Show." His political jabs targeted Richard Nixon, but he was equally at home clowning around in corny costumes, tossing off a risque quip or gently interviewing a child or colorful senior citizen.

August Wilson, who was killed by liver cancer at age 60, dramatized the story of 20th century black life in a matchless cycle of 10 plays, including two that won Pulitzers, "Fences" and "The Piano Lesson."

Richard Pryor pushed racial humor to (then) the limit in the 1970s, paving the way for even edgier artists who followed. Hunter Thompson, who took his own life, forged a singular brand of personal journalism.

Actress Anne Bancroft played the determined teacher in "The Miracle Worker" and the Older Woman in "The Graduate." Architect Philip Johnson mastered the simple lines of the modernist style and then plunged into postmodernism with his AT&T Building. And Peter Jennings spanned the globe as anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight."

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, blues musician, and Austin Leslie, restaurateur, both died after being driven from their Louisiana homes by Hurricane Katrina.

We also said farewell to the deep-voiced men who spoke for Tony the Tiger and the Jolly Green Giant, and to the singers of two of the funniest hit records of the 1960s: "You Talk Too Much" and "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)."

Here, a roll call of artists, performers and pop culture figures who died in 2004. (Cause of death of younger notables is given when available.)

Frank Kelly Freas, 82.
Influential illustrator of science fiction books and for Mad magazine. Jan. 2.

Will Eisner, 87.
Artist who revolutionized comic books ("The Spirit"), helped pioneer the graphic novel. Jan. 3.

Danny Sugerman, 50.
Associate of The Doors; cowrote acclaimed Jim Morrison biography. Jan. 5. Lung cancer.

Spencer Dryden, 66.
Jefferson Airplane's drummer in band's glory years. Jan. 10.

James Griffin, 61.
Member of 1970s pop group Bread ("Make It With You"); co-wrote Oscar-winning song "For All We Know." Jan. 11.

Thelma White, 94.
Actress; played a dope peddler in "Reefer Madness." Jan. 11.

Amrish Puri, 72.
Bollywood's favorite villain; also in British and American movies. Jan. 12.

Charlotte MacLeod, 82.
Mystery writer; protagonists were often amateur sleuths. Jan. 14.

Victoria de los Angeles, 81.
Spanish soprano known for masterful tonal control. Jan. 15.

Ruth Warrick, 88.
Star of soap opera "All My Children"; career launched in "Citizen Kane." Jan. 15.

Marjorie Williams, 47.
Washington Post columnist, author. Jan. 16. Liver cancer.

Virginia Mayo, 84.
Versatile Hollywood star of 1940s, 50s ("White Heat," "The Best Years of Our Lives"). Jan. 17.

Lamont Bentley, 31.
Regular on sitcom "Moesha." Jan. 18. Car crash.

Vivian Green, 89.
British historian; inspiration for John le Carre's spymaster George Smiley. Jan. 18.

Consuelo Velazquez, 84.
Mexican songwriter whose "Besame Mucho" became a standard. Jan. 22.

Johnny Carson, 79.
The quick-witted "Tonight Show" host who became a national institution. Jan. 23.

Philip Johnson, 98.
Architect who promoted the "glass box" skyscraper and then smashed the mold with daring postmodernist designs. Jan. 25.

Ray Peterson, 65.
His 1960 hit "Tell Laura I Love Her" exemplified the era's teen tragedy song. Jan. 25.

Jim Capaldi, 60.
Drummer of British rock group Traffic ("Paper Sun"). Jan. 28. Cancer.

Ephraim Kishon, 80.
Best-selling Israeli humorist. Jan. 29.

Eric Griffiths, 64.
A member of the schoolboy band that evolved into the Beatles. Jan. 29.

John Vernon, 72.
Character actor; nasty Dean Wormer in "National Lampoon's Animal House." Feb. 1.

Ossie Davis, 87.
Actor and civil rights activist; his rich baritone and elegant bearing graced stage and screen. Feb. 4.

Lazar Berman, 74.
Acclaimed Russian pianist. Feb. 6.

Karl Haas, 91.
Brought classical music to millions through radio program "Adventures in Good Music." Feb. 6.

Jimmy Smith, 79.
Jazz organist; considered a pioneer with the instrument. Feb. 8.

Keith Knudsen, 56.
Doobie Brothers drummer ("Black Water"). Feb. 8. Pneumonia.

George Herman, 85.
CBS political reporter; longest-serving moderator of "Face the Nation." Feb. 8.

Tyrone Davis, 66.
R&B singer ("Turn Back the Hands of Time"). Feb. 9.

Arthur Miller, 89.
He gave the world "Death of a Salesman" and married Marilyn Monroe. Feb. 10.

Sammi Smith, 61.
Country singer ("Help Me Make It Through the Night"). Feb. 12.

Sixten Ehrling, 86.
Conductor for Royal Opera in Stockholm, Detroit Symphony. Feb. 13.

Dan O'Herlihy, 85.
Character actor, Oscar-nominated for Bunuel's "The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe." Feb. 17.

John Raitt, 88.
Robust baritone of Broadway ("Carousel") and Hollywood ("The Pajama Game"); father of Bonnie. Feb. 20.

Sandra Dee, 62.
Teen-queen actress ("Gidget"); married Bobby Darin. Feb. 20. Kidney disease complications.

Hunter S. Thompson, 67.
Acerbic counterculture writer who created a new form of journalism ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"). Feb. 20. Suicide.

Guillermo Cabrera Infante, 75.
Cuban-born novelist; hailed as original voice in 20th-century Spanish literature. Feb. 21.

Simone Simon, 93.
French screen star best known in U.S. for 1942 thriller "Cat People." Feb. 22.

Harry Simeone, 94.
His chorale's "The Little Drummer Boy" is a Christmas perennial. Feb. 22.

Edward Patten, 66.
Member of Gladys Knight & the Pips. Feb. 25.

Mario Luzi, 90.
Acclaimed Italian poet. Feb. 28.

Chris Curtis, 63.
Drummer for British band the Searchers ("Needles and Pins"). Feb. 28.

Harold Brooks-Baker, 71.
Publisher of aristocratic genealogy guide Burke's Peerage. March 5.

Chuck Thompson, 83.
Hall of Fame broadcaster in Baltimore, known for exclaiming, "Ain't the beer cold!" March 6.

Teresa Wright, 86.
Sweet-faced, Oscar-winning actress ("Mrs. Miniver," "The Best Years of Our Lives"). March 6.

Debra Hill, 54.
Film producer ("Escape From L.A."). March 7. Cancer.

Chris LeDoux, 56.
Rodeo champion turned country music star ("Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy"). March 9. Cancer.

Danny Joe Brown, 53.
Lead singer of Southern rock band Molly Hatchet. March 10. Diabetes complications.

Don Durant, 72.
Star of 1950s TV Western "Johnny Ringo." March 15.

Lalo Guerrero, 88.
Acclaimed Mexican-American musician. March 17.

Andre Norton, 93.
Science fiction author; wrote popular "Witch World" series. March 17.

George F. Kennan, 101.
Diplomat, Pulitzer-winning historian. March 17.

Bobby Short, 80.
Suave cabaret singer who epitomized Manhattan sophistication. March 21.

Barney Martin, 82.
Detective turned actor; played Jerry Seinfeld's father. March 21.

Rod Price, 57.
Member of boogie band Foghat ("Slow Ride"). March 22. Injured in fall.

Paul Henning, 93.
He created "The Beverly Hillbillies" and wrote its theme song. March 25.

Greg Garrison, 81.
Pioneering TV director; worked with such stars as Jack Benny, George Burns and Lucille Ball. March 25.

Jack Keller, 68.
Pop songwriter ("Everybody's Somebody's Fool"); a producer on Monkees' first album. April 1.

Saul Bellow, 89.
Nobel Prize-winning author of "Herzog" and "Humboldt's Gift." April 5.

Neil Welliver, 75.
Painter known for his landscapes of Maine woods. April 5.

Dale Messick, 98.
She created the comic strip "Brenda Starr, Reporter." April 5.

Prince Rainier III, 81.
His fairy-tale marriage to Grace Kelly brought Hollywood glamour to Monaco. April 6.

Frank Conroy, 69.
Memoirist ("Stop-Time"), longtime director of famed University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop. April 6.

Jose Melis, 85.
Former "Tonight" show bandleader who led the orchestra for Jack Paar. April 7.

Yoshitaro Nomura, 85.
Japanese director whose 1974 suspense thriller, "Castle of Sand," has been ranked by critics as one of Japan's best films ever. April 8.

Andrea Dworkin, 58.
Feminist author; anti-porn crusader. April 9. Had osteoarthritis, other ailments.

Norbert Brainin, 82.
Violinist; a founding member of the Amadeus Quartet. April 10.

Johnnie Johnson, 80.
Rock 'n' roll pioneer who teamed with Chuck Berry for hits like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "No Particular Place to Go." April 13.

John Fred Gourrier, 63.
As John Fred, he and his Playboy Band topped the charts in 1968 with Beatles parody "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)." April 15.

Laura Canales, 50.
"Grande dame of Tejano music"; blazed a trail for stars like Selena. April 16. Complications from gall bladder surgery.

Ruth Hussey, 93.
Oscar-nominated for role as James Stewart's wise-cracking girlfriend in "The Philadelphia Story." April 19.

Richard "Rick" Lewis, 71.
A member of the doo-wop group the Silhouettes whose "Get a Job" soared to the top of the charts in 1958. April 19.

Gene Frankel, 85.
Directed the landmark off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's "The Blacks." April 20.

Sir John Mills, 97.
British actor; Oscar-winner for "Ryan's Daughter"; Hayley's father. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND JULIET'S. April 23.

Augusto Roa Bastos, 88.
One of South America's most celebrated novelists whose writings often examined Paraguay's social and political struggles. April 26.

Mason Adams, 86.
Nominated for an Emmy for "Lou Grant"; the voice on the Smucker's jelly commercials. April 26.

Maria Schell, 79.
Leading actress of German-speaking films; sister of Maximilian Schell. April 26.

Mel Gussow, 71.
New York Times drama critic and cultural reporter who showed an eye for undiscovered talent. April 29.

William Joseph Bell, 78.
Emmy award-winning daytime TV soap writer; co-creator of "The Young and the Restless," "The Bold and the Beautiful." April 29.

Joe Grant, 96.
Disney artist and writer; created queen-witch character in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." May 6.

Herb Sargent, 81.
Writer and producer for "Saturday Night Live." May 6.

Tristan Egolf, 33.
Young author whose first novel "Lord of the Barnyard" won him comparisons to Steinbeck. May 7. Suicide.

Jay Marshall, 85.
Magician and ventriloquist, often on "The Ed Sullivan Show." May 10.

Monica Zetterlund, 67.
Jazz singer; one of Sweden's best-known artists. May 12.

Jimmy Martin, 77.
Singer, guitarist; performed with the Blue Grass Boys. May 14.

Frank Gorshin, 72.
Impressionist; nominated for Emmy for role as the Riddler on the "Batman" TV series. May 17.

Howard Morris, 85.
Comic on Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows"; the poetry-spouting Ernest T. Bass on "The Andy Griffith Show." May 21.

Ismail Merchant, 68.
With partner James Ivory, produced intelligent film dramas ("Howards End," "The Remains of the Day"). May 25.

Eddie Albert, 99.
Actor; the befuddled city slicker-turned-farmer on "Green Acres." May 26.

Leon Askin, 97.
Played Gen. Albert Burkhalter in the 1960s comedy "Hogan's Heroes." Announced June 3.EDITOR'S NOTE: MEANING HE'D BEEN DEAD FOR HOW LONG AT THAT POINT?

Anne Bancroft, 73.
She won the 1962 best actress Oscar as the teacher of a young Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker" but achieved greater fame in "The Graduate." June 6.

Dana Elcar, 77.
Round-faced actor whose real-life struggle with blindness was written into his role on "MacGyver." June 6.

Richard Eberhart, 101.
Won Pulitzer in poetry in 1966 for "Selected Poems, 1930-1965." June 9.

Carlo Maria Giulini, 91.
Italian maestro whose spiritual interpretations of classical music made him a conducting giant of the 20th century. June 14.

Phil Ford, 85.
Entertainer who teamed with then-wife Mimi Hines on "The Tonight Show," Las Vegas stages. June 15.

Gene Miller, 76.
Won two Pulitzers for Miami Herald stories that led to the release of four people wrongly convicted of murder. June 17.

Ronald Winans, 48.
Grammy-winning member of Winans gospel quartet. June 17. Heart complications.

Chris Griffin, 89.
Member of trumpet section in Benny Goodman's orchestra, alongside Harry James and Ziggy Elman. June 18.

Larry Collins, 75.
Co-author of "Is Paris Burning?," best-seller on Nazi occupation of French capital. June 20.

Shana Alexander, 79.
Veteran journalist; her skirmishes with James J. Kilpatrick on "60 Minutes" were spoofed on "Saturday Night Live." June 23.

Paul Winchell, 82.
Ventriloquist, inventor; created lispy voice of Winnie the Pooh's animated friend Tigger. June 24.

Chet Helms, 62.
Bay Area impresario; launched Janis Joplin's career. June 25.

Shelby Foote, 88.
Brought his Southern storyteller's touch to multivolume work on the Civil War and the landmark PBS series. June 27.

Bruce Malmuth, 71.
Film director ("Hard to Kill"). June 28.

Christopher Fry, 97.
British playwright ("The Lady's Not for Burning"). June 30.

Luther Vandross, 54.
Grammy winner known for his lush voice on such hits as "Here and Now," the bittersweet "Dance With My Father." July 1. Stroke.

Renaldo "Obie" Benson, 69.
Member of Motown's Four Tops ("Baby I Need Your Loving"). July 1.

Ernest Lehman, 89.
Six-time Oscar nominee as screenwriter ("North by Northwest") and producer ("Hello, Dolly"). July 2.

Nan Kempner, 74.
Quintessential New York socialite, fashion plate. July 3.

June Haver, 79.
Sunny star of 1940s musicals ("Oh, You Beautiful Doll"). July 4.

Ray Davis, 65.
Member of influential funk band Parliament-Funkadelic ("One Nation Under a Groove"). July 5.
Evan Hunter, 78.
His gritty Ed McBain detective series pioneered the police procedural genre. July 6.

Claude Simon, 91.
French novelist; won 1985 Nobel for literature. July 6.

W. Pauline Nicholson, 76.
She cooked Elvis Presley's favorite peanut butter and fried banana sandwiches. July 7.

Frances Langford, 92.
Actress-singer who captivated soldiers on Bob Hope's USO tours during World War II. July 11.

Geraldine Fitzgerald, 91.
In classic 1939 films "Dark Victory," "Wuthering Heights"; also noted stage actress. July 17.

Gavin Lambert, 80.
Hollywood historian, wrote novels, screenplays, biographies. July 17.

Paul Duke, 78.
Hosted public TV's "Washington Week in Review." July 18.

James Doohan, 85.
As "Star Trek" chief engineer, he responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty." July 20. EDITOR'S NOTE: SNIFFLE...

Long John Baldry, 64.
British blues legend; helped launch careers of Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones. July 21.

Eugene Record, 64.
Founder of Chi-Lites vocal group ("Have You Seen Her?"). July 22.

Myron Floren, 85.
Accordion player on "The Lawrence Welk Show." July 23.

Catherine Woolley, 100.
Children's book author ("Ginnie and the New Girl"). July 23.

Danny Simon, 86.
Comedy writer ("Your Show of Shows"); worked with his brother, Neil. July 26.

Robert Wright, 90.
Broadcay composer, lyricist ("Kismet"). July 27.

Helen Phillips, 86.
Broke Metropolitan Opera color barrier in 1947 as first black chorister. July 27.

Arthur Zankel, 73.
Financier; gave $10 million for Carnegie Hall recital space. July 28.

Pat McCormick, 78.
Walrus-mustachioed comedy performer, writer. July 29.

Al McKibbon, 86.
Bassist with the George Shearing quintet. July 29.

Hildegarde, 99.
Cabaret singer Walter Winchell dubbed "The Incomparable Hildegarde." July 29.

David Shaw, 62.
Los Angeles Times' Pulitzer-winning media critic. Aug. 1.

Max Steele, 83.
Prize-winning author ("Debby," "The Cat and the Coffee Drinkers"); creative writing teacher. Aug. 1. EDITOR'S NOTE: DON'T HOLD IT AGAINST HIM, BUT HE WAS ONE OF MY WRITING TEACHERS IN COLLEGE!

Ibrahim Ferrer, 78.
A leading voice in the Buena Vista Social Club of vintage Cuban performers. Aug. 6.

Peter Jennings, 67.
Longtime ABC News anchor, part of a triumvirate that dominated network news for more than two decades. Aug. 7.

John H. Johnson, 87.
Publisher whose Ebony, Jet magazines countered stereotypical coverage of blacks. Aug. 8.

Barbara Bel Geddes, 82.
Oscar-nominated actress ("I Remember Mama") who reached her greatest fame as Miss Ellie Ewing in "Dallas." Aug. 8.

Judith Rossner, 70.
Her hit novel "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" was made into movie starring Diane Keaton. Aug. 9.

Matthew McGrory, 32.
Deep-voiced 7-foot-plus actor; the gentle giant in the movie "Big Fish." Aug. 9. Heart problem.

James Dougherty, 84.
He married Norma Jeane Baker _ before she took the name Marilyn Monroe. Aug. 15.

Vassar Clements, 77.
Nashville fiddle virtuoso, A-list studio musician. Aug. 16.

Dennis Lynds, 81.
His Dan Fortune mysteries were praised for reflecting contemporary social issues. Aug. 19.

Robert A. Moog, 71.
His synthesizers revolutionized music in the 1960s. Aug. 21.

Brock Peters, 78.
In his long acting career, played the black man falsely accused of rape in "To Kill a Mockingbird." Aug. 23.

Cecily Brownstone, 96.
A cuisine maven who wrote cookbooks and articles on food for The Associated Press for 39 years. Aug. 30.

R.L. Burnside, 78.
Mississippi bluesmen influential with younger musicians. Sept. 1

Bob Denver, 70.
Bumbling namesake of "Gilligan's Island" who delighted generations of TV fans. Sept. 2.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, 81.
He built a 50-year career playing blues, country, jazz and Cajun music. Sept. 10.

Robert Wise, 91.
Won four Oscars as producer and director of "West Side Story," "The Sound of Music." Sept. 14.

Sid Luft, 89.
Producer credited with reviving career of then-wife Judy Garland in the 1950s. Sept. 15.

Guy Green, 91.
Won cinematography Oscar for the 1946 film "Great Expectations." Sept. 15.

John Bromfield, 83.
TV Western actor of the 1950s ("U.S. Marshal"). Sept. 18.

Willie Hutch, 60.
Co-wrote Jackson 5 hits ("Never Can Say Goodbye"). Sept. 19.

Tommy Bond, 79.
Was Butch, the bully, in "Our Gang" films. Sept. 24.

Don Adams, 82.
Fumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in TV's 1960s Bond spoof "Get Smart." Sept. 25.

M. Scott Peck, 69.
Wrote best-seller "The Road Less Traveled," other self-help books. Sept. 25.

Austin Leslie, 71.
New Orleans chef whose Chez Helene soul food restaurant inspired the television show "Frank's Place." Sept. 29.

August Wilson, 60.
Playwright whose works included such landmark dramas as "Fences," "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Oct. 2. Liver cancer.

Nipsey Russell, 80.
Witty actor-comedian who was a staple of TV game shows; Tin Man in "The Wiz." Oct. 2.

Devery Freeman, 92.
Screenwriter who helped form Writers Guild of America. Oct. 7.

Louis Nye, 92.
Comedian who created a national catchphrase _ "Hi, ho, Steverino!" _ on Steve Allen's 1950s TV show. Oct. 9.

Baker Knight, 72.
Prolific songwriter ("Lonesome Town"). Oct. 12.

Edmund N. Bacon, 95.
City planner whose vision transformed postwar Philadelphia; father of Kevin Bacon. Oct. 14.

Gordon Lee, 71.
Chubby child actor who played Spanky McFarland's little brother, Porky, in "Our Gang" comedies. Oct. 16.

Elmer "Len" Dresslar Jr., 80.
The booming voice of the Jolly Green Giant. Oct. 16.

Ba Jin, 100.
One of China's most revered communist-era writers. Oct. 17.

Jean-Michel Folon, 71.
Belgium-born artist whose vivid images appear in galleries and on posters. Oct. 20.

Shirley Horn, 71.
Jazz pianist and vocalist; revered as master interpreter of American standards. Oct. 20.

Enid Haupt, 99.
Publishing heiress; gave millions to museums, New York Botanical Garden. Oct. 25.

Maurice Rosenfield, 91.
Producer whose "Bang the Drum Slowly" boosted Robert De Niro's career. Oct. 30.

Skitch Henderson, 87.
Began a television tradition as first bandleader of "The Tonight Show." Nov. 1.

Bonne Bell Eckert, 82.
Retired chairwoman of Bonne Bell Cosmetics, named for her as a child. Nov. 3.

John Fowles, 79.
British author ("The Collector," "The French Lieutenant's Woman"). Nov. 5.

Link Wray, 76.
Guitar innovator; inspired such legends as Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend. Nov. 5.

David Westheimer, 88.
Novelist whose "Von Ryan's Express" was turned into movie starring Frank Sinatra. Nov. 8.

Fernando Bujones, 50.
Leading ballet dancer and teacher. Nov. 10. Melanoma.

Lord Lichfield, 66.
Official photographer at Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's wedding. Nov. 11.

Moustapha Akkad, 75.
Film producer ("Halloween," "The Message"). Nov. 11; in bombing of hotel in Jordan.

Keith Andes, 85.
Handsome actor who was Marilyn Monroe's leading man in the 1952 film "Clash by Night." Nov. 11.

Vine Deloria Jr., 72.
Author, advocate of American Indian rights ("Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto"). Nov. 13.

Ralph Edwards, 92.
Broadcasting pioneer who spotlighted stars and ordinary people as host of the popular 1950s show "This Is Your Life." Nov. 16.

Chris Whitley, 45.
Chameleon singer-songwriter who oscillated between roots rock 'n' roll, blues and alt-rock. Nov. 20. Lung cancer.

Hugh Sidey, 78.
Longtime writer of Time magazine's "The Presidency" column. Nov. 21.

Constance Cummings, 95.
Hollywood star of the early 1930s; later leading figure on the British stage. Nov. 23.

Pat Morita, 73.
Nominated for Oscar for role as the wise martial-arts teacher in "The Karate Kid." Nov. 24.

Stan Berenstain, 82.
With wife Jan he wrote and illustrated the Berenstain Bear books that delighted and educated millions of children. Nov. 26.

Joe Jones, 79.
Sang 1961 hit "You Talk Too Much"; become an independent music publisher, advocate for black artists' rights. Nov. 27.

Wendie Jo Sperber, about 47.
Actress ("Back to the Future," "Bosom Buddies"), breast cancer activist. Nov. 29. Cancer.

Jean Parker, 90.
Lovely star of 1930s and '40s films; was Beth to Katharine Hepburn's Jo in 1933's "Little Women." Nov. 30.

Peter E. Haas Sr., 86. Helped build family-owned Levi Strauss & Co. into a socially conscious clothing empire. Dec. 3.

Gregg Hoffman, 42.
Film producer who developed horror hit "Saw" and its gory successor "Saw II." Dec. 4.

Edward L. Masry, 73.
Activist lawyer who mentored the real-life Erin Brockovich. Dec. 5.

Richard Pryor, 65.
Actor-comedian whose profanely personal insights into race relations made him one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Dec. 10.

Robert F. Newmyer, 49.
Prolific independent film producer ("Training Day"). Dec. 12. Apparent heart attack.




Friday, December 30, 2005

The end and the beginning...LET THE AWARDS BEGIN!


Oscar ballots en route to voters
Nomination ballots for the 78th Annual Academy Awards were mailed Thursday to the 5,798 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Completed ballots must be at PricewaterhouseCoopers by 5 p.m. Jan. 21.

Ballots received after the deadline will not be counted.

To ensure that all aspects of the balloting process are conducted with fairness and accuracy, PricewaterhouseCoopers is tabulating all nomination and final award ballots. As part of the process, each ballot is numbered to guarantee that it goes to the correct Academy voter. PricewaterhouseCoopers also makes sure no duplicate ballots are mailed and that none are missing EDITOR'S NOTE: SO....NO CHEATING!

311 make best-picture list
For the first time in 32 years, more than 300 films will vie for the Academy Award for best picture, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday.

Marking a 16.5% increase from last year, 311 feature films will compete for cinema's biggest prize of 2005.

Academy credits coordinator Howard Loberfeld cited an increase in the number of feature-length documentaries playing theatrically (35 vs. 15 in 2004) for the spike, as well as industrywide distributor reorganizations, which led to the release of an unusual number of long-delayed projects. EDITOR'S NOTE: IRONIC, HUH? THE LARGEST NUMBER OF MOVIES, AND THE SMALLEST NUMBER OF MOVIE-GOERS. (BY THE BY, OF THE 311 POTENTIAL MOVIES, DOESN'T IT FEEL LIKE 298 OF THEM WERE RELEASED IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS?)

Conti named musical director for 78th Academy Awards
Marking his 18th Oscar stint, composer Bill Conti will return to the podium as musical director of the 78th Annual Academy Awards, telecast producer Gil Cates said Wednesday.

Conti, who won an Oscar in 1983 for scoring "The Right Stuff," also earned nominations in the original song category in 1976 for "Gonna Fly Now" from "Rocky" and in 1981 for the title song from "For Your Eyes Only." Additionally, he received 11 Emmy nominations and is a three-time winner for his work on Academy Awards telecasts. His other film credits include 1999's "The Thomas Crown Affair," "The Karate Kid," "Broadcast News," "Private Benjamin," "Rocky II," "Rocky III" and "Rocky V." The Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast live March 5 on ABC from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.

10 questions for Oscar
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
Forget the season of giving. In Hollywood, this is the season of getting.

Sure, many of the movies that are considered Academy Award contenders haven't made it to your local multiplex yet. But as far as Tinseltown is concerned, the Oscar gold grab is on: Ad campaigns are raging, favorites are emerging, and some movies are already fading from contention.

To help make sense of the upcoming awards frenzy, USA TODAY's Scott Bowles raises a few questions and answers surrounding the Oscars. Nominations will be announced Jan. 31 and awards given out March 5.

Who's in
Brokeback Mountain is the early film to beat. The story of two gay cowboys has swept early critics awards and sits atop many prognosticators' lists, including USA TODAY's Oscar Oracle, which handicaps the race based on earlier awards.

Of course, the contest is still wide open. Remember Sideways? Last year's road-trip comedy was invincible early in the awards season and took the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical. By Oscar time, however, it took only one statuette, for best adapted screenplay.

Brokeback's fate may be entwined with that of Munich, the Steven Spielberg film about the aftermath of the 1972 Olympics massacre. If that movie gains box-office momentum and wins critics over, "it could hit all the right notes among the academy," says Sasha Stone of "Spielberg can always be a spoiler."

Who will host?

It's getting late in the game, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn't tipped its hand as to a master of ceremonies.

By mid-October last year, the academy had announced that Chris Rock would be host. Last month, Rock's publicist said the comedian would not be back, feeding speculation that old hands such as Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg or Steve Martin would return.

But some say the show may again seek a youthful comedian. "The academy got a lot of attention with Chris Rock," says Tom O'Neil, author of Movie Awards and head of the Los Angeles Times' awards site, EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE, AFTER THE FACT, MOST OF THAT ATTENTION WAS NEGATIVE....."They'll try to stay in the headlines with someone out of the pool of favorites."

Does sexual orientation matter?
Gender and sexuality twists are all the rage, at least in Hollywood. In Transamerica, Felicity Huffman plays a man preparing for a sex change. Truman Capote's relationship with the killer Perry Smith is at the heart of Capote. In Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal struggle with homosexuality.

Filmmakers concede that sexual issues can be a hard sell. "I know these themes have obstacles," says Brokeback director Ang Lee. "They have to be promoted carefully."

That includes selling the movie to academy members. "They won't admit it, but Oscar voters blow in the commercial wind," says Jeffrey Wells of "If a movie bombs at the box office, they'll look harder at it." EDITOR'S NOTE: "BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN" IS A VERY WELL-MADE FILM. IT SHOULD CERTAINLY BE A CONTENDER FOR THE OSCAR. BUT THERE ARE SEVERAL OTHER MOVIES WITH A VIABLE SHOT AT THE GOLD STATUE. AND IF IN THE END THE NO.1 SLOT GOES TO SOMETHING OTHER THAN "BROKEBACK", AND IF THERE IS THEN A LOT OF WHINING ABOUT HOMOPHOBIA, I THINK I WILL START TO SPANK PEOPLE.

Who will be Oscar's darling?

Last year it was Foxx for Ray and Charlize Theron for Monster. The year before that, Peter Jackson was the award's poster boy.

This year has a few candidates. "I'd be surprised if George Clooney didn't get three nominations," says Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger. Clooney directed Good Night and starred in and produced both that film and Syriana.

Another fave could be Terrence Howard, who stars in Crash and Hustle & Flow. Among actresses, it will be Witherspoon, Karger says. "She's going to be the Halle Berry of the season. She's got the charisma, the look. People will be watching what she wears, how she handles the pressure." EDITOR'S NOTE: TWO OBSERVATIONS. 1. MS. WITHERSPOON ALWAYS SEEMS TO HANDLE THE PRESSURE WITH A GREAT DEAL OF CLASS AND ELAN. SHE ALWAYS LOOKS REFINED AND LOVELY AT THE AWARDS SHOWS. 2. THERE IS A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WITHERSPOON AND BERRY. (RAISE YOUR HANDS IF YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS....AND NO, SKIN-COLOR ISN'T INVOLVED).

Will singers and Oscar make beautiful music?

Oscar likes its dash of tunes, from Chicago to Moulin Rouge to Jamie Foxx in last year's Ray. Though Rent and The Producers have received a lukewarm reception from critics, the Johnny Cash biography Walk the Line seems destined for Academy Awards nominations.

"It's a slam dunk, at least in the acting categories" for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who already has won three critics awards for best actress, O'Neil says. "And it's one of the few movies that has big public support," with more than $83 million at the box office.

Can Peter Jackson return as king?

When his 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King collected 11 Oscars, Jackson became the do-no-wrong helmsman in Hollywood.

And it's his clout that makes King Kong a contender. Without Jackson, Kong is just a monkey movie, "but no one does action like him," says David Poland of movie "So, right now, anything he touches is taken seriously."

The film's box-office debut last week, however, could take the air out of the ape. The movie made $50 million in its debut weekend, $15 million below expectations. If it doesn't soon recoup its $207 million budget — it's now at $77 million —Kong probably will vie for mostly technical awards.

Can early films make a late run?

Oscar is notorious for its short-term memory. Of the best-picture candidates, up to 70% are released in November and December, says Inside Oscar author Damien Bona. EDITOR'S NOTE: YES, I SENSED THAT....... GIVEN HOW MANY MOVIES I'VE FELT COMPELLED TO TRAIPSE TO IN THE PAST WEEK. SHEESH!

But there are notable early releases catching voters' attention: Crash, released in May, August's The Constant Gardener, and A History of Violence, out in September. EDITOR'S NOTE: BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO'S WEBSITE IS WORTHLESS; DOES ANYONE KNOW WHEN "A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE" IS COMING OUT ON DVD?The films captured early critics awards and are receiving heavy Oscar pushes from their studios.

"It's a chess match," says Violence director David Cronenberg. "The last two months get so crowded, you have to come out earlier. So you need to time your DVDs, have a well-planned campaign and hope people don't forget you can turn out good movies any time of year."

Will small films play big?

For the first time in the Golden Globes' history, all five best-drama candidates cost less than $30 million each to make. Small films such as Brokeback, Good Night and Match Point will shape the Academy Awards race as major studios shy away from the Oscar game.

"Big studio conglomerates are concerned about the bottom line, not awards," says Terry Press, marketing chief for DreamWorks, which is releasing Match Point. "It used to be that a studio would make a movie that appealed both commercially and artistically. That's not the case now."

Nor is it necessarily a bad thing, says Jeff Daniels, star of The Squid and the Whale. "One of the more noble things the Oscars can do is pay attention to movies no one knows about," he says. "Blockbusters don't need much help." EDITOR'S NOTE: NOBLE? HOLLYWOOD? WHAT HAPPY PLACE IS MR. DANIELS LIVING IN?

Will politics rule?

Take a look at the early front-runners, and most aren't pulling any punches.

Syriana is a searing take on the relationship among the U.S. government, oil companies and Mideast leadership. Good Night, and Good Luck is an examination of the press' will to stand up against big government. Munich takes a cold look at eye-for-an-eye justice when it comes to terrorism.

"Politics are all around us, you can't escape it," says Jeff Goldstein, a distribution executive with Warner Bros., which released Syriana. "It's natural that the best movies are going to reflect what's going on in people's everyday lives."

Will anybody care?

This is what has the academy most concerned. For the third straight year, movie attendance has fallen. Last year's Academy Awards drew 42 million viewers, the second lowest since 1997.
If small films dominate the awards, ratings will again be a challenge. The show's highest ratings came when blockbusters such as 1997's Titanic were in the mix. EDITOR'S NOTE: I'D SAY LOW RATINGS FOR THE OSCAR BROADCAST ARE A FOREGONE CONCLUSION THIS YEAR. THERE ARE SOME WONDERFUL MOVIES IN THE RUNNING, BUT ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WITH POPULAR APPEAL.

"People have too many options for their entertainment, and we've got to work to get people excited about movie business," says Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000, a division of 20th Century Fox.

And the Oscars, Clooney says, are a good place to start. "Winning an Oscar is fine, but it's not what the awards should be about," he says. "They should be about showing people the kind of work you're capable of. That will get people interested in seeing more of it."

One more MISHMASH before we call it a year


Serenity and Firefly hold the Amazon Chart
and Firefly are holding the Amazon Top Sellers DVD Chart with Serenity at #2 and Firefly at #3. Given the competition around Christmas and the New Year, it would appear to be a fantastic performance.

Firefly has rarely dropped from the Top 10 in the last few months, and WalMart even was forced to suspend sales of Firefly as they ran out of the product.

It would appear that the companies (and I do believe different companies have marketed and published Serenity and Firefly) are making a bit of a killing.

Certainly, in the year’s round up, Serenity seems to be making a bit of a scene in the film industry, with articles coming in from DVDTalk, The Associated Press and even the prestigious New Republic magazine. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO DOES THIS TRANSLATE TO SEQUELS??? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE???

30,000 scripts available via new database
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library on Thursday unveiled a searchable online database that lists more than 30,000 motion picture scripts available for research at six Southern California collections.

The Motion Picture Scripts Database, which will be updated monthly, catalogs works from 1910-2005, with entries searchable by title, releasing company, year of release, genre, writer and institution. The online catalog will serve as a one-stop locating tool for people interested in researching and reading screenplays.

"What everybody wants is to have all the scripts scanned in and digitally available online, but copyright (laws) basically preclude us from doing that," said Gregory Walsh, the list's editor.

CBS Stays Cool, Courts Viewers For "Alex"
CBS FIRST LEARNED OF "COOLERTISING," advertising on store water coolers, when a CBS executive saw a campaign for Dove soap's "Cool Moisture" in action.

The exec pitched the outdoor ad medium to the network as a way to promote "Out of Practice," a show starring Henry Winkler that launched in September.

Satisfied with the results from the first campaign, the network is once again turning to "coolertising" to promote another show--this time its midseason replacement "Courting Alex," a comedy starring Jenna Elfman.

The company behind "coolertising" is AquaCell Media, a subsidiary of AquaCell Technologies.
Ads are placed on permanently attached bottles of water coolers installed in pharmacy waiting areas of drugstores.

Hoping to drum up water cooler buzz a second time, the ads will appear in hundreds of Rite Aid and Duane Reade stores in the New York and Los Angeles areas.

As with many alternative forms of outdoor advertising, it's not easy to calculate the number of eyeballs that will be exposed to the ads. While AquaCell estimates that thousands will see the ad--varying from store to store--only 50 to 100 cups are used a day per water cooler, a number that AquaCell tracks.

CBS signed a three-month contract with Aquacell for the first quarter of 2006.



Shatner Launches DVD Club

William Shatner's new DVD club casts him in the one role he's not had during his storied 50-year acting career: film critic.

The recently launched Official William Shatner DVD Club (, a DVD-of-the-month club, showcases the best sci-fi movies that didn't come to a theater near you.

Shatner explains, "Determining what movies get broad distribution and studio marketing support is a complicated process, and unfortunately the caliber of the film isn't the only consideration. I've chosen a select group of memorable and entertaining sci-fi movies that never got the exposure they deserved, and made them available to fans everywhere at a great price."

While many of the films distributed by the William Shatner DVD Club have names that the casual fan may not recognize, those few fans who have seen these movies agree that they are underground hits.

For example, in IMDB (the popular movie feedback website owned by, the following three recent movies received the same rating: Vanilla Sky, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Ginger Snaps.

Terminator 3 grossed $418mm at the box office. Vanilla Sky topped over $200mm during an impressive theater run. And Ginger Snaps? Ginger Snaps (a North American production) grossed 146,125 Spanish Pesatas in a brief European engagement before becoming an afterthought in a crowded sci-fi market. And most American movie fans missed out on one of the best sci-fi films of the last five years.

Ginger Snaps was the first movie William Shatner included in the club, but it is not the only great movie with an unfamiliar name available to members. Close Your Eyes, a sci-fi thriller, won three awards at the Paris Film Festival in 2004, and took home top honors from the Swedish Fantastic Film Festival in 2002.

Richard Roeper (of Ebert & Roeper) raves about Close Your Eyes, "One of the best thrillers I've seen probably since The Ring." EDITOR'S NOTE: I THINK I'D BE MORE IMPRESSED IF IT WAS EBERT TOUTIN A FLIC, HMMM?

Immortal (Ad Vitam), a film which was never released in U.S. movie theaters, has been called "jaw dropping, highly detailed, and smoothly executed" ( and "strangely and almost hypnotically engaging" (

More information about the movies included in the club is available on the official website (

Right now, the William Shatner DVD Club is offering anyone with an e-mail address a free Ginger Snaps DVD. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH. HMM. FREE IS GOOD?


Brits Miss TREK Most
In a poll conducted by Home Media Networks, British audiences voted STAR TREK the show they would most like to see return to UK television.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER came in second place, with FRIENDS landing in third.

BLAKE'S 7 came in fifth, THE X-FILES took the number six spot and STARGATE landed at number eight on the list. THE A-TEAM rounded out the top ten. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHAT WERE THEY SMOKING? "THE A-TEAM"?

'Star Wars' fans feel at home in principal's office
Administrator connects with pupils through vast memorabilia collection

The News Journal

Springer Middle School students might actually like going to the principal's office these days. No matter how badly they've behaved, the Force is still with them.

Step through the door of Principal Michael Gliniak's office and behold a veritable one-man "Star Wars" convention that swirls around his desk like warp-speed tracers from the Millennium Falcon.

Colorful posters from the original "Star Wars" movies cling to the walls. Replica helmets, figurines, models, a light saber, books and other movie memorabilia line bookcase shelves. A motorcycle vanity license plate propped on the office window sill at the Brandywine Hundred school reads: "DRKSD."

The holidays are every day in this office with its Hollywood décor.

"It's a huge collection; he's got tons of stuff," said Stephen Veith, 12, a seventh-grader at the school. "It's pretty different compared to the other principals' offices. It makes him seem younger, and a lot less old and boring." EDITOR'S NOTE: DWEEBY, YES. OLD AND BORING, NO.

Gliniak, 39, of New Castle, has been collecting the space stuff since 1977, when the first "Star Wars" movie soared into theaters and shot to the top of box office charts.

He makes a connection with students such as Stephen through the "Star Wars" toys.

"It puts the kids at ease," said Bridget Smith, the school's guidance counselor, whose office is two doors down. "They're more comfortable while they're in there. It's a friendly room."

But Gliniak said he also relates to the message of the "Star Wars" saga -- using the Force and turning from the Dark Side -- because he has used it to motivate him in life.

Growing up, mainly in Bear and Newark, his single mom did her best to provide for the family. But it wasn't always easy, and those early "Star Wars" movies were like climbing into an escape pod and aiming for a galaxy far, far away.

"We grew up in cockroach-infested apartments, and you could smell pot in the hallways most of the time, and these movies helped take you out of this world," he said. "Statistically, I should be a drug addict or an alcoholic, and not make something of myself. But I had this drive to want to do something better and stay on the right course, the right path. People would say it's corny, but I really think those movies had something to do with that."

His collection of "Star Wars" memorabilia grew slowly at first.

"It actually didn't take off until I became an administrator," he said. "Once you make more money, then you can obviously afford the toys."

Five life-size helmets representing the gear of Imperial Storm Troopers, TIE fighter pilots and Darth Vader, the personification of the Dark Side, might have sold for as much as $70 apiece when he bought them in the 1980s, but now probably would go for more than $300, he said.
However, don't bother trying to buy any of it.

"It's never been an investment for me," Gliniak said. "I have no interest getting money from some of this stuff. It's strictly for the love of the movies."

He has seen all three of the original films dozens of times. He saw the first film 30 times while it was still in theaters, giving it another 50 viewings at home when the video came out.

"The original three movies, if we watch them, I can say the lines before they actually say them. It drives my wife and kids crazy," said Gliniak, who has a 10-year-old son and 15-year-old twin daughters. EDITOR'S NOTE: BUT THEN, DRIVING YOUR WIFE AND KIDS CRAZY IS PART OF YOUR JOB AS A HUSBAND, RIGHT?

"Those movies have everything," he said. "They've got fantasy, they've got magic. In some ways, it's a moral guide of what to do today, and the Jedi Knights doing what they're supposed to do."

When Gliniak first brought his collection to work as an assistant principal at Mount Pleasant High School in the late 1990s, he discovered parents also get a kick out of it.

"It really was a good ice breaker," he said. "Even parents today look at this and say, 'This is really cool.' They can relate to it. It really makes you look more like a human being, when the [principal] image is more staunch and unapproachable."

Once, for a costume contest at Mount Pleasant, he came in wearing a homemade Darth Vader costume, looking every bit the authority figure that students might not want to cross, his voice muffled and sounding Evil Empire-like from behind the sinister mask.

"It was fun to see the reaction of the kids," he said. "I think I came in second that year. I don't remember what was first." EDITOR'S NOTE: AND TERRORIZING SCHOOL KIDS...ALL IN A DAY'S WORK.

'Red Doors' open for Lee, CBS
CBS is looking to put a fresh spin on the primetime soap opera genre with "Red Doors," from Paramount Network Television and executive producer Steve Tao.

The project, which has received a script commitment from the network, is a soap about a suburban Chinese-American family with three daughters. "Red Doors" is based on the award-winning indie film, the feature debut of writer-director Georgia Lee. Lee is on board to pen the pilot script. She also will serve as a producer alongside the film's producers Mia Riverton, who also co-stars in the movie, and Jane Chen EDITOR'S NOTE: HISPANIC SOAPS. GAY SOAPS. WHEN IS IT PUDGY, MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN'S TURN????!!! (SORRY...THE BITTERNESS JUST OVERCAME ME THERE FOR A SEC).

Melancon Joins X3
20th Century Fox and Marvel Entertainment have announced that Mei Melancon (aka Meiling Melancon) has joined the cast of X-MEN 3.

Melancon will play the character Psylocke, who has had several incarnations in the Marvel comic book series and is best known for her fighting and telepathic skills as well as an ability to transport herself and others through shadows.

In the movie, Psylocke will fight against the X-Men as a member of Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants.

Watts, Naomi Watts
This is going to be interesting.

Naomi Watts, who was recently asked to play 007-esque agent ‘Daisy Scarlett’ in the upcoming British blockbuster, is now also being courted by the original Bond camp.

EON are reportedly interested in having Watts star in their upcoming “Casino Royale” opposite Daniel Craig.

The “King Kong” spunk has already received a call from the producers asking if she’d consider starring in the new film.

So what to do? Will she play both the Bond-ish Scarlett and the Bond villain, Vesper Lynd? Or will she give the birdie to both offers?

Insiders are predicting she’ll definitely pass on “Royale”, at least, fearing that dreaded ‘Curse of the Bond Girl’.

Tom Hanks eyed for Star Trek 11?
How do you add a couple more innings onto the life of “Star Trek”? Easy, enrol an Oscar winner and box-office drawcard to Starfleet Academy.

According to, Academy Award Winner Tom Hanks is being eyed for a role in the next “Star Trek” film.

Writer Erik Jendresen’s script has yet to be given the thumbs up by the studio, but if it should – Gump’s been earmarked for an appearance. Hanks and Jendresen are old friends – working on TV’s “Band of Brothers” a couple of years back.

The move would be a dramatic one for “Star Trek XI - The Beginning” and feature perhaps the biggest name to move into the franchise since Patrick Stewart took on the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard”, says the site. EDITOR'S NOTE: IT'S DECEMBER, SO I GUESS THIS ISN'T AN APRIL FOOL'S THING?

Not a hard Cell at all
When the long-awaited “Splinter Cell” does make it to screens – don’t expect it to share a lot of similarities to the game.

Talking to The Fairer Sects, Raymond Benson, author of the “Splinter Cell” novels, says as far as he’s aware, the upcoming film will share only one common element : a guy named Sam Fisher.

Keep in mind that novels and games and even movies that are based on a franchise can't always be the "same." There will always be differences. I certainly experienced this with James Bond. The truly hardcore Bond fans have in their heads their own ideas of what Bond should be... the truth is that Bond has become so many different things over the course of fifty years that no one concept of Bond is the "real" thing anymore”, he explains. “I'm pretty sure the upcoming film will have differences. As far as I know, the screenplay is totally original and not based on any existing game or my books”.

Whilst no one is attached to star as the films titular hero, a few names have been doing the rounds.

Mark Wahlberg was director Peter Berg’s first choice, but as Berg has now left the project its unknown ether he’ll remain atop of that ‘wish list’. Other candidates are said to include former “Angel” star David Boreanaz, muscly Thomas Jane and ironman Chris Showerman.

Meantime, J.T Petty, who was originally working on the “Splinter Cell” film, but recently left the project, is busy at work on another actioner. Petty’s fantasy novel series "Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer" is set to be made into a film.

In “Clemency Pogue”, a girl and her hobgoblin sidekick trot the globe in search of extraordinary derring-do, righting wrongs, vanquishing the wicked, and befriending dogs and needful children. EDITOR'S NOTE: ADD CATS TO THE CREATURES BEING BEFRIENDED, AND THAT SORT OF DESCRIBES ME AND ODDBOB, DOESN'T IT? (AND NO,OB, YOU HAVE TO BE THE SIDEKICK, NOT THE GIRL!)

Super­califragilistic­expialidocious, it's a remake!

He has tackled man-eating sharks, extraterrestrials and the horrors of Nazi death camps, and his latest movie charts the 1972 massacre at the Olympic Games in Munich. But Steven Spielberg's next production could be considerably more sugary. The 59-year-old director/producer is apparently eyeing the ever-popular musical Mary Poppins for a Hollywood remake.

Richard Eyre, the former head of the National Theatre and director of the blockbuster West End musical based on the 1964 Disney film, has revealed that he has been in talks with Spielberg over a new film version. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHY, GOD, WHY????!!!!

"We've talked about it a lot," Sir Richard was reported as saying yesterday. "It will be hard to outdo the original, EDITOR'S NOTE: YA THINK?! but kids love the story and I'm sure that the remake will be a real success."

Sir Richard has had success in small-scale films, notably Iris, based on the life of the writer Iris Murdoch, and The Ploughman's Contract, but remains best known for his award-winning work in theatre, including running the National for a decade.

His stage version of Mary Poppins has become one of the most popular shows in London since it opened at the Prince Edward Theatre in December last year in a collaboration between the impresario Cameron Mackintosh and Disney, maker of the 40-year-old film which starred Julie Andrews. With a script written by Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar for the film Gosford Park, the West End production added new songs to the tried and tested favourites from the original - which, Sir Cameron observed, was even more popular in the United States than it was in the UK.

The show is scheduled for Broadway next year, when it will move into the New Amsterdam Theatre. The Lion King, one of Broadway's biggest hits, is moving venues to make way in October.

Casting begins shortly, and Sir Richard has admitted that he hopes to take the British cast with him. Laura Michelle Kelly played the eponymous nanny when the show opened, and won an Olivier award, but has since moved on to other projects.

"The studio will use the success of the Broadway show to decide whether to use the British cast for the film. But I would hope to use as much of the West End cast as possible and keep Mary English rather than have a big American star name," Sir Richard said.

In the past, it would have been unusual to have a film version of a musical quite so quickly. Phantom of the Opera, which is about to become the longest-running show on Broadway, had been running in London for 18 years before Andrew Lloyd Webber turned it into a film last year. EDITOR'S NOTE: FELL DOWN AND COULDN'T REACH THE REMOTE LAST NIGHT. SO I WATCHED SOME OF THIS FILM (FINALLY). I COUDLN'T STOMACH MORE THAN A BIT OF IT. GOSH THE LYRICS HAVEN'T IMPROVED WITH AGE. VISUALLY PRETTY, BUT MUCH BETTER WITH THE SOUND OFF.

A spokesman for Mary Poppins said: "A film isn't normally made until years after the stage production because obviously it stops people going to the stage shows. Having said that, with Chicago, audiences went up [in the West End] when the film came out, but the show had already been on for about seven years. And we're hoping the same will happen with the new film of The Producers."

None of these movies received the same acclamation as the original stage productions. For instance, Mel Brooks's just-released film of The Producers has been slated by the critics. But Spielberg has a deft touch for magic - or, at least, the out-of-this world - in projects from Hook, his version of the Peter Pan story, to Jurassic Park. And with a spoonful of sugar, perhaps anything is possible. EDITOR'S NOTE: NEVER SAY NEVER, I SUPPOSE. AND CERTAINLY SPIELBERG IS ONE OF THE FEW FOR WHOM I WOULD SUSPEND CRITICISM UNTIL THE VOTES ARE IN. BUT "MARY POPPINS" IS A CLASSIC. A TRUE CLASSIC. WHAT WOULD BE GAINED BY RE-MOUNTING IT? (NEXT UP....A NEW VERSION OF THE MONA LISA?) EVEN THE NEW "WILLY WONKA"...BETTER THAN MOST RE-DOS....COULDN'T ENTIRELY CAPTURE THE MAGIC OF THE ORIGINAL. SEEMS LIKE A BAD IDEA. NOT THAT ANYONE ASKED ME, I REALIZE....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Smattering of this and that (Plus some cool ART)


TOY STORY and ROCKY HORROR are on the NFR's List

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced his annual selection of 25 motion pictures to be added to the National Film Registry.

This group of titles brings the total number of films placed on the Registry to 425.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant motion pictures to the Registry. The list is designed to reflect the full breadth and diversity of America's film heritage, thus increasing public awareness of the richness of American cinema and the need for its preservation.

In making the announcement, the Librarian said, "The moving picture is not so much the art form as the language of our century. Motion pictures are a national treasure and we must treat them as such. Our film heritage is America's living past and a key part of our cultural heritage we must save. By preserving American films, we safeguard a significant element of American creativity and our cultural history for the enjoyment and education of future generations."

Congress established the National Film Registry in 1989 and most recently reauthorized the program in April 2005 when it passed the "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005" (Public Law 109-9).

The Librarian noted: "This legislation signifies great congressional interest in ensuring that motion pictures survive as an art form and a record of our times."

Among other provisions, this important legislation reauthorized the National Film Preservation Board, increased funding authorizations for the private sector National Film Preservation Foundation, and amended Section 108(h) of U.S. Copyright Law, so that for works in their final 20 years of copyright, libraries and archives now may make these works accessible for research and education if the works are not already commercially available.

This year's selections span the years 1906 - 1995, and encompass films ranging from Hollywood classics to lesser-known, but still vital, works.

The Librarian chose this year's selections after evaluating nearly 1,000 titles nominated by the public and conducting intensive discussions with the Library's Motion Picture division staff and the distinguished members and alternates of his advisory group, the National Film Preservation Board. The board also advises the Librarian on national film preservation policy.

"The films we choose are not necessarily the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous, but they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance -- and in many cases represent countless other films also deserving of recognition," Billington observed. "The selection of a film, I stress, is not an endorsement of its ideology or content, but rather a recognition of the film's importance to American film and cultural history and to history in general. The Registry stands among the finest summations of American cinema's wondrous first 100+ years."

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress works to ensure that the film is preserved for all time, either through the Library's massive motion picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers.

The Library of Congress contains the largest collections of film and television in the world, from the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture to the latest feature releases. For more information, consult the National Film Preservation Board Web site at

1) Baby Face (1933)
2) The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man (1975)
3) The Cameraman (1928)
4) Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (1940)
5) Cool Hand Luke (1967)
6) Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
7) The French Connection (1971)
8) Giant (1956)
9) H2O (1929)
10) Hands Up (1926)
11) Hoop Dreams (1994)
12) House of Usher (1960)
13) Imitation of Life (1934)
14) Jeffries-Johnson World's Championship Boxing Contest (1910)
15) Making of an American (1920)
16) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
17) Mom and Dad (1944)
18) The Music Man (1962) EDITOR'S NOTE: YAY!
19) Power of the Press (1928)
20) A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
21) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE.
22) San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, April 18, 1906 (1906) EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW. AMAZING!
23) The Sting (1973) EDITOR'S NOTE: DOUBLE YAY!
24) A Time for Burning (1966)
25) Toy Story (1995)

Lions' den for NBC's 'Daniel'
A conservative watchdog group is taking issue with NBC about its upcoming midseason series "The Book of Daniel" for its risque depiction of a fictional Christian community. EDITOR'S NOTE: CONTROVERSY, SHUCKS. (OR AS NBC REFERS TO IT...FREE PUBLICITY)

The American Family Assn., a longtime critic of irreverent broadcast television shows dating back to 1970s fare like "Charlie's Angels," began urging people on its Web site last week to send e-mails complaining about "Daniel" to NBC Universal chairman Bob Wright.

The Rev. Donald Wildmon, chairman of the AFA, assailed NBC for the protagonist in the series, which he describes as a "drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her midday martinis." Wildmon also criticizes portrayals of homosexual characters on the series as well as its "very unconventional" inclusion of Jesus himself, who is depicted in "Daniel" in conversations imagined by the priest

Grosses, attendance, tickets climb on Broadway in '05
NEW YORK -- Things were looking up, including boxoffice grosses, attendance and, yes, ticket prices, on Broadway in 2005.

Spurred on by strong-performing musicals and plays, Broadway grossed a record $825 million in 2005, a jump from $749 million in 2004, according to figures released Tuesday by the League of American Theatres and Producers.

Attendance also rose, climbing to 11.98 million for 39 shows, up from 11.33 million the previous calendar year when 34 productions opened.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AND NOW THAT COOL ART, I WAS TALKING ABOUT. THESE ARE A HANDFUL OF SLIDES FROM MoMA's new exhibition Pixar: 20 Years of Animation (Dec. 14, 2005 to Feb. 6, 2006).

Harley Jessup, Downtown Monstropolis, Monsters, Inc. © Disney/Pixar. Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Teddy Newton, Edna Mode (aka "E"), The Incredibles © Pixar. Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Teddy Newton, The Jumper, The Incredibles © Disney/Pixar. Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Teddy Newton, Frozone, The Incredibles © Disney/Pixar. Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Simón Vladimir Varela, Sharks, Finding Nemo © Disney/Pixar. Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York.

John Lasseter, André, The Adventures of André and Wally B. © Pixar. Image courtesy the Museum of Modern Art, New York

Disney this-and-that


Disney, Pixar, Woody and Buzz back together?
The Washington Times reports that Disney and Pixar will soon announce that they’ve renewed their distribution pact.

Sources point to a new, closer relationship between the former rivals with Pixar's top executives gaining unprecedented access to the "Circle 7," a secret division formed under for Disney Chief Michael Eisner to make sequels to Pixar films. EDITOR'S NOTE: UMM...THEY HAVE A SECRET CIRCLE? IS THIS THE PLACE WHERE THEY ARE KEEPING UNCLE WALT'S FROZEN HEAD?

Disney has already started production on "Toy Story 3" and the division will soon announce a second sequel from among several script in development. It’s apparently going to be either "Finding Nemo 2" or "Monsters, Inc. 2."

A renewal would ensure Disney's distribution rights to Pixar films and also keep the sequel production rights in the House of the Mouse.

Sources indicate the next step -- picking a director -- is on hold until Disney and Pixar close their deal.

But in a sign of how close the two companies have again become, Disney CEO Bob Iger reportedly is keeping Pixar topper Steve Jobs and creative guru John Lasseter in the loop about developments at Circle 7 -- something former Disney topper Michael Eisner rarely did.

In the past, Jobs has had little good to say about Disney-produced sequels, but he might warm to the idea with the right deal and if Pixar had enough involvement. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO ALL OF THE STURM-UND-DRANG THIS PAST YEAR WAS SOLELY ABOUT LITTLE BOYS AND THEIR BIG EGOS NOT PLAYING NICE? (I THINK IT'S ABOUT TIME SOME OBNOXIOUS WOMEN TOOK OVER....JUST FOR A CHANGE OF PACE).

Christmas tree catches fire at Disneyland hotel
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A 35-foot Christmas tree caught fire in the lobby of the Disneyland Grand Californian Hotel early Wednesday EDITOR'S NOTE: OOPS. but nobody suffered serious injuries, a fire official said.

The hotel's sprinkler system kept the 3 a.m. blaze in check and firefighters were able to quickly put it out, said Maria Sabol, a spokeswoman for the Anaheim Fire Department.

The 745-room hotel in the center of the Disneyland Resort was at full capacity with about 2,300 guests, said Rob Doughty, the resort's vice president of communications. They were evacuated to three locations in and around the park, and hotel officials hoped to get them back into their rooms by 7 a.m. Pacific Time, he said.

The designers give us a peek at the Disneyland Resort entry in the 2006 Tournament of Roses Parade

This sketch gives a hint of whatwe'll see in the parade -- castlesand characters galore!

For millions of Americans, one of the first sights of a brand-new year is the Tournament of Roses parade winding down Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard, with its marching bands, its equestrians, and its floats. It's a New Year's Day tradition - one that we'll be observing on January 2 instead next year, since New Year's falls on a Sunday in 2006.

Oh, those flower-bedecked floats! Every year they seem to grow more elaborate. And it's the floats that most of us think of when we think of the Tournament of Roses. Entirely covered with plant material, the floats are marvels of grace, beauty, humor and animation.

This year's parade has adopted the theme 'It's Magical!" and nothing could be a better fit than Disneyland Resort's own float entry, titled The Most Magical Celebration on Earth.

We spoke with Craig Bugajski of Festival Arts, the company that is building the float, and show director John Addis of Disneyland Resort, to see what Disney magic will greet the New Year.

John gave us the details. "The float is spectacular! It is 150 feet long and over 30 feet tall. The float consists of the five Disney Park's castles from around the world. Each castle is detailed to completely replicate its distinctive style and color. The first castle is from our newest Park, Hong Kong Disneyland. Standing beside the castle is Mulan, and Chinese children waving gold banners. Following Hong Kong is Tokyo Disneyland's castle with Belle and Japanese children. Next is Sleeping Beauty Castle from Paris Disneyland (with Aurora and more children), then Walt Disney World (with Cinderella and children). There are a total of 20 children on the float singing and waving banners. The final castle is from Disneyland. It is bedecked with all of the 50th Anniversary finery that exists right now on the castle at Disneyland.

"Riding on an upper balcony of the Disneyland castle are Mickey Mouse and two featured singers. Below Mickey Mouse and the singers, the castle drawbridge will lower and Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Chip, Dale, and Donald will come streaming out of the castle -- the drawbridge will lower about every minute. The five gold crowns topping the castle, in honor of the 50th Anniversary and the five decades of Disneyland, will also rotate magically during the parade. Surrounding the float are 38 Disney Characters. Also, during the song, pyro will be shot into the air. I wanted to replicate the wonderful fireworks that are seen at every Park around the world! Of course because it is the Rose Parade, every inch of the float will be covered in the most beautiful flowers imaginable!"

Although the creation of the float began in mid-September, it won't be finished until the last possible moment - because Tournament of Roses floats must be covered with flowers and other plant material, they will literally wilt if they are decorated more than a few days in advance.

Volunteers began the Herculean task of covering the Disneyland float with flowers, petals, leaves, and other fragile botanicals the day after Christmas, and won't finish until the early hours of the parade morning - John and his family are there too, pitching in.

Rose Parade floats are engineering marvels, and The Most Magical Celebration on Earth will be no exception.

Craig tells us that one peculiarity of the parade is that, because it passes under a low freeway overpass, all floats need to be able to collapse to no higher than 17 feet tall to fit underneath. With 14 separate moving elements and the spires of five castles reaching to the sky, making the Disneyland float collapsible was a real engineering challenge!

On January 2, 2006, the roses (and the mums and the pampas grass and the orchids ...) will once again float down Colorado Boulevard. And Mickey and crew will be there to greet the new year.

Harry Potter Breaking News


J.K. Rowling readies pen for final Potter book
J.K. Rowling, the British author of the record-selling Harry Potter series, said she plans to start writing the final book about the boy wizard next month and finish it some time in 2006.

"For 2006 will be the year when I write the final book in the Harry Potter series," the British author wrote on her official website. EDITOR'S NOTE: SNIFFLE.

"I contemplate the task with mingled feelings of excitement and dread, because I can't wait to get started."EDITOR'S NOTE: THEN WHY ARE YOU STILL SITTING THERE TALKING TO REPORTERS? GET CRACKING, WOMAN!

Joanne Kathleen Rowling, 40, has spent much of the past decade writing about the adventures of Potter and his friends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

On her website, she said she felt compelled to wrap up the gripping tale that has captured the imagination of millions of children and adults worldwide.

At the same time, Rowling doubted her ability to answer all the questions generated by the seven-part series.

The writer also wondered about her life after Potter.

"It will all be over at last and I can't quite imagine life without Harry," she said.EDITOR'S NOTE: NOR CAN WE. SO DON'T QUIT. "HARRY POTTER AND THE MYSTERY OF THE NURSING HOME". WHY NOT!??

Turning to the task at hand, Rowling said she had been fine-tuning her ideas for the seventh installment of Potter's life and was ready to start work in January.

"Reading through the plan is like contemplating the map of an unknown country in which I will soon find myself," she said.


In October, Rowling's literary agent said the boy wizard series had sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.

The six books published in the series so far have been translated into 63 languages. The first four have also been made into blockbuster movies.