May 2007

May 28, 2007

Pirates: The Shot Heard Round the World

Pirate Yes, Disney will make a lot of money on this film. If you want the details, here are a few: "'Pirates 3” — with a 2-hour-47-minute running time and a reported $300 million budget — took in $245 million outside of North America, far surpassing the $156 million that the film took in domestically since opening on Thursday. The studio said the total — $401 million — was the biggest opening in Hollywood history, but most openings are tallied as weekends rather than six-day periods, and the domestic box office figure did not break the record set by “Spider-Man 3” earlier this month, with an opening weekend record of $151 million over three days. " Here's the rest of tomorrow's piece.

Journalism's Death Rattle

A sad and touching post by Nancy Cleeland, a labor reporter and colleague I've never met, who explains on HuffPost why she's taking a buy-out and leaving the Los Angeles Times. She writes: "It's awkward to criticize an old friend, which I still consider the Times to be, but I think the question of how mainstream journalists deal with the working class is important and deserves debate. There may be no better setting in which to examine the issue: The Los Angeles region is defined by gaping income disparities and an enormous pool of low-wage immigrant workers, many of whom are pulled north by lousy, unstable jobs. It's also home to one of the most active and creative labor federations in the country. But you wouldn't know any of that from reading a typical issue of the L.A. Times, in print or online. Increasingly anti-union in its editorial policy, and celebrity -- and crime-focused in its news coverage, it ignores the economic discontent that is clearly reflected in ethnic publications such as La Opinion." Here's the whole thing.

Memorial Day Memoires

Pairs_07 Where the heck have I been? A valid question, I grant you. I have been where the Internet lines are shaky and the sunshine-dappled cafes entirely more enticing than fighting a losing battle with technology. I've been in Paris, conducting interviews for "Stealing with the Pharaohs," and making sure the City of Light still merits its reputation. (It does, it does.) I'm equally glad to report that the Louvre finally coughed up its officials. I was able to interview Henri Loyrette, the director of the Louvre, about the question of looted antiquities and the role of museums in an age of restitution demands. I also met various other French characters, including the official in charge of those very restitution demands and acquisitions for all French museums, Anne Distel. And, most fun of all, an 85-year-old antiquities dealer whose son is the fourth generation of antiquity sellers -- and the last. Roger Khawam is closing up shop and moving to New York. But not before his father spilled lots of juicy stories about how to get around the ban on antiquities exports. But you'll have to wait for the book.

May 24, 2007

Hollywood's Brave New World

Folks, I'm massively behind in keeping you up to date with my world. First of all, those of you who missed it need to know about Tori and Dean's trip-up by the facts by - yes - your intrepid reporter, keeping those celebrities honest. I'm not going to tell you about it, you're going to have to click here. (The link is not working, try again later.) Ok, that's one thing. Next, you might have missed a discussion of the next big thing in going out to the movies: 3D. Yes, I know 3D has existed for years, but Hollywood's biggest talents are now signing up -- Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, to name a few. Here's what I wrote: "Last week the next phase in the theatrical viewing experience took a significant leap forward, as Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson signed on to direct and produce for Paramount’s DreamWorks Studios a trilogy of 3-D movies about the intrepid Belgian comic-book hero Tintin. And on Saturday nearly an hour of footage from the 3-D concert film of the Irish rock band U2 made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival." That hour, it should have been noted, was the first sampling of live action 3D in the digital age, and I got a good glimpse. It was indeed quite moving to see Bono weave his spell over 60,000 fans, a concert shot over a series of dates in Latin America last year. Here's the rest of the piece.

May 13, 2007

Aphrodite Moves

Aphrodite This is Aphrodite, they think. She is the Getty Museum's most prized classical sculpture, the only example in this country of a cult statue, meaning the figure that stood in the midst of a temple in ancient times, worshipped as the deity herself. But she, just like a heartstopping gold wreath that just went back to Greece, will probably be leaving the museum soon. I explain why in a piece in Saturday's paper: "The Getty has not reached a formal conclusion based on the conference, which was convened at the museum on Wednesday and was closed to the public. But museum officials and some of the experts who attended said their discussions buttressed what the museum says are its own suspicions that the statue, acquired by the Getty in 1988, might have been illegally excavated in southern Italy. (Here's the rest.)

And further on the topic of headache-inducing requests from source countries, our pal Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief of antiquities, is making lots of noise about the five pieces he wants returned -- loaned, is what he calls it, for the moment -- to Egypt. One is the Rosetta Stone, at the British Museum, another is the famed bust of Nefertiti (see her to your left on my blog) in Berlin. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts also has a piece that he wants back. This is the start, not the end, of a new chapter in east-west cultural relations.

May 08, 2007


Albrecht_2 Chris Albrecht, the chairman of HBO, has temporarily stepped down from his post, in the wake of his arrest in Las Vegas over the weekend. He was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in the parking lot of the Las Vegas hotel where he'd gone to watch a championship boxing match on Saturday night. Albrecht, 54,  sent an email to HBO employees saying he'd been an alcoholic in recovery, but had started drinking again two years ago. Bill Nelson, the cable network's COO, will take his place for the moment. Here's my colleague Jacques Steinberg's story.... Update: in a stunning turn, Albrecht resigned on Wednesday at the request of Time-Warner, ending a 20-year career at the network.

May 06, 2007

Spidey Rules

Spidey1 "Spiderman 3" smashed a half-dozen box office records in its opening weekend, taking in $375 million worldwide. I give you chapter and verse in tomorrow's paper. The summer is looking good for Hollywood and, hopefully, for moviegoers.

A Schlub is Born, too

Schlub If I say so myself, I loved writing about this topic - the American man-child, as seen through the prism of the Judd Apatow comedy machine. The article is in Sunday's summer preview section, and observes:

"In the world of “Knocked Up,” the latest big-ticket comedy to take on American mating rituals, the formula is basically thus: Girl meets schlub. Schlub nails girl. Girl hangs around to discover schlub’s inner mensch.

However unlikely a premise, this territory has already been staked out and explored, with considerable success, in television shows like “According to Jim” and movies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” the runaway hit of two summers ago, with a virgin nerd (Steve Carell) in place of the schlub. But “Knocked Up,” whose main promotional image is a close-up of Seth Rogen as the pudgy, pot-smoking, porn-addled, job-free hero of the tale, Ben, may well take its celebration of American schlubitude (loserdom? schlemieliness?) to a new level."

This is a pet topic of mine for some time, but "Knocked  Up" provided a rare opportunity to explore the subject deeply with the very people who are validating this concept in pop culture. They offer such rare insights as this, from Mr. Rogen:  “Most people who are married are half convinced their wife might dump them at any second and they’ll be thrust into the world of finding a mate.”

Mr. Rogen has been dating the same woman for two years. “I had a dream last night that she broke up with me,” he said. “I woke up in a terrible mood, feeling terribly betrayed. Deep down inside we all feel like 40-year-old virgins. It’s lame, but true. Everyone, no matter how many times they’ve had sex, is still afraid he might be bad at it.”  I long ago learned that you really never know what people think, on the inside. Here's the rest...

May 05, 2007

A Yenta is Born

HSamanthaere's one matchmaker. Barbie And there's another one.

In Sunday's Styles section, I uncover the intriguing news-let that high-profile celebrities are now hiring matchmakers to fix them up, since they're tired of dating on the Hollywood merry-go-round, and are afraid to approach a girl in the bar on their own.

Said Barbie (who will take your wallet in exchange for a date, thanks very much): "If they wanted to meet someone in Hollywood, they would have done that. They’ve gone down that path, and it hasn’t been successful,” said Barbie Adler, a Chicago-based matchmaker who has built a small but steady business of setting up celebrities, along with her other well-heeled clients. “I’ve had clients say to me, ‘My publicist fixed me up, I just met him in the limo, I had to pose for pictures and spend all night with him and he was a dud.’ ” (Read the rest....)