November 2007

November 28, 2007

"Rebels," in French

Samurai Exciting, for me, anyway. I just received word that "Rebels on the Backlot" has come out in French under the title, "Les Six Samurais," from the publisher Calmann-Levy. This is a first for me. (I never saw the Russian edition, but apparently there was one.) The subhead translates as: "Hollywood was sleeping, they woke it up!" The message might well work for them in this decade: Come on, samurai, rise and shoot!

November 27, 2007

Relief for True

Gettywreath1 Marion True has finally caught a break: a Greek court threw out criminal charges against her in the case of a golden wreath bought by the Getty in 1993, and returned to Greece earlier this year. The AP is reporting that a three-judge panel ruled today that the statute of limitations in the case had run out. (The wreath is pictured here at Athens' archeological museum, but apparently it has been moved to Thessaloniki.) True remains on trial on criminal charges in Italy, and she still faces a possible trial in Greece over possessing undeclared antiquities in her Paros vacation home. True has denied all charges against her. More: An interested observer points out this unusual fact: in dismissing the charges, the Greek judges accepted the argument of True's lawyer that the California three-year time limit had expired. I wonder how unusual it is for a Greek court to accept a foreign law as a legal argument.

November 21, 2007

Nefertiti News

Is anyone keeping score here? Word comes from Cairo that Germany has agreed to establish a joint committee to decide whether the famed bust of Nefertiti (that's her along the left column of this blog) can go back to Egypt on loan, as has been requested by the country's leading archeological gadfly/pharaoh, Zahi Hawass. Hawass told a wire service that he received a letter from Berlin giving him news of the committee, a change from the earlier German position, which was that Nefertiti was too fragile to travel. Hawass had threatened to suspend all German excavations and exhibits if Nefertiti did not come as a loan in time for the opening of a major new museum in Cairo in 2012. For those keeping track, Hawass has asked for five pieces; one, a sculpture of one of the pyramid architects, has been relinquished by the Hildesheim museum. Now Nefertiti might be allowed a furlough. Remains another architect bust at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts; the Rosetta Stone in London; and a zodiac temple ceiling at the Louvre.   

The Getty Empties Out

Getty10_2 A sad sight. I went to the Getty Villa in Malibu today to see the last of the 40 objects that are in the process of being returned to Italy over the next few weeks. It was a quiet day, and a sunny one. Pieces have been quietly disappearing from one day to the next. I met Surinder Kent, a security guard, who said he had a shock on coming to work today. "I came in this morning, and he was gone," he said, referring to the towering marble statue of Apollo that stood in the central niche of the gallery called the Basilica. Normally Apollo is the main figure in a long hallway lined by the muses and gods, one of which -- a Dionysus -- has also been removed for restitution. "I miss him like I was missing a person," Kent said. "It's strange. It shook me up. It's just stone. But you get emotionally involved." He sighed. "The gallery will never be the same." The Apollo was acquired in 1985, and was looted, according to Italy, a position that the Getty accepted in its agreement to turn it over. Kent has worked here for 18 months, and said it's a full-time education. "The beautiful thing abApollo out working here is all the oohs and aahs you hear," he said. "You grow inside a little bit."  Here's the Apollo:

November 17, 2007

DreamWorks Plays Chess

17dreamworks190 If you are surprised to see me weigh in on DreamWorks moves to exit its relationship at Paramount in today's NYT, mmm, well, so am I. But a tip came my way, and the reporter in me couldn't pass it up. The story is essentially that DreamWorks is looking to make a deal to move to Universal, and Universal is not so sure it wants to make that deal. Universal would prefer that DreamWorks come up with its own financing for a slate of movies, that Universal could then distribute. Wait, you might ask: doesn't that just mean a whole new DreamWorks, starting all over again? Good question, to which the answer is essentially: Yes. Jeffrey Katzenberg - and by extension Steven Spielberg and David Geffen - actually control the rights to the name DreamWorks, so Paramount could not even hang on to that, despite having paid $1.6 billion in late 2005 to buy the company. Geffen can leave Jan 1, 2008, and Spielberg can leave 10 months after that. The Hollywood corollary to bear in mind here is: What Steven Spielberg wants, Steven Spielberg gets. 

November 07, 2007

A Glimpse From Inside

This is what it looks like from inside the working world of Hollywood, now a strike zone. The screeching sound you hear is the shut-down of show after show, from Santa Monica to Burbank to Rockefeller Center. That is the sound of the brakes applied to a multibillion dollar entertainment industry. Here is one partial list of what's circulating at talent agencies in the tv world, just to give the flavor of the rising sense of panic:

"A list of when shows are scheded to go lights out: 30 ROCK,  Shooting #210 through November 9th.* No additional scripts have been written. BIG BANG THEORY * Production shut down. CAPTAIN, THE* Shooting #102 November 8th ­ 14th. * Have scripts for #103 and #104 (production will conclude 11/30). CARPOOLERS
* Production shut down 11/16 CAVEMEN * Shooting #113 November 7th ­ 13th. * No additional scripts had been ordered.  COLD CASE * Production shut down 11/16.  DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES * Production shut down. DIRT
* Prepping #206 for a November 20th ­ 30th shoot. * Script written for #207 (only). DIRTY SEXY MONEY * Shooting #111 November 8th ­ 19th. * Prepping #112 next week. Shoots o/a 11/21. * There are other scripts written but it¹s unclear if production will continue. ELI STONE  * Prepping #111 now which shoots ~ 11/15­11/26. * Not clear if there¹s another script that¹s been written. GHOST WHISPERER * Shooting #312 November 12th ­ 21st. * No additional scripts written.  GREEK * Shooting #1018 starting November 15th. * No additional scripts (20 episode order) written. HEROES * Production shut down 11/9.  K-VILLE * Shot #110 October 28th ­ November 8th.* No update.   MEDIUM * Prepping 069-09 for a shoot November 15th ­ 28th. * No additional scripts have been written. OFFICE, THE * Production shut down.  OLD CHRISTINE  * Production shut down.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT * Canceled production on #210 (was meant to shoot 11/7-11/13) * No additional scripts written * Production shut down.  SAMANTHA WHO * Production shut down 11/12. SWINGTOWN
* Shooting episode #103 11/9­11/21. * No additional scripts written. UNTIL DEATH * Episode #212 completes production on November 9th. * No answer at casting office. TWO AND A HALF MEN * Production shut down.
WITHOUT A TRACE* Production shut down 11/22."

A Tale of Two Hollywoods

Paramount At the PEN USA awards last night in Beverly Hills, it was no surprise to hear a lot of talk about the Hollywood writer's strike. The theme was the First Amendment (isn't PEN's theme always the First Amendment?), and some made strained -- even angry -- comparisons between the screenwriters' standoff over money, and the right to free expression.  Several attendees were wearing Writers Guild of America lapel pins in solidarity with the strikers, and the director Garry Marshall, told me he'd been picketing earlier in the day. Zach Helm, accepting the best screenplay award for "Stranger Than Fiction," said: "We are artists, first and foremost. The injustice to our group does not compare to the injustices around the world, but we can all agree that fair is f---ing fair." Still, all was not solid among the attendees. One prominent show-runner at the event, who declined to speak on the record, was fuming, saying that tv writers are among the best paid people in the world and that the math of a strike will never add up. The studios pay millions of dollars a day into the medical and retirement funds of the union, he said, and the loss of that during the strike will never be replaced by monies that may eventually be paid for Internet downloads or other new media. "But I can't say a word," he fumed. "There's a big thought police thing going on."  Meanwhile, another event last week showcased a different attitude on the part of management. At the Britannia awards, top executives from Hollywood studios were completely blase on the eve of the strike. "It's not going to affect us very much," one mogul told me, when I remarked on how relaxed everyone seemed. Another studio chief at the event confirmed that there seems to be little urgency in their ranks to resolve the conflict. With these two parallel Hollywoods in play, the word everywhere is that a strike could go on for a long time. A disheartening thought.

November 06, 2007

Italy Scores: Now it's the Dealers

Who's next? Why, the dealers are next. Jerome Eisenberg, the long-time and much in-the-mix antiquities dealer, has given Italy eight pieces of art valued at about a half-million dollars, according to reports today. (See AP and Bloomberg .) Eisenberg, now 77, has claimed to be doing so "for ethics and good will," but we may fairly imagine that the Italians were prepared to use less esoteric tactics than appealing to Eisenberg's higher angels. "The circle is tightening," said Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli, with characteristic cheeriness. The art and archeology community seems to be of two minds about Eisenberg, who on the one hand, has helped publicize issues related to illegal antiquity excavation and export in his magazine, Minerva, and on the other hand been accused of engaging in the very same, as is most any dealer who buys and sells antiquities. "I brought 27,000 pieces out of Egypt from 1958 to 1965," Eisenberg says on a 2005 Greek documentary about looted antiquities. "Of those, 70 or 80 had a provenance." Eisenberg has returned three bronze Etruscan statues, four vases and a marble sculpture, according to the Italians. How did they track these pieces down? They visited his Royal-Athena gallery on East 57th Street where they were on display. Buyer, beware. Seller, beware too.