OSCARS TO ROCK

In an apparent effort to attract younger viewers, Academy Awards producer Gil Cates has called on Chris Rock to host next year's Oscars telecast. "I am a huge fan of Chris Rock," said Cates. "He always makes me laugh and he always has something interesting to say. Chris represents the best of the new generation of comics. Having him host the Oscars is terrific. I can't wait." Nevertheless, Rock's hosting stint is almost certain to generate controversy. Critics have sometimes criticized his humor as heavy-handed and sophomoric. Presenting a sound-effects award at the 1999 Oscar ceremonies, at which Elia Kazan was presented the academy's Lifetime Achievement Award, Rock was booed when he referred to Kazan's decision a half century earlier to cooperate with the congressional investigation of Communists in the entertainment business. Saying that he had just seen Kazan and Robert DeNiro backstage, Rock commented: "You better get Kazan away from De Niro, because you know, he hates rats." Later, when Kazan received the award, he was accompanied onto the stage by DeNiro.

TV'S NEW REALITY: SCRIPTED SHOWS

Viewers' fascination with reality shows may be on the wane, and scripted shows may be about to make a comeback, according to a study by Interpublic Group's Magna Global USA and reported in MediaPost's MediaDailyNews Thursday. Steve Sternberg, who oversaw the study, told the publication that with such scripted series as CBS's CSI: NY, and ABC's Lost and Desperate Housewives drawing huge ratings to start off the season, "a reversal of last season may occur, with scripted series replacing reality by mid-season, particularly if the several new reality shows about to come our way flop." The number of primetime hours devoted to reality shows doubled to 20 this season. But ratings for such top shows as The Apprentice, The Bachelor, and Fear Factor have seen substantial drops.

FCC CHIEF WON'T BLOCK ANTI-KERRY FILM

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has turned aside efforts by Democrats to block a decision by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which has asked its 62 TV stations to preempt network programming two weeks before election day to carry an anti-John Kerry film, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal. "I don't know of any precedent in which the commission could do that," Powell said in response to a letter from 18 Democratic senators, adding: "I think that would be an absolute disservice to the First Amendment, and I think it would be unconstitutional if we attempted to do so."

MISCHER TO PRODUCE NEXT SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW

Don Mischer Productions will replace MTV as the producer of the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show, the NFL said Thursday. Mischer has been associated with numerous show productions hinged to major events. For example, he produced the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1996 Summer Olympics and the 2004 closing of the Democratic convention (at which his voice was inadvertently picked up, shouting for more balloons, following John Kerry's acceptance speech.

SIX INTERNATIONAL HBO EXECS SUSPENDED

Six HBO executives, including the president of HBO International, have been suspended following a surprise audit of Warner Channel Latin America, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Friday), citing people familiar with the probe. According to the newspaper, investigators believe that HBO International President Steven Rosenberg and Warner Channel Latin America Director Alejandra Sollet may have helped set up a firm called Advertising Services Group to sell advertising in Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and Colombia and steered HBO business to the company. Moreover, the Times said, Rosenberg promoted Sollet, with whom he reportedly had a romantic relationship, to head the Latin American channel in 2001.

DISNEY PRESIDENT DEPLORES CHINESE REGULATIONS

Disney President Robert Iger says that "stringent regulatory issues" have so far barred his company from setting up a Disney Channel in China. In an interview with Bloomberg News in Shanghai, Iger said, "We'd love a channel in China, but there are obviously a lot of hurdles." Both Viacom and Time Warner's Warner Bros. have recently talked about making a big push into the Chinese marketplace in film and television. (The Wall Street Journal reported today that it had formed the first joint venture with the state-owned China Film Group and Hengdian Group, a private group, to produce films in China.) In his interview with Bloomberg, Iger insisted that Disney is not lagging behind its rivals. "We are the largest supplier of television programming into China of any of the Western media conglomerates and that's only going to grow," he said.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE

Movie critics in their reviews of Team America: World Police are attempting to discern the political biases of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Although the film was denounced by Bush administration figures long before its release, New York Times critic A.O. Scott sides with those who espy a "pronounced conservative streak amid the anarchy," noting that while the film skewers numerous liberal figures in the media, including Sean Penn and Michael Moore, "right-wing media figures escape derision altogether." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe & Mail makes a similar point: "Hollywood liberals who criticize their government's foreign policy are gleefully decapitated, dismembered and demolished. Right-wing apologists, never mind George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, are unscathed." But bias may be in the mind of the beholder, Washington Post critic Hank Stuever suggests: "What I took as a lampoon of Bushworld seemed to be received, in the seats around me, as a triumph of Bushworld." Actually, writes Robert K. Elder in the Chicago Tribune, "You never quite know whose [political] team they're on, and that's why Parker and Stone's wily brand of kamikaze satire works." And Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News calls the movie, "hilarious, shocking and bound to offend nearly everyone." But Roger Ebert is clearly unamused by what he calls the film's "nihilism." In his Chicago Sun-Times review, Ebert comments: "At a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides -- indeed, at anyone who takes the current world situation seriously. They may be right that some of us are puppets, but they're wrong that all of us are fools, and dead wrong that it doesn't matter."

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: SHALL WE DANCE?

Critics generally concur that Miramax was unsuccessful in its effort to translate Masayuki Suo's 1997 Japanese comedy Shall We Dance? into a Hollywood production. Gene Seymour in Newsday writes. "Suo's movie was sentimental, but it never sat on your head, as this one does, like a lead weight with delusions of buoyancy." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal calls the movie "a remarkably ill-advised remake." His remarks are virtually echoed by Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, who observes: "Had anyone bothered to poll serious movie buffs about least-necessary remakes, chances are Shall We Dance? would have topped the list." Wesley Moore in the Boston Globe remarks that "the movie is an unnecessary Hollywood overhaul of the warm, fuzzy Japanese film that was a pretty big hit." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post comments: "Shall We Dance? takes a small, exquisite Japanese movie and turns it into a big, stupid American movie." But Eleanor Ringel Gillespie disagrees, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Dance can't possibly replicate the exquisite delicacy of the original, which is deeply rooted in the reticence and rigidity of Japanese culture. But overall, director Peter Chelsom's romantic comedy is a crowd-pleaser, with appealing performances by Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez." And Kevin Thomas, in the Los Angeles Times, once again bucks the critical tide when he writes that the movie "makes the move from Tokyo to Chicago with the deftness of Fred Astaire leading Ginger Rogers." The film, he says, was "ripe for a Hollywood remake."

MPAA TO SUE FORMER LAPD CAPTAIN

The MPAA said Thursday that it plans to sue former LAPD Captain Julie Nelson, who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges last month in connection with the discovery of a DVD copying operation in the Los Angeles home she shared with her boyfriend, Edward Monroy. Nelson, who had served 28 years with the LAPD, had allegedly sold discs that were copied by Monroy, who later admitted that he had made them from prints provided by his contacts at Hollywood post-production houses. In a statement, James Spertus, director of the MPAA's anti-piracy squad, commented: "Today's lawsuit was filed to ensure that Nelson does not get away with victimizing those she was charged with protecting."

ISLAMIC ANIMATED FEATURE, SHELVED SINCE 9/11, TO BE SCREENED

A Hollywood animated feature about Islam's Prophet Mohammad is due to debut in 37 North American cities on Nov. 14, a holiday in the Muslim world that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The film had originally been set to premiere here three years ago but was shelved following the Sept. 11 attacks. It was produced by RichCrest Animation Studios, whose previous films included the animated The King and I and The Fox and the Hound. The Arab all-news channel al-Jazeera on Thursday quoted John Voll, director of Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, as saying: "The movie is especially relevant in the current time when so much of the media presentations of Muslims and Muslim life is so negative."

NETFLIX TO LOWER SUBSCRIPTION PRICES

Already confronted by online rental competition from Blockbuster and Wal-Mart, Netflix said on Thursday that it now expects Amazon to enter the fray. "The rumors of Amazon started about two weeks ago, and over the last two weeks, we have been confirming them," CEO Reed Hastings told analysts." As reported by Video Store magazine, Netflix is responding by dropping its subscription price to $18 per month. "What happens if our competitors match or beat our price? If that happens, the only thing that is a certainty is that video stores of America will be vacant," Hastings said.

SALES OF HOME VIDEOS DUE TO SET NEW RECORD IN 2004

Sales of home videos, particularly DVDs, are expected to set a new record this year as consumers spend more than $16 billion on video product, Video Store Magazine reported today (Friday) citing its own market research. A similar prediction was made by Merrill Lynch media analyst Jessica Reif Cohn, who forecast DVD sales at $16.5 billion.