WRITERS GUILD PRESIDENT RESIGNS
Conceding that "deep misgivings and concerns lie in the minds of a great many members" about his ability to lead the Writers Guild of America West into negotiations with TV and film producers, Charles Holland resigned Thursday as president. Holland had been accused of exaggerating his military career and fabricating achievements as a college athlete. Holland's resignation comes just three months after his predecessor, Victoria Riskin, was forced to step down after her detractors claimed that she had not held a job as a professional writer long enough recently to qualify for the job. Holland will be replaced by Daniel Petrie Jr., who served as president of the guild from 1977-1999. Meanwhile, it was also announced on Thursday that the memberships of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists had voted overwhelmingly to ratify an extension of their contract with producers for one year.
FCC RULES F-WORD IS VERBOTEN EVEN AS AN ADJECTIVE
The FCC on Thursday overruled its enforcement bureau, which caused an uproar last October when it decided that Bono's use of the expression "f***ing brilliant" during an NBC awards telecast did not violate the FCC's decency standards since it did not refer to sexual or excretory functions, as defined by law. (In its findings, the FCC called the four-letter word "profane," raising a number of eyebrows among both opponents and supporters of the decision.) The commission maintained that the expletive did indeed violate decency standards but, by a 3-2 vote, held back fining NBC for it, holding that stations had never been placed on notice that broadcasting such language would violate the law. FCC Chairman Michael Powell, voting with the majority, issued a statement saying, "Given that today's decision clearly departs from past precedent in important ways, I could not support a fine retroactively against the parties." However, the family advocacy group Parents Television Council said that it was outraged by the decision, saying that it "does nothing to hold NBC accountable for an obvious breach of common-sense decency standards."
LETTERMAN TO INTERVIEW JANET JACKSON
Janet Jackson has been booked for an interview on CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman on Monday, March 29, her first interview since the Super Bowl breast-baring episode. If Jackson stages a repeat on Letterman, she will have found herself outstripped by singer Courtney Love, who repeatedly flashed the talk-show host during a taping Wednesday night (with her back to the camera). Love later that night landed in jail, when, during an impromptu appearance at a New York nightclub, she threw a microphone stand into the audience and split the scalp of a man standing in its way.
SURVIVOR CAN'T SURVIVE IDOL
Moved to Wednesday night because of CBS's NCAA Tournament coverage on Thursday, Survivor: All-Stars was crushed in the ratings by Fox's American Idol the same way that NBC's The Apprentice was dealt a knock-out blow when it, too, was moved into the path of the Idol powerhouse on Wednesday a few weeks earlier. (A repeat of last week's Apprentice came in a dismal fourth Wednesday night.) The first half of Idol at 8:30 p.m. scored an 11.5 rating and an 18 share, against Survivor's 10.8/18. At 9:00, however, Idol zipped ahead, turning in a 15.7/23 to Survivor's 11.9/18. Although it lost more than half Idol's audience, the Ron Howard-produced (and narrated) Arrested Development at 9:30 pulled a respectable 6.7/10, representing an audience that was three times the size of its usual one on Sunday nights. Meanwhile, the debut of CBS's new sitcom The Stones gathered no ratings and pushed the network into fourth place at 9:30 p.m. with a 2.7/7.
NATIONAL ADVERTISERS BUYING MORE LOCAL SPOTS
National advertisers have begun increasing their purchases of spot time on local TV stations, especially automobile and fast-food companies, whose purchases have been down significantly in the first quarter, according to Bear Stearns analyst Victor Miller, who is cited today in MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews. A significant rise in the overall ad market in the second quarter this year versus the same quarter last year is virtually certain, analysts say, since many buyers significantly curbed advertising during the outbreak of the war in Iraq last March and some broadcast outlets went commercial-free.
BBC TO INVITE AUDIENCE TO MAKE A MOVIE
Calling the project the biggest public-participation event in its history, the BBC on Thursday announced a project called Home Movie, in which 100 persons will be trained in television production and acting, then brought together to make a TV movie. (The movie will be produced and directed by experienced professionals.) Meanwhile, the BBC plans to air a reality series that will follow the audition process and the training of the first-time filmmakers. Besides airing on the BBC, the film will also be distributed to movie houses in the U.K.
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: ETERNAL SUNSHINE ...
On ABC's Good Morning America, Joel Siegel called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind "one great film" and suggested that Oscar voters "save room for Jim Carrey's name at the top of next year's Best Actor list. ... This performance is amazing." Siegel's comments are typical of most other critics', who have given Sunshine almost unanimous raves. Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News says that it "contains the best performance of Jim Carrey's career." Of the script by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), Mathews writes: "A masterpiece? Probably. Ingenious? Absolutely! Unforgettable? I'll see you at the 10th-year anniversary." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post calls it "audacious, thought-provoking ... Kaufman's stunning rebuke to the brain-dead Hollywood romantic comedies we usually get this time of the year." Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times is more restrained, remarking, "Even as you laugh, it's a movie you admire more than love." His reaction is virtually identical to that of Mark Caro in the Chicago Tribune, who writes: "Eternal Sunshine may be easier to admire than to fall for."
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: DAWN OF THE DEAD
Box office analysts are saying that the real contest for the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend will be the one between vampires (as depicted in the remake of Dawn of the Dead) and the cross (as depicted in Mel Gibson's movie). Most of them give the vampires an edge. By and large, critics are also saying kinder things about the remake of George Romero's 1979 horror classic than they did about the Gibson film. But most of them don't compare it favorably with the original. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes, for example: "Dawn of the Dead works and it delivers just about what you expect when you buy your ticket. My only complaint is that its plot flatlines compared to the 1979 version, which was trickier, wittier and smarter." John Anderson in Newsday, however, comments that what the new film really shows "is that an old horror form can rise again -- given new blood, so to speak, and an awareness that the films are inseparable from their times." And indeed, Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News seems to prefer the new version, writing, "This will be considered by some a travesty of Romero's well-regarded sequel to his low-budget masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. But let's be honest here. The original Dawn went on way too long, and its central shopping = brain dead joke, while a brilliant metaphor, was beaten to, well, death." None of the critics, however, really take the movie very seriously. Peter Howell in the Toronto Star remarks, for example, "It's all bloody entertaining, even if the characters take forever to figure out that the only way to stomp a zombie is to blow its head off." And Manohla Dargis in the Los Angeles Times sums up her reaction in the first words of her review: "Good zombie fun."
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: TAKING LIVES
Taking Lives , starring Angelina Jolie, Kiefer Sutherland, and Ethan Hawke, is a third film receiving mostly applause -- if not high praise -- from critics. Megan Lehmann in the New York Post describes it as a "smarter than your average serial-killer movie, thanks to unusually fleshed-out characters inhabited by a high- pedigree cast." Stephen Cole in the Toronto Globe and Mail comments slyly: "The latest Ashley Judd movie, Taking Lives, is full of surprises. Best of all, it doesn't star Ashley Judd, who has made a wearying specialty out of playing tough-tender female cops. Danger-prone Angelina Jolie is on the case here -- an improvement that pays big dividends throughout." But A.O. Scott in the New York Times lifts the left-handed compliment to cogent literacy by remarking: "From a technical standpoint, Taking Lives is competent and sometimes even impressive. It is cleanly edited and nicely shot -- at times as cool and rich as a York Peppermint Pattie. Beyond that, there is not much to say. Those smashed-up corpses -- they sure are gruesome. That Angelina Jolie -- she sure has some pair of lips. That Kiefer Sutherland -- he sure can be creepy. That Ethan Hawke -- he sure is in this movie." To be sure, the film is receiving a fair share of negative comments as well. Manohla Dargis in the Los Angeles Times, for example, observes that Angelina Jolie has again starred in "another stinker."
MASSIVE PIRACY RAIDS IN GERMANY
In what was described as the world's largest operation against movie and video games piracy, German authorities this week raided more than 750 locations across the country, seizing 19 servers, 40,000 video discs and more than 200 personal computers. Among the German-language dubs swept up by the a raiders were The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Cheaper by the Dozen. More than 15 persons were "detained" for questioning. The action was hailed by the MPAA, which called it "a major blow against piracy in Germany."
EWAN MCGREGOR FILM TO BE RELEASED WITH NC-17 RATING
It now appears that Sony Pictures Classics' Young Adam, directed by David McKenzie and starring Ewan McGregor, will become the second film released this year to be tagged with an NC-17 rating. The MPAA ratings appeals board on Thursday turned down an appeal of the rating by the film company and British producer Jeremy Thomas. (Thomas also produced Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, the only other film to be released by a major film company this year with an NC-17 rating.) The ratings board had particularly cited a sex scene in which the couple involved are fully clothed. The film is due to open on April 16.
In Thursday's edition, the character Hellboy was described as a creation of Marvel Comics. The character originated with Dark Horse Comics.
Our original observation in Thursday's edition about German reaction to films about the Hitler era became mangled in the editing process. We had initially written: "Classic Hollywood films about the Hitler era, including Chaplin's The Great Dictator, Frank Borzage's The Mortal Storm, and Ernst Lubitch's To Be or Not to Be, all made shortly before the U.S. entered World War II, were originally banned in Germany and, even after the war, received virtually no distribution in that country."