Saturday, February 28, 2009

"The Simpsons" to clinch television record

Fox said on Thursday it has ordered two more seasons of animated comedy "The Simpsons," ensuring the show that started in 1989 will surpass "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running prime-time U.S. television series.

"The Simpsons" will start its 21st season in the fall, after last year tying the longevity record of "Gunsmoke," which ended in 1975 after 20 seasons. Its second season in the two-year deal will come in 2010.

The cops and courts show "Law & Order" on network NBC has run for 19 prime-time seasons, starting in 1990.

"The Simpsons" has won 24 Emmy Awards and was already the longest running animated series on prime-time television in the United States. It was created by cartoon artist Matt Groening.

The Simpsons are a family of five made up of dull-witted father Homer, good-intentioned mom Marge and kids Bart and Lisa and Maggie, who all live in a town called Springfield that serves as a microcosm of the United States.

It has featured the voice work of major celebrities in guest starring roles, from Paul McCartney to Elizabeth Taylor, and it casts a comedic glance at weighty issues, including racial discrimination, world affairs and religion.

In 2007, "The Simpsons Movie" hit theaters and went on to make more than $527 million worldwide.

"Gunsmoke," a western about straight-shooting lawman Matt Dillon, began in 1955 during TV's black and white era, and later switched to color. Sam Peckinpah, who went on to make the 1969 western classic "The Wild Bunch," was among the many directors on "Gunsmoke," which starred James Arness as Dillon.

Jennifer Hudson calls music "therapy" after family deaths

Singer Jennifer Hudson told chat show host Oprah Winfrey on Friday that music is her "therapy" after the murders of three of her relatives last year.

Hudson and Winfrey did not mention the October killings during the singer's television appearance, but when asked how she was doing Hudson said she is "really good."

"I'm just glad to be back and be back to work again," said Hudson, 27. "Just doing what I love to do is like therapy."

Authorities have charged William Balfour, the estranged husband of the singer's elder sister, Julia, with the murder of Hudson's mother, brother and nephew in Chicago in October.

Hudson, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the movie "Dreamgirls", won a Grammy earlier this month for best R&B album for her self-titled 2008 release.

Hudson said having Whitney Houston announce her as the winner was a thrill, since she once created make-believe duets with Houston.

"It almost surpassed winning the Grammy for me, seeing Whitney Houston," Hudson said. "And then her presenting it to me was, like, unbelievable."

Hudson, who got her start as a contestant on "American Idol", told Winfrey she has a dog named Oscar, another one named Grammy and a third pooch named Dreamgirl.

She will begin a U.S. tour on March 31.

Jonas Bros. movie may foretell an end to innocence

When red-hot boy band the Jonas Brothers debut their 3-D movie on Friday in many sold-out U.S. theaters, it will mark a new beginning for them and, perhaps, the end of their youthful innocence.

So far Kevin, 21, Joe, 19 and Nick, 16 have mostly avoided the pitfalls of celebrity -- constant hounding by paparazzi, names trashed in tabloids and on gossip websites, and public scrutiny of personal choices, to name a few.

But the Disney movie "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience," which shows them onstage and behind the scenes of their 2008 "Burning Up" tour, could change that. After all, one of their trailblazers, Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana), saw her world change while on a similar trajectory to stardom.

Right now the trio of pop stars, who gained fame on the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" TV show, do not seem worried. In fact, they shrug off what little downside they've seen to stardom -- months away from home on concert tours, long days promoting records and gossip in tabloids and on blogs.

"You just, kind of, have to laugh it off. There's always going to be haters, but that's what comes with the territory of this," said Joe.

"It's weird. You look at a downside, and it depends on your outlook. There was one year where we spent eight months living out of a suitcase, but to us that was exciting," he added.

In a recent interview, the three brothers credited their father, Kevin, with preparing them for the rigors of stardom.

Nick also said his work in Broadway musicals such as "Les Miserables" and "Annie Get Your Gun" offered lessons on the long days and hard work of performing for a living.


But being a movie star can be a different celebrity beast because more than theater or TV, movies put entertainers on a world stage and expose them to new fans and greater scrutiny.

Miley Cyrus found out. She had a squeaky clean public image from "Hannah Montana," in which she plays a teen living a dual life as a high school student by day and pop star by night. The show also helped give the Jonas Brothers their start in show business.

Last February, Disney released the movie, "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," to sold-out crowds, raking in $70 million at global box offices.

Her concert tour that proceeded it saw scalpers selling tickets for up to $3,000 with an average price of $240.

But in April 2008 came a Vanity Fair photo that showed the then 15-year-old Cyrus draped in a sheet showing her bare back. Parents complained, and Cyrus was forced to apologize.

About the same time, there were other suggestive, personal photos of her posted online and this year, personal pictures of her making a slant-eyed face that upset Asian-Americans.

No one knows what's ahead for the Jonas Brothers, but the tickets to their movie have been red hot sellers.

Online seller reported that 700 U.S. theaters were sold out as of mid-week this week, and a survey of 5,000 fans -- 76 percent 17-years-old or younger -- showed 96 percent were planning to see the movie this weekend.

"This year has been a great year for us so far. We're just blown away with the amazing opportunities we are getting," said Kevin, with the upbeat attitude that permeates their music.

"I think it's all happened so fast, although it has been three, four or five years we've been doing this," added Nick. "We're still pinching ourselves and thinking, 'is this really happening?'"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Final Harry Potter film gets release date

Harry has a final date with film destiny: Warner Bros. will open the eighth film in its Potter franchise -- "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II" -- on July 15, 2011.

"Deathly Hollows: Part I" is set to unspool November 19, 2010. The studio decided to split the seventh and final book in the Potter series into two movies because of the tome's length.

On Wednesday Warners also announced that is has postponed the release of its holiday feature "Sherlock Holmes" to December 25 from November 1.

Clint Eastwood gets lifetime Palme d'Or

Clint Eastwood on Wednesday became only the second person to receive a lifetime achievement honor from the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival.

The actor/director received the honorary Palme d'Or during an intimate news conference and cocktail party at a restaurant.

"I'm very, very flattered that you've chosen me for this," Eastwood said. "French cineastes have always been very supportive of me along the way. When I directed my first movie, French cineastes and critics encouraged me, while in my own country, everyone was much more reticent. France is the first country to approach and appreciate cinema as an art form."

Cannes organizers have given only one other lifetime achievement Palme d'Or, to Ingmar Bergman, during the event's 50th edition in 1997.

Eastwood won't be able to attend the 2009 festival in May because he will be shooting in South Africa, so organizers took advantage of the director's Paris trip to promote "Gran Torino," which hit French theaters Wednesday.

Morgan Freeman sued over car crash

A woman who was Morgan Freeman's passenger in an August car crash sued the Oscar winner for negligence on Wednesday and said she wants to clear her name from claims she was his mistress.

Demaris Meyer, the passenger, also said that despite media reports to the contrary, she and Freeman met the night of the accident at a country club, where they dined with mutual friends, and that she was not in a romantic affair with him.

"I have been labeled as the 'other woman' and have been accused of having caused the breakup of Mr. Freeman's marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth," Meyer said at a news conference in Los Angeles.

She is represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred.

Meyer's lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi Delta Division. The crash happened the night of August 3, 2008, near a home that Freeman keeps in Charleston, Mississippi, when he lost control of his Nissan Maxima and it struck a ditch and rolled over.

"We are confident this will all be resolved," said Ken Sunshine, a spokesman for Freeman. "We have no further comment on the current litigation."

Meyer said she was riding with Freeman that night because they were going to his ranch, since it was closer to her work than a friend's home where she originally planned to stay. She said the actor assured her she would not only have her own bedroom at the ranch, but "her own house."

"He was a perfect gentleman and I accepted his offer," said Meyer, who lives in Tennessee, north of Freeman's Mississippi home.

Meyer's lawsuit also accuses Freeman of drinking before taking the wheel, but Mississippi authorities have not charged him with driving under the influence.

Freeman, 71, was hospitalized for four days after the collision, and his injuries included a broken arm and elbow.

Meyer was airlifted to a hospital and suffered numerous injuries, including a blow to the head resulting in cognitive difficulties and short-term memory loss, her lawsuit states. She has not returned to work as an executive assistant.

Meyer's lawsuit accuses Freeman of negligence for failing to properly operate the car, and she is seeking unspecified damages in an amount to be proven at trial to cover medical expenses and her permanent disability, among other things.

At the time of the crash, Freeman was separated from his wife of 24 years and was in the midst of a divorce, which has not yet been finalized.

Freeman won an Oscar in 2005 for his supporting role in Clint Eastwood's boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby."

Judge orders three men to stay away from Spears

A judge on Wednesday ordered three men with former ties to Britney Spears to continue staying away from the pop star amid claims they tried to undermine her father's control over her affairs.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aviva K. Bobb extended a restraining order against Sam Lutfi, the star's former self-styled manager, and Adnan Ghalib, a former boyfriend, until March 18.

The judge also extended a restraining order against attorney Jon Eardley, who once claimed to represent Spears, until April 1.

At the same hearing, Itamar Gelbman, a former member of Spears' security team, testified that Lutfi sent text messages to the singer's hairstylist in December asking her to relay information to the pop star.

Attorneys for Jamie Spears, the 27-year-old singer's father, have accused Lutfi, Ghalib and Eardley of trying to disrupt the legal conservatorship that gives him control over her personal affairs and replace her court-appointed lawyer.

The restraining orders against the three men require them to keep away from Spears and her family, and from helping others file legal proceedings on her behalf.

Bobb is expected to decide at hearings on March 18 and April 1 whether to further extend the restraining orders.

On Tuesday, Ghalib was charged with one felony count each of assault with a deadly weapon, battery and hit-and-run for allegedly using his car to ram a man attempting to serve the restraining order against him on February 11. Ghalib, a 36-year-old celebrity photographer, has pleaded not guilty.

Jamie Spears was granted temporary control over his daughter's affairs in February 2008, after the singer displayed bizarre public behavior for more than a year and was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Just a joke: Cowell has no deep-freeze plan

A spokeswoman for Simon Cowell says reports that the "American Idol" judge wants to be frozen after death are greatly exaggerated. Cowell was making a tongue-in-cheek remark at a dinner in London two weeks ago with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other guests, spokeswoman Lisa Dallos said Tuesday.

But the cryogenics comment that Dallos said was meant as a joke was trumpeted in a number of news reports as a serious plan by Cowell, a music industry executive and TV producer ("America's Got Talent," Britain's "The X Factor").

Schwarzenegger to play himself in Stallone film

Art will imitate life when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spends a few hours playing himself later this year in a movie by Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone's publicist, Sheryl Main, revealed more details Tuesday of Schwarzenegger's rare big-screen appearance. The governor said he has done just three cameos for friends since becoming governor in 2003.

Shooting on the film, "The Expendables," will begin March 28 in Brazil and move to New Orleans for two months. Main says the governor will shoot his scene in Los Angeles.

His role will be a familiar one: California governor.

Stallone writes, directs and stars in the movie, a film about a group of mercenaries trying to overthrow a South American dictator. It also stars Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke and Forest Whitaker.

Gay Asians criticize Oscar speech's TV censorship

Gay Asians voiced indignation Wednesday after television broadcasts of the Academy Awards in their region censored the words "gay" and "lesbian" in speeches that called for equal rights for homosexuals.

The speeches by actor Sean Penn and writer Dustin Lance Black - who won Oscars for their work in "Milk" - were shown in full during live broadcasts of the Oscars that were screened across Asia on Monday morning.

But viewers who caught recorded telecasts in the evening on STAR, an Asian satellite TV service that says it reaches more than 300 million viewers in 53 countries, noticed that the sound was removed whenever both men mentioned "gay" or "lesbian."

"As a gay man, I am truly offended," Pang Khee Teik, a prominent Malaysian arts commentator, wrote in a letter sent out to several media organizations. "Stop censoring the words that describe who I am."

Pang said the move "sent a message ... that gays and lesbians are still shameful things to be censored from the public's ears."

Users of Internet forums in Singapore and India also complained about the censored speeches.

Jannie Poon, STAR's Hong Kong-based spokeswoman, stressed that the company had no intention of upsetting any viewers, but said it has "a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of all our markets into consideration."

Poon said she was not immediately aware that the speeches had been censored, but noted that STAR's preliminary ratings for the Oscar broadcasts indicated "record-breaking" audiences, especially in India and Taiwan.

Viewers first noticed that the words were silenced when Black offered a tribute to slain American gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk while accepting the Oscar for best original screenplay for "Milk."

"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight ... that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you," Black said.

Penn, who was named best actor for playing Milk, commented in his speech on California's recent vote to ban gay marriage.

"For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support," Penn said.

U.S. Congress honors late actor Paul Newman

Paul Newman, who died last September of cancer, was given a posthumous honor on Tuesday as the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution recognizing the iconic actor's life and achievements.

Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, introduced the resolution honoring Newman on the House floor in Washington. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from the actor's native state of Ohio, was among the House members who spoke about Newman.

"His legendary acting, steely blue eyes, good humor and passion for helping the less fortunate made him one of the most prominent figures in American arts for 40 years," Jordan said.

In a statement, Cohen called him "a talented artist whose craft has been a part of our American tapestry for over 50 years" and a person who "made the world a better place."

Newman, who died at age 83, earned nine Oscar nominations and appeared in more than 50 movies including "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting."

Aside from auto racing and his commitment to quiet family life outside Hollywood's media glare, Newman was also a noted philanthropist who in 1982 co-founded Newman's Own, a food company that has given more than $250 million to charity.

The House resolution's approval came two days after Newman was celebrated at the Academy Awards on Sunday, where a video clip of the actor concluded an annual tribute to entertainers who died the year before.

"Slumdog" child actors to get new homes in India

The two main child actors from "Slumdog Millionaire" are to receive new homes from the Indian authorities after the small-budget movie swept the Oscars, winning eight Academy Awards.

The Mumbai homes will go to Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who played the younger versions of the movie's central characters, Latika and Salim, in the rags-to-riches romance about a poor Indian boy competing for love and money on a TV game show.

"These two children have brought laurels to the country, and we have been told that they live in slums, which cannot even be classified as housing," said Gautam Chatterjee, head of the state-run Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority.

The movie, set in Mumbai, which is part of Maharashtra state, took home eight awards from the Oscars including best picture and best director for Britain's Danny Boyle.

But in the lead-up to Sunday's Oscars, the movie's success around the globe was overshadowed by objections in India to its name, which some Indians find offensive; its depiction of the lives of impoverished Indians; and the treatment of the cast.

There was an outcry after pictures emerged of the child stars living in squalor despite the $15 million movie earning about $100 million since its North American release in November.

But Boyle and producer Christian Colson have flatly rejected claims of exploiting children for the movie.

They said the children were paid above local Indian wages and enrolled in school for the first time with a fund set up to pay for their education, medical emergencies and "basic living costs."

Fox Searchlight Pictures, the specialty division of 20th Century Fox studios that is behind the film, paid for visas, travel and accommodations for nine children who were in the movie to fly to Los Angeles for the Oscars.

"Bolt," "Marley & Me" vie for Genesis Award

Three movies about dogs and a documentary about a lost killer whale will compete for best feature film honors at the 23rd Genesis Awards.

Presented by the Humane Society of the United States, the awards honor news and entertainment media showcasing animal issues. Trophies will be handed out March 28 at the Beverly Hilton.

The contenders in the best feature film category are the animated film "Bolt," the family movie "Marley & Me," the revenge drama "Red" and "Saving Luna," a documentary about a wayward whale.

For making news on behalf of animals, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are set to receive the Wyler Award, named after Genesis Awards founder Gretchen Wyler.

This year's event is dedicated to ending the Canadian seal hunt.

Lil Wayne to face NY gun charges after tour

U.S. rapper Lil Wayne, fresh from winning best rap album at the 2009 Grammy Awards, will face criminal gun possession charges at a trial scheduled to begin April 20, a New York judge said on Tuesday.

Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Carter, faces one count of criminal weapons possession and one charge of criminal possession of a loaded weapon. Prosecutors allege a gun was found in his tour bus in July 2007.

Rapper Ja Rule was arrested separately on similar charges following a hip hop concert in New York where both men performed. Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, pleaded innocent and a trial date has not yet been set.

Carter appeared in court wearing a black leather jacket, jeans, and black-rimmed glasses, blowing a kiss to fans who greeted him outside the courtroom.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Charles Solomon ordered jury selection as soon as the rapper completes his current concert commitments. Carter is on tour until April 12, his lawyer said.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, a spokeswoman at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said.

Carter's album, "Tha Carter III," was the biggest-selling U.S. release of 2008 and won him best rap albums and three other prizes at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Milk" loses best film, but sparks new activism

"Milk" lost the battle for the best film Oscar on Sunday, but a day later activists say it has won a lasting place in U.S. culture wars by energizing mostly young, gay men and women to speak out.

The movie, which recounts the political life of slain gay activist Harvey Milk, did win two Oscars -- best actor for Sean Penn who played Milk and best original screenplay for Dustin Lance Black, a one-time gay teenager raised as a Mormon in Texas.

It lost the best movie Oscar to rags-to-riches romance "Slumdog Millionaire," and in Hollywood there is an old saying that few people remember the winners other than best film.

Even so, members of the gay community say "Milk" has been like a tonic that has renewed a sense of activism among younger gay men and lesbians, which is expected to last long into the future.

"Of all the Oscar films, the one that will live on is 'Milk,'" said Geoff Kors head of Equality California. "It is a film that will be shown in schools and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) centers around the world."

By all accounts, the political battles over gay marriage in the United States and the 2008 election have also raised awareness of political activism among young, gay individuals.

Beyond current day issues, "Milk" serves as a reminder that gay men and women have a history of political trailblazers to be admired for openly advocating social change.

"'Milk' the movie has reintroduced a period in the fight for gay rights to a younger crowd that may have not have been so familiar with that period," said Phil Curtis, director of government affairs, for AIDS Project Los Angeles.

"Milk" producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks told Reuters in a recent interview their goal in making the movie was less about ticket sales and awards, and more about telling the story of Milk's life to generations born after his murder in 1978.

"The best part of it has been getting the film out to a wider audience," said Jinks.

So far, the movie has grossed more than $35 million at global box offices, far short of the $178 million that Oscar nominee and gay romance "Brokeback Mountain" had in 2005. But it is more than double the $15 million generated by transgender tale "Transamerica" that same year.

How long "Milk's" impact will last remains anyone's guess, but Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, thinks it could have a long life. He sees it "as a reminder of a call to action" that is "still reaching some of our young adults."

More than 36 million viewers watch Oscars

More than 36 million U.S. viewers watched Sunday's song-and-dance Oscars on television, lifting the glitzy film awards show from record low ratings in 2008, according to national ratings figures on Monday.

The three and one-half hour broadcast on ABC saw "Slumdog Millionaire" triumph with eight Oscars in a show given a new twist by Australian host Hugh Jackman.

The telecast drew 36.3 million U.S. viewers, up about 13 percent from the record low audience of 32 million in 2008, according to audience tracker Nielsen Media Research.

But while the Academy Awards show still ranks as the year's highest-rated entertainment spectacle on TV, and a cash cow for Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, Sunday's figures reflected the gradual drop-off in American TV audiences in general, as well as Oscar watchers, over the past 10 years.

The 2006 Oscars were watched by 39 million Americans. A record 55 million tuned in in 1998 when "Titanic" sailed off with 11 Academy Awards.

The annual show also attracts millions of viewers around the world.

Jackman, who plays Wolverine in the X-Men movies, starred in the 2008 film "Australia" and is an award winning musical theater performer, was brought in to give the 81st Oscar show a new look.

The traditional, joke-filled opening monologue was cut, and Jackman performed two song-and-dance routines -- one with actress Anne Hathaway and a second alongside singer Beyonce and popular young stars Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.

TV critics, however, were lukewarm about the Oscar show. Tom Shales in The Washington Post said Jackman was a "versatile and energetic talent" but called his opening medley of songs on the best picture nominees "pointless and flat."

Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times said Jackman was a "shrewd, even thrifty choice for a recession-era Oscar night -- the hosting equivalent of a value meal."

Vibrant Bollywood-style performances of Oscar-nominated songs from "Slumdog Millionaire" put a lively spin on the evening, which saw the main acting awards go to British actress Kate Winslet for "The Reader" and American Sean Penn for "Milk."

Heath Ledger, a star of 2008's No. 1 box office hit "The Dark Knight" was awarded a rare posthumous Oscar as best supporting actor and his family from Australia gave emotional acceptance speeches from the Kodak Theater podium.

Spain's Penelope Cruz took the best supporting actress award for her part in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein savaged the telecast. "I'm beginning to believe that saving the Oscars is a job for Iron Man or Hancock, a kick-ass superhero with the kind of unassailable powers that would allow them to radically overhaul what has become the year's stodgiest awards fest."

Ledger's last film awaits deal for U.S. release

Backstage at the Oscars on Sunday night, where her brother was awarded a posthumous supporting actor's award, Kate Ledger told reporters that her family is very much in the loop on his final movie.

"We've seen a little bit of the footage," she said of Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," Heath Ledger's last film. "I think it's going to be amazing."

But the comments only highlighted a larger question: When will U.S. audiences get to see it?

The head-trippy "Parnassus," about a traveling magician who gives customers more than they bargained for, is a joint production of financial entity Grosvenor Park and sales mogul Samuel Hadida of Davis Films. It was gliding along as just another independently financed production -- and product of Gilliam's funhouse imagination -- when Ledger died early last year, in the middle of production.

The project's fate was thrown into question until Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp stepped in, with all three part of an elaborate work-around that has the actors playing different parts of Ledger's role.

That saved the production. But the sales process since then has been nearly as complicated.

A number of U.S. buyers during the summer and early fall were said to be interested in acquiring stateside rights -- Lionsgate and Overture reportedly were among the potential suitors -- but word of a potential deal quickly quieted down.

That has fueled speculation concerning such matters as dissent among producers over finances. Rumors aside, the film, whose budget is thought to be upward of $20 million, does present challenges.

Even with the Ledger hook, a distributor would face marketing difficulties. Gilliam has grown more experimental in recent years, with such fare as "Tideland" and "The Brothers Grimm," and marketing experts say that retailing "Parnassus" as a Ledger film risks a backlash among general audiences unaccustomed to artier material.

A U.S. deal is expected shortly, with a mini-major or larger indie expected to make the play. (The movie already has a deal for Mandate International to release it in the United Kingdom, where former Monty Python member Gilliam tends to fare better. It is expected to open there in the summer.)

Still, the absence of a U.S. distribution deal nearly six months after talks began speaks to the difficulty of selling art-house films to the domestic market.

"This movie stars Heath Ledger in his final performance -- it will get a deal and come out in the U.S.," said one indie film veteran. "But it's no accident that it's taking this long."

Britney's dad testifies for restraining order

Britney Spears' father testified for nearly 90 minutes Monday about why he felt a long-term restraining order should be issued against three people, including the singer's former manager and an ex-boyfriend.

Jamie Spears was the first witness to testify in the restraining order case, and it did little to establish direct contact between Osama "Sam" Lutfi and his daughter since a conservatorship was established a year ago.

Calling Lutfi a "predator" and repeating an allegation that he ground medication into his daughter's food, Jamie Spears said he thought his daughter's one-time friend and manager was a danger to the family.

But he acknowledged under questioning by Lutfi's lawyer that he was not aware of any conversations between his daughter and Lutfi. And the only evidence of communication between the two was a recent call Britney Spears made to Lutfi.

Lutfi's attorney, Bryan Freedman, said the hearing "couldn't have gone any better."

He said Jamie Spears' testimony did not demonstrate why a restraining order is necessary.

Jamie Spears said he did not know if the pair talked then or since. He said Lutfi had called Spears on other phones and tried to relay a "Merry Christmas" message through the singer's hairdresser and get her to call him.

He said the call from his daughter to Lutfi was found on a prepaid cell phone that his security detail confiscated from the singer last month. The phone listed the phone numbers of Adnan Ghalib, a paparazzo who once dated the singer, and Lutfi.

Jamie Spears testified his daughter told him the phone was given to her at a hotel by someone who said it was from Lutfi and Ghalib. The singer has a cell phone, but her father said he controls her access to it.

Ghalib did not appear during Monday's hearing and was not represented by a lawyer. Jamie Spears repeatedly referred to him as "Adan" during his testimony.

"A restraining order is for severe harassing conduct that causes substantial emotional distress," Freedman said, adding that Spears' testimony "doesn't remotely come close to that."

Jamie Spears' testimony was just one part of the case that he and his lawyers could bring to justify the restraining order.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aviva K. Bobb allowed him to testify Monday because he will be traveling later in the week, but delayed ruling on the restraining orders until at least Wednesday.

She extended a temporary restraining order against Lutfi, Ghalib and attorney Jon Eardley until Wednesday.

Jamie Spears' attorneys contend the trio attempted to sabotage the conservatorship in recent months and sought to replace Spears' court-appointed attorney, Samuel Ingham.

Eardley's lawyer, Roger Diamond, argued Monday that his client should be dismissed because he had no contact with Spears since early last year. He filed a motion and appeal to remove the conservatorship case to federal court, an effort that was rejected.

Lutfi, Ghalib and Britney Spears did not appear during Monday's hearing.

In his testimony, Jamie Spears said he refused to meet with Lutfi last month. He and Lutfi released a joint statement last summer that indicated they agreed not to extend a temporary restraining order that was issued when the conservatorship was established.

"We asked him to go away," Jamie Spears said Monday. "He agreed to go away. I just want the man to go away."

Oscar after-parties flash global glitter

The glitzy, global spirit of Hollywood raged into the wee hours after the Oscars, with parties around town feting everyone from British best actress winner Kate Winslet down to the youngest "Slumdog Millionaire" star, drinking caffeine to keep up his strength.

Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, only 8, slurped on a can of Coca-Cola at Fox Searchlight's packed after-party Sunday night at ONE Sunset in West Hollywood honoring "The Wrestler" and "Slumdog Millionaire." Filmed in the slums of Mumbai, "Slumdog" snagged eight Oscars, including best picture and director.

Ayush, who lives in India and plays the youngest version of the movie's protagonist Jamal, sat on a sofa at the club, nursing his soda after midnight.

"Very excited," said Ayush, when asked about the wins. "It's unbelievable. I never thought I would get an Oscar. Daniel (director Danny Boyle) told us, 'If you work hard, the Oscar will come to you.' And it came."

As for being tired?

"No, that's why I'm drinking this," he added.

Madhur Mittal, who plays the character Salim in the film, held a drink as throngs of women passed by offering their congratulations. Guests, including Serena Williams, nibbled on red velvet cupcakes and sipped on cocktails including "The Slumdog," a mix of vodka, raspberries and lime garnished with a lollipop - far from the modest fare depicted in the film.

"It feels unreal. This is the best day of my life, man," said Mittal. "I come from India and I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be at the Oscars, much less be part of the movie that sweeps the Oscars."

Despite economic woes, myriad parties had all the glam and celebrity fraternizing of past soirees, though guest lists were substantially slashed and simple comfort food reigned.

Jennifer Love Hewitt hosted AIDS Project Los Angeles' annual bash at The Abbey, and Chevy Chase, Laura Dern and other famous faces flocked to the Night of 100 Stars gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Lindsay Lohan joined her DJ girlfriend Samantha Ronson, who spun at the Mercedes-Benz after-party at the Montage Beverly Hills.

Best actor winner Sean Penn and nominees Taraji P. Henson, Marisa Tomei, Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway were just a few of the stars who made the Governors Ball at the Kodak Theatre their first post-Oscars stop.

Guests nibbled on lobster and shrimp and three-level dessert boxes topped with chocolate Oscars. Penn, his co-star Emile Hirsch and "Twilight" hottie Robert Pattinson were among those who enjoyed the outdoor smoking lounge, a recessed area topped with a dozen overturned parasols.

The Asian-themed affair featured bonsai trees inlaid in the tables and images of bamboo leaves projected on the walls. There was also a chocolate-and-champagne fountain to entertain guests on the back patio.

Blocks away from Fox Searchlight, Vanity Fair's revived Oscar party was all about A-list camaraderie.

The annual celebrity-stuffed bash, canceled last year before the end of the Hollywood writers' strike, roared back into style, with Oscar winners literally rubbing shoulders at the hilltop Sunset Tower Hotel, a new venue for the party after years at the restaurant Morton's. A tented area outside had a stunning view of Los Angeles.

At 11:30 p.m., Winslet swept in. Clutching her Oscar trophy for "The Reader" in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, she grinned and hugged admirers left and right.

"Great Britannia," said Anthony Hopkins, bearhugging the actress.

"Oh my God!" yelled Winslet back to the Oscar-winning actor, later adding, "I was actually very calm ... I got so many text messages."

The party's exclusive, pared down guest list meant that only the cream of Hollywood showed up, from Jennifer Aniston snuggling next to her boyfriend John Mayer, to Halle Berry drinking champagne on a couch and shaking hands with Russell Simmons.

Best supporting actress winner Penelope Cruz happily munched on a brownie, later hugging Tilda Swinton. Amy Adams laughed in a tight cluster with Uma Thurman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon.

Other guests included Robert De Niro, Tina Fey and Josh Brolin. Attendees feasted on more working-class offerings like bagel, egg and bacon sandwiches and In-N-Out burgers.

Nearby, Elton John's annual viewing dinner and after-party at the Pacific Design Center's tented courtyard was another glamorous affair, complete with a five-course menu, including risotto, black sea bass, pear compote and puffed chocolate tartlet.

Dressed in black, wearing strands of Chopard diamonds, John greeted tables of guests, including Simon Cowell and Sharon Stone. Chace Crawford was seated across the room from his amiable ex, Carrie Underwood, who glittered in a silvery dress.

"People are going through tremendous hardship," John told his guests before the night's big auction for his Elton John AIDS Foundation. "In this time of hardship, we are going to raise as much money as we possibly can."

That he did, with $4 million, according to the party's publicist. A stay in Normandy, France, was auctioned off for $80,000.

John later joined musical guest Raphael Saadiq onstage, garnering cheers for a version of John's "Benny and the Jets."

Across town, in Hollywood, Prince ended the night on his own rock 'n' roll musical note, taking the stage at his last-minute Oscar after-party at the Avalon club at 1:45 a.m.

Wearing black sunglasses, and waltzing onto the stage twirling a gleaming silver cane, Prince noodled on his guitar to whoops and hollers from the audience, which included nominee Henson.

"This is what we do at house parties. I'm the DJ tonight," he said.

Oscars U.S. TV audience up six percent on 2008

The U.S. television audience for Sunday's song-and-dance Oscars rose by about six percent, lifting the glitzy film awards show from record low ratings in 2008, according to early ratings figures on Monday.

The three and one-half hour broadcast on ABC saw "Slumdog Millionaire" triumph with eight Oscars in a show given a new twist by Australian host Hugh Jackman. It posted an average household rating of 23.3 in the largest U.S. TV markets, according to audience tracker Nielsen Media Research.

When national figures are released later on Monday, that is likely to translate into a healthy increase from the 32 million U.S. viewers who tuned in in record low numbers in 2008.

The show also attracts millions of viewers around the world.

Jackman, who plays Wolverine in the X-Men movies, starred in the 2008 film "Australia" and is an award winning musical theater performer, was brought in to give the 81st Oscar show a new look after years of declining TV audiences.

The traditional, joke-filled opening monologue was cut, and Jackman performed two song-and-dance routines -- one with actress Anne Hathaway and a second alongside singer Beyonce and popular young stars Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.

TV critics, however, were lukewarm about the Oscar show. Tom Shales in The Washington Post said Jackman was a "versatile and energetic talent" but called his opening medley of songs on the best picture nominees "pointless and flat."

Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times said Jackman was a "shrewd, even thrifty choice for a recession-era Oscar night -- the hosting equivalent of a value meal."

Vibrant Bollywood-style performances of Oscar-nominated songs from "Slumdog Millionaire" put a lively spin on the evening, which saw the main acting awards go to British actress Kate Winslet for "The Reader" and American Sean Penn for "Milk."

Heath Ledger, a star of 2008's No. 1 box office hit "The Dark Knight" was awarded a rare posthumous Oscar as best supporting actor and his family from Australia gave emotional acceptance speeches from the Kodak Theater podium.

Spain's Penelope Cruz took the best supporting actress award for her part in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein savaged the telecast. "I'm beginning to believe that saving the Oscars is a job for Iron Man or Hancock, a kick-ass superhero with the kind of unassailable powers that would allow them to radically overhaul what has become the year's stodgiest awards fest."

The Academy Awards show still ranks as the year's highest-rated entertainment spectacle on TV, and a cash cow for Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Disney's ESPN faces rising rights fees: report

Walt Disney Co's ESPN cable sports network, which has broadcasting deals for events ranging from the National Football League to Nascar, is facing higher costs while renewing some of the contracts amid falling advertising revenue, the Wall Street Journal said on Monday.

Since Disney acquired 80 percent of ESPN in 1995 the most-watched U.S. sports channel has become one of the company's most valuable properties, providing $4.1 billion in operating income in fiscal 2008 ending September 27, the newspaper said.

However, ESPN is feeling the impact of the recession and its advertising revenue is declining even as costs associated with many of its rights deals increase on schedule, the paper said.

ESPN's NFL payments nearly doubled from $600 million during the last round of negotiations, and each of its other major rights fees rose by at least 20 percent, a trend most industry people expect to continue, it said.

ESPN spends about $2.2 billion annually for the broadcast rights to major sports in the U.S. alone, the paper said.

Walt Disney could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment.

Clay Aiken parts ways with record label

Season two "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken has parted ways with RCA Records.

A source told Billboard that the pop singer left the label a couple of months ago, on the heels of his 2008 album, "On My Way Here."

That set sold just 159,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Aiken's 2003 debut, "Measure of a Man," sold 2.78 million.

The artist joins a slew of second-place finishers -- Katharine McPhee, Justin Guarini, Blake Lewis and Bo Bice, among them -- whose post-"Idol" major-label deals have lapsed.

Aiken will make a guest appearance on the April 8 episode of "America's Next Top Model," where he will serve as a guest judge.

Oscar night: Slumdog Millionaire wins big

Rags-to-riches romance "Slumdog Millionaire" swept the Oscars on Sunday, winning eight awards including the prize for best picture in a climactic triumph for a movie that almost failed to get released.

Among the "Slumdog" honors, Briton Danny Boyle was named best director for the often dark but ultimately hopeful tale about a poor Indian boy who competes for love and money on a TV game show, and writer Simon Beaufoy won adapted screenplay.

"Slumdog" also earned Oscars for best cinematography, sound mixing, film editing, original score for composer A.R. Rahman and best song, "Jai Ho" for Rahman and lyricist Gulzar. Only seven other films in the 81-year-history of the Oscars have won eight or more awards.

Filmed in the teeming slums of Mumbai, the movie was orphaned at one point when it was dropped by financier Warner Independent Pictures, a division of giant Warner Bros. Fox Searchlight Pictures ultimately rescued the project and released the movie to critical acclaim in November.

"You've been so generous to us this evening, and I want to thank you for that," Boyle said to the Academy Award audience when accepting his trophy.

Kate Winslet wins best actress Oscar for "The Reader"

Kate Winslet won her first Oscar on Sunday for her portrayal of a German woman with a secret Nazi past in the romantic drama "The Reader."

"Titanic" star Winslet, 33, was Oscar-nominated five times in the past 13 years but had always returned home empty-handed.

Her best actress Oscar joins two Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild award, a British BAFTA and a handful of U.S. critics awards that Winslet has won this season.

"To the academy, thank you so much," she said. Winslet gave credit to her fellow best actress nominees -- Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie and Melissa Leo -- calling them "goddesses."

"I think we all can't believe we are in the category with Meryl Streep at all," Winslet said.

In addition to Winslet's acclaimed turn in "The Reader," she won plaudits this awards season for her performance as a disillusioned housewife in "Revolutionary Road." The two films were released only weeks apart.

Winslet told the Academy Award audience she would be lying if she said she hadn't practiced an Oscar acceptance speech before.

"I think I was probably 8 years old and staring into the bathroom mirror, and this would have been a shampoo bottle," she said gesturing to her golden statuette. "Well, it's not a shampoo bottle now!"


Winslet has said that portraying Hanna Schmitz, a former Nazi prison guard who embarks on an affair with a teen-age boy more than a decade later, was the most challenging role she had ever played because she had little in her own life to draw on.

"Just getting underneath the skin of such a complex person who had lived such an isolated life for so many different reasons, it was hard and quite lonely at times," she told Reuters in a recent interview.

Winslet found international fame as the co-star of the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" but rather than embracing Hollywood's big time, she opted for smaller, art house movies often made in her native Britain.

In parts ranging from the quirky girlfriend in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" to the laundress in an 18th century insane asylum in "Quills," Winslet made a point of avoiding the cute blonde actress career trap.

She is a close friend of her "Titanic" co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, but it took the pair more than ten years to team up again, this time in the anti-romance "Revolutionary Road."

Winslet is married to Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and has two young children. On Sunday she thanked all three for "letting me do what I love and who love me just the way that I am."

Sean Penn wins best actor Oscar for "Milk"

Sean Penn took home the Oscar for best actor on Sunday for his portrayal of slain San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk in the movie "Milk" and used his win to defend the right of same-sex couples to wed.

Penn, 48, picked up the second Oscar of his career, the first being his 2004 win for his lead role as a grieving father in "Mystic River."

"You commie, homo-loving, sons of guns," the sharp-tongued Penn told the audience as he collected his award. "I did not expect this and...I know how hard I make it to appreciate me."

The straight actor's portrayal of an openly gay politician was a timely one -- with "Milk" coming out shortly after California's same-sex couples lost their right to marry in a voter referendum.

"I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way," Penn said.

"We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

Penn, who has a tough guy image dating back to his early career scrapes with the paparazzi, convincingly evoked the legendary charm of Milk, who was shot to death in 1978 at San Francisco City Hall.

"He came in kind of ready made" for the role, openly gay "Milk" director Gus Van Sant said.

In presenting Penn as a nominee, storied actor Robert de Niro joked: "How, for so many years, did Sean Penn get all those straight roles?"

Several critics called the performance the best of Penn's already storied and versatile career, which took off after his breakthrough surfer-stoner role as Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

This year's best actor race was thought to be a battle between Penn and Mickey Rourke, an actor who scored a remarkable career comeback as an aging athlete trying to remain in the ring in "The Wrestler."

"Mickey Rourke rises again," Penn said. "And he is my brother."

Penn won the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor earlier this year and a slew of critics' prizes. The Oscar nomination for "Milk" was his fifth in the best actor category.

Best & Worst of the Oscars: Hugh Jackmania!

Oh, man, did you see that moment when that guy did that thing? Don't worry, we did. Read on and get the full story of Oscar's best, worst and otherest.

Best Performance: Even with the slightly forced "recession Oscars" conceit, host Hugh Jackman delivered a completely winning song and dance to open the show that totally made us forget they didn't hire a comedian. Showing off both talent and a sly sense of humor, Jackman nailed it.

Best Lyric From the Opening Song: "I would swim a sea of human excrement."—Jackman crooning sweet(?)ly to Kate Winslet

Worst Transition: From the goofily good opener—the techno Reader representation was more entertaining than the movie—the show bogged down with that somber bunch of Best Supporting Actresses intoning like they were going to banish the winner to the Forbidden Zone with General Zod.

Best Brangelina Quip: Jackman drew our attention to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie before saying, "I don't actually have a joke for them, I'm just contractually required to mention them five times during the show." (Not bad; it's 25 times for us.)

Best Present: Copresenters Steve Martin and Tina Fey, who've been funny together on TV and film, delivered a hilarious tribute to writers that made us want to see them make another movie together. Or, you know, read something.

Best Reaction: Jolie looking totally charmed by her Kung Fu Panda costar Jack Black, who was onstage presenting with that actress from Friends.

Best Twilight Crossover: Rob Pattinson brought that undead charm of his to the Oscars, where it was familiar to Twihards and everyone who's ever had lunch with a Hollywood agent.

Best On-Air Design: Whoever thought to put Daniel Craig and Sarah Jessica Parker on stage together.

Best Reaction: Seth Rogen and James Franco's half-baked response to the comedies of 2008. Dude, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski was so high!

Joke Least Likely to Reach the Billion People Around the World: Ben Stiller's crazy, bearded Joaquin Phoenix impersonation was funny, but a little inside considering how few people recognize Stiller anyway.

Assault With a Medley Weapon: The top-hat-and-tails number with Beyoncé, Zac Efron and the rest totally summed up the year in movies. And that year was 1936.

Most Likely to Spawn a "Who's in Your Five?" Commercial: The Best Supporting actor nomination five-way was like a presidential debate without all the humor.

Most Heartbreaking: Heath Ledger's family accepting his award.

Biggest Showstopper: Wirewalker Philippe Petit, the absolutely entertaining subject of documentary Man on Wire, balancing an Oscar on his chin while a billion people watched and wondered if it would fall. But for a man who once spent 45 minutes walking between the Twin Towers, well, that's probably no big deal.

Best Commercial: Coming in just ahead of the one for the website that helps you earn $5K a month working at home, the Tom Cruise-Jimmy Kimmel bit was funny like a house on fire.

Best Make-Good Decision: The loud and fast medley crammed full of action and comic book movies, because let's be honest: These were the best things that Hollywood had to offer last year, and The Dark Knight (not to mention Iron Man) got robbed. Take that, Reader.

Worst Make-Good Decision: After that whole medley thing, the movie about the wrinkly old baby beat Dark Knight and Iron Man. Obviously, there is no justice…except that meted out by costumed heroes.

Winners! A Complete List From the 2009 Oscars

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Actor in a Leading Role: Sean Penn, Milk

Actress in a Leading Role: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Actress in a Supporting Role: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk

Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Animated Feature Film: WALL-E

Foreign Language Film: Departures (Japan)

Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire

Original Song: "Jai Ho," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar; Slumdog Millionaire

Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire

Costume Design: The Duchess

Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire

Documentary Feature: Man on Wire

Documentary Short Subject: Smile Pinki

Animated Short Film: La Maison en Petits Cubes

Live Action Short Film: Spielzeugland (Toyland)

Sound Editing: The Dark Knight

Sound Mixing: Slumdog Millionaire

Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Jerry Lewis

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Dark Knight Breaks a Billion

It's not going to snag 11 Oscars, but The Dark KnightChristian Bale and all—is nipping at Titanic's heels in the court of public opinion.

The 2008 blockbuster has surpassed $1 billion at the worldwide box office, Warner Bros. announced late Friday.

According to, the critically acclaimed Caped Crusader sequel—which actually could win eight Academy Awards on Sunday—is now in fourth place on the list of all-time box office grosses, behind only Titanic ($1.84 billion), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1.12 billion) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($1.07 billion).

The Dark Knight is currently sitting pretty with $1.001 billion, while the fifth-place Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is way back there with $974.7 million.

$533.1 million of that billion-plus sum was grossed in U.S. theaters, while $468 million was raked in overseas.

Warner Bros.' news comes along with the announcement that The Dark Knight is also now the top-grossing 2-D IMAX release of all time, with $64.9 million grossed worldwide.

Oscar is in the house: Trophies come to the Kodak

A group of security workers stand at attention as two black SUVs, each driven by armed guards, pull up to the artists' entrance to the Kodak Theatre. Inside are the Academy Awards' most famous guests.

Men in black suits open the car doors. There sit 10 cardboard boxes carrying the show's critical stars: Oscar No. 3453 and 51 of his fellow Oscar statuettes. Steve Miessner, the Keeper of the Oscars, rides along with them.

He and the security guards load the boxes onto two dollies, and each is sent up a backstage freight elevator accompanied by an armed guard.

Miessner leads them down a winding hallway and into an office in the bowels of the Kodak. Two guards stand at the door as he dons his trademark white gloves and begins unpacking the precious cargo: 50 foam containers, each with one Oscar inside.

No. 3453 is among the first he unpacks. Miessner examines it and notices a bit of packaging glue stuck to the statue. He pulls a blue velvet cloth from his toolbox, which also includes tiny wrenches and a pen light, and gently polishes.

One by one, Miessner opens the foam containers and places the golden men on a desk.

"I usually set them all out and put little medallions on them, because backstage you can't see the serial numbers," he says.

Miessner, 47, officially works as an assistant to the film academy president and executive director. But he's also the only academy person who handles the Oscar trophies.

He's responsible for tracking all 52 statuettes reserved for Sunday's ceremony. He'll stand backstage as the awards are presented, noting the serial number of each Oscar and its recipient. After the show, he'll log the information into the academy's Statuettes Database.

But today he's making sure each trophy is accounted for and camera ready. He writes "3453" on a white paper tag and ties it with string around the Oscar's neck, like a little pendant. Miessner, who has served as Keeper of the Oscars for five years, says some nights he wakes in a panic, dreaming that an Oscar sent onstage during the show was still wearing it's numbered necklace.

"In the back of my mind I start to have all these fantasies about what could be going wrong," he says, noting that an entire shipment of Oscars was stolen - and eventually recovered - in 2002. (Hence all the armed guards.)

Just knowing the Oscars are safely at the Kodak brings Miessner some relief.

"They're here. I know they're protected," he says. "They're stationary. They're not going anywhere."

Until Sunday, when No. 3453 and his brothers will be sent off to their new homes.

Hilton, Myers top Razzies bill for year's worst

Mike Myers' "The Love Guru" has found some disciples among Razzies voters who pick Hollywood's lowest achievements.

And Paris Hilton is getting her own Razzies moment with three awards all on her own at a ceremony that spoofs the Academy Awards on the eve of the Oscars.

"The Love Guru" won three Razzies on Saturday for worst picture, actor (Myers in the title role) and screenplay, which Myers co-wrote. Hilton's three prizes are worst actress for "The Hottie and the Nottie," supporting actress for "Repo! The Genetic Opera" and screen couple alongside either of her "Hottie" co-stars, Christine Lakin or Joel David Moore.

With three Razzies, Hilton tied the record set last year by Eddie Murphy, who won worst actor, supporting actor and supporting actress for his multiple roles in "Norbit."

Pierce Brosnan was chosen as worst supporting actor for "Mamma Mia!" The worst-director Razzie went to Uwe Boll for three movies: "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale," "1968: Tunnel Rats" and "Postal."

Razzies voters also gave a prize for worst career achievement to Boll, whose critically drubbed movies include "Bloodrayne" and its sequel.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was named worst prequel, remake, rip-off or sequel.

John Wilson, founder of the Razzies, said Boll and Hilton's movies are so bad, he could envision a collaboration between the two.

"She is the 21st century Zsa Zsa Gabor. She is famous for who she hangs out with. She's not famous for any talent she has yet exhibited," Wilson said. "She may end up working with Uwe Boll. She could be the head vampire in `Bloodrayne 3.'"

"The Love Guru" features Myers as the world's second-best self-help guru, who must come to love himself before he can fully realize his potential. The movie topped out at $32 million at the domestic box office, chump change compared to the haul of Myers' "Austin Powers" sequels.

Wilson disagreed with other Razzies voters on "The Love Guru," saying that after watching it again to pull clips for the group's awards ceremony Saturday night, he did not think it was the year's worst movie.

"A couple of things he did got me to laugh, and these days, two laughs in a comedy is a high ratio," Wilson said.

In "The Hottie and the Nottie," Hilton plays a babe who won't date until her homely best pal lands a man. Hilton has a small role in "Repo," a horror musical about organ recipients who face a visit from the repo man if they fall behind on the payments.

"Repo" and "Hottie" combined did not even manage to take in $200,000 at the domestic box office.

Unlike many years, when one movie dominates, the Razzies were shared among a variety of flicks.

One voter joked that "we decided to spread the loathe around," Wilson said. "Everybody got kicked in the shin at least a little."

Top 10 online social networks

DISCLAIMER: This is a list of the top 10 social networks but the order can vary, depending on the source of the information. This list, however, will give you an idea about the top social networking websites being visited by people worldwide.

Facebook. A fast-growing social networking website, it recently surpassed MySpace in terms of subscribers. In terms of number of visits (1.2 billion in January 2009 alone), this website is No. 1.

MySpace. This website attracts music lovers. From indie bands to professional artists, you can find them here. But since it’s older than Facebook, this website is fast slipping in the ranking. To date, it has more than 250 million registered users.

Twitter. This microblogging, social networking service allows people to send friends 140-character messages, similar to what we can send via our mobile phone’s SMS feature. If we’re going to look at the numbers from, 54 million people worldwide visit this website every month.

Flixster. A social network site for movie lovers. Enough said. Also a fast-growing site that has over 53 million visitors a month.

Linkedin. People joke that this website is the most formal and “boring” social network out there because it targets professionals wanting to connect with other professionals. But based on, it has been getting 42 million visitors every month. This is a social network for businesses, too.

Tagged. Tagged you’re it. No, not really but next time you get a spam invitation from, then perhaps you’re one of the 39 million monthly visitors to this social networking website. It is the first and oldest social networking website for students. It is still getting about 35 million visitors a month.

hi5. This is popular in Angola, Portugal, Cyprus, Romania, Thailand, Central Africa and Latin America. And it’s open to users 13 years old and older. This website has over 9 million visitors and about 80 million registered users.

Friendster. Did you know that a large number of Friendster users are Filipinos? Yes, this social networking website, which has more than 7 million monthly visitors, has over 90 million registered users. It’s popular in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and of course, the Philippines.

Orkut. Google’s own social networking website is popular in Brazil, Paraguay, India, Pakistan and Estonia. It has over 67 million registered users and about 5 million monthly visitors.

Another list

Here’s another list compiled by

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rihanna won't discuss Chris Brown, but thanks fans

As police probe whether one of their own leaked a picture of a bruised and beaten woman that appears to be Rihanna, the image is sparking a discussion of the impact it could have on the issue of domestic violence. The celebrity Web site TMZ, which posted the photo Thursday night, did not explain its origin. The site wrote only that it was taken after an altercation between platinum-selling singer and her boyfriend, fellow pop star Chris Brown.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton acknowledged Friday afternoon that the photo could prove embarrassing to the woman pictured, a view shared by some advocates for abused women. But in the welts and marks on the face of the woman in the photo, some also saw a teaching moment.

"If it could happen to Rihanna, it could happen to anyone," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. There are an estimated 4.8 million domestic violence attacks on women and another 2.9 million attacks on men each year, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

"Maybe it is a good idea if it's her, if young girls see this," said Susan Murphy-Milano, a Chicago author and advocate for battered women. She said she hopes it makes them think, "Is the next picture going to be of her in a morgue?"

Both women expected the image, which even Bratton wouldn't go so far as to confirm was Rihanna, could spark a new awareness about domestic violence.

"The reality that domestic violence can happen to anyone, even someone with fame and celebrity, ought to bring home the point that this is a problem for our entire society," Gandy said. "We can't avoid or ignore it."

Bratton told reporters that along with launching an internal investigation into whether the photo is police evidence, he is also looking into how TMZ obtained the picture. He said the department may pursue a felony conspiracy case against TMZ and whomever might have helped them get the image.

Bratton said he suspected someone within the department leaked the photo, but did not elaborate or go so far as to confirm that it came from police evidence files.

"We are not treating this lightly," Bratton said. "It's an embarrassment to this department if in fact evidence was leaked.

"It's going to be a very painful experience for any personnel from this department and possibly those who they may have engaged in a conspiracy with to violate the laws of California."

TMZ did not say how it obtained the image and a publicist for the site did not return a phone or e-mail message seeking comment Friday.

Brown, 19, was arrested Feb. 8 on suspicion of making felony criminal threats, but police have not publicly identified his alleged victim. The woman was Rihanna, according to a person familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

A spokesman for Brown said the singer had no further comment beyond a statement released Sunday in which he said he was "sorry and saddened" about the incident. His attorney has not returned calls seeking comment.

Rihanna broke her silence on Friday, her 21st birthday, by releasing a statement through Rubenstein Associates.

"At the request of the authorities, Rihanna is not commenting about the incident involving Chris Brown," the statement read. "She wants to assure her fans that she remains strong, is doing well, and deeply appreciates the outpouring of support she has received during this difficult time."

The singer canceled a planned birthday bash in New York and postponed concerts overseas in the days following the incident.

Prosecutors are still waiting for police to present more evidence against Brown. Bratton said Friday that detectives are working quickly to finish that investigation, and the inquiries into the leak.

Both Gandy and Murphy-Milano said one of the reasons the photo's release is so shocking is because domestic violence isn't in the spotlight except for when it involves high-profile couples.

"Such a graphic image may give people pause and make them think about what we're doing for the women who don't have resources to escape and take care of themselves," Gandy said. She said the country's economic problems will translate into more domestic violence cases as families suffer financial strain.

And from a painful image, Murphy-Milano hoped a new advocate for battered women might have been made.

"I think she could be a very important voice and a tool for other people," she said of Rihanna. "She could turn this around," Murphy-Milano said, and tell others, "'Don't be me.'"-AP

Cyrus: Nothing `weird' about relationship with dad

Miley Cyrus doesn't like to admit it, but she's bothered by people who think there's something wrong with the bond between her and her dad, singer Billy Ray Cyrus.

"The media has said some stuff about my dad and me being too close and too cuddly for a father and a daughter," the 16-year-old actress-singer writes in "Miles to Go," a new memoir. "For me and my dad it's not weird at all."

Cyrus' memoir, written with Hilary Liftin, will be published next month by Disney-Hyperion Books. The Associated Press purchased a copy put on sale early.

She doesn't directly mention last year's photo shoot for Vanity Fair, when she is shown reclining against her father, his arm around her shoulder, both of them somber and bare-armed - an image many found suggestive. But she does write that she loves her father (who co-stars on her "Hannah Montana" show), isn't afraid to show it, and "we don't let other people tell us what expressions we're supposed to have on our faces when we take a picture together!"

Acknowledging that fame inevitably attracts criticism, she writes of being hurt by comments posted about her on the Internet and concludes that some people are "so full of anger, hatred and bitterness."

Referring to the media, she regrets that people make profits off her troubles, and wishes they instead would profit from her "achievements."

Cyrus' records have sold millions of copies and her "I Thought I Lost You," featured in the movie "Bolt," was a Golden Globe nominee for best song. A film version of "Hannah Montana" comes out in April.

"In Miles to Go," Cyrus writes of her down-then-up relationship with another "Hannah Montana" star, Emily Osment. And she reflects on a certain ex-boyfriend, apparently fellow teen idol Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, mentioned not by name, but as "Prince Charming."

She tells of falling for him immediately at an AIDS benefit in 2006, of reuniting with him at a White House Easter Egg Roll during a time they had split up, and of the final parting, in December 2007.

Cyrus says it was the worst day of her life, and inspiration for her hit song "7 Things I Hate About You."

"It's hard to imagine that our love is a story with an end," she writes. "But you know, at least I'm getting some really good songs out of it."

The 266-page book was written for young people, her core audience, with photos, notes scrawled in the margins and plenty of lists. Cyrus advocates family, friendship and pursuing one's dreams, but also mentions the price - not just the loss of privacy, but the loss of self.

Toward the end of the second season of "Hannah Montana," she fell into despair; "self-hatred" that started with a common affliction, acne, and developed into something greater. She had turned Hollywood, become a "brat," forgotten her own identity.

The blues blew away thanks to Vanessa, a 9-year-old with cystic fibrosis whom Cyrus met at a Los Angeles hospital and instantly connected with.

"I'd been praying to God to take away my vanity and self-centeredness," she writes. "When I met Vanessa, all the superficial obsession over my skin, and all the darkness I'd been feeling, fell away."-AP