Grammy Nominations 2001 | Star Wars Queen Kisses in the New Millennium | Ellen is Burstin' to Win Awards | Oscar Update: Hot Chocolat, Weary Dancer, Traffic Congested | Short Takes

Grammy 2001: A Snub for the 'King' and Not Much for Madonna   

Considering that the rest of best album nominations are like Tylenol PM , I will admit that Eminem is a welcome inclusion at this year's Grammy awards. 

Yikes! Radiohead's Kid A, the most boring, disappointing release in years, as a Grammy nominee? Paul Simon's You're the One, which sold almost no copies, rescued by the likes of the old white reviewers? Beck's Midnite Vultures, an equally poor-selling, uninteresting selection, too? At least the NARAS voters recognized Steely Dan's musicianship. 

But the album of the year nominees should have included Madonna and U2, and that's just for starters. Interesting that no one nominee dominates the categories. In fact, there's hardly any crossover among the different nominees — singles and records seem to come from everything but the albums of the year, which means that none of the albums were good enough to contain the best songs. How weird. 

Of course, then there's Macy Gray's "I Try," which was actually released in 1998. Gray was nominated for best new artist last year for the same record. So what's "I Try" doing back in competition? Keep trying, Macy. 

And what of Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance"? A good country record but hardly the stuff of best overall song. Ironically it's nominated alongside Faith Hill's "Breathe." The Womack song has a line in it: "Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance." I don't think so. 

Other oddities: not much for Columbia/Epic/Sony music except the record and song nominations for Destiny's Child (the song "Say My Name" has so many listed writers it will take an hour for acceptance speeches if it wins) and the bizarre year-later Macy Gray stuff. And the best pop female performance category is a hoot: old records from Gray and from Aimee Mann, singles by teen sluts Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and one by Joni Mitchell! My vote: Christina, just to be cotentious. 

Finally, one big surprise is the almost complete snubbing of Eric Clapton and B.B. King's Riding With the King album. Warner's biggest seller of the year, King looked a cinch for album of the year nominations. It wound up pushed off to the Blues section. I would have substituted it easily for Beck or Radiohead. But the fact that Madonna and the Clapton/King records had so much trouble is not a good sign for beleaguered Warner Bros. 

Star Wars Queen Kisses in the New Millennium   

Happy New Year! While many New Yorkers were happy to stay home and avoid a foot of snow, Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace's Queen Amidala, Natalie Portman, joined a bunch of revelers in the movie business who found a way to amuse themselves. 

She went to director Jesse Peretz's loft and hung out with feature, indie and commercial directors. Nineteen-year-old undergraduate Portman, according to other guests, was in a smooching mood, and was found in a lip-lock with at least one guest who she had not previously met — and was not necessarily of the opposite sex. 

Among the other well-known guests: Hal Hartley regular Robert Burke (Simple Men). 

Peretz, son of New Republic founder Martin Peretz and a one-time member of the indie-pop band The Lemonheads, is now directing commercials after making his first feature, First Love Last Rites, in 1997. Peretz's roommate, Tao of Steve star Donal Logue, was absent — he's in L.A. filming a Fox sitcom called Grounded for Life. 

Peretz is already back in Paris, where he's been finishing up a film he made called The Chateau, which was shot in France with Cider House Rules actor Paul Rudd and Frenchies Sylvie Testud and Didier Flamand

"I was working on another script here," says Peretz, who is also heir to the Singer sewing fortune, "when this idea came along. It's sort of a comedy of being in a foreign culture, being a retarded American. It's almost finished. We're going to debut it at the Rotterdam Film Festival later this month." 

Ellen is Burstin' to Win Awards   

Julia Roberts may be in the lead for Best Actress honors this year, but don't count out Ellen Burstyn. She's the star of the very frightening Requiem for a Dream and she's already been nominated for a Golden Globe. An Oscar nomination is just around the corner. 

Burstyn won the Oscar in 1974 for Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, (the inspiration for the very different '70s sitcom Alice) and she was nominated a total of five times between 1970 and 1980. Not bad. 

I asked her the other day who her favorite leading man was — "I loved working with Charles Grodin on stage in Same Time Next Year," she said. "I'm enjoying Paul Sorvino now in TV in our show That's Life. You'd think I would never go back after the disaster of the first one," she laughed, referring to her short-lived Ellen Burstyn Show. "The network has ordered four more, and maybe five more after that." 

But what about now? Burstyn, who's very funny in real life, burst out with, "The refrigerator!" In Requiem her character, Sarah Goldfarb, hallucinates from pill addiction about her monster-like icebox. "I think Entertainment Weekly called it the scariest prop of the year. I loved that." 

Since a lot of the fridge work was done in post-production, Burstyn says, "They had a refrigerator on the set with a stick out the back which they jiggled. But the big one, woo! that was scary. That was on the set all the time." She won't be making ice anytime soon. 

People still tell Burstyn she looks like fellow actor Louise Fletcher, Oscar winner in 1975 for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. "People still tell me even now they liked me in Cuckoo's Nest," she said. "And I say, 'No, that was Louise. She says people tell her she was good in Resurrection.' But we look very different now. She has white, white hair." 

This reporter replied, "You also don't look like you've had the obligatory facelift." 

"Oh good!" she laughed heartily. 

Oscar Update: Hot Chocolat, Weary Dancer, Traffic Congested   

The big guns are coming out for a movie, and you wouldn't expect it, either. But Dr. Mathilde Krim, who founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and whose husband bankrolled all the classic Woody Allen movies, phoned in her thoughts yesterday about Chocolat to Liz Smith

Now tonight Jesse Jackson is hosting a screening of the film in New York for religious leaders and friends in the business. Chocolat's message is one of inclusion vs. exclusion, something we can all get behind. Not just a confection, Chocolat did bang-up business over the weekend. It's picking up steam. Soon we'll all being calling it "hot Chocolat.

Meanwhile, Billy Elliot — an audience favorite in the early fall — is fading. The Golden Globes didn't nominate the kid (Jamie Bell), and now the word is that the movie — while certainly charming — was a go-to when there was a paucity of films this autumn. 

My guess is that Academy voters and Hollywood Foreign Press Association members are a little bored by Billy's somewhat predictable story. The winner? First-time British director Stephen Daldry, who walks away from the experience with lots of offers anyway. 

The Academy — with ballots going out January 9 domestically — must also deal with the business of two Steven Soderbergh movies, Erin Brockovich and Traffic. What to do? 

Well, to this reporter's thinking, EB is the Best Picture nominee of the two. Totally original, with a huge star performance by Julia Roberts, EB is a gold-plated winner. 

Traffic, while interesting and daring, is nevertheless based on a British mini-series. Some of it doesn't make sense, and not all of it hangs together. 

Soderbergh is on a roll right now, so Traffic may seem better than it was in retrospect. Very Robert Altman-like. Look for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Benicio del Toro in Traffic, but otherwise, Brockovich will represent Soderbergh in this year's races. 

Short Takes   

Get well and best wishes to Lois Fink, our pal and wife of Daily News gossip Mitchell Fink. Lois had a health scare over the holiday recess, but she's fine now, we are glad to report. 

R.I.P. Ray Walston, our favorite Martian, who entertained us from the days of South Pacific through his terrific stint as the judge on Picket Fences. What a career! Walston will live on and on in reruns, but I'll bet there's a whole cult of fans out there who remember his role as Mr. Hand in Cameron Crowe's Fast Times at Ridgemont High. 

Trivia buffs will note that the name of Walston's Picket Fences character was Judge Bone. The writers of these things must have seen him as sturdy, or essential. He was both, and he will be missed tremendously.