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Spielberg Movie a Brilliant Achievement

Minority Report | Denise Brown | Caroline Rhea

Spielberg Movie a Brilliant Achievement 

The folks at our parent company, 20th Century Fox, are no doubt relieved about the release of Minority Report, Steven Spielberg’s excellent new film. This column didn’t have any nice things to say about the second installment of Star Wars or about Unfaithful

But Minority Report is the kind of movie you hope and pray for. It’s Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence with all the bugs worked out. (Although it does have cute mechanical spiders.) It’s Tom Cruise’s Vanilla Sky with a good script. It has at least one, maybe two potential Oscar nominees in Samantha Morton and Lois Smith. The former plays a near-mute who sees the future. The latter—a vastly underrated veteran theatre, TV, and film actress—is cast as the pivotal member of the cast who explains what’s happening to Cruise. It’s serious, it’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s important. It’s smart. (Just witness Peter Stormare as a renegade surgeon.) You can’t ask for more than that. 

Minority Report joins Insomnia and Gangs of New York as serious end contenders for end of the year top 10 lists, Oscar nominations, the works. 

What’s really wonderful about Minority Report is that it’s a Tom Cruise movie in which Tom Cruise is just another good actor. He’s not the showstopper. The movie itself is the showstopper, a tour de force on the part of Spielberg. Here he’s integrated all the successful elements of AI, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Close Encounter, and E.T. What a pleasure to see extreme bits of the future mixed with the mundane. While Minority Report is science fiction, it’s also not preposterous. People wear jet packs but they still go to the mall, where "Moon River" is Muzaked over the loudspeaker system. We might actually look forward to that. 

Visually stunning in cinematographic terms and production design, Minority Report is a complicated reference at first. In the Washington, D.C., area circa 2054 the local police have had six years of no murders by relying on "Pre-cogs"—three semi-conscious people floating in a pool of water who see killings before they happen. The trio of clairvoyants do not always agree on what will happen, and the dissenting opinion is considered the "minority report." 

This report becomes crucial to police detective John Anderton, the Cruise character, when his future is foretold by the Pre-cogs. His destiny can be changed by a minority report, but that would mean actual contact with Agatha, the most accurate pre-cog. If I gave away more of the story you’d be upset and confused, so suffice to say that's the most important bit of information. 

Of all the technical wizardry employed in Minority Report, the most topical are the machines that read identification from eyes. What with airport security turning to eyes as fingerprints these days, the film now seems frighteningly prescient. Spielberg and his screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen could never have guessed when they were filming Minority Report last year how relevant their movie would become. 

One of the truly cool things about Minority Report is that it comes off as a piece of a trilogy that started with AI. Because it’s set only three years after the events of AI, MR sports similar vehicles and terrain. MR has references to both AI—the forest, trees from the Wizard of Oz, etc.—and to E.T. (a reference to the closet in Elliott’s bedroom). There are also cameo appearances by Cameron Crowe and Lucy Liu

Any quibbles? Only that the commercial plugs throughout the movie are intrusive and obnoxious: Revo sunglasses, Nokia, Aquavit water, and Guinness beer are just a few sponsors whom I will try to avoid in the coming season as a protest. It would have been wittier of Spielberg and the writers to come up with their own futuristic products and ads. How sad that this stuff will still be around in 53 years. 

Of course I would have loved to have asked Spielberg or Cruise about all this, but they decided not to entertain questions at their elegant movie premiere on Monday night. Instead they clung to a corner of the Cipriani catering space on 42nd St. Cruise seemed especially uninterested in dealing with the press, while Penelope Cruz—his sidekick, or whatever—was much more relaxed about greeting people. 

So go see Minority Report. See it twice just to absorb it. Like AI, it’s a work of art, and a lasting one at that. It’s Steven Spielberg at his most creative and most fully realized. And while his auteur’s tics—happy endings, blissful suburban existence—are there, Spielberg has gone to the next level in a game where he’s been ahead anyway for years. At this point, how about Spielberg directing the next episode of Star Wars? George Lucas, I hope you’re listening.

Nicole Simpson's Sister Takes Charity's Funds 

It’s called the Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation. But in fact, the charity that was founded in 1994 in memory of the murdered ex wife of O.J. Simpson should be called the Denise Brown Charitable Foundation. 

That’s because according to its IRS filing for 2000, the organization paid Denise $22,000 to be its director. By contrast it disbursed a mere $2,000 in actual charity—divided among five groups who help abused women and children. 

It’s not like the group didn’t receive money from donors. It took in $69,171, most of which were the proceeds from a charity polo match held in September 2000 at the Will Rogers Polo Club in Pacific Palisades, California. The charity’s Web site features a bunch of pictures of society airheads enjoying the afternoon activities with Denise Brown. Little did they know their money was going to Denise’s pockets. 

Denise’s salary for being director of the almost non-existent charity isn’t a lot, but it vividly demonstrates what her charity has been used for in the years since Nicole and Ron Goldman were murdered on June 12, 1994. This column has been reporting exclusively for the last three years that Denise has been the biggest beneficiary of the tax-free status afforded charities. 

Indeed, according to the filing, in 2000 the foundation had another $26,740 in expenses including $14,448 in miscellaneous "event expenses." It also had a phone bill of $2,958. This means the group spent $958 more on phone calls than it did on battered women and kids. 

But such is the story of the incredibly unsympathetic Brown family, which sold Nicole and O.J. Simpson’s wedding video for $49.99 back in the days following O.J.’s arrest. They also kept a file of personal photos for which they charged fees to news outlets like the Enquirer and Star

Calls to the Nicole Brown Simpson Foundation were not returned.

Yea for Caroline Rhea 

Some other celebs spotted at the Cipriani were Christian Slater and wife Ryan, director Brian dePalma, Joaquin Phoenix, Jill Hennessey, Josh Hamilton, Kristin Davis, Sam Rockwell (who’s about to break out in both Welcome to Collinwood and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). 

We also ran into Caroline Rhea, who’s using the summer to get ready for the fall launch of her talk show—the one that succeeds Rosie O’Donnell. Caroline has two big crushes—one on Benicio del Toro and the other on her favorite band, Barenaked Ladies. Expect a more straight-ahead show with Caroline, but one that I think will be just as successful as Rosie’s. Maybe even more so. She told me that in her last episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch—she played Sabrina’s aunt—her character was married off and now lives in the witch netherworld. "It’s called syndication," Caroline said. "But even without the talk show I would have moved on. It was time to go after six seasons." 

Caroline toiled away at the Minority Report premiere getting commitments from actors to appear on the talk show. "Am I crazy? I tried talking to Steven Spielberg, but no words came out!’ 

I trust that she will find the right words by Labor Day. Like Rosie, Caroline has also has pet charities. Hers are the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Coalition for the Homeless. Expect to hear a lot about both in the coming months.

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