Eminem | Roman Polanski | Pentagon Papers | Freddie Roman | Oscars | Time Out

Eminem's New Album Half a Million Strong

Eminem's soundtrack album to his movie, 8 Mile, will hit the charts at No. 1 this week. But more importantly, it will do so with at least 500,000 copies sold. And there's a chance that number will be up around 600,000.

I know he's popular, but I don't get it. Nevertheless, a lot of people do, which if translated into movie tickets could mean big stuff for 8 Mile and director Curtis Hanson. The movie opens on Friday around the country.

The 8 Mile soundtrack sold 2-to-1 over the new Christina Aguilera album, which still should do numbers in the 250,000 range. Not bad, so I guess getting down and dirty for her photo shots got Aguilera what she wanted.

Albums that didn't exactly jump off the shelves were those by Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and by Shaggy, who had a couple of big novelty hits last year. Carter will not even finish in the Top 10, while Rod Stewart, who is twice his age and then some, will probably have a second week there with his Great American Songbook .

Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers), by the way, still has his Eminem Show album in the Top 10, and will move about 50,000 of those this week too. Does this mean there are hundreds of thousands of people in cars, bobbing their heads back and forth and repeating Eminem's lyrics while they wait at red lights? It's hard to believe, isn't it?

Chinatown Director Polanski: Vanity Unfair

Vanity Fair is in a bit of trouble.

Famed director Roman Polanski, whose credits include this year's Cannes Film Festival winner The Pianist as well as such movie classics as Chinatown, Tess, and Rosemary's Baby, is taking legal action against the Conde Nast magazine in Britain for defamation.

The reason? Polanski objects to an anecdote in a long piece by A. E. Hotchner in the September 2002 issue. The story is a history of the famed Elaine's restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In the piece, Hotchner claims that Polanski -- right after the 1968 murder of his wife, actress Sharon Tate, by the Manson family -- stopped by Elaine's and hit on some women. The implication is that he was not in mourning.

Polanski not only denies the accusation, but has already had several friends who were with him at the time give depositions in London.

Among those friends are producers Victor Lownes and Andrew Braunsberg. Lownes told me last week that he arranged for Polanski's passport and visa after the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders, and put him on the plane for Europe.

"He did not go to New York or to Elaine's," Lownes insists.

The reason Polanski has sued Vanity Fair publisher Conde Nast in England: He still can't return to the United States without fear of prosecution for having sex with an underage girl more than 20 years ago. Since then, even the girl -- now a grown woman -- has changed her story, but the law is the law. Polanski, now 69 years old, can't chance a jail term.

But how tragic this really is can only be summed up by watching Polanski's The Pianist. The Cannes winner, which Focus (formerly USA Films) will release here next month, is a brilliant re-telling of the true story of the Warsaw ghetto through the eyes of a musician in hiding.

American actor Adrien Brody, who has had good roles in Liberty Heights and other films, finally gets to show off his immense talent in this part as Wiadyslaw Szpilman. Watching the transformation of Brody/Szpilman from dapper star of Warsaw to emaciated survivor is absolutely riveting and frightening. It's right up there as a performance with those of Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt), Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs of New York), Campbell Scott (Roger Dodger), and Dennis Quaid (Far From Heaven ) as the best of the year.

Calls to Hotchner, who is best known for writing Ernest Hemingway's biography and for being partners with Paul Newman in his salad dressing/spaghetti sauce charity business, were not returned.

Pentagon Papers: Strange Timing? 

We're about to hear the story of the Pentagon Papers once again. This time, it's a made-for-TV movie with high production values, set for broadcast on the burgeoning F/X network next month.

James Spader plays Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the documentation of the Pentagon's secret war in Vietnam to New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan. On June 30, 1971, after having been restrained by President Nixon, the Times and the Washington Post got the Supreme Court to allow them to publish the papers. Paul Giamatti plays Anthony Russo, who helped Ellsberg and actually went to jail after refusing to cooperate with a Nixon grand jury.

Will The Pentagon Papers broadcast make an impact, or will it be just another blip on the 400-channel box? It will be interesting to see if young people, especially, are motivated to try and find parallels between the politics of 1971 and of 2002.

Roman Holiday for Freddie

Did you know that Alan Kirschenbaum, the son of Friars dean Freddie Roman, produces Yes, Dear for CBS? I just found that out.

On Sunday night I had the pleasure of watching Freddie deliver a 40-minute G-rated, much-edited set in front of some nice suburban folks in Connecticut. Forget Renee Zellweger. He really had me at hello.

Comedy is timing and knowing your audience. Roman (he claims Alan and everyone else in the family changed the name to Kirschenbaum) is an underrated genius. Some jokes you've heard, some never before. You don't forget them, but you feel so much better when he's finished. It's like medicine without the co-pay.

If you get the chance, catch Freddie's show Catskills on Broadway as he tours with it. Next stop is Philadelphia and then down to Florida for the winter. You will not be disappointed.

And a note for the Friars: It's time that people like Jerry Seinfeld and Jon Stewart come be part of the group. And next year, Roman agrees, we have to see stalwarts like Dick Capri, Jeff Ross and Susie Essman back on the dais at the annual Comedy Central roast. They're the cleanup hitters, and you can't play the game without them.

Too Much Oscar Kvetching

I read with some bemusement yesterday's New York Times and Wall Street Journal stories about Miramax and the Oscars. (Another article, due shortly, will appear in The New Yorker.) A lot of studio people gripe in these pieces about Miramax saving all their films for Oscar time.

If I were at Paramount, Sony/Columbia Universal, Warner Bros., or Disney, I'd be more concerned that these places no longer matter when it comes to the Oscars. Isn't this weird? This year, in all likelihood, Miramax will garner two Best Picture nominations (Chicago, Gangs of New York). Dreamworks, a seven-year-old enterprise, may also have a pair (Road to Perdition, Catch Me If You Can), leaving the fifth slot to New Line Cinema (About Schmidt, Lord of the Rings: Two Towers). If there are spoilers, they belong to Sony Pictures Classics' Almodovar film, Talk to Her, and to Focus Features' The Pianist (see above).

Is there any wonder that the people who make such commercial yet unsatisfying fare as Sweet Home Alabama, Rush Hour 2 and Jackass are unhappy? Don't you know going in that The Sweetest Thing is simply junk? It can't be a secret, unless people in Hollywood are completely deluded.

I think Dreamworks is a good study case in point for these monolith studios. Invented in 1995, this little enterprise now has two-and-a-half Best Picture winners (American Beauty, Gladiator and half of A Beautiful Mind). All these movies have made money, attracted large audiences and gone on to significant lives in DVD. What else can you ask for? They'll add two more notches to their belts this fall, excluding Minority Report, one of the best movies of the year that is/isn't theirs. (It was made by a Dreamworks partner but released by Fox.)

On Oscar night we will all make the rounds -- but not even to Warner's, which sent Insomnia, their one opportunity, drifting into the dead of night. Not to Universal, Paramount, Disney or Columbia either. Instead of complaining, maybe these execs should start thinking about why they're making movies at all. And why they continue to miss out on the March madness.

Break Time

This column is taking some much-needed rest. See you next Monday, from Hollywood! In some cities this weekend, Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven opens. Everyone asks me, "What should I see this weekend?" Now you have Heaven, Frida, Roger Dodger, Mike Leigh's All or Nothing, and Igby Goes Down. No more kvetching, please!