I spoke to famed director Roman Polanski this morning just moments after the Golden Globe nominations were announced. His latest film, The Pianist, was chosen among the five nominees for Best Motion Picture Drama. The actor from that film, Adrien Brody, was also recognized for Best Actor nomination.
"I'm thrilled," Polanski said, sounding very relieved. "That's terrific, that's great," he said. "You're always very happy when your work is recognized." He told me that he was also pleased about Brody. "He worked so hard, it was tough for him. He deserves the compensation."
The Pianist, which tells the story of real life Polish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, also recounts Polanski's experiences in the Warsaw ghetto and subsequent uprising. It's a personal, elegiac work of enormous scope.
In the last few days, both the Boston and San Francisco Film Critics societies have named The Pianist as their Best Picture.
"Boston is really very prestigious," Polanski told me, "and so is San Francisco. I'm very happy about those too."
Unfortunately, the director will not be able to come to the U.S. to receive those awards since he still has charges pending against him from a 20-year-old charge of sleeping with a minor. Many in the Hollywood community would like to see those charges dropped now. The woman involved, now 33, has also suggested in magazine articles that they should be dismissed.
As for the Golden Globes, besides The Pianist, this group has really cleaned up its act, and I'm impressed. Some nominations were expected. All the actor and actress nominations in the drama category were near perfect, although I do think ultimately Diane Lane will drop out of Best Actress for the Oscars and Catherine Zeta-Jones (see below) will move to supporting, leaving the five top spots to Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep (The Hours), Salma Hayek and Renee Zellweger.
I did appreciate, however, the Hollywood Foreign Press's interest in Burr Steers' excellent Igby Goes Down. The film got two acting nominations — Kieran Culkin and Susan Sarandon. The latter, I think, will repeat right into the Oscars.
And two of the Best Score nominations were excellent as well — Elliot Goldenthal for Frida and Elmer Bernstein for Far from Heaven. Each of those will transfer over for the Oscars. Bernstein, an Academy favorite, sent out a message via his publicist this morning thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press and director Todd Haynes.
So, let the games begin!
Forgive me for kvelling a little too much on this one, but Rob Marshall's Chicago, which opens Dec. 27, is a hit. This morning it picked up eight Golden Globe nominations. The Oscars are next, and I don't think much can stand in its way. Last night Chicago premiered here in New York and it was pandemonium at the Ziegfeld Theatre. It didn't hurt that many in the audience had appeared either in the movie or in a production of the Kander-Ebb musical at some point. It was the first time anyone could remember a premiere audience at the Ziegfeld singing and clapping along with a movie.
Stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John C. Reilly, Taye Diggs, and Queen Latifah were all there, along with Marshall and writer Bill Condon. Richard Gere couldn't attend, we were told, because he was opening a pediatric AIDS clinic in India. So make that three major stars in three days who missed their premieres (Julianne Moore, Denzel Washington). This was the best excuse yet.
The three main stars of this movie are so unexpectedly good -- and do all their singing and dancing -- that at the end of the credits there is actually a card stating that they all did their own work. That's a first, right there.
David Jones, Catherine's dad, told me later: "She's been doing it since was nine. She played in front of 3000 people with a full orchestra. When I went backstage, she said, Go out front, dad. I'm going to kill 'em tonight."
Indeed Catherine (Zeta was her grandmother's name which she added to avoid confusion with other Catherine Joneses) killed last night, lighting up the screen as she opened the show with "All that Jazz."
Her husband, Michael Douglas, who has never looked happier or better, told me he wasn't surprised. "When I first met her she put on taps and wanted to tap in my living room. I wouldn't let her because I had nice hardwood floors. So went into the bathroom and she showed me what she could do."
That was when he knew she was the girl for him.
Catherine is a "lock" for a Best Supporting Actress nomination, just as Renee Z is for Best Actress. But my favorite player in the movie is John C. Reilly, who plays Renee's dim husband. His rendition of "Mr. Cellophane" is terrific and should probably put him in Oscar territory as well. Reilly is in three movies this season — Chicago, Gangs of New York, and Far from Heaven. In two of them he plays a cheated-on husband.
"They should have a special award for Best Cuckold," Reilly joked. But no joke — he's the modern Karl Malden, seemingly able to do anything.
Other guests who poured into Chicago and came out tapping their feet and whistling: Jerry Orbach, the original song and dance man; Bob Balaban and wife Lynn Grossman; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind star Sam Rockwell; Marisa Berenson; director Jim Sheridan and writer Terry George; and George Clooney, who swept into the Chicago dinner at Brasserie 8 ½ and swept Renee Zellweger out for a night of fun and frolicking at one of Rande Gerber's nightspots.
Of the many interesting encounters at the star-studded event last night, a memorable one was Queen Latifah meeting Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City.
"I use your book!" Latifah told Kim, who of course plays the randy Samantha on the HBO show. Cattrall, who wrote a sex book with husband Mark Levinson, was very pleased.
"That stuff works," Latifah told her. "We've tried some of it out."
Lucky for Latifah, Cattrall and Levinson are working on a follow-up book and a documentary.
Meanwhile, Chicago producer Marty Richards, who's been trying to make the Broadway show into a film since Jimmy Carter was president, told me that only one scene cut from the movie will make the DVD version. "It was Catherine and Queen Latifah singing a duet," he said, "but the pacing was wrong and it didn't work. It killed us to cut it. But you'll see it eventually."
As for QL, I am so glad she gave up that talk show and has returned to movies and to singing. Ever since she appeared in Living Out Loud, it was obvious this is what she was made for. Now, in addition to doing one of the voices in Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio, she has executive produced an April release called Bringing Down the House. She co-stars with Steve Martin, and if the execution of it as is good as the concept it should be very funny.
All hail Queen Latifah, who gets one huge memorable production number in Chicago. Every other film that's come out this month has been good in its own way, but each one is also quirky and perhaps not mainstream. Chicago is the across the board breakout film. (It's a Miramax movie in a season of Miramax movies, and I say that even though I co-produced a documentary there.) Rob Marshall has figured out a way to modernize the Broadway musical for film audiences without losing any of the original flavor. You'll want to see it a second time just to feel good.
The statisticians in the record business were scratching their heads yesterday and cleaning out their pocket protectors. Whitney Houston somehow gained 25,000 sales when Nielsen/SoundScan counted her JustWhitney album for Billboard this week. Their total was 205,000.
However: Hitsdailydouble.com, which counts albums just as religiously, put Houston at 177,000 copies.
The difference is significant. Because of the SoundScan numbers, Billboard ranked the album at No. 9 for the week. Hits ranked it at No. 15.
What's interesting about this is that I am told internal projections at Arista, Whitney's label, put her at 175,000 copies. They were apparently more surprised than anyone at the SoundScan results.
So who is right?
"It's an accounting error," says one of the album counters who shall not be named. "It's not like there are 25,000 extra customers. It's because R&B records are harder to count at independent stores. That's the answer."
Well, it's an answer, but an unclear one. And after listening to a bunch of these people for two hours yesterday, I can tell you no one is tampering with these numbers. They are all too caught up in the process, like baseball statisticians. This is not like the story last week about a record label double counting their sales.
After hearing all this, I will tell you that Houston is right now projected by this gang to drop 35 percent next week. The same people see Mariah Carey holding steady or doing a little better than the 170,000 copies she sold last week. The big holiday movers are Shania Twain and Norah Jones.
"They're impulse Christmas purchases," said my observer.
As for Whitney, Christmas sales will tell the tale. It's likely that she sold somewhere in the middle of the two disputed numbers, closer to 185,000. We'll know better next Tuesday.