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Oscar Actress Shortage?

Oscar Actress Shortage? |  Brando: Schmearing Superman's Dad |  Is Tomorrow D-Day?

Oscar Actress Shortage?

Almost eight full months have passed in 2004, and there's one constant discussion among the entertainment press: Who will be the best actress nominees?

More than ever, there appears to be a shortage of candidates for women in lead roles.

So far the shortlist, which really is a short list, consists of Uma Thurman ("Kill Bill, Vol. 2"), Meryl Streep ("The Manchurian Candidate"), Gwyneth Paltrow ("Proof"), Laura Linney ("Kinsey"), Nicole Kidman ("Birth"), Renée Zellweger ("Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason"), Audrey Tautou ("A Very Long Engagement"), Regina King ("Ray"), Julia Roberts and/or Natalie Portman ("Closer"), and Reese Witherspoon ("Vanity Fair").

Of course, there's always the chance that Hilary Duff or Sarah Michelle Gellar will surprise everyone, but that's the list. It's not exactly extensive compared to the long line of guys, from Jamie Foxx to Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks , etc., who are already queuing up for envelopes and statues.

Are there really no stories left for women outside of the Lifetime network? It doesn't seem possible. There are plenty of great novels with female main characters. Maybe Hollywood should start adapting some of those!

Brando: Schmearing Superman's Dad

There are a lot of great recollections of Marlon Brando in the new issue of Premiere magazine, including Francis Ford Coppola 's tale that he only had Brando for 15 days of shooting on "Apocalypse Now" — "and five of them were spent discussing termites."

Diane Keaton credits Brando's acting method for helping her make the right choices as Annie Hall, Eva Marie Saint cites him for a brilliant moment in "On the Waterfront" and director Andrew Bergman tells of bribing him with candy to get takes on the set of "The Freshman."

But my favorite is director Richard Donner, talking about "Superman": "We're sitting around Brando's living room and finally he said: 'I think Jor-El should look like a bagel.' ... He said, 'Nobody really knows [what the inhabitants of Krypton] look like. Maybe they do look like a bagel but Jor-El creates his son [like an Earthling] so he'll look right.'

"And you know," Donner concludes, "it made sense."

Sony, Miramax: Is Tomorrow D-Day?

Friday may not be the best day for employees at Sony Music and Miramax Films, but at least they will know their respective futures.

Sony, which just merged with BMG Music, is rumored to be preparing over 1,000 pink slips. Already two major executives, in charge of international sales, are said to be gone or on their way out. They will be replaced by BMG execs who are consequently said to be packing boxes and readying themselves for a crosstown trip to the Sony building at 550 Madison Avenue.

I am also told that the merger may sweep away Sony Vice President Michelle Anthony, one of the last remaining soldiers from the era of deposed Sony leader Tommy Mottola . (See this column from January 10, 2003.)

Anthony, daughter of famed rock manager Dee Anthony, came to the company more than a dozen years ago as the former attorney of groups like Pearl Jam and Guns N' Roses.

But those groups and their hits are long ago in the past. As new Sony leader Andrew Lack continues to reshape the company, he must consider that it is not the powerhouse it once was, and that the dependable hit-makers of 1992 are not on the charts.

Right now, Sony's breakout hit group, Los Lonely Boys, is provided by an outside label, Or Music, which Sony distributes but does not own.

If Anthony leaves Sony, another Michelle Anthony is ready to take her place. A new pop singer, also named Michelle Anthony, is taking off right now with an album called "Stand Fall Repeat." I think that's what's called poetic justice.

BMG arrives at the Sony building with lots of hits under its belt and on the charts. The merger also comes with the greatest irony in the music business: the legend of Clive Davis, now head of BMG North America.

Davis presided over Columbia Records, now Sony, until he left under a cloud in 1974. When the cloud lifted, Davis started Arista at BMG and the rest is history. There can't be a sweeter vindication or neater closure to a story in the music business than Davis's return as one of Columbia Records' overlords.

It doesn't hurt that Davis's acts — Maroon 5, Alicia Keys, Luther Vandross, Gavin DeGraw  — are all over the charts and in the press, while Columbia is currently in a "down" cycle.

Meanwhile, Miramax may or may not go through with its expected downsizing tomorrow.

The layoffs, which I wrote about a few weeks ago and were highlighted again on Monday in the New York Post, are close at hand, I'm told. Right now the company has a larger staff than it did before its last cutbacks, in 2001.

At the same time, brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein continue their talks today with Disney's Michael Eisner about their futures and the future of the company. Miramax is Disney's annual standard-bearer at the Oscars, this year delivering potential nominees with "Finding Neverland," "The Aviator," "Proof" and "An Unfinished Life."