I called Interscope Records last week to get a review copy of U2's new album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."
A nice girl in publicity said she would send it to me when copies came in. But you know, I didn't have to wait that long. "Dismantle" is on the Internet.
Even a 47-year-old like me who was raised on vinyl records was eventually able to figure out how to download it. I was even able to burn a CD so I could play it in my car.
The album is not set for release until Nov. 23. But if I have it, you can only imagine how many others do too.
Someone had better tell Interscope that the record business has changed.
"Dismantle" is, as you may be aware, part of a huge merchandising campaign with Apple Computer for its iPod players. You can get an iPod with the album pre-loaded in a special limited edition with the band's autographs carved into its back cover.
Whatever. I know you can hook an iPod or any other portable player up to big speakers, which is what I did with my Creative Labs Zen Touch. Either way, it's still best to listen to "Dismantle" through a regular stereo, which I also did.
The true mark of any U2 album is the signature ballad, which isn't always the first, third or fourth track. Think "With or Without You," "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)," "One," "Stuck in a Moment."
On the new CD, the group does not disappoint. I advise you to go straight to the penultimate track, No. 10, for "Original of the Species."
It would be impossible to find a lovelier, more melodic anthem on any album released in 2004. If U2 had made the Sept. 30 Grammy cutoff, "Species" might have been the song of the year. It will have to wait until 2006.
There are other memorable moments that make "Dismantle" a solid, if not great album.
"Vertigo" is a strong rocking opener, and "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" — the "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" of this collection — contains what seems like a little falsetto riff for Neil Young and was inspired by Bono's late father. This and "Species" seem like the natural choices for singles after "Vertigo."
If anything, "Dismantle" seems less complicated than U2's previous album, the award-winning "All That You Can't Leave Behind." The songs feel shorter, punchier and more designed for radio play than ever before.
More importantly, at least to rock's most commercially disposed group since The Rolling Stones, "Dismantle" should enter the charts with a bang at No. 1 when the numbers are tallied the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Make no mistake: Michael Moore is seriously going to try to get his "Fahrenheit 9/11" nominated for Best Picture.
Moore was a guest last night at the premiere of Terry George's beautifully done "Hotel Rwanda," along with Daniel Day-Lewis, Susan Sarandon and Willem Dafoe.
The characteristically slovenly Moore was sans his trademark baseball hat and sported a great haircut as he stumped for Academy support.
"The screeners go out this week and we have a great idea for an Oscar campaign," Moore said. "Now you can make your vote really count."
The appeal is obviously to blue-state voters. Moore is counting on Academy votes coming mostly from California and New York — and wanting to make a statement about the election.
He said that the film has already sold about 4 million DVDs and taken in roughly $250 million around the globe, which is great for any film, but extraordinary for a documentary or non-fiction film. The total worldwide box office has hit $218 million.
"Name one other movie you've seen this year that you felt as passionate about," he said.
I was indeed able to rattle off a few, including "Sideways," "Finding Neverland," "House of Flying Daggers," "Motorcycle Diaries" and the magnificently understated "Hotel Rwanda."
But he's right about one thing: 2004 has not produced a great crop of Oscar films, and "Fahrenheit" has a better chance of getting a foothold than it might have had in previous years.
And what about that other big controversial movie, "The Passion of the Christ"?
"It won't happen," Moore said authoritatively. "Because Bush won and the point has been made."
He might be right. Amazon.com is listing the Mel Gibson epic at No. 123 and "Fahrenheit" at No. 31, indicating that even as the holidays approach, "The Passion" has not been as popular a gift as many would have predicted.
Look for cinematographer Caleb Deschanel to get a nomination, though, no matter what happens.
And just a word about the leading lady in "Hotel Rwanda," Sophie Okenedo .
I told you last week she's a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. I had the pleasure of meeting the tall, young, beautiful actress last night and found out a couple of things. The British-born Okenedo is — are you ready for this — half Jewish and half Nigerian.
"I was raised Jewish," she said.
Okenedo's confession prompted an automatic proposal from this reporter. I think that's when they called security.
When you see Sophie doing interviews tomorrow on all the TV shows, she will be wearing a Christian Dior original dress. It was sent by this year's Oscar winner, Charlize Theron, who's shooting a movie with Sophie as we speak.
"We've become great friends," Sophie said.
Meryl Streep promised me Saturday night, just before the annual dinner for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, that she was going to give her pal Kevin Kline his award, and some hell, when she got up on stage. She wasn't kidding.
When it came time for La Streep to do her thing, she made some startling confessions about Kline in front of an audience that included Mary Tyler Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (who came over from Star Jones' wedding extravaganza), Wyclef Jean and his talented designer wife Claudinette, producer Jean Doumanian, Dr. Bob Arnot, "The Sopranos"' Steve Schirripa ("Bobby Bacala") and Kline's wife Phoebe Cates.
Streep let it slip that during the shooting of their classic film "Sophie's Choice," Kline had a few peccadilloes.
"He liked to use my makeup kit," Streep said, before dishing out a few more tidbits from their landmark 1984 film.
That was one of several revelations at the swanky black-tie Juvenile Diabetes Dinner held in what we like to call the Whale Room of the Museum of Natural History.
I had a much more serious conversation with JDRF International Chairman Mary Tyler Moore, who looked incredibly elegant and beautiful as always, but had a couple of confessions to make. One is that she's a self-described moderate Republican who believes in stem-cell research and is pro-choice, but also thinks tax cuts are the way to stimulate the economy.
More importantly, Moore — who is celebrating her 21st wedding anniversary next month with Dr. Robert Levine — conceded that diabetes has taken a toll on her health. Her eyesight is indeed imperiled, although she is not "blind" — so tabloid editors can back off of that angle.
She recently had special laser surgery, but the impression I got was that it wasn't 100 percent successful. This is a courageous, tough lady, and she deserves all the credit in the world for battling this disease publicly.
We'll see Mary soon on PBS, by the way, doing some travelogue factoids, but she's taking it easy right now as far as movies and TV are concerned. Considering her raft of Emmys and her Oscar nomination, she has every right to kick back.
But consider that when our Mary married Dr. Levine in 1983, every tongue wagged that it wouldn't last.
"They really said that," Mary reminded me.
The two met when Levine, then a practicing cardiologist who was a generation younger than Mary, cared for her ailing dad. So what was the magic?
"We get along very well," Mary said while Levine hovered and nodded in assent. "He's very good at making decisions, and I don't know what I'm doing."
Well, I disagree. She certainly does know what she's doing.
As for Streep, she's just finished up her film "Prime" with Uma Thurman, but starts an even more exciting project with Robert Altman in March. She joins the cast of his "fictional" film about Garrison Keillor's radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion."
Meryl and Lily Tomlin will play a singing act in the film, and they will really do their own numbers. Lyle Lovett and Tom Waits are already cast, and knowing Altman, there will be plenty more performers and actors in the finished film.
The JDRF dinner raised a record $3 million, more than ever before, thanks to co-chairs Harvey and Eve Chilton Weinstein. The unofficial theme of the night was certainly peace, love, and understanding, since the Weinsteins were one of two divorced couples (the other being Sale and Woody Johnson) who arrived together, took a lot of pictures together and showed off what seems to be a very happy post-marriage relationship.