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On March 25, 2001, host Steve Martin opened the Oscars with this bon mot, a curse of sorts: "This show is being watched by roughly a billion people around the world, and everyone is thinking the exact same thing: That we're all gay."
Almost five years later, Martin's trenchant observation may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The most awarded movie of the new season (so far) is Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," in which two cowboys make John Wayne spin in his grave by falling in love and having sex.
The likely Best Actress winner, and certain nominee? Felicity Huffman as a pre-operative transsexual in "Transamerica."
The likely Best Actor winner, and certain nominee? Philip Seymour Hoffman as writer Truman Capote, who devoured young men as appetizers.
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Hoffman's portrayal of the fey, conflicted Capote is a tour de force. Huffman's playing of a man who dresses as a woman and wants to be one is similarly a role for the ages.
Most of the women I know in the entertainment press cannot stop raving to me about "Brokeback Mountain."
"It's so sensitive," one said. "I cried," several others have said.
So far, no straight men have reported back about the movie. But gay friends, of course, love it, love it, love it. It's won both the New York and Los Angeles film-critics associations' prizes, and now has seven Golden Globe nominations as well.
Of course, all of this has played out so far only on the coasts. Will "Brokeback" make it into the suburbs and up into the hills? Will Memphis, Oklahoma City, Hartford and Pittsburgh embrace it as enthusiastically? How about Larchmont, Grosse Point, Scottsdale and River Oaks? We won't know until Jan. 8, when "Brokeback" goes for broke in wide release.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of Oscar-worthy movies getting a late start out of the gate. With a slightly longer campaign schedule than last year — the Oscar ceremony will be held on March 5 — these films may have a chance to wedge their way into the mix.
They include Fox's Diane Keaton-Sarah Jessica Parker double pleasure in "The Family Stone"; Sony Pictures Classics' directorial debut by Tommy Lee Jones, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"; and DreamWorks' excellent Woody Allen movie, "Match Point."
It's possible that audiences tired of the "Brokeback" cavalcade, and who've already seen George Clooney's slightish "Good Night, and Good Luck," will find this trio more attractive as the holiday season plays out.
Word of mouth can always affect Oscar voting, often more than Golden Globe nominations and wins do.
Then, too, there's the late-entry certain nominee, "Munich," directed by Steven Spielberg.
This film is probably not yet on a lot of moviegoers' radars yet, but it's about to be sprung big-time on the public.
Released almost too late for the various early critics' groups to absorb, "Munich" should be much discussed and debated as Oscar voters are looking over their ballots.
On Sunday, "Munich" producer Kathleen Kennedy privately screened the movie in Tel Aviv for two of the widows of the 11 members of the Israeli wrestling team killed at the 1972 Olympics. They both endorsed it.
Ilana Romano told Israeli reporters: "It was important that the film does no dishonor to the memory of the murdered athletes, nor to the image of the State of Israel. Both my criteria were satisfied."
I'm told that Universal is deep into the marketing campaign right now, working on knockout ads and posters with Steven Spielberg's office at Amblin Entertainment.
There was a fear that Universal might back off of "Munich" now that Spielberg and co. are headed to Paramount with the DreamWorks buyout.
But insiders say that Universal is more dedicated than ever to making "Munich" work. I hope so. It would be a shame if critics with agendas soured the audience before they can see Spielberg's exceptional, thoughtful thriller.
Here's a neat little deal concerning the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the controversial group of around 90 people that gives out the Golden Globes.
Every year since 1991, the Publicists Guild has given out an award called the Publicists International Media Award. It goes to international journalists of merit. It also gives out a domestic prize. In the case of the latter award, the names are usually recognizable to us.
But the international award is different. And 10 times out of the last 14, the award has gone to a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
What makes this curious is that since the Publicists merged their union with the International Cinematographers Guild in 2002, the HFPA has made a nice charitable donation to the ICG every year. In 2003-2004, they sent nearly $3,000.
Michael Russell, the PR rep for the HPFA, points out that his group is very charitable. He says that for 2005 the group gave away $2.5 million.
"That's just a drop in the bucket," he said of the union donation.
One could deduce from this that the HFPA — searching for some kind of legitimacy — ponies up to the union and in effect buys an award for one of its members. In 1993 it went to Jorge Camara, a longtime member who once published an interview with Trini Alvarado.
Two years ago, in 2003, Anita Weber, now 88 and still, quite remarkably, an active Globes voter, won the award. Weber fell and broke her pelvis while walking toward the buffet table at the 2003 Focus Features Golden Globe after-party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. She sued, according to Web site Film Stew.
She told the site later that year:
"I'm probably the fourth-oldest member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Sylvia Norris [United Kingdom], who just died, was 90. Then there's Sven Rye [Denmark], who was once the Danish vice-consul in Los Angeles. He's in a rest home facility now but is a dear, sweet, adorable man. Finally, Gloria Geale [United Kingdom] is a few months older than I."
Argentina Brunetti, who's 91 and lives in Italy with her family, is still older than Weber among active members. Howard Lucraft is also still listed as active. He would be 89 this year.
Meanwhile, we're still looking for former Mr. World and Russian bodybuilder Alexander Nevsky (real name Sasha Kurtisyn), also an active member of the HFPA, and our favorite name among the group's many exotic and often real people.
You will be happy to know that HFPA members are doing very well outside the organization.
When not screening films or going on press junkets, HFPA board member Mahfouz Doss reportedly is an engineer by training. Bangladeshi Munawar Hussein, according to a report, sells television appliances in Burbank. Mira Panajotovic Vukelich is an English teacher who markets a user-friendly CD called "Empowered English." Meher Tetna is an Indian actress who has three acting credits, the most recent playing a matchmaker on Alicia Silverstone's failed series, "Miss Match."
I hope you've seen Premiere Magazine's current issue with newly svelte "King Kong" director Peter Jackson and star Naomi Watts on the cover. It's the biggest issue in Premiere's history, with more ad pages than ever. The issue also contains a very cool ad for the Mini Cooper.
On the back page, Dame Judi Dench says she surprised Harvey Weinstein when she told him she'd had his name tattooed "on my bum" — and then showed it to him at lunch at the Four Seasons"
I am proud to tell you, dear readers, that "Only the Strong Survive," the documentary I co-produced about classic soul, will debut on VH1 at 11 p.m. EST and PST Thursday night. D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus directed, and because of that the film was an official selection of the 2002 Cannes, Sundance and Telluride Film Festivals.
What the Pennebakers didn't tell me when we were filming was that they were planning to include yours truly on camera. Thus you will see me wearing Old Navy cargo shorts and other unfashionable items on screen.
But the movie is about the great and talented R&B legends who never get enough publicity. Rare moments include Mary Wilson of the Supremes singing "Someday We'll Be Together," and the late Rufus Thomas in one of his last performances, with daughter Carla Thomas on "Night Time Is the Right Time."
Sam Moore, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, The Chi-Lites, Ann Peebles and Jerry Butler also perform and tell their stories.