'Walk the Line' Snubbed | Jacko: New Lawyers Mock Old Ones | R&B World: Scandals and Sadness | Dionne Redux: She's a Heartbreaker | Lick Roy Orbison

Oscar Snubs Johnny Cash Movie

The Motion Picture Academy has announced its five nominees for Best Picture, and "Walk the Line" is not among them.

This is a big surprise and a major snub: The James Mangold-directed feature about the lives of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy and has just crossed the $100 million mark at the box office. It got uniformly positive reviews as well.

The spoiler here was Paul Haggis’ "Crash," a film with interlocking stories about a group of Los Angelenos. A critical favorite when it was released last spring, "Crash" disappeared for a while. But Lions Gate, its distributor, went on an all-out campaign to make sure every living, breathing voter in every category saw their film on DVD.

Two days ago, when "Crash" won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Acting, it was clear that Lions Gate had had a lot of success getting their message across. Now "Crash" is in, and "Walk the Line" is out.

Despite not being nominated for Best Picture, "Walk the Line" did pick up two nods for acting, for lead actors Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon will now go head to head with Felicity Huffman, of "Transamerica," in a coin flip to see who’s Best Actress. But with "Walk the Line" severely defeated, Huffman now has a stronger shot at the prize.

Otherwise, the 2005 Oscar nominations are not that exciting. The odds on favorite to win Best Picture remains "Brokeback Mountain," which is fine, but predictable considering the awards shows that have preceded it.

"Brokeback" is also the only nominated film in the box office top 10. "Crash" is already on DVD, and the three others — "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Munich" and "Capote" — are in the middle or end of their runs.

It’s unlikely that "Brokeback" can be beaten, but you never know. Maybe some marketing genius has an idea for making a huge push over the next two weeks of voting. We’ll see.

Jacko: New Lawyers Mock Old Ones

The revolving door of lawyers in the kooky world of Michael Jackson has gotten a little stranger lately.

Evidently off the case — and all cases — is Brent Ayscough, partner of loose cannon Brian Oxman. Also out is Michael Sydow of Houston, who was helping Thomas Mesereau in some of Jackson’s lawsuits. All of them were “finds” of Randy Jackson, Michael’s brother.

In, at least for now: Thomas C. Mundell of Westlake Village, Calif. I’m sure Mr. Mundell is a very good attorney, but for a pop superstar he’s not exactly Century City. Alas, Jackson has used everyone in Century City, Beverly Hills and its adjacent areas, so Westlake Village was next.

Mundell looks like a tough customer. He’s already filed a motion in court mocking all of Jackson’s previous reps. He writes that Ayscough has been “uncooperative” and refuses to turn over Jackson’s files.

He also says that certain points so far in Marc Schaffel’s lawsuit with Jackson were Ayscough’s fault and that Sydow “has been hard to reach.” Sydow, Mundell says, “has been absolutely no help in filing this motion.”

And what of Jackson? Yesterday he left Hamburg for Munich as we predicted, but is not expected back in Bahrain until Feb. 10. None of his people have been able to reach him at all and no one knows where he is, exactly.

Certain papers have to be signed by him in these ongoing cases. A hopeful Mundell writes to the judge: “Because Jackson lives in the Middle East, it can sometimes take a little longer to reach him that it would to reach a local party.”

R&B World: Scandals and Sadness

The often self-defeating world of soul music took another hit this weekend, and in tragedy new questions must be asked.

Famed R&B performer-songwriter Gene McFadden died on Friday after a long battle with cancer. The 56-year-old co-authored many classic hits from the world of Philly soul, including those memorable songs sung by Teddy Pendergrass as lead singer with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Bad Luck,” “Back Stabbers,” “Where Are All My Friends” and “Wake Up Everybody,” as well as the Intruders’ “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” and the famous record McFadden recorded under his own name with his late partner, John Whitehead: “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”

It’s kind of shocking that McFadden died on the same day that another great, Wilson Pickett, was buried at age 64 in Louisville, Ky. The R&B world has the worst mortality rate of any in show business, and I wish I knew why. It’s tragic. We are all the losers in the steady stream of early deaths.

R&B is also the most ripped-off of all the show biz genres. I do hope that the heirs of McFadden and Whitehead are getting their proper royalties. Who knows what deals they made over the years, but thanks to a 1927 law, all rights now automatically revert to their heirs.

It isn’t easy to collect. Several years ago, another Philadelphia International artist, Billy Paul, of “Me and Mrs. Jones” fame, won $500,000 in unpaid royalties when he sued the two owners of that label, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Because there was a statute of limitations, Paul was only eligible for royalties dating back to 1994. Everything prior to that had been lost to him.

The judge in the “Me and Mrs. Jones” case concluded that other PI artists were eligible to do the same if they hadn’t been paid. Unnecessarily, Billy Paul wound up paying Artists Rights bounty hunter Chuck Rubin 50 percent of his winnings.

That’s 20 percent more than an attorney would have charged on contingency — a reputable attorney takes only a third of winnings.

Ironically, somehow, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation — which all but went bankrupt in the last couple of years and may be in violation of its charter — is now in the hands of Gamble and Huff, who are said to be planning some kind of event in June similar to the lamented Pioneer Awards, the old event that went belly up under a since-fired extravagant administrator.

Putting the Foundation in the hands of Gamble and Huff now does seem like letting the foxes watch the hen house.

What’s happened to the Rhythm and Blues Foundation is a mystery that requires some kind of investigation on the part of the state of New York. But New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer’s office also has to unravel what’s happened over the last seven years to the fund balances, say critics of the Foundation’s leaders, and it should be done immediately before any more money is collected or disbursed.

Among those who may have some answers: Atlanta attorney Kendall Minter and Long Island attorney L. Benet McMillan, who have held the books for several years.

The Foundation first ran aground under poor management after a blowout 1999 awards show in Los Angeles and it has never recovered. By the 2003 ceremony, winners of the Pioneer Awards went home with empty envelopes and no promised honorariums. The money had to be made up by sympathetic superstars who donated funds to make up the difference and ease the embarrassment.

According to its 2003-2004 federal tax filing, the last one available, the errant Foundation said it gave “grants” to R&B artists totaling $137,999 — almost the same amount it paid its administrator, Cecilia Carter. It gave $119,900 in "specific assistance" to needy artists (usually emergency funds for healthcare).

Yet salaries and compensation (it’s unclear whether Carter’s was included in this amount) came to $232,752. They spent just under $400,000 on “meetings and conferences” that were separate from the Pioneer Awards.

Despite their incredible achievements, McFadden and Whitehead are not in any halls of fame. If you believe in karma, though, it doesn’t matter. Their music is played non-stop on radio, and right now, as you’re reading this, you’re humming one of their memorable songs. God bless.

Dionne Redux: She's a Heartbreaker

Just some last thoughts on that extraordinary evening I attended last Thursday for Dionne Warwick’s 45th anniversary in show biz. I hear that organizer David Gest is upset that I scored a ticket.

Well, Dave, as far as I can tell, I was the only journalist in the house. Otherwise, no one would have known how good a show it was, despite your efforts to keep it a secret. Of course, no one else would have seen Gest — wearing his big round dark sunglasses — swooning while Russell Thompkins crooned “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”

Gest pulled off this feat of a concert and dinner by getting two different rich people to foot the bill. Bill Austin, the generous and all too affable head of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, wound up paying for the dinner at the Palladium.

But it almost didn’t happen. A day or so before the event, Austin — I am told — was so disgusted with Gest that he almost pulled out.

As it was, Austin told me he didn’t expect to raise any money for Starkey that night. He’s still wondering why he did it, since he and his wife had to leave Nicaragua, where they were fitting poor people with hearing aids.

Ed Davidson, a Cleveland-based millionaire, and his wife Tonya, whom you’ll remember as the villainous Alex from “One Life to Live,” basically underwrote the Dionne Warwick show at the Kodak. The Davidsons are the kind of generous people whom Gest is lucky to meet. They also own a publishing company called Tsunami Books.

Gest is planning to publish his autobiography with them soon. I have strong doubts that he will tell the truth about anything concerning Michael Jackson or Liza Minnelli, but you can bet Larry King will have him on almost immediately.

There was just enough subterfuge, meanwhile, to make the Gest affair worthwhile. It turns out that as part of his deal, Davidson was having the whole event filmed for a TV show — a good way to recoup some of his losses.

But the filmmakers suddenly found themselves barred from rehearsals, backstage and sound checks. Now we’ve found out that Gest et al were filming their own documentary, unbeknownst to the Davidson crew.

You can’t make this stuff up. The Gest crew filmed under the auspices of Dionne herself, and her manager, who may not have known that part of the deal with Davidson was rights to his own film!

Someone asked me last night: Was it worth it? Well, it was, in the sense that Dionne never sounded better in her life. Her voice is really a treasure — it can’t be reproduced, copied, mimicked or duplicated in any way.

Aside from her Bacharach-David songs, her hit “Heartbreaker,” written by the Bee Gees, is really her finest vocal showcase. She can sing rings around any young singer today, and she proved it at the anniversary show. I only hope that somehow this thing gets on TV, but I have my doubts that anyone was cleared properly with releases for broadcast.

Lick Roy Orbison

How is it possible that legendary singer Roy Orbison, a great American, has not been commemorated with a postal stamp yet? Friends and fans of Roy have put up a Web site where you can sign a petition to make Roy’s trademark profile in sunglasses a first class stamp. And why not? He was a first class guy! Check it out at: www.petitiononline.com/royvote/petition.html.