I’m told that Reese Witherspoon didn’t do herself any favors by missing last Sunday's British Academy Awards show in London —- especially since she won.
London is a very provincial place — very rah, rah for the home team but happy to embrace any outsiders who like them.
So last week's celebrity-heavy British press was all over visitors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Felicity Huffman as they made the rounds. And they were seen among a lot of Hollywood heavyweights who did make it to a rain-drenched Leicester Square, including George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, Charlize Theron and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Witherspoon, who won the BAFTA for her role as June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line," was the only major actor who didn't attend the ceremony. Worse still, the perception was that she didn't offer any kind of excuse like "my child is ill" or "I'm filming in Patagonia and can't get away."
Ironically, the next movie she's listed in, "Penelope," is filming all over the United Kingdom.
Huffman came from her grueling schedule filming "Desperate Housewives" in Hollywood. Perhaps she learned her lesson, having skipped the BAFTA reception in Los Angeles held over Golden Globes weekend.
The Brits take things like attendance seriously. Not making the annual "tea" may have contributed to Huffman's downfall. But the question is, will British voters in the Oscars race punish Witherspoon for not walking the red carpet and making an acceptance speech?
My sources say probably, yes. And the British press is in accord. Without Witherspoon to heap accolades on, they concentrated their BAFTA night coverage on the fact that local favorite Rachel Weisz, of "The Constant Gardener," lost the award.
The Reese vs. Felicity contest, by the way, has all the earmarks of a couple of more recent Oscar races, especially the one in 2003 for Best Actor.
Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson had see-sawed back and forth all season, winning various prizes for their work, respectively, in "Gangs of New York" and "About Schmidt." By the night of the Academy Awards, the strong betting was on Nicholson. And then the envelope was opened. Shock! The winner was Adrien Brody, for "The Pianist."
What happened? There were some who felt that Day-Lewis and Nicholson had simply cancelled each other out by that point. But that would negate Brody's terrific work, including the fact that he'd put himself through a remarkable physical transformation to play a Holocaust survivor.
Day-Lewis and Jack, like Witherspoon, gave show-stopping performances. But Huffman's is more like Brody's: a subtle but complete absorption of another persona. The Academy likes that.
Reese gets kudos for pulling herself out of the "Legally Blonde" mode, learning to sing country songs and pick expertly at a dobro.
But Huffman followed Brody’s path — and that of Hilary Swank, also, in "Boys Don't Cry." Her immersion as a pre-op transsexual is a kind of one-man/woman actor's workshop — and even more impressive since instead of hamming it up for the cameras every Sunday night on "Housewives," Huffman’s brand of comedy has a kind of nobility to it.
A big message came out of Universal Music Group yesterday that bore hidden messages for all those involved.
The company re-aligned its R&B artists into two labels, Motown and Republic. They named the artists on each label, including soul diva — no, just kidding — Lindsay Lohan, the gossip-plagued teen queen actress on Motown.
What the press releases didn't say spoke volumes. Lohan was the only artist of any note on Casablanca Records, the ill-fated project re-started by Tommy Mottola after Sony Music showed him the door a couple of years ago.
The UMG release made no mention of Casablanca's future, but with Lohan (a not very best-selling recording artist) officially being moved to Motown, that would seem like the end for Mottola and Casablanca.
We'll skip for the moment the completely idiotic idea of Lohan as a singer being grouped in a sentence with Stevie Wonder, India.Arie and Erykah Badu as a Motown artist. And we won’t even mention her now on a label that once bred the colossuses of the music business, from Diana Ross and Gladys Knight to Marvin Gaye and Levi Stubbs.
More to the point: moving Mottola's one act to Sylvia Rhone's purview is UMG's Doug Morris' way of not having to say the ex-husband of Mariah Carey has been "Tommy-gunned." It's just over, that's all.
Maybe worse than anything is the news that Casablanca's one-time queen, Donna Summer, is signed or has signed or may sign —- that’s what I hear — with Sony’s Burgundy label for heritage artists. She'll join Chaka Khan, possibly Patti LaBelle, and some other vintage talents.
How ironic, no? Burgundy is a simple idea, and one that Mottola could have used to stage a comeback simply by reviving Casablanca's best names of the past.
Now don't think Rhone has it so easy at Motown, either. Stevie Wonder is very angry and disappointed that she didn't come through with her promises for his album, "A Time 2 Love."
Smokey Robinson, one of Motown’s founders, has just made a new album and it won't come out on Motown at all, but on the Universal Records label —- or so he told me recently. Motown is a far cry from what it was; Rhone would do well to make some immediate decisions, such as giving Wonder's album a real second push.
And Lohan? As I've said before, she's Shelley Fabares, circa 1963, and will be lucky to ever get a hit as good as the immortal “Johnny Angel.”
It's all well and good, but Shelley will tell you, in the record business, she never did fight Grace Slick or Joni Mitchell for anything more than a restaurant reservation.