Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s new baby girl, Shiloh, is lucky to be alive.
The infant mortality rate in Namibia, according to the CIA’s website, is 48.1 deaths per 1000 live births. In 2003, 21 percent of Namibians died of AIDS. Women are only expected to live to age 42 in Namibia. Men aren't expected to live past their 44th birthday.
I was in Namibia 18 months ago, on the Chobe River dividing that country and Botswana. It’s quite a distance from the Atlantic Ocean “luxury resort” where Pitt and Jolie have been camped out. Their resort, according to its web site, has seven rooms. The place I stayed, Chobe Savannah Lodge, was just as “luxurious” with a few more rooms. The accommodations are beautiful but very simple, with netting over the beds to ward off mosquitoes. There’s no TV, internet, or air conditioning. In fact, when I asked the manager at Chobe Savannah about the internet, he replied: “I might be able to hook up a computer to a cell phone. But why don’t you have a drink and look at the elephant standing behind you?”
But let’s not make any mistake here: any pregnant woman in Namibia would trade just about anything to have her baby in the United States. And not to disparage other parts of the country, but the hospitals where Pitt and Jolie probably would have had Shiloh—Cedars Sinai in West Hollywood or New York Presbyterian in Manhattan—tops in the world. A Namibian mother could not even fathom the care she would receive in either of those places.
Have they ever seen a Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie movie? It’s unlikely. They have little electricity outside the “luxury resort.” The CIA fact book says that 34.9 percent of the population lives on $1 per day and 55.8 percent live on $2 per day. There’s a 35 percent unemployment rate. There may be one movie theater, but there is no record of the Pitt-Jolie action pic “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” having played there. DVD players are nearly non-existent, since a TV would be needed. Few residents—mostly visiting white people and the scattered “wealthy”—have satellite dishes.
So I can only imagine what the Namibians who’ve been pressed into service for this birth are thinking (and not saying) to Pitt, Jolie and company. “Stupid Americans" comes to mind. "Patronizing Hollywood stars" is another. But Namibians are too polite to say such things. They have more important issues on their minds.
By the time American audiences have finished passing through movie theater turnstiles today, "X-Men: The Last Stand" will surpass “Mission: Impossible III” – possibly known as "Tom Cruise’s Last Stand," in tickets sold.
It is predicted that the final “X Men” movie could hit between $124 and $127 million dollars on its fourth day of release. M:I:III should end the holiday weekend at a total of around $116 million on its 25th day in theaters.
The numbers tell the story. Each are good action flicks, with plenty of wild special effects. But the "X-Men" cast of nine or so principals welcomed the public, while the "M:I:III" main star did everything he could to turn us off.
Ironically, "X-Men" director Brett Ratner was one of the names briefly considered to direct “M:I:III” during the shuffle of events that brought J.J. Abrams, of “Alias" fame, to that movie and original “X-Men” director Bryan Singer to “Superman Returns.” Ratner, of course, was up for the latter job before Singer, as Singer was supposed to finish his “X-Men” trilogy.
And here’s a little movie gossip for you: On Friday night, Ratner bought a bunch of tickets and took his friends, who included former fiancée Rebecca Gayheart, her husband, Salma Hayek and Ratner’s girlfriend Alina to Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood to watch “X Men 3” with a real audience. When the show was over, they ran into Singer, who’d snuck in to see what Ratner had done with his franchise.
“He kept saying, It’s unbelievable, it’s unbelievable,” says a source who was present at the accidental meeting. Singer, of course, must be kicking himself that he abandoned X-Men. (And who does that, by the way? What was he thinking?)
The big winner here is Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine. Now that “X-Men: The Last Stand” has proven to be a mega hit, Jackman will clean up with a sequel based on his character and perhaps featuring cameos from the others, if not a full-fledged romantic pairing with either Storm (Halle Berry) or Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
Ratner’s stock also shoots up very high, as “X-Men: The Last Stand” enters the record books. He starts filming “Rush Hour 3” (he also did the first two) for New Line Cinema in August, with locations in Paris and New York. That means that next summer, Ratner could own either Memorial Day (again) or July 4, making him the thinking man’s Michael Bay, if nothing else.
You may be wondering what happened to "The Da Vinci Code," by the way? Even though the press laughed during the Cannes screening, Ron Howard’s thriller has taken in $288 million worldwide in eight days. It should top out at $350 million, thank you very much. A great movie? No. A good one? Yes. And Sir Ian McKellen, also riding high in X-Men 3, should pull in an Oscar nomination.