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Janet Jackson Skunked by Ludacris for No. 1

Janet Jackson | 'Bobby' | Hamptons Film Festival

Janet Jackson Skunked by Ludacris for No. 1

Janet Jackson went on Oprah, she touted her weight loss and talked about her wardrobe malfunction. But in the end, none of it was enough. Janet’s “20 Y.O.” album wound up finishing second to a new CD by the relatively PR-scandal-free Ludacris.

The difference was negligible — maybe 14,000 to 20,000 copies — but it was that slim mandate that pushed Ludacris over the top with 314,000 copies sold, according to hitsdailydouble.com.

Of course, it didn’t help that Janet’s album got universally bad reviews. And once it was played, it was clear that “20 Y.O.” amounted to just a handful of songs and a lot of filler.

That’s not a good start for Janet, who needed every bit of sales revenue to overcome the disaster of her last album, "Damita Jo."

“20 Y.O.” has a lot riding on it, if only because it’s the final release in her Virgin Records contract. After this, she’s technically a free agent.

Compounding the problem: Her boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri, produced a lot of “20 Y.O.” without allowing input from Virgin. Dupri is also the head of the urban music division at that label. If “20 Y.O.” sinks, his own position will also be in jeopardy.

Believe it or not, Janet is also facing a major problem on the radio. Right now, neither of the singles from “20 Y.O.” has cracked pop formats, and “So Excited,” her annoying new single featuring 35-year-old gangsta raptress Khia, is making only a little impact on R&B/hip-hop stations.

The video and single for “So Excited” are perplexing, too: For some reason, Khia — an odious type with a long police record — is the featured player, with Janet sort of shunted to the side. It’s all very peculiar.

Bobby Kennedy Movie on Oscar Track

Maybe one of the most talked about potential Oscar films of this season is Emilio Estevez’s “Bobby,” coming in November from The Weinstein Company and MGM.

Its two “official” reviews — from trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter — were extremely favorable.

That said, I’d heard all kinds of things from others who’d seen it in advance screenings. Some loved it; others wanted to dismiss it for being either too much like Robert Altman’s classic “Nashville” or not enough like it. Hey, you know, you can’t win.

Yesterday, I braced myself as “Bobby” began. First of all, it’s filled with well-known faces like Demi Moore, Sharon Stone and Lindsay Lohan — actors who are often more frequently in supermarket tabloids than good movies.

After these three, plus William H. Macy, Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, Helen Hunt, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater and Estevez himself all make the scene, Laurence Fishburne’s entrance is nearly comical. You hear yourself saying, "Anyone else back there?"

But I have to tell you, I loved “Bobby.” Once the shock of all these people settles in — quickly, too — the stories of various characters who were at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the day Bobby Kennedy was killed in June 1968 become not only completely engrossing, but unexpectedly moving and poignant.

Estevez, who wrote the script, is smart to always bring the action back to Kennedy, who’s moving closer and closer to the Ambassador on the campaign trail as the day unfolds.

By doing this, Estevez manages to make Bobby Kennedy a character in the movie. Unlike the fictional candidate in “Nashville,” Kennedy was real.

This is where the two movies diverge. “Nashville” was social satire. “Bobby” is serious stuff, and no amount of glib dismissing of the all-star cast can change that.

Kennedy’s speeches and rarely seen video of him are used with the same effectiveness as the newsreel footage was in last year’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

All the familiar touchstones of the 1960s are included in “Bobby”: a soundtrack of songs from the era, talk of drugs, Vietnam, hippies, etc. And to think: Watergate was still four years away.

But when “Bobby” takes place on June 4, 1968, it’s exactly two months since the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. Talk about terrorism! With a lame duck, hawkish president still in power, there was fear everywhere.

Estevez very smartly includes a foreign journalist (an Altman staple) from Czechoslovakia who’s trying to get a story and at the same is hopeful about her country’s fate.

Of course, we know that two months and two weeks later, Russia will invade her country and grind it into dust for 21 years.

The world in “Bobby” is out of control in ways that maybe no one who didn’t live through it will completely understand.

But that’s why I think Estevez’s film will be a hit and strike a note with the Baby Boomer generation. The abrogated promise of Bobby Kennedy seems particularly cruel in light of where we are now in the world.

This is a theme that will not be lost on Hollywood, Oscar voters or urbane audiences. But Estevez isn’t stupid: He’s wrapped this saga in just enough soap opera to make for a diverting entertainment.

And there’s a lot to see “Bobby” for besides the political or the historical. For one thing, there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch.

Several, however, stand out: Stone nearly steals the movie with an understated turn as a hotel hairdresser. It’s the best work she’s ever done and should get her lots of award attention. Put her now on the short list for Best Supporting Actress with Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”), Cate Blanchett (“Notes on a Scandal”) and Lily Tomlin (“A Prairie Home Companion”).

Stone’s scenes with Macy are just wonderful, but the big surprise is the conversations with Moore, who plays an alcoholic singer headlining at the hotel. Neither actress wears much makeup, and the lighting is harsh. For once, they each seem real, and vulnerable. “Bobby” will be a movie they can look at with pride.

Some other terrific performances in “Bobby”: Freddy Rodriguez (from “Six Feet Under”) as a hotel waiter; Fishburne as a Yoda-like chef; and Lohan with Elijah Wood as a young couple with a decision to make.

Lohan’s public life is so awful that it’s easy to write her off based on that persona. But with this and “A Prairie Home Companion,” she’s proven a lot this year as an actress. If she ever cuts out the shenanigans, she will have a huge career.

“Bobby” was a big hit at the Venice Film Festival. It won one award and was nominated for another. If anything, it’s the antithesis of another movie about to open later this month, the tacky “Death of a President.”

In the latter, no one wins and nothing is learned except that Europeans hate George W. Bush. That’s a parochial and one-sided movie.

“Bobby” could not be more different or more well-rounded. It’s not a movie about blame, but about peace, and the search for it. There’s nothing more all-American than that.

Hamptons Goes City

That was famed actor Ned Beatty — remembered for “Deliverance” but so good in other films, plays and TV stints — whom we met last night at the pre-opening cocktail party for the Hamptons International Film Festival.

The fest kicks off later this month out at the beach, but that didn’t stop Beatty (“Nashville,” “Friendly Fire” and many others) from coming over to promote “Sweet Land,” his 2005 festival entry with director Ali Selim.

“The best directors I’ve worked with came from commercials,” the veteran actor told me while really rich and fashionable types milled about the 47th floor, 4,000-square-foot Upper East Side duplex of HIFF patrons (who happen to have an art collection any museum would be happy to share). The festival opens on Oct. 18 with Philip Haas’ excellent political film, “The Situation” …

Look also for “Day on Fire,” which features the acting debut of Carmen Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie, a real beauty who has the Little Tramp’s distinctive eyes …

Just FYI: Program director for the festival is Rajendra Roy, brother of fashion designer Rachel Roy, who is also the wife of hip-hop entrepreneur Damon Dash (his cousin Darien is the one suing Michael Jackson for $48 million). Rachel has designed all the dresses and clothes for the directors in the HIFF’s Rising Star competition …

Members of the group I went to Washington, D.C., with last month are needless to say shocked about the turn of events with now ex-congressman Mark Foley. Then Rep. Foley showed our group — associated with the recording industry for Grammy Day on the Hill — around, and had a good time with a speech in the House of Representatives. Later he participated in a recording session with Kelly Clarkson and other representatives. He was charming, alert and gracious. Turns out, it was a brush with history before it happened …