Britney Spears | Cate Blanchett: Two Oscars a Possibility | Stripper Scripter Scores a Success

Britney Spears' Disaster: Dead Career Bounce

Britney Spears’ disastrous performance Sunday night at MTV’s Video Music Awards was bad for her — and worse for a lot of other people in Hollywood.

There will be a lot of finger-pointing Monday as Spears’ flabby, bloated, incoherent showing is dissected over and over.

But the real person to blame has to be Spears’ newish manager, Jeff Kwatinetz of The Firm.

Kwatinetz has already had a very bad year, nearly killing the career of original “American Idol” star Kelly Clarkson by letting her — or rather encouraging her — to buck the advice of Clive Davis and release a terrible album against his wishes.

What followed was a series of public embarrassments including the cancellation of Clarkson’s tour and her firing of Kwatinetz. The album, "My December," went on to sell a fraction of the number Clarkson had sold previously.

Now with Spears’ tanking live on international television, insiders will no doubt question Kwatinetz’s ability to manage anything.

The reverberations could be serious. For the better part of this year, Kwatinetz’s partner, Rick Yorn, who manages top stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz among other actors, has been negotiating to leave The Firm. Yorn should have plenty of incentive to exit now. The only question is where he will go with his clients.

But more importantly: When Yorn goes, The Firm’s unraveling could turn out to be the biggest story of the year.

As for Spears, her calamity has probably killed any great expectations for the Nov. 13 launch of her CD. Jive Records was no doubt hopeful that the VMA performance would stoke fires for a big release.

But Nov. 13 is also the release date for two other big names: Alicia Keys and Celine Dion. Considering Keys’ magnificent showing Sunday night, she’s now certain to be the winner on Nov. 13 when she releases “As I Am.”

Dion should have a respectable showing just from her core, older fans. But Spears — who couldn’t sing so well in the first place and was at best a burlesque cheerleader in dancing — has probably squandered a significant amount of her audience.

It’s not like the rest of the VMAs was any great moment in music history, either. For years, the show has demonstrated that the one-time Music Television Network is a showcase for unmemorable junk.

You’d think that the people responsible for its original success — many of whom are still around — would want more for their legacies than this annual, witless exercise. One upside to all this: Kanye West swears he won’t return to the show. If only some of his peers would do the same thing, the show might have a chance.

Cate Blanchett: Two Oscars a Possibility

Australian actress Cate Blanchett already has one Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “The Aviator.” But come next February, she may complete a hat trick.

After seeing “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” last night in Toronto, it’s pretty clear that Blanchett will be nominated for Best Actress this winter and will likely win.

But wait: Blanchett also just won Best Actress in Venice for “I’m Not There,” in which she plays a version of Bob Dylan. Now I’m told that the plan is to put her up for Best Supporting Actress for the Dylan role at the Oscars. Don’t be surprised if she wins both awards. It’s completely within the realm of possibility.

“Golden Age” picks up the life of Elizabeth I several years after director Shekhar Kapur’s first movie — released in 1998 — ends.

Elizabeth — who was known as the Virgin Queen — is facing war with Spain and an assassination attempt sponsored by her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton).

In her court, she’s still supported by Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) and a new lady in waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish). She also has a new love interest, Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen).

Everything about Kapur’s “Golden Age” screams Best Picture, from all the magnificent performances to the costumes, lighting, makeup and battles.

Variety calls the movie “bombastic,” but they miss the point: “The Golden Age” is the kind of classy big studio blockbuster Hollywood has needed to put it back on track.

Universal Pictures can only be happy to take “The Golden Age” to audiences thirsty for an Oscar spectacle that recalls Hollywood’s golden era.

Each of the actors is at his or her best, too, thanks to a script that clearly delineates their places in Elizabeth’s world.

Rush, of course, picks up as his Queen’s closest advisor and father figure, although as he put it Sunday night at the star-studded party Universal threw for its cast, he and Blanchett are now like “an old married couple.”

Owen, who somehow missed out on playing James Bond, is the perfect leading man for both Blanchett, and Cornish is a young actress who holds her own ably in scenes with all the stars.

Yes, Cornish is better known to readers of gossip columns as the girl who reportedly broke up Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe’s marriage. But with “The Golden Age,” she’ll now have a career to bolster her. Cornish is the real thing, and no mere tart in a divorce tragedy.

She talked to me Sunday night about some of her other pastimes, too: painting and rapping. Yes, that was rapping. She makes Eve and Lil' Kim look like old fools when she gets started. I should know: When Blanchett and Kapur’s heads were turned, Cornish showed off some of her linguistic moves quite convincingly.

The stars did turn out Sunday night, even up here in weird little Toronto, where not a single person on the street seems to know where anything is in their hometown. (I still can’t figure out how these people get around.)

Liv Tyler, looking ravishing, took a night off from shooting “The Incredible Hulk” with Edward Norton, William Hurt, Tim Roth and Tim Blake Nelson.

“I didn’t bring any fancy clothes with me, so I actually went shopping today,” she told me.

Shoppers at swanky Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street must have had quite a shock when Tyler came in.

“It wasn’t easy!” she told me. “There was only one pair of my size Christian Louboutin shoes in all of Toronto, apparently!"

We ran into lots of other stars from various walks of life last night, as well, including director Julie Taymor and Oscar-winning composer-husband Elliot Goldenthal, who are here for “Across the Universe,” their Beatles music movie.

But the biggest star was our old friend Mike Lazaridis, whom we met last year at the London Film Festival.

Once the Hollywood types were told that Mike was the man who invented the BlackBerry and runs Research in Motion, the Canadian firm that makes it, Lazaridis was the center of attention. (As I once told Mike, he is to me what L. Ron Hubbard is to Tom Cruise!)

I think Mike and his beautiful wife, Ophelia, were happy when the pre-cocktail party ended and the movie began and he didn’t have to answer questions about things like “thumb stress syndrome” or if he gets a discount on the latest iteration of his significant contribution to the modern world.

More significant, certainly, than Britney, Kanye or a lot of others!

Stripper Scripter Scores a Success

Keep an eye out for “Juno,” the new film from “Thank You for Smoking” director Jason Reitman.

Coming in mid-December, “Juno” is written by a former Minneapolis stripper, Diablo Cody, whose real name is Brooke Busey-Hunt.

Cody already has a best-seller called "Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper." But “Juno” will put her on the map.

Written in the spirit of Miranda July’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know” (a must-see DVD), “Juno” could turn out to be bigger than “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are the main players — all superb — but Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons, as Juno’s unusual parents, almost steal this sly, lovely comedy.

Watch for “Juno” to turn into a “Sunshine”-sized cult hit. It’s one of the few films that you will want your friends to see immediately.