The 2008 Cannes Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday, but the real focus of the whole week is on this coming Sunday.
That’s when "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" premieres to the press in the afternoon. On Sunday night, the Steven Spielberg blockbuster opens at the Palais with the full red carpet treatment, with the director, producer George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeouf and Karen Allen all center stage.
But rain is in the forecast here — and I mean, dousing, drenching rain. That’s not good for a festival that takes place largely in the outdoors. Party planners are scrambling to re-jigger a "private" dinner for 400 scheduled for Sunday night, much of which was going to take place on outdoor terraces. Now furniture is being removed from the party’s locale so that all the people can fit into the room.
Precipitation isn’t the only thing threatening "Indy 4." So, too, is over-anticipation. Can it be that nothing will satisfy fans of "Indiana Jones" who’ve been waiting 19 years for a fourth installment of their favorite series?
Already leaked quasi-reviews from online blogs are attempting to portray the new film as not up to snuff — even though apparently one of the "reviewers" was an industry executive who couldn’t possibly be objective.
Here in Cannes, the "Indy 4" fever already is sweeping the Croisette. Paramount/Dreamworks is erecting an Indiana Jones "temple" over the entrance to the Hotel Carlton, which is one of the two major entrances to the festival (the Majestic Hotel being the other). Naysayers want to say that Paramount is "hiding" the film, but this should put an end to that gossip.
The temple is just the beginning. On Thursday, the "Indy" teams begin arriving from Los Angeles like a political campaign determined to win every vote. Right now, I’m voting for them. This column broke the news that "Indy 4" was coming to Cannes.
I’d like to see it elected, to continue a metaphor. Luckily, I’m too old to care about the minutiae of the past "Indy" movies. All we need is an exciting film that stands on its own, and "Indy 4" is sure to break records.
Michael Jackson has a new landlord, and he’s a scary guy with a nice smile and an excellent wardrobe.
Last week, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a California billionaire who specializes in buying luxury hotels around the world, bought Jackson’s Neverland Ranch mortgage from Fortress Investments. The price tag was $23.5 million.
For Jackson, that meant an end to a seven-month saga in which Neverland went into foreclosure and could have been sold at auction. Many potential investors showed up, including one this column reported on extensively.
But in the end, Jackson’s advisers -- including Venable LLP partner Gregory Cross and Steve Mortensen of Yucaipa Companies (aka billionaire Ron Burkle) -- went with Barrack’s Colony Capital, based in Century City.
For Jackson, the deal buys time, and perhaps even throws him some much-needed cash. But is it jumping from the frying pan into the fire?
Barrack is a formidable new landlord. He's had a meteoric rise through the investment world. Colony Capital specializes in marketing and selling the highest-end luxury hotels, including Claridge’s in London.
Donald Trump has famously praised him in the past as a top investor. Last year, the Wall Street Journal featured Barrack in a fashion story, of all things, citing his crisp conservative appearance — dark suits, white French-cuff shirts, $3,000 shoes — as one way he wins deals.
From the Journal story: "Mr. Barrack revels in reading subtle signs of intent or emotion in others' bearing and wardrobes. Anyone sitting across the table from him should think twice before loosening a tie, removing a jacket, rolling up sleeves — or, for that matter, wearing flashy cufflinks if they're not in a position to justify a flashy lifestyle."
It’s hard to know what Barrack would make of Jackson’s Sgt. Pepper-type suits, which are made from a cheap-looking fabric, or his endless supply of arm bands, odd boots and jewelry.
One thing’s for certain: Barrack did not get to be No. 378 on Forbes magazine’s list of the richest 400 Americans by loaning millions for no reason. It’s pretty clear that he has his eye on the 2,900-acre Neverland Ranch for possible development as a luxury property if legally possible — the town of Los Olivos, Calif., reportedly is against it — or sale to someone else who wants to attempt it.
Barrack may have the power to swing it. His political ties in California, especially among wealthy Republicans on the Central Coast, are strong. In the 1980s, he served as undersecretary in the Reagan administration’s Department of the Interior.
For Jackson, that means one missed mortgage payment may mean a trip back to Default City. Or, a benign Barrack may make Jackson his partner if such a project were to develop. That could make Michael a rich man, after all. Or, maybe Barrack just wants to bring back the llamas.
The Neverland saga, it seems, is never, never over.
Madonna’s reign at No. 1 on the charts with her "Hard Candy" album is over.
The queen of pop marketing wasn’t astute this time as in the past — or simply, her record company didn’t care since she was leaving. After one week, "Hard Candy" has fallen a whopping 71 percent in sales to No. 5.
And look who beat her: Neil Diamond. That’s right. Neil — "I am I said to no one, not even the chair" — Diamond, who’s not cool enough to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but has written or sung some of the world’s most popular songs.
The interesting thing here is that Diamond’s album, called "Home Before Dark," sold 140,000 copies with a bit of radio play. It was produced by Rick Rubin, the eccentric producer who started Def Jam a hundred years ago, went on to have a monster success with late Johnny Cash and then returned to Columbia Records a couple of years ago.
Also pushing Madonna down are Mariah Carey, whose shotgun wedding certainly helped spark interest in her latest CD, perennial country music fave Toby Keith and creepy "American Idol" star Clay Aiken.
But Neil Diamond! He hasn’t had a real hit since the late '70s. Unlike some recent revived stars who’ve hit the charts briefly with greatest-hits packages, Diamond comes to the No. 1 slot with an album of original new songs.
This should be a lesson to those who doubted Rubin, but also to other chiefs at the disappearing record labels. "Heritage" stars needn’t make albums of cover songs in order to still be viable.
Cases in point: Carly Simon’s latest on HearMusic/Concord Records. And what about Cyndi Lauper’s new album on Epic? Just being released, the Lauper album also should be a smash if handled correctly.
It also has a riotous possible hit single, a disco dance number called "The Same Old F——ing Story" that needs a PG edit fix so it can be played on radio — that is, if radio will bother to play anything but the current crop of junk it’s been paid to play.
As for Madonna, she doesn’t need the money, and lack of CD sales probably was a foregone conclusion. But her new tour doesn’t start for five months, and that’s a lot of lag time. Either she has to take the bit by the mouth, so to speak, or make the sinking Warner M. Group do what it hasn't so far — get to work.
"Hard Candy" was WMG’s big shot at staying at the top of the charts for more than a week — and it didn’t care, obviously.
Elsewhere, the breakout debut hit of the season is Leona Lewis’ "Spirit" album. Say what you will about Lewis' being manufactured off of Britain’s "X Factor" show, etc. The fact is that the single "Bleeding Love" is a smash. And say what you will, but Lewis’ American success is directly related to Clive Davis and his team at J Records. Only in the record business would execs be dumb enough to tamper with that formula.
If I were a betting man, I would have found a bookie and put money on this — Mel Brooks’ "Young Frankenstein" would be snubbed by the Tony Awards.
The show didn’t get a nomination for Best Musical. The Tony panel picked instead "Cry Baby," which is said to be quite awful, and the hoary "Xanadu." The other nominees in that category are "Passing Strange" and the atrociously derivative "Into the Heights."
Why is "Young Frankenstein" so loathed by the American Theater Wing? Simply because the producer, Robert F. X. Sillerman, wouldn’t play ball with them. He wouldn’t publish box office numbers and he stayed open during last fall’s strike. The result: I was told by everyone I knew in the Wing that "YF" would fall to spite and get as little as possible.
It’s too bad, although I am happy for Andrea Martin and Christopher Fitzgerald, who got Supporting Actor nominations. They should win, but I doubt they will. It’s also too bad because Mel Brooks’ decision to come to Broadway with "The Producers" and now "YF" has been a boon to the theater district economy, profile and popularity. Did I say that only the record business shoots itself in the foot? Don’t get me started.
Meantime, kudos to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Famed for getting Oscar nominations in the past (like zillions), he now has 20 Tony nominations, thanks to his producer status in "August: Osage County" (7); "Boeing Boeing" (6); Tom Stoppard’s wonderful play, "Rock n Roll" (4); and "Young Frankenstein" (3).
The former play, too, should win Best Play at the Tonys (June 15), which means Harvey has cornered the legit market, as well.
Harvey hasn’t given up on more Oscars, either. Even though his old company, Miramax, is faring very well under the stewardship of Daniel Battsek, the 2-year-old Weinstein Co. has a couple of surprises getting ready for the fall. Tops on the list may be John Hillcoat’s adaptation of "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. This post-nuclear apocalypse novel is a must-read —absolutely McCarthy’s best. Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron star in the film.