Grammy Awards Cede to Top Sellers

Grammy Awards | Nicholson Sings | Jacko Scandal Hurts Sales | 'Samurai' Smiles | Costello, Bon Jovi Join Boss | Oscars

Grammy Awards Cede to Top Sellers

You will probably not watch the Grammy Awards this year unless you're between 12 and 17 years old. And I guess that's the way it should be.

Do you have a favorite album among Evanescence, Justin Timberlake, OutKast, Missy Elliott and The White Stripes? Then this show is for you. If not, you're out of luck. But they're big with the kids, and that's what counts.

Better choices, or let's say more artistic ones, are distributed sparsely through 75 or so more categories, most of which will not make the CBS telecast on Feb. 8. Those will be presented earlier and summarized at some point in the deadening three hours ahead.

For Record of the Year — which is really "catchiest single" — the choices include OutKast, The Black Eyed Peas with Justin Timberlake, Beyonce with Jay Z, Coldplay and the inevitable Eminem. No matter how badly he acts, or what is written about him, or how offensive he is, the real Marshall Mathers is now a Grammy mascot.

The winner in that category should be Beyonce, although most of her song, "Crazy in Love," is based on a 30-year-old sample from The Chi-Lites. Ironically, the Chi-Lites themselves did not qualify in the traditional R&B category.

Song of the Year is the one place where the Grammys can't escape some kind of compositional art. Three good choices are in that category: Warren Zevon ("Keep Me In Your Heart"), Linda Perry ("Beautiful") and Luther Vandross ("Dance with My Father"). The other two, ridiculously enough, are by Eminem and Avril Lavigne. It's kind of an anomaly now, Song of the Year, almost the Fuddy Duddy category. I mean, a song? Written by someone?

Interestingly, not one of the nominated Best Songs is on a nominated Best Album. There must be something else on those albums.

People will complain the record business is dying because of downloading, but I beg to differ. I do think the reason it's gasping its last breath is because of just this problem — the so-called talent that's being rewarded. A long time ago, a pal of mine, who's a wise man in the record business, said before anyone else did, "There are no careers being built anymore. It's just one-off stuff." And that's more than likely true of the main nominees this year. None of it is particularly memorable, and a year from now — when Alicia Keys is doing a retro victory lap — we'll be hard-pressed to remember one of them.

Jack Nicholson in His Singing Debut

“I was a movie star before they even had rock stars.”

That’s Jack Nicholson, and that’s what he told me when we discussed his singing of “La Vie En Rose” in “Something’s Gotta Give.” This is new the comedy from Nancy Meyers (“Baby Boom”) in which his co-star, Diane Keaton, gives her best performance since “Reds.”

Jack glad-handed fans while sitting with Columbia pictures co-chief Amy Pascal at the Central Park Boathouse party after the very successful screening. When I told him that George Hamilton said he could relate to Jack’s character of a 63-year-old man who’s escaped marriage and only dated young, beautiful women, Nicholson beamed. “Oh yeah?” he said, with a trademark smirk. “That’s good.” He meant it.

Keaton told me she was “shocked” when she heard the National Board of Geezers, er Review, voted her Best Actress yesterday. Shocked? “Shocked! It’s been a long time for me,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed myself today. I mean, can you imagine being Jack Nicholson’s leading lady in your mid 50s? Huh?” She looked dumbfounded, but remember she’s an Oscar winner. Keaton knows how amazingly good she is in this film.

Well, despite my overall negative feelings about the NBR, they were right to cite Keaton. She will go on to an Oscar nomination (along with Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Evan Rachel Wood and Naomi Watts). Even if she doesn’t win, it has indeed been a few years since “Marvin’s Room,” for which she last received an Oscar nod.

“Something’s Gotta Give” can be recalled in three parts. Act I gets an A, Act II gets a B+, and Act III, well, let’s just say that the first third of this comedy is so good you wish it would never end or go wrong. That it does really doesn’t matter in the long run. Audiences are going to love it.

“Something’s Gotta Give” is gonna be a big, big hit. Along with “Big Fish” and “Mona Lisa Smile,” Columbia — the studio that gave us “Gigli” — is about to have a Merry Christmas.

Jacko: A 'Number Ones' Hit Could Have Helped

Michael Jackson’s "Number Ones” could have been a contender. This last contractual obligation to Sony might have been a hit if Jackson hadn’t wound up in a monstrous scandal. But last week it sold 130,000 copies and this week a paltry 80,000. It’s fallen from No. 13 to No. 31 and is on its way off the charts this week.

But what does this mean, really? A Jackson insider who knows about his music business says, “We could have gone in the black with Sony if the greatest hits had done well. We were expecting maybe 2 million in the U.S.”

"In the black" refers to Jackson’s album contract with Sony and not all the loans, etc. But from a strict standpoint of the cost of the albums that came out, the source says, “We would have been recouped — and they would have had to start paying us money.” Sadly, this will not be happening.

Meantime, do read The New York Times’ account of Jackson’s prosecution today, complete with lots of material they picked up here and elsewhere. The hook of the article is that the D.A.’s case is weak and he may never bring charges against Jackson. I told you on Day 1: The spin against the 12-year-old and his family would be brutal.

Tom Cruise Grits His Teeth

Tom Cruise was all grins Tuesday night at the New York premiere of “The Last Samurai.” He came with his sister — no Penelope in sight — and did the obligatory publicity. I’m sure we’ll be seeing his pearly whites on “Entertainment Tonight,” although since there were no celebrities at the premiere, the paparazzi was forced to focus on “ET”’s Mary Hart for a little female glamour.

“The Last Samurai” is a solid Hollywood entertainment, made with a lot of care and precision by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz — they of “thirtysomething” fame. Zwick also made the movie “Glory,” in which all the heroes die, so we know they like to support losing causes. The end of the samurai era in Japan was just that. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying the samurais don’t have a happy ending in this movie. It’s not like you see a lot of them around today, do you?

There are a couple of different kinds of Tom Cruise movies. There are the action adventure blockbusters ("Top Gun," "Mission Impossible," etc). Then there are the ones in which his acting is almost good enough to get an Oscar ("Born on the Fourth of July," "Jerry Maguire," "Magnolia"). Cruise’s people are hoping “Samurai” is in this second category. It’s not. This one falls into a new third grouping, which started with “Minority Report.” This would be big spectacles where the producer was lucky to get Cruise for his name value, but a lot of other people might have done it better.

In “Samurai,” everything clicks except for Cruise, which is kind of a shame because you see how damned hard he’s working on his role. A vein actually pops in his forehead during a close-up. But his plainness is what keeps “Samurai” locked in a “Braveheart”/”Dances with Wolves” mentality. He’s so in control that there is almost no color to his character. Instead of grinning, he looks as though he’s gritting his teeth all the time.

There are a lot of ironies this movie season. One of them is that Cruise was supposed to be the star of “Cold Mountain.” But he wanted too much money, and the part went to Jude Law. Of the two films, “Cold Mountain” — which also features a lot of battles and sword play — is the winner and the one that will go on to the Oscars in style. “The Last Samurai,” in appreciation of its popularity, will advance to the Golden Globes and probably make more money.

Costello, Bon Jovi Will Join the Boss

I guess this means Bruce Springsteen really is the Boss of Bosses. I’m told that his Sunday night Christmas show at the Asbury Park Convention Center will now also feature Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and a “rumored” Elvis Costello. That’s in addition to Southside Johnny, the Max Weinberg 7, Garland Jeffreys, Jesse Malin and soul legend Sam Moore.

These shows, by the way, are for charity.

Oscar 2003: Dwarves Are Big This Year

Dwarves and midgets are big this year, thanks to “The Station Agent.” While we wait to see if Peter Dinklage’s really great performance in that movie will earn him an Oscar nomination — it should — more little people are turning up everywhere. Dinklage himself is featured in “Elf,” and the under-appreciated Tony Cox plays a big part in “Bad Santa.”

Now Sundance, for the second year in a row, has gone for the big stars. One of the debuts selected for this year’s festival is Matthew Bright's "Tiptoes," starring Gary Oldman, Kate Beckinsale, Matthew McConaughey and Patricia Arquette. It’s said to be “a sexually charged tale set against a Little People of America convention.”

Dinklage, by the way, picked up an Independent Spirit Award nomination yesterday for his extraordinary performance. “The Station Agent” also was selected yesterday as a top movie of the year by the National Board of Diners, er, Critics. Following past trends, as with people like Javier Bardem in “Before Night Falls,” don’t be surprised if Dinklage gets an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, right beside Bill Murray, Law, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp.