The crazy group known as the Hollywood Foreign Press is back in the news again. They’ve used the Writers Guild strike from last January as a rationale for cutting their charitable donations by nearly half a million bucks.
You may recall that this past January the Globes had to cancel their annual awards show because of the Writers Guild strike. This meant that they lost their annual $6 million fee from NBC to broadcast the parade of stars and gold statues.
Last week the Foreign Press — composed of about 80 members, some of whom aren’t foreign and many of whom aren’t press — gave out its annual donations. In 2007, for example, they gave out $1,125,800.
This year, though, the number was cut to $750,000. The reason? The HFPA says it was because they lost that $6 million fee. In other words, as I predicted, the Golden Globes are blaming the writers for cutting their donations.
You may also recall that last winter, when this was going on, former and sometime president Phil Berk (salary $63,000) assured me that the strike would not affect the group’s charitable giving. He was wrong.
But here’s the punchline: According to its most recent tax return, filed at the end of 2007, the Hollywood Foreign Press is claiming assets of over $18 million. Even without the $6 million payment from NBC this year, the group — which performs no service other than any other movie critics awards group in the country — is doing just fine. The “lost” $6 million was a drop in the bucket to them.
Indeed, the real joke is that now the HFPA’s charitable donations are considerably lower than their personal expenses. Last year they claimed $570,000 for travel — even though the movie studios send them anywhere they want to go. Another $86,000 was spent on “meetings and conferences,” $32,500 went to “entertainment,” $56,380 to “online research,” etc. The total expenses came to $1,371,630.
So who got cut out this year? All the little groups that take care of the HFPA on their big night at the Beverly Hilton every January: the local police, the police canine association, the firemen and so on all lost out in the new distribution of wealth.
But one thing the HFPA didn’t stint on was themselves: In 2007, according to the filing, they spent around $20,000 to seal, stain and paint the tile floor in their offices. Maybe when the police are asked to come out and watch the red carpet ceremony this year, they’ll feel confident that a bunch of movie critics has been well buffed.
Wednesday brings the Lincoln Center red carpet premiere and DVD release of "The Deal," the movie that’s actually the prequel to Stephen Frears’ Oscar nominated "The Queen." Michael Sheen reprises his role as Tony Blair in this gem that tells the story of how Blair cut a deal way back in 1994 to become prime minister. He made Gordon Brown wait 13 years to succeed him. Now of course, Blair is openly criticizing Brown and his Labour Party may be swept from power in the next general election. This new film is prescient, and suggests a third chapter is coming from Frears and Sheen in the Blair saga (all these films are written by Peter Morgan)…Check out the website.
…Seems like Madonna didn’t have such a great time at Cannes this year showing her Africa documentary. She didn’t much care for the Tribeca Film Festival either. At Michael Moore’s Traverse City, Michigan Film Festival this weekend, Mrs. Guy Ritchie told the wire services: "It's great bringing my movie to a place that I feel familiar. Not like the Cannes Film Festival, where nobody's speaking English, or the Tribeca Film Festival, where no one sits down."
Just for the record, her film, "I Am Because We Are," wasn’t actually part of the Cannes Film Festival. Madonna just screened it there for publicity. As for Tribeca, the only person not sitting down after the screening was that woman at the Q&A session who kept waving her hand, asking, "Will you take a question from an African?" The answer was no.
Anyway, no family members were reported with Madonna on her rare trip to her home state except for daughter Lourdes. Certainly, brother Christopher, author of Life With My Sister Madonna, was a no show. The book, like Madonna’s recent album, is at number 70 on amazon.com…
…Thanks to Vanity Fair. In the new issue, the magazine cites our scoop about Paul Newman’s charitable giving as a prologue to Patricia Bosworth’s lovely piece about the famed actor. It’s nice to get credit for a change…Ditto to the New York Post’s Page Six, which yesterday cited our piece about the New York Times’s refusal to run an obit for their writer Monique Yazigi…In the end, Monique’s friend, Charles Scribner III, of the publishing family, paid for an obit in the paper…
…Thinking about the death yesterday of 89-year-old Russian writer and hero Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, who lifted the veil of secrecy about the prisons of the former Soviet Union…How things have changed. I just returned this weekend from Moscow and St. Petersburg, where the new Russia is thriving…Statues of Stalin and other famous Soviet leaders now face Gucci, Prada and other designers across Red Square in the famous GUM mall… These men must be turning in their graves after denying the Russian people so much for so long, and I don’t mean just fancy threads… The fear that the Russian people lived with for a hundred years is either gone or receding…Restaurants are full… Starbucks has two locations on Arbut Street. There’s a Pain Quotidien near the Tolstoy Museum… Solzhenitsyn’s "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" may have shocked the world just enough so that such things can never happen again…