Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio Set for 'Titanic' Year

Kate and Leo Are Back | John Legend Gets Lifetime 'Buddy' | Janet, Justin: Jeesh!

Kate and Leo Are Back

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio once stood on the bow of the Titanic and waved their arms in the air to much money, acclaim and acting awards.

Now, some nine years later, they may be back at it, just with different partners.

On Friday, Kate and Leo each have movies opening, respectively "Little Children" and "The Departed."

I've already told you how good "The Departed" is, and that Leo, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and a terrific supporting cast make Martin Scorsese's latest endeavor a possible Best Picture nominee.

Now comes Todd Field's "Little Children," which opened at the New York Film Festival on Saturday night. This is Field's first film since the acclaimed "In the Bedroom" put him on the map.

But unless you read Tom Perrotta's novel, nothing prepares you for Field's very, very dark take on suburban life.

Just to give you an idea, by the time "Little Children" is winding up, you find yourself rooting for a former sex offender (played beautifully by Jackie Earle Haley, one of the stars of the classic film "Breaking Away").

Ironically, "Little Children" most clearly echoes "American Beauty" (a film directed by Winslet's husband, Sam Mendes) in its clear-eyed cynicism.

The main difference is that Mendes' Oscar-winning film verged on satire, while "Little Children" is absent of all humor as its various plots unfold toward its climax.

The principal story of "Little Children" is about two couples, but the way the script is written, only Winslet's character really stands out from the foursome.

This is the odd part of "Little Children," because Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly has taken the relatively small yet integral part of a woman whose marriage is in trouble. And the two men, Patrick Wilson and Greg Edelman, while strong actors, come off as a little bland.

"Little Children" is really all Winslet's movie, and the result is that she now throws her hat in the ring for what will be a very exciting Best Actress race that already includes big names: Judi Dench, Renée Zellweger, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Annette Bening, Sienna Miller and front-runner Penélope Cruz.

John Legend Gets Lifetime 'Buddy'

Newish pop star John Legend has a new permanent lifetime buddy, a man with whom he will now be linked in perpetuity.

That's because on his forthcoming album, "Once Again," Legend re-recorded a hit song from the '60s with new lyrics, but the exact same music.

If you're over a certain age, you will certainly recall the hits "Stormy," "Spooky" and "Traces of Love" by Dennis Yost & the Classics IV.

Well, an Alabama songwriter named Buddy Buie wrote those songs with James B. Cobb Jr. Buie also co-authored the Atlanta Rhythm Section hit "So Into You."

But what Buddy wasn't into so much was John Legend (real name John Stephens) creating a new song from the memorable "Stormy" and renaming it "Save Room" for his album — unless he was paying Buie.

And now he is.

Buie and Cobb, in fact, are getting 50 percent of the publishing on "Save Room." Not just now, but forever.

"We wouldn't have accepted the deal otherwise," Buie told me last night from his Alabama home.

The other 50 percent will go to Legend and two collaborators — the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am, aka Will Adams, and newcomer Jessyca Wilson, who allegedly helped Legend think up the new lyrics (and yes, they are far inferior to Buie and Cobb's refrain of "bring back that sunny day").

Now, don't get us wrong, Buddy Buie is very happy with John Legend.

"I'd like him to sample some of my songs!" he roared with laughter. "Bring 'em all back!"

Buie notes that he's been sampled before, but without permission.

"This time it was very easy," he said. "No lawyers were required."

Of course, it's the first time Buddy Buie has written a song "with" someone he's never met or spoken to.

"That is a little odd," he says.

Legend, despite appropriating "Stormy," hasn't bothered to call the veteran songwriter. But that's OK.

"I think he did a pretty good job with it," Buie says, "but I think the original is better."

By the way, Legend says in the press release accompanying "Once Again" that he'd never heard of "Stormy."

That might seem a little implausible, considering that Buie's hits have been mainstays of pop radio for 40 years. But, you know, maybe he was living under a rock.

"I didn't even know the original." Legend writes. "I just knew it was a nice organ sound and wanted to write it."

And yet, he didn't write it. Someone else did.

In the past, when that happened, songwriters said "Whoops!" and went on to new material.

But not in this generation, where, to paraphrase, "imitation is the sincerest form of income."

So what's going on here?

John Legend, I'd say, is getting bad advice. He's a gifted musician and songwriter, but too much of "Once Again" sounds like it's the same sort of prepackaged pop-soul that's on Justin Timberlake's new album.

Janet, Justin: Jeesh!

Yesterday's reports of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake staging a "wardrobe malfunction" reunion missed an important point: the two now share the same manager, Johnny Wright, he of Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and *NSYNC fame.

Whoever leaked this idea obviously didn't see Janet on Oprah. She didn't have the nicest things to say about Justin's treatment of her when the heat was on ...

Also, yesterday's New York Times report that Judy McGrath is staying put at MTV Networks is good news: we love Judy. But there was no mention of the dismal ratings recently garnered by the network's Video Music Awards, not to mention the terrible reviews.

The good news is that Christina Norman of MTV, who does not return calls or e-mails, is alive. She was pictured with Judy. I am relieved ...

Box office report: The duds are "The Wicker Man," "Hollywoodland," "All the King's Men," "The Black Dahlia," "Idlewild," "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" and "A Scanner Darkly."

Believe it or not, "Superman Returns" is still playing somewhere, hoping to cross the $200 million mark. It's not going to happen, but you can't blame them for trying.

Recommended viewing (see them wherever they are): "Half Nelson," "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," "The Illusionist," "Sherrybaby," "Little Children" and "A Prairie Home Companion" (with Lily Tomlin's standout performance) ...