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Archives: January 2006

Soderbergh’s “Bubble” didn’t pop, but it didn’t burst, either.

Ok. So Steven Soderbergh‘s experimental film “Bubble” didn’t do much business in theaters. Seventy grand in 32 theaters isn’t exactly an “Ocean’s 11″ type score, but that’s to miss the point. sept1105_soderbergh.jpg

Of course, that didn’t mean there wasn;t gleeful hand-rubbing by National Association of Theater Owners president and CEO John Fithian, who issued a statement Sunday saying “the movie has performed very poorly” and that despite “tens of millions of dollars in free publicity … it failed in theaters.”

Well, whatever, John. Studios are going to release everything simultaneously as soon as they can. Directors aren’t going to fight them. Agents aren’t going to stop them. And someone ought to tell Mr. Fithian that his reaction is tantamount to someone laughing at Edison because the first light bulb only burned for an hour or two.

If Mr. Fithinan spent as much effort blocking noxious cell phone signals as he did micturating on Soderbergh’s experiments, there wouldn’t be a box office crisis.

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Trade round-up: The day in deals

– Egads! It’s an online treasure hunt! Mark Burnett and AOL vs. Steven Spielberg and Yahoo! We ask, can a Bill Gates / Joe Francis pairing be far behind?

David Strathairn, Oscar-nominated today in of “Good Night, and Good Luck,” will join Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins in the New Line Cinema thriller, “Fracture.”

ABC is developing a series based on “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the deafening Brangelina assasination tango that went ka-ching over the summer

Sean Penn’s next stop: A mystery in Alaska

EXCLUSIVE: FishbowlLA has learned that Sean Penn will direct again after a five year hiatus. The actor is panning on getting behind the camera again to direct a feature film adaptation of Jon Krakauer‘s 1997 best-selling non-fiction epic “Into the Wild.” 001291.jpgALA52.jpg

We also hear that Emile Hirsch, the young actor who recently starred in “Lord of Dogtown” would play the part of Christopher McCandless — the fiercely independent Emory grad who chucked his comfortable middle class life to try to survive alone in the wild near Denali National Park. Instead of bucolic bliss, however, McCandless met a premature death by starvation in an abandoned bus in the back woods of the Yukon.

Paramount Classics‘ recently installed president John Lesher is overseeing the project, the start date of which is unclear.


Farewell to a Fishbowl

“So…who are these people that you write about, just other people who write about other people?”

It was a fair question, posed by a friend of mine. It’s been hard to explain to civilians, as it were, why exactly this job has been so all-encompassing for the last ten months. How can I explain to them how funny TimesSelect jokes are? Why Katie Couric‘s legs are a symbol of the seismic shift in the world as we know it? Why referring to Jack Shafer as “Our Dark Lord” cracks me up, even now as I’m typing?

I haven’t been able to in ten months, which is why my best friend has no clue who Maureen Dowd is (though I can tell you that she considers men very, very necessary) and a recent boy I dated didn’t know the difference between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert…when they were both on the TV screen at the same time. (I swear to God that one’s true.) I’ve candidly admitted in the past that I knew very little coming in; now, thanks to a 24-hour diet of news and spin, I can at least hold my own in an email exchange with Jay Rosen (but not a long one).

It’s kind of goofy (but if you are a regular Fishbowl reader you expect no less), but I now have a genuine affection for this beat and for those it covers (even the ones I’ve never met. I’m lookin’ at you, Howie Kurtz, oy what a punum). I had a mini-epiphany last night about why, and it goes back to the notion of being a mensch. I do actually believe that most of us genuinely are in this to add something to the equation and effect a little good. That’s one of the reason the outrage over James Frey is so heartening — it’s kind of amazing that such a cynical bunch of bastards can be so offended that someone lied.

As it turns out, it’s kind of a prerequisite for being one of those people who people like me who write about other people who write about other people write about (yes, we’re the luckiest people in the world). If you didn’t get that well, be grateful that I’m returning to the world in which I am actually edited. In the meantime, before this gets too maudlin, I just wanted to thank all of you for being a mensch (there, Brian Williams, a Golden Girls shout-out just for you!). For the FishFriends&#153 amongst you — you know who you are, all of youse — I thank you so much for every bit of fact-checking, tip-dropping and media-whoring (just kidding, Bucky!). It has been so much fun to do this with all of you, and I can’t even believe you let me for so long.

Or that you read this ridiculously long post. What, you don’t have work to do? Look forward to prose far more elegant and precise come tomorrow when MB stalwart Greg Lindsay steps into the fray, with support from MB’s own Dorian Benkoil and Aileen Gallagher. In the meantime, “The Fishbowl Final” will resume tomorrow, and I’m excited for that. But otherwise, this is so long, and farewell, and auf wiedersehn. You know the drill.

Thanks so much for this wonderful, amazing, inspiring experience. Sorry for being sentimental, I’m Canadian. So, by the way, are Bonnie Fuller, Sheelah Kolhatkar, Graydon Carter, Samantha Bee, Pat Kiernan and Malcolm Gladwell.

“Springtime for Hitler” in Tel Aviv?

We’re always amused when the U.S. media takes an Israelis-are-wilting-flowers tack when it comes to popular culture.producers9.jpg

Viz, today’s Associated Press missive about how the Broadway musical “The Producers” has been translated into Hebrew, and — shock, awe — is playing to packed houses.

The show has been a huge hit in New York for four years running; unsurprisingly, it’s a huge hit in Tel Aviv. “But what about the swastikas!?” wail American reporters, “won’t it upset them?!”

These folks live with Hamas shooting guns in the air joyously cheering for the elimination of Israel; does anyone seriously think Israelis are worried about anything Mel Brooks has to say?

A Fishbowl Report: BHL in the “beating heart of Judaism”

BHL is our BFF.jpgFishbowl is dizzy with delight: rock-star philosophe Bernard-Henri L&#233vy loves us! Well, actually, he signed our book but that’s good enough for us. Ever since he rocketed to the top of the NYmag charts two weeks ago (via Carl Swanson‘s wildly popular review of “American Vertigo”), the city’s been ga-ga for all things BHL (plus he was lionized by Tina Brown last Thursday at the NYPL). Fishbowl sent a super-special correspondent to his talk with Adam Gopnik at the 92nd St. Y on Sunday: supa-FishFriend&#153 “Magnus,” who is ridiculously smart and ridiculously opinionated (and ridiculously…never mind. But, his nickname is “Magnus”). This is his report. If you’re looking for a quick summary, you won’t find it here. If you wished to God you could attend and want to feel as though you’re living the dream, pull up a chair and stay awhile. Love him, hate him, BHL is certainly entertaining. Magnus, the floor is yours.


You really don’t have to have read any of Bernard-Henri L&#233vy’s (BHL)’s books in order to have a negative opinion about him. That’s why I couldn’t wait to crack the virgin seal of Sunday’s NYT to read Garrison Keillor‘s smackdown of BHL’s new book “American Vertigo”. After I tell her all about it, Fishbowl makes me her “super-special correspondent” and sends me to BHL’s talk at the 92nd Street Y that very evening. Before heading out, I quickly tear through the first 230 pages of “American Vertigo” that make up his “Voyage en Amerique”. (I guess they figured “Voyage through America” sounded a tad corny). This is no book report, so I’ll leave it to the real critics to divine how a people might “become not intoxicated by their autonomy but drunk on their independence.” Suffice it to say: it takes a lot of brass to accuse Henry Kissinger of uttering “a litany of self-satisfied platitudes” after you’ve spent almost two hundred pages spewing banality with the kind of abandon I haven’t seen since I was freshman in college.

92nd St. Y, BHL — it’s reasonable to assume that there will be a fair number of Jewish people in attendance, but I totally forgot BHL’s other main constituency: Euros. Air kisses abound. Heading into the lobby, I run into two friends whom I last saw at La Goulue and the Neue Galerie benefit back in December. (Ed. Magnus is a FANCY FishFriend!) It dawns on me that the upperclass twits that pop up in the party pages of Tatler must be the English acolytes of BHL, what with their open shirts and all. To top it all off, who sits down three seats next to my balcony seat but Gilles Amsallem from French Tuesdays. I recall Liesl Schillinger‘s deadpan take on that whole scene in the Talk of the Town a while back. It turns out their website is shilling a BHL appearance at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square on Monday. But that’s another story.

Adam Gopnik, Francis Fukayama and more, after the jump!

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When “Ode On A Grecian Urn” isn’t in Nexis

You know the story: girl writes article, girl publishes article, article is ripped off by a foreign publication, second girl reads foreign publication and gets an idea for a great article. Second girl writes article. Chaos ensues.

If the articles were attractive starlets and the foreign paper were a charming rake who genuinely wanted to love them both, it would be a perfect February vehicle for Matthew McConaughey. If, however, the first girl is Alexandra Wolfe who wrote a story on ambitious parents hiring Mandarin-speaking nannies to help prepare their children for the global economy which was published in New York magazine on April 4, 2005, then that must mean the other girl is Samantha Marshall of Crain’s, whose article on ambitious parents hiring Mandarin-speaking nannies to help prepare their children for the global economy appeared today. Ouch.

The two stories feature the same Upper West Side little moppet, Hilton Augusta Rogers, and her nanny, Shirley who speaks Mandarin to her. Both stories feature the same experts, Clifton Greenhouse from the upscale Pavillion Agency, which places nannies and au pairs. The Crain’s story says that Shirley has been Hilton’s nanny for six months. Which is funny, because the NY Mag article was published in April – ten months ago.

I spoke to Samantha Marshall today, who said she was shocked to learn that New York had run a story. She’d gotten the idea (and the sources) from The China Daily, which cites little Hilton, her parents, Greenhouse and trumpets the Chinese-nanny trend. It also ends with the anecdote that opens the New York story.

Marshall said she’d run a Nexis search and found nothing (because New York‘s archives aren’t in Nexis)*, and nothing had turned up in Google. (In Fishbowl’s Google search for “mandarin manhattan nannies” the China Daily story was first and the New York story was fourth.) Marshall also said that she’d interviewed all her sources herself; she’d “had absolutely no idea.” Said Marhshall, clearly frustrated: “If I had known that New York had done the story I never would have pitched it.”

So, what do we take from this? I’m inclined to believe Marshall — knowing the story was out there and ripping it off wholesale is both egregious and boneheaded in the extreme — but it is an instructive lesson. Lifting stories is easy, checking up on them is not (for some examples, check Regret The Error). I guess the moral of the story is to check and check and then check again. Another moral of the story is not to trust Matthew McConaughey in February. That new movie with Sarah Jessica Parker can’t be good.

UPDATE: Wow, get me Hilton Augusta Rogers’ press agent — that kid’s been all over. Turns out the China Daily story was syndicated from Der Spiegel. New York magazine apparently doesn’t need to be in Lexis. Thanks to DaddyGreg for the info. Oh, the temptation to make a “who’s your daddy?” joke. But I will refrain.

*To find a story from New York, you have to search either Dialog, WestLaw, or something called “FirstSearch.” Or, you know, Google. Screenshot from the trusty FullText Sources Online, that tells you which archives are where after the jump, courtesy of MB Associate Editor and Fishbowl stalwart Aileen Gallagher.

January 31, 2006:
New York families think global, seek Chinese nannies [Crain's]

January 6, 2006:
Chinese nannies are the latest New York trend [China Daily]

April 4, 2005:
Parents are Teaching Their Infants Chinese to Compete in the Global Economy [New York]

What “Ode On A Grecian Urn” has to do with copyright [PressJournal]

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Today’s Hollywood meta-item

Carrie Fisher will team with Heather Robinson to write ‘E-Girl’, the story of how Robinson used her position as a lowly AOL employee to track down the email addresses of celebrities and become friends with them. Including, apparently, Fisher.

(link via Hollywood, Interrupted)

Akkad remembered

The Atlantic takes a look at the career of producer/director Moustapha Akkad, who was killed in the Amman hotel ballroom bombing in November. Akkad’s career spanned the Halloween franchise, as well as Islamic-themed films like ‘The Message’ and ‘Lion of the Desert.’ A sad loss not only for his loved ones and humanity in general, but for a certain idea of Hollywood, in which cheerfully exploitative schlock can co-exist with more serious projects.

Media Minutiae, Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Edition


  • Don’t sit on the couch! You’ll ruin it! Take your shoes off! No food in the living room! Please, make yourself at home: Apparently the Vogue team is seriously looking at putting out yet another Vogue-brand magazine called Vogue Living. Apparently Anna Wintour has been wanting to do so for years (thwarted by Domino?). With the Vogue brand on the march domestically and international Vogue shelter titles, it looks like everbody’s starter home just got a bit more expensive (hmm, wonder if the announcement of Blueprint was a factor). Sara James has the scoop. [WWD]

  • This is meta, and that’s saying something considering we’re talking about James Frey: Yikes! A Moscow paper is trying to out the outers of the faker as fakers — apparently The eXile had done their own piece outing Frey as a non-scary non-tough guy with a non-sordid history. The Smoking Gun’s Bill Bastone says “nyet.” It was an easy punchline, yes, and I took it. Dos vadanya. [NYP]
  • The Woody Allen Popularity Scale: Who’s more culturally important? No one, according to the march of Esquire covers through history. The mag has used Woody Allen on the cover a whopping five times according to number-cruncher Kyle Du Ford at Big & Sharp. Perspective: Clinton – 2, Sharon Stone -3, Truman Capote – 2 (both in 1976!). [B&S]
  • The mind Boggles: Only yesterday I revealed Fishbowl’s secret passion for words linked by letters in a shakable cube. Today, Paper mag staffers answer my geeky prayers by hosting a Boggle tournament. I plan to go after watching The State of the Union with the sound off and “Dark Side of the Moon” playing in the background. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! [PaperMag]