Sean Smith

Stories by Sean Smith

  • Oscars: The Envelope, Please

    Winning the office Oscar pool isn't about guessing best picture. It's about picking the winners in categories that everyone else ignores. Tip Sheet is here to help. We can't guarantee results, but we have seen every nominee. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT will go to "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin." The other docs impress, but this film about the great radio poet of WWII really hits home. ANIMATED SHORT is a tougher call. The coolest visual achievement is "9" (pictured, left), but we suspect the winner will be the more personal "The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation." To pick LIVE ACTION SHORT , a dartboard might be helpful. The most daring film, "Six Shooter," includes an exploding cow and a dead bunny, so it might be too daring. The somber "The Last Farm" could score instead, but "Shooter" still gets our vote. The safe money for DOCUMENTARY FEATURE is on "March of the Penguins," but the unsentimental "Murderball" might take those cute birds down. The FOREIGN...
  • Behind Oscar's Door

    While Reese Witherspoon and Heath Ledger slept, about 30 people already knew the actors' fates. Each year, on the Monday night before the Oscar nominations are announced, a small band of staff at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences goes into lockdown at the Academy's headquarters in Beverly Hills. Phone lines are unplugged. Internet access is disconnected. Cell phones are confiscated, and guards ride the elevators. For nine hours, these people are cut off from the world, because they know who the Oscar nominees are. They work through the night--jacked up on sugar cookies, black coffee and Red Bull--preparing the stats, nominee biographies and general info that will be disseminated worldwide at 5:38:30 a.m., PST, on Tuesday. This year, NEWSWEEK asked the Academy if we could spend the night with them.At 9 p.m. Monday, Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas, from the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, present the list of nominees, tabulated from ballots cast by 5,800 Academy...
  • Prize Fighters

    We were a little worried at first that Bennett Miller might not recover. As directors Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Ang Lee and Paul Haggis stood in the hallway outside a photo studio in Los Angeles, it wasn't Spielberg's political lightning rod, "Munich," or Haggis's incendiary racism drama, "Crash," that got them all talking. Nor was it Clooney and his stylish paean to Edward R. Murrow, "Good Night, and Good Luck," or Lee and his mournful love story, "Brokeback Mountain," that generated the most praise. It was 38-year-old Miller, the youngest and least experienced member of the group, who found himself the center of attention as the others raved about the quiet, assured power of his feature-film debut, "Capote." As Spielberg regaled the group with a tale about meeting Truman Capote years ago, Miller remained so still and silent, we feared that underneath the placid surface he was seriously freaking out. We shouldn't have. By the time the five auteurs sat down together with...
  • Celebs: Cruise Goes Crazy

    Tom Cruise lost his cool in 2005. For 20 years he had maintained the most fiercely controlled--and aggressively bland--persona of any living star. But then he fired his longtime publicist, Pat Kingsley, and replaced her with his sister Lee Anne DeVette, and by summer he was declaring his love for Katie Holmes, jumping on Oprah's couch, slamming Brooke Shields for taking Paxil, grappling with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show and spending more time trumpeting his love for Scientology than his love for the movie he was supposed to be promoting, "War of the Worlds." In fact, Cruise had committed to be interviewed by NEWSWEEK about that movie, but at the last minute his sister refused to put him on the phone unless we put him on the cover. (We declined.) Even though "War" grossed a massive $589 million worldwide, Cruise had, in just a few short months, morphed from a public icon into a pop-culture joke. "It was like this horrible circus that dismantled the facade of one of our biggest...
  • Wise Beyond Her Years

    She's only 15, but Q'orianka Kilcher has already had her first midlife crisis. "On my 14th birthday, I was really sad because I felt that I hadn't accomplished anything," she says. "I was crying, saying, 'What am I going to do?!' " She laughs. "It was really funny." No kidding. Within months Kilcher was cast in the starring role of Pocahontas, opposite Colin Farrell, in Terrence Malick's epic "The New World." The filmmakers had scoured the globe for the woman who could portray the Native American icon. When they put Kilcher in front of the camera, "our jaws dropped," says producer Sarah Green. "Her face is so changeable. And there's this depth that pulls you in. She's just... mesmerizing." And so breathtaking that we'd better all start practicing how to pronounce her name right now: Core-ee- ahn -ka.It's too soon to call Kilcher a star, but she does represent the next face of female stardom: less blond, more ethnic blend. Born in Germany to a Swiss-Alaskan mother and a Quechua...
  • Hollywood: DreamWorks Sale--Why the Dream Didn't Work

    The dream is over. Eleven years after founding their studio, Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed to sell DreamWorks SKG to Viacom for a reported $1.6 billion. Viacom's studio division, Paramount Pictures, gets DreamWorks' library of about 60 films--such as "Saving Private Ryan" and Oscar winners "American Beauty" and "Gladiator"--along with a slate of films DreamWorks planned to release next year, including Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers." Spielberg will likely give Paramount first dibs on his movies, and Paramount will get half the profits of any movie he makes at another studio. The biggest prize, though, is that Paramount, led by Brad Grey, who initiated the deal, will now distribute films from DreamWorks Animation. A separate, publicly traded company run by Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation created the "Shrek" movies, which have grossed $1.4 billion worldwide.Despite DreamWorks' successes, the company never quite lived up to its potential. Plans...
  • Awards: And the Nom Goes to...

    If you want to win an Oscar for best actor this year, you're too late. Only five men get nominated, and four of those slots may already be taken. With 10 weeks to go until the nominations are announced, the fight for that fifth nom could get a little bloody. But first, the front runners.Philip Seymour Hoffman struts his star-size talent in "Capote," capturing Truman Capote's distinctive speech and drilling into the famous author's psyche. In "Walk the Line," Joaquin Phoenix reveals the pain and sorrow behind Johnny Cash's music (and does his own singing). Heath Ledger breaks hearts in "Brokeback Mountain," playing a ranch hand in love with another man, tortured by his desires and his fears. Nominations for those three men are considered guaranteed, according to the Academy voters, strategists and industry insiders interviewed for this story. The fourth spot will likely go to David Strathairn for "Good Night, and Good Luck," directed by George Clooney. Strathairn, a highly respected...
  • Forbidden Territory

    Two weeks ago, Ang Lee showed his new film to an audience in Los Angeles, and afterward he stuck around to answer questions from the crowd. Director Q&As are pretty common in the movie industry, and Lee--who won an Oscar for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and has directed such acclaimed films as "The Ice Storm" and "Sense and Sensibility"--has done more than his share. But something strange happened this time--the same thing that happens almost every time Lee screens "Brokeback Mountain." "People don't have many questions ," he says. "Most of the time, they just stand up and tell me how they feel." When they're still crying, he already knows.Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx ("The Shipping News"), "Brokeback" is the tale of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two ranch hands who, in the summer of 1963, are hired to herd sheep on Wyoming's Brokeback Mountain. There, separated from the rest of the world, their...
  • Oscars: Down, But Not Out

    He coulda been a contender. Russell Crowe's "Cinderella Man" was one of the year's best-reviewed movies and, briefly, it seemed that he was a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. But the film, released in June, got pummeled at the box office, earning a welterweight $61.6 million. It didn't help that Crowe lost his cool in June and threw a phone at a New York hotel clerk. As early as September, the buzz was that the film's Oscar chances were dead. But a resurrection may be underway. "It's a weak year, and a lot of movies people thought were going to be contenders aren't," says one studio exec, who like other top industry sources never speculates about Oscars publicly. Sean Penn's "All the King's Men" won't be released this year after all, and movies such as "North Country" and "Jarhead" haven't met with overwhelming praise. That general ennui from critics and voters could up the odds for "Cinderella Man" and give other films and performances from earlier this year a shot."Crash,"...
  • Newsmakers

    Q&A: ELIJAH WOODElijah Wood is starring in the adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel "Everything Is Illuminated." He chatted with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.How many times a day do you get called Frodo?At least once. It is what it is. I can't really be annoyed about it. A lot of people saw the movies, so it makes sense. I understand it.I heard you talking on "Howard Stern" about other people who auditioned for "Lord of the Rings."Yeah, I heard that Vin Diesel made a tape of himself reading the book in front of a fire.A couple of weeks ago Dominic Monaghan told NEWSWEEK that you two were having an affair.Dom's actually going to have my child. We're very excited, very proud. We're going to name it Frodo. He wanted it to be called Mary, but I thought since it was my sperm I get to choose.Did you read "Everything Is Illuminated" after you got the part in the movie?I didn't--primarily because what we adapted was a portion of the book, and when I started thumbing through it I...
  • Steely Man

    Surely they're not going to kill Superman. Inside a soundstage in Sydney, Australia, Brandon Routh, as the Man of Steel, crawls across a black, wet wasteland, pursued by the evil Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) and Luthor's three henchmen. One of the thugs grabs Superman by his hair and shoves his face into a dark puddle, holding the hero's head underwater as he struggles for air. Luthor strides up behind Superman, stabs him in the back with some sort of Kryptonite shiv and whispers a sentence so horrifying (and, for now, top secret) into his ear that Superman cries out in agony. He staggers to his feet, stumbles and topples backward over a cliff. Luthor walks to the edge, looks down into the abyss and sneers, "So long, Superman." Playing this scene just once would be rough. Routh will be beaten and tormented for hours. "He's very heroic normally," says director Bryan Singer, sipping an iced vanilla latte. "You just happened to catch him on a bad day."By the time "Superman Returns" lands...
  • COMING ATTRACTIONS

    When Joaquin Phoenix met Johnny Cash about five years ago, the young actor had no idea that one day he'd be playing the music legend. "We were at a friend's place in L.A.," Phoenix says. "We went into the living room after dinner, and he comes in--his hands were shaking really bad by then--and he picks up his guitar, and the moment he touches the strings, the shake is gone." After Cash's wife, June, joined him, the two sang "I Stood on the Banks of Jordan" together. "It was one of the most special moments of my life," Phoenix says. But the big thrill came later, when Phoenix learned that Cash was a fan of his Oscar-nominated performance as the evil emperor in "Gladiator." "I'm leaving, and he says," and here Phoenix's voice drops an octave into Cash's country lilt, "I really loved that 'Gladiator.' I really like the way you say, 'Your wife moaned like a whore as they ravaged her again and again and again'." Phoenix laughs: "That's the duality of Johnny: he was very, very family...
  • NATURE FILMS: BABY PENGUINS = BIG $

    The chilly documentary "March of the Penguins" is the summer's hottest ticket. The $1 million film, which follows the mating and birthing season of the emperor penguin, has earned more than $30 million domestically and is now the second highest-grossing doc ever behind "Fahrenheit 9/11." "Anybody who tells you they expected this is on crack," says Warner Independent president Mark Gill, who (with National Geographic Feature Films) bought the movie at the Sundance Film Festival. "You make movies, you hope they're good, but you never know which one is going to be a hit."No kidding. When Gill first saw the film, directed by Luc Jacquet, it was in French, with a techno-pop score, and the filmmakers had scripted actual dialogue for the penguins--as if they were animated. "It was very... French," Gill says, laughing. So they cut five minutes, ditched the cheesy dialogue, added a classical score, wrote a fresh narration and hired Morgan Freeman to give the film its voice--all for only...
  • COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU

    Hollywood's worried about you. For decades it's just assumed you were stopping by the multiplex every weekend, but lately you've been--let's face it--a little distant. Box-office grosses are down almost 8 percent over last year, and ticket sales this summer have dropped about 10 percent. Depending on whom you talk to, that's either a minor, inevitable blip or a harbinger of the death of theaters. Either way, Hollywood really wants you back, so if you're going to play hard to get, it's just going to work harder to get you. NEWSWEEK asked some of the brightest minds and biggest brokers in the film business to predict how movies and moviegoing will be different 10 years from now. It looks as if the summer of 2015 will be a lot cooler.First of all, you won't have to go anywhere. "Ten years from now, we'll release a film and you'll be able to consume it however you want," says Yair Landau, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Digital. Which means that instead of packing the kids into the car...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    A new CD ("Countryman"), new movie("The Dukes of Hazzard"), on the road again (with Dylan)--won't Willie Nelson, 73, ever slow down? He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Jac Chebatoris:There's a pot leaf on the cover of the new CD, and you say in the liner notes you may have been too blunted to remember to thank everyone. Can we guess why this record took 10 years to happen?Let your imagination run with that one--you can't be too far wrong, I'm sure.Why the new reggae-country blend?It just works nice--and you can't keep from moving. Instead of crying in your beer, you're dancing in your beer.Was your wife on the set while you were filming "The Dukes of Hazzard" with Jessica Simpson in her Daisy Dukes?Uh, no, she wasn't. But I kept getting calls from her.You've been married four times. Were your wives always on your mind when you were on the road?Yeah, I've really discovered that there's no such thing as an "ex-wife"--there's only "additional wives." It works better if you look at it that way...
  • DEPP DISH

    For years he seemed dead set on being anything other than a movie star, playing so many offbeat characters in so many offbeat movies that he practically became his own genre. Between 1989 and 1998, not a single Johnny Depp film grossed more than $55 million domestically. But two summers ago, "Pirates of the Caribbean" plundered $652 million worldwide, and Depp suddenly became Hollywood's hottest "new" leading man. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Sean Smith.SMITH: You've been in the Bahamas shooting two sequels to "Pirates of the Caribbean." How's that going?DEPP: You know, quite a bit of traveling and a lot of swashbuckling. But it's good for a man to buckle his swash every now and then.When you made the first "Pirates," your performance worried studio executives. That happened again when Warner Bros. first saw you as Willy Wonka. What gives?At the beginning of the shoot we weren't getting phone calls from the studio that said, "We're freaked out." And that freaked me out. It's important to...
  • CITIZEN CANE

    Playing Willy Wonka is not for the timid. It requires courage, imagination and flawless fashion sense. "I like these heels," Johnny Depp says, pulling up his pant cuff to reveal a sleek boot emblazoned with a swirly W. "I wanted Wonka to be this long, string-beany kind of figure, and give him these unbelievable cha-cha heels." It's late September, on a soundstage outside London, and Depp is taking a break in the inventing room of Wonka's factory. Nearby, director Tim Burton sets up for the scene in which gum-smacking Violet Beauregarde will meet a violet end. "This is our fourth movie together," Depp says. "I'm so honored that he asked me to play Wonka. I just hope I'm in the right arena here. My first concern is always, 'Jesus, I don't want to let Tim down'." Or the rest of the world, for that matter."Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is a movie that divides people even before they've seen it. Stand in any theater lobby near the film's poster--with Depp in his merlot velvet coat...
  • THE KING OF THE WORLDS

    Since "Jaws" scared the country out of the water 30 years ago, Steven Spielberg has consistently made movies that are not only record-breaking hits, but part of our national iconography. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Sean Smith in his office--complete with fireplace, Norman Rockwell painting and a parrot named Blanche.SMITH: What was the first movie that really scared you?SPIELBERG: "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" with Michael Landon.Really?I was about 7 years old. I snuck out on a Saturday and went to the movie theater in Haddonfield, N.J.--about a mile away. I'd seen "The Searchers" there and a lot of great movies. In the scene where Michael Landon turned into a werewolf--the hair grew on his face and his teeth came out and he began to foam at the mouth--that was the first time that I felt fear on the verge of panic. I got up and left. You left?Yeah. I went home because I wanted my mother and father. I wanted a hug. Instead I got yelled at because I had walked a mile to go to a movie without...
  • FEAR FACTOR

    When you're making a $135 million movie about aliens invading Earth, it's good to have some rules. So in 2003, while Steven Spielberg was shooting "The Terminal" in Montreal, screenwriter David Koepp flew north with a list of cliches that he believed "War of the Worlds" had to avoid. "Here are the things we could not have in this movie," Koepp says. "One: no destruction of famous landmarks. Two: no unnecessary beating up of New York City. Three: no politicians or scientists or generals as main characters. Four: no shots of military leaders pushing ships around on a big map with sticks. And five: no shots of world capitals." If they'd been able to peek into the future, they might have added six: no star who's going to have a Howard Dean moment on "Oprah," and turn prerelease publicity into a referendum on his love life.The good news is that the debate over Tom Cruise--who last week proposed to Katie Holmes atop the Eiffel Tower--will seem far less pressing once audiences get a look...
  • A MAJOR PITCH FEST

    A few weeks from now, 22-year-old Molly Kron will graduate from one of the most prestigious film schools in the country. Last Monday night, though, all that mattered was whether she could channel all that education into a three-minute pitch for an animated comedy screenplay she calls "Cash Cow." "I'm a little nervous," she said, as she prepared to face a room full of suits in the hopes of scoring an agent, a manager or a movie deal. "In the beginning my pitch was really long. It gets pretty crazy at times, with the talking weasels and dancing muskrats."Every year the USC School of Cinema-Television--alma mater to George Lucas, among other luminaries--sponsors a program called First Pitch, which trains graduating screenwriting seniors and master's students in Hollywood's lingua franca, the pitch, and then puts them in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills with three dozen industry players. On Monday, Kron and 51 other students entered the ballroom and faced row upon...
  • FILM: INVASION OF THE HOT MOVIE STARS

    Just a few months ago, 26-year-old actress Ziyi Zhang found herself on a panel at the Telluride Film Festival, seated beside Joan Allen, Ellen Barkin, Laura Linney and Annette Bening. "Ziyi was scared to death," says Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which released Zhang's recent film, "The House of Flying Daggers." "She thought, 'There's no way I can compare with these great actresses.' But the minute that panel started, all those women deferred to her, in a way, as the actress of the future." Even if most Americans don't yet know her name (even if they can't remember which country she's from), Zhang and her fellow Chinese filmmakers have added their own artistic accent to American movies, and have helped turn film into China's most powerful cultural export.Without Chinese cinema, there would be no "Matrix" franchise. There would be no "Rush Hour" with Jackie Chan and no Quentin Tarantino flicks. Without Chinese filmmakers there would be no Bruce Lee movies...
  • HEART OF 'GLASS'

    On this Sunday afternoon in this dressing room at the Barrymore Theatre, there are yellow tulips on the table, and Jessica Lange, shoeless, curled into a soft-green easy chair. "I'm often my own worst enemy," she says. "I make weird decisions: I say no to things I should say yes to. I work when I shouldn't and don't when I should." She laughs. "I can't say it's been the best-designed career, but, you know, usually the decisions have been made for some emotional reason." She leans her head back and exhales. "I really hesitated before doing this.""This" is a revival of Tennessee Williams's classic family drama, "The Glass Menagerie," and when it opens on Broadway this week, those yellow tulips in Lange's dressing room will, no doubt, be drowning in red roses. Lange plays the Southern matriarch Amanda Wingfield--a single mother of adult children who's desperately trying to marry off her unstable daughter before it's too late, as well as prevent her son from fleeing the family...
  • CATWALKS AND CATFIGHTS

    I only did this show to get laid," says Jay McCarroll. Pity. He'll have to settle for being a new darling of the fashion world--and reality television--instead. McCarroll is one of three finalists in Bravo's sleeper cable hit "Project Runway," a show that pits 12 fashion designers against each other in a cutthroat competition to be the next Valentino or Versace. This Wednesday, after 10 weeks of grueling (and gloriously bitchy) episodes, one contestant will walk away with $100,000 to start a clothing line. Who wins almost seems beside the point. The final three showed their collections during New York's Fashion Week this month, and discovered how famous they've already become. "This has just been f---ing surreal," McCarroll says. "I mean, when a girl licks your face and says, 'I want you to be the father of my children,' that's a bit excessive."By all counts, "Project Runway" shouldn't be a runaway success. "Fashion was scary," says Bravo president Lauren Zalaznick. "I had immense...
  • SAY GOODBYE TO HOLLYWOOD

    "I never thought of myself as a suit," Sherry Lansing says. Neither did anyone else. Lansing, who began her career as a model and an actress, was named president of 20th Century Fox in 1980--the first woman to run a major studio. From 1983 to 1992, she worked as a producer, and for the past 12 years she has run Paramount Pictures as studio chairman. Once a top-grossing studio, Paramount ended 2004 in seventh place, and Lansing has spent the past year fighting the perception that her company lacks cash, chutzpah or both. In November she announced that she planned to leave Paramount, and as former talent manager Brad Grey prepared to take over on March 1, she sat down with NEWSWEEK's Sean Smith to tell her side of the story. Excerpts:SMITH: Why now, after 12 years as chairman of Paramount, have you decided to leave the movie business?Lansing: I want to have more fun. [Laughs] I've led a completely structured life for the last 12 years. I want more spontaneity. I want to have more...
  • 2005 OSCAR ROUNDTABLE

    ON JAN. 15, WE GATHERED THE MOST CELEBRATED ACTORS OF THE SEASON FOR AN INTIMATE TALK ABOUT THE PAINS AND JOYS OF A LIFE IN PICTURES
  • THE GOODBYE GIRL

    I never thought of myself as a suit," Sherry Lansing says. Neither did anyone else. Lansing, who began her career as a model and actress, was named president of 20th Century Fox in 1980--the first woman to run a major studio. From 1983 to 1992, she worked as a producer. At 47, she married director William Friedkin, and for the last 12 years she has run Paramount Pictures as studio chairman. Over her three-decade career she has presided over a long list of culture-defining films, including "Kramer vs. Kramer," "The China Syndrome," "Fatal Attraction," "The Accused," "Forrest Gump," "The First Wives Club," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Titanic." But the last two years have been tough at Paramount. Once a top-grossing studio, it ended 2004 in seventh place, and Lansing has spent the last year fighting the perception that her company lacks cash, chutzpah or both. Last November she announced that she planned to leave Paramount--and the film business--behind. Industry gossip speculated that...
  • HIS DARK MATERIALS

    The last time I was at the Oscars," Kevin Bacon says, "was in 1982--to present somebody with a sound-effects-editing award." Despite strong performances in films ranging from "Footloose" to "JFK," "Diner" to "Apollo 13," despite rave reviews for his role last year in "Mystic River," Bacon has never been nominated for an Academy Award. "If getting awards was the most important thing for me," he says, "I would have jumped out the window a long time ago." OK, but still... "Yeah," Bacon admits, "it's been a lot of years of feeling that, to a certain extent, there's this club of which I am not a member."Bacon's latest film, "The Woodsman," gives the Academy good reason to extend an invite at last. This spare, haunting drama from first-time director Nicole Kassell follows Walter (Bacon), a pedophile released from prison, who struggles to rebuild his life while battling the loathing of his co-workers and his own dark desires. Bacon could have played Walter either as harmless victim or as...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Q&A: Candice BergenLast seen regularly on TV as Murphy Brown, Candice Bergen is joining the cast of "Boston Legal." She talked with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin about her new show, her ventriloquist father, Edgar Bergen, her dummy "brother," Charlie McCarthy, and the pleasures of weirdness.In the show your old flame is Bill Shatner. Are we going to see lots of sexual tension?Well, it's more sexual slapstick. My character, Shirley Schmidt--whose name I just love--sort of taunts him. It's a game of worthy cat-and-mouse. It's fun to play this character because she's deeply weird.Can you relate to her weirdness?Oh, yeah. I think people would be very surprised at how weird I am. Also I find the older one gets, the weirder one gets.Does your weirdness embarrass your daughter?Yes, although I have to say she's almost taken the other tack, which is to outdo me, so we're often partners in crime.Is it true that you were wooed by "60 Minutes" to be a correspondent?It is true. The first time I...
  • PERFECTLY MISERABLE

    What are the chances of me getting into a seduction scene with Meryl Streep?" Jim Carrey asks. Slim. But like most things you'd rather not see, it's happening anyway. Here, on a soundstage south of Los Angeles, where Lake Lachrymose has been re-created in all its gloomy glory, the evil Count Olaf (Carrey) is sporting a fake wooden leg and putting the moves on phobic Aunt Josephine (Streep), chatting her up about... grammar and flesh-eating leeches. "Yes, all the big turn-ons," Streep says later, laughing. "The standard tropes of modern romance." It gets worse. In the world of the Baudelaire orphans, it always does.If you're under 15, you may already know about the tragic fate of Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and Sunny Baudelaire (twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman). They lived a perfect life until their mansion was mysteriously consumed in flames, their beloved parents along with it.With no real relatives and their inheritance locked away until they reach adulthood, the...
  • LATINO INVASION

    Foreigners are the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood. Some of the most celebrated directors of "American" films weren't born in the United States at all: Billy Wilder, William Wyler, Frank Capra, Elia Kazan, Mike Nichols, Roman Polanski, John Woo, Ang Lee... all born outside the United States. Of all the Oscars handed out for best directing since 1929, 27 percent have gone to men for whom English was (or is) a foreign language; 23 percent of best-picture winners were directed by a foreign-born auteur. Oddly, though, not one of those prizes has gone to a director from Mexico or South America. That's about to change.Hollywood is in the midst of a Pan-American invasion, courtesy of five visionary talents who are poised to become to the next decade what Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola were to the 1970s. Yes, really. This group of Nuevo Wave directors has busted out of the art houses and into the mainstream. Mexican director Alfonso...
  • CLIVE ARRIVES

    Here's a surprise: of the four actors in "Closer," Mike Nichols's new film, Clive Owen is the least famous, but he delivers the most memorable performance. In this ensemble drama about seduction and betrayal, the 40-year-old Brit, star of last summer's "King Arthur," squares off in major scenes with Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Natalie Portman, and does more than hold his own. He dominates. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he gets some of the best lines in this Oscar contender. In one scene, Law, as a sniveling, cheating novelist, whines to Owen, "You think love is simple? You think the heart is like a diagram?" Owen snaps back: "Ever seen the human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood. Go f--- yourself, you... writer!"Mention this moment, and Owen laughs. "Those tough, brutal scenes are hugely enjoyable to play," he says. "The shocking scenes are never less than very, very smart. For all the brutality in 'Closer,' there's some wicked humor in it. It's very witty." Roberts,...