NEWSMAKERS

The rumor mill has long been unkind to pop power couple Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake--last June, a radio station claimed that they had died in a car crash--but now it's getting downright vicious.

Hbo's Boldest Thoroughbred

In 1973, the same year HBO was born, the man who has built a home for tough, critically adored dramas "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" was bombing onstage at the Improv in New York.

And The Loser Is... Us

For nominees, Oscar season is a lot like being pregnant. (Am I qualified to make this claim? Heck no, but I'm comfortable with that.) The waiting period is all nervous excitement, months of tingly ups, queasy downs and one call after another from jealous friends who are just thrilled for you.

A Sort-Of Diary

Let me tell you about my shower. For three weeks now, I have lived at the Anniversary Inn, a Salt Lake City bed and breakfast distinguished by outrageously decorated theme rooms.

The Ballad Of Trey Wingo

I cry for you, Trey Wingo. "SportsCenter" is my favorite show, my touchstone in the morning and my bedtime story at night, and you, Trey Wingo, with your easy wit and your silly name, have always been one of my favorite anchors.

Slip Sliding Away

Here's how it was supposed to go: the United States, having assembled its finest cast of sliding-sport athletes ever, wins a handful of Olympic medals in Salt Lake.

Slide-Enfreude

Let's make this clear up front: It is not right to root for athletes to crash. That's beer-raised-in-the-air NASCAR stuff and I, for one, am firmly on the record with my disapproval.

Grizzly Skiers Gamble On Guts And Glory

Among athletes at the Winter Games, there is a polite--and uncharacteristically modest--dispute about what sport is the most white-knuckle terrifying. Pull aside a skeleton slider, a freestyle aerialist and a ski jumper and they'll each make a compelling case for the other guy.

Safety In Checkpoints

Rest assured, Mom, it's very safe here. The NEWSWEEK Olympic team can't vouch for all of Salt Lake City just yet, but if the security out there is anything close to the lockdown here at the Main Media Center, located in the old Salt Palace where the Utah Jazz used to play, the only thing we have to worry about is burning ourselves on McDonald's coffee.

A Soldier's Story

If one were so inclined, it would be easy to persuade people not to see "No Man's Land," this year's Golden Globe winner for best foreign film and, suddenly, the Oscar favorite in the same category.

True Believer

Malcolm X was in the next room, just a closed door away, when the Champ made up his mind to cut him off. Hours earlier, 22-year-old Cassius Clay "shook up the world," taking the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, a snarling bull of a man.

Best Sex Scene, Most Pointless Tv Cliffhanger, Worst Line In A Movie

The only thing that approaches the fun of getting an award is giving a few out. And seeing as how I failed to write, direct, produce, edit, appear in or compose the score for any movies this past year, it looks as if I'm going home empty-handed on Oscar night again.Fortunately, NEWSWEEK provides us with this cyberpulpit from which to pay homage to the Year in Entertainment.

Shelby Stoops To Conquer

BY DEVIN GORDON Sometimes the album cover tells the whole story. Pick up Shelby Lynne's last CD, 2000's magnificent "I Am Shelby Lynne," and check out that stormy black-gray background, the singer's face taut, her eyes glowering.

The Return Of Alt-Rock

Three scenes from the alternative-rock nation, circa 2001: Two members of Saves The Day, a New Jersey pop-punk quartet, pick at their vegetarian platter at a restaurant in New York's West Village.

Camcorder Confusion

Would it kill electronics manufacturers to use actual words when naming their products? In the digital-camcorder market, each of the big boys--Canon, Sony, Panasonic, JVC--offers an affordable, first-rate model.

A Phatty Boom Batty Flick

The first person you meet on the set of Kevin Smith's new movie, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," is a guy named Ratface. He is Smith's production designer, a job usually held by extravagant Italians or tasteful women.

Coming Distractions

When was the last time you came out of the movie theater and said, "Wow, that was really good"--and you weren't talking about the popcorn? It's been a disgraceful summer so far.

The Age Of Navel Gazing

Close your eyes and try to picture Britney Spears with her navel covered. Can't do it, right? That's because you've never seen it covered. That's because it never has been.

She's Getting The Royal Treatment

Shy, frizzy-haired Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is struggling through teendom in San Francisco when her grandmother (Julie Andrews) shows up and spills a family secret: Mia is the princess of a tiny country named Genovia. ("Shut up!" cries Mia.) Should she inherit the throne or stay in school?

High Infidelity

Katie Carr is a good person. She's a doctor--she cures people--and that should count for something. Yes, she's having an affair. Yes, this could wreck her family.

Movies: Vin-Dicated

Vin Diesel is a very large man with several amusing little tics. When he answers a question he mashes his eyes shut, looking almost pained, as though if he doesn't get this sentence out, it'll eat his brain.

The Dominator

The world's greatest golfer seems to get better and better. How does he do it? Newsweek asked other greats like Montana, Gretzky, Navratilova and Jordan about what it takes to be on top of the world.

Arts Extra: Big In Japan

I am a proud, arrogant New Yorker. I am the kind of New Yorker you probably hate-you know, the kind that believes the world plunges into a rocky, smoky abyss at the borders of Manhattan (and, OK, four or five neighborhoods in Brooklyn).

Questions &Amp; Answers: Michael Johnson

Of all his accomplishments-Olympic wins, world records and so on-sprinter Michael Johnson is most proud of one thing: "All gold," he likes to say, his shorthand for the fact that he has never finished anywhere but first in a major competition.

Questions &Amp; Answers: Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson was one of the most intimidating starting pitchers in baseball history. He won two Cy Young Awards and two World Series tiles with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960s, and, in 1968, he had what many consider to be the most dominant season ever by a pitcher: 23 wins, 7 losses, with a 1.12 earned-run average.

Questions &Amp; Answers: Martina Navratilova

For almost a decade, no tennis player, male or female, dominated the sport as thoroughly as Martina Navratilova. Powerful and relentless, Navratilova peaked in pressure situations, winning a record nine Wimbledon singles titles as part of her 167 career wins.

Questions &Amp; Answers: Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky was hockey's most legendary scorer. He won four Stanley Cups in the 1980s with the Edmonton Oilers and retired in 1999 holding nearly every scoring record the NHL keeps track of.

Ten Reasons To Stay Inside

Watch closely during the jousting scenes in Sony's medieval fantasy starring Heath Ledger, and you'll notice something odd amid all that wood from the shattering lances. "Linguine," says writer-director Brian Helgeland. "It looked good." After an awful experience directing "Payback" for Mel Gibson, Helgeland itched for some big-screen payback.

Arts Extra: Digital Dependency

It is a terrible thing when a suggestion you make ends the lives of three decent, hard-working people. In my case, it is particularly awful because one of those lives happens to be my own. "Gentlemen," I said to my two roommates about a month ago, when everything was so much simpler, "I think it's time for us to get digital cable." The living room fell silent.

A True Maverick

Were it not for Michael Jordan's partial stake in the Washington Wizards, there would be no doubt about it: Mark Cuban has the best jump shot of any owner in the NBA.

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