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Troubled times for clubs and kudos

Hollywood rewards its inner circle, but not as well as Washington takes care of its Bushies, as recent revelations remind us.

People who write columns tend to get asked a lot of questions. This is not to suggest that anyone expects to elicit instant wisdom, mind you. Rather, there’s an assumption out there (often true) that columnists like to pontificate; hence why not indulge us?

Having said that, here’s a summary of my most frequently asked questions of the moment, along with admittedly tepid responses:

Now that AOL Time Warner has staged its post-Pittman revolution, do you think it will sell off some major assets?

Not really, but with both AOL TW and Vivendi Universal in such combustible shape, it seems that some accommodation should take place. Perhaps there could be an asset swap, with Time Warner taking over Canal Plus in return for Vivendi inheriting AOL. In this turbulent economy, the doctrine of share-the-wealth is anachronistic. It should become one of divvy-up-the-turkeys.

  • Did you ever suspect that Michael Ovitz would self-destruct?

    The answer is “yes.” Ovitz was a master pitchman. That’s a valuable trait, unless you actually start believing your own pitches. We were having lunch a year or so ago when it suddenly occurred to me that Ovitz had been transmogrified from a seller into a buyer, and that he was buying into his own sell. That, to me, usually sets the stage for self-destruction.

  • Do you think the “gay Mafia” is a force in Hollywood?

    No, I don’t. But I’m still trying to figure out whatever happened to the straight Mafia.

  • Does it bother you that Hollywood seems more and more like a “club,” and only members get the perquisites?

    No. Washington is a “club,” not Hollywood. Look at how the “club” took care of George W. Bush. Why else did he realize a gain of $14.9 million from the sale of the Texas Rangers baseball team when his puny 1.8% stake only entitled him to $2.3 million? And who was that mystery buyer who bailed him out of Harken Energy at such a delicious profit? Now that’s a club I’d like to belong to.

  • Looking at the box office results, it would seem that the so-called “franchise pictures” are getting better. Do you agree?

    No, they’re just getting shorter. “Men in Black II” was only 88 minutes long, “Stuart Little II” only 78. Given the audience’s shrinking attention span, the best move a year from now may simply be to release the trailers, not the movies.

  • Do you think the Academy is correct in moving up the date of the Oscar ceremony?

    Yes, except that by moving up the date, they’ll make the Golden Globes even more important, rather than less, because whoever wins a Globe will look invincible when Oscar ballots are distributed just a few days later.

    Hence, a merger may be inevitable: The Academy will absorb the Golden Globes, setting up a new branch encompassing the foreign writers and maitre d. Needless to say, this branch alone will get a waiver to enjoy parties and junkets along with their screenings.

  • Do you think the Oscars should revise their awards criteria as well?

    Yes. The odds are stacked against the major studios, given their present production slates. In order to level the playing field, there should be a new award for best sequel. Also one for best adaptation of a theme park ride.

  • Are the Emmys in need of reform too?

    Clearly there should be a “no limits” category. Otherwise Showtime comes up empty yet again.

    As you can see from all this, there are many good questions around, just not many satisfactory answers.

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