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Cannes is in fine fettle

Famed festival off to good start

“A BON commencement bonne fin.” A good beginning makes a good end, say the French. (They are saying a lot these days with their controversial new president, but we could apply this to the Cannes Film Festival as well.) Would you walk a mile down the Croisette to see a movie by the controversial Coen brothers, or Hollywood’s pet Quentin Tarantino, or the fabled Gus Van Sant, or the relatively unpublicized Hong Kong maestro Wong Kar-Wai? If so, maybe you belong in Cannes at the most famous of all movie festivals — this one being the French Riviera’s glamorous 60th celebration. There are 20 films plus in contention for the Palme d’Or and five are U.S. productions such as “No Country for Old Men,” “Death House,” and director Kar-Wai’s “My Blueberry Nights,” which kicked things off. Some people find Cannes old-hat, but they’re saying the films this year are the best in a decade and the strongest in recent times. The Festival runs through Sunday and will, in some ways, affect a lot of what we see in the cineplexes in the future.

THAT WOMAN. Marlo Thomas is teamed up with the “Today” show, heading a three-part series “In Search of the Modern Day Woman.” The series began on May 15 with Marlo talking about her own groundbreaking series “That Girl” and her subsequent work to uplift young women, enabling them to recognize and use their empowerment. Another segment airs on May 23, and it winds up on May 30.

FRANK SINATRA sang it — “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…” New York, New York, that is. Sinatra had already made it, decades before he ever sang that song, but young Peter Cincotti had it made in the shade of Manhattan’s steel and cement towers at the age of 21 — being the youngest person ever to play the fabled Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel. Cincotti, now 23, is known for his powerful voice — usually unleashed on jazz standards — and terrific piano work. But this kid has an old soul, and he has put what he knows about life and love in big cities into his upcoming album, “East of Angel Town.” Cincotti appeared early this week to showcase a few of his new songs at New York’s The Box, a candlelit and seductively cramped theater space way over on the East Side. Fans who’ve been with him since his cabaret days were on hand, as well as Warner Music CEOs such as Lyor Cohen and also Clear Channel’s big man, Jim Ryan. (If you want radio play, you’ve got to impress Ryan. Yes, music radio is still very much alive, folks.) Cincotti rocked the place — this is a much sexier Cincotti than his old Algonquin days — and had ’em begging for more, but this was just a tasty hors d’oeuvre from his CD, so he didn’t milk it — off and on. “East of Angel Town” arrives in August.

NBC’S long-running original “Law & Order” continues to fight on, despite ratings fatigue, continued cast changes and the blow of losing Fred Thompson, who will probably run for president. (He plays the district attorney and is a distinct asset; he is also the show’s no-nonsense conservative voice.) However, “L & O” producer Dick Wolf might try shaking up his writing staff, along with juggling actors. Those “ripped from the headlines” gimmicks, have not only grown tired but are sometimes offensive and nearly libelous. I was not surprised at what they did with their version of Anna Nicole Smith, but felt troubled at how they re-invented the recent story of a boy kidnapped at the age of 11 by a sexual predator. He was finally found and reunited with his family at the age of 15. In the TV show, the boy is revealed as a killer. How many people will remember the real-life case every time this episode is rerun, and mis-remember the facts? Time for some original writing fellas. To give “L&O” some credit they did not include in the script a cable TV news anchor that opines that maybe the boy was having too much “fun” to go back to his parents.

(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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