Sunday Sundries

April 30, 2006

Sir Ian McKellen

  • Interview with Sir Ian McKellen.  [Observer]
  • Rating the biggest sluts in Hollywood history: maybe Charlie Sheen is just emulating Errol Flynn?  [Independent]
  • Is Michelle Rodriguez a lesbian?  Or only when she's drunk?  [D Listed]
  • Examining the popularity of You Tube.  [Boing Boing]
  • Katie Holmes goes through a name change to finalize her indoctrination into the cult show how she has evolved into a mature, childbearing woman.  [Biggest Stars]

Sour Notes

April 30, 2006

Wyclef Jean 

  • Wyclef Jean is working really hard to become an honorary latino.  [Yahoo
  • Interview with Busta Rhymes.  [XXL
  • Imogen Heap has a new video.  [Arjan]
  • What will it take for a recording artist to get paid?  [Boing Boing]
  • Ruben "Velvet Teddy Bear" Studdard (he actually came up with that himself!) is more than a little slow on the uptake.  [MTV]
  • Snoop goes all the way to London to "keep it real".  [Defamer]
  • Speaking of Snoop, will he send Ronan Keating"Stop Snitchin'" T-shirt? [Biggest Stars]
  • Interview with Dem Franchize Boys.  [PopMatters]
  • A preview of the new Pearl Jam album.  [Stereogum]
  • Watching the sales of Christina Aguilera's new album will be like watching a spinning roulette wheel; since she's included at least one song from every conceivable style of music, the chances of success will be just as random.  [MTV]
  • Interview with Neil Young.  [Observer]
  • NY's Hot 97 radio station may end up having to broadcast from a boat in the middle of the East River… then guests could save bullets by drowning their enemies instead of shooting them.  [XXL]

The Hidden Story Behind the “Opal Mehta” Debacle

April 30, 2006

Opal Mehta Book Cover 

London Times reveals the process behind the star making machine in modern publishing.  Kaavya Viswanathan may have plagiarized two other novels in writing her own, but it seems that she could not have done this without at least a few other people knowing of it before the book went to print:

… the story has also shone a harsh light on one of the publishing world’s secrets — the factory-like creation of a babe-tastic author.

Indian-born Viswanathan was just 17 when she secured a two-book deal for $500,000 (£275,000) on the strength of her first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.

The daughter of two New Jersey-based doctors, she got her break while using a $10,000-plus counselling service for her — successful — application to Harvard. The founder of the service looked over her novel and passed it on to an agent at William Morris, the famed talent agency.

From there it was farmed out to 17th Street Productions, a division of Alloy Entertainment, now probably the most famous “book packager” in America. Alloy specialises in developing young adult “chick lit” authors before passing them on to publishers.

Alloy’s team craft the proposal, shape the plot and create characters. Even the writing of the book is often farmed out to a team of authors. The process is more similar to television writing than most readers’ idea of the creation of a novel and the packaging closer to creating a boy band than promoting a new literary star.

Among Alloy’s hit series are The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, recently made into a film, and the Sweet Valley High books, which became a TV series. This weekend Alloy had three books in the New York Times children’s paperback bestseller list.

Viswanathan, who needed "extra help" to make it into Harvard, apparently needed extra help to get her book published, as well.  With all of this help, she still couldn't manage to craft a more creative story, with original dialogue?  It's only chick lit, at that.  And it's pretty clear now that her "handlers" were so busy seeing dollar signs that they ignored the fact that her story was ripped from two other already famous novels. 

You would think that the marketers would have gone for more than just an "ethnic" spin on an already over-used formula, but then, if people will buy it, why bother trying to be original? 

Will publishing ever be about the actual content and substance of books?  Obviously, the main objective is to sell books and make money from those sales, but, the publishing world, like Hollywood, has discovered how easy it is to sell the same idea to people over and over.  And quite a few publishers don't even bother to pretend that the actual writing is what really matters.

"Lit Chick Debacle that Damns the Publishers"  [London Times]

News and Nonsense

April 30, 2006

Marlee Matlin 

  • Marlee Matlin joins the mess that is The L Word.  [Defamer
  • For once, David Copperfield uses magic for something useful.  [Gabsmash]
  • Meanwhile, David Blaine still hasn't managed to use his magical know-how to make himself disappear permanently.  [D Listed]
  • This summer looks like it will be a boon for insomniacs.  [Yahoo]
  • Hotmail is supposedly receiving an upgrade, but with Microsoft, all upgrades come with a required probationary downgrade period.  [Towleroad]
  • Rolling Stone celebrates its 1,000th issue.  [Observer]
  • And Keith Richards probably fell out of that tree getting drunk for his 1,000th birthday.  [AFP]
  • Since Quentin Tarantino is directing the Jimi Hendrix biopic, the movie has a slight chance of being watchable (as long as Quentin opts out of any cameos). [Female First]
  • Rosie O'Donnell to raise the ratings, Joy Behar's voice, Star Jones's ire, and hopefully, Elizabeth Hasselbeck's IQ on The View.  [Gawker]
  • Sharon Stone might make her kids fly coach while she flies first class, but she would never neglect them!  [Biggest Stars]
  • Countless women will soon be able to say that their hideous jeans were actually designed (and not just worn) by Sienna Miller.  [The Bosh]
  • Jennifer Lopez is still learning that obscurity can be inherited through marriage.  And in her new reality show, she will demonstrate just how quickly a celebrity can drop from the A List to the C List.  [Female First]

The Formula for the Perfect B-List Movie Career

April 15, 2006

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker 

PopMatters gives a nifty guide for B-List movie stars who want to maintain their B-level status.  Hey, it's better than being considered a D-List star, right? 

  1. You're not that bankable, and you probably never will be:  You have enough fingers to count all of Hollywood's truly bankable blockbuster actors: Cruise, Hanks, Gibson, Carrey, Will Smith, and even Adam Sandler.  There aren't many of them, and they don't come around often. Go ahead and assume you won't be one of them…
  2. You're a movie star, not an actor:  There are two famous people named Ewan McGregor. One is a fine actor, one is a mid-level movie star. Aside from a brief fling on the set of Moulin Rouge, they've never met. Johnny Depp and Sean Penn can go years without a hit and still find success somewhere down the line. They're marvelous actors and will always be able to find work, even if their star power ebbs and flows somewhat. That was never their point of emphasis, anyway. You, on the other hand, are probably not nearly as talented
  3. Prestige won't pay your electric bill:  … Jim Carrey and Will Smith could afford unsuccessful forays into drama because they knew subsequent movies like Men in Black II and Bruce Almighty could bring them right back to the top. And hey, Tom Cruise sure seemed to enjoy Magnolia. But unless you're at the Tom Cruise level, hits make stars, not the other way around.
  4. Ride the coattails, share the blame:  This is where Richard Gere's career proves most instructive. Is Gere a box office draw? Not especially, but he knows how to hitch his wagon to one. Notice how he scores big hits and paydays with Julia Roberts, but does lackluster business when paired with Wynona Ryder or Jennifer Lopez. Gere is great at appearing to be an elite star as long as he isn't actually the one responsible for deciding a movie's fate…
  5. Jerry Bruckheimer is your friend:  If you want to get famous, stay famous, and make money, Bruckheimer is your man. You may not like what he does, but he's damn good at it. Think it was Good Will Hunting that made Ben Affleck a big star? Nope. That got him in the door, but that was just a screenplay and a supporting role. Affleck has headlined four movies to cross $100 million domestically, and the first two were Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. Josh Hartnett broke to wider audiences with Pearl Harbor as well, and scored his one real hit with Black Hawk Down. Josh Lucas just did the same with Glory Road, another Bruckheimer production.
  6. Know thine own mediocrity:  Some people can do comedy. You might not be one of those people — Josh Hartnett, I'm looking at you. After all, we saw you fail at it twice. Granted, comedy worked out well for Vin Diesel in The Pacifier. But that was family comedy, where all you have to do is pander a little and follow the Kindergarten Cop motif. Paul Walker similarly scored with Eight Below, where all he had to do was sit back and good-naturedly let the huskies do all the acting. But Hartnett tried to make grownup comedies, when 1) He doesn't have any comedic talent, and 2) Grownups don't know who he is.
  7. If Mark Wahlberg can do it, so can you: The beauty of the middle is that any idiot can make it work. Wahlberg's had an amazing run for someone whose supporting cast used to be The Funky Bunch. There's no reason you can't determine whether you'll be Wahlberg or back to oblivion. From William Holden to Matthew McConaughey, Hollywood history is littered with second-raters who carved out nice careers for themselves.

The rest can be found here.   

Musical Musings

April 10, 2006

Britney Spears 

  • Britney Spears’s record label has reportedly demanded that she lose weight if she wants to release another album.  Maybe K-Fed put them up to it… [BiggestStars]
  • Jamie Foxx is glad that his debut album flopped back in 1994, because with the dearth of musical talent today, he has practically no competition now.  [Digital Spy]
  • Steely Dan: Rock, Jazz, Pop, or something else?  The debate continues.  [PopMatters]
  • It seems that everybody wants to help Whitney Houston — everyone but Bobby Brown.  [Contact Music]
  • Mary J. Blige collaborating with Madonna?  Could that possibly sound like anything other than a mess?  [SOHH Soulful]
  • Nelly has been reluctant to take more acting roles because he is not good at showing emotion; too bad so many others in Hollywood refuse to follow his example.  [Contact Music]
  • Kanye West must have overdosed on the self-esteem pills again.  [ONTD]
  • Interview with Ghostface Killah.  [PopMatters]
  • Khia is releasing a new album to show us that she’s expanded her vocabulary beyond “my neck, my back” (although, she did decide to use that to name her new fragrance — hopefully it won’t smell like cat piss and watered down gin). [SOHH]

Loose Ends

April 10, 2006

 Wentworth Miller

  • Interview with Wentworth Miller.  [BiggestStars
  • LA Times chronicles the rise of "terrorist chic" fashion. [LAT]
  • Victoria Beckham has been consulting a plastic surgeon on the best strategies to preserve her signature robotic look. [Digital Spy]
  • Interview with Antonio Banderas.  [Independent]
  • Lindsay Lohan deemed too trashy and haggish American to model for Louis Vuitton.  [Contact Music]
  • Profile of Lucy Liu.  [London Times]
  • Noah's Arc: Like The L Word, another example of a questionably gay-themed show that gays feel that they have to settle for.  [Nova Slim]
  • Divorce Court TV show judge Mablean Ephraim claims she was fired from the show (a la Cynthia McKinney) all over "much ado about a hairdo".  [TMZ]
  • Why Bono wears sunglasses all the time.  [LAT]