January 25th, 2009
03:41 PM ET

'CSI: NY' actor on politics

Many stars showed up for Barack Obama’s inauguration in D.C. this week. CNN caught up with President Obama’s close friend, Hill Harper from "CSI: NY," on his political involvement as an actor.

According to Harper, the best currency on the campaign trail wasn’t money. "Well, certainly being on a TV show like 'CSI: NY' where 15 million people watch the show every week is what I call a currency or platform from which to speak. It’s almost like a currency of celebrity,” said Harper.

Although he’s a best-selling author and holds two degrees from Harvard, Harper says most people listen to him because of his role as an actor. “[Being an actor] gives a platform to actually speak and talk about something … that’s part of the key. You convince them to know about the relationship and let them know how good he will be.”

- Aspen Steib, CNN Producer

Filed under: Uncategorized
January 18th, 2009
03:34 PM ET

Obama trumps Sundance

The atmosphere at Sundance this year seems more subdued than normal. Not somber, just a little less feverish than usual. I think all the excitement over the inauguration of a new president has taken some of the wind out of the sails of festival-goers. The Hollywood types who come here are used to being the center of the universe—or feeling like they are. But they’re playing second fiddle to Barack Obama this time. It feels like a comeuppance of sorts.

The economy may be the other reason the festival seems less festive this year. Sundance veterans are all talking about how much quieter the town seems. The restaurants, usually packed to overflowing, have empty tables. You can get a cell signal here—usually there are so many industry-ites clogging the airwaves you can’t get a call out—your cell squawks “call failed” or “circuits busy” at every turn. But not this year.

Interestingly enough, festival founder Robert Redford is pleased with the decrease in traffic. At his opening day press conference he admitted he felt it was a good thing that fewer people are in town. He has long railed against celebrities who come to Park City to party and revel and could hardly be lured into a theater if their lives depended on it. Marketers set up “gifting suites” and “luxury lounges” to swag the stars (and attract the media). But there seems to be less of that going on this year. Or maybe the stars are just being more discreet—afraid to parade around with shopping bags stuffed with freebies in this period of hardship for ordinary folks.

Welcome to Sundance ’09 — maybe a place where, after all, film comes first.

January 13th, 2009
05:11 PM ET

Comics survey

Update, 1/15: The AJC's Frank Rizzo e-mailed to point out that the AJC has cut back from 1-1/2 pages to one, not "two full pages" as I wrote below. I've edited the passage. Thanks to Frank, and I apologize for the error. – TL


My hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is cutting back - like almost every other newspaper in the country. Yesterday, the cutbacks reached one of my favorite sections: the comics.

Until Monday, the AJC ran two full pages one-and-a-half pages of comic strips. Now it’s down to one.

The good news is that the strips it dropped includes “Judge Parker,” “Cathy” and that perennial car accident, “Mary Worth.” The bad news is that it still has “Curtis” and “Garfield.”

I’m not surprised they’re cutting down the comics page, though comics have long been ranked a favorite of newspaper readers. But there are fewer newspaper readers in the U.S. than ever - and, as “Pearls Before Swine” cartoonist Stephan Pastis told me in 2006, even comics can’t seem to reverse the trend.

Though, he pointed out, the “edgier” strips haven’t always been given much of a shot.

"If you ask 20 people in their 20s and 30s if they get a daily newspaper, I'd bet 18 would say they don't," he said then. "It may be too late [to attract them]. And if you cancel us [younger strips] because we're edgy, in 12 years, will you say, 'What happened?' "

Twelve years? In 12 years I may be the only person left who still reads the comics in a newspaper. (What can I say? I’m old-fashioned that way. In fact, the AJC just started running the daily strips in color, and it looks wrong. Call me a curmudgeon, though not this one.)

So I want to know: Do you care about the comics? Do you care about reading them in a newspaper, or is online just fine? And if you had to choose between “Cathy,” “Mary Worth” and “Judge Parker,” would you sooner drop yourself down a mineshaft?

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

P.S. To change the subject to a different kind of comic, PBS begins airing its six-hour history of American comedy, "Make 'em Laugh," Wednesday night. From what I’ve heard, it’s well worth tuning in.

Filed under: Uncategorized
January 12th, 2009
12:51 AM ET

From Spielberg to 'Slumdog'

Producer-director Steven Spielberg received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his extraordinary career encompassing 62 feature films, including "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "E.T.," "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" - just to name a few. He was supposed to receive the award last year, but as we all know, the ceremony was cancelled due to the writers strike.

Backstage, he was asked whether he still has the fire in his belly to make movies. "The fire has intensified," he replied. He also hinted that another Indiana Jones movie may be in the works. "George (Lucas) and I have had a couple of conversations about possible sequels."

Spielberg was less glib about his feelings toward alleged Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff, with whom he had substantial investments. "I have a lot of feelings about it, but this isn't the place to address them," he said.

Kate Winslet picked up TWO trophies - a best actress nod for "Revolutionary Road" and a best supporting actress win for "The Reader." It's the first time anyone has won Globes in both categories in a single year. Winslet told journalists she didn't have an acceptance speech pre-written for her actress victory. "I thought Anne Hathaway was going to win, hands down!" she admitted.

She also talked about the experience of working with her hubby, director Sam Mendes, for the first time. "I hadn't had it, and I was envious of those who did. It absolutely brought us closer together."

Once upon a time, the last person you'd see backstage was Mickey Rourke. But he bounded up to the podium once he'd taken the actor prize for "The Wrestler" - a gritty movie about a has-been champ trying to make a comeback. It's analogous to his own story as an actor.

"I thought when I left the business, that I could back back into it in two or three years. It actually took 13. It was a long journey. I tried to beat the system, and it beat the sh*t out of me," he said candidly. "It was never about my ability (as an actor). It was about handling myself in society, which I always had a problem with."

Rourke says acting is a profession where you can get a second chance, and that the Bruce Springsteen song from the movie (which also won) would probably be his favorite tune 'til the day he dies.

The last folks to hit the Press Room was the cast and crew of "Slumdog Millionaire" - which surprised no one with its win for best motion picture (drama). Bollywood actress Freida Pinto, who turned heads as the drop-dead gorgeous female lead, was excited at having met Angelina Jolie recently. She said she wanted to go up to Jolie and tell her how much she admired her. Instead, Jolie beat her to the punch. Unfortunately, Pinto had just popped a pastry into her mouth, and could only mumble a few unintelligible words.

"Slumdog" director Danny Boyle - who also walked away with a trophy - defended the movie's happy ending. Even though Mumbai has seen its share of hardship, the city still has an optimistic spirit, he said. Now it's bolstered by the fact that "Slumdog Millionaire" is a leading contender to win the Oscar for best picture next month. And the envelope, please ...

- Denise Quan, CNN Entertainment Correspondent, with CNN's Matt Carey and David Daniel

Filed under: Golden Globes
January 11th, 2009
10:57 PM ET

A couple points by Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks came backstage after "John Adams" won for best mini-series or motion picture made for television. Hanks served as executive producer on the HBO project, which chronicled the life and times of the second president. At the podium, he took the opportunity to say California should repeal Proposition 8 (which prohibits same-sex couples from marrying). He thinks it WILL be repealed in time, and cautioned that anyone with money can put on TV ads and convince the public of something for a while.

"John Adams" co-star Laura Linney also talked politics with reporters after nabbing the prize for best performance by an actress in a mini-series or motion picture made for television. During the presidential primary, Linney supported Hillary Clinton. My colleague, Matt Carey, asked how she thinks the former First Lady will perform as the new secretary of State.

Linney said she's glad Hillary will be working for Obama and the American public. She also addressed Caroline Kennedy's quest to fill Clinton's vacant Senate seat, saying "We should be so lucky to have a capable person working for us."

Filed under: Golden Globes
January 11th, 2009
09:20 PM ET

Dern's dress: Buy American

Laura Dern is one of the first to come backstage. She's toting a trophy for best supporting actress. It's for her stellar portrayal of Katherine Harris in HBO's "Recount" - about the 2000 presidential election. Dern talks about being "Miss Golden Globe 1982," and how her grandmother dropped her off at the Beverly Hilton for rehearsals, since she wasn't old enough to drive.

Someone asks Dern (an ardent Barack Obama supporter) her thoughts on Sarah Palin. She chuckles and says she hopes Palin has a "nice life in Alaska" - as opposed to D.C.

Someone else compliments her on her dress. "This old thing?," she jokes. "It's Vuitton by Marc Jacobs." Dern makes a point of saying it's her strategy to support an American designer.

- Denise Quan, CNN Entertainment Correspondent

Filed under: Golden Globes
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