In a story published Friday, The New York Times looks at the intersection of celebrity, teen culture, reality TV and the Internet that is the recent spate of burglaries at the homes of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and other celebrities.
The Bling Ring, as the Los Angeles Times has come to call it, is made up of mostly 18- and 19-year-olds who used celebrity Web sites to figure out when their victims' homes would be vulnerable. It doesn't hurt the chances of the group becoming the subject of a movie that the teenagers "look like the cast of Twilight," as one Hollywood lawyer put it.
Six accused members of the band have been charged with residential burglary and other crimes.
Rachel Lee, 18, is said to be the ringleader and was arrested in Las Vegas. She is expected to be charged soon.
Nowadays, celebrities are close enough to reach out and touch, even more so thanks to gossip Web sites that track the nightly antics of young Hollywood. "Young people see a lifestyle on television and have peer pressure and constant bombardment from media to have what other people have, to want what other people want and to try to live the dream," Jason Peirce, the host of Calabasas Teen Forum, a local cable television program, told the NYT.
Police say that some of the stolen bling was fenced for cash, while other items were kept as trophies. The paper goes on to look at the private lives of the suspected celebuthieves themselves.
Lee "dressed very trendy, things like what celebrities wore," Dani Ley, a classmate, told the paper. "Everyone would be in jeans and shorts. She would come in fancy jean skirts and fancy tops." But friends also said Lee had trouble at home.
The stealing started small about two years ago, said Sean Erenstoft, a lawyer for one of the other accused, Nicholas Prugo.
"Rachel for fun would break into cars in rich neighborhoods," Erenstoft told the paper. "She would yank on the handles of cars to see if they were locked. They find an open door, grab a roach."
That version of events was disputed by David Diamond, the lawyer for 27-year-old Roy Lopez Jr. He said that it was Prugo who was the mastermind and is pointing the finger at everyone else.
By late last year, according to court documents, Prugo and others burglarized Paris Hilton's home in Sherman Oaks by entering through an open door and making off with jewelry and other belongings.
It is unclear why the teenagers graduated from parked cars to celebrity homes, but once they did they apparently found the Internet an excellent aid: They consulted sites to learn of stars' comings and goings and celebrityaddressaerial.com to learn their home addresses, the NYT says.
In coverage of the Bling Ring, the NYT points out, there has been much speculation about what turns teenagers to such crimes: lax parenting? Have children raised on reality TV and intimate-sounding Tweets from movie stars lost all boundaries between the screen and themselves?
Blair Berk, a lawyer who has represented Lindsay Lohan and other celebrities, said that in the brief comments some Bling Ring members have made to the ubiquitous video cameras that now follow them, they seem to be having a good time.
"Wait until they become the people they robbed," she said. "Give it 60 days before these kids are household names."
The awards season has officially kicked off, and "American Beauty" has its first trophy on the mantle.
The dark satire was named Best Film of the year Dec. 8 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Directed by first-timer Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, "Beauty" was released in September to widespread acclaim and solid box office.
Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of "The English Patient," was named Best Director for "The Talented Mr. Ripley," starring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, which was reportedly shown to the board in an unfinished print.
Best Actor honors went to Russell Crowe for his portrayal of tobacco industry whistle-blower Dr. Jeffrey Wigand in "The Insider," co-starring Al Pacino, and British actress Janet McTeer was named Best Actress for the mother-daughter film "Tumbleweeds."
After "American Beauty," the rest of the group's top 10 were named in order: "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Magnolia," "The Insider," "The Straight Story," "Cradle Will Rock," "Boys Don't Cry," "Being John Malkovich," "Tumbleweeds" and "Three Kings."
"Magnolia," directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and opening Dec. 17, won honors for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore. Hoffman was named Best Supporting Actor by the New York-based board for his performance in both "Magnolia" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Moore was named Best Supporting Actress for four films: "Magnolia," "A Map of the World," "An Ideal Husband" and "Cookie's Fortune." Anderson's film also won an award for its ensemble, which includes Jason Robards, William H. Macy and Tom Cruise.
"The Insider" director Michael Mann won a Freedom of Expression award, along with Joan Chen for "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl." Tim Robbins, who wrote and directed "Cradle Will Rock," will receive an award for Special Achievement for Filmmaking in 1999.
"Boys Don't Cry" director Kimberly Peirce was named Best Debut Director, and star Hilary Swank was chosen for the Breakthrough Performance award along with Wes Bentley for "American Beauty."
Best Screenplay honors went to novelist John Irving for adapting his novel "The Cider House Rules," which stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron and Michael Caine. Clint Eastwood was the recipient of the group's Career Achievement Award, and director John Frankenheimer received the board's Billy Wilder Award.
Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother" was named Best Foreign Film. The rest of the top five was "Run Lola Run," "East-West," "The Emperor and the Assassin" and "Cabaret Balkan."
This year, the Board of Review gave special nod for outstanding independent films. They are "A Map of the World," "A Walk on the Moon," "Election," "Go," "Limbo," "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," "Man of the Century," "Stir of Echoes," "This is My Father" and "Twin Falls Idaho."
The 90-year-old board, which includes film teachers, actors, writers, critics, film production workers and others, will present the awards at its annual dinner Jan. 18 in Gotham's Tavern on the Green in New York.
Awards by film critics' groups, which also includes the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle, are deemed early indications for the Academy Awards, which take place March 26 in Los Angeles.