Sony Pictures Entertainment has formally reprimanded and suspended two advertising executives for their participation in the creation of the fake film critic whose "quotes" were used to promote Columbia Pictures' films.
The bogus blurbs, written by "David Manning" of the very real The Ridgefield Press in Ridgefield, Connecticut, were spotted by Newsweek senior writer John Horn, who was writing an article about studios using lesser-known film critics and their glowing reviews to promote the studio's films. Horn told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday that he was examining, in particular, the quotes for the Columbia Pictures' film The Animal, starring Rob Schneider, which the studio had not screened for the press.
The fictional Manning praised the film as "another winner from the producing team of Big Daddy!"
All the critics were real, except for Manning, Horn said. When he called The Ridgefield Press, he was told there was no Manning working for the paper and that all their film reviews were written by a father and son. Manning also gave critical praise to other Columbia Pictures' films such as the recent A Knight's Tale and last year's Hollow Man.
While the studio will not confirm the names of the individuals who have been sent off for 30 days without pay effective Thursday, company insiders told Variety that the two suspended were senior vice president of creative advertising Josh Goldstine and director of creative advertising Matthew Cramer.
According to Variety, the studio's publicity department would select favorable quotes from critics for use in their promotional campaigns and send them on to the advertising department. They did not review the final copy. This was how Cramer came up with the phantom quotes, sources told Variety. It is reported that Cramer came up with the name from his old college roommate, David Bradley Manning.
Sony's worldwide marketing and distribution chief Jeff Blake said in a statement that "a new system of checks and balances [will be put in place] to ensure the accuracy of quotes contained in future advertising campaigns and to prevent this [from] happening again." With this system, the publicity department will be able to review quotes in the final advertising copy.
The announcement by Sony came within hours of a class-action suit filed by two moviegoers, Omar Rezec of Sherman Oaks and Ann Belknap of Sierra Madre, in Los Angeles Superior Court against Sony, alleging deceptive, unfair and unlawful business practices and false advertising in connection with the ads. They claim they were duped into seeing A Knight's Tale based on Manning's quotes.
Martin V. Heram, a managing partner of The Ridgefield Press, says his company has no plans to proceed with any legal actions for the fabrication, but Jack Sanders, the executive editor of the paper, told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday, "We are all sort of amazed that [Sony] has not even called to apologize."
You can just imagine the meeting of NBC executives as they contemplate making a dent in the game-show-fueled ABC juggernaut: "What can we do to really lay the 'Smackdown' in the ratings? Who or what is big enough, tough enough, 'electrifying' enough to send Regis Philbin into the kitchen to open up that fridge and pour himself a nice tall glass of SHUT-UP JUICE?!"
The answer? "Freaks and Geeks" is back Mondays! And The Rock is hosting "Saturday Night Live"! Who is The Rock, you ask? He is only the World Wrestling Federation's "People’s Champion," as well as the self-proclaimed "most-electrifying man in sports entertainment." (Duh.)
Back to those guys in a second. But, first, in the action-packed TV week ahead, we also get: Cody Gifford! Yes, you’ve been hearing about him for years, and now is your chance to finally get to see little Cody struggle to entertain you (with an assist from mom Kathie Lee, of course). Cody co-stars with Mom and 'N Sync heartthrob Justin Timberlake in ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney" TV movie "Model Behavior" (7 p.m. EST/PST on Sunday). Just to recap then: The stars of this film are (a) a singer/talk-show host; (b) her child; and (c) another singer. So at least the acting should be first rate. Kathie Lee, by the way, plays an overbearing stage mother. You know that’s so funny, and yet so disturbing at the same time, we’re just going give it a no comment.
All right, that’s it. We’ve had it with campy and/or insipid made-for-TV movies. This week the Channel Surfer goes highbrow. And it all starts at 8 p.m. EST/PST on Sunday, when the Discovery Channel premieres the intelligent and thought-provoking documentary "Raising the Mammoth," which we have been repeatedly assured is in no way associated with the adult-film industry. The doc is about an amazing scientific discovery -- the first-ever, fully intact Woolly Mammoth, found frozen in the ice of Siberia just a few months ago. They raise it up, thaw it out, and you can actually smell the musky scent of Mammoth fur. Well, you can’t smell it because it’s on TV, but the scientists could. Mmm … mammoth fur. …
Well, that was draining. OK, let’s get back to the campy and/or insipid made-for-TV movies. Aaron Spelling’s "Satan’s School For Girls" premieres (and not a minute too soon) Monday at 8 p.m. EST/PST)on ABC. Shannen Doherty (who is, coincidentally, an actual graduate of Satan’s School for Girls) stars along with former "Charlie’s Angel" Kate Jackson. This movie is a long overdue remake of the 1973 demi-classic. Jackson was in the original, which was also scripted by Spelling. Does this mean he’s finally run out of ideas?
NBC’s February ratings stunt of replacing one of the better shows on TV with a low-rated game show was a rousing un-success. But the sweeps are over and, "Freaks and Geeks" (8 p.m. EST/PST on Monday) is back, baby! We know this thing's ratings were about as lousy as "Twenty One's," but we still like it and don’t want it to die, so let us fill you in. No show on TV captures its subject matter better than "Freaks and Geeks." Each little moment seems to carry the weight of the world, but by the end of an episode, nothing has actually happened. In other words, it’s exactly like high school! The show has a fine pedigree, executive produced by Judd Apatow ("The Larry Sanders Show"), but it’s not quite like anything you’ve seen before (outside of real life). It’s funny, though not likely to make you fall off the couch from laughing, and it’s poignant, though not likely to make you cry. It’s a lot like just hanging out with friends in somebody’s basement. But in a good way.
How many times can we use the word "Smackdown" in one column? And can it ever really be enough? WWF femme fatale Chyna invades NBC's "3rd Rock from the Sun" on Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST/PST. Another William Shatner guest spot last month did very little to change the sinking ratings of this still pretty funny show. Maybe a special guest appearance by a giant hot babe who frightens men will be the right formula. Question: Do they ever have just regular episodes of this show?
If anyone out there is interested in having ABC’s best sitcom, "Sports Night," come back next season, now is the time to watch it. The cast recently grabbed the cover of TV Guide on account of they belong to "the best show you're not watching." That’s great publicity, but if a ton of people don’t get curious and tune in to watch this week’s new episode (9:30 p.m. EST/PST on Tuesday), it could also be the kiss of death. If you haven’t seen "Sports Night," it’s funny and smart and different. That "smart and different" part is probably why critics love it, but it’s also probably why it’s taking audiences so long to figure out what to do with it. Which is strange because you never hear people saying, "Forget smart and different -- give us dull and typical!" But then again, if nobody is saying that, then how can you explain …?
"Son of the Beach," (10 p.m. EST/PST, on Tuesday on F/X). The idea here is to do "Baywatch" as a comedy by removing David Hasselhoff and putting a pasty white guy in his place. Two questions spring immediately to mind: (1) Isn’t David Hasselhoff already a "pasty white guy"? and (2) You mean "Baywatch" isn’t a comedy? "Son of a Beach" is a Howard Stern production, so expect to see a lot of surgically amplified girls in swimsuits (again, have you seen "Baywatch?") and fart jokes. Stern can be really funny when he’s doing the comedy, but what is a show that has all of the Stern style but no Howard going to be like? "Son of the Beach."
College basketball's so-called March Madness explodes into your living room starting at noon EST on Thursday on CBS. This a good thing, if you like basketball. If you don’t, well, it’s going to "explode into your living room" anyway, so you’d better Scotch Guard the furniture.
One of television’s classiest news personalities classes things up a little more this week, as Barbara Walters squeezes extra mileage out of the JonBenet Ramsey murder case on "20/20," with an exclusive interview with JonBenet's parental units John and Patsy Ramsey (10 p.m. EST/PST on Friday on ABC). Not to undermine what will undoubtedly turn out to be a fine hunk of journalism, but shouldn’t that film clip of that poor little kid parading around in a pre-school beauty pageant be enough to lock up her parents?Just a thought.
And … "Finally, The Rock has come back … to New York City!" Look for NBC's "Saturday Night Live" to get a ratings boost as WWF superstar and best-selling author (really) and "People’s Champion" The Rock hosts the venerable sketch-comedy show (11:30 p.m. EST/PST on Saturday). Also of note on this broadcast, NBC reports that "rock legends AC/DC will make their network television debut as the musical guest." Wasn’t it Confucius who said: "There will come a day for all people, when a band that was cool when they were in junior high school will be referred to as a 'rock legend,' and they will know that life is truly short." Yeah. Life is short, people. Life is short.
Oh, and one more thing we almost forgot to say …
Memo to all past and future Oscar recipients: After your star has faded, after you've spent your fortune and pawned all your silverware, don’t even think about selling that gold statue on your mantle. And remind your loved ones not to try selling it after you're dead.
Just ask Sid Luft, ex-manager and onetime husband (from 1952 to 1962) of the late Judy Garland, and he'll tell you how big a headache it is to get on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' hit list.
Luft was in court Friday, fending off an Academy lawsuit accusing him of trying to sell Garland's Oscar on the Web.
A Web site called Nate's Autographs (www.natesautographs.com) recently listed Garland's long-lost 1940 mini-Oscar statuette, which she received "for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile" in "The Wizard of Oz," for sale. The auction, which has since been removed from the site, indicated that Luft had endorsed the sale.
Garland reportedly lost said statuette in the 1950s, and it was replaced by the Academy in 1958.
But here's the catch: When she accepted the replacement, Garland signed an agreement promising not to sell the statue without first offering it to the Academy for $10 (today, all Oscar recipients must sign such a contract). The agreement was retroactive, meaning that it also applied to the MIA 1940 statue, should it ever turn up again.
The Academy's lawsuit names both Nate's Auctions and Luft, even though Luft says he had nothing to do with the auction. Academy spokesman John Pavlik says Luft is a defendant "simply because he's the last person that supposedly had [the statue] in his possession."
But the way Luft tells it, he doesn't even know whether the trophy that was put up for bid was the real deal -– or if the entire thing was just a hoax.
"I have no idea," Luft, now 85, tells Hollywood.com. "It's like the Maltese Falcon."
Luft added that he doesn't know what happened to the 1940 statuette, but he thinks Garland broke it.
The folks behind the Oscars don't know what happened to the little gold guy, either, but a photograph on the Nate's Autographs site appeared to be the bonafide 1940 trophy, says Joel Thvedt, an attorney for the Academy.
Meanwhile, we tried contacting Nate Sanders, the guy behind Nate's Auctions, but he hasn't responded with his side to this mystery tale.
This isn't the first time the Academy has sued Luft for trying to sell a Garland Oscar. In 1993, he tried auctioning the 1958 replacement trophy through Christie's, but the Academy got a court injunction preventing it. (Luft later gave the trophy to daughter Lorna Luft.)
But Luft's lawyer, Stephen Spatano, says the Academy has no evidence that the ex-showbiz magnate (who produced Garland's 1954 classic "A Star Is Born") has done anything wrong this time.
"Mr. Luft has no connection with anything that's going on in this case," says Spatano. "This is just an example of the Academy using its power to bully people."
Does ... this ... movie ... really ... have ... to ... be ... nearly ... two
... hours ... long? By showing Basinger's character's extensive adjustment to life in the bush the film eventually manages to tell the story of one woman's quest to find strength through her pain. Not too original.
Though Basinger doesn't give the Academy-caliber performance she did in
"L.A. Confidential " she does manage to draw you in. She's most powerful in her dramatic roles and in this movie the drama comes when she attempts to deal with the loss of her loved ones. Sadly the dashing Vincent Perez as her new husband is forgettable.
In telling this story Hugh Hudson takes his time ... too much time. Easily "I
Dreamed of Africa" could stand to lose at least 20 minutes. Hudson does know however how to get the best work out of Basinger. And kudos to the cinematographer. The vastness of the African landscape and the beauty of its sunsets are a treat.