Top Story: Indie Couple Coppola, Jonze Split
Director couple Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze have decided to divorce, according to MTV News.com. The couple wed four and a half years ago after meeting in 1992. Since then, Coppola, 32, and Jonze, 34, have become indie film whizkids, with the succsess of Jonze's cult flicks Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and Coppola's Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides. Rumors of trouble in the marriage surfaced, however, in recent months, especially after Coppola's semi-autobiographical Translation was released. The L.A. Weekly recently observed that in the film, the "workaholic, emotionally absent photographer" husband, played by Giovanni Ribisi, of Scarlett Johansson's young wife Charlotte "reminds one of Coppola's husband."
Dead Musicians Reap Grammy Nods
Warren Zevon, George Harrison, and the Cashes picked up multiple posthumous Grammy nominations Thursday. Zevon, who died in September from lung cancer, gathered four nods including song of the year, while Harrison picked up three--two years after he, too, died of lung cancer. Country couple Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, who died within months of each other earlier this year, landed four between them. Other deceased nominees included Rosemary Clooney, Celia Cruz, soul legend Sam Cooke and blues giant Muddy Waters.
Limbaugh Blames Politics for Drug Probe
In the drug investigation against him, Rush Limbaugh's attorney is accusing the prosecutor of having political motives in saying his client bought painkillers illegally, Reuters reports. In search warrants released Thursday, investigators alleged that Limbaugh engaged in illegal drug use and went "doctor shopping" for prescription painkillers. The controversial radio commentator has denied any wrongdoing. "What [the medical records] show is that Mr. Limbaugh suffered extreme pain and had legitimate reasons for taking pain medication," Limbaugh read on his radio show Thursday from his lawyer's statement. "Unfortunately, because of Mr. Limbaugh's prominence and well-known political opinions, he is being subjected to an invasion of privacy no citizen of this republic should endure."
Second Child Claimed Abuse in Old Jackson Case
Authorities investigating molestation allegations in 1993 against Michael Jackson spoke to a second child at that time who also claimed to have been molested, but no charges were ever filed, a retired sheriff told The Associated Press. Former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas said late Thursday the child was reluctant to testify and the case was abandoned. Apparently, the claims of molestation were not as severe as what was being alleged by the first boy, whose parent's settled a multimillion-dollar civil settlement with the pop superstar. The second child could have been used as a corroborating witness if the primary victim had testified in court, Thomas told AP.
Celebrate Christmas With Ozzy and the Gang
MTV will air The Osbourne Family Christmas Special Dec. 11 to give viewers a glimpse into the holiday season with America's favorite dysfunctional family, AP reports. Promising to take "holiday specials to a bizarre new level," the program was taped at the family home in Beverly Hills, Calif., and includes appearances by Jessica Simpson, newlyweds Dave Navarro and Carmen Electra, and the show-stopping reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas with Electra, matriarch Sharon Osbourne, OutKast's Big Boi, Eddie Griffin, Tracy Morgan, Anthony Anderson and Eva Mendes.
Wanda Yanked, Joe Millionaire Gets New Gig
Fox has pulled the plug on Wanda Sykes' Wanda at Large, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The series had a promising midseason start last March but fell in ratings this fall…Meanwhile, Joe Millionaire's first star Evan Marriott has a new gig as a game show host for the Game Show Network. The show Fake-a-Date will feature a contestant who will date two singles, one looking for love and the other who's hoping to win a luxury trip with his or her significant other, AP reports.
Role Call: Graham With Child, Thornton Turns on the Lights
Heather Graham has signed to do the independent feature Samantha's Child, also starring James Purefoy and Andy Serkis. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film follows Samantha (Graham), who is unable to get pregnant and goes to a fertility clinic, where she is unknowingly impregnated with the Devil's DNA. Serkis (voice of Gollum in Lord of the Rings) portrays a priest who tries to stop Samantha from having the Devil's child…Billy Bob Thornton is in negotiations to star in the football drama, Friday Night Lights. Based on the book by H.G. Bissinger, the film chronicles the 1988 football season of the Odessa, Texas, Permian High Panthers, capturing the struggles and hopes of a financially troubled town that pins its dreams on the team's Friday night games. Thornton will play the team's coach, the trade paper reports.
Based on H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's bestselling book of the same name Friday Night Lights tells the true story of the dusty West Texas town of Odessa where nothing much happens until September rolls around. That's when the town's 20 000 or so denizens pour into Ratliff Stadium the country's biggest high school football field every Friday night to watch the Permian Panthers Odessa's "boys in black " take to the field. All the town's hope and dreams are pinned on the padded shoulders of these young gridiron heroes--including insecure quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black); cocky self-assured running back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke); headstrong self-destructive tailback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) who must contend with an overbearing abusive dad (Tim McGraw--yes that Tim McGraw the country singer); and the team's spiritual leader middle linebacker Ivory Christian (newcomer Lee Jackson). The Panthers begin their season with one thing on their minds--winning their fifth straight championship for the first time in the team's 30-year history--but for their coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) it also means instilling a love and joy of the game in the boys' hearts amidst tremendous pressures and expectations. Easier said than done.
There isn't a false note in any of the performances and no one falls back on clichéd versions of their characters as is so easy to do in rah-rah sports movies. Thornton does a particularly good job as Gaines keeping you guessing whether he's going to be a hardass insensitive to his players' emotional needs (like so many movie football coaches before him) or if he truly means to coach his boys in a fair and decent way. Gaines too has to deal with his own pressures especially from the townsfolk who are likely to string him up if the team loses the championship. As for Gaines' players Black (the oh-so-serious kid from Thornton's Sling Blade) is all grown up and buffed out and still very serious. It works for the young actor though as the beleaguered Winchell struggles with the love-hate relationship he has with his chosen sport. Other standouts include Luke (Antwone Fisher) as the star player Boobie whose cocksureness leads him to an injury; Hedlund as the volatile Billingsley trying desperately to please his father; and McGraw making his film debut as the father a former Permian Panther champion who sure hasn't given up his competitive spirit basically beating it into his son. First Faith Hill (McGraw's real-life wife) in The Stepford Wives and now McGraw--who knew country singers could act?
From All the Right Moves to Varsity Blues to Remember the Titans Friday Night Lights unfortunately doesn't completely distinguish itself from the pack of football movies before it--like those this is all about how the young players--be they underdogs second-string nobodies or stars--rising above the mounting pressure and playing the best they can bless their hearts. Still there's no question the sports genre--particularly football--always gets the juices pumping with FNL being no exception. It might have something to do with our sick fascination with watching bone-crunching hits and body-punishing tackles. It's dangerous out there for these guys; no other sport (besides maybe hockey) can elicit such wince-inducing emotion and actor/director Peter Berg (The Rundown) exploits that. Obviously influenced by Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday Berg effectively paints his own gritty documentary-style picture of the competitive sport without relying on too many trite gushy over-the-top moments. And to give it credit the film does not necessarily have a feel-good "let's win one for the Gipper" ending; it is based on a true story after all and as we know real life isn't all sunshine and roses especially in the bloodthirsty world of Texas high school football.