BUZZ/SAW (Dec. 14-20)

LEOFEST TO LAUNCH: It’s not just Santa who will be arriving any day soon. Leonardo DiCaprio will be delivering the official version of his LeoFest International Online Short Film Festival to the Web right after the New Year/new millennium celebration (a work-in-progress site is up now).

LeoFest is calling for anyone, anywhere (Tonga! Iceland! Wichita! You name it!) to submit for consideration a film of up to 15 minutes in any of the following categories: narrative, documentary, animation and alternative. Filmmakers will have to make transfers before they submit since LeoFest says that no film stock of any gauge will be accepted (Take that, Eastman Kodak!).

While prizes haven’t yet been announced, we’ve heard that Leo himself will be awarding grand prizes of $20,000 to all finalists, and it’s money right out of his own pocket. And we bet that the talent scouts at Leo’s all-powerful management company, Mike Ovitz’s AMG, will take a careful look at the cream of the entries.

Filmmakers worldwide should also know that they need to accompany each submission with $35 and create subtitles for any work that is not English-language. But just as the Web is fluid, no doubt LeoFest will evolve through a number of changes, as DiCaprio, aping actor-turned festmeister Robert Redford does his Sundance in cyberspace.


With the Kirk Douglas starrer “Diamonds” just opened, the big screen now has two high-profile features with major characters as stroke victims. Robert De Niro, in MGM’s “Flawless,” is stricken but ultimately and unexpectedly comforted by a compassionate drag queen neighbor (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

In the more lightweight “Diamonds,” Douglas, who suffered a real stroke several years ago, delivers an enormously energetic performance as a former boxer who takes a road trip to Nevada with his son (Dan Aykroyd) and grandson (Corbin Allred) to recapture his youth and some hidden diamonds. Douglas sparkles like a “diamond” in this latest, but fans also wanting to recapture vintage Douglas can do so at The Screening Room’s 16-film American Film Institute retrospective of the Hollywood royal which began over the weekend in New York.


Attendees at the Venture Capital in New Media Conference last week at New York’s Columbia University, sponsored by Columbia’s Business School, learned that “continuous morphing” — a process of changing function and form together by way of dynamic differentiation and resource layering — is the way for an Internet site to survive and thrive.

In less abstract terms, would-be Internet moguls were told that, content-wise, bigger is better (content will be king!) and that building a brand image to draw and retain traffic is also key. Of course, marketing is a must, but it’s the timing of that marketing that is all-important. But that other m-word, “morphing,” is what has pushed companies like Yahoo! to the forefront.


No Play, Please, I’m Skittish: She’s a “name” actress we’ve seen on the big and small screen many times who once had a husband who still has an even bigger name than hers, but she devastated a New York theater company this week with news that she is bowing out of a play she committed to, after many meetings and a promise to star. She explained her last-minute bolt by saying she is “afraid” of the project….

Buzz Bits: Veteran TV talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael is throwing a “Carnival in Venice” New Year’s Eve party for the millennium for about 100 guests at her Pawling, N.Y., spread. Will any of the guests — all asked to dress up for this costume ball – dare to show up as a certain vet talk-show host with signature flaming red glasses? … Filmmaker Neil LaBute‘s controversial play “Bash,” now running in Los Angeles with stars Calista Flockhart, Ron Eldard and Paul Rudd, is being taped Thursday for a premiere airing on Showtime. The play, which comprises three one-acts focusing on men (and a woman) as beasts, was named one of Time magazine’s top 10 plays of 1999. Not so beloved by all scribes, “Bash” afforded brilliantly viscious critic John Simon the opportunity to outdo himself in a colossally mean and nasty attack of the play in New York magazine last summer. … Hot film “Toy Story 2,” again the top-grossing film this weekend, will have a very cold incarnation beginning Jan. 18 when Disney On Ice’s all-live “Toy Story” takes to the ice at New York’s Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. … Yes, yes, yes. A certain film mogul we know swears that Roman Polanski (“Chinatown,” “Rosemary’s Baby“), the great director whose involvement with a 13-year-old has made him a persona non grata stateside for many years, will be allowed back into this country for the premiere of his upcoming “The Ninth Gate” in March.