Posted by Danielle Berrin
In a high stakes election season in which a slow moving economy has dampened national spirits, the 64th Annual Emmys telecast proved that television has a sense of humor about itself.
As the actress Julianne Moore put it when accepting an Emmy for her portrayal of Sarah Palin in “Game Change”: “I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down.”
The presidential campaign provided the butt of most jokes Sunday evening as host Jimmy Kimmel mocked Hollywood Republicans and well, Republicans in general.
The British class drama Downtown Abbey? “It really gives you a sense of what it must have been like to grow up in Mitt Romney’s house,” Kimmel joked about the best drama series nominee.
Accepting the award for outstanding miniseries or movie, actor and “Game Change” producer Tom Hanks said, “We’d like to thank our founding fathers for the Democratic process they came up with that has provided us with a plethora of material.”
If anything, the television academy showed itself to be playful and teasing, the more at ease counterpart to the self-serious Oscars.
“What kinds of people make the best comedy directors?” Kathy Bates and Jimmy Fallon wondered before presenting the award for best comedy direction.
“Jewish men?” Lena Dunham muttered, albeit ironically, in a pre-taped video sketch (Dunham, the 26-year-old Jewish female virtuoso was nominated in the writing, directing and acting categories for her work on HBO’s “Girls”).
Jason Winer, whose work directing “Modern Family” got him a gig directing feature films, was more blunt: “Jews,” he said, undoubtedly referring to himself and his former boss Steve Levitan, creator of “Modern Family” which took home awards for acting, directing and finally best comedy series for the third year in a row.
Jon Stewart, whose politically deft “Daily Show” took home its 10th consecutive Emmy for outstanding variety series countervailed his gratitude with a dose of humility, “We make topical comedy,” Stewart said, “which has the shelf life of egg salad.” Though in all honesty, Stewart’s searing and satirical takedown of media and political hypocrisy has kept his long-running show fresh and relevant.
Had Stewart’s team been available to write the Emmy’s telecast, Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke might not have griped about the show’s lack of wit. “Oh...Stupid me,” Finke wrote on Deadline.com. “The comedy is absent because the writers, presenters, and Hollywood audience are all practicing solemnity for Yom Kippur next week.”
So much for Stewart’s firmly censored “F-bomb.”
Jokes about Jews were second, however, to comments on female power.
“I don’t see anything funny abut me being Vice President of the United States,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus said during her acceptance speech for lead actress in a comedy for HBO’s “Veep”.
“We’ve heard a lot this [election] year about the war on women,” Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” said while presenting the award to Dreyfus. “I think we can hope this is the last year this happens. We should be celebrating women! Women are wonderful -- for the most part, obviously. Some women are awful,” he said dryly.
Not the women of “Homeland,” however. Upon accepting their first award of the evening for best drama writing, “Homeland” creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa accompanied by executive producer Gideon Raff, whose Israeli series “Prisoners of War” provided the conceit upon which “Homeland” is based -- made a show of thanking their wives. “Wives, we love you!” Gordon shouted before being escorted off stage.
“Homeland” was the evening’s big winner, taking home the outstanding drama series Emmy -- Showtime’s first -- and an upset for “Mad Men” whose cast and crew had hoped to make history with a fifth consecutive win. Instead, “Homeland” swept the night, also taking home acting awards for its stars Claire Danes and Damien Lewis.
In an eloquent display of female confidence, a radiant and pregnant Danes thanked her husband, the actor Hugh Dancy, “my husband, my love, my life -- this doesn’t mean anything without you,” she said, holding up her golden statuette.
So much for prevailing myths about “The End of Men.”
A campaign’s war on women becomes an award show’s parade of female power.
What’s a male host to do except, well, joke about it?
“The important thing is you get out of here as soon as possible so you can go home and put on your fat pants,” Kimmel joked. Kimmel seems to have learned a thing or two about the ways that women suffer; after all, his evening began when TV’s leading ladies literally beat the Botox out of him.
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September 12, 2012 | 11:39 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin and Jonah Lowenfeld
UPDATE (Thurs Noon): There was something fishy from the start of a bizarre story linking violent riots in Egypt and Libya to a controversial "Muhammad" film said to be the work of filmmaker Sam Bacile, an L.A. based Israeli American who claimed he raised money for the film from "Jewish donors."
After reporters around the country spent the morning scrambling after the facts, it was soon discovered that Sam Bacile was a pseudonym, and probably not Israeli, or even Jewish, as he described himself to The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.
By evening, the Associated Press tracked down an address for the cellphone number with which they had spoken to Sam Bacile, and found instead Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian who tried to hide his middle name from reporters when showing them his drivers license. Nakoula denied he had directed the film, but said he managed the production company that produced it, according to National Public Radio.
It was not long before the AP discovered other documents tying Nakoula to Bacile, including a criminal record with charges of bank fraud for which he served time in prison. Nakoula apparently has a history of using aliases; NPR even located a casting call notice for a film "Desert Warriors" produced by "Sam Bassiel."
Nakoula is a Coptic Christian, however, and questions remain regarding the strange conflation of religious affiliation and provocation around which this story centers. Whoever made the stunt film "Innocence of Muslims" (or at least the trailer for it) clearly intended to implicate Jews in the incitement that ensued after its dissemination. On his blog at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg suggested this has endangered Jews. "The story that 'Sam Bacile' is an Israeli Jew, with '100 Jewish donors,' has spread across the Middle East. It is not possible to withdraw such a story."
Though there are many to blame in the generating of this scheme and the violence it inspired, Goldberg was quick to point his finger at the two major media outlets that helped spread this story. "'Sam Bacile' could not have spread the apparent fiction that Jews were behind this film without the help of the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal, which both reported, without independently checking, 'Sam Bacile's' claim to be Israeli."
BREAKING (Weds Noon): Developing: Filmmaker who outraged Muslims unknown to L.A. Jews, Israelis, industry pros
The director of a film that sparked violent protests in Libya and Egypt, who is alleged to be an Israeli Jew based in California, in fact appears to be completely unknown among both Jewish and Israeli leaders in Los Angeles, including top-level people involved in the film industry.
The filmmaker, whose name -- or perhaps pseudomyn -- is Sam Bacile, gave interviews by phone to the Associated Press and others about the film on Tuesday, in which he called Islam “a cancer.” He said he had intended the film to be “a political movie,” and that he had gone into hiding.
Israelis involved in the film industry contacted by The Journal on Wednesday morning, however, have never heard of anyone by that name.
“I don’t know him, never heard about him, don’t know anything about this guy,” said Meir Fenigstein, who founded the Los Angeles-based Israel Film Festival in 1982.
That would confirm reporting by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, who reported this morning that he was told by a “self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, Calif., that the name, “Sam Bacile,” is a pseudonym. Klein has been described in media accounts as a “consultant” to the film.
But according to scores of interviews conducted by Journal reporters, not a single person has seen the complete film, allegedly entitled, "The Innocence of Muslims;" only a short trailer is available on YouTube.
Bacile, meanwhile, according to the Associated Press' report, is “a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew.”
Individuals in the real estate community also found that claim dubious.
“If there was something happening in the real estate business in L.A., I would know about it,” said Jay Sanderson, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Jesse Scharf is chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’s real estate division and co-chair of the real estate division at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Scharf echoed Sanderson’s refrain, saying he hadn’t heard of anyone named Bacile. “If this person was, in fact, Israeli, in the real estate business, in Los Angeles, somebody would know the guy,” he said. “Pretty rare that a person active in real estate wouldn't have a story.”
The film reportedly portrays the prophet Mohammed in a negative light. Muslim protesters killed four Americans in the eastern Libyan city of Bengahzi, including the American ambassador to Libya, and burned down U.S. Consulate there. Similar protests took place at an American mission in Cairo. The Obama administration suspects that the attack in Libya may have been planned, according to the New York Times.
According to the Associated Press, “The Innocence of Muslims” was made on a budget of $5 million and was funded by 100 Jewish donors. It was reportedly screened once to a mostly empty theater in Hollywood this year.
One L.A. Jewish filmmaker familiar with the world of anti-Islamic documentaries estimated the production costs of the movie were "closer to $25,000."
But several members of the Hollywood community interviewed said they had never heard about the film before today, nor seen it. When asked about Bacile, Noa Tishby, an Israeli actress and producer wrote in an email, “Never heard of him.”
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, said Los Angeles donors are "serious" and would not have produced something so "goofy."
A mysterious air continues to surround the situation that has had dire consequences in the killing of American diplomats. Whoever Steve Bacile is -- or isn’t -- the question remains: Why did he describe himself as an Israeli American and claim that he funded an “anti-Muslim” film with donations from the Jews?
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States on Sept. 11. Photo by REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori
September 11, 2012 | 10:46 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
His mother called him King David.
Perhaps that’s why, when David Geffen was profiled in GQ magazine in 1991, the writer suggested that, “he seemingly swaggered straight from the womb.”
But from the start of Susan Lacy’s documentary “Inventing David Geffen,” airing in November as part of PBS’ “American Masters” series, Geffen appears more like Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark, the brash and determined individualist of her triumphal 1943 novel, “The Fountainhead,” than the biblical hero. King David was part of a royal line; David Geffen made himself into Hollywood royalty.
Geffen’s charismatic, winsome personality drives Lacy’s documentary, with Geffen candidly narrating his own journey from middle-class Jewish boy from Brooklyn to masterful music and movie mogul. The story is peppered with dishy interviews from legendary friends, including Cher, Warren Beatty, Elton John, Steven Spielberg, Arianna Huffington and Rahm Emanuel, to name just a few, whose flattering accounts of Geffen seem to swell his stature into almost mythic importance. Pared down to its essential plot points, Geffen’s biography is a fascinating account of a hard-charging, radically ambitious man whose life became the embodiment of the American dream, at once an astonishing feat, but also a stark reminder that not too long ago radical mobility was possible.
Like Rand’s Roark, Geffen has played the architect, in his case refashioning the music and movie industries so substantially he’s been compared to Hollywood’s founding fathers. As actor Tom Hanks plainly puts it in the documentary’s opening sequence: “He defined this culture. He built it.”
A contribution to the culture of fandom devoid of any critique, Lacy’s fawning portrait is the one Geffen would most like you to see: He is the self-made, sensitive-souled star-maker, the biggest legend of all. But in his case, what might seem an inflated self-image isn’t actually that far from reality.
Gifted. Ruthless. Brutally honest. Friends and enemies alike characterize Geffen as a business firebrand. “His power comes from those Vesuvian impulses of his,” media mogul Barry Diller tells us.
Watching the film, it is hard to begrudge Geffen his storied reputation, his billions, or even his braggadocio, because he’s just so darned candid about who he is (“I don’t see ambition or ego as pejorative words”), as well as what he wants (“I wanted to get out of Brooklyn and move to California where the sunshine was constant, where everybody was pretty and good looking ... [and] everybody was rich”). He is also forthright about his flaws: He told the crowd assembled for his 2010 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “I have no talent except for being able to enjoy and recognize it in others.”
David Geffen’s success arose more out of desperate yearning than a unique skill set. He grew up poor, and his mother was the family’s primary breadwinner and his deepest influence. He was ashamed of his father, a struggling intellectual who worked odd jobs, like pattern-cutting, before dying young, when the future mogul was just 18. Geffen’s mother, Batya, was a vivacious spirit who owned a corset shop and worked tirelessly to keep the family afloat. But the trauma of losing her entire family in the Holocaust, and then suppressing that history, brought her to a nervous breakdown. To this day, Geffen is reticent to discuss it (see sidebar). When prodded about his Jewish background at a recent press conference, he carped to The Journal’s Naomi Pfefferman, “I would think that everybody’s childhood is an influence on what happens in their future, don’t you think?”
Don Henley and David Geffen. Photo by Henry Diltz
Indeed, Geffen’s desire to transcend his childhood has been an animating force of his adult life. He tells Lacy: “My mother said, ‘You better learn to love to work, because we have no money and you’re going to be working the rest of your life.’ ” And since he believed himself to be “completely without gift,” he had to be more resourceful and more wanting than anyone else.
Before he became the industry godfather, Geffen had a protean career with many chapters. He started out in the William Morris mailroom, a job he notoriously obtained by lying, falsifying his resume with academic credentials from UCLA. The mythology goes that when a co-worker was fired for the same offense, Geffen arrived early at the mailroom for the next six months so he could intercept the inevitable letter from the school exposing him. He succeeded, replaced the incriminating missive with his own fabrication and, along the way, managed to impress the higher-ups with his dedication to sorting mail (given all this, one can only wonder whether his massive charitable contributions to UCLA don’t have their roots in reparative gratitude).
Geffen went on to become a rock ’n’ roll manager, record producer and, finally, a game-changing executive known for championing solo artists. During his heyday, which coincided with the cultural revolution of the 1970s, he helped launch the careers of iconic singer-songwriters Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Neil Young, among others. While music and pot whirred through the air, Geffen was at his desk cutting deals. But he was different from other executives: “He loved music like an innocent person loves music,” Young says in the film. His relationships with his clients were characterized by a loyalty and nurturing that often bordered on the familial. Geffen had no musical talent, but he possessed an artist’s soul — sensitive, wounded, mercurial and restless, qualities that burnished his ability to recognize and cultivate talents, and draw them close.
“It was always about the song; it was always about the spirit,” Elliot Roberts, his partner at Asylum Records tells us in the film.
Where Geffen was passionate, it was wise not to cross him. Once, when he brought a green Jackson Browne to see kingpin record-producer Clive Davis, Davis made the mistake of taking a call during Browne’s performance, and Geffen walked out. He started his own company, Asylum Records, in competition. Choicely located on the Sunset Strip, a boulevard lined with music halls and nightclubs, Asylum became a star factory, with Geffen poaching talent he discovered during the evening lineup. It was at the Troubadour, for instance, that he discovered the Eagles, a scouting method so effective he went on to cofound another legendary club, the Roxy, in 1973.
“We would do anything to be with David Geffen,” lead singer Glenn Frey tells Lacy. “ ‘Here: ‘Sign this.’ I didn’t care. I wanted David Geffen to be involved in as many aspects of my career as possible.”
By Geffen’s own account, his was a fast rise: In 1964 he was a lackey in the Morris mailroom; by 1972 he had sold his first record company and had $10 million in the bank. His success in music got him attention from the movie business, and he did a short stint as vice chairman of Warner Bros., but his maverick methods and flouting of authority quickly got him fired. In 1980, he assembled a small team of agents and created Geffen Records, which added alternative rock bands Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana to an already impressive roster that included Elton John, Irene Cara, Cher and Don Henley.
Geffen’s ineffable, je ne sais quoi eye for talent and fortuitous timing eventually enabled his success with movies. He took on the Tom Cruise star vehicle “Risky Business” when no one else would read the script, and followed up with a series of hits including “Lost in America” with Albert Brooks, “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Interview With the Vampire.” It is clear, however, that Geffen’s heart was never in the movie business in the same way it was in music. By 1990, he was getting restless. He sold Geffen Records to MCA (now Universal Music Group) for an unprecedented $550 million in stock, and when the Japanese company Matsushita purchased MCA, Geffen’s stock had risen to almost a billion in cash.
Geffen worked hard and played hard, achieving a lifestyle of decadence and glamour to match his Herculean work ethic. Though he has always lived as an openly gay man, the documentary makes no mention of any significant relationship with another man; instead Lacy portrays his 18-month romance with movie and music diva Cher as the one great love of his life. “It was the greatest high I had ever experienced,” Geffen said. After they broke up, Esquire magazine ran a cover story about Cher under the headline, “Who Is Man Enough For This Woman?” Geffen confessed: “Clearly I was not.”
The AIDS crisis compelled him to finally, officially “come out.” As friends attest, the difference between quietly living as openly gay and making a public declaration about his identity was significant. It meant “freedom” for him, the designer Calvin Klein says in the movie. Geffen kick-started his philanthropic side when he became a pioneering donor to AIDS research, and he admitted that, for a time, he feared he had the disease. “Every time I took a shower I looked at my body to see if there were marks,” he recounts in the film.
Cher and David Geffen. Photo by Nate Cutler/Globe Photos/Zumapress.com/Newscom
By the time Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg approached him to help them co-found DreamWorks, in 1994, Geffen, by then 51, had one foot in retirement. He had become more interested in political fundraising (he was close with the Clintons before he switched to Barack Obama) and enjoying his extravagant lifestyle. Still, he helped DreamWorks “overcapitalize” — his strategy for how a movie studio could succeed — by raising $2 billion dollars in just a few weeks, although from the start he had little interest in the day-to-day running of the studio.
Once the man-about-town, Geffen today is an enigmatic presence in Hollywood, his name more likely to appear on buildings — the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood — than in the headlines. After his meteoric rise and novel achievements, sources say that that he is now content to play a quiet, behind-the-scenes role as advisor and mentor to his many successors.
“He’s a kibitzer,” former Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein told me. “There are generations of people in music and film who call him for advice all the time — and he loves to give advice, and he’s very good at giving advice. He’s like the Cardinal Richelieu of the entertainment business.”