'PIANO' GETS TOP FILM CRITICS' HONORS
The folks at the National Society of Film Critics say that "The Pianist" is the best film of the past year. The group deems the movie, directed by Roman Polanski, as the best of the season. The Hollywood Reporter says that the honors given to the Holocaust-themed movie by the NSFC are just the latest in a series of accolades that have been showered on the film. In addition to being chosen the group's best film of the year award winner, it also named Polanski as best director, the movie's star Adrien Brody as best actor and best screenplay (by Ronald Harwood). The movie tells the true story of a Jewish musician who becomes a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto ... Wladyslaw Szpilman. By the way, just as Tom Hanks had to gain and lose weight for "Castaway," Brody had to radically change his appearance and become increasingly emaciated during the filming of "The Pianist."
REMEMBERING HANK IN MANY WAYS
As the new year arrived, a lot of people looked back 50 years to the death of Hank Williams. Not only were there articles, such as one that appeared here, but musical tributes and special events. One of the really special ones was held in Montgomery, Ala., the city where Williams was buried. Hank Sr. was only 29 at the time of his death. But he had already become an icon in the world of country music and had scored many "cross-over" hits. There was a one-hour graveside memorial for Williams. CMT says that even Charles Carr was on hand. Still looking great at age 68, Carr was the driver of the Cadillac in which the singer died. Several members of Williams' early bands came to Alabama for the memorial. One member of the crowd was the entertainer's half-sister, Leila Griffin. She told reporters that her father never got over Hank's death. "Nobody ever knew how bad that hurt my dad." As to reports over the years that Williams and his father never got along, Griffin says they had a good relationship. Sadly, Williams had once made a special recording for his father as a Christmas present. The recording was lost for a while. The elder Williams died without having heard it. It later resurfaced.
KIDMAN TO JOIN LEO IN 'ALEX' BIOPIC?
It might not be the smartest casting, but there are reports that Nicole Kidman will play Leonardo DiCaprio's mother in an upcoming film. The movie would be a biopic about Alexander the Great, with Leo playing the lead. And, according to gossip columnist Liz Smith, someone may have failed to do the math. Now it's a "given" that Hollywood makeup artists can work wonders, but the idea of Kidman playing Leo's mom is interesting. Most actresses don't like to be made to look older than they are. Nicole is a good sport ... but. You see, Kidman is only 35. Leo is 28. Mother and son? The speculation is that Kidman would play a major role in the movie, portraying the conqueror's mother, Olympias. According to historians, Olympias was quite a woman. But, when you think about it, it only makes sense. Her son was quite a guy.
SINGERS TO SPIN ON TV'S 'WHEEL' QUIZ
Some of the major stars of country music will get a chance to spin the wheel on one of TV's most popular game shows. Producers of "Wheel of Fortune" confirm that the game show will tape several episodes in Nashville in the coming days. Among the stars who have signed on to participate are: Billy Ray Cyrus, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Brenda Lee, Barbara Mandrell and Lorrie Morgan. Actually there's more, but you might have needed time to catch your breath. Let's add: Joe Nichols, Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Pam Tillis, Mark Wills, Darryl Worley and Wynonna. The tapings will take place at the Grand Ole Opry. Of course, Pat Sajak and Vanna White will be on hand. The episodes will air sometime next month. Not that "Wheel" needs a ratings boost, but with the decline in "mainstream" music's popularity in the past year and the inverse rise in the sales of country music, adding a "down-home" twang to the show might not be a bad idea.
TRAVOLTA TO GET MEGA-BIOGRAPHY
Actor-pilot-spokesman John Travolta is getting the royal treatment on "Biography." While most celebrities get half-an-hour of fame on A&E's "Biography" and many get an hour, the series is going full tilt this week with a two-hour look into Travolta's life and career. The cable network, on its Web site, notes that Travolta is a complex guy and one of the most visible stars of the era. From his first exposure on "Welcome Back, Kotter" (as the swaggering Vinnie Barbarino), to his dance moves in "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease" to more serious work as a writer and director, he has kept busy entertaining audiences since he was 16. The precocious Travolta left high school to work in the theater. He has nearly 75 major movie credits, among them "Pulp Fiction." His latest two projects are "Basic" and "2004: A Light Knight's Odyssey."
YES, BUT WHAT ABOUT 'MINORITY REPORT'?
It's the time of the year that the movie awards are being pondered, but "Minority Report" may have gotten lost in the shuffle. As the nominations for some draw near and the announcement of others are at hand, People magazine wonders why the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg science fiction thriller "Minority Report" was overlooked by the Golden Globes awards committee. According to People, the producers are determined to remind everyone about the movie. Variety has been reporting that big bucks are being spent on expensive advertising campaigns to remind members of the Oscar-voting ranks about the movie. The chairman of 20th Century Fox -- the producers of the movie -- tells the magazine that over the years there has been a strong bias against honoring science-fiction movies at the major awards shows. Additionally, the majority of movies that have gotten top honors may have done so because they were released in the final months of the year and are still either showing in theaters or are fresh in the minds of the voters.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 496
In this column we begin using some of the questions that you have graciously suggested. Our first few are from Peggy. Today's question is: "If you could live any place on earth, where would it be?" Put PLACE in the subject line and send to email@example.com via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 491 (EVE)
Last week we asked how your plans for New Year's Eve turned out based upon what you thought would happen. From a random dip into the e-mail in box here is what we found: Everyone we checked had a great time with few things going wrong. RB spent the evening sorting out old e-mails and watching "lost" episodes of old shows on the TVLand cable network. Nigel says that his New Year's Eve was peppered with last-minute changes of plans, but all went well, including getting a great view of a fireworks display. RTM says that while New Year's Eve was great (except for a friend who was a no-show at a party), New Year's Day was a bust. Brenda T may have put it best, "... company over, dinner, movies, a great time!" NEXT: Was this a quick year, or what? GBA.