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Hollywood Goes for the Christian Gold

Wednesday, 19 April 2006 12:00 AM

THE LEFT COAST REPORT
A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Hollywood Jittery Over Anthony Pellicano Case
2. A Paramount Chairman and a Former Disney Prez Linked to Pellicano
3. Hollywood Goes for the Christian Gold
4. Christian Ka-ching
5. Neil Young Warbles on Impeachment

It all started with a rose strategically placed in the mouth of a dead fish, which was left on the smashed windshield of a car.

Also left was a note that read: "Stop."

The automobile belonged to Anita Busch, a Los Angeles Times reporter who had been looking into a story about actor Steven Seagal's alleged difficulties with organized crime.

Police followed a trail that led to Anthony Pellicano, a.k.a. "the Pelican." Indictments and ongoing investigations were the result.

Feds found no convincing evidence that Seagal was involved in the fish incident. However, as the Pellicano investigation moved forward, big-name figures from the entertainment biz continued to enter the picture.

Actor Keith Carradine, who was allegedly wiretapped by Anthony Pellicano, filed a civil lawsuit against the former private investigator.

Others who have either been interviewed or called to appear before a grand jury reportedly include Nicole Kidman, Warren Beatty and Garry Shandling.

In early April 2006, the first entertainment industry figure was formally charged in connection with the Pelican briefs. Director John McTiernan ("Predator," "Die Hard") was charged with lying to the FBI about having hired Pellicano to wiretap "Batman Begins" producer Charles Roven.

The Left Coast Report notes that more than a dozen others have been charged in the case.

In an expose' titled "F.B.I. Links Big Film Names to a Detective," The New York Times links current chairman of Paramount Pictures Brad Grey and former president of Disney and superagent Michael Ovitz to the illegal wiretap investigation of Tinseltown gumshoe Anthony Pellicano.

A pile of FBI documents that were obtained by the Times reveals that Grey and Ovitz have had far more direct dealings with Pellicano than they previously and publicly acknowledged.

The Times notes that Grey and Ovitz are witnesses in the probe, not targets, and that neither has admitted knowledge of Pellicano's alleged wiretaps.

Los Angeles Weekly reporter Nikki Finke coined the term "Pellicano amnesia" to describe the alleged lack of candor by Grey and Ovitz.

Earlier Grey claimed that he was only "casually acquainted" with Pellicano and that his lawyers were the ones who had hired the private eye.

But in two interviews conducted by federal agents, one in 2003 and a second in 2004, Grey acknowledged talking several times to Pellicano on the telephone concerning two lawsuits, one involving his former client Garry Shandling and another involving a "Scary Movie" writer, Bo Zenga.

Ovitz reportedly admitted to the FBI that in 2002 he paid Pellicano to obtain information on 15 to 20 people who were saying negative things about him, including reporters Bernard Weinraub and Anita Busch.

Busch and her reporting partner Weinraub had penned some unfavorable articles in The New York Times about Ovitz.

The Times now characterizes the Pellicano matter as "a rapidly expanding wiretapping scandal."

The Left Coast Report relays that the big questions circulating around Hollywood these days are how big will the investigation get and, more importantly, who else is going to be implicated?

The box-office success of "The Passion of the Christ" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" did not go unnoticed by entertainment industry executives.

As the money rolled in for the Christian fare, Hollywood suits were forced to pay closer attention to the underserved sector of the market.

Movie studios had already divided the film market into four quadrants: men, women, 25 and older, and younger than 25.

A "fifth quadrant" was designated, and people who attend church now comprise the new piece of the pie.

USA Today reports that one studio, 20th Century Fox, established a new division that is dedicated to marketing to this fifth quadrant. It's aptly named Fox Faith.

Fox Faith markets DVDs and feature films directly to pastors across the nation. To supplement its faith-based products, trailers, posters and even Bible study guides are also offered.

When Mel Gibson's "Passion" broke box-office records, it evidently also provided Hollywood with a bit of an education. 

"It gave us all our MBA's pretty quickly," said Fox Senior Vice President Steve Feldstein. "For many families, church isn't just somewhere you go to pray, it's a social venue. There's more opportunity for discussion of things beyond just faith," Feldstein added.

The "Passion" and "Narnia" weren't the only films that stood out in the otherwise sagging box-office times. Some lesser-known Christian-appealing ones stood out as well.

The Left Coast Report observes that, as a result, Hollywood is now scanning the pews and thinking multiplex.

In 2004 Reuben Cannon produced the film adaptation of Pastor T.D. Jakes "Woman Thou Art Loosed" for less than $1 million. It ended up bringing in nearly $7 million. 

Cannon followed up the Jakes' film with "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Reunion," which brought in $50.6 million and $63.1 million respectively.

This year a number of films that may appeal to people of faith are in the offing.

James Marsh will direct "The King," which will star William Hurt as a minister who reunites with his troubled son.

"Instead of mocking religious people or portraying them as hypocrites, you're seeing a more straight-up examination of how hard it is to be righteous," Marsh told USA Today.

Joel Silver is producing "The Reaping," which will feature Oscar winner Hilary Swank as a Christian missionary who loses her faith after a tragedy.

And Catherine Hardwicke will direct "Nativity," a New Line Cinema Christmas film in which Keisha Castle-Hughes of "Whale Rider" will portray the Virgin Mary in the story of the birth of Christ.

"Hollywood is finally waking up to the fact that people who go to church also go to the movies," Perry explained.

Steve Rothenberg, is the head of distribution for Lionsgate Films, the company that distributed "Diary" and "Reunion." Rothenberg said that "Hollywood didn't consider [churchgoers] a very viable audience."

Hollywood's notion of what Christians like to watch is sometimes obscured by a liberal worldview in my opinion. For instance, Sony is trying its best to market "The Da Vinci Code" to Christian organizations, the problem being that the film is based on material that Bible-believing Christians know is heresy.

The Left Coast Report is certain about one thing – what will always be sacred in Tinseltown is the sound of a cash register.

5. Neil Young Warbles on Impeachment

One old rocker has apparently taken a look at his life and decided that he needs more attention. 

Woodstock refugee Neil Young has written a song that calls for the impeachment of George W. Bush. It will be featured on his upcoming album "Living With War."

The tune's title says it all. It's called "Impeach the President," and unless it's a retro Bubba song, Young would apparently prefer to see the free world rock under a new leader.

Over the past several years it has been somewhat difficult to pin Young down, politically speaking.

For instance, he was criticized by some on the left when he made public his fondness for Ronald Reagan. But in 2001 he reportedly dedicated to President Bush a song that he had recorded with his band Crazy Horse. The dedication was meant as an insult. Its title - "Piece of Crap."

Then again in 2001, using the words of Flight 93's Todd Beamer, Young penned a post-9/11 patriotic song called "Let's Roll." When Norman Lear's People for the American Way went to honor him in December of the same year, he sounded decidedly pro-Bush, much to the chagrin of assembled Hollywood libs.

"We can't forget what brought us together and what we're living for, what makes us who we are, even though to protect freedom it seems that we're going to have to relinquish some of our freedoms for a short period of time," Young said.

But then in March 2004 he told Canada's Now Web site, "The war with Iraq and the occupation were obviously done for oil and revenge. Those are the American motives, controlling the flow of oil, which is now miraculously stronger than it was before the invasion. Yet they destroyed the museums, lost all the art and had no plans for protecting the culture."

Young made clear his party preference at that time, saying, "It doesn't matter who the hell they vote for as long as they vote Democratic."

Hollywood director Jonathon Demme ("Silence of the Lambs") filmed a documentary on Young titled "Heart of Gold," which was released in February of 2006.

Demme recently sent an e-mail to Harp Magazine in which he admiringly referenced Young's latest work. "Neil just finished writing and recording – with no warning – a new album called Living With War. It all happened in three days. How rock 'n 'roll is that?" Demme wrote.

Demme went on to gush, "It is a brilliant electric assault, accompanied by a 100-voice choir, on Bush and the war in Iraq ... Truly mind blowing. Will be in stores soon. Details are pretty scarce, but the featured track, titled 'Impeach the President,' features a rap with Bush's voice set to the choir chanting 'flip/flop' and the like."

Southern California singer Alicia Morgan corroborated the Demme account in her blog. Morgan was one of the background singers invited to a local recording studio for the Young session.

"I'm not going to give the whole thing away, but the first line of one of the songs was 'Let's impeach the president for lyin'!' Turns out the whole thing is a classic beautiful protest record," Morgan recounted.  "The session was like being at a 12-hour peace rally. Every time new lyrics would come up on the screen, there were cheers, tears and applause."

Evidently, the mere mention of "impeachment" and "Bush" in the same breath is enough to induce hanky hysteria on the left.

Young once offended half the population in the South with the tune "Southern Man," prompting a musical response from Lynyrd Skynyrd:

The Left Coast Report says maybe that response shouldn't be confined to the South.

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THE LEFT COAST REPORT A Political Look at HollywoodHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Hollywood Jittery Over Anthony Pellicano Case 2. A Paramount Chairman and a Former Disney Prez Linked to Pellicano3. Hollywood Goes for the Christian Gold4. Christian...
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Wednesday, 19 April 2006 12:00 AM
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