Saturday, January 20, 2007
Sundance, Day 2 (1/19/07)
I began my day by chatting live with anchors Jim Clancy and Ralitsa Vassileva on CNN International about the festival, who's in town, and which films are getting the most buzz.

"Hounddog," starring Dakota Fanning, is already swirling in controversy due to what's being described as a brutal rape scene featuring Dakota. The 12-year old actress plays a precocious, troubled child who finds solace in the music and moves of Elvis Presley. Dakota has refused to speak with CNN about the movie. Why, we're not sure. When I find out I'll let you know.

I'll be screening "Hounddog" in a few days and will give you my own perspective on this controversial film.

Actor Steve Buscemi stopped by for an appearance on our entertainment show, "Showbiz Tonight" on CNN Headline News. Steve, a Sundance veteran, has not one, but two films here this year. First, Buscemi plays a paparazzo in the satire "Delirious," which pokes fun at fame in Hollywood and all those involved, including paparazzi, publicists, and stars.

Buscemi's second film, which he directs and stars in, also speaks to the nature of celebrity. "Interview" with Sienna Miller dissects journalistic ethics and the idea of celebrity in our culture today. Steve told me his family will be joining him here in Park City to enjoy the weekend.

As he was leaving our workspace, we offered Steve a limited edition CNN ice scraper, in honor of his performance in "Fargo." He declined to take it. I guess he didn't appreciate our sense of humor.

The co-directors of the documentary "The Devil Came on Horseback," Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, joined me on CNN International to talk about their heartbreaking film. "Devil" is a disturbing, eye-opening look at the horrific civil conflict in Darfur.

More to come tomorrow ... Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney and Kevin Bacon are on the schedule!

By the way, it's a crisp 8 degrees here in Park City as I'm writing this. I've been bundled up in three layers of clothes all day! This is quite a weather adjustment for a California girl!
Friday, January 19, 2007
Sundance, Day 1 (1/18/07)
We've arrived! My team and I landed early this morning in Salt Lake City and hit the ground running. First on the agenda ... the festival's opening day news conference with Robert Redford, president and founder of the Sundance Institute.

I had a chance to talk with Redford one-on-one. He spoke passionately about the festival's mission to promote independent filmmaking. He also addressed the growing popularity of "swag" gift suites that sprout up on Main Street in Park City during the festival each year.

Redford believes ambush marketers have their own job to do, and that's OK, but the festival isn't about commercialism or Paris Hilton breezing into town for the parties and festivities (yes, Redford specifically mentioned Paris). He wants people to know Sundance is meant to foster and encourage filmmakers and be a platform for their work, not a platform for freebies.

Redford will only be here in Park City for one day because duty calls. He's off to work on a film with Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise.

After the presser, the festival's opening film, "Chicago 10," had its premiere. The documentary tells the story of the group of Yippies who successfuly disrupted the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It's told with archival footage and ... animation?!

Between covering these events, we managed to check into our accommodations, hit the Sundance headquarters to get the all-important festival credentials, set up our temporary workspace, and stock up on groceries. We're excited: Nearly 200 films will be screened, and about 50,000 folks are expected to roll into town. It's going to be a busy 11-day festival, but we say "bring it on"!
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
America the beautiful
America has a new hero -- and how utterly appropriate that her first name is "America": America Ferrera.

The star of the hit ABC show "Ugly Betty" was named best actress in a TV musical or comedy at the Golden Globes and, with her presence, sent a powerful message: that women everywhere -- women who are tired of the often unrealistic body image messages that Hollywood sends -- now have someone they can look up to as a symbolic representation of reality.

In "Ugly Betty," Ferrera plays Betty Suarez, an overweight young woman with braces who plays an assistant working for the fictional fashion magazine Mode. She is the proverbial fish out of water, her looks glaring and daring in a world obsessed with every nuance of the superficiality of beauty.

"Showbiz Tonight" was backstage at the Golden Globes after Ferrera received her honor, and what she said should be applauded.

"I don't really see Betty as ugly. I see her as closer to the real girls I see in life," she said. "There are hundreds of Bettys in our own lives that we love, so we need to stop using that word ("ugly") and the expectations that we put on the generations. We need to tell the future to explore their talents and have [those women] offer what they have to offer beyond what they look like."

America Ferrera was not the only fuller-figured beauty who was celebrated at the Golden Globes. Jennifer Hudson, who rightly deserved the award she received for best supporting actress in a musical or comedy for "Dreamgirls," recently proudly told "Showbiz Tonight," "I like my thickness. I'd rather be thick any day."

"Showbiz Tonight" has seized this issue with our ongoing coverage of the "Showbiz Weight Watch." We've made it our mission to resist Hollywood's persistent beauty-definition pressure -- standards that make women feel ridiculously guilty for looking and feeling normal -- and to make sure stick-thin, scary-skinny stars and fashion models are not held up as role models to emulate, as well as expose the influence they have on many young women who are driven to eating disorders.

With the likes of America Ferrera and Jennifer Hudson as real models, there may be some hope yet.
Globes, the next day
"Hollywood's biggest party" went off without a hitch. Forest Whitaker gave one of the most genuine acceptance speeches. In fact, he really was at a loss for words, getting emotional and giving us all a real glimpse of what it was to be grateful.

On the other end of things, Sacha Baron Cohen -- aka Borat -- had the house in stitches with a hilarious speech. He may have checked Borat at the door, but the crazy Kazakh journalist was definitely there in spirit.

On the carpet it was a feast for the eyes as the stars showed off their fashion savvy. There was lots of white, but overall color prevailed, with green, royal blue and purple taking center stage.

Looking like a purple princess was the very pretty "Ugly Betty." TV star America Ferrera told me she was proud to be nominated for a show that projected a great message.

Overall, the Golden Globes provided a night of celebration. Now, off to the next big awards show -- the mack-daddy of them all -- the Academy Awards!
Monday, January 15, 2007
And now, the Oscar jockeying really begins
So "Babel" is the Golden Globe-winning best drama and "Dreamgirls" is best musical-or-comedy, making them the front-runners for the best picture Academy Award ... and "The Departed," thanks to Martin Scorsese's director win, isn't to be left out, either. (See article.)

The rest of the Globe winners pretty much confirmed the Oscar race conventional wisdom: Helen Mirren ("The Queen") vs. Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada") for best actress; Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland") the leading best actor candidate (though the sentimental Oscar voters might want to finally honor seven-time runner-up Peter O'Toole in the category); Scorsese, Eastwood and Inarritu for best director. "Dreamgirls'" Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson both seem to be well in front in the supporting categories.

So could the Oscar nominations offer any surprises? I wonder. Sacha Baron Cohen may actually get a best actor nomination. (And who knows? He would deserve it a lot more than Roberto Benigni.) "Letters from Iwo Jima" may pick up a best picture -- not best foreign-language picture -- nod. And I'm still pulling for "Children of Men" to sneak in, despite being completely ignored by the Globes.

What do you think?

In any event, we shall see. Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday, January 23.
But can you eat the dishes?
I thought I had seen just about everything at the Golden Globes. That is, until I got a sneak peek at the InStyle and Warner Bros. after-party, one of the hottest tickets in town. (InStyle and Warner Bros. are both parts of the Time Warner empire, as is CNN.)

Talk about decadence. There is a floor-to-ceiling chocolate lounge. That's right -- a lounge made out of chocolate.

The sweet stuff is everywhere -- walls of dark, white and milk chocolate. And, yes, it's edible! (Didn't we see this in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"?) Towers of Godiva chocolate are used as accents. There are chocolate tables ... and a chocolate bar, of course. I swear, I felt as if I were swimming in a pool of fudge.

For drinks there are chocolate martinis, or the Golden Globe drink of choice: champagne. Chocolate and bubbly, what's not to love?

(For pictures of the after-party, click here. For video, click here.)
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