AMERICAN BEAUTY, THE INSIDER, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, THE GREEN MILE
Oscar's PC lineup
Anti-suburban, anti-smoking, pro-abortion: This year's leading nominees for the Academy Awards to be passed out on Oscar Night, March 26, displayed not only physically correct actors and actresses but politically correct themes. American Beauty, a drama of sorts featuring a middle-class dad who chases after a high-school cheerleader, last week rounded up eight Academy Award nominations to lead the pack. The 5,300 directors, screenwriters, actors, and others who chose nominees were evidently receptive to a film showing a rootless, shallow family leading a life of quiet desperation in the existential nightmare known as suburbia. Also on the Hollywood plus side: Beauty is rated R for bad language, nudity, sexual situations, drug use, and violence. The Insider, a film about a tobacco industry whistle-blower, and The Cider House Rules, based on John Irving's pro-abortion novel of that name, each received seven nominations. Planned Parenthood set up special screenings of Cider House and pushed it to critics, as part of a broad campaign to let modern moviegoers know how bad things were in the days when fetuses were babies. Those two films were nominated for best picture, along with The Green Mile (a Tom Hanks death-row saga), and The Sixth Sense (about a child who can see ghosts). Two movies WORLD recommended, The Winslow Boy and The Straight Story, did not receive nominations, but Richard Farnsworth received a nomination for best actor for his work in the latter. ART UNPLUGGED
Blending ethics and art
Something's rotten in Denmark: an art exhibit. Danish artist Evaristti put up an art exhibit featuring 10 goldfish swimming in blenders. And visitors to the Trapholt Art Museum got the chance to make goldfish puree just by hitting the "on" button. After seven fish died for the cause of art, the police came in and cut the power to the blenders. Danish animal-rights activists are up in arms, but Museum director Peter Meyer defends the exhibit. He says the exhibit didn't encourage people to blend the fish but addressed ethical questions about death.
Ups & Downs of the Week
Dominik Hasek: At least 16 million reasons could explain why the well-paid Dominator, the greatest goalie in the National Hockey League, changed his mind about retiring at the end of this season. His agent, though, put it this way in USA Today: "I asked him, 'What's the difference between John Elway and Dan Marino, or Wayne Gretzky and Ray Borque?'" Mssrs. Elway and Gretzky have won championships; the other two have not. Nor has Mr. Hasek, whose Buffalo Sabres were robbed of a Stanley Cup last year when a non-call by officials gave a victory to the Dallas Stars. William Safire: One week after ridiculing conspiracy theorists, The New York Times' respected wordsmith spun a fatuous and factually incorrect yarn about WORLD's policy of sending free copies of the magazine to journalists and members of Congress. Mr. Safire insinuated this was illegal on the part of WORLD's nonprofit parent company. Pretty weak, but as Mr. Safire himself has said, "vast-conspiracy theorists need not be encumbered by facts." Our crime? The Feb. 19 issue raised questions about John McCain The New York Times refuses to raise.
Remembering Schulz, Landry
Two American Institutions
Two giants in their respective vocations died five hours apart the night of Feb. 12: Tom Landry, 75, founding coach of the Dallas Cowboys, at a Dallas hospital; and Charles "Sparky" Schulz, 77, creator of Peanuts, the most popular comic strip in newspaper history, at his home in Santa Rosa, Calif. Mr. Landry was being treated for leukemia, Mr. Schulz for heart disease and colon cancer. In his 29 seasons as head coach of the Cowboys, beginning in 1960, Mr. Landry guided his teams to 19 NFL playoffs, 13 division titles, five Super Bowls, and two Super Bowl wins. His overall record was 271-180-6. The quiet, intense, steel-jawed man in a suit and fedora hat, watched by millions every week as he paced the sidelines, was known for his consistent upright life on and off the field. Mr. Landry wrote he was "born again" in 1959 at a weekly breakfast Bible study for businessmen at a downtown Dallas hotel. He joined Highland Park United Methodist Church, a conservative congregation; he also attended Grace Bible Church for four years in the early 1970s after one of his teen-age daughters was converted there. He served on the 35-member governing board of Dallas Seminary from 1978 until his death. He was active in prison ministry, and he devoted significant time to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, including a stint as president. He gave testimonies at Billy Graham meetings. He would tell people there was something more important in his life than football: his relationship with Jesus Christ. "His legacy will last for generations ... because he influenced so many lives in such a positive way," said Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. Through Charlie Brown and the other Peanuts characters, all of whom mirrored their creator's philosophy in one way or another in their nearly 50-year life span, Mr. Schulz was able to address big issues of life in a sensitive and perceptive way-and make people smile at the same time. His audience was huge: Peanuts appeared in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and two dozen languages, with an estimated readership of more than 350 million people. Once active in the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), the shy and introverted Mr. Schulz was the first widely published cartoonist to include quotes from Scripture in his work regularly-and get away with it. With or without the quotes, preachers often saw theology in the strip-sometimes when even the cartoonist didn't, and many used the strip in sermon illustrations. By pre-arrangement, the final Peanuts strip appeared Feb. 13, which, it turned out, was just hours after the cartoonist's death. Mr. Schulz, Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, and all the other Peanuts characters, it seems, exited together. "evidence piling up," accused robber flees
Take the money and run
Now you see it, now you don't-but it didn't matter for robber Douglas Holmes, sentenced last week to 55 years in prison. Midway through his Kansas City, Mo., trial last month, Mr. Holmes jumped up, grabbed the cash from an evidence bag, and fled. But Circuit Judge John R. O'Malley continued the non-jury trial and, even without the evidentiary dollars, found Holmes guilty of robbing three people. Police recaptured him two weeks ago at a liquor store. Mr. Holmes, explaining his disappearing act, said, "I saw the evidence piling up on me. I thought it would be in my best interest if I left for a little bit." Judge O'Malley, however, castigated the 30-year-old man for making "one stupid decision after another."
- Mary-Louise Kurey, 25, testified this month before her state legislature on behalf of abstinence-only sex education. As the 1999 Miss Wisconsin and one of 10 Miss America semifinalists, Miss Kurey resisted pressure from pageant directors to water down her abstinence platform: "I witnessed firsthand the devastating impact premarital sex had on the lives of my friends."
- Pro-life family practitioner Dr. Robert Orr received one of the nation's most prestigious medical awards-The Isaac Hays, M.D. and John Bell, M.D. Award presented by the American Medical Association for "leadership in medical ethics." In his acceptance speech, the California physician exhorted colleagues to stand against "the intentional taking of human life by euthanasia."
The No-Comment Zone
- Read my lips, no Pete Rose. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig made it plain last week, in a speech at the Rotary Club of Madison, Wis., that as long as he's commissioner, Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball is firm: "There is not a scintilla of give in that area." Mr. Rose has applied for reinstatement, but so far Mr. Selig hasn't officially responded. Following an investigation of his gambling, Mr. Rose agreed to a lifetime ban on Aug. 23, 1989, a deal announced by commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti the following day.
- Is something wrong with lawyers giving politicians campaign money in order to get government work after the election? The American Bar Association says yes. So now a new ethics rule forbids lawyers from the practice known as "pay to play." The ABA's policy-making House of Delegates voted 266-157 to adopt the ban, over the objections of those who said it will chill free-speech rights and prove unenforceable.
- Terry Anderson says Iranian thugs held him captive for seven years in Lebanon. Now he wants the Islamic republic to pay-literally. Mr. Anderson is pressing a $100 million lawsuit against Iran, accusing the government of financing and directing the Hezbollah members who kept him shackled and blindfolded for 2,454 days. Mr. Anderson wants to collect damages under a 1996 law permitting American victims of terrorism and their families to make claims against frozen assets of terrorist nations. No money has yet been collected under the act.
- A year after the Columbine High School massacre, two sophomores were found shot to death in a local Subway sandwich shop just two blocks away from the school. A restaurant employee driving past the store noticed a light inside the store about 1 a.m. Since the business was supposed to be closed, the woman stopped, went inside, and discovered the bodies of Nicholas Kunselman, 15, and Stephanie Hart, 16. Columbine students and relatives of the victims gathered in the parking lot, placing bouquets just outside police lines. "Every week, there's something that happens here," said Daniel Baker, who brought three friends to deliver flowers. "This is supposed to be a normal community." Other recent Columbine tragedies: On Feb. 1, the body of an 11-year-old boy was found in a trash bin within blocks of the school. In October, the mother of a student partially paralyzed in the massacre shot herself to death. Afghanistan: a most unusual hijacking
Coca-Cola had its commercials, "I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony." Pepsi has an unexpected testimonial. During the hijacking of the Afghan plane earlier this month, most of the 147 passengers cowered in fear, but 30 or more laughed and received what the Associated Press called "the choicest food and drink from their captors." They were the relatives of the hijackers, according to one free hostage, Mohammed Shamsullah, and they received Pepsis, prized because they're so expensive in Afghanistan. Shamsullah said, "They gave all the Pepsis to their children. In our country Pepsi is very sweet, because it costs too much money." The Ariana Airlines Boeing 727 was hijacked over Afghanistan, which has not only a paucity of Pepsi but a shortage of airport security, by nine men who jumped out of their seats, brandishing guns and knives. The hijacking ended Feb. 10 in Britain after a standoff with British police at an airport outside London. Half of the passengers have returned to Afghanistan, but the other half are still in Britain either seeking asylum or considering it. Sudan atrocity captured on videotape
"Voices of horror"
When 14 children were killed in an air raid on their Sudanese school, it might have been taken as just another atrocity in a distant country's civil war. But this time the incident was caught on tape. The BBC says a videographer with a banged-up camera obtained footage of the attack. Sudanese student Stephen Amin told reporters all he could hear was screaming when a government bomb landed near an English class, killing the teacher and several pupils. It was "a very harrowing experience ... because the amount of people on the ground and then also the voices of horror and so on was very sad," he told the BBC. Go back to sleep: it's just another Clinton scandal
White House email coverup
One of President Clinton's achievements has been to turn actions that formerly would have elicited outrage into short-lived stories that yield hardly a yawn. When The Washington Times reported last week that the White House hid thousands of emails containing information on Filegate, Chinagate, campaign-finance abuses, and Monica Lewinsky-all of which were under subpoena by a federal grand jury and three congressional committees-the general attitude seemed to be, "What else would you expect?" Even when the rarest of individuals came forward-a manager within the White House itself ready to blow the whistle-not much happened. Sheryl L. Hall, former chief of White House computer operations, said administration officials covered up the fact that email from August 1996 to November 1998, including 4,000 messages involving or related to Miss Lewinsky, had not been surrendered, as required by law. She said the officials decided instead to call them "classified" documents, as part of a cover-up designed to delay any investigations until 2001 or beyond. Mrs. Hall said, "Contractors working at the White House discovered the glitch showing that 100,000 White House emails involving nearly 500 computer users had not been located during the document search. When the contractors told the White House about the problem, they were threatened, warned not to discuss it. They were told the documents were classified. In fact, a White House official told one of the contractors they had a jail cell with his name on it if he discussed the matter." This administration will end not with a bang but with a whimper. Pro-Aborts stand by their man
Al Gore may have had an 84 percent approval rating from the National Right to Life Committee while a congressman, but he gets the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's endorsement as a presidential candidate. NARAL president Kate Michelman said she is confident in Mr. Gore's support for unrestricted abortions now, even though he once cast a series of anti-abortion votes. And she's mad at Bill Bradley for calling attention to it. In 1987, then-congressman Gore said in a letter to a constituent that abortion was "arguably the taking of a human life." And in 1984, he voted to define the word person under four existing civil-rights laws to include "unborn children from the moment of conception."
- Some of the nation's biggest agricultural producers are preparing for a huge windfall. But their benefactor isn't good weather or strong markets; it's Uncle Sam. A new certificate program will allow about 2,600 farms to sidestep the current $150,000-per-producer limit on crop subsidies, with such giants as cotton producer J.G. Boswell Co. grabbing the most. The program pays farmers the difference between the market price of major commodities and government-set minimum prices. "We're going to subsidize some of the biggest farmers in the country to drive others out of business," complained Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman last fall didn't fight the bill, which had bipartisan backing in Congress, but now says the program "will be embarrassing to American agriculture."
- What's a journalist in Russia to do? First, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin raised the price of vodka; now he's threatening to re-Stalinize the country. Under the command of the ex-KGB officer, who was named acting president Dec. 31, investigators tried to force a feisty Moscow political reporter into a psychiatric ward. Officials have harassed correspondents covering the war in Chechnya. Provincial newspapers are being shut down for alleged fire safety violations. That Mr. Putin is almost certain to win a four-year term in next month's presidential elections has reporters worried. The daily Izvestia reported that since August, KGB-style surveillance of journalists has returned to Russia and spies are seeking out and punishing journalists' sources in government.
- Jesse Ventura quit the Reform Party and took the Donald with him. "The Reform Party is a total mess," Donald Trump said on NBC's Today. "I will not be running." His refusal to run leaves Pat Buchanan seeking the Reform nomination and the party's $12.6 million in federal funds all by himself. That is, if Ross Perot doesn't try to stage a comeback. One guy who isn't looking for federal matching funds: Libertarian Harry Browne, who announced his second bid for president. The 66-year-old former investment adviser from Franklin, Tenn., received less than 1 percent of the vote in the 1996 election. This time his goal is to win 5 percent of the vote.
British insurer demands a smarter who wants to be a millionaire?
Is that your final claim?
Who wants to be an insurance company? The British Goshawk Syndicate says the questions on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? are too easy and wants out of its contract. The ABC show is the lone new hit on network television, airing three times a week and spawning the return of TV prime-time quiz shows. Only ER comes close to its monster ratings. As is often done with big-prize contests, those who conduct the game take out an insurance policy against the unlikely event of anyone actually winning the biggest bucks. For Millionaire, Goshawk's insurance firm agreed to pay prizes of $500,000 or $1 million, after a $1.5 million deductible and with an upper limit of $5 million. So far, only two people have won the top prize, but the insurance company is nervous and has filed suit in England against Disney's Buena Vista Entertainment division, which produces the show. The suit demands that the questions get harder and the contestants get dumber. Millionaire executive producer Michael Davies defended the 15-question gantlet that contestants must run through. "You have to answer every single question," he said. "The questions might be easy within their category, but there is such a broad range, it is almost impossible for anybody on a regular basis to be able to go through all the questions in any given stack." Producers vow there will be no changes. Millionaire is one of the great cash cows in television history. Like Jeopardy, which became a craze in the 1980s, it makes intelligence into sport. People love believing they could have won a fortune if only they had been asked the right question. The show has also given a boost to the once-standard TV "family hour" policy, in which shows on during the 8-9 p.m. time slot are suitable for all ages. Studies indicate that families-even those in which the kids have TV sets in their rooms-are watching the show together. "It's very, very rare that you have a program like Millionaire that reaches every demographic group, where everybody watches together," said ABC's Larry Hyams. -Chris Stamper To the chagrin of Canada
Hockey goes global
Is hockey becoming an American pastime? It hasn't caught up with baseball or football, but its momentum is growing. This year's All-Star game had nearly a quarter more viewers than last year, after jumping from Fox to ABC. The game received high Nielsen ratings in places like Seattle, Indianapolis, and Orlando, which don't even have franchises. In a pre-game ceremony fans saw Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 jersey retired in tribute to the legendary multiple-record holder. Yet as hockey's popularity grows, the game is changing. Hockey today isn't as Canadian as it used to be, to the chagrin of many Canadians. Hockey Night in Canada may be their equivalent of Monday Night Football, but it's Detroit, St. Louis, and New Jersey that have hot teams, while smaller-market Canadian clubs are worrying about survival. Today, many players are pouring out of Europe to play in the NHL, with players like Jaromir Jagr (from the Czech Republic) and Pavel Bure (from Russia) heating up the statistics. Only 65 percent of NHL players now come from North America.-Chris Stamper Man knows not his time
An Ernest comic
Knowhutimean? Comedian Jim Varney, who died Feb. 10, turned one break into a career. In 1972, he did his first commercial playing Ernest P. Worrel, a well-meaning but clumsy oaf who pitched the virtues of cars, milk, or pizza. Without Ernest, Mr. Varney was just another hard-up actor playing bit parts and doing standup comedy. A Nashville adman discovered he could successfully syndicate the Ernest character, and soon different cities saw Ernest annoying his neighbor Vern about a whole host of products. The original ads were often funny. Only when Disney made four Ernest movies did he become a pop-culture annoyance. While the movies made money, the likes of Ernest Goes to Camp demonstrate that what works in 30 seconds won't make a feature-length film. The role came to an end when Mr. Varney discovered he had lung cancer. He tried to take his career in a post-Ernest direction, making an as-yet-unreleased Billy Bob Thorton movie about alcoholism called Daddy and Them, but the cancer claimed his life. "You don't really appreciate life until you look death in the eyes," he told the Nashville Scene shortly before his death. -Chris Stamper