Harvey Weinstein is in control when it comes to great cinema

CELEBRITY NEWS

October 24, 2007|By LIZ SMITH | LIZ SMITH,Tribune Media Services

When Harvey Weinstein was the head of Miramax, I often thought of him as the heir to those legendary studio greats Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer. He has Thalberg's creativity and Mayer's, well, power. And he even assembled a kind of indie stable of stars who would work for him for practically nothing.

Miramax - which Harvey founded and is a mix of his parents' names, Miriam and Max - still exists, though without Harvey. He was not allowed to take his company name with him when he split from Disney. Harvey bounced back as The Weinstein Company. And now he might have found the first of what could be a new group of young actors who will personify the edgy side of the mogul's studio products (and burnish his reputation for recognizing good films and great talent).

I do mean Sam Riley, who is the talk of the entire movie industry thanks to his performance in Control, a stark, grippingly realistic biopic about musician Ian Curtis of the British band Joy Division. I am pretty well up on my cult figures, even in modern music, but Ian had slipped through my radar. So I approached Control with no knowledge and no preconceptions of Curtis' music, life or early death.

Sam Riley's performance is something to see. Although 27 years old, Riley is spot-on convincing as an ambitious teenager in 1970s England, struggling with his band, his health (he was epileptic), his too-soon marriage, an affair that leaves him wracked with guilt, depression and a darkness of the soul he cannot conquer. English actress Samantha Morton, twice an Oscar nominee, is his equal, playing the young wife. (I am told that Riley truly captures the essence, sound and movements of Ian Curtis.)

Directed by Anton Corbijn, Control has already won seven international awards, and Riley himself took Best Actor at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Harvey, you've got a winner!

Orlando, a bit lighter

Tony Orlando began his solo hit-making career as part of the old Brill Building songwriting crowd, moved on to become Tony Orlando and Dawn, had a hot TV series and contributed a song that resonates to this day (people still "tie a yellow ribbon" around an old oak tree, or anything else, as a symbol of hope and waiting for a loved one).

Tony was never a thin slip of a guy, but he put on a few extra pounds in recent years. Now he's on the NutriSystem plan, shed 100 pounds and is even writing a song about his trimmer bod. Fans can keep track of Tony - or what's left of him! - at tonyorlando.com

Spoofing Hillary

For the past 30 years, Saturday Night Live has made mincemeat of presidents and presidential hopefuls. But SNL has encountered a big problem with Hillary Clinton. So far, nobody has been able to pin her down. Both Ana Gasteyer and Amy Poehler have fallen short on delivering a recognizable - and funny - Hillary. Everybody says Hillary as comic material is a "daunting" task.

The big criticism of Hillary Clinton is that she is not "human" enough, not relaxed, too programmed.

Recently, Hillary has taken to giving out with big, earthy laughs - very appealing. (It caused Chris Matthews to declare, "I'm warning up to her!") Maybe SNL can do something with that.

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