Winners & Losers Of 2007 (Part Two)

Winner: Martin Scorsese
The globally acclaimed director was hailed in this space last year for the tremendous critical and commercial success of his film, The Departed.  That same movie earns him a spot on the 2007 Winners list, as well.  After nearly 40 years in the business, the man who helmed Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Aviator finally won an Oscar for Best Director in February.  How fitting that it was presented to him by Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, his filmmaking peers who all initially made their mark in the 1970s.  And if that wasn’t delightful enough for the fast-talking director, much to the surprise of many (excluding this website), The Departed was named Best Picture.  Jack Nicholson, one of the stars of that movie, wasted no time in making that announcement.  While it’s been argued that Scorsese should’ve won for Raging Bull and even Goodfellas, no one bemoaned his overdue victory in 2007.
Being on the short list for this year’s Kennedy Center Honours (along with Steve Martin, Brian Wilson, Diana Ross and pianist Leon Fleisher) wasn’t too shabby, either.
Loser:  Don Imus
If there’s one day this 67-year-old broadcaster would love to forget, it would most definitely be April 4th, 2007.  During that morning’s edition of Imus In The Morning on MSNBC, there was a discussion about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, The Scarlet Knights.  While footage of the team in action was being played, Imus observed, “That’s some rough girls from Rutgers.  Man, they got tattoos…”.  His producer, Bernard McGuirk, responded, “Some hard-core hos.”  And then came Imus’ infamous remark, “That’s some nappy-headed hos there.”.  He laughed as he said it.
The invaluable Media Matters For America website did a story about it and very quickly, the shit hit the fan.  The story was picked up by The New York Times, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times and  The next day, Imus downplayed the controversy by saying that it was “some idiot comment meant to be amusing”.  That same day, both and MSNBC went into damage control distancing themselves from the growing mess.  On April 6, two days after the initial broadcast, Imus made his first stab at an apology.  The National Association of Black Journalists were unimpressed.  They released a statement urging his removal from the airwaves.  On April 7, Rev. Al Sharpton publicly agreed with their position.  On April 9, Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the chorus of critics.  All the while, Howard Stern was in his element.  It was vindication for all those years having to put up with Imus’ appalling redneck behaviour both on and off the air.  He had been sounding the alarm on this talentless assclown for decades.  Someone finally heard it.
Columnists like Lisa de Moraes of The Washington Post, Filip Bondy of The New York Daily News and Phil Sheridan of The Philadelphia Inquirer all added more critical comments about the incident.  Bondy’s colleague, Bob Raissman, presciently noted in his April 8 column that the only reason Imus would be fired was because of money.  “They will dump Imus in a second if this episode leads to companies — en masse — deciding to to [sic] stop advertising on the ‘Imus in the Morning’ show,” he wrote.
Realizing they couldn’t ignore the backlash any further, both CBS Radio and MSNBC announced on April 9 that they were suspending Imus for two weeks, beginning April 16, five days after his awful and painfully unfunny public comment.  Trying to save face, Imus foolishly agreed to appear on Al Sharpton’s radio show.  It was a public relations disaster.  Trying to defend himself further on his own program and on The Today Show on April 10 didn’t help, either.  Soon after, advertisers started backing away from supporting him.  It became abundantly clear to his employers that there was no reason to cling to the radioactive racist.  MSNBC fired him on April 11 and CBS Radio followed suit on April 12.  Soon, conservative pundits cried foul.  A number of them, rather obscenely, claimed Imus was “lynched”.  Even Bill Maher rallied to his defense, most disappointingly.  The media has collective shame on their hands defending this decrepit-looking neanderthal.  One wonders what on earth they stood to gain from it.
As Stern noted numerous times on his Sirius Satellite Radio program, though, (as dutifully reported by Imus is the luckiest broadcaster in America.  How so?  After settling his lawsuit with CBS (filed in May) regarding the terms of his contract (which encouraged him to be as outrageous as possible) in August, incredibly, he found another radio gig and a TV deal.  He returns to the airwaves this month but as Stern also observed, will anyone really care?  The DJs he’s replacing had higher ratings than him.  Furthermore, how long before he screws up again?  Let the wagering begin.
UPDATE (December 5):  Technical glitches marred his second day back on the air.  Uh oh.
Winner:  Al Gore
The former Vice President of The United States was named a winner by this website last year for his critically acclaimed and commercially successful documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.  It turns out he was just getting warmed up.  2007 was even better for him.  In February, as expected, Truth won the Best Documentary Oscar.  Although awarded to the film’s director, Davis Guggenheim, it was a major victory for Gore and the increased awareness of his longtime causes of global warming and climate change.  (Melissa Etheridge also won in the Best Original Song category, which was a surprise.)
That same month, Gore announced the Live Earth series of global concerts which were broadcast live on various channels for 22 hours on July 7.  According to Wikipedia, over 150 performers appeared on stage in 10 different countries on all 7 continents (America, Antarctica, Japan, China, Italy, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Australia and the UK).  Solid sets from Lenny Kravitz, The Police, The Smashing Pumpkins, and numerous others made for an entertaining broadcast that was environmentally friendly.  (Look for Live Earth – The Concerts For The Climate In Crisis CD/double DVD release on December 4th.)  The official Live Earth website claimed the event was seen by 2 billion people (a million attended the gigs in person) and set a record for online video streaming.  (Over 55 million views.)  Despite criticism from Bob Geldof and others, it was a resounding success. 
That’s not all.  Gore was given one honour after another this year.  His most prestigous award was The Nobel Peace Prize he shared with The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his continued leadership on the world’s most important issue.  The Spanish Prince of Asturias Award and The Sir David Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking were two other honours he received for his tireless environmental efforts.  He was named an Honourary Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Concordia University presented him with an honourary doctorate.  His best-selling book, The Assault On Reason, won a Quill Award.  He also won a Primetime Emmy for his Current TV venture.  He won so many trophies in 2007 that comedian Stephen Colbert humourously complained about his “rampant and wanton destruction of the global prizescape”.
While the usual suspects in the media and the right wing continually whined about his success and attempted to spread false information about him (what happened to graciousness, guys?), The War On Gore, Bob Somerby’s famous phrase about the media’s 1999/2000 campaign against the longtime Democrat, has lost traction with the public.  (Despite being urged to run for President again, however, Gore is done with being a politician.  Completely understandable considering all the crap he went through.)  When petty losers like Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, who used to make fun of him relentlessly, now crediting him for being one of the lone voices of reason on The Iraq War (he came out against the proposed invasion in 2002) and a strong spokesman for the environment, he is a true winner.  His success has made many in the media look terminally clueless.
One wonders if he’s ever going to get that collective apology he deserves from all of those bitter fools who conspired to keep him out of the White House.  Did they really think George W. Bush was the better candidate?
Loser:  Conrad Black
The most famous line from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is this one spoken by Gordon Gekko:  “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”  Newspaper mogul Conrad Black found out the hard way that it’s only good if it doesn’t put you in jail.
The 63-year-old author, the former chief executive of Hollinger, was accused in 2003 of misuing 7 million dollars of the company’s money for his own personal use as well as defrauding the company’s shareholders of tens of millions of dollars.  (This explains all of the charges more fully.)  Numerous lawsuits were filed against him and 4 fellow executives in 2004 and in 2005 he faced criminal charges.  One of those executives, David Radler, made a deal to testify against him.
The criminal trial began in mid-March in Chicago.  Numerous conservative pundits, like Peter Worthington and Eric Margolis of The Toronto Sun among others, rather embarrassingly, proclaimed his innocence.  (US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who also prosecuted the Valerie Plame case, had to put up with harsh criticism from Black’s ass-kissing friends in the media.  “Fitzhitler”, anyone?)  Worthington himself deserves a special prize for chutzpah when he stated that the jurors selected for the case weren’t smart enough to follow the evidence and reach a verdict.  (Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper called him “a pompous ass” because of it.)  The 80-year-old columnist who covered the trial for The Sun went on to make a bold prediction on March 25:
“Conrad Black will be found not guilty, as will his four [sic] co-defendants, even more so: Ex-Hollinger execs Peter Atkinson, Jack Boultbee and Mark Kipnis.”
On July 12th, after spending nearly two weeks deliberating the case, the jury indeed acquitted Baron Black of Crossharbour of nine charges, the most serious one being racketeering.  But barring a Festivus miracle, he’s going to jail, thanks to being convicted on three lesser counts of mail fraud and one very serious count of obstruction of justice.  He faces a maximum penalty of 35 years plus fines and forfeitures.  We’ll know his official sentence on December 10.  (UPDATE:  6 and a half years plus a $125,000 fine.  More here.)
As for Atkinson, Boultbee and Kipnis, they’re going to the slammer, too.  Each were found guilty on three counts of mail fraud.
Way to call it, Petey.
But Black is no shrinking violet.  Expect him to appeal like there’s no tomorrow.  Then, there’s the matter of all these civil suits he’s involved in regarding the Hollinger scandal.  And finally, he has a libel suit going against Tom Bower, the author of Conrad & Lady Black:  Dancing On The Edge.  He’s suing for 11 million in that one claiming his good name was needlessly and viciously besmirched.
I don’t know.  Robber Baron Black of Crossharbour has a nice ring to it.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 2, 2007
2:41 a.m.
Published in: on December 2, 2007 at 2:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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