AWARDS The first movie awards of the year have been announced, so enjoy it while it still seems novel: The National Board of Review has picked ”American Beauty” as best picture, ”The Insider”’s Russell Crowe as best actor, and ”Tumbleweeds”’ Janet McTeer as best actress. ”The Talented Mr. Ripley”’s Anthony Minghella was named best director, and the supporting actor and actress honors went to ”Magnolia”’s Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore, both of whom had approximately 142 other movies released this year…. On the music side, Wednesday night’s Billboard Music Awards named Backstreet Boys artist of the year (also taking home album of the year honors), while Ricky Martin and Britney Spears won for male and female artist of the year, respectively.
UNDER SUSPICION The LAPD is investigating an ex-officer in connection with the March 9, 1997, shooting of Notorious B.I.G., according to the Los Angeles Times. A former detective on the Biggie case says that one of the theories the police are working on is that former LAPD officer David A. Mack — who is currently serving a 14-year jail sentence for a Nov. 6, 1997, bank robbery — conspired with Death Row head Suge Knight (also currently incarcerated) to hire a hitman to kill the chart-topping rap star from the competing record label Bad Boy. The police are still searching for the alleged assassin, Amir Muhammad, a former college classmate of Mack’s, and are not commenting on the investigation, only to say that no one has been arrested or charged. ”It sounds absolutely ridiculous to me,” Mack’s lawyer, Donald Re, told the Times. And Knight’s lawyer said, ”A year ago it came up and now they’re recycling it to cover their butts…. Suge doesn’t know [Mack].”
PICK ‘EM Ahhh, the power of democracy. Taking a cue from the Rolling Stones’ ”Bridges to Babylon” tour, Korn will determine the set list on their upcoming tour by polling fans on their website. ”Fans [will] pick five songs from every one of our albums, their favorite songs, and then we’ll combine that into one set,” Fieldy told MTV News. ”So we’ll let the fans pretty much pick the set for our tour.” And if you’re thinking of entering ”Free Bird,” be content in the knowledge that you’re the 4,533rd person to have that clever idea.
CASTING ”Swingers” costars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau will reunite in the comedy ”Made,” about two aspiring mobsters who get sent to New York for a hit…. David Spade is cowriting a new movie for himself, because no one else can be trusted to capture his delicate balance of smarm and extreme smarm. The film is ”The Adventures of Joe Dirt,” the story of a man searching for the parents who abandoned him at the Grand Canyon as a child…. Call in the second string: Jeff Goldblum and Nancy Travis (”Work With Me”) have been deputized to replace the departed leads William H. Macy and Jamie Lee Curtis in the comedy ”Auggie Rose.” Goldblum will now play an insurance salesman who takes on the identity of the mysterious man who dies in his arms.
SUPER DIRECTORS Sony seems to have narrowed down its search for a ”Spider-Man” director to two wildly different finalists, according to Variety: David Fincher (”Fight Club”) and Chris Columbus (”Stepmom”). Insiders say that Fincher is the front-runner, since he’ll likely give the tale a dark spin that will make Tim Burton look like John Hughes. Columbus, on the other hand, is liable to have Spidey lip-synching Motown tunes with Dr. Doom.
TV WATCH Fox has picked up a full season of ”Time of Your Life.” However, a full season of the Jennifer Love Hewitt spin-off is still less than the norm: She will do only 19 episodes (as opposed to the usual 22) because her contract requires the lighter load so that she can make time for her movie career…. If you’ve been putting off watching the WB’s ”Safe Harbor” for a rainy day, you’d better hope it pours soon: The drama hasn’t been picked up for a full-season order, and will likely be yanked from the schedule by next month.
SPEAKING OUT The four stars of ”Will & Grace” — Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally — have taped a California political TV ad attacking Proposition 22, a referendum which says the state would not recognize same-sex marriages, even those performed in other states. The cast did this without any involvement from NBC. A network spokesperson told Reuters that the ”W&G” actors ”have their own personal beliefs and causes that they support.”
LAWSUITS Dr. Laura Schlessinger isn’t used to being disagreed with, but it happened legally yesterday when a California judge dismissed the $1 million slander lawsuit she brought against a surf shop owner, according to Reuters. She maintains that Tom Moore, owner of Costa Mesa’s Beach Access, hurt her reputation when he publicly denied her story that she found pornography in his store. (She said she found a dirty skateboard magazine when she was shopping there with her son last July, and after she lambasted Moore on her radio show, he maintained the mag wasn’t pornographic.) The judge said it was a frivolous lawsuit, but he did let stand Moore’s defamation suit against Schlessinger for hurting the reputation of his store…. A ”Tonight Show” audience member is suing Jay Leno’s show for $25,000, claiming his eye was injured when he was allegedly hit by a promotional T-shirt shot out of an air gun during a ”Tonight” warm-up in 1998. ”It’s not frivolous when you get hit with a hard object traveling 800 feet per second,” said Stewart Gregory, 56. It’s a wonder no one’s sued Leno for high-fiving them too hard when he first hits the stage: His palms are known to travel at 950 feet per second.