- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Rat Pack legend
"In the early 1960s, Frank Sinatra, preferring Las Vegas to Hollywood, convinced close friends and fellow entertainers Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop to join him for a lengthy engagement at the Sands Hotel. The original 'Ocean's Eleven' (the first of three movies starring this charismatic group, later known as the Rat Pack) was developed to take advantage of their extended stay.
"The supporting cast was filled out with big screen favorites, many of them recruited at Sinatra's behest. Shirley MacLaine, who had worked with both Frank and Dean, accepted the small but showy role of a ditzy party girl.
"'The movie wasn't about what was in the script,' MacLaine says. 'It was about a group of fabulously talented guys playing two shows a night in the Copa Room, working until 2:30 in the morning, and then getting up to make a movie written with them in mind. It was all about being in the moment and having fun.'"
Ed Hulse, writing on "The Las Vegas Idea," in the January issue of Premiere

Religion of peace?
"In the aftermath of the September 11 bombings, many highly placed personages, including President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, lesser political figures, media spokesmen and even some talk-show hosts emphatically assured the public that those terrible events had nothing to do with the religion of Islam.
"There certainly are elements of peace in the teachings of Muhammad. At the same time, it is foolish not to recognize the elements of violence in Muslim teaching, which combine with and reinforce feelings of mistreatment and abuse suffered at the hands of Westerners, i.e. of Christians.
"Muslims know that these elements of violence are there, and when Christians persist in denying them in some kind of forced sanctimonious meekness, the Muslims draw the conclusion that because our religion is so unimportant to us, we cannot imagine how important theirs is to them. This only reinforces their supposition that, whether they set out to destroy it or not, Christendom is not worth preserving."
From the December issue of the Religion & Society Report

Film travesty
"There are so many travesties in 'Vanilla Sky' that it's almost impossible to list them in the order of their infamy. There's the shot in which Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz, two slick Beautiful People who, with their resources pooled, scrounge up enough depth to fill a shot glass halfway, reprise the cover of 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.' Then a scene in which a bloodless 3-D specter of John Coltrane, brought to life by the miracle of holography, entertains a group of chattering, blase partygoers who ignore him as if he's the hired help or, worse, amuse themselves by passing their hands through him. Or, inexplicably, the fact that Tom Cruise's character has little interest in his lively, if crazy, sometime gal pal Cameron Diaz, and instead gravitates toward pinheaded munchkin Penelope Cruz, with her rubberized lips and 'Don't hate me because I'm beautiful' hair. She thinks she's Sophia Loren's Mini-Me.
"Who would have thought that [director] Cameron Crowe had a movie as bad as 'Vanilla Sky' in him?
"Cruz radiates a plug-and-go life force. Her character is the kind of woman some men fall for when their calcified notion of the ideal woman renders them incapable of reading the ingredients panel to find out what they're actually getting. Instead, they just stare dumbly at the box: She must be down-to-earth because, although dazzlingly beautiful, she wears a suede jacket with jeans. She must have wisdom, warmth and humor, because she's a dancer with fine bones and birdlike shoulder blades. She must be a ready-made soul mate because of her ability to challenge a guy with red-hot observations about his innermost self. Wrap it up: I'll take it!"
Stephanie Zacharek, writing on "Vanilla Sky," Friday in Salon at www.salon.com

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