December 27, 2008

Comedy "Marley & Me" sets Christmas Day box office record

Cast members Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson pose at the premiere of the movie "Marley & Me" at the Mann Village theatre in Westwood, California December 11, 2008. The movie opens in the U.S. on December 25.

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 26 -- A slew of big-budget movies managed to lure moviegoers into theaters in the United States and Canada during the Christmas holidays despite a sluggish economy and bad weather, showed box office figures released Friday.

"Marley & Me," a comedy from 20th Century Fox, had the largest Christmas Day opening in Hollywood's history with estimated ticket sales of 14.75 million U.S. dollars, according to Los Angeles-based box office tracking firm Media by Numbers.

Clyde, the dog who plays Marley in the movie, sits at the premiere of the movie "Marley & Me" at the Mann Village theatre in Westwood, California December 11, 2008. The movie opens in the U.S. on December 25.

The previous record was 10.22 million dollars for "Ali," the Will Smith-starring biography of boxing champion Muhammad Ali, set on Christmas Day in 2001.

"These are phenomenal holiday numbers," said Bruce Snyder, president of Fox Distribution, which distributed "Marley & Me."

The film starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston tells the story of a family in the making and a dog named Marley who taught them what really matters in life.

Meanwhile, Paramount's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, and Tom Cruise's WWII thriller "Valkyrie," also performed much better than expected. The two films are expected to have the second- and third-largest Christmas Day opening grosses of all-time.

A record of five films, including Disney family comedy "Bedtime Stories" and Lionsgate's sci-fi action thriller "The Spirit," opened in wide release in North America Thursday as Hollywood studios tried to woo more audience in this Christmas season amid the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.


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Lindsay Lohan spending X'mas with Samantha

Dec. 27 -- On Tuesday Lindsay Lohan revealed on her MySpace blog, "My father just let my family and I know, amongst others that he had another child after my little sister Aliana, or maybe he had it before Aliana??"

"He cheated on my mother and that really sucks … MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!," the actress, 22, wrote a blog post titled "Random Thoughts."

But in a rebuttal e-mail sent to People Magazine, the star's controversy-plagued father Michael Lohan is refuting the claim. In fact, he thinks the entry was penned not by his daughter, but by her DJ gal pal Samantha Ronson.

Reports that Michael Lohan, father of Michael, Lindsay, Ali and Cody Lohan, might have had an illegitimate child surfaced in June when a woman named Kristi Horn claimed that she'd had a daughter by him 13 years ago.

"Why would someone without taking a test put something out there like this? What if it's negative?" Lohan said in June in interviews with the Associated Press.

On her MySpace blog, Lohan sends her love to all of her family members except her father. She also reveals that she'll be spending the holidays with her girlfriend in LA.

"I love my Mom, Aliana, Cody, Michael, and my Nana Sullivan!! I will be missing them this Christmas as it is the first one I am spending away from home. I am spending it with Samantha in Los Angeles."


Taylor Swift logs 3rd week atop U.S. album chart

Singer Taylor Swift poses as she arrives at "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!: Countdown to Music's Biggest Night" in Los Angeles, California Dec. 3, 2008. Country star Taylor Swift began a third non-consecutive week at No. 1 on the U.S. pop album chart Wednesday.

Dec. 26 -- Country star Taylor Swift began a third non-consecutive week at No. 1 on the U.S. pop album chart Wednesday, trumping big debuts from Keyshia Cole and Jamie Foxx, which opened at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.

Swift's "Fearless" sold 330,000 copies during the week ended Dec. 21, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Cole's "A Different Me" followed with 322,000 copies, a career-best sales week for the R&B singer. Her 2007 album, "Just Like You," also debuted at No. 2 but with 281,000 units.

Foxx's "Intuition" shifted 265,000 copies. His last album, "Unpredictable," bowed exactly two years ago, starting at No. 2 with 598,000 before rising to No. 1 the following week with 200,000.

The next four albums were each down two places on the Billboard 200: Britney Spears' "Circus" at No. 4 with 196,000 copies, Beyonce's "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" at No. 5 with 195,000, Nickelback's "Dark Horse" at No. 6 with 194,000, and the soundtrack to "Twilight" at No. 7 with 156,000.

Fall Out Boy's "Folie a Deux" debuted at No. 8 with 150,000. The album, which was originally scheduled for a November 4 release, is the follow-up to 2007's "Infinity on High," which debuted at No. 1 with 260,000.

AC/DC's "Black Ice" slipped one to No. 9 with 143,000 copies, taking its total to more than 1.8 million since September. The multi-artist compilation "Now 29" dropped three to No. 10 with 139,000.

Anthony Hamilton returned to the chart with "The Point of It All" at No. 12 with 133,000. His last new studio effort, "Ain't Nobody Worryin'," debuted and peaked at No. 19 in December 2005 with 112,000.

Other new entries included Rapper Plies' "Da Realist," begins at No. 14, and the All-American Rejects' "When The World Comes Down" at No. 15.

Teenage rapper Soulja Boy's "ISouljaBoyTellEm" debuted at a disappointing No. 43 with 46,000; his 2007 debut, "," began at No. 4 with 117,000, on the strength of the No. 1 Hot 100 hit "Crank That."

At 17.16 million units, album sales this week were up 33% over last week but down 33% from the same week in 2007, when 25.57 million albums were sold.


China builds world's largest ice Santa

A visitor stands in front of a giant Santa Claus ice sculpture for the upcoming 25th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival at a park in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, December 24, 2008. China's freezing northern city of Harbin is building what organizers say is the world's largest Santa Claus ice sculpture.

BEIJING, Dec. 26 -- China's freezing northern city of Harbin is building what organizers say is the world's largest Santa Claus ice sculpture.

The giant Father Christmas, 160 meters (525 ft) long and 24 meters high, centers on an enormous face of Father Christmas, complete with flowing beard and hat.

Its huge size and unseasonably warm temperatures have made the job especially challenging, said Tang Guangjun, one of the sculptors.

"It is even bigger and higher than last year's, and more difficult. The weather swings between warm and cold, so it becomes very wet and slippery on the ice. It is very dangerous for us," he told Reuters Television.

Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province on the edge of Siberia, is one of China's coldest places. Winter temperatures can drop to below minus 35 degrees Celsius (- 31 F).

Every year the city plays host to a world-renowned ice festival. But the effects of global warming are taking a toll as the snow and ice now melt more rapidly than in the past.

Organizers said they had to artificially make snow for the Santa Claus sculpture.

Still, the sculpture has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the country who want to enjoy a white Christmas despite worries over the economic downturn.

Many said such tourism could help to boost the economy.

"It can stimulate the economy and consumption. When people feel happier, they will want to spend more, so it will lift the economy of the city and even the country," said Li Qingsheng, a tourist from Beijing.

Officials in Harbin remained optimistic about the tourist outlook for the winter.

An estimated 800,000 tourists, 90 per cent of them Chinese, were expected to visit the ice festival, said Jia Yan, director of the local tourism bureau.

The festival traditionally runs from mid-December to early February.


December 23, 2008

What are my Christmas presents?

Kuchani, a female African Lion at Sydney's Taronga Zoo, enjoys a treat hidden inside a Christmas wrapped box December 23, 2008.

December 19, 2008

Actress Zhang Ziyi named China's "most beautiful person" by media

Chinese movie star Zhang Ziyi shoots new photos for the fashion magazine Bazaar

BEIJING, Dec. 19 -- Actress Zhang Ziyi has placed first on a list of the 50 "most beautiful people in China."

The fourth annual event was organized by The Beijing News, which announced the result in its Friday edition.

Zhang, who starred in the films "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Memoirs of a Geisha," was first partly because she organized an overseas fund drive for survivors of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake while attending the Cannes Film Festival, said judge Hai Yan, a playwright and TV producer.

Hong Kong-based Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, a Cannes Film Festival best actor, came in second.

Olympics diving champion Guo Jingjing, martial arts star Jet Li and Li Yuchun, who made her name in a singing contest Super Girl, the Chinese version of American Idol, also made it into the top 50.

Emma Watson has no need for money in life

Cast member Emma Watson from the movie "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" waves after leaving prints in cement at the Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California July 9, 2007. Watson said she had "no need for money in her life"

Dec. 19 -- Emma Watson said she had "no need for money in her life".

The "Harry Potter" actress - estimated to be worth 13 million pounds - will never agree to star in a film purely for financial gain.

Emma, 18, said: "The wealth side of it hasn't hit me yet because I have no need for money in my life. My life will not be motivated by money.

"I will never do a film because they're going to pay me a certain amount of money. It's liberating. It means I can hopefully make great choices."

The British actress also insists she has not adopted a lavish lifestyle despite starring in six "Harry Potter" films, and still uses public transport.

She added to USA Today newspaper: "I have a more normal life than people expect. When I take public transport, people are like, 'That girl looks like the girl from 'Harry Potter', but it can't be her on the train.'

"I get stopped by people, but that's fine. I'd never want to be so famous that I couldn't live a normal life to a certain extent. I can't imagine anything lonelier, just not being able to be part of the real world and being trapped and locked in hotel rooms and cars."

Emma lends her voice to the character Princess Pea in new animated film "The Tale of Despereaux" which opens in European cinemas from Friday.


Marilyn Monroe's last photo fetches record at auction

One of Marilyn Monroe's last photos fetched a record price of 146,500 U.S. dollars at a Christie's auction, according to media reports Thursday.
Sold! Marilyn's iconic images Iconic images of actress Marilyn Monroe fetchd hundreds of thousands of dollars at a New York auction.

Dec. 18 -- One of Marilyn Monroe's last photos fetched a record price of 146,500 U.S. dollars at a Christie's auction, according to media reports Thursday.

The photo "The Last Sitting" by Bert Stern is one of the 36 shots that Monroe posed for Vogue magazine in 1962, the same year she died. These photos are the last professional images taken of the iconic actress.

The price shattered the 63,000 dollars mark set in 1994.

These images from the collection of Leon and Michaela Constantiner are among more than 100 images of the Hollywood actress being offered for sale at Christie's.

"The results confirm that Marilyn Monroe's magical appeal has proven to be truly timeless," said Philippe Garner, Christie's international head of photographs, in a statement.


Jennifer Lopez's 4-year marriage on the rocks

Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez poses at the premiere of the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" at the Mann's Village theatre in Westwood, California Dec. 8, 2008.

Dec. 19 -- Jennifer Lopez's four-year marriage to Marc Anthony is at "breaking point."

The singer-and-actress was spotted without her wedding and engagement rings at a recent Los Angeles premiere, and Marc has also been enjoying nights out without his ring.

Marc, 40, further fuelled rumours the pair's relationship is on the rocks when he was seen flirting with women in New York and Las Vegas nightclubs and moaning Jennifer had been "making me miserable".

A source, who claims the couple are at "breaking point", said: "They both didn't wear their rings on purpose. Nothing Jennifer does is without purpose. They are both getting bored. She wanted this domestic life, but now she's bored out of her mind. She wants the old J-Lo back."

Jennifer, 39, is also said to be becoming increasingly frustrated with Marc's "controlling" nature - he insists on picking her clothes and checks up on all her phone calls.

A source told America's Us Weekly magazine: "He's very, very controlling of her. The skirts aren't as short. You don't see so much of that booty anymore."

Things have become so strained between the pair - who welcomed twins Max and Emme into the world in February - Jennifer is hardly even talking to her husband.

The source explained: "She walks in from work, washes her hands and grabs the babies. With him, it's almost like, 'Ugh, they're crying again?' "

Jennifer also blames Marc for her career stalling and is particularly bitter about the failure of 2006 movie 'El Cantante' which the couple starred in together.

The source added: "She looked around and said, 'This is my life now? I'm a Long Island housewife?' She hates that everything she worked for went down the tubes."

The couple - who renewed their wedding vows last month - did their best to quash the rumours earlier this week when they went out for dinner at Beverly Hills restaurant Luau.

The enjoyed a meal of meatballs, ribs, tiramisu and chocolate cake and left holding hands.

Marc's publicist has denied their marriage is on the rocks, insisting: "They're doing great."


Burglars break into Paris Hilton's home, steal away jewelry

Paris Hilton poses during a photocall at a hotel in Madrid, Dec. 9, 2008. Paris Hilton's customized Pink Bentley has arrived.

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 19 -- Burglars broke into the home of Hollywood actress and socialite Paris Hilton overnight, stealing away about 2 million dollars worth of jewelry and other belongings, police said on Friday.

A security guard reported about 5 a.m. that a forced entry had occurred at Hilton's home in Hollywood Hills north of Los Angeles, and the property was taken, according to Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Julianne Sohn.

Hilton, heiress of the Hilton Hotels group, was not home at the time of the burglary and the house is equipped with security video equipment.

Police said they were seeking a suspect described as a man who wore a hooded sweatshirt and gloves.

However, LAPD detectives at this time do not think that the incident is connected to infamous burglaries that have occurred in Hollywood Hills and nearby areas in recent months and cost many celebrities hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry and other valuables.

In those cases, two or three men clad in black and wearing ski masks and gloves hit homes of more than 70 celebrities, usually at night and often on weekends, police said.

The victims in those burglaries included former Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing, Clippers basketball star Cuttino Mobley, rock band Duran Duran guitarist John Taylor, and country music stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Man arrested for grabbing Lindsay Lohan

Actress Lindsay Lohan arrives for the grand opening of Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai Nov. 20, 2008.

Dec. 18 -- A fan of Lindsay Lohan was arrested early on Wednesday after pushing past a nightclub security guard and trying to grab the actress, police said.

Phoenix resident Daniel Patrick Combs, 38, lunged at Lohan and her friend, British DJ Samantha Ronson, outside Jackrabbit Lounge in Scottsdale, Arizona, police said in a statement.

Combs was detained for a time and later released after being booked on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

Lohan, 22, and Ronson, 30, told officers that they did not know Combs.

The actress shot to fame in Disney's 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap," in which she played the part of identical twins. But she has not starred in a feature film since last year's box office flop "I Know Who Killed Me."


2.1-meter long hair

Feng Wei combs her long hair at the restaurant she runs in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, Dec. 15, 2008. Feng, 40-year-old, treasures her long hair of 2.1 meters, which hasn't been cut since she was ten.

Christmas tree made of deserted bottles

Photo taken on Dec. 12, 2008 shows a Christmas tree made of over 1,800 deserted bottles near the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium in Pudong District in Shanghai, east China, Dec. 12, 2008.

December 9, 2008

Grammy nominations hit prime-time with TV special

In this Nov. 5, 2008 file photo, Grammy-nominated country music artist Taylor Swift poses for a photo at a hotel in Los Angeles.

Dec. 4 -- In an era where awards shows are as commonplace as reality shows, even the top-tier events are finding it hard to stand out.

So the Recording Academy is trying something different when it announces its nominees for its upcoming Grammys. Instead of its traditional morning roll call of nominee names at a staid press conference, top nominees will be revealed during a prime-time concert special to air live Wednesday on CBS.

Among the performers are Mariah Carey, John Mayer and Taylor Swift — a potential nominee.

"This gives us an opportunity to have more music on television and ... really bring the ultimate amount of attention to the beginning of Grammy season," Neil Portnow, president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, said in an interview. "It's a more grand way to initiate Grammy season for us."

Swift and LL Cool J are set to host the Grammy show, which will announce nominees in just a handful of the Grammy Awards' 110 categories. The nominations special — also set to include performances by Foo Fighters, Celine Dion and B.B. King — "has great potential" to become an annual event, Portnow said, adding that artists will perform classic recordings recently inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Portnow also hinted that several newly nominated artists would be on hand Wednesday to talk about their nominations.

Swift is likely to be among them. The 18-year-old was nominated last year for a best new artist Grammy and was named favorite female country artist at last month's American Music Awards. Her debut album, released in 2006, has sold more than 3 million copies and her new CD, "Fearless," topped the charts when it was releases last month.

An undated handout photo of a 1986 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Male, presented to James Brown for "Living in America".

An undated handout photo of a 1986 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Male, presented to James Brown for "Living in America".

Carey is another Grammy darling — she scooped up three awards in 2005 — who could be nominated for her latest CD, "EMC2."

Other potential nominees include Coldplay, Radiohead, Lil Wayne and Rihanna, who won a Grammy last year for best rap/sung collaboration with Jay Z on the smash "Umbrella." Her hit-filled 2007 album, "Good Girl Gone Bad," was rereleased over the summer with additional hits, giving her another shot at Grammy love.

Welsh singer Duffy, who shot to No. 1 with her catchy single, "Mercy," is likely to be among best new artist nominees, along with fellow Brit Estelle, who raked in accolades for her track, "American Boy," with Kanye West.

"The Grammy Nominations Concert Live! — Countdown to Music's Biggest Night," held at the Nokia Theatre, will also celebrate the opening of the new Grammy Museum next door.

The Grammy Awards are scheduled for live broadcast on CBS on Feb 8. Last year's show drew 17.2 million viewers, making it one of the least-watched Grammys and continuing the trend of shrinking awards-show audiences.


Emma Watson would strip naked for Bertolucci movie

Emma Watson would strip naked for a movie.

Dec. 9 -- Emma Watson would strip naked for a movie.

The 18-year-old star hasn't ruled out shedding her clothes for a film role, but would only agree if she was asked by renowned Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci.

She said: "I would go nude, for Bernardo Bertolucci. It depends. I'm not taking my clothes off anytime soon, but it is part of my job."

The "Harry Potter" actress also revealed she is struggling to fit into the movie industry at the moment because of her age.

She added to Britain's Style magazine: "I am at a strange age. I'm not a woman yet, but I'm not a girl anymore. Film companies say, 'Oh, in a couple of years you will be perfect for this.' I'll be like, 'Yeah, but I want to be studying English at university then, so it's going to be tough to choose between the two.' "

Emma wowed fans at the premiere of new movie 'The Tale of Desperaux" in Hollywood, California, last night (07.12.08) in a short navy blue minidress and black lace-up stiletto shoes.

"The Tale of Desperaux" is released worldwide from later this month.


"Christmases" repeats at No. 1 with $18.2 mln take

Cast member Reese Witherspoon poses at the premiere of the movie "Four Christmases" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California in this Nov. 20, 2008 file photo. Comedy "Four Christmases" rang up 18.2 million U. S. dollars to lead the box office for a second-straight weekend.

Dec. 8 -- Movie crowds kept up their holiday spirit as Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn's comedy "Four Christmases" rang up 18.2 million U. S. dollars to lead the box office for a second-straight weekend.

The Warner Bros. flick raised its 12-day total to 70.8 million dollars, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"'Four Christmases' was set up perfectly. It's an evergreen subject for the holiday period," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Media By Numbers. "This is a movie that can play and is playing from Thanksgiving through the end of the year."

Despite the economic downturn, Hollywood continued to outperform last year's holiday season, with revenues up for the fifth weekend in a row.

The top 12 movies took in 77.5 million dollars, a 6 percent increase from the same weekend in 2007, when "The Golden Compass" opened at No. 1 with 25.8 million dollars.

Revenues for the year are at 8.7 billion dollars, slightly ahead of the pace last year, when Hollywood ended up with record receipts of 9.7 billion dollars. However, that reflects higher ticket prices, because actual attendance is down 4 percent, according to Media By Numbers.

Only one new movie opened in full wide release, Lionsgate's action tale "Punisher: War Zone," which delivered a weak No. 8 debut with 4 million dollars. Based on Marvel Comics' "The Punisher," the movie stars Ray Stevenson in the title role as a vigilante hero going up against a crime boss.

In narrower release, Sony's music saga "Cadillac Records" opened solidly with 3.5 million dollars to come in at No. 9. The film features Adrien Brody, Beyonce Knowles, Jeffrey Wright, Cedric the Entertainer and Mos Def in the story of legendary blues label Chess Records.

Ron Howard's drama "Frost/Nixon" had a huge debut in limited release, taking in 180,147 dollars in just three theaters, averaging a whopping 60,049 dollars a cinema. That compares to a 5,451 dollars average in 3,335 theaters for "Four Christmases."

A likely contender for a best-picture nomination at the Academy Awards, the Universal Pictures film stars Frank Langella as former President Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as TV personality David Frost in the story of their momentous 1977 interviews.

"Frost/Nixon" expands to more theaters over the next two weeks.

Sony's James Bond sequel "Quantum of Solace" took in 6.6 million dollars to raise its domestic total to 151.5 million dollars. The film topped the 500 million dollars mark worldwide.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Four Christmases," $18.2 million.

2. "Twilight," $13.2 million.

3. "Bolt," $9.7 million.

4. "Australia," $7 million.

5. "Quantum of Solace," $6.6 million.

6. "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," $5.1 million.

7. "Transporter 3," $4.5 million.

8. "Punisher: War Zone," $4 million.

9. "Cadillac Records," $3.5 million.

10. "Role Models," $2.6 million.


HK girl wins 1st "Miss Asia by Public Vote"

2008 Miss Asia champion Eunis Yao is flanked by the runner-up Belinda Yan (left) and third place-getter Lene Lai at the finals of the 2008 Miss Asia pageant in Hong Kong on Dec. 7, 2008.

Dec. 9 -- Hong Kong beauty Eunis Yao was crowned Miss Asia 2008 on Sunday at the finals of the annual pageant that saw public voting accepted for the first time.

Yao, 23, claimed 137,610 votes in a global poll, the website of the contest announced. She was also named the Perfect Figure.

Twenty-two year old Belinda Yan, who is also from Hong Kong, received 129,416 votes to be named runner-up and Miss Photogenic. Taiwan's 19-year-old Lene Lai was awarded third place with 60,542 votes.

The top three were selected by fans worldwide who voted for their favorite by either sending text messages or voting via the event's website.

Previously, winners were decided by a panel of judges.

This year's contest also attracted candidates from the Chinese mainland, as well as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Turkmenistan.

The Miss Asia pageant was launched by Asia Television Limited, a Hong Kong-based broadcaster, in 1985. Previous champions include Kristy Yang (in 1995), who went on to become a popular actress, and Nina Li (in 1986), wife of action star Jet Li.


Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes expecting 2nd child?

Tom Cruise is seen with his family at a Fourth of July celebration in Telluride, Colorado.

Dec. 9 -- Katie Holmes is reportedly pregnant.

The "Batman Begins" actress - who has a two-year-old daughter, Suri, with husband Tom Cruise - sparked rumors she is expecting again after she was spotted wearing a loose-fitting shirt and long scarf to hide an apparent baby bump.

A source said: "Katie looked glowing and happy and kept placing a protective hand over her stomach. Even though she was trying to keep it covered, you could definitely see the beginnings of a bump."

Tom recently revealed he and Katie are planning to extend their family.

The "Valkyrie" actor - who also has two adopted children, Isabella and Connor, with ex-wife Nicole Kidman - said: "We'll have more children, I'm saying this but Kate's not here." Tom also said his experience as a parent helped when Katie gave birth to Suri.

He explained: "It was especially nice as it was Kate's first time. I've been around kids my whole life but it's different when they're yours.

"It's been very magical to have that and Kate is so calm and loving and Suri is the same."


Heath Ledger scores 1st big win of Oscar season

Dec. 9 -- Heath Ledger's Dark Knight Oscar chances just brightened considerably.

The late actor scored his first major posthumous win of the awards season, as he was named Best Supporting Actor today for his demented Joker job by the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. (For those keeping score at home, we're not counting his hometown win over the weekend, when he was bestowed the International Award for Best Actor by the Australian Film Institute.)

Aside from Ledger's big score, the D.C. faction gave big props to "Slumdog Millionaire." The feel-good story of a Mumbai boy who hits it big on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" won a leading four awards, including Best Director for Danny Boyle, Best Breakthrough Performance by newcomer Dev Patel and Best Adapted Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy.

The "Fox Searchlight" flick keeps padding its award résumé, having been named Best Picture by the National Board of Review last week.  

Mickey Rourke continued his surprising march toward an Oscar nod, winning Best Actor for "The Wrestler,"while Meryl Streep received Best Actress honors for her nun turn in "Doubt." She stole some of the awards-season thunder from her "Devil Wears Prada" lackey Anne Hathaway, who was NBR's Best Actress pick for Rachel Getting Married.

But Rachel didn't go unrecognized, as Rosemarie DeWitt was named Best Supporting Actress for being mean to Hathaway in the Jonathan Demme family drama. "Rachel Getting Married" writer Jenny Lumet won for Best Original Screenplay.

The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association is comprised of 46 TV, radio, print and online critics from the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland region.


Santa Clause in Christmas race

Santa Clause in swimming suits and Christmas hats participate in a race in Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 7, 2008. Starting from a skating rink in Westend City Center, people sang Christmas carol and ran to the Oktogon, which is hundreds meters away. The race is held to collect money for a children's hospital.

11-m high Big Ben, made of chocolate

A Big Ben reproduction, made of chocolate, stands on display during the Wonderland festivities in the medieval town of Macerata Feltria in the Province of Pesaro, Dec. 7, 2008. The reproduction of Big Ben is made of 8000 kg of chocolate and is 11 meters in height.

December 5, 2008

Britney Spears likely to top albums chart

Dec. 6 -- Fans are spending more than just a night at the "Circus" - they're taking it home.

According to Billboard, "Circus," Britney Spears' new album will top the album charts next week.

The album could reportedly sell 450,000 copies in its first week on the racks, the same tally that notched Kanye West's "808s & Heartbreak" the top spot this week. Should Britney complete the feat, it'll be her fifth No. 1 album - more than any other female artist except Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson.

Her previous album, 2007's "Blackout," sold 290,000 copies to debut in second place thanks to a last-minute rules change that counted sales of The Eagles' chart-topping Wal-Mart exclusive, "Long Road Out Of Eden." Previously, albums sold at a single retailer would not be counted toward chart placement.

Britney has been promoting the album everywhere from Germany's Bambi Awards to the U.K.'s "The X Factor" to NBC's Christmas At Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting and will launch a tour in March.


Coldplay: "We'll never split up"

British rock band Coldplay arrives at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, in this June 1, 2008 file photo. Chris Martin has denied that Coldplay will split up in two years' time.

Dec. 5 -- Chris Martin has denied that Coldplay will split up in two years' time.

Earlier quotes attributed to the singer suggested that the rock band will soon part ways.

"I'm 31 now and I don't think bands should keep going past 33," he told BANG Showbiz.

However, in a new interview with Rolling Stone, Martin explained that he expects Coldplay to continue for some time.

"We're proceeding as if it's our last because it's the only way to proceed," he said of plans to record a follow-up to Viva La Vida.

"You've got to have deadlines, you know. What that means is we're going to pour everything we can into next year and not think beyond that. We always say that and we always mean it. But every time we say it, someone writes that it's over.

"I don't think we'll ever split up but we have to do a lot before we're 33."


Rare 17th century blue diamond to be auctioned

Becky Markley holds the Wittelbach diamond, a rare 35.6 carat 17th century grey-blue diamond, at Christie's auction house in London, Friday, Dec. 5, 2008.

December 2, 2008


Khmer Fishing

Romork Khmer

Siclo Khmer

Apsara Dancing

Naked model protests against whale hunting at Japanese embassy

A naked Argentinian model holds a placard saying "Let them live" to protest against whale hunting and smugglling of animals fur skin at the Japanese embassy in Chile, Dec. 1, 2008. The protestor also required the Argentinian government to set whale protection zone in its territorial waters.

A naked Argentinian model holds a placard saying "Let them live" to protest against whale hunting and smugglling of animals fur skin at the Japanese embassy in Chile, Dec. 1, 2008

Victoria Beckham wants to design toilet dresses

Victoria Beckham waves after posing for photographers during a presentation of her clothes collection at a store in downtown Madrid October 16, 2008.

Dec. 3 -- Victoria Beckham wanted to design dresses women can go to the toilet in.

The former Spice Girls star - who recently launched her second collection of women's clothes - determined the most important features the outfits needed.

She said: "I put all the clothes on myself and walk around in it, and I know what feels comfortable. I know how a dress should sit. I've worn so many in the past and when I see the photographs I think, crikey, my boobs are up round my neck again because the corsets are too short and not cut high enough.

"Like I knew I would spend a lot on high-quality zips because I have had my share of badly made zips. I wanted a zip that undoes from both ends because then you can either put the dress on over your head or step into it - and also, you know, going to the loo wouldn't be this whole big problem."

Victoria - who has three sons with husband David - also revealed being in the Spice Girls made it harder to pursue a career in fashion.

She added to Britain's The Times newspaper: "Being in the Spice Girls, fashion-wise, probably didn't open any doors. If anything, it shut doors and I have had to bang them down."


Britney Spears wants to marry again in "five years"

Singer Britney Spears performs on ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York on Dec. 2, 2008.

Dec. 3 -- Britney Spears wants to marry again in "five years" time.

The 27-year-old singer - who is divorced from second husband Kevin Federline, and had her 2005 marriage to Jason Alexander annulled after just 55 hours - is keen to wed for a third time despite her bad experiences.

She told America's Glamour magazine: "In five years I would like to be married and have a father figure for my kids, someone who is a provider and can be really stable."

Britney - whose sons Sean Preston, three, and Jayden James, two, live with their father Kevin - also appeared to blast the rapper's parenting ability, adding: "It's hard doing it on your own."

The "Womanizer" singer revealed she finds it hard to be taken seriously, because people can't look beyond the public breakdown she suffered earlier this year.

Britney - who was hospitalised after refusing to return her children to Kevin in January - said: "When I tell people the way I feel, it's like they hear me, but they aren't really listening. It's bad."


by Cuteman

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