Plus, the Beatles top the charts again, movie critics hail ''Erin Brockovich'' and ''Almost Famous,'' and more

By Sandra P. Angulo
Updated December 29, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Robert Downey Jr: Steven K. Doi/AP
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LEGAL BRIEF Robert Downey Jr. pleaded not guilty to felony drug charges Wednesday, Dec. 27. During a 20 minute court hearing in Indio, Calif., Downey’s lawyer asked for a continuance of his arraignment, but the judge refused to grant the request and ordered an immediate plea. Downey was arrested Nov. 25 after police officers, tipped off by an anonymous phone call, seized cocaine and Valium from his Palm Springs hotel room. The 35 year old actor has been out on $15,000 bail since the day after his arrest. If convicted, however, Downey faces returning to prison for up to five years, a term that would once again sideline his acting career. His next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29.

CHART NEWS The Beatles top the music charts again, claiming the No. 1 spot for the third week in a row. The Capitol Records compilation ”1” must’ve been a popular Christmas and Chanuka gift, selling 1.26 million units for the week ending Dec. 24. Once again, the Backstreet Boys settled for No. 2, moving 724,100 copies of ”Black & Blue.” Another hits collection, ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! 5” held on to the No. 3 spot, selling 688,340 albums. Rounding out the top 10 is Creed‘s ”Human Clay” at No. 4; Shaggy‘s ”Hot Shot” at No. 5; Limp Bizkit‘s ”Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” at No. 6; Tim McGraw‘s ”Greatest Hits” at No. 7; Britney Spears‘ ”Oops… I Did It Again!” at No. 8; Snoop Dogg‘s debut ”Tha Last Meal” at No. 9; and ‘N Sync‘s ”No Strings Attached” at No. 10.

BEST FILMS ”Erin Brockovich” was named best picture of the year by the Las Vegas Film Critics Society. Steven Soderbergh was also named best director for the Julia Roberts drama. The best acting nods went to Geoffrey Rush for ”Quills” and Ellen Burstyn for ”Requiem for a Dream.” In the supporting category, Benicio Del Toro was named for ”Traffic” while newcomer Kate Hudson was awarded for ”Almost Famous.” Speaking of ”Almost Famous,” it topped the San Diego Film Critics Society’s list of the year’s best. San Diego native Cameron Crowe was picked as best director for his autobiographical drama. The California critics issued a tie for best actress: Laura Linney for ”You Can Count on Me” and Julia Roberts for ”Erin Brockovich.” Russell Crowe was best actor for ”Gladiator,” while Frances McDormand (”Almost Famous”) and Benicio Del Toro were tapped as best supporting actors.

BEST MUSICAL ACT Eminem was named artist of the year by both the critics and readers of Rolling Stone. Meanwhile, readers of the music mag’s rival Spin chose English rockers Radiohead as band of the year. Rolling Stone readers, however, chose Limp Bizkit as best band, even though Fred Durst’s group was voted worst artist by the Spin crowd. The readers’ poll results will be disclosed in Rolling Stone’s issue out tomorrow, Dec. 29, and in the February issue of Spin, due out on Jan. 9. Grammy nominations will be announced next Wednesday, Jan. 3. Hmm… wonder who might be up for an award or two?

RECORD SHOWS She’s better than all the rest. Tina Turner concerts outsold teen dreams ‘N Sync or Britney Spears for the title of richest concert act in 2000. Turner, 61, generated $80.2 million in ticket sales for 95 concerts. ‘N Sync took home $76.4 million for No. 2 on Pollstar’s annual list of concert ticket revenue. The boy band sold more tickets than anyone this year, its 1.6 million beating even perennial live favorite the Dave Matthews Band. Another big earner was Kiss, which earned $62.7 million for their 128 show farewell tour. One interesting note: While Creed took in $26.2 million from 79 concerts, Barbra Streisand made $27 million…. for only FOURshows. Streisand’s average ticket price: $471.27, Pollstar said. The national average for 2000: $43.75. There’s a lesson here, we’re just not sure what it is.

WANTED The FBI placed Eric Franklin Rosser, a former piano player for John Mellencamp‘s band, on its 10 Most Wanted List today for allegedly producing and distributing child pornography. Rosser, who ran a music school in Bangkok but returned frequently to the States, was last seen in Thailand, where he faces similar charges. According to Reuters, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said it is the first time a person accused of child pornography offenses had been put on the infamous list. If caught, Rosser could end up serving 15 years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000 for four counts of conspiracy, transportation and distribution of child pornography. The 48 year old pianist played for Mellencamp’s ”Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did” album. In a statement sent to Reuters, Mellencamp said: ”Eric Franklin Rosser played in my band in 1979 for a very brief period of time. I have not seen or spoken to him since.”

CASTING Married only six days, and they’re already working together. Madonna will star in hubby Guy Ritchie‘s latest gangster movie, ”The Mole.” The new missus will reportedly play ”an American girl who comes to England and is caught up in an underworld battle where the hunt is on to find a police informer,” according to the London’s Daily Mirror. According to the British paper, the movie is set in London and production is expected to begin as early as March. Hey, if her own husband couldn’t cast her, who could?

CASTING Sam Shepard is in talks to costar in Revolution Studios’ ”Black Hawk Down” for director Ridley Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. ”Hawk” is the true story of a short U.S. combat mission to Somalia which turns into a blood bath. War picture veterans Josh Hartnett (”Pearl Harbor”) and Tom Sizemore (”Pearl Harbor”) also star in the action drama, which is scheduled to start production Feb. 23 for a Thanksgiving 2001 release.

CONCERT ALERT Girls, get your passports ready: The Backstreet Boys plan to make their first appearance in Mexico City this spring. The quintet’s latest album, ”Black & Blue,” sold more than 350,000 copies there. BSB, who have sold a record 55 million albums, will appear in Mexico on March 23, according to Variety. Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough and Nick Carter just finished an international tour to Stockholm, Tokyo, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, and New York earlier this month.

TUBE NEWS MTV and VH1 better watch out. A new video network called Studio M is hitting the airwaves New Year’s Day. Headed by former TV and music executives, Studio M will offer four hours of veejay hosted shows from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. PST, Monday through Saturday, alongside original programs like ”Pillow Talk,” a talk show; ”Live Wire,” a call in request and dedication hour; and ”Wrestle Rock,” which shows wrestling to rock songs. Only 130 affiliates of the America One and American Independent Network will broadcast Studio M at first, but eventually the channel hopes to expand into a 24 hour network that can reach 90 percent of American homes. We can see the ad campaign now: Lots of rock stars saying ”I want my Studio M.”

OBIT Jason Robards the acclaimed stage and screen actor, died of natural causes Tuesday afternoon after a long battle with cancer. Robards, 78, had been checked into Bridgeport Hospital in Connecticut Monday, Dec. 25. According to the Hollywood Reporter, a hospital nursing supervisor would confirm only that the actor had died of natural causes. An Academy and Tony award winner, Robards is one of the few actors to win back to back Oscars (for his supporting roles in ”All the President’s Men” and ”Julia” in 1976 and ’77, respectively). His other film credits include ”Divorce American Style” (1967), ”Johnny Got His Gun” (1971), ”Comes a Horseman” (1978), ”Melvin and Howard” (1980) and ”Philadelphia” (1994). On stage, Robards is best known for his interpretations of playwright Eugene O’Neill’s protagonists, especially in classics like ”The Iceman Cometh” and ”Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The son of prolific actor Jason Robards Sr., Robards made more than 50 feature films and 45 TV productions. In 1999, Robards was one of five performers who received Kennedy Center Honors. Robards was married four times — including once to Lauren Bacall — and had six children.

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