While it's debatable if Hollywood executives actually read books, it's safe to say that they keep a fairly close eye on the bestsellers list. John Grisham, Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy can still charge studios' top dollar for one of their potboilers, and Grisham, in particular, enjoys true star status in Hollywood: Francis Ford Coppola's new film, about a young lawyer fighting the good fight against an insurance company, goes by the unwieldy (not to mention, hubristic) title John Grisham's The Rainmaker. Grisham's courtroom schlock is a safe bet in box-office terms, but as far as the Oscar hunt goes, it's literary pedigree that counts. The English Patient confirmed that; look for The Ice Storm and perhaps even The Sweet Hereafter to make an impression next year. Hollywood has recently been coughing up millions to purchase books, and the leading player in this feeding frenzy appears to be producer Scott Rudin, who must be Academy Award-bound now that he's optioned Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes and Don DeLillo's Underworld (Rudin is also reportedly in litigation with director Steven Soderbergh over a planned adaptation of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces). As for The English Patient director Anthony Minghella, he'll soon be filming Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, which, a couple of weeks ago, edged out Underworld to win the National Book Award.

Fox and Disney have been slugging it out on the family- entertainment battlefield all month, and the outcome remains inconclusive. In what has been widely seen as an assault on the Disney empire, Fox released its first animated feature, Anastasia, a lavish, historically suspect Romanov-dynasty epic. The studio has spent a reported $100m making and marketing the film, even going so far as to target school lunches (Rasputin Rolls, Anastasia's Apple Sauce, etc). In addition to its just- released, live-action Flubber (a remake of The Absent-Minded Professor, starring Robin Williams and flying green goo), Disney has reissued the eight-year-old Little Mermaid, and advertised it even more aggressively than Anastasia. In its opening week, Anastasia comfortably outperformed Mermaid; both were trounced, however, by Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

The sweeps months, during which advertising rates are determined, bring out the best and, far more often, the worst in American television. Squarely in the latter category is the Fox network's distressing habit of packaging camcorder footage into enticingly titled hour-long specials - like Cheating Death: Catastrophes Caught on Tape, World's Scariest Police Chases, and World's Deadliest Swamps (the network apparently drew the line at Prisoners Out of Control). All through November, the sitcoms resorted to gimmicks - mainly, borrowing guest stars from other sitcoms. Best news: signs of progress finally on Ellen after yet more months of neurotic dawdling - Ellen Morgan, celibate since last May's notorious and protracted outing, finally had sex with a woman last week.

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