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Flu Spreads with A Vengeance; Biden's Task Force Meets Hollywood Today; The Road to Oscar Gold; History, Hollywood Style

Aired January 10, 2013 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's Thursday, January 10th and STARTING POINT begins right now. Welcome, everybody, our team this morning. Will Cain is a columnist from the is joining us. Jen Psaki is back, Democratic strategist. Jeff Toobin is CNN's senior legal analyst.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, we're talking about the deadly flu. CDC reporting that influenza cases are wide spread across 41 states, more than 2,200 people have been hospitalized. Hardest hit states are Pennsylvania and South Carolina, each state is reporting 22 flu- related deaths. Massachusetts is declaring a medical emergency, 700 confirmed cases in Boston since October. Rates 10 times higher than what they saw last year.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at CNN Center in Atlanta.

So, if you look specifically at a state like Massachusetts, which is 10 times higher, how is it across the country.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're seeing numbers like that around the country as well. I mean, that -- you know, last year's flu season is pretty mild. So, in comparison, it's going to be worse we expected. But this is probably the worst in some ways that we've seen in a decade.

The question, you know, people want to sort of figure out, Soledad, is the numbers have gone up much earlier than expected. Are they going to peak earlier as well or are they going to stay high throughout the flu season? And we don't know the answer to that.

I will tell you, the strain of flu, you don't have to remember this. But it's H3N2. We've seen it before. It was pretty severe back then. So, you know, we have some indication that this is going to be pretty significant, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: There are some people who said flu shot doesn't work, or they get sick anyway even if they got a flu shot, or that the flu shot itself gives them the flu.

GUPTA: Right. And I would say, all those are myths. And let me just remind you a couple things. First of all, the flu shot is not perfect. And people say this year, it's about 60 percent effective. There's probably another flu virus out there that's floating around that this particular flu shot doesn't protect against at all.

Also, you don't give protection right away after you take the flu shot. It takes a couple of weeks for your antibodies and your immune system sort of build up.

And, finally, Soledad, I think this is really interesting. You know, the whole point of getting a flu shot is to basically teach your immune system that that virus is something they should get rid of. If you, once you get the flu shot, when your immune system ramps up like that, that can make you feel cruddy. It's not the flu, it's what your body should be doing, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning. Sanjay, thanks as always. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Sanjay, of course, is going to continue to monitor this flu spread. Over the weekend, don't miss "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." Saturday 4:30 Eastern, and then, Sunday at 7:30 a.m.

Turning now to politics in Washington, the president exploring the use of executive order that might be able to bypass Congress and the gun lobby, too, fast track maybe. Some I guess better execution of the gun laws that are already on the book. This comes according to the Vice President Joe Biden.

He has a full schedule today for the vice president. This morning, he's going to meet with sportsman, wildlife groups. This afternoon, it's representatives of gun owners groups, including the NRA. And then tonight, he sits down with entertainment industry executives.

The vice president says the president already has a plan in place.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet. But we're compiling it all with the help of attorney general, and all of the rest of the cabinet members, as well as legislative action, we believe, is required.


O'BRIEN: The vice president's commission will make its recommendations for new gun control laws by the end of the month.

I want to get right to Representative Joseph Crowley. He's a Democrat from New York, vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Jay Thomas joins us as well, actor and comedian.

I want to focus on the entertainment industry. I thought it was interesting that we know that the vice president is going to be meeting with executives of the entertainment industry. And Hollywood stars sort of weighed in demanding a plan. Here's a clip of what they call "Demand a Plan."


WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: Media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, as a mom.








UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a human being.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the children of Sandy Hook.


O'BRIEN: As an American. Then they recut it. And the recut is very interesting. Let's play that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not too soon.

It's not too soon.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do I do, I just --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we all know someone who loves someone on that list.


O'BRIEN: So, what they're doing, is they're showing all of these Hollywood actors who feel very strongly obviously about a plan and let make some change, and also intercutting with what they do for their day job, right? They are clearly shooting guns and weapons and show, I think, some hypocrisy, when you -- they have a point, I think, Jay. JAY THOMAS, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Hey, listen, someone said to me last night, would you do a movie with guns in it. And I said in my position in life, you know, yes. I would take the money and run.

I don't understand why some of the wealthiest actors in Hollywood still have to shoot guns in every movie they do. They're just absolutely afraid to try and do a movie and sell a story.

They just -- they don't make any money selling my 18 and 22-year-old sons a story line. So they start shooting. They want them to feel as though they're watching a video game. And it's safe. It's safe.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: But is there any evidence that watching a video game or watching a movie with guns makes you shoot a gun and kill people?


TOOBIN: I know we all want to attack Hollywood and Hollywood has much to attack. This came up with natural-born killers years ago and subsequent movies. But the idea that movies -- violence and movies cause shootings. Where is the evidence of that?

O'BRIEN: Let me ask the Congressman something, because there's going to be these conversations with entertainment executives. Part of this will be the conversation. What do you think is the practical reality to come out of this?

REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: I already get the sense that the shift is happening. You know, we're moving the focus and direction against -- basically the NRA. And focusing on what it can do to get these weapons off our streets. What we can do to get these magazines out of the hands of criminals and people who want to do bad things with them.

And the focus now is about society as a whole and, you know, the -- what we're exposed to that causes us to do the things that we do. And I'm not saying that we shouldn't have a holistic discussion, I think it's time we have a very broad discussion about what drives people, mental illness, what drives people towards taking the actions that they're taking.

You know, we try to often to simplify. Here's the answer. If Congress acted, the problem will be over. No, it wouldn't be. The problem will not be over, even I believe, and I'm for strong gun control. I think if we pass that. We would still have incidents that take place.

There's too many guns in the world today. This country, 300 million plus guns in this country alone.

O'BRIEN: Should entertainment executives think about making changes to what is clearly a culture of violence in this country? Listen. Every 14-year-old boy that I know and I know a bunch, these are the movies that they like, the shoot 'em up -- TOOBIN: That's right. But is it not appropriate to say, so what. Most 14-year-old boys don't kill anybody, notwithstanding the fact that they watch those movies.

O'BRIEN: Most people, right, who own weapons legally do not kill anybody, right?

JEN PSAKI, FMR. TRAVELING PRESS SECRETARY FOR OBAMA'S REELECTION: And the question is, is it a factor? A year ago, we wouldn't have said that the events in Aurora, the events in Newtown would have happened with those type of individuals.

So, is it a factor? Does it deserve further study? I think many people think yes.

O'BRIEN: Most people who have some or struggle with some kind of mental illness do not kill people, right?


WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: When we take all these things into context -- when we take all these things into context, that most people with mental illness do not commit violent acts, that most people that have guns do not kill people, that most people violent video games or watch movies do not do anything, and then part of the context that gun violence is down over 30 years, mass shootings, I ask you, what law for what purpose is going to be passed?

CROWLEY: Well, I think that remains to be seen. Where the leadership is coming from? Right now, the leadership is coming from a state like New York. We had Governor Cuomo lay out a plan yesterday, 7-point plan that was dealing with mental illness, is dealing with access issues.

I mean, there are -- since the '94 bill was suspended and was not re- enacted, you know, even the gun loss on the state books in New York, are really not applicable, because they're no longer stamping the magazines. You know, if you possess a magazine that was produced after 1994, technically, it's illegal in New York state.

O'BRIEN: It's going be interesting where this legislation goes, on the state fronts and, also, of course, federally.

Congressman Crowley, nice to have you with us this morning.

CROWLEY: Great to see you. Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Jay Thomas is going to stick around for us to talk about Oscars ahead.

John Berman has got a look at some of the top stories for us -- John.


President Obama turning to his White House chief of staff to be the next Treasury Secretary. The nomination of Jack Lew is expected to be announced this afternoon. Lew is considered something of a budget guru. He's had two stints as a director of the Office of Management and Budgets.

In Colorado, a judge will decide by tomorrow if James Holmes goes on trial. Prosecutors wrapped up their evidence hearing against him yesterday. Holmes is accused of opening fire inside the movie theater in Aurora last July, killing 12 and wounding dozens. The prosecution shown that Holmes has taken pictures of the theater prior to the shooting, and also show self portraits that Holmes that taken of himself posing with guns.

A powerful winter snowstorm has battered a large area of the Middle East. Israel has been hit by severe flooding, rain, snow and frigid area. That stretches from Jordan, all the way through Lebanon and into Turkey. But the worst of the storm is being felt in Syria where civil war has forced thousands to live in dire conditions in refugee camps and makeshift shelters without heat.

A lost suffering for people already suffering -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. John. Thank you.

When we come back, in just a moment, A.J. Hammer, the host of Headlines News "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" is going to join me for one hour special, covering the Oscar nominations live. The full announcement, plus the reaction by Hollywood insiders is ahead.

Plus, the host himself. Seth McFarland is going to join us right after the announcements are made. That straight. We're back in just a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we're going go, we need to go now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're right, the whole world is going want in on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blood's been split to afford us this moment, now, now, now!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got my wife and they sold her, but I don't know who took her.



O'BRIEN (voice-over): Special coverage of the Academy Award nominations on STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN (on-camera): Good morning, everybody. We're taking a live look from the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California. We're just about 23 minutes away from the 2013 Oscar nominations announcement.

Welcome to our special Academy Awards nomination coverage. I'm Soledad O'Brien. A.J. Hammer has been kind enough to help us out this morning. He, of course, is the host of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" on Headline News.

Interesting for lots of reasons, scheduling has made it kind of hard to say exactly who is going to be nominated.

A.J. HAMMER, HLN HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Yes. But the exciting thing for me this year, Soledad, is these are movies, obviously, terrific movies, these movies people have actually seen, by and large. And I think we're going to hear called off in what just about 25 minutes now.

O'BRIEN: Do you have a favorite movie?

HAMMER: I loved "Lincoln." I finally just saw it the other night. I took my time waiting to see it.

O'BRIEN: Everybody loves "Lincoln."

HAMMER: You know, there's nothing I can say about that. But also, who hasn't seen "Argo"? Because Lincoln, you've heard both sides, you've heard a few people perhaps saying, maybe it was long, maybe I'm not into history. "Argo," I haven't heard one person say I don't like it.

O'BRIEN,: "Django Unchained," just going to throw it out there. I want to introduce to you -- Seth Mcfarland, I should mention, he's going to be joining us later this morning. We're going to chat with him. He, of course, is not only going to be part of the nomination's announcement. He, of course, is going to be the host of the show. It's going to be exciting to talk to him about whether or not he's nervous about it.

HAMMER: And that hasn't been done for a long time, where the host of the show is actually going to be announcing the nominations. I think he's an inspired choice.

O'BRIEN: Yes. He's certainly an interesting choice, and there's a lost pressure there. Some people do a great job and some people do not. It will be interesting to talk to him about how he preps for that.

Joining us this morning as well, Bradley Jacobs is the senior editor for "Us Weekly," Tatiana Siegel is the contributing editor and film editor for the "Hollywood Reporter," and the award-winning actor and comedian Jay Thomas is with us as well.

All right. Where should we begin? Favorites -- I mean, "Lincoln," everyone is saying is a shoo in.


BRADLEY JACOBS, SENIOR EDITOR, US WEEKLY: I would say that Anne Hathaway is the performance that is going to win every award from now up to the very end.

O'BRIEN: From "Les Miserables."

JACOBS: For "Les Mis." She is going to have three or four different speeches all hitting slightly different notes. But, you know, everyone I know has been bowled over by that performance. And "Les Mis," is going to be along with "Lincoln", the movie to get maybe one of the most nominations this morning.

O'BRIEN: But her performance, yes. The actual movie, not so much for everybody.

JACOBS: Yes. I don't think it's going to get as many nominations as "Lincoln." Right now, the common wisdom is that "Lincoln" will garner the most nominations this morning when they're announced, bBut "Les Mis" will fall behind that. And in the acting category, I think that's where we're going to see the really tough battle. A lot of people are saying it's Daniel Day Lewis and Hugh Jackman.

SIEGEL: See, I see Daniel Day Lewis as the closest thing as you have to a slam dunk this season. He's just won many of the critics' awards so far. And his performance has been universally hailed as, you know, really hitting what Lincoln would have likely been -


HAMMER: -- character for sure.

JACOBS: And when he wins, he'll break a record, too. He'll be the first actor to win three Best Actor statues. No one has ever done that.


JACOBS: Katharine Hepburn holds the record for four Best Actresses, but no one's won three Best Actors.

HAMMER: Let's go to Nischelle Turner. Nischelle is in the middle of all the action. Oscar host Seth McFarland and Emma Stone, the actress, are going to be making the announcements as we've been talking about.

And Nischelle, this is unusual. This hasn't happened in 41 years, right?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, this is going to be a lot of fun here this morning, A.J. Now, we're coming in. Everybody is getting set. The announcements will be at 5:38 this morning. One of the things that we usually see for the announcements, we usually have about a five-minute announcement. They get up there. They read off the categories of who's going to be nominated. This year, though, we're hearing there could be a little bit of wrinkle. So we may be in for a little bit of a surprise. And when you got Seth McFarland as your host and announcing the nominations this morning, you never know what's going to happen.

I heard you guys already playing armchair quarterback about who you think could get nominated. That's what all the fun of this, isn't it, who you think is going to -- who will get snubbed? One of my favorite categories this year, because I think there were such strong performances is the Best Actor category.

I heard you guys talking about it. Yes, for certain, Daniel Day Lewis will get nominated. Denzel Washington will get nominated, but we could se someone big get snubbed here. I mean, conventional wisdom is Hugh Jackman will get a nomination, but some people think he could be shut out by Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook" or Joaquim Phoenix for "The Master" gets a nomination. He could find himself on the outside.

You've also got Richard Gere, who's come on really late for "Arbitrage," not a movie that a lot of people saw, but a really good performance that we could see get a nomination here. I'm really excited to see what happens in this category, because I think this one and also the category of Best Supporting Actor are really strong this year.

O'BRIEN: Richard Gere. All right. Thanks, Nischelle for your predictions. They have Richard Gere. Is anybody talking about Richard Gere?


O'BRIEN: Right. For "Arbitrage," but I haven't heard his name come up --

JACOBS: He's like -- you know? He's the dark horse.

HAMMER: He's the dark horse, and he's what everybody is saying will be the surprise if there is a surprise in that category.

JAY THOMAS, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: You know, when you see people that you've seen in the papers, and I'll say this about Anne Hathaway. She played the princess and you read about her boyfriend. When you see an actor or actress do something that you didn't know they could do, I think Bradley Cooper also this year, you go, wow, they're really good actors. And I think it helps them get a nomination.

What we forget is almost everyone who does this for a living, we all started tap dancing, and singing, and acting, and crying, and being hard to take care of as little children. And sometimes, you don't get to see them do the things they really know how to do.

Bradley Cooper did, you know, "Hangover." He would do funny movies. Now, he's allowed to do, you know, a drama or quirky film. That --

O'BRIEN: We're all stunned and he's been --

THOMAS: Right. But you shouldn't be stunned. It's like that's what actors do for a living.

JACOBS: But a lot of actors wait for ten years for a part like this


JACOBS: They sit around, yes, they struggle, they commit to roles, no one sees them.

THOMAS: Right.

SIEGEL: And in the case of Bradley Cooper, he actually had not been their first choice. It had been Mark Wahlberg to play the part.

THOMAS: Right.

SIEGEL: And he filled in pretty much at the last minute.

THOMAS: Well, I think, also, we see it more on Broadway, thus, we live in New York -- New York a lot. And these actors, I don't think get a chance. I thought that Russell Crowe, I liked seeing him, but I thought there would have been someone from Broadway, an older, middle- aged actor from Broadway that could have knocked that --

O'BRIEN: Singing was a challenge in "Les Mis."

THOMAS: Yes, that's true. But I liked seeing Russell Crowe in the movie. I just -- and he spit. You can see him spit sometimes.

O'BRIEN: We don't want anyone to go anywhere, because of course, the nominations are coming up in just about 15 minutes. We're going to carry the nomination announcement for you live when it happens.

HAMMER: But first, we want to take a look at how history and politics have played a role in many of the Oscar contenders from "Lincoln" to "Argo." The question is, how accurate are these movies?

O'BRIEN: And we want to know your predictions. Well, you can tweet us your predictions at Starting PT CNN, use the #CNNNOMS or take the poll on our website,

HAMMER: Now, we're going to leave you with some Oscar trivia this morning. We want to know who was the youngest actress to win a standard Oscar? We'll have that answer coming up next.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. Here's live pictures from Beverly Hills where they're getting ready for the Oscar nominees to be announced. That's going to happen in just a few minutes.

HAMMER: Now, before the break, we asked you, who is the youngest person to ever receive a standard Oscar? Do you know the answer?

O'BRIEN: I do not know the answer.

HAMMER: It's Tatum O'Neal.

O'BRIEN: What was she, like, 10 or 11 years old?

HAMMER: Yes. She was about that age, and it was for, of course, 1974's "Paper Moon." Shirley Temple did win an honorary award when she was five. It could all change this year. There's a young actress from "Beasts of the Southern Wild" who was five when she auditioned.

O'BRIEN: And who's amazing.

HAMMER: Six when she shot this movie and I think she'll be nine years old at the Oscars. So, it will be interesting to see in just about 15 minutes --

O'BRIEN: -- lied about her age when she was auditioning.

HAMMER: Well, you know, you got to do --


HAMMER: You know, you got to do what you got to do in this business.

O'BRIEN: Right back to Nischelle Turner. Nischelle, let's talk a little bit about more -- about some of your picks you're looking at. Talk to me about best Supporting Actor and Actress.

TURNER: OK. Let's do that. Yes. The STARTING POINT crew came up with the Oscar nominations predictions for this morning. So we want to run down kind of what we were thinking that could happen in just about 15 minutes. Now, we were talking about supporting actor, and I think this is one of the strongest categories this year.

Let's go over who we think could get a good wake-up call this morning. First of all, Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln." He was fantastic in that movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman for "The Master," he could get a nomination. Alan Arkin in "Argo" was just delightful. Robert De Niro in "Sliver Linings Playbook", hasn't had a nomination in 21 years, if you can believe that.

And Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained" was just terrifically terrible, if that is a phrase that you can use.

And Best Supporting Actress, you could see Anne Hathaway get a nomination, Sally Field for "Lincoln," Helen Hunt in "The Sessions," Amy Adams for "The Master," and Nicole Kidman who's gotten a lot of awards love this season for "The Paper Boy" could see a nomination as well.

And also, Best Director, this is a good category as well. Lots of really heavy-hitting directors that are up. We could see Steven Spielberg get a nomination for "Lincoln." That's probably a lot. Kathryn Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty" probably will get one as well. Ben Affleck for "Argo," he'll probably get a nomination. Ang Lee for "Life of Pi," and maybe Michael Hanake for "Amour."

The wildcard in this category, Quintin Tarentino for "Django Unchained," maybe David O. Russell for "Silver Linings Playbook." This could be another one of those categories where we could see a very good director that made an extremely good film get shut out, guys.

O'BRIEN: I'm looking forward in just a few minutes. All right. Nischelle, thank you.

At least three films expected to top the Oscars list for Best Picture. They're historical or they are political.

HAMMER: And it turned out this is actually somewhat of a pattern for the Oscar. Zoraida Sambolin is joining us now to explain -- Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Well, since 1927, nearly half of the movies nominated for Best Picture are about something historical. Why does history and politics make for so much of Oscar's attention? Take a look.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Sometimes, it's as simple as presidents, patriots, and politics and films like "Lincoln," "Zero Dark 30," and "Argo," we're reminded of the greatness of our country at some of its darkest moments.

And at the time when the economy is roughed up and two wars are winding down, movies can provide an escape. Then, there is the controversy that usually surrounds a political film and Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." based in part on the highly-acclaimed Doris Kearns Goodwin on team of rivals biography. Some historians took issue with the film's limited scope.

ERIC FONER, HISTORIAN/AUTHOR: As cinema, it's very, very good. As history, I'm a historian, it leaves something to be desired.

TONY KUSHNER, SCREENWRITER, "LINCOLN": We were enormously accurate. Steven and I both cared a lot. We worked with Doris. We worked with a couple of other Lincoln historians. What we're describing absolutely happened.

FONER: It's not a question of being wrong. It's just inadequate. It gives you the impression that the ratification of the 13th Amendment is the end of slavery. Slavery is already dying at that moment.

SAMBOLIN: "Zero Dark 30" was met by protest when it opened up in the nation's capitol. Some upset over the cinematically-enhanced water boarding scenes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think she's too (ph) young for the hard stuff.

SAMBOLIN: And there were complaints about the extraordinary access the Obama administration gave the filmmakers. REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: My understanding is that the Hollywood people got access to CIA operatives, CIA locations, that they had access to the NAVY SEALs which they should not have had.

SAMBOLIN: The classified intelligence helped in the production of "Argo." A movie about a U.S. embassy attack released just weeks after the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

BEN AFFLECK, DIRECTOR, "ARGO": I want to make a movie about real people who sacrifices for their country when they do these missions were more kind of grounded and realistic like, you know, the (INAUDIBLE) will I ever come back? Will I die overseas?

SAMBOLIN: But it's not just the action and the controversy. Directors also like the personal layers in historical films, taking a character who is often larger than life and making them human.

FONER: Daniel Day Lewis, I think, presents a very plausible Lincoln. I would recommend that people see it and then read a book about Lincoln.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Now, it is surprising about these types of movies is that in the history of the academy awards, only one politically themed movie has ever won Best Picture, and that was "All The King's Men." That was in 1950 at the 22nd academy awards. And we're going to find out in just a few minutes if "Lincoln" gets the chance to become the second with a nomination -- A.J. and Soledad.