News, March 24: “Gangs” Shunned by Voters, Oscars Ratings Dip, Celine Dion Launches Vegas Show, More…

Top Story: Did Miramax Foil Scorsese’s Oscar Chances?

Miramax, which dominated the 75th annual Academy Award nominations with a total of 40 nods, walked away with a total of nine wins overall. But while the musical Chicago took the most Oscars–six, including Best Picture honors–its epic Gangs of New York went home empty-handed, leaving many wondering if Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein‘s promotional campaign was to blame. Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences admonished Miramax after the studio took out ads in several Hollywood trade magazines featuring an opinion column written by director Robert Wise (an Academy member) that called on Oscar voters to award Martin Scorsese for directing Gangs of New York. The film was shut out despite 10 nominations including one for Scorsese for Best Director. Miramax ‘s Frida, meanwhile, received Oscars for best score and makeup, and The Hours, which the studio co-released with Paramount, landed a Best Actress award for Nicole Kidman.

Oscars Ratings Down From Last Year

Preliminary television ratings for the 75th annual Academy Awards were down 15 percent from last year, and it could wind up the least popular Oscar telecast ever, ABC said Monday. The network estimated the telecast drew 37 million people, with ratings likely to drop upon release of final national numbers. By comparison, last year’s Oscar telecast drew an estimated 41.8 million people. The Oscars’ record was 55.2 million viewers in 1998, when Titanic won Best Picture, The Associated Press reports.

Celine Dion Launches Sold-Out Vegas Show

On Tuesday, Celine Dion will launch a three-year exclusive engagement at the newly built Caesars Palace Colosseum theater in Las Vegas. The singer is expected to make about $100 million over three years from the show, with tickets averaging $125 each, Reuters reports. The production is by Franco Dragone, designer of the lavish theatrical Cirque du Soleil shows. He has created a moving “painting” on a huge high-definition video screen and assembled a cast of some 60 dancers, singers and musicians. The show’s promoter, John Meglen, said tickets are nearly sold out for the first three months of the show, which will be presented 200 nights a year.

Madonna Overhauls Antiwar Video

The video for Madonna‘s new single, “American Life,” is already stirring up controversy–and it hasn’t even been released yet. According to, the video was said to depict the horrors of war with images of gunmen, crying Iraqi women and bloodstained victims. But now that war is underway in Iraq, the video is getting reworked. The edited video single–which comes from her album of the same name–marks the second recent setback for the global pop star. Madonna‘s spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg, however, said the video is just being “fine tuned.” The video is slated for release the first week of April.

Lara Croft Greases Her Axles

Paramount Pictures’ buxom adventurer Lara Croft won’t be driving around in a plain old Land Rover in the sequel Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life: Tomb Raider 2. According to Variety, star Angelina Jolie will sit behind the wheel of a customized Rubicon–a modified version of Jeep’s Wrangler off-roader. The new customized Wrangler is expected to receive more screen time than the Land Rover Defender she drove in the first movie in a move that will enable product placement between DaimlerChrysler and Paramount to go beyond the usual three-month promotional ad campaign. Jeep will roll out print ads and television spots for the Lara Croft vehicle roughly a month before the film’s July 25 release.

Singer Cleared of Child Porn Charges

Robert Del Naja, a member of British dance group Massive Attack, was cleared Friday of all charges relating to Internet pornography offenses, Reuters reports. Del Naja, known to fans as 3D, was arrested February 25 in his hometown of Bristol, England, as part of Operation Ore, a year-long nationwide crackdown on Internet child pornography. De Naja, 36, has denied the allegations. “I have never looked at child pornography in my life” he told the Sun newspaper at the time of his arrest. “I am fully cooperating with the police and I would ask everyone not to judge me prematurely. I have total faith in the justice system.”