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Autistic Teen Pulls off Basketball Miracle; Bus Bombing Families Protest Oscar Nominated Film; Gary Glitter Sentenced to Three Years for Child Molestation; Critics Make Oscar Picks

Aired March 03, 2006 - 19:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: I`m A.J. Hammer in New York City.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CO-HOST: And I`m Brooke Anderson, live on the Oscars red carpet in Hollywood. And TV`s only live entertainment news show starts right now.


HAMMER (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, a rock star finds out his fate after being charged with molesting young children.


HAMMER: The startling verdict. The turmoil in the courtroom. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the latest on a very sickening crime.

Plus, an amazing inspirational tale of hope. Tonight, how a small- town autistic basketball player has made the entire country stand up and cheer. And now, Hollywood is calling. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the feel-good story about his shining moment.

Also, guts and the gut-busting laughter at the Oscars. Tonight, a mountain of laughter...

NATHAN LANE, ACTOR (singing): There`s a couple of guys in the meadow...

HAMMER: ... over "Brokeback Mountain."

Plus, homosexuality...

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR: I wish I knew how to quit you.

HAMMER: ... racism...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you not understand our waitress was black?

HAMMER: ... terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

HAMMER: Why Sunday`s Oscars will be like no other. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is live on the red carpet on the road to the Oscars.

TERRENCE HOWARD, ACTOR: Hey, you guys. This is Terrence Howard, and if it happened today, it`s on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. See you.


ANDERSON: Hi there, I`m Brooke Anderson live at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer live in New York City.

Brooke, it is nice to see you right there, where it`s all going to be happening. People are already counting down the hours...

ANDERSON: Right here.

HAMMER: ... until the 78th annual Academy Awards get underway on Sunday night. We`re calling it the "gutsy Oscars" around here, because this is a show that`s going to include movies with everything from gay romance, to terrorism, to political witch hunts.

ANDERSON: You`re right, A.J. It is what a lot of people are talking about out here. And with no big blockbuster nominated in a major category, this years Oscars will be like no other. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has got you covered in the next hour.

HAMMER: But first tonight, we`re going to begin with a blockbuster in the making. This is an amazing story. An autistic teenager becoming the superhero of his high school basketball team. Now, this has already made him a TV star. And now, Hollywood is knocking on his door.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A good old fashioned American heartwarming story.

HAMMER (voice-over): It`s a high school basketball game that has inspired a nation, and this 17-year-old is the unlikely superstar of a Cinderella story the media and now Hollywood can`t get enough of.

BOB SCHIEFFER, ANCHOR, "CBS EVENING NEWS": He has become a celebrity.

HAMMER: That celebrity is Jason McElwain, Rochester, New York. He has autism and he was too small to make his school`s basketball team. But he became a team manager just to stay close to the game he loved.

Well, two weeks ago, his coach gave him a reward.

JASON MCELWAIN, AUTISTIC BASKETBALL HERO: He said, this is your senior present. This is your last chance to ever get out on the floor as an actual basketball player for that night.

HAMMER: In the home finale, with his team comfortably ahead, Jason got his dream. He was allowed to go into the game with four minutes left. He missed his first basket, but what happened next is the stuff of legends.

He hit, not one, not two but six three-point shots.

MCELWAIN: I was on fire. I was hotter than a pistol.

HAMMER: Hot is right. He scored 20 points in four minutes, a performance that CNN Headline News sports correspondent Courtney George called amazing.

COURTNEY GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nailing six three-pointers in a row? I mean, come on, Michael Jordan, on some of his best days, couldn`t even do that.

HAMMER: Witnesses called it a special moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was just so emotional and crying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it really touched me. Every time I watch it, I still cry.

HAMMER: In the end, Jason was carried off the field by his teammates. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has been monitoring how the teen has been shown on news reports nationwide.

SCHIEFFER: The response to his story has been so overwhelming...

HAMMER: When "The CBS Evening News" aired a piece about Jason last Thursday, viewer response was so strong it reaired the piece again the next night.

The feat has even earned Jason a nickname, the Rochester Rudy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re five feet nothing, 100 and nothing and you have hard a speck of athletic ability.

HAMMER: That`s a reference to the heart-warming 1993 movie "Rudy," a true story of an unlikely athlete who lived his dream of playing in a Notre Dame football game.

And now SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can report that Jason`s story may also be headed to the big screen. Several studios reportedly are talking to Jason`s family about making a story out of his story.

GEORGE: I think it would be a great movie. I mean, just thinking -- it warms your heart. Everybody loves the underdog. Everybody loves somebody coming from behind. Everybody loves something that`s unexpected, you know. And that`s what this was. This was an unexpected, you know, almost a miracle of sorts.

HAMMER: But Jason hasn`t gone Hollywood just yet. At this week`s game, he was back in his off the court role, and when he spoke to reporters, all he wanted to talk about was his team`s playoff run.

MCELWAIN: I`m so proud of these guys. Our dream was to get ourselves a title all along. So we`re now in the finals and now is our chance. This is our chance.

HAMMER: Sure, Jason`s story could join the ranks of heart-warming teen sports movies like "Remember the Titans" or "Lucas," but even if it doesn`t become a stirring Hollywood production, Jason`s real life story is inspirational enough.

GEORGE: Because you just think, you go through your life and you take so much for granted. And then you see this boy who`s autistic. He doesn`t have all the opportunities 90 percent of the population does have. And what he does was just one chance. He fits in just for being himself. They don`t ask him to do anything else but be himself. And on that one day, being himself was outstanding.


HAMMER: How can you but the smile with that story? Jason`s story is even becoming an inspiration to kids with autism. His school is now being flooded with calls and e-mails from parents of autistic kids who hope that Jason`s story of inclusion will open eyes.

Brooke, truly an amazing story. Definitely a story made perfectly for Hollywood.

ANDERSON: It is a terrific story of inspiration. I cried the first time I saw him make those shots. His friends stormed the court to congratulate him and celebrate with him. That was just so incredibly touching. Good for Jason.

All right. In just a matter of hours, Hollywood will be transformed into a star-studded spectacle, with all the heavy hitters of the entertainment world front and center for what? The 78th annual Academy Awards.

But the big buzz this year isn`t just about those gay cowboys of "Brokeback Mountain," it`s about "Paradise Now," a nominee for best foreign film, depicting Palestinian suicide bombers in what some are calling a sympathetic light. It`s got the world talking and even has one group lobbying hard to have its nomination pulled at the last minute.

CNN`s Richard Roth is live in New York with that story -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, today, Hany Abu-Assad, the Israeli-Arab director of "Paradise Now," has once again stirred a controversy.

After laying low leading up to the big event, he told an Israeli newspaper in remarks today he doesn`t think he has a shot at winning an Oscar, not on the film`s merits, but he says because the Israeli outcry will influence the academy`s vote against him.

Regardless of the controversy, he was still making press appearances and getting ready for the big night.


ROTH (voice-over): It`s not often a director nominated for a foreign language film draws this much media attention on the eve of the Oscars. But Hany Abu-Assad was there in Hollywood today with the other directors nominated for best foreign film, well aware he and his film are at the center of a heated controversy.

The director tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT there`s a reason why he welcomes the spotlight

HANY ABU-ASSAD, DIRECTOR: I really understand the pain, but I don`t understand the people being against the film without seeing the film. Go and watch it and judge it and discuss it. This is the main goal of our film.

ROTH: "Paradise Now" is this year`s Oscars controversy. It`s nominated for the best foreign film award. The movie is about suicide bombings in Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In two extraordinary days, two life-long friends will struggle with an impossible choice.

ROTH: But relatives of those killed in actual suicide bus bombings are now furious at the choice made by the Hollywood academy.

YOSSI ZUR, FATHER OF SUICIDE BOMBING VICTIM: Our message to the academy is you have made a big mistake by having this film nominated and by, God forbid, giving it an award, you are going to be accomplices to the eventual (ph) chain of terror.

ROTH: Yossi Zur`s 17-year-old son, Assad (ph), was killed in a bus bombing on his way home from school. This week he joined with fathers of other teens killed in the same attack, sending a petition with more than 32,000 signatures to the Motion Picture Academy, demanding "Paradise Now" be withdrawn from consideration. Not a likely reaction by Oscar executives, who are used to controversy.

BRUCE DAVIS, MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES ACADEMY: It`s a terrific movie, and that`s what the Academy Awards are supposed to be about.

ROTH: "Paradise Now" has some momentum for the Oscars. It won this year`s Golden Globes foreign film award.

ABU-ASSAD: I don`t believe that it`s controversial. You show it from different point of views.

ROTH: The families of suicide bombing victims say they are not opposed the film itself and support free speech. They feel "Paradise Now" glorifies the act of suicide bombings.

"Paradise Now" was also embroiled in another controversy. There were objections when Hollywood press releases said the film represents Palestine, not an official country.

DAVIS: When five films nominated in the foreign language category are introduced to the audience, we will use the phrase, the Palestinian territories.

ROTH: The nomination flap may not translate into a box office boost.

IAN MOHR, "VARIETY" MAGAZINE: Last year, "The Sea and Sky," the Spanish film, won the Oscar, and it only made $2 million at the box office. So "Paradise Now" is at $1.3 million now. You might see a similar result, even if it wins the Oscar.


ROTH: Back in Israel, it`s a dreadful day this Sunday. The bus bombing which claimed their children`s lives occurred on March 5, almost three years to the day of this year`s Oscars.

ANDERSON: What a somber anniversary, a grim day for them.

OK. CNN`s Richard Roth for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thanks so much, live in New York.

HAMMER: Coming up, the startling story of a rock star on trial for molesting little girls. Well, now, he learns his fate. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has all the details, coming up next.

ANDERSON: Also, is another "American Idol" scandal brewing? Tonight, do some finalists have an unfair advantage because they`re not strangers to the stage?

Plus, we`ve got this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been awhile since a movie like this has really touched so many people, even people who haven`t seen it.


HAMMER: "Brokeback Mountain," "Transmerica," "Crash." An in-depth look at the gutsy Oscar nominees that will make this year`s Academy Awards like no other. Plus, we`re going to ask a panel of film fanatics what their picks are. So, get that office Oscar pool that you`ve been working on all day ready. That`s coming up live, next.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. You`re watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.

Tonight, the shocking story of a rock star found guilty of molesting two young Vietnamese girls. Gary Glitter, whose "Rock and Roll Part 2" has been played in sports arenas all across the country, says "I didn`t do it," but the judge called his behavior, quote, "disgusting and sick."

England`s ITN`s Tim Ewart reports the story for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


TIM EWART, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gary Glitter arrived in court in confident mood. He`s protested his innocence since proceedings against him began in Vietnam, and initially he showed little sign of concern.

But that soon changed as he was ordered to remove his bandana to hear the judge`s verdict and sentence.

Glitter, real name Paul Francis Gadd, learned his fate through a court interpreter.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you sorry for what you`ve done?

GADD: No, I`m not -- I haven`t done anything. I`m innocent. I am innocent. It`s a conspiracy by you know who.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is it? Who are you talking about?

EWART: Glitter has blamed some British newspapers for hounding him, and his arrest and trial here has attracted frenzied interest.

This girl, claimed to be one of his victims, is aged just 11. The judge said that Glitter`s lewd acts had compromised the dignity of the Vietnamese people.

Gary Glitter was the king of glam rock in the `70s, but his fall from grace has been as spectacular as his stage act. He was jailed in Britain for downloading child pornography from the Internet seven years ago. Now, he faces deportation back here after his sentence in Vietnam, and he could face charges under British laws covering sex tourism abroad.


HAMMER: Glitter has 15 days to appeal his three-year sentence. His attorney says he could be eligible for parole in a year.

Well, the feds want the lowdown on music downloads. The Justice Department is checking to see if record companies are doing any price fixing. That`s deciding as a group what the industry will charge you to download music on the Internet. The Justice Department isn`t naming the companies it is targeting, but will only say that the antitrust division has started an investigation.

All right. You want to know who`s going to win on Sunday night? Well, get your office Oscar pool out, because we have put together a group of people who say they know who`s going to be carrying those golden statues out of the Kodak Theater. They are a panel of experts, and we`re going to be asking them to chime in on why this year`s Academy Awards will be like no other.

Live with me here in New York is Michelle Kung of "Entertainment Weekly"; Leah Rozen of "People" magazine. Out there live in Hollywood at the Kodak Theater, Tom O`Neil of, along with Brooke Anderson, as well.

Let`s get into this. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT just a few moments ago, with that little story about how this is really the gutsy Oscars. There are some, well, shall we say not so happy themes. There are some controversial themes. We`re talking about racism, politics, terrorism, a couple of gay cowboys. Is this just going to suck the fun out of the Oscars on Sunday night?

LEAH ROZEN, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: No, because these are all good films. I would call it the substantive Oscars. These are all good movies, any one of these wins, hey, it`s a blow for good movie making.

HAMMER: But Michelle, do you think, you know, it`s not going to be such a happy night, with all of -- because these are the clips of the movies that they`re going to be taking. There are no musicals that we`re really going to be seeing.

MICHELLE KUNG, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": Well, I agree with Leah in that, you know, these are some really good films that we`re talking about. But even if you pull, like, even a small snippet of a really juicy scene, it`s going to, you know, get your juices flowing and get you into the movie.

ROZEN: And they`ll still have musical numbers, you know, including, what, "It`s Hard to be a Pimp" or whatever, you know. I`m looking forward to that on Oscar night.

ANDERSON: "It`s Hard Out Here for a Pimp." That`s what it is. Tom, I want to know what you think. A lot of serious films in the spotlight. Will it take the fun out of Oscar night?

TOM O`NEIL, THEENVELOPE.COM: No, all the great Oscars had serious themes going. Like during the height of the Vietnam War, we had, in one year, "The Deer Hunter" and "Coming Home." The civil rights movement, we had "In the Heat of the Night" and "Guess Who`s Coming to Dinner."

But what`s going to save Sunday night is star power. Look at the people we`ve got. We`ve got Charlize, Joaquin, and among presenters, Jennifer Aniston. It`s going to be great.

ANDERSON: Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Alba, Will Ferrell. Also, another big star that I know you don`t think is the right choice to host this evening, Jon Stewart. Why don`t you think he`s the right fit?

O`NEIL: Because he`s exactly like all the wrong fits, the David Lettermans, the Chris Rocks. He`s the cynical outside Hollywood guy from New York, and while he`s a great comedian, and "The Daily Show" is terrific, that`s not what the Oscars are. You want somebody inside, who`s lovable and has reverence for the Oscars.

ANDERSON: Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

HAMMER: Yes, I think that one...

ANDERSON: I think he has amazing comic timing.

HAMMER: I want to hear what Tom says after the fact, because I think Jon Stewart is going to be fantastic. He`s so funny. And he`s so smart at walking that line.

ROZEN: Well, he`s smart. And part of what an Oscar host has to do is take something that happens that night and run with it. If Jack Palance does pushups, you to have be -- know where to go with that. And I think Stewart can embroider on a theme.

HAMMER: Michelle?

KUNG: Yes, I totally agree. And the thing about Stewart, also, is I think that he has no problem poking fun at himself, as he`s demonstrated by, you know, even on "The Daily Show" and proving that his film roles haven`t been great.

HAMMER: And of course, there`s going to be a lot of poking going on at "Brokeback Mountain." Maybe a poor choice of words there, as it`s coming out of my mouth.

ROZEN: Yes, exactly. Watch that.

HAMMER: But with eight nominations, it has been the best picture frontrunner for a long time, although now "Crash," which Leah, you said you would like to see win, or you think is going to win, has been gaining a lot of buzz and momentum.

ROZEN: I mean, if you`re smart and you`re betting in, you know, your office pool, the safe bet is "Brokeback." But I have this feeling that "Crash" is just sneaking in there. I think it is a film about which people feel very, very strongly.

ANDERSON: I think "Crash" has gained a whole lot of momentum recently. What about you, Tom? Is it going to come down to a really tight race between "Crash" and "Brokeback"?

O`NEIL: It`s this close, Brooke. I have actually spoken to about 20 Oscar voters. I have counted nine votes for "Crash," seven for "Brokeback Mountain," three for "Good Night, Good Luck." So it really is that close. But I still think that "Brokeback" wins, because when you ask the accountants, they say most of the ballots come in early, which means that was when "Brokeback" still had its momentum.

ANDERSON: I see. And let`s talk about another big category everybody`s talking about, best actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman.

O`NEIL: It happens.

ANDERSON: What a tremendous performance.

O`NEIL: Right, right, right, right.

ANDERSON: But Heath Ledger with "Brokeback Mountain," a lot of people are talking about him, a lot of buzz around him, as well. What about do you think about?

O`NEIL: Yes. He`s got the pinup boy problem, though. That`s why Tom Cruise has never won. I think if there`s an upset here, it comes from Terrence Howard. They love to break out new stars. Adrian Brody, who knew he was even around before he suddenly won for "The Pianist"?

ANDERSON: All right. Leah, what do you think about that race?

ROZEN: I think probably Philip Seymour Hoffman, given that he won the Golden Globe, given that he won Screen Actors Guild, and he`s terrific in it. So I`m guessing that`s what`s going to -- I think what everyone wants to see, though, you know, he said in college, he made a promise, he would bark his Oscar speech.

HAMMER: Bark his acceptance speech. Right.

ROZEN: Want to see him raise it to the wolf.

HAMMER: We only have about 30 seconds. I want to make sure we get to the best actress category. Really, Reese Witherspoon, Felicity Huffman. What do you think, Michelle?

KUNG: I think it`s going to be Reese. Yes, same with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. She`s been cleaning up at all the awards ceremonies previous to this. So I think it`s pretty much a lock.

HAMMER: Tom, round it out on that category.

ANDERSON: But Tom, you don`t think Reese.

O`NEIL: It`s going to be Felicity Huffman, because she is in the last movie seen. When we have upsets by things like "Monster`s Ball," it`s that little art house film, the last DVD screener on their TV sets for the voters. That`s why she`s going to win.

ANDERSON: You heard it here. Tom thinks that`s going to be the big upset, A.J.

HAMMER: All right. Brooke and Tom out on the -- well, not the red carpet yet. It appears it`s not in the zone.

ANDERSON: Well, it`s red but with a plastic cover.

HAMMER: Leah Rozen, Michelle Kung, thank you for joining us, as well, tonight.

Well, now we want to hear what you think about all of this for our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. What about it Sunday night? The Oscars: will you watch? Vote at And you can also e-mail us at Your thoughts later in the show.

ANDERSON: And don`t forget, we will be live on the red carpet before the 78th annual Academy Awards. Join me, A.J. Hammer and Sibila Vargas for a special Oscar edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. That is this Sunday, 5:30 p.m. Eastern, CNN Headline News.

Then move on over to CNN at 6 p.m. Eastern. Our coverage continues with "Hollywood`s Gold Rush," again with me, A.J. and Sibila bringing you all the action.

HAMMER: "American Idol" secrets revealed. Tonight, how some of your favorite finalists are not quite amateur performers. Are they breaking the rules of the show? We`ll get into that in just a bit.

ANDERSON: Plus, John Travolta "Greased" back his hair in a Broadway film once. Now he`s going for some "Hairspray." We`ll explain in tonight`s "Hot Headlines."

Plus, we`ve got this.


BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: There`s never been a subject for comedy that has been more ripe.


HAMMER: That`s comedian Bill Maher, and he`s talking about "Brokeback Mountain," of course. Coming up, a hilarious look at the nonstop jokes about the Oscar nominated movie. But is it really right to make fun of such a serious subject? That`s next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by a break. In four, three. Roll your break.


ANDERSON: With his wife, Felicity Huffman, nominated for an Academy Award for "Transamerica," William H. Macy is, of course, psyched for the Oscars. Or, more specifically, for the Oscar parties. You see, he learned at the Golden Globes soirees that the potential for wardrobe malfunctions is very high. As he told "Live with Regis and Kelly" today, that always makes for a good party.


WILLIAM H. MACY, ACTOR: Those gowns that the women wear...



MACY: ... they`re made for walking the red carpet and posing and having your picture taken. They`re not made for "Jumpin` Jack Flash." So the band started up and everybody started dancing. And I`m looking around, and very casually, I see these fabulous women lifting these gowns back up that have fallen down to the -- I saw some stuff that I`m still dreaming of.

PHILBIN: Really?

RIPA: Lots and lots of Golden Globes.

MACY: Hello. Serious Golden Globes.

PHILBIN: You saw at least a couple of -- at least two Golden Globes.

MACY: Yes. Two hours later Felicity says, "I can`t believe you`re still dancing."

I said, "I love to dance."


HAMMER: Stays interesting that way.

Well, homosexuality, racism, terrorism. "Brokeback Mountain," "Paradise Now," "Crash." We`re going to take an in-depth look at gutsy Oscar nominees that will make this year`s Academy Awards like no other, next.

ANDERSON: Also, Conan, Jay, Dave, Jimmy. A non-stop mountain of jokes aimed at "Brokeback Mountain." But are they going too far with their laughs? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT takes a look.

HAMMER: And is there another controversy brewing with "American Idol"? We`ll get into that on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT when we return.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT for a Friday night. It is 31 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

ANDERSON: And I`m Brooke Anderson, live on the red carpet at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. And you are watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.

HAMMER: So, Brooke, I know you`re a big fan of the "American Idol" program on television. We watch the show every week, week in and week out, millions of us, but we assume that the people that we`re watching are not trained professionals in anyway. We assume they`re amateurs.


HAMMER: Well, it has been revealed that one of the current finalists actually may have some professional experience. We`re going to get into that in just a bit. And can you clear something up...

ANDERSON: Grounds for getting off the show, right?

HAMMER: Perhaps. We`ll have to find out. And could you clear up -- it`s a red carpet, but it`s covered with plastic. That`s what was confusing.

ANDERSON: It is covered with plastic. I think the academy is trying to protect it from folks like me so we don`t mess it up and also from the weather, the inclement weather that we have been having. But it is a red carpet, just covered with plastic, but that will be gone by Sunday.

HAMMER: Thank you for clearing that up.

ANDERSON: Of course. And, A.J., it does seem that this year is the year of gutsy films for the Oscars, films that have serious messages, controversy themes, in fact, even political, gay or transgender themes. And coming up, we will take a look at the risk these Oscar-nominated filmmakers have taken this year.

And also "Brokeback Mountain" leading the nominees with eight nods. It has been political -- not political, excuse me -- but it has been fodder for comedians for months.

HAMMER: A lot of jokes.

ANDERSON: And coming up, we will take a look at the "Brokeback" jokes online and on TV. But first, we will go high above the red carpet where SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas has the "Hot Headlines."

Hi, Sibila.


Well, get ready to see John Travolta in a dress. Travolta has signed on to star in a movie version of the Broadway musical "Hairspray." He`ll play Edna Turnblad, the part that Harvey Fierstein played on Broadway, and Divine played in the original John Waters movie.

Madonna is about to get animated. Today we learned her voice will be featured in a computer-animated movie, "Arthur and the Minimoys," based on a popular French children`s book. Snoop Dogg and David Bowie are also lending their voices.

Oscar history will be made this Sunday when a rap song will be performed at the ceremony for the first time. The question is: How much will the lyrics be toned down?

Three 6 Mafia will perform "It`s Hard Out Here for a Pimp," their nominated song from "Hustle and Flow." There are reports that they`ll be allowed to keep the word "bitch" in the lyrics, but an Oscar spokesperson tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT the final version is still being worked on and people will just have to tune in.

And those are tonight`s "Hot Headlines." Brooke, back to you.

ANDERSON: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas. Thank you, live above the red carpet.

And we will have to just wait and see how explicit the lyrics are come Sunday night, A.J. I talked with those guys yesterday, and they promised it would be a clean performance and that kids could watch at home without having to cover their eyes and their ears.

HAMMER: OK, but they`re still tossing around the idea of using that b-word. And, Brooke, if the Academy does decide to go with the explicit lyrics, I don`t really think too many people would be surprised this year, because this year`s Oscar contenders really haven`t shied away at all from controversy. In fact, this year`s race for best picture is truly a race like no other. It is one of the gutsiest races in years. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT takes a deeper look.


HAMMER (voice-over): If this year`s best picture category at the 78th annual Academy Awards were renamed "The Year Hollywood Took a Gamble," it probably wouldn`t take anybody by surprise. That`s because this year`s Oscar contenders can be summed up in one word: gutsy.

One gay cowboy love story, check.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR: I wish I knew how to quit you.

HAMMER: A self-destructive writer struggling with his own identity, check.


HAMMER: A frank, bleak perspective at race relations in America, check.

LUDACRIS, ACTOR: She got colder as soon as she saw us.

HAMMER: One powerful journalist challenging a politician`s witch hunt, check.

DAVID STRATHAIRN, ACTOR: Good night, and good luck.

HAMMER: And a secret plan to avenge terrorism at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, check. All movies with a heady message, all contenders for Oscar gold.

STRATHAIRN: Was it hearsay, rumor, gossip, slander or hard, ascertainable facts that could be backed by credible witnesses?

HAMMER: This has been a record year for contentious filmmaking. What so many of this year`s films have managed to do is spark debate, stir up controversy, and instill a message. But SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you this: It`s not the first time in the Academy`s history that`s happened.

BORYS KITT, "HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Movies like this haven`t really been seen at the Academy Awards table, like, since the `70s, when you had movies like "Deer Hunter" and "Apocalypse Now" that dealt with a lot of complex issues at those times. And now you have the same thing happening.

HAMMER: It could be a case of deja vu all over again. "The Deer Hunter" and "Apocalypse Now" were indeed a reflection of the times when they tackled the Vietnam War. They walked away with best picture Oscars.

But today, more reflection of the times. Each of the nominated movies brazenly deal with issues that are currently ripping America apart by unashamedly drawing parallels to the past.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Who are the people? Are they elected? Are they appointed?

HAMMER: Director George Clooney takes a risk, but he`s not the only director to do so. Another Oscar-nominated film takes it a step further.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this isn`t about guarding tourists on El Al jets?

HAMMER: Steven Spielberg`s message: violence begets more violence, a controversial message, one that is also at the core of the best foreign film nominee, "Paradise Now." It tackles the issue of suicide bombers, but its sympathetic portrayal has caused an uproar.

Also causing an uproar, the most buzzed-about film of the year, "Brokeback Mountain." The gay love story hasn`t exactly been heartfelt in the heartland`s box office, but like the other films nominated, the controversial messages might just be the catalyst for change.

KITT: "Brokeback Mountain" has not become -- you know, it`s not a humongous blockbuster, yet if you look at its impact, it`s one of the few films in recent years that has had a humongous cultural impact. It`s been a while since a movie like this has really touched so many people, even people who haven`t seen it. So it does -- you know, it does have an impact.


HAMMER: "Brokeback Mountain" leads this year`s race with eight nominations. That includes best picture, a best director nod for Ang Lee, and a best actor nod for Heath Ledger.

ANDERSON: But with all the critical acclaim it has received, "Brokeback Mountain" has also been fodder for lots of jokes over the past few months. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas is also live here on the red carpet -- Sibila?

VARGAS: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with Oscar host, Jon Stewart, just a few days ago, he jokingly told us that he didn`t want to do too many "Brokeback Mountain" jokes at the ceremony, but that it`s law that he has to do five to seven gay cowboy jokes. And between late-night hosts and Internet spoofs, there have already been so much more than that.


VARGAS (voice-over): The ads and the accolades have been hard to miss, the critics downright giddy. When "Brokeback Mountain" hit American theaters in December, reviewers swooned and the gay community cheered. A widely promoted mainstream movie, a love story between two men, could sensitize people to the gay experience, they hoped...

GYLLENHAAL: I wish I knew how to quit you.

VARGAS: Then came the comic assault.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW": Here we go. Top 10 signs you`re a gay cowboy. Number 10: Your saddle is Versace. Number 9: Instead of "Home on the Range," you sing, "It`s Raining Men." Raining men, there you go, buddy.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": I think it`s great, honestly, that "Brokeback" led the way in it, because you don`t want those guys behind you, you know what I`m saying?

VARGAS: On late-night TV, Jimmy, Jay, Conan, and Dave and their guests used "Brokeback" for laughs the minute it came out.

NATHAN LANE, ACTOR (singing): There`s a couple of guys in the meadow bearing their supple thighs in the meadow...

VARGAS: "SNL" took a shot, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you must be lonely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope, we`re good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice seeing you, though. Run along.

VARGAS: Fake movie trailers like "Brokeback to the Future" or "Top Gun II: Brokeback Squadron" and other parodies run rampant online.

MATT FOREMAN, NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE: It`s just kept on going, and going, and going, and gotten cruder, and cruder, and cruder. I don`t know where the line is, but it`s definitely been crossed with "Brokeback."

VARGAS: Still, comedians insist they have a right to joke about whatever they want.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME": There`s never been a subject for comedy that has been more ripe or more done than homosexuality.

FOREMAN: People think that it`s just funny if you start talking about love and sex between two men, that that`s something inherently funny; it`s actually not.

VARGAS: But other gay rights advocates don`t think it`s all bad.

JOE SOLMONESE, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: The good conversations that are forced as a result of this movie being so in the American people`s consciousness outweigh the insensitive jokes, and the snickering, and the kind of late-night talk show commentary that we`re hearing.

VARGAS: And with late night`s Jon Stewart as host, the Oscar show writers tell us to expect a fresh batch of Oscar jokes.


VARGAS: And, of course, we`ll just have to wait until Sunday to see what new jokes the writers can come up with, but something tells me they won`t disappoint. Brooke, back to you.

ANDERSON: And Jon Stewart told me he`s prepared to do between five and seven "Brokeback" jokes. All right, Sibila Vargas, thank you so much.

HAMMER: So is there another scandal brewing over at "American Idol"? Tonight, the controversy over the fact that not all the contestants are exactly amateurs. We`re going to look into that, next

Also coming up...


DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: Five thousand black people chilling in the rain; 19 white people peppered into the crowd.


ANDERSON: Dave Chappelle throws a great party, but did it make a good movie? That`s coming up in "Picks and Pans."


ANDERSON: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s only live entertainment news show. I`m Brooke Anderson, live on the red carpet outside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, where less than 48 hours from now the stars will be arriving right here for the 78th annual Academy Awards.

We will certainly be watching. And we want to know if you will, too. It is our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." The Oscars: Will you watch? Keep voting at or write us at Your thoughts are coming up a bit later.

Oscar night will be a big, big night. And we`re going to be right here, live on the red carpet before the show. And we want you to be here with us, so be sure to join me, A.J. Hammer, and Sibila Vargas for a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. That`s this Sunday, 5:30 p.m. Eastern, on CNN Headline News. Then at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, our live coverage moves over to CNN with "Hollywood`s Gold Rush," again with me, A.J., and Sibila bringing you all the exciting action. And we do hope you`ll join us.

HAMMER: Well, tonight, "American Idol" making news once again; 26.2 million people tuned into FOX`s "American Idol" last night, giving FOX its highest ratings in that time slot in the last 15 years. But those viewers may be asking: Are some "Idol" contestants bringing showbiz experience with them to their audition?

And live from Glendale, California, our friend Harvey Levin. He`s the managing editor of the entertainment Web site Hello there, Harvey.


HAMMER: Well, let`s get into this now. TMZ found out about one of the finalists who`s on the program and the fact that he`s had experience in front of the cameras before, so let me know what you found.

LEVIN: Well, Ace was on a show called "Half and Half" back in October. And actually, it`s with a girl that he`s kind of been dating. So, you know, he made one appearance. He actually sang on the show. And, you know, it was a one-shot deal. It doesn`t make him an actor, but he did have an appearance.

HAMMER: Now, technically, the contestants who appear on "American Idol" are supposed to be amateurs. We all watch the show presuming that they are. But do you think this actually crosses that line? He didn`t have a recording contract, per se.

LEVIN: Yes, I absolutely do not think it crosses the line, A.J. I mean, there are a lot of people -- listen, these are people who want to be entertainers. So if they get a shot at doing something, they`re going to do it. And it`s kind of crazy to disqualify them because they`re pursuing the very dream they`re on "Idol" for. So I don`t think appearing on a show or even making an album in the past -- I don`t think that necessarily says that they`re disqualified.

HAMMER: But as far as we know...

LEVIN: And it shouldn`t. And it shouldn`t.

HAMMER: And it shouldn`t. I agree with you. And as far as we know, the contractual obligations, although "American Idol" keeps their contract pretty secretive, I understand they can`t be under any other kind of recording management or actual recording contract, is that what you know?

LEVIN: Yes, well, we`ve actually -- we know what that provision is, and it`s really -- it`s strict. And during that show, they can`t be under a recording contract, a management contract, an agency contract, a modeling contract. And that goes up until three months following when the winner is crowned. So it`s very strict in that respect.

HAMMER: Less than 30 seconds, Harvey. Not the first time "Idol" has found themselves in this situation, right?

LEVIN: Well, you know, there have been a lot of questions about Kelly Clarkson, where they said she had recorded something in a studio. I don`t believe it. I mean, if somebody has a recording of Kelly Clarkson, they would have released it by now. She`s gold.

HAMMER: They would have.

LEVIN: So I just don`t buy that stuff.

HAMMER: All right. Well, maybe it will show up online some day, if it does exist. Harvey Levin of, thank you, as always, for joining us.

LEVIN: See you, A.J.

HAMMER: It is time now to check out the best bang for your entertainment buck this weekend in the "Showbiz Guide." Tonight, we`re getting into "People`s" "Picks and Pans" for new movies. Bruce Willis and Mos Def are teaming up for "16 Blocks," Dave Chappelle throwing a block party, and two teen girls come face to face with a real mermaid.

Joining me live in New York, "People" magazine`s movie critic Leah Rozen. Typically, Leah, not a real good time of year for movie releases.

ROZEN: But this is a good week. I actually -- I`m totally positive this week, and you know how rarely that happens.

HAMMER: I do. I`m well aware of that.

Let`s get into it, first, then with the new Bruce Willis vehicle "16 Blocks," because I`ve heard mixed reviews of this, but I consider you the authority. So set the record straight on this film.

ROZEN: This is a solid crime drama. Next year at Oscar time, we`re not going to be talking about "16 Blocks," but if it`s Saturday night and you want to go to the movies, this fits the bill. When you compare this with Harrison Ford`s "Firewall," which was like the glummest thing going a couple of weeks ago, and this one is just Entwistle, mildly thoughtful filmmaking. The plot: Bruce Willis has to escort -- he`s a cop. He has to escort a prisoner to court. Bad guys are trying to get him. It moves. It`s got character. Worth seeing.

HAMMER: Nice to hear. And Mos Def turns out a good performance, from what I understand. He also appears in the Dave Chappelle movie opening this weekend.

ROZEN: The Dave Chappelle film is just fun. Dave Chappelle throws a big block party one day in Bedford Stuy, and the music`s good. Dave Chappelle was relaxed and clearly having fun. And the movie`s a lot of fun.

HAMMER: And this was done, people should know, before he sort of ran away from his $50 million deal with Comedy Central a lot of people are familiar with.

ROZEN: And you can see hints in the movie...

HAMMER: Oh, really?

ROZEN: ... that he -- you know, at the end of the concert, he goes, "This is the best thing I`ve ever done in my career."

HAMMER: OK. Well, let`s move on to "Aquamarine." This looks like it`s perhaps for a younger audience, but it actually looks quite adorable. And I don`t toss around that word lightly.

ROZEN: It is adorable. This is "Splash" for tweeners. It`s, you know, two little girls discover a mermaid in a swimming pool. They help the mermaid, who grows leg during the day, conduct a romance with the hunky teenage lifeguard. It`s a cute film. My 6-year-old nephew, he just loved it.

HAMMER: And one of those girls happens to be the niece of Julia Roberts.

ROZEN: Emma Roberts, and she`s a talented little actress.

HAMMER: And for people who are familiar with the singer JoJo, she`s also in the film?

ROZEN: She`s also in the film, and she`s quite good, as well. And it`s just -- you know, again, it`s one of those films you go, "This is light. It`s cute. I like it."

HAMMER: Excellent. Sounds like three good films for the weekend. Leah Rozen, as always, thank you very much. And for more "Picks and Pans," your copy of "People" magazine is on newsstands now.

ANDERSON: We`ve been asking you to vote online on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." The Oscars: Will you watch?

The vote so far: 46 percent of you say yes -- tight race -- 54 percent of you say no.

Some of the e-mails we`ve received. Jay from West Virginia writes, "The only reason I will watch the Oscars is because Jon Stewart is hosting it. You can never go wrong with Stewart."

Ryan from Florida says, "It is just another way for Hollywood to pat themselves on the back for poor movies and even worse taste in clothing." He says he will not be watching.

Keep voting at SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right back.

HAMMER: But first, for your consideration, a look at some of this year`s Oscar nominations. Tonight, we`re taking a look at the category and the nominees for best picture.

First up, Ang Lee`s "Brokeback Mountain," which has a leading eight nominations this year. The gay cowboy movie won four Golden Globes in January.

Also nominated in this category, "Capote," the story of how author Truman Capote wrote his masterpiece "In Cold Blood." Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Truman Capote, and he, of course, nominated for best actor for that role.

Well next, the gritty racial study "Crash." It won the top acting award at the Screen Actors Guild awards, with a star-studded ensemble cast, which includes Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, and Terrence Howard.

Director George Clooney`s "Good Night, and Good Luck" is also in this category. Clooney put up his house as collateral so he could make this black-and-white drama, starring Oscar-nominee David Strathairn as journalist Edward R. Murrow.

And finally, Steven Spielberg`s "Munich," a film revolving around Israeli agents that are sent to avenge the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.


HAMMER: Well, before we wrap it up and get into the weekend, we want to remind you to be with us on Sunday night. I can`t wait, a special Oscar edition of our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT program. We`re going to get it under way at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. At 6:00 p.m., CNN`s "Hollywood Gold Rush" continues the fun.

I got to get on a plane so I can join you, Brooke, and you, Sibila, out there on the red carpet. It`s going to be a lot of fun this weekend.

ANDERSON: A.J., have safe travels out here. We will see you tomorrow. And this is the year of not the blockbuster film, but the smaller, more independent films. I`m really excited to see who will take home Oscar gold this year.

VARGAS: I can`t wait for that, Brooke. And I can`t wait to see you, A.J.

And, of course, we`re going to be talking about fashion styles. We`re going to talk to Philip Bloch, who is a celebrity stylist extraordinaire, so you`re not going to want to miss that. It`s going to be lots of fun.

HAMMER: And speaking of fashion, I see you`re wearing a fleece. Hopefully, it`s going to warm up for Sunday night.

VARGAS: I hope so. I cannot wear this Oscar night.


HAMMER: All right, gang. Well, that is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

ANDERSON: I`m Brooke Anderson on the Oscar red carpet in Hollywood. Thanks for watching. And stay tuned for the latest from CNN Headline News.