When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 2002 Oscar Nominations on Tuesday morning, director Rob Marshall's adaptation of the stage sensation Chicago won 13 nominations. Only Martin Scorsese's mediocre epic Gangs of New York came close, with eight. The Lord of the Rings—The Two Towers garnered only six, as the Academy snubbed it even in some of its strongest categories, like cinematography and makeup. Other favorites, like Denzel Washington's solid directorial debut, Antwone Fisher, and Phillip Noyce's marvelous epic of Aborigine children escaping persecution, Rabbit-Proof Fence, were completely ignored.

It was bound to happen. For a while, we were enjoying a generous variety of beautifully crafted films with profound stories about good versus evil, overcoming prejudice and abuse, anger management, and holding on to hope in the face of hardship. But in the final weeks, these fine works were upstaged by a wave of hype and hoopla over a big, flashy Hollywood production in which a leggy dancers and boastfully dishonest lawyers revel in promiscuous and scandalous behavior.

Chicago offers an ankle-deep satire about the cult of celebrity in America, but instead of showing up evil as evil, it ends up glorifying scandal-makers and ridiculing marriage and true love. All but one of the characters begin the film as greedy egomaniacs, and at the end they're just the same. The one character with a glimmer of virtue, the abandoned and broken-hearted husband, is mocked as a buffoon. While it is right to suggest that the scandal-loving American public is partly to blame for sustaining this amoral circus of celebrity, it is presumptuous and perverse to suggest that we should shrug off moral conviction and shame and ...

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