AWARDS Faith Hill and Brad Paisley lead the nominations for the Country Music Awards, with nods in six categories each. Hill will compete with the Dixie Chicks, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and her hubby, Tim McGraw, for the prestigious Entertainer of the Year award. The redoubtable Paisley received nods for the Horizon award, best Male Vocalist, and Album of the Year among others. The ceremony will be telecast by CBS from the Grand Ole Opry House on Oct. 4.
CASTING ''X-Men'' It boy Hugh Jackman is about to take on another high profile role. Variety reports that the Wolverine is negotiating to play a computer hacker in the John Travolta starrer ''Swordfish.'' The Australian actor, already hard at work on his next flick ''Animal Husbandry'' with Ashley Judd, will likely begin shooting the drama in the fall. And if these projects fail, he could always score a role at the San Diego Zoo.
POLICE BLOTTER It seems Tim McGraw got a lot of good news yesterday. Felony charges stemming from the singer's recent tangle with cops (and a horse) in Buffalo, N.Y., were dropped. But he still faces misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges for the incident in which his buddy Kenny Chesney allegedly hopped on a policeman's steed sans permission while McGraw scuffled with the law.... James Brown can feel good again, too. Police say they have not found enough evidence to support the recent accusation made by a utility worker that the Godfather of Soul brandished a knife at him. As a result, he will not be charged. But it was such a great yarn for the electrician war story arsenal.
LEGALESE A considerably miffed court examiner ordered Mick Jagger to disclose all of his finances to determine child support for his love child with Luciana Morad. The Brazilian model seeks $35,000 a month to cover the cost of nannies, rent, and security in homes in New York and South America, but the Rolling Stones frontman wants to limit support to $5,600. The New York examiner ordered Morad to appear in court Sept. 18 -- and was annoyed to learn that Jagger, who claimed he could not be present, had been in town only two weeks ago. ''It is my intent that if Mr. Jagger is going to come back to this state, he is going to appear in this courtroom,'' he said. You can't always get what you want.
SHUFFLE Ice Cube has departed the Up in Smoke tour because of scheduling conflicts with his acting career. The rapper is committed to play a hero in ''John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars,'' which begins filming this month. The same flick has recently replaced Courtney LoveNatasha Henstridge.
TV NEWS Lovers of ''Freaks and Geeks'' rejoice. Variety reports that Fox has signed a deal to produce six episodes of a new mid-season replacement with ''Geeks'' creators Judd Apatow and Paul Feig. This time, the scribes say they will switch their theme from high school oppression to college freedom. We are ''happy to be part of the exciting new trend in network television: fully scripted, nonreality programming,'' the pair said in a statement. What? They don't want to get Colleen on board as a costar?
EXPECTING Hunky Puerto Rican pop star Marc Anthony, 31, and his wife, ex Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, 25, are expecting a child. Anthony's publicist says that the emotive singer shared the news during a concert in Miami on Saturday. Hopes are that mad genome scientists will avoid the temptation to kidnap the child and produce a race of impossibly beautiful, sweet singing clones.
E-BOOKS Stephen King plans to keep publishing on the Web. His experiment with digital downloads of a serial novel about an unruly plant that engulfs a publishing house seems to have worked. Some 76.4 percent of the 152,132 readers who acquired the first two installments paid up -- surpassing the writer's expectations. ''The pay through rate has been higher than I dared hope,'' King wrote on his website. The horror meister went on to say that the payments he received for the series met his $124,150 in expenses accrued from ads in Publishers Weekly and USA Today. The next part of the series will be posted Aug. 21.
WEB NEWS Yet another heavyweight is experimenting with digital downloads. Universal Music Group, the world's largest record label, says it will offer songs via the Internet on a trial basis. The experiment begins this week with 60 songs from artists as diverse as Blink-182 and Luciano Pavarotti.... Even as Hollywood's movie elite struggle to keep their stake in the Web, smaller Internet film companies are holding strong. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal and L.A. Times both reported that DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's high profile venture Pop.com is floundering. The company led in part by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Ron Howard is busy trying to find an alternative business model that will include submissions from unknown filmmakers, reports the Journal. But the Times says that serious infighting delayed its launch last spring and that some workers favor laying off most of Pop's 90 employees -- including chief exec Kenneth Wong. Meanwhile, smaller sites like Atomfilms, iCast.com, and Undergroundfilm.com are enjoying relative success. ICast recently acquired Shortbuzz, another film site, while the irreverent creators of Undergroundfilm have reportedly been hired to work as consultants for the moguls at Pop.