Springtime Means Oscar-time

By: Charles Bowen

Some count on crocuses. For others, it’s love in the air, or the crack of a baseball bat. For me, spring arrives with the Oscars.

But the annual Academy Awards ceremony also offers a few headaches for newspapers. The televised spectacular always airs on a Sunday night, when your newsroom probably is staffed at its lowest level of the week. The inside pages on which you ordinarily would carry news of the award winners probably are locked up well before the biggies of the evening are announced, so you have to make special arrangements with the composing room.

But even more problematic, if you’re trying to do something fresh and new with the Oscars page, good luck. Every newspaper is working with the same press kits, the same newswire accounts, and the same basic library of file photos.

But don’t give up just yet. The Web can give you an edge. A slew of Oscars-oriented Web sites are up and running, ranging from the official line from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to some fresh new unofficial sites operated by dedicated movie buffs and Oscar watchers. A little advance work at these resources might enable your staff to give local readers a different spin on the Oscars. At the very least, reporting on the sites could give your Internet columnist a timely story.

For the official word on Oscar, visit the Academy’s own page at http://oscars.org, where you can find schedules, press releases, and an extensive archive of photographs, drawings, and historical background. This also is a great place to find statistics, such as a database of Oscar winners all the way back to the first ceremony in 1927, and the history of the golden guy himself.

ABC.com, in cooperation with the Academy, produces its own site at http://oscar.com, which is strongly focused on the March 24 television broadcast. Of particular interest will be the “Oscar news updates” link as well as extensive backgrounds on all the nominees. And if you report on the site, be sure to tell your readers about its “Fun and Games,” which features trivia, guess-the-winners games, reviews, and the like. The site’s gallery section has pictures of Oscar night styles.

Among the independent Oscar sites, two especially stand out:

* OscarWatch (http://www.oscarwatch.com) is filled with lively debate, comment, criticism, and reviews. Don’t miss the main feature, its “Buzzometer,” which regularly dishes the industry in general and the Oscars in particular. It also quotes liberally from papers around the country, especially Oscar’s hometown Los Angeles Times. You also can sign up to get the Buzz Report by e- mail.

* Oscar! Oscar! (http://oscarworld.net) has perhaps the deepest reservoir of Academy Awards trivia, with features such as “Best and Worst Oscar Moments,” “Memorable Oscar Speeches,” and “The Complete History of Oscar Winners.” At the bottom of the introductory page is an extensive collection of even more Oscar-related sites.

Yes, cyberspace loves cinema. Beyond Oscar-specific resources, here are some other useful movie-related sites you can use in researching the Academy Awards:

1. The Internet Movie Database (http://us.imdb.com) has become the cyberspace standard for film reviews and summaries of movies around the world. More than 100,000 films are covered, starting with rarities such as the little-known 1898 British novelty called “Express Train on a Railway Cutting.” This far-reaching database started in 1989 as an informal project on an Internet bulletin board. Today, as an advertiser-sponsored feature, it is one of the more active sites on the Net.

2. The Movie Review Query Engine (http://www.mrqe.com) is a search engine designed to find movie reviews. It links you to more than 150,000 reviews on some 20,000 movies. Do a simple search for a title or use the advanced search to locate films based on keywords. The site provides a hyperlinked list of reviews from assorted books, magazines, and newspapers. It also lists top films, major comedies, video releases, and more.

3. Ain’t It Cool News (http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com) is one of the edgier Internet movie sites going. Produced by the self-proclaimed “Hollywood redheaded stepchild,” Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool is the trendiest binary bistro in Net moviedom, where rumors, gossip, and news are blended into a pretty heady stew.

To see Bowen’s last 10 columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Bowen” in the “Author” field.

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