- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2006

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Netting an Oscar

Movie fans awaiting tonight’s gala Oscar telecast still have time to learn much about the award and its history through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ cyber-stop devoted to the golden statue (www.oscar.com).

Although not as interactively enlightening as I would have hoped — and loaded with annoying advertisements that often must be clicked away before you can get to the content (get used to the “skip this ad” link) — the site offers a few sections of multimedia fun and knowledge.

Most urgent for tonight’s broadcast is the Nominees section, which presents information on the folks named in 24 categories for a chance to win the coveted Oscar. For each nominee, there is a short explanation of his or her character and previous achievements and a clip and synopsis from the film with which the nominee is associated. The section also includes a printable ballot to keep track of the evening’s winners.

A quick note on the movie and behind-the-scenes clips. All of them are prefaced with more annoying commercials, and all of the movie clips essentially are the films’ trailers, which may not highlight the nominated artist. A good example is William Hurt’s nomination for best supporting actor in “A History of Violence.”

I was much happier with the Legacy section, which does justice to the history of the yearly event through a combination of the Academy Award Database and images from the Art Streiber collection. The database can be searched by film, title, nominee, award category, award year and song title. A separate area lists statistics that will please trivia fans with tidbits such as the information that Dennis Muren has been nominated for the most visual-effects Oscars (14) and Henry Fonda was the oldest winner (76) of a best-actor Oscar.

I also enjoyed a story on the origins and creation of the statuettes and a section containing all of the posters of past best-picture winners, ranging from 2005 winner “Million Dollar Baby” to the 1928 silent film “Wings,” starring Clara Bow.

One other place worth a look is the Games section, which offers visitors a chance to identify a past Oscar winner by studying a photograph of the winner’s hands holding the award or to take part in a fast-paced trivia challenge in which players drag the names of winners to the winners’ photographs as the clock ticks.

Turner Classic’s Cyber-pedia

Released just in time for the Oscars, Turner Classic Movies has put together a great movie database for the cinema connoisseur in the family. Its TCMdb (www.tcmdb.com) is an information-packed Web site featuring knowledge nuggets associated with more than 130,000 films and 1.25 million artists spanning movie history from the 1890s to the present.

Compiled from the AFI Catalog of Feature Films research project and the Internet Movie Database Inc., the multimedia encyclopedia offers 100,000 pieces of biographical data and more than 10 million pieces of information, including photographs, film clips and publicity items.

The easy-loading, friendly site will immediately capture visitors’ attention through Top 10 search lists plastered on the opening page. The lists give immediate access to the entries along with links to random film clips (such as a trailer from the 1949 Cary Grant movie “Every Girl Should Be Married”) and unusual primary source material such as production notes from the 1942 epic “Casablanca.”

The “Casablanca” notes are particularly impressive, as they offer a glimpse into the world of the Hollywood studios through an interface that enables users to zoom in on the documents and move them around for careful scrutiny. The collection includes the handwritten sheet music to “As Time Goes By,” memos from the research department and interoffice communication from Hal Wallis changing the name of the movie from “Everybody Comes to Ricks” to the now-famous title.

Visitors also can add information to the database — sort of like Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia — although it’s clearly stated that TCM Web editors will review the material before posting it but will give successful contributors a credit line.

This work in progress also soon will be adding more than 15,000 still images from film productions, movie scripts and press books as well as articles written by film historians, editors and movie buffs.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected] times.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washington times.com/familytimes/ romperroom.htm.

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