Lost in Cyberspace
Oscar Online
© 1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

As Hollywood votes on the Oscars, which will be awarded March 23, the rest of us can only speculate on the winners. But there's already a lot of speculation online.

In fact, some of the best speculators may be average moviegoers. At "FlickPicks" <www.flickpicks.com>, regular people review movies for each other by rating and commenting on the movies they've seen. This year "FlickPicks" visitors gave four-star ratings or better to only six movies, five of which turned out to be the Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Gene Siskel had only four of the nominated movies in his Top 10, and Roger Ebert picked only two.

The site is currently conducting an online poll to determine who should receive the Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress. Results will be posted daily on the site starting March 1, and participants are eligible for prizes including cameras, electronic equipment and airline tickets.

"FlickPicks" also sells ID cards that will identify you as a "Registered FlickPicks Critic," and instruct theaters to "extend to the bearer every courtesy normally provided to movie critics for recognized media and news services." Will the $5 ID get you into a movie for free? "Maybe, maybe not," the website concedes, then adds, "But it sure does LOOK impressive!"

Oscar's online home is at the website for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences <www.ampas.org>. This small but elegant website has basic Academy Awards facts such as a voting timetable, list of eligible movies, scientific and technical awards, and past winners, as well as information about the Academy itself.

More lively but less elegant is ABC-TV's official website for the 70th annual Academy Awards <www.oscar.com>, which is also taking a poll on who the winners will be. It keeps current with Oscar-related news and has a searchable trove of information on the history of the Academy Awards. There's also a fun section on fashion, including a fashion quiz on last year's attendees. Unfortunately, most pages have a tacky ad suggesting you "Plan Your Oscar® Night Party" with a certain brand of take-out fried chicken.

For the next several weeks, another ABC website, "Mr. Showbiz" <www.mrshowbiz.com>, is devoting a section to the Oscars, with news, trivia, games and its own expert analysis on who will win versus who should win the statuette.

"Hollywood Online" <www.hollywood.com>, owned by the Times Mirror, has a similar site, plus a "Screening Room" where you can view video clips of many of the nominated films.

Now that Internet gadfly Matt Drudge has gone Washington, one place for Hollywood dope is Austin-based Harry Knowles' "Ain't It Cool News" <www.aint-it-cool-news.com>. Knowles, whom "New York" magazine recently described as "Hollywood's notorious cyber spy," modestly offers "all that is cool within the film industry."

The site has information on scripts, casting, pre-production, production, post-production, test screenings, marketing, and film releases, along with reviews, TV and video news, and Hollywood collectibles, which is how he makes his living. There's also links to Hollywood insider websites. "But," as Knowles says of his website, "you won't ever read about who is sleeping with who or who is addicted to what! The PLAY is the THING! And that is how we play!"

If dish is what you are after, there's still "Gossip Central" <www.plesser.com>, which has links to online gossip columns from the New York Post, Newsday, Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, People, Buzz and The National Enquirer, among others.

March 1 is the deadline for Web surfers to bid on celebrity memorabilia and collectibles, including a life vest from James Cameron's film "Titanic," at Universal Studios' second Online Auction. The catalog can be previewed at <www.universalstudios.com>.

Opening bids range from $8 to $18,000 for authentic items from feature films and TV shows, and memorabilia from celebrities' personal collections. Featured items include the "Fartman" costume worn by Howard Stern in "Private Parts"; a 9-foot theater standee from the re-release of the "Star Wars Trilogy"; a Xena scroll, as used on "Xena: Warrior Princess"; autographed scripts from "Ellen" and "3rd Rock from the Sun"; and a Chuck Jones autographed poster and limited edition animation cells.

A portion of the auction's proceeds benefits the Motion Pictures & Television Fund, which provides health care, childcare, retirement and charitable services for the entertainment community.

© 1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.