Why are the Oscars such a national obsession?
First, there's the hoopla over who and what got nominated - and who and what didn't. Then the hoopla over who will host the ceremony. Then the live awards show that lasts into the wee hours of the morning.
To me, it's all a huge and clever ad for the movie industry. But I follow it all the same.
And so does the Web, where there are numerous sites devoted to the films, actors, hosts and just about anything else related to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science.
In fact, the Web is a movie lover's playground. Looking at the lists of Web sites devoted to film in Yahoo!, one might think that a good chunk of the Web is run by Hollywood.
We probably should start our tour at the most logical place, Oscar.Com (http://www.oscar.com), the official site. With the entertainment capital and the computer capital located on the same side of the United States, many of these sites are pretty sophisticated, and Oscar.Com is no exception.
You can watch ''Webcast'' videos of the March 9 luncheon for the nominees or the Feb. 29 ceremony for technical awards. There are games - Predict the Winners, Oscar Trivia Challenge - and updates every time a new ''presenter'' is added. And there is the expected information about Oscars history and current nominees.
Another official Oscars site is the Academy's site (http://www.ampas.org), which has articles about the history of the awards and links to other Oscar-related sites.
Wealth of databases
Building databases of Academy Award winners and nominees seems to be a popular pastime, since many sites have them. Aside from the two official sites already mentioned, there are databases at:
The Academy Awards are showbiz at its best, so of course, gossip e-zine sites such as Mr. Showbiz (http://mrshowbiz.com/features/oscars/) and Hollywood Online (http://www.hollywood.com/oscars) have large sections about the films and nominees. And E! Online has articles about many of the personalities who'll be at the awards ceremonies.
Only members of the Academy get to vote for the nominee, but the rest of us can make our choices at People Online's Academy Award Poll (http://cgi.pathfinder.com/ew/features/980213/academy97/index.html) or at Online@The Academy Awards (http://www.tribtv.com/oscars/). The latter also has predictions from critics, as well as a "Beat Gene Siskel" contest. This is a real one, too, with $10,000 worth of prizes.
Many of the films in this year's competition are still playing in theaters, but if they're available on video, you can find them by visiting moviefinder.com (http://www.moviefinder.com) or Reel.com (http://www.reel.com). Moviefinder.com also will find movies playing at local theaters or on television. Reel.com is a Berkeley, Calif., video store with one of the largest inventories in the country (85,000 films), so you can track down those obscure entries for Best Foreign Film or Best Short Subject.
Movies have sites
And we can't forget that just about every motion picture these days has a promotional Web site. For those movies nominated as Best Pictures, visit:
Don't have an Internet account? Then you'll have to wait until 9 p.m. March 23 to watch it all on TV.
Send e-mail to Charles Brewer at CBrewer@enquirer.com.