Oscar Online

I know two women, best friends, who have shared the Academy Awards together for the past 40 years. They used to be neighbors in Connecticut, back in the days when Frank Sinatra was host of the show. They'd put the kids to bed, slump into one or the other's couch, and eagerly await the Academy's word on their favorite films. Afterward, they'd linger for hours, talking animatedly about everything from Oscar's judgment to presenters' gowns.

Now they live far apart, but that doesn't stop them. Their annual chat has simply moved onto the telephone line. And it's livelier than ever.

The Academy Awards show, like the Super Bowl, has a way of bringing people together. We like to ogle the celebrities as they open those envelopes, rejoice when our favorite actor wins, and grumble about long-winded speeches or boring musical acts.

These days, the meeting place is just as likely to be an Internet chat room as a suburban neighborhood. And on the Web, this communal experience doesn't wait for showtime. With the big night just three days away, the Internet is buzzing with polls, predictions, and oodles of Oscar-related trivia. Last time I checked, there were a whopping 86 sites with news about the 70th-annual awards show.

If you want to join the online chatter or just do a little homework before Monday night, take a look for yourself. Start with the official site of the Academy Awards: www.oscar.com. With profiles of nominees, a list of presenters, background on host Billy Crystal and his writing team, interactive games, and more, it's far and away the most fun and informative site.

Still want to surf? Visit these sites: (all addresses begin with www, unless indicated): Hollywood Online: Hollywood.com

E! Online: eonline.com

Mr. Showbiz Goes to the Oscars:

mrshowbiz.com/features/oscars (no www)

"Titanic" has its own site: titanicmovie.com.

Other sites for best picture contenders can be found by choosing a search engine and then typing in the movie title.

Now for one last homework assignment: Please tell us what you think of the show. Email your comments on the awards, Billy Crystal's one-liners, the lavish set, or anything else to wolcott@csmonitor.com.

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