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Calendar Goes to the Oscars

On the Net, 'Patient' Wasn't So Critical

The buzz: In cyberspace, the fans' favorites were 'Sling Blade,' 'Fargo,' Madonna and her dress.


Faster than host Billy Crystal could dish out wisecracks, Internet users in computer chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards offered a running commentary and high-tech sideshow of sorts to Monday night's Oscar ceremony.

On America OnLine's Premiere magazine chat room--dedicated specifically to the Oscars--and Academy Awards message boards, Net-heads reflected the counter-culture spirit of the Internet as users rooted for underdogs, critiqued fashion and drummed up some serious "English Patient" backlash.

While users reveled in lively (and often nasty) debate over personal favorites--Lauren Bacall or Juliette Binoche? Billy Bob Thornton or Tom Cruise? "Fargo" or "Shine"?--there was overwhelming agreement on one thing: As one chat room participant asked, "Is this the 'English Patient Awards' or what? I'm sick of 'The English Patient.' "

As this year's academy darling scooped up award after award, each win was marked by outcries of "Not again!" or "No more EP!" One user got tired of hearing the orchestra play the film's theme song: "I hate it as much as I hate the 'Macarena,' " a chatter bemoaned.

However, the Net-heads had their day when the screenplay awards were announced and the less-mainstream flicks "Sling Blade" and "Fargo" were rewarded back-to-back for adapted and original screenplay awards, respectively.

"Never would have guessed it," one chat room participant said of the two picks. "Finally an award that makes sense," another said.

"It's 'The English Patient' . . . NOT," another snide chatter remarked.

Frances McDormand's best actress nod was equally well-received on the Net, with users erupting into "Fargo"-esque choruses of "Ja, you betcha!" and a hopeful, " 'Fargo' is going to rise up and kick 'English Patient' butt!"

Hardly ones to root for front-runners--or even for nominees--Net users fervently championed the overlooked. Oft-mentioned non-nominees included "The People vs. Larry Flynt," "Courage Under Fire" and "The Birdcage."


However, "Evita" was by far the favorite, with Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Alan Parker's supporters proclaiming the film had been cheated by the academy.

On AOL's "Best Picture" bulletin board, a disgruntled fan wrote: "A great performance by Banderas in 'Evita' was not rewarded by critics. He gave a winning performance as Che but no one mentioned his name at the awards. Just another farce by the Oscars. Tell me who acted better than Antonio as Che in a 1996 film and I'll buy you a car."

Chat room users applauded Madonna's performance of "You Must Love Me" at the ceremony despite her being snubbed by the academy as courageous.

The lone break from the root-for-the-underdog trend occurred when Geoffrey Rush took the best actor award for "Shine." "What about Tom?" a bevy of Cruise fans asked.

Oscar night fashion watchers were alive and well on the Net. "Madonna should win for best costume," a fashion-watcher commented on her characteristic glamorous outfit.

Thumbs-downs were given to Claire Danes' and Andie McDowell's hairstyles--the former's drastically bobbed, the latter's mushrooming from the top of her head. Billy Bob Thornton got a bit of ribbing for his "Wyatt Earp tie," and Nicole Kidman's wire-rimmed glasses as she read from the TelePrompTer got mixed reviews.

Juliette Binoche's flamboyant velvet get-up received a three-word review from several chat-room participants: "Cruella De Ville."



Need more award shows? The Tony Awards, honoring Broadway's finest productions, will be presented June 1 on CBS. The Emmy Awards for nighttime television programming will be Sept. 14 on CBS.

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