NETWORK : `I'd just like to say thank you ...'

Phil Reeves proposes a night at the Oscars
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Cyberspace may be cluttered with many megabytes of useless junk, but it offers at least one intriguing opportunity for movie fans. It is now possible to attend the annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles without having to hire a limo, rent a gown, don the mandatory tuxedo, grovel to the stars - or even go anywhere near the place.

The on-line information service CompuServe has arranged for three entertainment journalists to be in the press tent backstage at the ceremony in LA's Shrine Auditorium to relay questions from its members to Oscar winners, moments after they come off stage clutching their trophies.

When a victorious Tom Hanks or Jessica Lange is ushered in to meet the Hollywood media, he or she could therefore face questions from the other side of the planet, fired in by a movie buff tapping at a keyboard in his attic in the north of Scotland or downtown Paris.

The on-line service, which has been promoting the link-up for weeks as "Your Backstage Pass to the Movies", will also hold a live conference as the awards ceremony unfolds, allowing its journalists to describe the scene to those who prefer to follow it by computer rather than on television (or both).

The link-up is part of a flurry of on-line activity generated by tonight's 67th Academy Awards in the United States. For example, several services, including America Online, allow subscribers to download pictures, sounds and movie notes from some Oscar-nominated films.

There have also been several on-line Oscar "polls". Although unscientific (not least because the participants are self-selecting), they provide a partial insight into what the public would like to see happen on Oscar night.

Of the 7,963 people who voted electronically on CompuServe, 66.3 per cent thought Forrest Gump should win Best Picture, and 59.8 per cent favoured Tom Hanks as Best Actor. Bleak news for one of Britain's finest hopes, Nigel Hawthorne, star of The Madness of King George - he came last, with a measly 4.9 per cent. But, hell, what do computer addicts know about anything?

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