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Studios reveal their Web savvy in sites for the Best Picture nominees

EW Online tells you which ones are award worthy

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Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense
Hollywood Pictures

”American Beauty” is back in the movie top 10 after a rerelease to cash in on its Best Picture Oscar nomination. Though ”Beauty” is the front-runner in the race, Miramax — in the type of move that has made it infamous — has juiced up its promotion of ”The Cider House Rules” to make that film a serious contender too. But it seems that even Miramax has overlooked one promotional tool that’s ripe for development: the Web. Everyone knows the Internet is the best place to shill your wares, so why haven’t studios caught on? Here we take a look at the Best Picture nominees’ official websites to see how they rate.

”American Beauty”
What’s Award Worthy This is truly a beauty of a site. It opens with a photo montage of striking images of the actors. Depending on where you click, you’ll be taken to more photos or hear a perfectly matched song clip. (A video bit of Kevin Spacey’s Lester furiously pumping weights is accompanied by a snippet from the Who’s ”Teenage Wasteland.”) Even the movie trailer is an innovative, nonlinear art piece.
What’s Not No shots of Lester in the shower… but then it would be an entirely different sort of site.
The envelope, please For best Best Picture site, look no further. A

”The Cider House Rules”
What’s Award Worthy If they gave an award for Most Precious, this site would win hands down. The sepia tones, cloying strings overture, and oh-so-literary scene descriptions of the orphans are so syrupy sweet, they make ”The Green Mile”’s Mr. Jingles look like Ben the rat. OK, we get it. It’s a heartwarming story.
What’s Not Besides all that, half of the video clips don’t seem to load, or they load at a snail’s pace. That just gives us more time to reflect on those orphans, doesn’t it?
The envelope, please No winner here, unless you count the site’s own Oscar plugs: A whole page (with no links, mind you) devoted to listing the movie’s seven Academy Award nominations. C

”The Green Mile”
What’s Award Worthy This elegant site features a treasure trove of making-of clips (from a documentary to be released on the DVD version) with no apparent technical snafus. We wonder if Stephen King is talking about the film or recent events in his own life when he says in a video clip ”the human spirit is alive and well even under the most difficult circumstances…. The more difficult life becomes the more the human spirit has a chance to shine.”
What’s Not We wouldn’t say it’s a GOOD thing for a website to be better than the movie it’s touting.
The envelope, please For best sport, the award goes to… Stephen King! In one clip the horrormeister allows himself to be strapped into the old-timey electric chair from the film. A-

”The Insider”
What’s Award Worthy The soundtrack — many of the pages are set to music that resembles the ”60 Minutes” traditional tick-tocking done as electronica (and you can hear soundbites from the Oscar nominated score as well). The site is visually engaging, too, with lines converging and diverging across the screen each time you go to a new section.
What’s Not In an effort to convey the urgency of the film’s theme, some of the text scrolls by too quickly to read.
The envelope, please And the award for grumbled, mumbled speech goes to… Al Pacino! Someone should tell him to speak up when he’s going to be on the Web. Well, at least he’s not shouting ”Hoo-ah!” B

”The Sixth Sense”
What’s Award Worthy Um… nothing.
What’s Not I see dead screen, people. Was Buena Vista too busy at the bank to hire someone to finish the site? Or were they waiting for the film to make another $200 mil before they shelled out for a website? There is the promise of a ”riveting multi-layered experience” starting March 28 (to coincide with the movie’s video release). In one ironic juxtaposition, the phrase ”once you learn the Secrets there’s no turning back” is located directly above a button that’ll only let you… GO BACK.
The envelope, please Sorry. The envelope’s still under construction. I for Incomplete