January 08, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

What to surf

Dark Horizons
Garth Franklin is Sydney, Australia’s answer to Harry (Ain’t It Cool News) Knowles — but he’s cuter. His site’s not bad either: a collection of movie news, stills, video clips, and reviews of upcoming and recent films. Plus Franklin offers a TV section devoted entirely to sci-fi dramas, which may explain the site’s name — or maybe, having seen what Hollywood dishes out, he’s just pessimistic. B+

The Cinema of Ernst Lubitsch
Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, the Internet: You’ve Got Mail is so ’90s! Except it’s actually a remake of 1940’s The Shop Around the Corner, one of the choicest confections of director Ernst Lubitsch. Virginia librarian Scott Breivold pays art-deco homage to his idol with a bio-, filmo-, and bibliography, and much more. And the secret of the filmmaker’s genius? ”At least twice a day,” said Lubitsch, ”the most dignified human being is ridiculous.” A-

Screaming in the Celluloid Jungle
Attention, would-be scribes: screenwriter/webmaster Kelley Miles keeps detailed files on current film production deals, lists writers’ agents with their contact numbers, and passes along news of grants, fellowships, and forums. Nonscreenwriters, of course, can peek in for an early glimpse of future multiplex fodder. Talk about previews…. A-

The Trailer Park
I had high hopes here: Trailers are the most exciting part of going to the movie, right? But while Boston site master Scott Deering offers video promos new, old, and foreign, many links are now obsolete. A reel disappointment. B-

Info-packed movie websites are as plentiful as explosions in a summer blockbuster; what’s rare about Movieweb is its sensible organization. Run by Millennium Communications in Santa Monica, this site organizes films alphabetically and by year of release (going back to 1995); each entry flows naturally from plot synopsis to cast credits to film stills to external links. Handiest of all, at the bottom of each film’s page is a link to online ticket seller MovieLink — just in case you feel like going out to catch a showing. A

Caren Weiner Campbell

Not only can you read previews of the coming weeks’ shows at Oprah’s feel-good site but you can also nab Hollywood recipes like Robert Duvall’s Mother’s Crab Cakes, build your self-esteem, manage your money, and even find that special life partner with the aid of Oprah’s army of self-help experts. From the ”Thought for Today” (”Solitude is not loneliness” — Web addicts will find that one comforting) to the Book Club reading questions, it’s like getting a nice cyberhug from the woman herself. B+

Angela’s Classic TV Trivia
San Jose-based EMT and TV addict Angela Alcantara challenges you to try your luck at a dozen head scratchers about Nick at Nite staples like Laverne and Shirley. The questions are updated about every two months, and range from the duh-worthy (”Lucy did a commercial spot for what product that got her intoxicated?”) to the if-you-know-this-you-need-a-life caliber (”What was the name of Shirley’s brother that was in the Navy?”). B-

Teletubbies on PBS
Like the show, it’s doubtful this site will hold the interest of the toilet-trained crowd, but fans looking for toddler-level entertainment can try their hand at animated games like ”Animal Parade,” learn about the creatures themselves (”Po spends a lot of time on her own” — ooh, maybe she’ll go solo like Ginger Spice), and watch e-n-d-l-e-s-s RealVideo segments from Tubbies episodes of kiddies ice-skating, blowing bubbles, etc. The only bummer — no video of those roly-poly cutie-pies in action. Eh-oh! B

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The official site offers a bloodbath of trivia for thirsty fans, including an A-to-Z encyclopedia of every monster and baddie Buffy has battled (from the seductive Internet demon Moloch to Ampatta the Incan mummy girl), and ”The Mortuary,” an up-to-the-minute, three-season episode guide featuring RealVideo trailers. Bands who want a big break at the Bronze can even get information on submitting demo tapes. Not as much fun as the show, but it certainly doesn’t suck. A-

Audiences Unlimited
Do you dream of hearing your off-camera guffaw on Home Improvement? This site from the Universal City-based company will provide tickets to practically every sitcom in production. Fill out the order form, print out the tickets, and call to activate the order. The downside is you can’t change the channel if the show stinks. A

Kristen Baldwin

First Lines
The ghosts of high school English teachers past lurk in this pop-quiz site that Cornell University educators John Dobbins and Mary Ochs have devoted to the first lines of classic tomes. Some of the goofier groupings: ”Periods Are for Sissies,” which features breathlessly rambling, run-on openers (go, William Faulkner!); and ”Cheer Up!” which admonishes, ”Things could be worse…” and offers gory stomach turners penned by the likes of Joyce Carol Oates. A-

The T. S. Prufrock Page
It may be a USC undergraduate English lit project, but it’s anything but an academic yawner. ”Anyone wishing to engage in esoteric, highbrow ‘literary speak’ should…soak their head,” chastises creator Amy Lozano. ”Eliot may have been elitist, but I am most certainly not.” Let us go then, you and I, to this clear, conversational primer that may be a bit shallow for die-hard Eliot freaks, but does offer gossipy snippets, classic T.S.E. quotes (”Bad poets borrow, good poets steal”), and, most importantly, an annotated version of Eliot’s masterwork ”The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” B+

Vintage Books Reading-Group Guides
A remarkably useful tool for bibliophiles, providing reading lists, discussion questions, even tips on how to form and lead a book club. It’s also a virtual crib sheet for slackers who haven’t had a chance to actually read an assigned tome, with helpful plot summaries of books like Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, as well as reviews and author Q&A’s to keep conversation flowing. One caveat: The site features only Random House/Vintage titles, so if you want to check out the latest Stephen King, you’re out of luck. A-

The Romance Reader
Love is always in the air at this swoonfest of a site from publisher-editor D.N. Anderson of Denver. You’ll find poetry (sample line: ”Their names are as strong and as tough and as broad/As the chiseled-in clefts in their chins”), real-life reader love stories, and fave romance flicks (Casablanca we understand, but Kindergarten Cop?). With loopy, scarlet graphics heavy on the hearts and flowers, as well as helpful sensuality ratings (from ”nondescriptive sex” to ”hot, hot, hot!”), the site is as lovely as it is entertaining. A-

Can’t decide if the new Anne Rice is all it’s cracked up to be? This New York-based site from Cahners Business Information not only has a multitude of review links (to everywhere from Publishers Weekly to the Hungry Mind Review) but also includes the latest industry gossip and an ”Authors on the Highway” section so you can find out if ol’ Annie is flapping her bat wings out your way. Everyone from struggling writers to book-industry junkies should be properly sated here. There’s even a ”Soapbox” section that dispenses advice on how to get published…conveniently located near a link to a literary-agent group. A

Clarissa Cruz

Really Useful
Dear Abby
Did your family holiday turn from ho-ho-ho into uh-oh? Surf over to the digitized Dear Abby archive, organized by topic (teenagers, snoring, fooling around) and entertainment value (sad stories, funny stories), with some sections woven together into a sensible, amusing narrative. You can even write an e-mail to Abby — or visit the public message boards to take a crack at doing her job. A-

Pets Welcome
Connecticut-based webmasters Chris Kingsley and Fred Grayson qualify as man’s best friend’s best friends with a searchable list of pet-friendly lodgings in the U.S. and Canada, maps to each motel, and city-by-city vet listings — plus tips on managing your furry friend during the journey itself. B+

Essential Links Tax Page
Tax time — as inevitable as death and arguably as painful — is closer than you think. Fortunately, this site’s links help ease the annual agony via law archives, accountants’ tax tips, downloadable forms, discussion groups for venting your frustration — even a home page for the doomed but dogged flat-tax movement. Totally stymied? Click over to the authoritative IRS FAQ. Just don’t ask them how to get out of an audit. A-

Sure, you spent a lot on gifts last month, but did you get your money’s worth? Next year, consider sliding down the cyberchimney into this consumer site that features data on items from washing machines to running shoes, offers low-, medium-, and high-priced ”staff picks,” and lets you assess competing models via comparative charts. It’s not always clear, though, which recommendations come from staff and which come from advertisers. B

Urban Legends Reference Page
Tired of chain e-mail about AIDS-infected needles in pay-phone slots? Relax. Barbara and David Mikkelson of the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society tirelessly exert themselves to debunk (and, occasionally, bunk) stories such as ”John Denver was a U.S. army sniper in Vietnam” (false) and ”Sylvester Stallone once starred in a porn film” (true) — then write up their findings in graceful, witty prose light-years ahead of most online oratory. A+

Caren Weiner Campbell

John’s Word Search Puzzles
Heading on a long car trip? John Potter of Houston uses his family’s website to share four new word puzzles a month. You can choose themes from fishing to knitting, or go directly to kids’ word searches about Leonardo DiCaprio or the Boxcar Children. What this site proves is that when it comes to surfing the Net for family entertainment, seek and ye shall find. B+

Craft Exchange
Turn to this archive from Ohio-based crafts company Aunt Annie’s for great make-it-yourself ideas. All those crayons the kids have broken out of boredom? Recycle them into cool shapes with cookie cutters or transform them into ”stained glass.” Because most were submitted by parents like you, the directions are easy to follow. Best of all, they work! B+

StageHand Puppets
Here’s a site that comes with no strings attached. Sponsored by a Canadian manufacturer, this site lets kids publish their own puppet plays, download origami and paper animal patterns, or make original puppets using old socks, gloves, paper bags, and wooden spoons. If they’re not happy with their creations, you can always order a puppet from the company’s extensive collection. B

Whether it’s Horton you favor or the cat in the hat
Or Sylvester McBean, you’ll find all of that
At this whimsical fan site that’s licensed by Seuss
With a Shockwave game, crosswords, fun facts, and news
You can cook up a storm — yes, green eggs and ham!
Or unscramble a puzzle — it’s, oh, Sam-I-Am!
Oh, the places you’ll go, but don’t be a Grinch
Meeting the Lorax can now be a cinch
But be warned, plain belly Sneetches, from near and from far
Please note that everyone here is a star. A

Girl Tech
Forget Baby, Scary, Sporty, and Posh — the real girl power is here. Designed by feminist software designer Janese Swanson as a sleek but safe online haven for teens and preteens, this smart site is chockful of girl stuff, and we don’t mean lace and frills. Girls can read about women making headlines in sports and science, create their own inventions, and translate their words into a foreign language. In ”Chick Chat,” the site’s popular bulletin board, girls can write ”Dear Antie Em” for advice from an objective adult or read the fictional DD’s diary and be comforted by the assurance that their problems are universal ones. There’s plenty of info for parents, too, about the social and intellectual development of girls, and even space for boys to get in a word or two. For wannabe gal sites, this is the role model. A+

Lois Alter Mark

Lyle Lovett
As expansive as expected for a site devoted to a country-rock singer-songwriter/actor, this Web stop from Utah-based creator Tim Hinkle packs in the links: to the Internet Movie Database (for a Lyle filmography), CDnow (for your shopping pleasure), even the Canadian Biker site (for more on the long tall Texan’s motorcycling passion). You can also listen to song snatches from across the singer’s career, look up Lovett lyrics, and score insider’s tips like finding the hidden track 13 on The Road to Ensenada. Now, if we can only get some solid advice on hair elevation…. A-

Imagine Radio
Your shot at a Hanson-free zone, Imagine lets you play DJ at your own Internet radio station as you select the music styles you want to hear — lots of jazz, less country, or vice versa. Narrow the field further by sifting through scores of artists for each style and assigning them playtime from never to nearly nonstop. If you’re tired of calling the shots, the 24 stations programmed by music directors let you hone in on ”hippie rock,” ”head banging rock,” or ”adult-oriented rock.” Another bonus: Imagine Radio, based in Brisbane, Calif., makes setting up shop simple. Download a RealPlayer or Windows Media Player (a troubleshooting guide will help), and you’re in business as easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3. A-

So you want to be a big-leaguer on the lounge scene, baby? Atlanta aerospace engineer-cum-hepcat Paul McKay knows it’s as much about style as it is about music. For starters, swill a swell cocktail like a Brandy Alexander or Blue Hawaiian — he’s got the recipes — and learn to move with complimentary diagrams of the mambo, rhumba, and cha-cha-cha. Word of warning: Swank-O-Rama is as slick as a Formica finish, but with a notable lack of sound clips, it’s no permanent stop. The beauty is its hip-making links. Drop by Tony Bennett’s and Combustible Edison’s official sites to keep on beat, then over to Fashion Net to dress sweet and sharp. Savvy? B

Origins of Band Names
If you think Gin Blossoms are pretty little posies, Veruca Salt is designer seasoning, or Toad the Wet Sprocket are fighting words, this site’s for you. The guys behind the raunchy Heathen World unravel the mysteries of more than 500 band names, and it can get ugly. But if you can grimace through the more, er, explicit explanations (10cc? you don’t want to know), you’ll find a lot of great, if unverified, stories. Some stereotypes are broken: Dude rockers Tesla are revealed to be fans of scientist Nikola Tesla, who brought us fluorescent lights. Then again, other stereotypes are reinforced: Air Supply came into being ”for no particular reason.” B+

All-Music Guide
What do you get when you pick the brains of 200-plus music writers? One serious know-it-all of a site. All-Music, part of the larger All-Media Guide (they do movies, too) revels in the minutiae of 1,400 music styles. Trace the roots of East Coast rap, then explore the subtle nuances of psychobilly — or plug in a group’s name and ye shall receive: a bio, discography, and links to similar artists (if you like Phish, you’ll love The Hatters!). The best part though, is the ratings. Picture a group of jazz experts coming to consensual rankings for more than 150 of Ella Fitzgerald’s albums. All of which makes All-Music the most unique of creatures: a database with attitude. A

Gillian Flynn

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