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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday NY Times: The Oscars Section

The Times runs its annual Oscars section today, a chance for studios to buy some more of those full-page ads reminding voters how deserving of statuettes 'King Kong' and `Cinderalla Man' are.

- Charles Solomon has a piece about how some of the best animated movies this year weren't computer-generated. He writes:

    The computer-generated entries of 2005 were disappointing to the animation experts who will be voting on the nominations this month. Blue Sky's "Robots" lacked the charm of "Ice Age"; many animators found Disney's "Chicken Little" dreary; even DreamWorks' "Madagascar," the biggest box-office success among last year's animations, failed to generate much excitement among artists. But the imagination, warmth and humor of "Corpse Bride," "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and "Howl's Moving Castle" proved that death notices for traditional forms of animation - stop-motion and hand-drawing - were a little premature: those arts remain alive and well.

- Columnist Daniel Akst observes that even in the Netflix era, our appetite for live performances endures. People spent more than $2.6 billion going to rock concerts last year, and:

    Broadway theaters report that 2005 was a banner year, with a gross of $825 million and nearly 12 million tickets sold. A record total of more than 116 million baseball fans attended major or minor league games last year, and an estimated 176 million people visited North America's 50 most popular amusement parks. We won't even get into the data on tourism, now the biggest industry in some of the world's leading cities.

    With hundreds of cable channels on television and a seemingly infinite number of choices on the Internet, it's easy to assume that theaters, concert halls and ballparks must be chronically empty. Instead, the opposite is true. Wherever you look, it seems, people want to see something in person.

    More and more, I suspect, what they will want is something they can't find at home. Although traditional moviegoing has proved resilient over the decades in the face of new technologies like television and the Internet, I doubt how well it can withstand the combined new forces of large-screen high-definition TV, accelerated broadband and at-home access - via DVD or download - to new films at the same time the pictures are released to theaters.

- Anne Eisenberg writes about people who love their portable media players.

    Partly because of the popularity of Apple's new video iPod, introduced in October, the sight of people staring at "Lost" or other shows on tiny screens as they ride the bus may become as commonplace as that of people talking on cellphones.

    Already, the iTunes Music Store sells a handful of television shows from ABC, NBC, the SciFi Channel and the USA Network, including "Lost," "Law & Order," "The Office" and "Saturday Night Live." Most of the shows, which have already been broadcast on television, cost $1.99 an episode.

    But rather than just buying the prepackaged versions, many people are transferring shows on their own from a video source, and then enjoying them not only on iPods but also on high-end cellphones, DVD players, personal digital assistants and other outlets. To do this, they digitally record the show by using a TiVo or similar device. Then the show typically travels over a home network to a desktop computer, where software converts the file and sends it to the gadget of choice.