The Lemon Award for Oscar Databases

(See Péter’s Picks and Pans in Online January/February, 2004)


There are many movie directories on the Web, including the two best in the overall movie category: the Internet Movie Database, and the All-Movie Guide. There are decent, good and excellent  ones specializing to Oscar Winners and Nominees, such as the Official Academy Awards Database, the Greatest Films trivia collection of Tim Dirks, or the no-frills  but well implemented  Movie-STAR database showcasing the Cuadra STAR software using the content  licensed from CineBook.

And then there is the TV Guide Award Finder database specializing in Oscars (to complement the fairly comprehensive  and TV Guide Movie Database). The Award Finder database was created from a subset of the very same CineBook content mentioned above, but it showcases junk programming, total disinterest, incompetence,  and ignorance about the subject by people who may have watched Trainspotting one time too many. It also showcases  a lack of minimal quality control by someone who should have minded the shop for this project, and who knows that the name Barrymore is not restricted to one with Drew as a first name.

The TV-Guide Web-site itself is a good one, including the Reviews Database and the complete Movie Database. It is the Award Finder sub-domain which is an embarrassment for TV Guide, rather than the “ultimate Oscars database” as it was touted . After I finished my review without getting answer to my not so gentle e-mail about the glaring mistakes, the database was removed from the site. I decided to keep the review, however, as a reminder, that the reputation of the host does not guarantee that you get high quality information.


You see ominous signs right at the first Oscar (in 1929) for Best Actress given for movies released in 1927 and 1928. You may believe that Janet Gaynor won two Oscars (as her name appears in boldface twice), but she won one for her role in 7th Heaven.

You may also believe that she shared the 1928 award with Louise Dresser. She did not, and Louise Dressler never won an Oscar, although she was nominated for one in A Ship Comes In – a year before. Norma Shearer neither shared her 1929/1930 award with Marie Dressler, who won the 1930/1931 Award, and Helen Hayes won the 1931/1932 award – but apparently the programmers could not handle these split year awards.

That’s why you don’t see any award winner for 1932. Hepburn won the 1932/1933 Oscar. Finally, the programmers got right the 1934 award as it was the first time when the Oscar was not split among years. Unfortunately, they still managed to mess up the list, by skipping the 1935 award, which was won by Bette Davis, and made her to share the 1936 award with Luise Rainer, which would have not made either of the ladies happy. There are other errors in this category, but let’s leave the missus, and move to the Best Picture Awards category.



There are other errors in this category, but let’s leave the missus, and move to the Best Picture Awards where the programmers managed to miss the first four awards won by the movies Wings, Sunrise, Broadway Melody, and All Quiet on the Western Front, respectively. They got right the awards for the next few years, but somehow could mess up the list again, making Ms. Miniver and Casablanca share the 1942 award, and leaving 1943 without an award. Well, Casablanca won the 1943 award as it was released in Los Angeles (a prerequisite for nomination) early that year, to coincide with real events in Casablanca – the meeting of Eisenhower, Churchill, and De Gaulle (Stalin was invited but declined to come).  


When the programmers had to handle more complicated categories, such as the split of the best Cinematography into black and white versus color between 1939 and 1966, then going back to a single category (because films were in color – although with some notable exceptions, such as the totally Oscar-less  masterpiece, Manhattan), the result list becomes an absolute mess. and nominees and winners show up in wrong categories, and incompletely such as the ones below under the Best Cinematography category for some of the movies of some of the years, in this case for 1940, 1943, 1957 and 1964. When it comes to the various musical score categories (which indeed changed capriciously throughout the years) even intelligent and careful people would  have a hard time, and of course the Award Finder database becomes a total wreck. 


Quite tellingly, the brain-damaged handling of winners and nominees persist even in the simplest categories, such as one for the Best Foreign Language Film Awards. La Strada is listed as the 1954 winner, but in this category the 1956 award was the first, indeed won by Fellini’s movie. Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly won the 1961 Oscar, and Sundays and Cyberle the one in 1962, so it did not share the award with Fellini’s 8½.


Again, the sloppiness pops up in later years. The list suggests that there were only two nominations in this category for 1989 and no winner. Actually, Cinema Paradiso won the 1989 award, not the 1990 award, which in turn was won by Journey of Hope. Mediterraneo win the 1991 award; it did not share the 1992 award with Indochine. For a change the next year award is correct, but 1994 is left without an award and listing three nominated movies which were nominees, indeed but  for 1991, 1992, and 1993. Of course the nominations for those years and 1995 are also wrong. Split years may have been a meek excuse for such a mess up, but with Foreign Language Films this has never been an issue, so the programmers must have been smoking something to produce such a mess.


If this were not enough, the brave programmers created their own category, naming it The Best Language Foreign Film which would not pass the DUI test, and hid the winning movie of Almodóvar, All About My Mother, under their special category, leaving the nominees under the official category. Frankly, I was thinking about the programmers' mothers, and how they may feel to have such mother saddeners (which is a translation from my mother tongue which may not be the best language but is perhaps appropriate for this category of persons).


In an era where so many talented and responsible programmers  are unemployed, I wonder how TV Guide could find and hire people for this project with such an astonishingly low quality

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