By the time a new feature or data set is released for public consumption in Wolfram|Alpha, it has already been through a long process of analysis, curation, and design… but even after all of that, we still have our share of “D’oh!” moments at the eleventh hour.
Our latest forehead-smacker was pointed out to us just as we were about to announce the release of historical Academy Awards data. Fortunately, Wolfram|Alpha is flexible enough that we were able to implement a quick, partial fix before this year’s Oscars ceremony—but we also had to go back and do some more substantial work so this data is presented with absolute clarity.
So what was the problem? We had taken for granted the idea that when users typed in “2010 Academy Awards”, they’d expect to see people who won Oscars at this year’s ceremony… and then we just counted backward from there, to the first Oscars ceremony in 1929. But as it was pointed out, if you ask “who won the Oscar for best supporting actor in 2005”, you might want to know about films released in 2005, not films honored at the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony. So now when you ask for information about Oscars we assume you mean the year of the award ceremony, but for most years you can also click on a single link in the assumption pod to interpret your input as referring to year of film release instead.
We’ve also cleaned up the presentation of some quirks in Oscar history, including the unique case of the Academy Awards in 1930—when there were actually two ceremonies in a single year, one for films released in 1928–29, and one for films released in 1929–30:
For other early Academy Awards, we still assume that input refers to the year of the ceremony, but we’ve added a footnote that provides more details about releases date for the films honored in that year. And we’ve added a few other little features, like the ability to handle queries like “best actor at the 42nd Academy Awards”, or to ask about specific dates of Academy Awards ceremonies. More »
With the 2010 Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, we’re happy to announce that Wolfram|Alpha is now able to answer questions about every Oscar nomination and award since the first ceremony in 1929. You might be surprised by some of the things you see in the earliest lists: yes, acting awards were bestowed for multiple performances in a given year; the Academy made a distinction between movies that were merely “unique and artistic” and those that were truly “outstanding”; and like the current Golden Globes (we’ll tackle them soon), separate awards were given for dramatic and comedic films.
You can dive into this data in practically any way you want. Curious about a particular film? Try “Academy Award nominations for Forrest Gump“. Or maybe you’re curious about the past performance of a perennial front-row Oscar celebrity?
Ask about a specific award, like “best actor oscars“, and you’ll get a historical list of all winners for that category. But ask about “best actor in 2004“, and Wolfram|Alpha will serve up a detailed cross-section of data relevant to that award—the winner, other nominees, and other Oscar nominations and awards for both the winner and the film he appeared in. More »
We’ve blogged about Wolfram|Alpha’s name data before—but as we stroll into the 2010 movie-awards season here in the United States, we wanted to remind you about this particular tool and to point out a few interesting movie-related queries.
Marlon Brando’s breakthrough film role was 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, which was followed quickly by major roles in Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1952), The Wild One (1953), and On the Waterfront (1954), which brought him his first Academy Award. It’s hard to attribute the growing popularity of the name “Marlon” in the early 1950s to anything but his growing star power—the name just cracked the top 1000 U.S. names in 1950, but rose to #344 in 1955. His award-winning performance in 1972’s The Godfather prompted an ever bigger jump: “Marlon” became the 218th most popular name in the U.S. that year.
The name “Dustin” didn’t register among the top 1000 U.S. names at all until 1968—one year after Dustin Hoffman’s appearance in The Graduate—when it entered at #368. The name grew steadily in popularity through the early 1980s, hovering around #42 from 1981 through 1986. Film buffs may wonder whether the legendary box-office flop Ishtar (1987) had anything to do with the subsequent decline in the popularity of “Dustin”—even though Mr. Hoffman brought home an Academy Award for Rain Man in 1988.
Even science-fiction fans might be surprised by this one: in 1999, the year that The Matrix was released, the female name “Trinity” made a startling jump in the ranks to #209, from #525 the previous year; and even though that movie’s sequels (both released in 2003) were somewhat less well received, the name stayed popular—climbing all the way to #48 in 2004. More »