Hollywood on the Net
A directory of film sites on the Internet
(Adapted--and rarely updated--from "Entertainment on the Net," by Joe Williams, Que Publishing, 1995)
Table of contents
General indices and film link sites -- If you're just goofing off, these are some good places to start
Resources for student filmmakers and historians -- Film history sites and accredited film schools
The Academy Awards -- The whole world is watching
Film festivals -- A great big world of little, tiny films
Coming-attractions sites -- Flackery on the Net
Film review sites -- From Ebert to Joe Bob to yours truly
Genre film resources -- Some general horror/sci-fi/psychotronic link sites
Fan sites -- e.g., 007, Hitchcock, It's a Wonderful Life, Star Trek, Star Wars, Tarantino
Official movie sites--individual titles A-Z -- Amuse yourself at hundreds of online promotional sites
Greatest film site on the Net -- Our pick
General indices and film link sites
As with many of the larger subject areas on the Internet, it is helpful to have a good link site or general resource from which to begin your search for online information about the movies.
Spotlight site: The Internet Movie Database
This celebrated site, sometimes referred to as the Cardiff Movie Database (because it started in Cardiff, Wales), is one of the most useful and entertaining places on the Internet.
The Internet Movie Database started as the hypertext front-end of the rec.arts.movies UseNet group. It was built and maintained by Internet users as an interactive experiment in the free exchange of information. Even though it's now a big-money operation, users are welcome to update information, contribute reviews, or vote on the relative worth of the thousands of films that the site describes.
This is the best place to get complete information on new releases or old favorites. You can search the database by film title, individal actor or director, country of origin, or even by character name. (Q: In what film did Elvis Presley play "Lonnie Beale"? A: Tickle Me.) The site also includes lists of such things as celebrity birthdays, famous marriages, notable movie quotes, and the best--and worst--100 movies of all time as voted by the Database users.
Other useful film indices
Resources for student filmmakers and historians
At this very moment, aspiring filmmakers are scouring the Internet for information. Unfortunately, the information they're after is background material for hackneyed scripts about online stalkers, cybersex, and government surveillance of e-mail. I'm telling you, there are no good movies to be made about computers. However, computers can be used to access information about making good movies with people in them.
Film history sites
College and university film programs
We attended the University of Southern California, which is famous for a film program that lands its alumni in lucrative jobs with the major studios. But if you want to make films instead of million-dollar deals, there are dozens of schools that will teach you the basics of sound and image. Heck, you can even teach yourself. But whatever route you take, there is no substitute for diligence. Steven Spielberg was one of those kids who made 8mm films to amuse himself and his family. You might be full of great ideas, but you'll never get anywhere if you don't actually pick up a camera and do the hard work. Here's some places that will make you pay for the privilege:
The Academy Awards
When it's Oscar Night in Los Angeles, everybody in town understands that they're at the center of the universe, and even the bums comport themselves with a little extra style. Limousines glide along Sunset Blvd. from dusk until dawn, and each of them is carrying somebody that you've seen on screen a hundred times.
Everybody in the world (except maybe the Academy) realizes that the Oscars have little to do with art. But this spectacular awards presentation continues to fascinate us and attracts tremendous television ratings worldwide because it's a celebration of what America does best--create sensational images populated by attractive people.
Spotlight site: Oscar.com (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
The home page for the governing body that awards the Oscars is a sober place (unlike the backstage area at the ceremony). This site deflects the emphasis away from the Oscar celebration and focuses on the larger mission of the Academy, including its fellowships and its educational and historical activities.
The AMPAS home page offer press releases throughout the year on the Academy's activities, such as the continual tinkering with the nominating procedure for Feature Length Documentary films. (This is intended to promote documentaries that actually play in commercial movie theaters and to prevent debacles like the snubbing of Hoop Dreams and Crumb.)
Other Oscar sites
Film festivals often function as a bridge between aspiring filmmakers and successful careers. The major studios scout for new talent at regional festivals, and many low-budget films that might otherwise get recycled for guitar picks are delivered to a receptive audience.
The biggies include the Cannes, Sundance, New York, Toronto, Berlin, and Telluride film festivals. But there are hundreds more, and chances are good that there's one near you.
Make no mistake: We think that film festivals are a great thing. But these days, it seems that any town that's big enough to rent a generator sponsors a film festival. So where are all these movies coming from?
Spotlight site: Cannes Film Festival
This elegant site offers a wealth of information about the Cannes Film Festival (as if we're actually going to go there), including a schedule and a description of all the films entered in the competition. Unless your cable company decides to allocate a channel for European art films, this might be your best opportunity to learn about, say, that heartwarming Yugoslavian soccer epic that all the critics are talking about.
Spotlight site: Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Institute was founded by Robert Redford in 1981 to promote independent American filmmakers. The Institute and the yearly film festival it sponsors have debuted such notable films as Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies and videotape.
During the festival, the host locale of Park City, Utah, becomes a kind of super-concentrated Hollywood, complete with million-dollar deals, celebrity sightings and back-stabbing betrayals.
The Sundance site describes the altruistic mission of the Institute and provides a guide to the film festival. For info about the extracurricular shenanigans, try sites like E! Online or Mr. Showbiz.
Other film-festivals sites
Coming-attractions and gossip sites
These days, Hollywood hype is an artform unto itself, and the Web is a critical part of the palette.
Let's say that Universal Pictures has done extensive market research and decided to begin production on a movie that we'll call Waterworld 2: The Deepening. The studio's publicity department sends a press release to the Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety, the Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Tonight. Then an intern on summer break from U.S.C. suggests that the studio send the same press release to a few of the online entertainment guides and he reminds the vice president of publicity that Universal itself has a promotional Web site that could use the information. The vice president of publicity pats the kid on the back, faxes the press releases, and makes a mental note to have the ambitious little schmuck bludgeoned to death.
Production begins on the movie at a secret location in the South China Sea. Photos from the set are transmitted periodically to magazines and newspapers around the world, along with a series of press releases that downplay the budget, now estimated at half a billion dollars.
Three years later, Waterworld 2 is 85 percent completed when suddenly the star of the movie fires the director so that the finished product will reflect his personal vision. While the star of the movie completes the shoot and begins the editing, leather-bound publicity packets are delivered to representatives of the major print, broadcast, and online news organizations during a press conference to announce that Universal is teaming up with Burger King to offer Waterworld 2 collectors' cups. The vice president of publicity proudly announces that "Everybody's taking about W2."
The movie is given an advance screening for the critics. They are unanimous in their response. Gene Shalit pronounces it "unbelievable." Roger Ebert declares, "If you liked the original, it is conceivable that you may want to see the sequel."
On the Monday after the gala premiere, the vice president of publicity checks the box-office figures on his personal computer and makes another mental note before calling his attorney.
Two weeks later, the new vice president of publicity prepares an announcement about special pricing for the home-video release of the film.
A grade-school kid in Montana finds a copy of the movie in the used-videos bin at a Safeway store in Missoula and launches an Internet campaign to have the star of the movie nominated for an Academy Award. The Web page from the kid in Missoula gets a tongue-in-cheek mention in Wired magazine, and suddenly the notion of an Oscar nomination gathers critical mass. In the spirit of goodwill, members of the Academy give the star of the movie a Best Actor nomination. Three weeks later at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the smiling superstar emerges from his limousine to thunderous applause as Leeza Gibbons announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, the star of Waterworld 2 and a nominee tonight for Best Actor, Mr. Macauley Culkin!"
At a party hosted by Sassy magazine immediately after the award ceremony, a brave but teary-eyed Culkin announces that although he's still a little shaken up from the humbling experience of the evening, he has just agreed to star in Waterworld 3: The Musical.
Some of the online coming-attraction and gossip sites are almost auxiliary divisions of the studio publicity apparatus, while others have a more informational and objective attitude toward the hoopla.
Spotlight site: MovieWeb
MovieWeb will never be confused with hard-hitting journalism, but as a de facto promotional tool for mainstream Hollywood releases, it is attractive, entertaining, and not too loaded with bull.
MovieWeb offers Quicktime video trailers, still photos, and production notes for most of the new releses from the major American movie studios and distributors. (It also offers the most recent box-office sales figures and a list of the Top 50 highest grossing movies of all time.) There is no troublesome mention of quality here. You'll just have to buy a ticket and decide for yourself if a movie is any good.
Spotlight site: Moviefone
You've seen the commercials and read the reviews. Now nothing on earth can stop you from seeing that new film where Liza Minnelli and Pee Wee Herman are a pair of bickering ambulance drivers by day and a ballroom dance team by night. But is Break a Leg only showing in the sophisticated big cities? To help you solidify your entertainment timetable, the Internet has several sites that let you check movie schedules for towns across America. Moviefone is the one with the most money behind it.
This movie-schedule and ticket-ordering service is operated by the same people as the 777-FILM phone service. It provides movie-schedule information for most big American cities.
After you select a city, you learn that the site also features thumbnail movie descriptions, a parents' movie guide, downloadable multimedia and other cross-promotional folderol.Other coming-attractions and gossip sites
Film review sites
As soon as a movie is completed, it is offered to the pundits for constructive criticism. When the critics like a movie, their words are plastered all over the newspaper ads. When they don't, the studios complain that critics are irresponsible elitists who are out of touch with the general public and ought to be banned from the theaters if they're not willing to fork over $7.50 like everyone else. This love-hate relationship is really quite funny, actually (although you wouldn't know it from that unremarkable cartoon show, The Critic). Today, the Internet allows everyone with a computer and a phone line an equal opportunity to slag the hard work and high hopes of people who are more talented than themselves (such as the nice folks who made that ambitious cartoon show The Critic). The Internet is filled with movie-review sites that range from highbrow analysis to illiterate screed.
Spotlight site: Movie Review Query Engine
The Movie Review Query Engine lets you enter a movie title and receive a hyperlinked listing of reviews that from online sources and from prominent magazines and newspapers, including the prestigious St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Spotlight site: The Movie Mom
Nell Minow (love the name), an author, movie critic, and mother, offers this service for parents who are concerned about the degenerate filth that masquerades as entertainment today. The good news is that she is able to find a fair number of movies that she can recommend (the occasional "damn" notwithstanding). The bad news is that the genie of moral decay is so hard to put back in the bottle.
Other film review sites
Genre film resources
The term "genre film" refers to science fiction, horror, martial-arts, and just about any other style outside of mainstream Hollywood "realism." Sometimes a mainstream movie that languishes in obscurity until it is rediscovered by critics or a later generation is considered a cult movie as well. (Consider the Jerry Lewis oeuvre, for example.)
Genre movies are rarely concerned with "art"--and yet they are often the most artfully resonant movies of all, because, like opera or puppetry, they rely on timeless motifs that are recognized across cultural divisions.
Spotlight site: The Left-Wing Film Guide
This helpful site provides thumbnail synopses for dozens of films that might come in handy if you're trying to rally the troops for various subversive causes. The films are indexed by their suitability to a given theme--the labor movement, women's rights, enviromental issues, U.S. imperialism, and so on.
Spotlight site: The Prelinger Archive of Ephemeral Films
This site contains material describing the films of the Prelinger Archives, a collection of so-called "ephemeral" or social-instruction films that were made between the 1930s and the early '60s. These were short films that provided corporate goodwill, civic boosterism, and adolsecent attitude adjustment for a prosperous America that still had a stomach for such things. They were often shown in school assemblies and at club meetings. (Today these films are spliced into Letterman segments and Nick at Nite promos and are sometimes shown before the main attraction at art-house movie theaters.)
The Prelinger Archive includes such howlers as the immortal Dating Do's and Dont's and Shy Guy, starring Dick York (later of Bewitched and the star of over 150 instructional films, including How To Read a Book and The Last Date). The ephemeral films of the Prelinger Archive are available on a series of laserdiscs, videos, and CD-ROMs from the Voyager company. About 1,000 of the films can also be viewed or downloaded at the Internet Moving Images Archive.
Science fiction film directories
Some of the hit movies that become cultural icons or that have a lot of toys associated with them will have Web sites that are built and maintained by fans; but the life expectancy of individual movie sites such as the following is hard to predict. Here is just a sampling of how compulsive people can be about their favorite movies or directors.
James Bond fan sites
There may be more fan sites devoted to James Bond than to any other movie franchise. We'll say this much: We dug Sean Connery, but we have mixed feelings about Pierce Brosnan. For a good ten years, Brosnan lobbied for the part like a streetwalker. But he does shack up with a woman who came to a party at our house once, so we'll cut him some slack.
Alfred Hitchcock fan sites
If you don't dig Hitchcock, you don't understand movies.
It's a Wonderful Life fan sites
It's a Wonderful Life is the finest film that American cinema has produced. Contrary to the common misperception, it is not a sanitized vision of American life. This is a genuinely dark portrait of small-town despair, a grim fairy tale where the rich guy wields a reckless influence over the timid townsfolk, where drink is a necessary medicine, where the loving mom is one-step removed from a hateful crone, the sweetheart is one step removed from a sexless frump and the town itself is one step removed from Sodom. Of course, it's also a shameless tearjerker. But the dark and despairing subtext is what makes the sentiment believable.
Star Trek fan sites
Star Trek was a popular '60s sitcom about seven castaways who are stranded on a distant planet. It has spawned numerous film adaptations and countless Web sites.
Star Wars fan sites
George Lucas' money machine has spawned hundreds of Web sites, from fictional genealogies to anti-Jar Jar tirades. Here's a sampling:
Quentin Tarantino fan sites
Tarantino is the favorite director of young cineastes who haven't yet learned about his elders. Tarantino seem like a swell fella, and we'd love to invite him to cruise the L.A. underbelly in our '66 Fury, but the guy needs to make more movies. (Ditto for David Lynch. And "The Straight Story" doesn't count.)
Official movie sites--individual titles
The sites that the studios concoct to promote their movies online are often miniature movies unto themselves. They can be a lot of fun, particularly as examples of the latest technology--but they can also be resource hogs that require multimedia plug-ins and will cause you to curse your pokey modem. (Note: These sites often go dead after the movie leaves the theaters, so many of these links will be inoperative.)
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Individual titles (X-Z)
Greatest film site on the Net:
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