From the encyclopedic Internet Movie Database to the smart niche reporting of Indiewire, the Net can be an endless resource (or distraction) for the movie-obsessed. And the options keep multiplying with ever more outlets for film facts, film journalism, and even film distribution.
IFILM.NET (www.ifilm.net): Launched last month, this San Franciscobased "film distribution channel" currently has more than 100 short films available for free viewing. Though highly promising in theory, iFilm which requires Real Player G2 is only really as good as your Internet connection. Even so, iFilm founder Rodger Raderman claims that advocates see "some aesthetic value" in the choppy, blurred images (alluding to the first Lumière films, no less) and that Web viewing, for some, counts as a uniquely "active" experience that can be "a really cool way to see a film." (A more realistic assessment: squinting at a matchbox-sized screen is an activity sustainable for no more than five minutes at a time, and many of the longer films can border on incoherence.) Unlike thebitscreen.com, which showcases shorts that are specifically created for the Internet (and often designed with the relevant shortcomings in mind, though not neces- sarily more watchable for that), iFilm features anything from festival entries to student films. Stressing the democratizing aspects of the Net and new digital filmmaking technologies, Raderman says that the site will put up any submission that is "discernibly a film" "as long as it's not pornography."
IF MAGAZINE (ifmagazine.ifctv.com): Essentially an online movie magazine (no video, just text and photos), this joint venture between the Independent Film Channel and new-media company Centropolis Interactive debuted last weekend, with an editorial bizarrely titled "It's the exclamation, not the question mark that counts!" In correspondingly dizzy mode, the rest of the site offers "Reviews!" (mostly written, without bylines, in waffling, college- paper style), "Business!" (a weekly indie top 10), and "Columns!" (including a "humor piece" about Jennifer Lopez's posterior). IF suffers from the same identity crisis that afflicts most indie-film enterprises today the aforementioned editorial engages in much hand-wringing about the impossibility of defining "independent film" in this incestuous mediascape, and comes to the conclusion that it probably doesn't matter. IF is certainly film-geek-friendly enough, but, like so much on the Net, it's also proof positive that enthusiasm can get you only so far.
DOCUMENT (documentmag.com): The brainchild of new media agency Reset, the two-month-old Document capitalizes on the high profile of Sundance documentaries like Sex: The Annabel Chong Story and Home Page. But the site's main strength is its willingness to stretch and explore the boundaries of nonfiction film. Besides full-length films (excerpts are accompanied by director interviews), Document also features submitted "reality footage" (odd and oddly compelling in most cases) and "Witness" videos (filmed by human rights activists with cameras provided by Peter Gabriel's organization of the same name). Stylish, easy to negotiate, and relatively unhampered by glitches (the QuickTime images are higher-quality than RealPlayer), Document is the best sort of fan site serious and intelligent without ever veering into esoterica.
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