Net Gains: What's Harry's game?

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's hard to believe that one internet film site has Hollywood's moguls quaking in their boots. With insider gossip and the secret results of preview screenings, its author can now make or break a movie

I spent years thinking that "postmodern" just meant anything that came after The Beatles. Now I find it means that, these days, you don't have to bother remembering anything you've read, seen or heard for more than about a week. Everything's ephemeral, forgettable, and there's always something bigger and better just around the corner. It's all a bit like the Internet, in fact. But it's even more like Hollywood movies.

Looking around movie sites is a bit like standing on Sunset Boulevard watching Hollywood legends drive past. (It does happen; I know someone who was almost knocked down by Arnold Schwarzenegger on a bike there a few weeks ago.) The point is, there's always a flashier one along in a minute.

You've probably already heard of the Ain't it Cool News web page. Some time ago, a twenty-something from Austin, Texas called Harry Knowles set up a site where he posted gossip about the buzz on yet-to-be-released Hollywood movies. Spies in the industry started sending him gossip and opinions based on previews. Films are now succeeding or failing on the strength of his verdict rather than the expensive studio publicity campaigns. Its early dire warnings were part of the reason that Batman and Robin bombed at the box-office. Some even think it's in danger of subverting the entire Hollywood system. It has also aroused resentment among film- makers, who feel that the point of previews is to give them a chance to tweak their films without having reviews circulated all over the globe. The site itself has, perhaps, less relevance in Britain where films have effectively been previewed by most of the western world by the time we see them - but there is an archive.

Ain't It Cool News is patchily designed, and I suppose you might feel, as I do, that the magic of going to the films is rather ruined if you've been reading the various script drafts and following the film through the minefield of its production. By the end, you're in danger of feeling that you actually worked on the thing.

At the other end of the scale is Mr Showbiz, a glossy on-line Hollywood magazine which is worth a look, if only because plenty of journalists glean their information from here. It's not quite that you can read this site and abandon reading newspapers, but it is far more in touch with the showbiz zeitgeist than newspapers over here. It's extremely professional and detailed, but it lacks any of the peek-behind-the-scenes feel that epitomises Ain't it Cool News.

Finally, a website which, to some extent, falls between the two, is Hollywood. It has more of a for-the-people by-the-people feel about it, giving ordinary cinema-goers a chance to write up their own reviews.

And just remember, even if you don't find anything worth reading, it doesn't particularly matter, because it's perfectly legitimate to have forgotten about it by next week. Now, what was I talking about again...?

The site that's brought Hollywood to its knees

Glossy Hollywood magazine. Excellent for news.

An eclectic and chaotic mix of reviews, interviews and news.