Film websites are becoming venues for heated political debates.
If you look closely at the billboard advertising any latest US blockbuster movie, you will often notice a web address hidden among the credits. Occasionally the film studios will tie their film into some other advertising and sales deal - so the official website may well be hosted by the Sun newspaper, for instance. However, with more controversial or political films the web can become more of a battleground.
Take Michael Moore. Recently he had box office success with Fahrenheit 9/11. The official film website has many things of interest - from sections entitled 'I've seen the movie - what do I do now?' to 'How you can help the soldiers'. This is a brilliant merging of mainstream film production and political activism.
Moore's personal website is even more enlightening, although here his political activism is geared, unsurprisingly, to getting US voters to register others and vote Bush out.
But a quick search for Michael Moore in Google will show something else up. His films have become in some senses the very sharp end of the debate about the Bush administration and the Iraq war. It's not surprising to see there are a number of other websites devoted to discrediting Moore and his films.
Websites with titles like 'Michael Moore Hates America' and 'Moore Lies' give you a taste of what's out there. Even one of Moore's earlier films, Bowling for Columbine, gets a hatchet job. It should be said that these websites aren't always the work of lone right wing nutters - they are often very well put together, well thought out and well funded. So it's good that Moore is prepared to put up a line by line defence of Fahrenheit 9/11 on his homepage.
Another chart-topping film documentary is Supersize Me. Its website is much more like that of a mainstream film - with downloadable games and opportunities to order the DVD in advance. There don't appear to be any critical websites for this film about the dangers of living on fast food. Perhaps that is because McDonald's isn't attempting the sort of point by point rebuttal some in the US are using on Michael Moore. Instead, it is limiting itself to a defensive press release, which you can read on its website if you can stand the close-up photographs of cheeseburgers. On the subject of McDonald's, there are a number of places on the web which scrutinise the fast food giant. One, McSpotlight says, 'McDonald's spends over $2 billion a year broadcasting [its] glossy image to the world. This is a small space for alternatives to be heard.'
It will be instructive to see if the increased availability of broadband changes the way people view films. Already several companies are offering downloadable films via the web, and the various file-sharing programs allow easy distribution and sharing of bootleg copies (often poor quality) of films.
In the meantime if you are a film buff, or just want to track down an obscure movie title, the 'Internet Movie Database' is one of the greatest resources for movie watchers with access to the web (where else can you find the full cast list of Battleship Potemkin?).