Web Creates Wide World of Voices Covering Pop Culture

Article excerpt

Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com) is where you can see what Roger Ebert or Entertainment Weekly thinks about a movie -- right alongside the opinions of Web critics known as the Cranky Critic, Planet Sick-Boy and JoBlo's Movie Emporium.

It's a prime example of how the Web is democratizing the world, for good and bad.

"The Web does a wonderful job of removing the barriers to entry for lots of people," says David Carlson, director of the Interactive Media Lab at the University of Florida's College of Journalism.

"They used to say you had to buy ink by the barrel to make your opinion heard; now anyone who wants to be a critic is capable of being a critic or a publisher or a writer or artist, whatever they want to be."

For the mostly young critics on the Web, it comes naturally, said Dennis Dormady, an associate professor of computer information systems at Jacksonville University. "This generation's coming up with the Web there, just like I came up with television, my parents came up with radio. It's their information source."

To be sure, most movie critics on the Web are tiny voices heard only by the most obsessive fans.

But not all of them.

Consider Harry Knowles from Austin, Texas, whose Web site -- www.aintitcool.com -- became famous and notorious for its early and unauthorized reviews of movies before they opened, culled from a variety of undercover spies.

Adding to that was the colorful image of Knowles himself, an outsized movie buff who still lived with his parents. But almost any hero is due a fall: He's drawn flak for getting too popular and influential, especially after he appeared in the teen horror flick, The Faculty -- which he then gave a favorable review. …