The Dot.Com Cinema

By Sharrett, Christopher | USA TODAY, November 2000 | Go to article overview

The Dot.Com Cinema


Sharrett, Christopher, USA TODAY


ANYONE PERUSING MOVIE ADS would notice at the bottom, along with blurbs hawking paperback tie-ins and soundtrack albums, the picture's site on the World Wide Web, complete with a "keyword" to put you in touch with the monopolistic Internet "provider" to guide you. Dot.com Web pages are obligatory for every commodity from soda to jeans, and have a special role in selling the new film industry. The movie Web ads have a lot to say not only about the complexion of the current cinema, but also about the changing role of the Internet.

It seems fairly obvious that there isn't a great deal of talk these days about the Internet as "information superhighway" as the focus of cyberspace shifts very much to marketing. Movie Web pages tend to make the point. Most contain aptly named "Flash" graphics and hi-tech sound effects that grab the viewer in a style in keeping with the hysterical aesthetics of current movie editing and special effects. The sites feature all sorts of gimmicks that primarily draw the Web suffer to tie-in products and other commodities offered by the media corporation sponsoring the film. Sites also offer rather lackluster interviews with directors and actors that take forever to download and which appear in more complete form on the DVD or even VHS releases once the picture has completed its box office run. The interviews appear to be designed to give sites some degree of legitimacy, but that is quickly eroded by the sales pitch gimmickry. Some of these sites represent all too well the degraded nature of the commercial entertainment industry.

Take the website for "The Cell," the recent serial killer film that is one in a line of many "The Silence of the Lambs" knockoffs. The movie is directed by rock video and television commercial producer Tarsem Singh and, not surprisingly, is hyped for its high-fashion "look" that bowdlerizes many of the great modernist art movements from Expressionism to Dada to Surrealism, cheapening and regurgitating them with Vogue-style allure. "The Cell" also plays off what can only be termed "serial killer chic," making the sexual psychopath into a fascinating movie monster replacing Dracula and Frankenstein in postmodern popular cinema. The movie's website taps into all the above. As you open the site, you are greeted by ominous rumblings, an image of a screaming woman trapped behind glass, and a series of flashing, jumbled titles that are meant to be watched rather than read (a common feature of postmodern advertising typescript), as everything dissolves to the movie's main page and its bizarre images of bodies suspended from wires and distorted images of a tormented face.

From there, you have the choice of navigating through "Ego," "Superego," and "Id," each link taking you to a subdivision of the site. "Ego" is merely a marketing tool designed to sell the movie. "Superego" connects you to the filmmakers' interviews and production notes. The "Id" section links you to a group of files on serial killers Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and other psychopathic criminals, none of whom has any relevance to this film, but who now enjoy folkloric status thanks to popular culture. …

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