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Direct hits

Moviemakers are finally getting into the Internet act, thanks to glossy official sites and devoted fan shrines.

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Just because Yahoo!’s director’s category lists 21 websites devoted to Quentin Tarantino and only two for Jean-Luc Godard doesn’t mean that great directors are underappreciated online.

The trouble is, making an official site dedicated to, say, Alfred Hitchcock requires the near-impossible feat of getting Paramount, MGM, and Universal to pour their resources into one project. And building an unofficial site means rounding up copyrighted photos, film clips, and articles, thereby risking the wrath of the studios’ legal departments. Still, plenty of auteurs are skillfully represented on the Net, and now that summer blockbusters are turning into fall’s Oscar bait, it’s a good time to honor the director’s vision online.

Best official site

After years of movie-promo websites concocted solely by the marketing department, studios have finally started working more closely with filmmakers. For instance, Spike Jonze’s prankish style is all over USA Films’ site for Being John Malkovich (being johnmalkovich.com). And a few studio-backed director showcases are already online: Warner Bros. has created no-frills sites for Deep Blue Sea‘s Renny Harlin (www.renny harlin.com) and Three Kings‘ David O. Russell (www.david orussell.com), the latter of which features some candid making-of-the-movie video interviews.

And USA Films is in talks with the Net-based indie-film network iFilm (www.ifilm.net) to highlight Mike Leigh and the Coen brothers. But it’s surprising that so few directors — a notoriously control-hungry bunch — have devoted creative resources to building their own websites the way Kevin Smith has at View Askew (www.viewaskew.com). As he did with earlier films, Smith supplies Dogma watchers with trailers, behind-the-scenes photos, original artwork, and a regularly updated diary. But the director has really sent the fans into heavenly orbit by holding chats with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and the rest of the cast during rehearsals; inviting his bulletin board participants to be extras; and playing out the entire flap over the movie’s religious themes on the site — he even posts a hate letter sent in by a former Disney stockholder. View Askew is an aficionado’s dream, and it’s no surprise: Smith hired the creator of a fan site to run the show.

Martin Scorsese devotees get a less expansive but more sophisticated treat at the American Film Institute’s Tribute to Martin Scorsese (www.afionline. org/Scorsese). Created in tandem with his 1997 Lifetime Achievement award from AFI, this beautifully designed, still-topical time line is the closest many people will ever get to viewing the director’s NYU student shorts — so it’s too bad that the clips are minuscule.

The deconstructed scenes from Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, which cut together bits of script and storyboard with the final shots, are also abbreviated, but still make their point. It’s the personal ephemera that makes this site sing, though: the sample of a documentary about the director’s family, Harvey Keitel’s resume from the early ’60s, and a handwritten scene sketch from New York, New York. The site doesn’t hide the forgettable moments from Scorsese’s career, either, like his 1977 musical play, The Act, or the music video for Michael Jackson’s ”Bad.”

Best fan sites

The tendency to craft incomplete sentences ending in exclamation points makes for too many dreadful tribute sites! Usually, though, it’s a lack of resources rather than talent that makes fan shrines so boring. That’s partly why Cal Anderson’s exhaustive Clint Eastwood site (www. clinteastwood.net) blows away every lame Dirty Harry fan page out there. Instead of 30-second teasers, the 22 video clips included here are several minutes long — plus there are audio cuts from Eastwood’s Cowboy Favorites LP, and a gold mine’s worth of photos.

The filmography includes plot summaries and such trivia as the back story behind the cameo that Eastwood mentor Don Siegel makes in Play Misty for Me. While some of the site’s best material is devoted to Clint’s acting career, there’s also information on his exploits as a restaurateur and mayor of Carmel, Calif., plus news about his upcoming film Space Cowboys. Anderson, 28, started the site in 1995 to hone his Web-developer skills; now it costs him a fistful of dollars to maintain. How did he get it past the legal eagles? “I’m sworn to secrecy on that one,” he says, but apparently Eastwood and his publicists like the site a lot.

For something a bit more wild at heart, try LynchNet (www.lynchnet.com). The film and television pages are replete with such multimedia goodies as photos from David Lynch’s early short films, the entire shooting script for Blue Velvet, and QuickTime clips of Twin Peaks as parodied on The Simpsons. You can read the script for Mulholland Drive, Lynch’s TV pilot that was stalled because of violent content, then lobby ABC to air it. And you’ll find on-the-set photos from Lynch’s new movie The Straight Story — along with a compendium of related news stories — only on LynchNet, not on the film’s official Disney site. Any trivia about the director that isn’t included in the faithfully copied newspaper and magazine articles is located somewhere else on 25-year-old Mike Dunn’s somewhat disorganized site — I uncovered repros of Lynch’s comic strip, The Angriest Dog in the World, and a trailer for the 1997 documentary about Lynch, Pretty as a Picture.

There are an epic number of director sites not included here — Stanley Kubrick: The Master Filmmaker (pages.prodigy.com/ kubrick) and Dreams: The Terry Gilliam Fanzine (www.smart.co.uk/ dreams) are two good sites that don’t quite have the multimedia muscle to make the final cut. And plenty of filmmakers languish without tributes as well (one glaring oversight: Francis Ford Coppola). Still, it’s nice to see some directors finally getting the respect they — ooh, is that a new Mena Suvari site?

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