- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

While moviegoers’ conversations are shushed in cinemas, the Internet abounds with the chatter of movie fans discussing, rating and dissecting their favorite films.

Flixster.com is a fast-growing social networking site built entirely around love for movies. A virtual water cooler for movie buffs, it has compiled more than 380 million movie ratings from users.

After forming a profile that can include clips from films, users generally rate movies and share recommendations with their friends. The milieu is plainly populist and young — it’s hard to imagine foreign-film devotees or old-school film-noir nuts spending much time on Flixster.

It’s also worth wondering if anyone needs a broad online community limited to movies — MySpace and Friendster both highlight users’ favorite films as one component to profiles.

Netflix, the subscription-by-mail movie-rental service, also gives fans the chance to rank movies and share their queues — the films they’ve scheduled for rental — with friends. At Netflix.com, you even can e-mail a “Movie Note” to a friend about a particular film.

The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) was one of the Internet’s first great sites, and it remains an essential tool for any movie fan. It recently underwent a redesign to increase the number of photos, but it largely kept its information-stuffed style.

Imdb.com likely became a daily reference for movie buffs long ago, but it also was one of the first sites to provide an aggregate of user ratings for movies.

The site predictably contains a list of the highest-rated films (“The Godfather” leads with a score of 9.1), but it also amusingly lists the “Bottom 100.” Last year’s little-seen “Crossover,” a story about a basketball player who uses his college scholarship to become a doctor, has the misfortune of ranking last at 1.3.

If you still want critics, not other movie fans, to guide your movie-watching, several sites compile the reviews of the nation’s tastemakers.

RottenTomatoes.com has long brought together critical reactions to movies and video games, though it sometimes makes questionable choices in classifying all reviews as either positive or negative. Surely there is a gray area in between.

Likewise, MetaCritic.com (whose slogan is “We deal with criticism”) is a useful site that averages critical response to movies, DVDs, CDs, games, books and TV shows. With a range from 0 to 100, scores are weighted to give certain critics more significance than others.

It’s far from a totally accurate system (many influential publications such as the New Yorker or the New York Times don’t give number values to their reviews), but it’s still a worthy compilation.

With such a plethora of recommendations, it’s no wonder the influence of the solo film critic has waned. A valued source can now be a nobody or a number.

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