Binder, Hickenlooper challenging bloggers

The anonymity of the Internet has always been its strongest appeal. Men pose as women, the middle-aged feign youth and everybody’s a critic.

But a few film directors — ired by smoldering criticism posted in online forums — have lately tried every which way to “out” their detractors.

“Reign Over Me” helmer Mike Binder opened fire on Hollywood Elsewhere.com on March 21 after a poster with the handle “Scooterzz” likened his film to Lifetime cable fare. He dared Scooterzz to reveal his real name, and called him a “pudhead.”

But Binder isn’t the only contentious director on the film blog, which is overseen by pundit Jeffrey Wells. Last December, George Hickenlooper (“Factory Girl”) didn’t just froth when someone suggested that he had been replaced on the film. He offered a $1,500 reward to anyone who would provide him with the accuser’s identity. He, too, had a phallic-inspired profanity for the antagonist: “prick-face.” (In a later post, Hickenlooper wrote that he had been informed of the foe’s identity, and lamented, “I thought we were friends.”)

In both cases, the online community quickly took sides and fanned the flames. Wells did not intervene. “Mike Binder is a grown-up. He doesn’t need me to stick up for him and say, ‘Atta boy!’ ” he says.

Binder eventually backed down and conceded he was wrong to try and divine someone’s real name; Hickenlooper threatened a libel suit and then seemingly disappeared into the ethernet.

So it seems directors do, in fact, read their reviews. And given the chance to bite back, some would like an opportunity to personally defend their cinematic theses face to face.

Just don’t expect Internet posters to play along. After all, stripping Web revelers of their masks would certainly leaden the dialogue and make cyberspace just another safe, boring Hollywood party.

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