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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Springfield 25: The Top Simpsons Supporting Characters

One of the many things that makes The Simpsons great is the show’s mammoth cast of supporting characters. With The Simpsons Movie slated for release this Friday, Apropos of Something proudly presents the Springfield 25, counting down the top supporting characters in Simpsons history. Feel free to share your own choices (as well as any favorite episodes, quotes, or whatever) in the comments section. Enjoy!

25. Snake

Memorable Quote: “Yoink!”

Random Trivia: Robert “Snake” Jailbird was a professor of archaeology before turning to a life of crime.

Snake

24. Rich Texan

Memorable Quote: “Son, I represent a group of oil tycoons who make foolish purchases. We already bought us a stained glass bathrobe, and the world’s fattest racehorse! And now, we need your ice man.”

Random Trivia: The Rich Texan has an heiress daughter named Paris Texan.

Rich Texan

23. Mayor Quimby

Memorable Quote: “All right, settle down, people. We are all upset by Mr. Burns’ plan to block out our sun. It is time for decisive action! I have here a polite but firm letter to Mr. Burns’ underlings who, with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it.”

Random Trivia: The character of “Diamond” Joe Quimby is based in part on “Diamond” Jim Purcell, a corrupt police chief during the 1950s in Matt Groening’s hometown of Portland.

Mayor Quimby

22. Fat Tony

Memorable Quote: “I am not so much disappointed, as I am blinded with rage.”

Random Trivia: Fat Tony is a competent violinist, as seen in the episode “Insane Clown Poppy.”

Fat Tony

21. Waylon Smithers

Memorable Quote: “Uh, no, they’re saying ‘Boo-urns! Boo-urns!’”

Random Trivia: In Smithers’ first appearance (”Homer’s Odyssey”), he was accidentally made African-American by the animation studio. With tongues planted firmly in cheek, the producers insist that Smithers had just returned from a Caribbean vacation prior to the episode and should be considered “suntanned.”

Smithers

20. The Sea Captain

Memorable Quote: “Yarr, it begins. The dolphins are upon us and only this old sea dog knows how to stop — Yarr!” (two dolphins jump out of the water and rip him apart)

Random Trivia: The Sea Captain’s actual name is “Captain” Horatio McAllister. On separate occasions, he has admitted to not being an actual captain, as well as claiming to “hate the sea and everything in it.”

Sea Captain

19. Chief Wiggum

Memorable Quote: “This is Papa Bear. Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a…car of some sort, heading in the direction of, uh, you know, that place that sells chili. Suspect is hatless. Repeat, hatless.”

Random Trivia: Clancy Wiggum became Springfield’s Chief of Police when the former Chief got fed up with the job and decided to give his badge to the next person he met (i.e. Wiggum).

Chief Wiggum

18. Grampa Simpson

Memorable Quote: “Now, my story begins in nineteen-dickety-two. We had to say ‘dickety’ ’cause the Kaiser had stolen our word ‘twenty.’ I chased that rascal to get it back, but gave up after dickety-six miles…”

Random Trivia: In addition to being a member of the secretive Stonecutters, Grampa Simpson is also an Elk, a Mason, a Communist, and President of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

Grandpa

17. Disco Stu

Memorable Quote: “Disco Stu likes disco music.”

Random Trivia: Stu had a budding career as a sea captain (calling himself “Nautical Stu”) before Marge introduced him to disco music.

Disco Stu

16. Itchy & Scratchy

Memorable Quote: “They fight! And bite! They fight and bite and fight! Fight fight fight! Bite bite bite! The Itchy and Scratchy Show!

Random Trivia: In the Simpsons universe, Itchy and Scratchy first appeared together in a 1928 cartoon short titled “Steamboat Itchy.”

Itchy and Scratchy

15. Groundskeeper Willie

Memorable Quote: “There’s nary an animal alive that can outrun a greased Scotsman.”

Random Trivia: Willie’s archenemy is the Irish Groundskeeper Seamus.

Groundskeeper Willie

14. Lenny and Carl

Memorable Quote: “You know, I was hexed by a troll once and a leprechaun cured that right up.”
“Hey, you know what’s even better is Jesus. He’s like six leprechauns!”
“Yeah, but a lot harder to catch. Go with the leprechaun.”

Random Trivia: Both Lenny and Carl hold Masters of Physics degrees.

Lenny and Carl

13. Professor Frink

Memorable Quote: “Unshrink you? Well that would require some sort of a ‘re-bigulator,’ which is a concept so ridiculous it makes me want to laugh out loud and chortle…but, aaahh, but not at you, O holiest of Gods, with the wrathfulness and the vengeance and the bloodrain and the ‘Hey, hey, hey — it hurts me!’”

Random Trivia: Professor Frink is named after John Frink, a Simpsons writer and producer.

Frink

12. Nelson Muntz

Memorable Quote: “Shoplifting is a victimless crime. Like punching someone in the dark.”

Random Trivia: Nelson once attended Space Camp with classmate Martin Prince, and the two became close friends. Nelson had to abandon the friendship upon returning to school, however, in order to maintain his “bad boy” image.

Nelson

11. Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel

Memorable Quote: “Hey, you know what? I could call my ma while I’m up here. HEY, MA! Get off the dang roof!”

Random Trivia: A partial list of Cletus Del Roy Spuckler and Brandine’s children includes: Tiffany, Heather, Cody, Dylan, Dermot, Jordan, Taylor, Brittany, Wesley, Rumer, Scout, Cassidy, Zoe, Chloe, Max, Hunter, Kendall, Caitlin, Noah, Sasha, Morgan, Kyra, Ian, Lauren, Q-Bert, Phil, Condoleezza Marie, Rubella Scabies, Gummy Sue, Birthday, Crystal Meth, Dubya, Incest, International Harvester, Jitney, and Witney.

Cletus

10. Krusty the Clown

Memorable Quote: “Kids, we need to talk for a moment about Krusty Brand Chew Goo Gum-Like Substance. We all knew it contained spider eggs, but the hantavirus? That came out of left field. So, if you’re experiencing numbness and/or comas, send five dollars to: Antidote, P.O. Box…”

Random Trivia: Krusty once hosted the Krusty Komedy Klassic (KKK) at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Needless to say, the show wasn’t a success.

Krusty

9. Moe Szyslak

Memorable Quote: “Well, why don’t you invite him over to dinner? Turn him from an enemy into a friend. Then, when he’s not expecting it… Bam! The ol’ fork-in-the-eye!”

Random Trivia: Before becoming a bartender Moe played “Smelly” on The Little Rascals, as well as pursuing a professional boxing career — initially under the name “Kid Gorgeous,” followed by “Kid Presentable,” “Kid Gruesome,” and eventually “Kid Moe.”

Moe

8. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

Memorable Quote: “Thank you, come again!”

Random Trivia: Apu and his wife Manjula are the proud parents of octuplets: Anoop, Uma, Nabendu, Poonam, Priya, Sandeep, Sashi and Gheet.

Apu

7. Milhouse

Memorable Quote: “We started out like Romeo and Juliet, but it ended up in tragedy.”

Random Trivia: Milhouse is one of only a small handful of Simpsons characters (including his parents) drawn with eyebrows.

Milhouse

6. Troy McClure/Lionel Hutz (tie)

Memorable Quotes: “Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such self-help tapes as Smoke Yourself Thin and Get Some Confidence, Stupid!”

“Homer, I don’t use the word ‘hero’ very often, but you are the greatest hero in American history.”

Random Trivia: Actor Billy West based the voice of Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan in large part on Phil Hartman’s performance as Troy McClure.

Lionel Hutz is also known by the aliases Miguel Sanchez and Dr. Nguyen Van Falk.

Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure

5. Ned Flanders

Memorable Quote: “I’ve done everything the Bible says — even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!”

Random Trivia: Ned’s habit of inserting nonsensical phrases like “diddly” and “doodly” into his sentences is the result of psychological conditioning to suppress his childhood rage.

Flanders

4. Sideshow Bob

Memorable Quote: “Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?”

Random Trivia: Sideshow Bob has a tattoo reading “Die Bart Die,” which he once helpfully explained to the Springfield parole board is German for “The Bart, The.”

Sideshow Bob

3. Comic Book Guy

Memorable Quote: “Inspired by the most logical race in the galaxy, the Vulcans, breeding will be permitted once every seven years. For many of you, this will mean much less breeding; for me, much much more.”

Random Trivia: Comic Book Guy’s actual name as Jeff Albertson, a name purposefully chosen by the producers to upset fans hoping for something less generic.

Comic Book Guy

2. Ralph Wiggum

Memorable Quote: “Me fail English? That’s unpossible!”

Random Trivia: The Bloodhound Gang “Ralph Wiggum” in 2005, a song with lyrics comprised almost entirely of quotes from the character.

Ralph

1. Mr. Burns

Memorable Quote: “Listen, Spielbergo, Schindler and I are like peas in a pod. We’re both factory owners, we both made shells for the Nazis, but mine worked, dammit! Now go out there and win me that festival!”

Random Trivia: Mr. Burns’ Social Security Number is 000-00-0002 (he remains bitter at Franklin D. Roosevelt for snatching up 000-00-0001).

Mr. Burns

Original here

Commentary: The music fades when shilling is the motive

By JON PARELES
THE NEW YORK TIMES

In "Creator," the rawest track on Santogold's debut and self-titled album, singer Santi White boasts, "Me I'm a creator/Thrill is to make it up/The rules I break got me a place up on the radar." It's a bohemian manifesto in a sound bite, brash and endearing, or at least it was for me until it showed up in a beer commercial. And a hair-gel commercial, too.

It turns out that the insurgent, quirky rule-breaker is just another shill. Billboard reported that three-quarters of Santogold's excellent album already has been licensed for commercials, video games and soundtracks, and White herself appears in advertisements, singing for sneakers. She clearly has decided that linking her music to other, mostly mercenary agendas is her most direct avenue to that "place up on the radar."

santogold
ZoomGetty Images
Santogold (singer Santi White) already has licensed three-quarters of its debut album for commercials, video games and soundtracks, Billboard reports.

I know -- time for me to get over it. After all, this is the reality of the 21st-century music business. Selling recordings to consumers as inexpensive artworks to be appreciated for their own sake is a much-diminished enterprise now that free copies multiply across the Web.

Musicians have to eat and want to be heard, and if that means accompanying someone else's sales pitch or video game, well, it's a living. Why wait for album royalties to trickle in, if they ever do, when licensing fees arrive upfront as a lump sum? It's one part of the system of copyright regulations that hasn't been ravaged by digital distribution, and there's little resistance from any quarters; Robert Plant and Alison Krauss croon for JCPenney and the avant-rockers Battles are heard accompanying an Australian vodka ad.

The question is: What happens to the music itself when the way to build a career shifts from recording songs that ordinary listeners want to buy to making music that marketers can use? That creates pressure, subtle but genuine, for music to recede: to embrace the element of vacancy that makes a good soundtrack so unobtrusive, to edit a lyric to be less specific or private, to leave blanks for the image or message the music now serves. Perhaps the song will still make that essential, head-turning first impression, but it won't be as memorable or independent.

Music always had accessory roles: a soundtrack, a jingle, a branding statement, a mating call. But for performers with a public profile, as opposed to composers for hire, the point was to draw attention to the music itself. Once they were noticed, stars could provide their own story arcs of career and music, and songs got a chance to create their own spheres, as sanctuary or spook house or utopia. If enough people cared about the song, payoffs would come from record sales (to performer and songwriter) and radio play (to the songwriter).

When Moby licensed every song on his 1999 album, "Play," for ads and soundtracks, the move was both startling and cheesy, but it did lead to CD sales; an album that set staticky samples of blues and gospel to dance-floor beats managed to become a million-seller. Nearly a decade later, platinum albums are much scarcer.

For all but the biggest names -- such as AC/DC, which made Wal-Mart the exclusive vendor for CDs of its long-awaited "Black Ice" album, got its own "store within a store" and sold more than a million copies in two weeks -- a marketing deal is more likely to be its own reward rather than spawn a career. With telling ambivalence, Brooklyn Vegan, the widely read, indie-loving music blog, recently started a column, "This Week in Music Licensing: It's Not Selling Out Anymore," but soon dropped the "selling out" half of the title. There's no longer a clear dividing line for selling out, if there ever was.

And as music becomes a means to an end -- pushing a separate product, whether it's a concert ticket or a clothing line, a movie scene or a Web ad -- a tectonic shift is under way. Record sales channeled the taste of the broad, volatile public into a performer's paycheck. As music sales dwindle, licensers become a far more influential target audience. Unlike non-professional music fans who might immerse themselves in a song or album they love, music licensers want a track that's attractive but not too distracting -- just a tease, not a revelation.

It's almost enough to make someone miss those former villains of philistinism, the recording companies. Labels had an interest in music that would hold listeners on its own terms; selling it was their meal ticket. Labels, and to some extent radio stations and music television, also had a stake in nurturing stars who would keep fans returning to find out what happened next, allowing their catalogs to be perennially rediscovered. By contrast, licensers have no interest beyond the immediate effect of a certain song, and can save money by dealing with unknowns.

As the influence of major labels erodes, licensers are seizing their chance to be talent scouts. They can be good at it, song by song, turning up little gems like Chairlift's "Bruises," heard in an iPod ad. For a band, getting such a break, and being played repeatedly for television viewers, is a windfall, and perhaps an alternate route to radio play or the beginning of a new audience. But how soon will it be before musicians, perhaps unconsciously, start conceiving songs as potential television spots, or energy jolts during video games, or ringtones? Which came first, Madonna's "Hung Up" or the cell-phone ad?

Not wanting to appear too crass, musicians insist that exposure from licensing does build the kind of interest that used to pay off in sales and/or loyalty. Hearing a song on the radio or in a commercial has a psychological component; someone else already has endorsed it. Musicians who don't expect immediate mass-market radio play -- maybe they're too old, maybe they're too eccentric -- have gotten their music on the air by selling it to advertisers. That can rev up careers, as Apple ads have done for Feist and for this year's big beneficiary, Yael Naim, whose "New Soul" introduced the MacBook Air. (Sites like findthatsong.net help listeners identify commercial soundtracks.)

Sri Lankan art-pop-rapper M.I.A. already had all the hipster adoration she could want for her song "Paper Planes," which compares international drug dealing to selling records, and it turns gunshots and a ringing cash register into hooks. But having the song used in the trailer for "Pineapple Express" probably was what propelled the song to a Grammy nomination for record of the year.

(Grammy voters often seize on music from everywhere but the albums they purport to judge; they seem particularly drawn to film soundtracks.) And if the song now conjures images of the movie trailer for many listeners, that's the tradeoff for recognition.

The old, often legitimate accusation against labels was that they sold entire albums with only one good song or two. Now there's an incentive for a song to have only 30 seconds of good stuff. It's already happening: Chris Brown's hit "Forever" is wrapped around a jingle for chewing gum.

Apparently there's no going back, structurally, to paying musicians to record music for its own sake. Labels that used to make profits primarily from selling albums have been struggling since the Internet caused them to lose their chokehold on distribution and exposure. Now, in return for investing in recording and promotion, and for supplying their career-building expertise (such as it was), they want a piece of musicians' whole careers.

Old-fashioned audio recording contracts are increasingly being replaced by so-called 360 deals that also tithe live shows, merchandising, licensing and every other conceivable revenue stream -- conceding, in a way, that the labels' old central role of selling discs for mere listening is obsolescent. Some musicians, like former record company president Jay-Z, have concurred, but by signing 360 deals not with labels but with the concert-promotion monolith Live Nation.

Maybe such dire thoughts are extreme, since some people still are buying music. The iTunes Music Store has sold more than 5 billion songs since 2003. But it's harder and harder to find a song without a tie-in. It took Guns N' Roses 15 years between albums to complete "Chinese Democracy," certainly long enough to receive worldwide notice when the album was released this year. But instead of letting the album arrive as an event in itself, the band licensed one of the album's best songs, "Shackler's Revenge," to a video game that came out first. Metallica fans have complained that the band's new album, "Death Magnetic," sounds better in the version made for the "Guitar Hero" video game than on the consumer CD, which is compressed to the point of distortion so it will sound louder on the radio. But they take for granted that the music will end up in the game in the first place. Consumers reinforce the licensers almost perversely: They pay for music as a ringtone, or tap along with it on the iPhone game "Tap Tap Revenge," but not as a high-fidelity song.

Perhaps it's too 20th century to hope that music could stay exempt from multitasking, or that the constant insinuation of marketing into every moment of consciousness would stop when a song begins. But for the moment I'd suggest individual resistance. Put on a song with no commercial attachments. Turn it up. Close your eyes. And listen.

Original here

The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2008

by Alex Billington
The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2008

In less than 3 days it'll be 2009 — but wait, there's at least 19 great movies from this year that you haven't seen yet! Back by popular demand, it's our second annual list of the 19 best movies that you didn't see in 2008 (see last year's list). Featured below is a hand-picked selection of the best independent and mainstream feature films that were either quietly dumped by studios, ignored by audiences, or just not marketed well enough. So to give these films some extra time in the spotlight, and to support some of the best filmmakers out there, we've put together this year end wrap-up for you. I want to encourage everyone to consider watching just one of these that they haven't heard of (or didn't want to see) beforehand.

If you spent the two hours or so that it would take to watch even one of these movies mentioned below, it would mean that much more to the filmmaker. This isn't about getting kudos for mentioning certain films, this is about pointing out movies that don't deserve to be forgotten and are begging to be watched.

American TeenAmerican Teen
Opened on July 25, 2008
Directed by Nanette Burstein
A documentary on seniors at a high school in a small Indiana town and their various cliques.
Why it's on here: At Sundance this year, American Teen became the festival's sleeper hit, fueled by immensely positive buzz coming from everyone who saw it. Despite what you may have heard, it's nothing like "The Hills" and is a fantastic inside look at the life of four American high school teens. If only just to see it once, American Teen is worth your time and money, as Nanette Burstein takes dry documentary storytelling and turns it into something exciting and entertaining.

AustraliaAustralia
Opened on November 26, 2008
Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand.
Why it's on here: Despite all the talk about how it's not a movie that audiences want to see anymore, it's actually a wonderfully thrilling epic that only the likes of Baz Luhrmann could bring us. Yes, it's really two movies and that's initially hard to get past, but once you do, you'll find yourself being sucked into a sprawling Australian fairy tale lead by a handful of great actors. Even if you're annoyed by the dual stories in the end, I'm certain you'll at least admire the beauty of this great love story.

BagheadBaghead
Opened on June 13, 2008
Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
Four struggling actors retreat to a cabin in California in order to write a screenplay that will make them all stars. What happens when their story idea — a horror flick about a group of friends tormented by a villain with a bag over his head — starts to come true?
Why it's on here: Sony Picture Classics, who bought this film after its premiere at Sundance, screwed it over badly by dumping it during a crowded summer movie season and not giving it the support it needed. It's a very hard film to sell at first, but all they needed to do was get the right people in the theater. The Duplass Brothers are some of the best up-and-coming flmmakers around that use a refreshingly unique shooting style that plays into Baghead very well. It's a blend of horror and comedy like you've never seen before. You guaranteed to walk out of it with a smile.

Charlie BartlettCharlie Bartlett
Opened on February 22, 2008
Directed by Jon Poll

A rich kid becomes the self-appointed psychiatrist to the student body of his new high school.
Why it's on here: Wait, you didn't know that Robert Downey Jr. was in more movies this year than just Iron Man and Tropic Thunder? Yep, he was in another one called Charlie Bartlett, and it was a great movie and he did a great job in it. But he's not the only highlight — Anton Yelchin, who also plays Chekov in the upcoming Star Trek, was what made this movie so damn good. It's fun and rebellious and a great coming-of-age movie. And in more than one case, Downey Jr. steals the show, especially in a couple scenes at the end involving the pool in his backyard.

ChokeChoke
Opened on September 26, 2008
Directed by Clark Gregg
A sex-addicted con-man pays for his mother's hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.
Why it's on here: A devious and fun exercise in adapting the dark musings of the great Chuck Palahniuk, Choke explores the life of a sex addict trying to deal with a mother who is slipping away. With great performances from Sam Rockwell and Brad William Henke combined with twisted humor that can only come from the mind behind Fight Club, Choke is easily one of the most unique and authentically dark comedies of the year. If you dig deviance, this is one you shouldn't let pass by. (Written by Neil of FSR)

City of EmberCity of Ember
Opened on October 10, 2008
Directed by Gil Kenan

For generations, the people of the City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights. But Ember's once powerful generator is failing and the great lamps that illuminate the city are starting to flicker.
Why it's on here: City of Ember was one of the biggest flops this year next to Speed Racer (which is on this list, too). Before it first hit theaters, I really didn't care that much about it. But I eventually saw it and was completely surprised. It reminded me of the kind of movies that I used to love as a kid, just full of wonderment and excitement. As long as you recognize that it is a kid's movie and not much more, it should be easy to sit back and enjoy this adventure just as much as I did.

The EscapistThe Escapist
Not Released in Theaters Yet
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Frank Perry is an institutionalized convict twelve years into a life sentence without parole. When his estranged daughter falls ill, he is determined he make peace with her before it's too late. He develops an ingenious escape plan, and recruits a dysfunctional band of escapists — misfits with a mutual dislike for one other but united by their desire to escape their hell hole of an existence.
Why it's on here: It was my favorite film from Sundance this year and could've been my favorite film of the entire year if it had ever actually been released in theaters. THINKFilm picked it up at Sundance but that company went under part of the way through the year, so it never hit theaters. It was in theaters in June in the UK and will be out on DVD over there in January. This is one of the best films that no one has ever heard of. It's one of the most intense and thrilling modern escape movies ever made, and that's a huge compliment!

The FallThe Fall
Opened on May 9, 2008
Directed by Tarsem Singh

In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastical story about 5 mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality starts to blur as the tale advances.
Why it's on here: This beautiful film took two years to finally hit theaters after premiering at a film fest in 2006. Although a couple of people caught it during its theatrical run, The Fall never turned into a hit despite glowing reviews. I was even surprised to find myself enjoying it, especially because the trailers didn't seem all that interesting. What you'll discover is a gorgeous historic epic built around an ensemble of great performances. The Fall was worth the two year wait to see in theaters and shouldn't be quickly forgotten.

Hamlet 2Hamlet 2
Opened on August 22, 2008
Directed by Andrew Fleming
In this irreverent comedy, a failed actor-turned-worse-high-school-drama-teacher rallies his Tucson, Arizona students as he conceives and stages politically incorrect musical sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Why it's on here: Whereas Choke was the quintessential dark comedy of the year, Hamlet 2 is the quintessential absurd comedy of the year. Steve Coogan shines like a young Gene Wilder as the whacky drama teacher that just about everyone had in high school. The story benefits from the smart and biting comedic mind of Pam Brady, who co-wrote the South Park movie. You'll get heavy doses of silliness, big scoops of absurdity and one giant musical interlude set to "Rock Me Sexy Jesus." What could possibly be better than that? (Written by Neil of FSR)

Let the Right One InLet the Right One In
Opened on October 24, 2008
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Oscar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.
Why it's on here: We've already talked extensively about why Let the Right One In is such a phenomenal film. But for those that don't know about it just yet, it's one of the best horror movies in the last few years and is the very best vampire movie since Interview with the Vampire in 1994. Although it's already getting a lot of exposure from fellow critics, most of whom are calling it their favorite movie of the year, it still didn't spread wide enough to be called a hit, so I'm putting it on here to give it even more of the exposure that it deserves.

Man on WireMan on Wire
Opened on July 25, 2008
Directed by James Marsh
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century."
Why it's on here: Every year there seems to be a documentary that transcends educational value and historical relevance and becomes something more, something deeply entertaining and alive with intensity. Last year it was the underdog story of The King of Kong. This year it is the daring tale of Philippe Petit. And while his accomplishment is the crown jewel of the film, it is Petit's engaging nature as a subject that makes Man on Wire one of the most exciting and riveting films of the year. It packs as much drama as you might see in a movie like The Dark Knight or Iron Man — and it is based on something that really happened. It doesn't get more impressive than that. (Written by Neil of FSR)

Nick and Norah's Infinite PlaylistNick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Opened on October 3, 2008
Directed by Peter Sollett

High school student Nick O'Leary, member of the Queercore band The Jerk Offs, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and she asks him to be her boyfriend for five minutes.
Why it's on here: Before I even saw this, I was expecting it to be the next Superbad or Garden State. Then I saw it and thought it could actually achieve that level of success. Not only was it fun (and funny), but it had a sweet side to it that made it more than just the typical teenage comedy. It may have not been the best comedy of the year or even as good as Superbad or Garden State, but considering it is at least better than most other stupid teenage comedies, it deserves a bigger audience than it got in October. The charming Kat Dennings is at her best in it, as is Michael Cera.

Ping Pong PlayaPing Pong Playa
Opened on September 5, 2008
Directed by Jessica Yu
A kid dreams of playing professional basketball in order to escape his dead-end job, living in the suburbs, his bossy older brother and running his Mom's ping pong classes.
Why it's on here: Easily the funniest movie of the last two years. I first saw it at the Toronto Film Festival last year and in turn called it the Best of the Fest. It eventually hit theaters earlier this year, but barely anyone knew it even existed. It was sad to see it go unnoticed because not only does its lead actor, Jimmy Tsai, and its director, Jessica Yu, deserve plenty of praise for their skills, but it is literally one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. As I said in my review, screw Balls of Fury, "Ping Pong Playa is the ping pong movie that should be in the spotlight!"

The PromotionThe Promotion
Opened on June 6, 2008
Directed by Steve Conrad

Two assistant managers of a corporate grocery store vie for a coveted promotion.
Why it's on here: Yet another hilarious comedy that I discovered at a film festival (SXSW in March). I'm not normally a fan of John C. Reilly or Seann William Scott, but both of them gave extraordinary comedic performances to make this an all-around gem of a comedy. It's unfortunate that this didn't catch on because it has so many hilarious moments that really stand out. It's one of those refreshingly different kind of independent comedies that no one knows about; but you'll be grinning when your friends come gawking to you about it years later because by then you'll have already memorized it all by heart.

Son of RambowSon of Rambow
Opened on May 2, 2008
Directed by Garth Jennings
During a long English summer in the early 1980s, two schoolboys from differing backgrounds set out to make a film inspired by Rambo: First Blood
Why it's on here: From the writer/director that brought us The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comes one of the most heartwarming, unique little indie films of the year. The story of two friends from different sides of town (and religions) and their desire to make their own Rambo movie in the 1980s might sound simple, but it is loaded with layers that have an undeniable heartwarming effect. A story of friendship, acceptance and religious persecution, Son of Rambow is one of the most clever stories released in theaters this year. (Written by Neil of FSR)

Speed RacerSpeed Racer
Opened on May 9, 2008
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski

Follows the adventures of Speed Racer, a young race car driver who sits behind the wheel of the lightning-fast Mach 5 racecar. Aided by his family and his devoted girlfriend, Speed racks up victory after victory, but still lives in the shadow of his late older brother, Rex. When Speed garners the wrath of Royalton Industries, he must team up with the enigmatic Racer X to defeat the ruthless corporation.
Why it's on here: I don't care what all the critics said about it — I loved this movie! And as more and more people are starting to finally watch this of their own volition, they're finding it to be way more entertaining than they were expecting. It's a kids movie at its heart but it's also infused with the Wachowski's one-of-a-kind stunning visuals and energy. It was killed by some early bad buzz but deserved much better. If you can get that bad buzz out of your head, a few of you might actually enjoy this in the end. At least give it a chance!

TakenTaken
Not Released in Theaters Yet
Directed by Pierre Morel
A former spy relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been forced into the slave trade.
Why it's on here: I already recently wrote about my feelings on Fox screwing over Taken, so I'm adding it here to emphasize to everyone (and Fox) again that they really did make a big mistake in delaying it. We should've all seen Taken already, as it was originally scheduled to be in theaters in September, but for reasons that still baffle me, Fox pushed it all the way to January. It couldn't be more fitting to include Taken on this list, considering it really is one of the best movies of the year that no one saw thanks to idiotic studio decisions.

The WacknessThe Wackness
Opened on July 3, 2008
Directed by Jonathan Levine

Set against this backdrop of New York City in 1994, a lonely teenager named Luke Shapiro spends his last summer before university selling marijuana throughout the city, trading it with his unorthodox psychotherapist for treatment, and falling in love with his stepdaughter.
Why it's on here: In addition to American Teen, this is one film that came out of Sundance this year with a whole lot of buzz. But yet again, Sony Pictures Classics buried it with a terrible release date and a series of poorly made trailers. Even if it had trouble finding the right audience, I'm assuring everyone that this still is one of the best movies of the year. While I've thrown around that phrase a lot, I really mean it this time, especially because its been on my mind constantly as I've starting to thinking back over this year. Do yourself a huge favor and catch this as soon as you can!

Young People FuckingYoung People Fucking
Opened on August 29, 2008
Directed by Martin Gero
A smart and fast-paced comedy that intertwines the stories of 5 couples over the course of one sexual encounter. As the couples attempt to have some seemingly straight forward sex, they run into all sorts of problems.
Why it's on here: I first encountered this gem at the Toronto Film Festival last year, but it didn't hit theaters until this year. Maybe it was its uncensored title that fucked it over (pun intended), but let me tell you, Young People Fucking is one of the funniest no-holds-barred sex comedies ever made. It has a very independent and personal feel to it, but that's what makes it so damn good. Even if it's just to find out what he said, Young People Fucking is definitely worth watching, especially with a significant other.

I hope I've been able to introduce everyone to a few more great must-see movies that they've never seen. Not everyone will love all of them, but I guarantee there is something unique to discover in every last one. Support an indie filmmaker today and watch one of these 19.

Guest commentary on Choke, Hamlet 2, Man on Wire, and Son of Rambow provided graciously by our good friend Neil Miller of Film School Rejects - thanks for helping us put this together my friend!

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Fox will fight for 'Watchmen' delay

By Borys Kit

Warner Bros.' message to Fox regarding "Watchmen" copyright infringement can be summed up this way: Bring it on.

In a defiant statement issued Monday, Warners said it was prepared to go to trial or to appeal last week's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess, who stated that the studio had infringed on Fox's copyright in making the adaptation of the Alan Moore superhero graphic novel.

"We respectfully but vigorously disagree with the court's ruling and are exploring all of our appellate options," the studio said. "We continue to believe that Fox's claims have no merit and that we will ultimately prevail, whether at trial or in the Court of Appeals."

Fox, meanwhile, is looking for an injunction against the March 6, 2009, release of the movie.

"Watchmen," directed by Zack Snyder ("300"), is one of Warners' tentpoles for next year, with a budget well north of the $120 million. While it is considered a seminal piece of literature with an appeal beyond the geek community, Warners has been carefully implementing a publicity campaign to generate word-of-mouth and awareness of the movie.

Both sides met Monday morning at the Los Angeles federal court, where Feess said he stands by the Christmas Eve ruling and also said he plans to hold a trial Jan. 20 to decide remaining issues such as damages, how far Fox's rights extend, and if to actually block the release of the movie.

Monday's events seem to be a speed bump to a costly settlement, with the hardline postures likely a strategic move for both sides more than anything else. Fox, which finally snapped a long boxoffice losing streak with "Marley & Me," gains most with a settlement, not a blocked release; the studio is already taking a beating in the geek blogosphere for messing with a fan-favorite property. Warners, meanwhile, could be on the hook for millions for developing and then filming a movie in which the film's producer, Larry Gordon, didn't pay Fox turnaround fees after allegedly reacquiring rights to the property.

"We are gratified by the recognition of our rights in the Judge's order, which speaks for itself," Fox said in a statement.

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11 Geeked-Out 2009 Movies We're Waiting For

By Erin McCarthy

Push


Release Date: February 6, 2009
Push might seem like Heroes for the big screen, but instead of the characters' powers being dictated by an eclipse, it's a clandestine government agency called "The Division" that calls the shots. The organization has toyed with the genetic makeup of the characters to engineer warriors that can see the future, move things with their minds, create new realities and kill victims without touching them. Those who don't cooperate are hunted down and killed. If the F/X are as well done and the story is as fast-paced and coherent as it appears from the trailer, this flick could put the small-screen heroes to shame.

Watchmen


Release Date: March 6, 2009
Forget Spider-Man and Superman—2009 is the year of the Watchmen. This highly anticipated film adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's groundbreaking 1986 graphic novel is such a hot property that two studios are squabbling over who owns it, which could delay its release (perish the thought). Director Zach Snyder has copped to amping up the action and removing The Black Freighter vignettes (a pirate aside that weaves throughout the graphic novel) to cut run time, but the 20 minutes of footage we screened in October was almost reverentially faithful to the source material—a fact that leaves us hopeful that the rest of the film will receive an equally great treatment. Whether the giant squid ending makes the cut remains to be seen, but based on Dr. Manhattan's CG rendering alone, this movie will still deliver thrills for diehard fans of the novel as well as for the uninitiated.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine


Release Date: May 1, 2009
What do filmmakers do when they finish a mega-successful trilogy about mutants-turned-heroes known as the X-Men? Figure out where those mutants came from—and start with the most mysterious mutant of all, Wolverine. The trailer for this first Origins film (a Magneto-based film is also in the works) details Wolverine's tragic childhood, his experience in various wars, the slaying of his true love and his involvement in (and subsequent rebellion from) the Mutant X program. The introduction of a slew of other mutants—Gambit, Silver Fox and Deadpool among them—as well as the fight scenes between Wolverine and his nemesis, Sabretooth, are enough to make this a hotly anticipated movie for any comic fan. And Wolverine taking on a helicopter? We're so there.

Star Trek


Release Date: May 8, 2009
Director J.J. Abrams's decision to initiate a Star Trek reboot was controversial among fans; so were his casting choices (lead actor Chris Pine, in particular). But Abrams has said he hopes this origin story will appeal to more than just Trekkies. The fast-paced action of the trailer, particularly that Cloverfield-esque beast and a newly developed Spock/Kirk rivalry, promise that even if Abrams hasn't made the next Wrath of Khan, he'll at least have made something better than Final Frontier—and that's something everyone can support.

Terminator: Salvation


Release Date: May 22, 2009
In Salvation, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, John Connor leads the resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators as they attempt to wipe out the last survivors of the human race. Thanks to his tortured portrayal of Batman, Christian Bale as John Connor would have been enough to convince us to see Salvation, the fourth installment in the Terminator franchise. The blistering human-on-robot action from the trailer is an added bonus that will no doubt have film fans lining up around the block to see how the human race survives this time.

UP


Release Date: May 29, 2009
The premise of Up, Pixar's latest offering, speaks to the limitless imagination the studio continues to tap: 78-year-old Carl, a curmudgeonly old man who wants to visit the wilds of South America, attaches thousands of balloons to his house to get there. Take an enthusiastic 8-year-old wilderness explorer along for the ride, and you've got a quirky, loveable adventure story. It may not include robot love, but we have high hopes for this digitally animated kids' flick.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
(Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Release Date: June 26, 2009
Laugh at explosion-happy Michael Bay if you must, but it's undeniable that the guy knows how to bring the fun along with the dynamite. The first Transformers flick was a great popcorn movie with incredible special effects that have helped create buzz for the next in the series, Revenge of the Fallen. Speculation is running rampant about just what the title means. (Is Megatron coming back from his watery grave?) And details on the plot are scarce. But Bay's own personal tagline seems to be go big or go home. Expect cooler robots, crazier F/X sequences and, yes, bigger (and more!) explosions. The combination will, no doubt, create lines at the megaplex for a midnight showing, whether or not Bay makes it one explosion too many.

2012


Release Date: July 10, 2009
In Roland Emmerich's upcoming film, 2012, it's the end of the world as we know it—again. From the aliens in Independence Day to a wrathful Mother Nature in The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich has made a name for himself directing F/X-laden films about mankind's demise. 2012 is the last year in the Mayan calendar, which some believers say signals the apocalypse. Say what you will about the quality of Emmerich's films, but his effects are always topnotch—check out the flood in the trailer—and geeks will certainly line up to see how he chooses to end it all this time around, and, of course, how the survivors triumph over catastrophic forces.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Release Date: July 17, 2009
By the time Half-Blood Prince hits theaters, rabid fans will have gone two years without a film adaptation of the spectacularly successful Harry Potter book series. (Warner Brothers cited the writer's strike as the reason it pushed the film from its original November 2008 release). This action-packed sixth film marks, among other things, another major character death, the beginnings of young love and the return of Quidditch. Fans are especially focused on seeing how director David Yates creates the Inferi—corpses reanimated by a Dark Wizard's curse—in the pivotal cave scene, where Harry and Hogwart's Headmaster Albus Dumbledore fight them with fire. If the creatures are anything like Prisoner of Azkaban's creepy, soul-sucking Dementors, viewers will be in for a treat.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
(Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Release Date: August 7, 2009
G.I. Joe has been an action figure and the star of a cartoon series—and now the soldier will attempt to conquer the multiplex in what many assume will be the first film in a franchise. As the title suggests, Rise of the Cobra is an origin story that centers around the formation of the nefarious Cobra Organization. Stephen Sommer—who directed The Mummy and The Mummy Returns—is at the helm, so expect killer action scenes and explosions truly befitting these Real American Heroes.

Avatar
Avatar
(Image Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

Release Date: December 18, 2009
Technology has finally caught up to James Cameron's brain, and that's reason enough to be geeked out over the release of the 3D mega-project, Avatar. The director, who had the idea for the film in 1996, couldn't begin working on it until 2007 because the technology to fulfill his vision—photo-realistic CGI renderings of people, created using motion-capture technology—simply wasn't advanced enough. The shoot was more live action than previous mo-cap films, but now thanks to a new virtual camera, Cameron can observe on a monitor how the actors' digital characters interact with the movie's digital world in real time. Avatar was originally scheduled for a May 2009 release but was pushed back to allow more time for post-production and for more theaters to convert to 3D. Here's hoping it doesn't get pushed back again.

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