If the Kings win the cup this year I'm doing this

Two things I love: The Los Angeles Kings, and mid-90's hockey video games. I was into the Penguins in the Lemieux era, but even if I wasn't this creation would be one of the greatest things I've ever seen:

http://www.game6.nhl91.com/ (still working on getting the embedding code)

I can't imagine the time it took to 1) play the game enough create the necessary plays to make the video, and 2) to assemble that video into this masterpiece. It is truly a work of art.

For more info, see http://www.nhl91.com/


Commercials by Feature Film Directors

The term 'sell-out' refers to someone who takes a paycheck larger than they might normally receive as compensation for altering an aspect of the occupation, usually to reach a larger audience, often to sell a brand or product, and occasionally jeopardizing their integrity.

Amidst the growing popularity of TV commercials as entertainment, advertisers have been seeking out new ways to reach their audiences.

One tactic has been to hire legitimate 'Hollywood' directors to direct their spots. Not only does this create a fair amount of 'buzz' about their commercials, it usually results in an entertaining piece. Whether or not that helps to sell a product or popularize a brand is not my expertise; however, if this helps the ratio of annoying or otherwise poorly made elements on television to those of better quality, as well as providing work for actual media professionals in the industry then I am for it.

The debate, however, of if these directors are 'selling out' may go on. The question at hand is about intent of message; films are made with some message in mind and regardless of the specifics, it is usually genuine. Commercials are strictly that: commercial. The intent is unquestioned, which is to sell.

Does that intent jeopardize the integrity of the art form? Many would say that it does.

I look at it this way: many people enjoy watching television. Some of the best stuff out of Hollywood lately has been in the form of the TV drama: 'Mad Men'; 'Lost'; 'Breaking Bad'; 'House'; 'The Shield'; just to name a few. Since we all get to enjoy these products free of charge directly to our living rooms, the television commercial is a necessary evil (even though DVR's allow most of us to skip through them anyway)

Thus, if they are necessary they might as well be good. Directors are simply working for a paycheck anyway, and I say if they can create enjoyable work then why not praise them, regardless of if the check is coming from Warner Bros. or Nike.

Below are some of my favorite works by notable directors created for the small screen intermissions:

David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind)

Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are)

Guy Ritchie (Snatch, RocknRolla)

I would be remiss not to include one of BMW's famous 'The Hire' videos from 2001-2002, in which BMW sincerely tried to bridge the gap between the art of 'film' and the showcasing of product oriented commercials. These were a serious of 'short films' which starred Clive Owen and included appearances by Forest Whitaker, Mickey Rourke, Madonna, Don Cheadle, Gary Oldman, and even the late James Brown, but mainly, the films were starring BMW vehicles. Interestingly, they were not created primarily for TV spot viewing; they are all 8-10 minutes in length and could only be viewed online in their entirety.
This then spawned the entity which is a superb statement in itself on Capitalism: the advertainment promo trailer. Though the primary function of these videos is to increase the popularity of the BMW brand ,thus being considered 'branded content', BMW also spent a great deal of money to ensure that they were entertaining, hence the term 'advertainment'. Since they were indeed entertaining, many viewers did seek them out online, but to ensure that they did, BMW ran several spots on TV promoting the 'short films'. These TV spots were then advertisements promoting advertisements promoting products. It is a remarkable paradoxical entity that truly is a socially significant example of the use cross-promotional media tactics popularized in the 'information age'. I cannot find any of these TV spots online but I know for sure they exist. What I did find is just as good if not better. If only facebook was around back then.
Without further adieu, BMW's 'The Hire: Hostage' directed by Jon Woo. The other directors in this series were John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, David Fincher, Tony Scott, Joe Carnahan, Wong Kar-Wai, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
John Woo (Face/Off, Mission: Impossible II)

From 25 years ago:
Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator)

Here is an commercial that is more of a PSA by an organization called 'This is Reality'. I'm sure the Coen brothers still got compensated somehow, so it fits in:
Joel and Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men)

OK sometimes this can go wrong, as in this PS2 commercial by David Lynch. I don't know what is happening here but it's odd:
David Lynch (Lost Highway, Mullholland Dr.)

This concept is not limited to the 'Western' filmmakers, as legendary director Jean-Luc Go
dard crafted this cigarette ad in 1992:
Jean-Luc Godard (A bout de souffle, Pierrot le fout)

and finally, one that is a parody of this phenomenon to a certain degree, as he is addressing the audience as himself, Wes Anderson the director:
Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums)

and just for fun, speaking of parodies of themselves:

(Don't know who officially directed this)

That ended up being far longer than I initially thought but I kept finding great examples. Most of these directors have in fact done multiple commercials. More examples and insight here

Extra credit: Where do music videos fit in this discussion? At the core, music videos are promotional content for bands which are trying to sell albums, so aren't music videos basically commercials? Indeed they are considered closer to short films than actual commercials, but I think they should be included in the conversation. Also so I can display my favorite music video by my favorite director:

Nine Inch Nails - Only (directed by David Fincher)

Maybe too late for Vancouver, but I'm petitioning for this to be the newest Winter Olympic Sport

Canadians are insane. Insanely terrific.

But at least they are putting all that ice and cold to worthwhile use; and by worthwhile I mean entertaining more intelligent people.

Below is the best piece of video that has been on nhl.com since the lock-out:

What is it about Red Bull that tells people, "This event is completely ridiculous but we are going to sponsor it and make it legitimate"? How do they find such lunatics to risk their lives to compete for virtually nothing? It is a phenomenon that I do not understand or wish to be curtailed in any way.

And Canadians: don't let me down when I come see you in Vancouver. I want to see/be a part of some poorly thought out drinking activities that might/should end up with a trip to a hospital. At least its free for you guys.


Why Stephen Colbert is Awesome

For those of you who don't know who Stephen Colbert is, he is the host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" (pronounced re-POR, playing on the pronunciation of his name col-BEAR) which is essentially a spin-off of "The Daily Show".

Instead of playing it straight like his counterpart Jon Stewart, who despite being witty and sarcastic is pretty clear about meanings and intentions, Colbert is a parody of the spin casting right-wing anchors that appear on such networks as Fox News.

For example, he consistently blames all of his problems, personal or otherwise, on France and Barack Obama. He contstantly reminds everyone how great he is and he even gets to jog to meet his guests to the cheers of his audience, instead of letting his guests bask in the glow.

The charade is absurdly poignant, and despite his best efforts to make the act over the top, there are so many personalities that display such similar attributes legitimately that it has to be continually pointed out that he is faking it, and many who follow the reporters that he parodies are consistently confused.

This fact is utterly amazing. Simply listening to the 'between the lines' message in his commentary illustrates that he is attempting to point out the absurdity with his own absurdity, but the fact that some see it as straight talk simply points out his necessity even further. Because of this, sometimes he really has to take it over the top to drive the point home.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bend It Like Beck
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

After watching something like this, it is amazing that anyone could take him 100% seriously.

Below is Colbert's appearance on 'The O'Reilly Factor' where Bill O'Reilly proudly claims that Colbert owes everything to him. No one can deny this claim and Stephen does no such thing.

Perhaps most of us should be thankful that we will never understand such deep rooted narcissism.

I still miss 'The Shield'

I wrote this on The Shield's imdb page, (nerdI know) during the final season of 'The Shield'. It is appalling how many people think the show is poorly made. I couldn't take it anymore:

A lot of people have complaints about 'The Shield'.
"The camera is too shaky." "It looks too grainy." "There are always things in the way of the shots." "The storyline is difficult to follow." I have heard or read about these complaints multiple times from one-time or casual viewers of the show. Let me first address the cinematography and art direction.

With so much going on in each episode and each season, it is important for the director to help evoke emotion in a subtle manner whenever possible. The contrast in framing does just that. Many times we are looking at the characters from across the street or from outside through a window to give it the feel of a 'Cops' type show, but also to keep us somewhat separated from the decisions made by the characters. It is important to let us have an outsider's perspective on some of the events that transpire. However, it also becomes necessary to put us in the heat of a moment to intensify the emotional impact. This contrast enhances both ends of the spectrum, and it is carried out flawlessly.

The 'graininess' of the show is maintained because it follows with the theme of the show. It has always been shot on super 16mm film. They could easily upgrade to 35mm or a HD format, but it would hurt the overall feel of the show. 'The Shield' takes place in a high-crime, low-income area of Los Angeles called Farmington, and the PD building is called the 'Barn'. It is an older building that used to be a church and the funding of the department matches that of its community. This 'grainy' look enhances this feeling of edginess and basement-style living and is a terrific contrast to the bright and shiny style of such shows as CSI: Miami. Neither is better or worse; both are appropriate for each program, though I have to admit that the cleaner, higher re
solution may be more pleasant to look at, but I'll watch 'The Shield' over a cookie cutter episode of CSI any day.

I cannot argue against the fact that the story-lines are hard to follow. They are. Even in season seven, many events are referenced that occurred as early as the first season. Many elements would be lost for anyone just trying to tune in now. This is not to say that it wouldn't be enjoyable; there are new plot developments that occur in every episode, but certainly some of the story points would seem irrelevant. For this reason, this show should be viewed as an 86 part movie. This sounds ridiculous but it is true. Due to this length of time and amount of events that have occurred with the same characters, the dynamic character arcs are unrivaled in their true-to-life tragedy, simplicity, and unpredictability, yet maintaining a sense of believability in every decision each character makes. 'The Shield' challenges standard conceptions of the protagonist and antagonist. It will make you question your own morals. It will make you feel both good and bad about yourself and humanity, but you will appreciate the insightful way everything is presented.

Right now we are just 1 episode away from the end, and I can comfortably say that 'The Shield' will stay with me forever. I also think that it will be under-appreciated forever, but those who will say that it is one of the best programs to ever grace the small screen will be right. It is, in my opinion, the best drama ever written for Television, and the story of Vic Mackey is without a doubt one of the best uses of the tragic hero theme since the writings of Shakespeare.
But if the 'graininess' or 'shakiness' still bothers you, by all means, move along to Desperate Housewives.

The 10 Most Socially Significant Episodes of South Park

Currently in its 13th season, South Park has won 3 Emmys, a Peabody, a Cable ACE, and been nominated for a dozen other awards. While it is widely known as one of the most hilariously raunchy shows on TV, South Park is, also, the most satirically insightful and socially important. The research was enjoyable and the selection process was painstaking, but I have begrudgingly created a list of the 10 most significant episodes that were the most cleverly insightful about an important or overlooked issue.

10. BIG GAY AL’S BIG GAY BOAT RIDE (Season 1, Episode 4)


The Premise

Stan discovers that his new dog, Sparky (voiced by George Clooney), is homosexual. When the other kids find out, they make fun of him. Feeling like an outcast, Sparky leaves town. He finds refuge at Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Animal Sanctuary. Eventually, Stan finds him there and during his stay learns more about homosexuality from Big Gay Al himself. Stan accepts his dog’s sexual orientation and takes him back home, even though Sparky is never seen in another episode of South Park.

The Significance

Parts of this episode seem offensive, such as Mr. Garrison’s comment, “Gay people are evil, evil right down to their cold black hearts.” However, the message of it is not. In fact, this episode was nominated for the 1998 GLAAD Media Award (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for Outstanding Individual TV Episode. The genius lies in using a pet’s perspective for what homosexual oppression feels like.
Don’t forget this originally aired in 1998. Ten years later, a bill passed in California which reversed the law allowing gay marriages. This is an example of why Trey Parker and Matt Stone are this generation's Mark Twain, and may not be fully appreciated in our time as perhaps they will in the future.

The Funniest

The B story during this episode is a big football game between South Park Elementary and Middle Park. Stan, South Park’s star quarterback, misses the first 3 quarters of the game looking for Sparky while the Cows get pummeled so badly the announcer makes the following analogy, “I haven’t seen a beating like that since Rodney King.” This is a precursor to the season two episode ‘Conjoined Fetus Lady’ in which the kids travel to China for a dodge ball match, and the Chinese announcers make similar comments about Americans.

9. PROPER CONDOM USE (Season 5, Episode 7)


The Premise

After embarrassing their parents by playing “red rocket” with male dogs and “making their milk come out,” the parents insist the school teach sexual education at a younger age. All the girls become frightened that they will get diseases from the boys and vice versa. The boys go to confront the girls to find that they have built a fortress, straight out of Mad Max, complete with flame-throwing turret gun. A standoff occurs (including dialogue from Mad Max) and a small battle ensues. An explosion is what finally alerts the adults to the impending carnage.

The Significance

After embarrassing their parents by playing “red rocket” with male dogs and “making their milk come out,” the parents insist the school teach sexual education at a younger age. All the girls become frightened that they will get diseases from the boys and vice versa. The boys go to confront the girls to find that they have built a fortress, straight out of Mad Max, complete with flame-throwing turret gun. A standoff occurs (including dialogue from Mad Max) and a small battle ensues. An explosion is what finally alerts the adults to the impending carnage.

The Funniest

Mr. Garrison’s method of teaching Sex-Ed is to list as many different sexual positions as he can think of. The list includes the following: “missionary, doggy style, pile driver, filthy sanchez, hot karl, the wrap around butt grab, reverse cow girl, hot lunch, donkey punch, glass bottom boat, fish eye, and chili dog.”

8. BLOODY MARY (Season 9, Episode 14)


The Premise

Stan’s dad gets a DUI while driving the boys home from karate class. Because of this, he is required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In his first session, Randy announces he, “just really likes beer,” was stupid one night, drank too much, drove a car, and he will not do it again. The instructor informs Randy that he is really powerless against his drinking because he has a disease. Accepting this, Randy just drinks at home at all hours, explaining that he is a sick man, and the only thing that can save him now is a miracle.
Co-incidentally, right at that moment, the Virgin Mary Miracle begins. The miracle, the news of which has spread rampantly across the country, is that the Virgin Mary statue is bleeding out of its backside. Randy visits the statue and claims to be cured. He starts hanging out exclusively with his sober friends and drinks only iced teas. The Pope visits the bleeding statue, and reverses the original decree of it being a miracle, reasoning, “Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time.” Because of this, Randy exclaims that he is not cured and is, once again, powerless against his alcoholism. Stan makes him realize that he had the power all along, since there was never a miracle.

The Significance

This episode was one of the two Season 9 episodes that sparked a great deal of controversy. It and ‘Trapped in the Closet’ (about Scientology, leading to Isaac Hayes’ resignation from the show), were formally complained about by their respective religious groups. Oddly, many other episodes of South Park have had much more derogatory commentary about the Catholic Church than ‘Bloody Mary’. It was simply the images of the Virgin Mary bleeding out of her rear that were so seemingly offensive.
But to me, this episode was more about alcohol abuse and sobriety than about religion. As one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, says, "Why do we seem to give parades for people who are getting sober and/or having children? What about the people that can control their drinking and not pollute the world with miniature versions of themselves? I'm ten times better than both those guys!"
It is indeed interesting the way Alcoholics Anonymous tackles getting sober. . He also points out that if you spend your whole life avoiding something, then it is actually controlling your life.
Of course, some people really benefit from support groups like AA and should stop drinking, but the point of this episode is well crafted: if you stop drinking entirely, then alcohol is still controlling your behavior. I’m not a doctor, but people throw the term ‘disease’ around pretty freely these days, and the definition ‘having an overwhelming desire to consume alcohol’ does not belong in a medical dictionary.

The Funniest

Whenever Randy (the stereotypical middle-class, beer-loving father) is paired with an authority figure, it is comedy gold. When pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving, he is given a field sobriety test. Randy proudly sticks his arms out, but when directed to touch his nose with his finger he is confused, “Do what?! Come on, that’s impossible!”



The Premise
A new store opens up in South Park called Stupid Spoiled Whore. The store is endorsed by Paris Hilton, who all the girls in town begin to emulate.
The store sells very scandalous clothing and accessories, which target young girls encouraging them to be slutty and bratty. The girls have a party and play games such as Seven Minutes in Heaven. Coincidently, on Paris’ 2008 TV show Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, (show details omitted due to danger of brain damage) one of the competitions involved this game as well. I cannot manifest an appropriate expression of my utter amazement at this parallel.
It takes the advice of an even bigger whore, Mr. Slave (Season 6, “The Death Camp of Tolerance”), to make the girls understand that being a whore is not cool. After beating Paris in the ‘Whore-Off” by anally ingesting her, Mr. Slave exclaims, “Being spoiled and stupid and whorish is supposed to be a bad thing, remember? Parents, if you don’t teach your children that people like Paris Hilton are supposed to be despised, where are they gonna learn it?”

The Significance
This episode aired just after Paris Hilton's sex tape was leaked, thus at the height of her popularity. I despise Paris for all the reasons pointed out in this episode: she is famous simply because she is an extremely spoiled heiress. This episode does more than just bash a celebrity, which is what South Park is popularly known for (for some reason), but it points out the effects worshipping pseudo celebrities and how it can be harmful. Paris Hilton is the antithesis of a role model for girls, and many young girls may attempt to emulate her and assume they can be loved by being ‘spoiled and whorish’.
Still, it seems that our media and society are inexplicably interested in anything the ‘celebrity’ does, which only increases her popularity and thus, status. Her popularity only spawns more evildoers in her wake, as the spotlight is now focused on Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, who are only famous for being on a terrible reality television show called ‘The Hills’. Hypothesizing on who will follow in their footsteps makes me queasy nearly to the point of regurgitation.

The episode’s name comes from a commercial that aired within the show for a, Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Play Set, which is a kit that includes a video camera with night vision, lip stick, and a cell phone which says, “I’m pretending to talk to my friends on the cell phone while my man waits for more sex!”

The Funniest

Paris is in town to promote the store’s new opening, and while driving in her limo, her pet Chihuahua, dressed in a pretty bow and matching shoes, commits suicide by shooting himself with the driver’s gun, pulling the trigger with his foot. She puts a photo of her dead dog in her photo album, which contains photos of all her other former pets who made the same decision.

6. I’M A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY (Season 7, Episode 1)


The Premise

The town is split between people for the Iraq war and those against it. The boys are instructed to write a report on what the Founding Fathers of America would say about the war. Cartman decides the only way he can complete the assignment is to travel back in time. So intent on getting out of any actual studying, Cartman sacrifices his skull multiples times while attempting to knock himself out and wake up in 1776. He sets up various rigs to knock himself unconscious while he’s thinking about the 1700s. Of course it never works and he just knocks himself out. Eventually, he has a stroke of genius and he programs his TiVo to record 200 hours of the history channel, ties himself to the TiVo, and drops himself and the TiVo into a large pool of water. Success! He wakes up in 1776 and wanders into Independence Hall during a discussion on whether or not to go to war with England. The debate is identical to the debate in 2004 about the Iraq war.
Finally, Benjamin Franklin comes in and says, “You people that are against the war are right, many of our countrymen will die if we go to war, and we may not win. However, war is necessary to stand up against our enemies, and as long as we seem like we don't want to go to war, then we can't be hated by other countries.”

The Significance

It is interesting to examine the idea that the debates in 2004 about war could parallel those from the Revolutionary War in the 1700s, since historical evidence proves that not everyone was in favor of fighting the British either. I like the development of the question, ‘What would the founding fathers do?’ as it seems like that is a common question amidst controversial topics in politics today.
Cartman explains that America was founded on the right to protest, ensuring that we don't look like hate mongers while invading other countries to look strong to our enemies. That’s having your cake, and eating it too.
Whether or not you agree with the sentiment of the episode, there is no doubt that these two sides will exist as long as military conflict does as well.

The Funniest

At the beginning of the episode, Mr. Garrison tells everyone that there is going to be an anti-war protest, so anyone against the war is allowed to leave school to protest. Cut to the entire class running out the door yelling, “We're free!” Just then they bump into the protestors who give them picket signs. A reporter interviews them, "Boys tell us what you don't like about the war." Stan responds, "Um, it's gay." The reporter continues, "Yes, and which aspect of the war do you think is most gay?" at which point they decide to just read their picket signs. Kyle reads, “War is not my… voice" and Cartman reads, "Bush is a nay-zee” (Nazi).

5. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER (Season 9, Episode 4)


The Premise

After standing in line for a week to be the first in town with a Sony PSP, Kenny plays Heaven vs Hell’ 24/7, and finally reaches level 60. He is then hit by an ice cream truck and stands before the pearly gates to meet St. Peter, who informs Kenny that his death was no accident. Kenny is The Chosen One, and he must use the Golden PSP to command Heaven’s army, "Basically, you are Keanu Reeves," (in The Matrix). As he is getting briefed for the task at hand, he disappears from heaven as a doctor successfully revives him. Because Kenny had been dead for over 24 hours, most of his brain cells are dead, and he is now in a vegetative state. A debate ensues over the proper action (or inaction) to take with Kenny’s life.
Stan and Kyle find out that Kenny has left all of his belongings to them, except for his PSP, which he leaves to Cartman because he feels bad that Cartman will die sad and alone. It is at that moment when Kenny is revived. Stan and Kyle are excited to see Kenny alive again, but Cartman insists that he would not want to live like a vegetable. He convinces the Supreme Court that because he is Kenny’s BFF, which he proves by showing half of his BFF necklace, he knows what Kenny would want. The boys know that Cartman only wants Kenny’s PSP, and they refuse to allow anyone to let Kenny die by pulling his feeding tube.
They come to the conclusion that Cartman is right (let Kenny live) for the wrong reasons, and that they are wrong (let Kenny die) for the right reasons. Just then, Kenny’s lawyer bursts in with the end of Kenny’s will, stating, “If I should ever be in a vegetative state and kept alive on life support, please, for the love of God don’t ever show me in that condition on national television.”

The Significance

South Park has perfected the process of churning a brand new episode out in six days, from conception to completion. For this reason, they can take on the most topical of subjects, as in this episode which aired during the time when Terri Schiavo was in the headlines across the country. Her case was debated on virtually every news program across the country, and this issue is about as controversial as abortion. South Park points out that there is no way we can know what each individual would want but we can be sure that they would not want to be remembered as a ‘vegetable’.
The side note to this episode is that God created the PSP and the game Heaven vs. Hell in order to find who can command Heaven’s army against Satan’s. He panicked that Hell’s army hath far greater numbers and had only recently changed his policy of admitting only the Mormons into Heaven, but by this time Hell’s numbers had already reached over 10 billion. If only one religion is right then this is probably the case.
This episode won South Park its first Emmy in 2005 for the most outstanding Animated Program under one hour.

The Funniest

Archangel Michael is the primary Heavenly military representative, who explains to Kenny the situation against Satan with a whiteboard, and occasionally sniffs his dry erase marker. When Kenny is finally returned to Heaven to command God’s army, we see Kenny playing the Golden PSP and Michael over looking the battlefield, but we don’t see the battlefield itself. Michael sets up the battle as though we are about to feast our eyes on a great spectacle, but the shot never leaves Michael, who continually describes the amazing battle, “It’s like 10 times bigger than the one at the end of the Lord of the Rings.” Ironically, this tease is eventually paid off in Imaginationland (season 11)

4. GOOD TIMES WITH WEAPONS (Season 8, Episode 1)


The Premise

The boys purchase some martial arts weapons at the swap meet, and run around the town playing ninjas. Everything is going smoothly until Kenny throws a ninja star into Butters' eye. While figuring out what to do with him, Butters gets away. Cartman tries to find Butters before the parents do by using his power of invisibility (he strips naked). “Invisible” Cartman sneaks on the stage of an auction, when Butters also wanders on stage and collapses, star in eye. A meeting is called to discuss this atrocity, as the town is enraged by the sight of a naked boy in front of everyone (the auction was also televised on local access). The boys are confused that their violence is going unnoticed, but decide to jump on board and claim that Cartman's nudity warped their minds. Cartman assures everyone it was a wardrobe malfunction.

The Significance

This episode introduces the element of an alternate animation style, which is later developed even further in the Emmy winning 'Make Love Not Warcraft’ and again in ‘Major Boobage’. After purchasing their “Real ninja weapons from Japan,” the boys turn into adult ninja's in full blown Japanese anime style video (think Speed Racer and Dragon Ball Z). The animation style goes back and forth between South Park's construction paper look and Japanese anime. (In anime they fight with real looking weapons and have powers like fireballs, while in the traditional animation they are just waving their weapons around yelling “hi-ya!”) For any of the non-believers, this illustrates the fact that South Park is fully capable of creating a sophisticated look, and the chosen look of the show is a true-to-roots concept that truly enhances the satire.

This is my favorite episode of South Park. No, not as in Matt and Trey's season 1 DVD intros, in which they called every single episode their favorite; this is my actual favorite. On the surface, this episode seems to be just another one of the boys' adventures, (sometimes these do make for the most enjoyable ones) but Cartman's auction stage nudity incident revealing that this episode is a parody of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl debacle, combined with the hilarious adventure of the boys is pure genius. It is truly absurd how much controversial a little bit of nudity causes, while the most popular forms of entertainment are more vile and violent than anything most of us will ever encounter in real life.

The Funniest

When Butters gets hit in the eye with Kenny’s star, his Professor Chaos helmet flies off, there is a brief pause and the animation switches from anime to traditional South Park style- and Butters is just standing there with a star in his eye dripping blood. To me this is the all-time funniest moment of South Park.

3. MARGARITAVILLE (Season 13, Episode 3)

“now you know the economy’s wrath”

The Premise

The town is dealing with the effects of the down economy. Stan’s dad Randy makes him invest his birthday check from his grandma, only to find out how bad the market when he lost his money in seconds, and was then asked to leave the bank since he had no money invested there.
Because the town is so upset, many have gathered to listen to various ‘soap box’ speakers, ironically at the town’s mall. Randy insists that we all spent too much money and now ‘the economy’ is angry at us. Kyle explains that ‘the economy’ is not some vengeful being but just an idea, made up of people. He contends that spending is good and is perhaps the only thing that can help the economy.
Eventually Kyle proves his point by opening an American Express platinum card, and charges everyone in the town’s debt to it. ‘A young Jew has sacrificed himself for the good of his people’.
While these arguments go on, Stan is trying to return his dad’s ‘Margaritaville’ margarita mixer. The store where it was purchased sends Stan to the company that Randy financed the mixer through. That company informs him that his dad’s payment plan has been combined with thousands of others into one big ‘Margaritaville’ security. Someone on Wall Street then explains to Stan that because many people are defaulting on their payments, the government had to buy back the securities from the banks. He eventually gets fed up and breaks the 'Margaritaville' mixer.

The Significance

The arguments made by Randy and the rest of the town echo the sentiments felt by the American public during our current recession. At times it does feel like ‘the economy’ is an omnipotent deity that can cast its wrath upon us, but nobody understands why the economy does what it does, expert or not, and sometimes we come to conclusions that make us feel better about the situation no matter how much sense it makes.
The returning of the ‘Margaritaville’ mixer represents the confusion real estate market. The problem of what banks do with mortgages is summed up perfectly in this metaphor.

The Funniest

At the Federal Treasury building, Stan is told that after they consult the chart to determine the investment value, they will issue him a refund, which they determine to be 90 trillion dollars. Stan sneaks into the ‘chart room’ and watches the process for determining what action to take when another insurance company is about to go under. Someone cuts the head off of a chicken, throws it onto a large chart on the ground, plays a kazoo, and waits for it to stop on a decision. “Most prudent move is a bailout!" There can't be any rational method which leads to the conclusion of giving $85 billion to AIG, can there?

2. DOUCHE AND TURD (Season 8, Episode 8)


The Premise

PETA declares South Park Elementary mascot, the Cow, offensive, and forces the school to hold an election for a new mascot. Kyle thinks the whole thing is stupid and decides it would be funny to tell everyone to write-in “Giant Douche.” Cartman contests that while Kyle’s intentions are good, “Turd Sandwich” would be a much more humorous candidate.
Kyle and Cartman campaign throughout the town to get votes for each of their mascots. Stan doesn’t see the point of it all, refuses to vote, and is subsequently banished from the town. Upon Stan’s return, Kyle finally gets through to him about the importance of voting, and Stan finally votes for Turd Sandwich. However, Kyle only motivated Stan to vote in order to gain another supporter, not encourage participation in the democratic process. Just after his ballot is cast it is discovered that the PETA members have been murdered by P. Diddy’s crew and the school can remain the Cows.

The Significance

Stan “Just didn’t see the point in voting between a Douche and a Turd.” He learns that every election since the beginning of time was between some douche and some turd, since that’s the only type of person who would suck up enough to be successful in politics. Though it is never stated in so many words, I think Stan realizes that though they aren’t the greatest options, they are still options nonetheless, and having options is better than not having any.
South Park is not afraid to take a stance that most people, at first, might not agree with, as in ‘Douche and Turd.’ The protagonist of the episode simply does not see the point in voting. Because he does not hold our country's most traditional process as sacred, he is literally banished from the town. In Stan’s defense, what is the point in voting between a douche and a turd?
This episode aired during the election of 2004 between George W. Bush and John Kerry.

The Funniest

The best part is the actual banishment of Stan. Stan is at the town’s edge, and everyone else in South Park lines up to see him off in the South Park way; by ripping off a small piece of his clothing and spitting on him. They then place him backwards on a horse with a bucket on his head and send him off with a Middle Earth style battle horn.

1. QUEST FOR RATINGS (Season 8, Episode 11)


The Premise

The boys put on a news show at school. They don shiny “newsish” wigs and report the relevant facts with elaborate backdrops.
When forced to make changes to their show to improve their ratings under threat of cancellation, the boys start getting creative. They revamp the show with the following ideas, “’School News’ sounds lame. It should be ‘Sexy News’, or ‘Action News’. We should also lie and say we saw celebrities, and make up a bunch of stories that make it seem like if you don’t watch, you could die.”
Jimmy is concerned with the new direction the show is heading, “Guys, is all this really ethical?” Cartman replies, “We’re in 4th grade, Jimmy, we don’t even know what ethical means.”
These outrageous stories improve ratings, but they still get crushed by Craig’s innovative program, “Animals Close Up, With a Wide Angle Lens, Wearing Hats.” Jimmy suggests the abandon the pandering tactics for a moment and do some actual journalism and search for the best story ever. This is harder than it sounds, so one of the boys reveals that some of the 5th graders get ideas by drinking an excess amount of cough syrup. After taking it, the medicine caused them to just sit around and watch Craig’s show all night, “Yeah, it was great,” Token remarks. This sparks the realization that everyone in the school is high on cough syrup, and this news becomes the focus of their next big story. It is an achievement in journalism. Because of this, their teacher gives them a contract for 27 new shows and in an effort to teach Craig how important ratings are, recommends his suspension and removal of a testicle.

The Significance

As the boys ratings improve, they get to keep making the show. They continue to invent ideas to keep the show fresh, including, “Global warming is going to kill everyone in the 5th grade.” Jimmy insists that they are dumbing down the school, while the other boys maintain that everyone is already dumb and they are just appealing to what the viewers want. This is perhaps the most important moment of the episode: the 'chicken or the egg' question of media affecting audience or public affecting media. It is a debate which may never see an end. Is the fact that much of the viewing public may be on drugs affecting the on-air products which plague much of prime-time?
I have condemned all local news shows as fear-driven propaganda for a while now, and this episode epitomizes why. It hits the nail on the head on the topics of sensationalism and ethics in media, all while giving us a good laugh.