- City of God (Cidade de Deus, Brazil)
Kids dealing drugs in the slums of Rio. Simply astounding.
- Amelie (Le fableux destin d’Amélie Poulain, France)
Quirky, imaginative, and hilarious, with amazing heart. (And Audrey Tautou.)
- The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen, Germany)
Before the fall of the Berlin wall, no secrets allowed.
- Rashômon (Japan)
One story, four differing viewpoints. Akira Kurosawa at his best.
- Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou, Hong Kong)
A groaner of a title, but better than Scorsese’s remake.
- M (Germany)
And the world is introduced to the magnificent Peter Lorre.
- Oldboy (Oldeuboi, South Korea)
The second twisted installment in Chan-Wook Park’s revenge trilogy.
- Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi, Japan)
The only movie listed in which people turn into pigs.
- Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno, Mexico)
A little girl's imagination runs away with her. And us.
- The City of Lost Children (La cité des enfants perdus, France)
Ron Perlman, former circus strongman, saves children from mad scientist.
- A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
- Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
- Mom’s Marijuana: Life, Love, and Beating the Odds, Dan Shapiro
Not just here because Dan’s my cousin. A phenomenal read.
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson
- Stiff: The Curious Lives of Cadavers, Mary Roach
- Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, Stefan Fatsis
Competitive Scrabble players are really really really really weird. Really.
- Maus & Maus II: A Survivor's Tale, Art Spiegelman
His father's survival of the Holocaust, with Jews as mice.
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss
- Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell
A whirlwind tour of presidential assassinations: Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley.
After all, who doesn’t like a nice slice of pi?
Eight six seven minus five three oh nine. Good times.
- A googolplex
No way in hell am I typing all those zeroes.
This one’s for Gabe. Just flip your calculator upside down.
i never had any imaginary friends. Just an imaginary number.
- “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” performed by Peter Boyle and Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein
What? It’s a number. A musical number. (I never stipulated.)
- Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson
Absolutely perfect. My only complaint: Watterson retired way too soon.
- The Far Side, Gary Larson
The gold standard for the anthropomorphization of animals. (Especially cows.)
- Zits, Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott
- Pearls Before Swine, Stephen Pastis
- Dilbert, Scott Adams
- Fox Trot, Bill Amend
- The Boondocks, Aaron McGruder
- Non Sequitur, Wiley Miller
- XKCD, Randall Munroe
Only online, the Holy Grail for math and science geeks.
- Anything other than Zippy the Pinhead
- Jets with friggin’ lasers attached to their heads. Duh.
- Laseroff™ brand laser repellant
- A well-placed anvil
- Remote-detonation remora
- The entire Spanish Armada (preferably before 1588)
- Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli
Why him? When you think about it, it’s patently obvious.
- Point behind it and say, “Hey, is that a wounded sea lion?”
- Here’s a hint: Sharks are ticklish.
- Double-barreled squirrel launcher
- Your pal Hemo, the hemophiliac
Reserved for family only. Sounds weird if others use it.
Simple, yet effective. Only my darling sister would say otherwise.
- Nate the Grape
A take-off on the old classic. It never really caught on.
- Nate the Skate
Courtesy of my middle school librarian. Not used once since.
- Wilson Kid
The K is silent, but you’re supposed to pronounce it.
- Snooty McWilsonpants
Sure, I could have put "Nate Dogg" here, but why?
- Nathar (of the Hill People)
- Natest the Greatest
- Cap’n Bill
I’m not a captain, nor is my name William. Discuss.
- Firefly (2002-2003)
Superbly written space western with stellar cast. Fox really blows.
- Carnivàle (2003-2005)
Carnies during the Dust Bowl. Like little else on television.
- Invader Zim (2001-2003)
Gir is, quite possibly, the best character ever written. Doomidoomidoom.
- Spy (2004)
The. Best. Reality show. Ever. Nothing else even comes close.
- Sports Night (1998-2000)
You don’t need to like sports to love this show.
- Freaks & Geeks (1999-2000)
Back before Apatow hit it big, his shows never lasted.
- The Critic (1994-1995)
Two fewer seasons than Duckman, if you can believe that.
- Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
John Cleese managing a hotel. Really, what could go wrong?
- Dead Like Me (2003-2004)
Mandy Patinkin leads a band of undead soul suckers. Kinda.
- The Powers That Be (1992-1993)
'Twas laugh out loud hilarious, with a side of politics.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo, 50 pts.
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 39 pts.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina, 38 pts.
- Czech Republic, 35 pts.
- (tie) Central African Republic, 35 pts.
- Mozambique, 34 pts.
- Republic of the Congo, 33 pts.
- Kazakhstan, 30 pts.
- (tie) Kyrgyzstan, 30 pts.
- United States of America, 29 pts.
- Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky (22:29)
- Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, Arlo Guthrie (18:37)
- Allegro Ma Non Tanto, Concerto #3 In D Minor, Sergey Rachmaninoff (17:21)
- Tetragrammaton, The Mars Volta (16:42)
- The Lightning Strike, Snow Patrol (16:28)
- Goodbye Sky Harbor, Jimmy Eat World (16:14)
- Monolith, The Beta Band (15:49)
- Finale: Alla Breve, from Concerto #3 In D Minor, Sergey Rachmaninoff (14:33)
- Third Eye, Tool (13:47)
- Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: A. Vade Mecum, The Mars Volta (13:10)
- Spruce Goose Chartreuse
- Desert Island Maroon
- Mister Pink
- Seared Umber
- Let’s Make a Teal
- Marty McFly Yellow4
- Green with Ivy
- I Don’t Give a Flying Fuchsia
- Blue-Green Aquamarine Turquoise Sea Breeze
Disclaimer: These lists are, of course, just my opinion. Obviously, I haven’t seen or read everything under the sun. And I may have accidentally left something off one of the lists. But most likely, if you don’t see your favorite book or movie or show or whatever listed above, that’s because it sucks.
Oh yeah, and to quote Columbo, just one last thing.5
5 Every description / footnote shares one characteristic. Kudos if you noticed.