Monthly Archives: October 2008

7 Unexpected Moments of Guitar Awesomeness

Written by Adam Brown

he interweb tubes are stuffed with lists heralding the high fallutin’ achievements of all those “greatest of all time” type guitar players that the mainstream media throw in your face everyday. Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Kirk Hammett, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Morrello, Slash…they’ve all done some pretty impressive stuff. But you know what? They aren’t the only people that play the damn guitar. In fact, there are several artists who, on any given night, can burn any given venue to the GROUND using nothing more then their guitar shredding abilities. For example…

  • 7. John Mayer (Live)

    Hey, you know what’s fun to do? Make fun of John Mayer. What a tool, right! I mean, he’s got that dorky blog that everyone likes and that killer sense of humor and he’s bedded all those hot chicks and he kicks ass on guitar and…wait. What the hell is going on here? Is John Mayer secretly awesome? While some signs point to a definitive “No” (looking at you, “Your Body Is a Wonderland”), there are even more signs that point to a solid “Maybe?”

    One thing that isn’t open for debate is this… John Mayer can play the damn guitar. His songs don’t go to any great lengths to show it, but it’s the truth. YouTube is littered with videos just like the one below if you don’t believe me.

  • 6. Kurt Cobain on “The Priest They Called Him”

    Kurt Cobain did more with noise, mistakes and catastrophe than most guitarists could with years of training and flawless playing. He once said something along the lines of “I could never play like Segovia, but Segovia could never play like me either.” It’s debatable whether Segovia would have wanted to play the guitar like Kurt Cobain, really. But thank God someone wanted to. Without the noise filled intro of “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” or the perfectly-out-of-tune strumming of “Polly” and “Something In the Way,” the world would be a much lesser place.

    If Kurt ever embarked on a “tour-de-force” of guitar work, it would be on “The Priest They Called Him,” a William Burroughs’ spoken word piece that featured Cobain on guitar. To hear it, check out the video below. Or, if the mood strikes, seek out a copy of the ridiculously cool 10″ picture disc release that features etchings of Burroughs’ and Cobain’s signatures. It’s cheaper than you think.

  • 5. Jonny Greenwood on ‘Go To Sleep’ (Live)

    With their penchant for experimentation, it’s easy to forget that at their most basic, Radiohead is a great guitar rock band. But where a lesser person could find themselves disappointed with their primary instrument’s diminished role in their band’s music, Greenwood rolls with the punches. And by “roll with the punches” I mean he “plays” a portable radio onstage.

    But it’s not all theremins and didgeridoos for Jonny Greenwood. When it comes time to rock, he’s as good as it gets. Employing a Max/MSP patch based guitar setup, Jonny strangles enthralling guitar sounds out of a simple Telecaster every bit as well as the much more heralded Tom Morello. And his lead singer is far less annoying. Kind of. Anyway, to see Jonny Greenwood tear shit down, check the solo at the end of the video below.

  • 4. John Frusciante with Red Hot Chili Peppers (Live)

    Maybe you can chalk it up to this past history of off stage shenanigans, including once recording a solo album mainly as a means to score drug money, but for some reason John Frusciante’s name rarely comes up when the best guitar players of today are discussed.

    Maybe it’s just because the Chili Pepper’s songs don’t really extend into jamtastic solo territory on record, lest they ease up on Anthony Kiedis’ “wang dang dong ding dong” stream of consciousness rambling. Whatever the case may be, John Frusciante deserves more credit than he receives.

  • 3. Lindsey Buckingham on ‘Big Love’

    How proficient is Lindsey Buckingham on guitar? Consider this. When he bolted Fleetwood Mac on the eve of a world tour, they hired TWO people to replace him. Now compare that to your current station in life. If the majority of us left our day jobs, it’s debatable whether they would even bother replacing our shiftless asses at all. But Lindsey Buckingham? It took two mortal men to carry the axe load of this one unsung rock guitar giant.

    Choosing a solo acoustic version of a famous Mac song to demonstrate his unheralded guitar abilities may seem like an odd choice. But on this tune, Lindsey leaves no doubt as to why it took a village to replace him.

  • 2. Neil Young on ‘Keep on Rockin’ The Free World’ (w/ Bruce Springsteen)

    No guitar player on Earth can possibly sound exactly like Neil Young. That’s a big claim, but in his case, it’s true. You see, there are a lot of great players out there who use a certain guitar/amp/effects set up with the knobs tweaked to precise positions and, if you can find the info, you can copy them. You may not have the same rhythm or timing or luxurious crotch bulge, but you can have their tone.

    Not so with Neil Young. When you see him stomp on that big ass red contraption that sleeps at his feet during every show, understand this, he built that bitch! He wired the circuits, he fashioned the metal casing, he probably sploshed the red paint on it, he did it all. And the sound he gets from it is unspeakably unique. In the video below, it takes about three minutes for Neil Young to steal the show and turn this duet with Bruce Springsteen from 2004’s “Vote For Change Tour” into a Neil Young guitar party. If you can’t wait that long for the magic to happen, the terrorists have already won.

  • 1. Prince on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (Live George Harrison Tribute)

    Prince is the greatest guitar player on Earth. There. I said it. I’ve probably shed a good six years off my lifespan arguing that point with various strangers and associates. It’s just a personal opinion, and it’s fine if you disagree. I expect that. What else am I going to do while I’m drunk if I’m not arguing about music? You may not agree that Prince is THE greatest six string assassin walking the streets today, but if you know anything about the guitar, you at least know he deserves to have his name mentioned amongst the best. Top five, top twenty, top fifty, whatever. He gets a spot.

    That’s how I feel anyway. Rolling Stone, apparently, does not. And they said so when they released their list of the top 100 guitar players of all time just weeks before both Prince and Rolling Stone Magazine founder Jann Wenner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In their opinion, Prince wasn’t even in the top 100.

    Is there any proof that Prince’s molten-hot solo on that hall of fame induction night’s all-star jam performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” had anything to do with him being snubbed from that list? No. But come on now, this is Prince. He doesn’t just show up for no reason. Until it came time to destroy the stage with that solo, most people didn’t even know Prince was onstage at all. On this night, Prince was on a mission.

25 Fantastic Indie Gems Made for Less Than $1 Million

Written by Adam Quigley

Indie Gems - Header

Behind every outstanding Hollywood blockbuster, there’s a film director who had to work their ass off to helm that project. And though their early work is not often seen by the public eye, that doesn’t mean it’s not accessible to those who are interested in seeking it out. Usually, these films can be found gathering dust at the bottom of a video store shelf, overlooked by most in favor of generic Hollywood productions like Rush Hour 3 (cost: $140 million), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (cost: $85 million), Evan Almighty (cost: $175 million), the soon-to-be-released-on-DVD The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (cost: $145 million), and other such over-budgeted cinematic drudgery. But to the small-time filmmakers that made them, they’re a labored amalgamation of all the sweat and tears they had to invest before hitting it big. And to the audiences willing to forgo any preconceived notions about independent cinema, they’re some of the best surprises you can find in the movie world, making up for their lack of budget with originality, creativity, intelligence, and damn fine filmmaking.

The following movies all had budgets under $1 million, some of them reaching as low as $7,000. Let this act as a reminder: you don’t need to be backed by studio financing to make a great film.

Indie Gems - El Mariachi

Budget: $7,000 (before additional post production work)

Widely considered by many to be the definitive “indie” film, writer/director/producer/cinematographer/editor Robert Rodriguez (of Sin City fame) made this ultra-low-budget production about a traveling mariachi who’s mistaken for a murderous criminal in Mexico after raising $9,000 (only $7,225 which was spent) by volunteering for experimental clinical drug testing in Texas. Rodriguez was able to keep the budget so low by adhering to a very strict expense limit, which basically forced him to not spend money on anything other than film stock, and even then only shooting one or two takes. Not having any real money to spend tested the ambitious filmmaker’s abilities to solve problems creatively, leading to the implementation of a wheelchair instead of a dolly, having the actors signal scene numbers/takes with their hands instead of using a slate, using two 200-watt clip-on desk lamps for lighting, and most importantly, not hiring a film crew (he did all of the important work himself, and he used the actors who weren’t being filmed to help out on the set). Rodriguez has detailed all these efforts and more in his excellent book, Rebel Without a Crew, which has since become one of the most popular inspirational tools for independent filmmakers.

El Mariachi would later go on to be the first entry in Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy, followed by the decidedly higher budgeted (though not necessarily better) Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

[NOTE: It’s important to keep in mind though, the often referenced $7,000 budget doesn’t actually reflect what we see when renting or buying the final film, since after the movie was bought by a studio they had to essentially re-edit it and do additional post-production work to prepare it for theatrical viewing (which Rodriguez neither expected or prepared for).]

Indie Gems - Clerks

Budget: $27,000 (before additional post production work)

A god amongst film geeks, beloved filmmaker and comic book writer Kevin Smith has amassed an arsenal of 6 movies to fit into his View Askewniverse, and that world begins and ends with Clerks. Though many people have an almost instinctive adverse reaction to black-and-white cinema nowadays, Clerks proves that when it comes to comedy, a strong focus on dialogue is almost always the primary route to success. And with the film taking place almost entirely within a convenience store where Kevin Smith worked at the time, the concentration staying on dialogue above anything else allowed for the young filmmaker to keep the budget as minimal as possible. That’s not to say paying for the movie was an easy task. According to Wikipedia, in order to acquire the funds for the film, Smith sold a large proportion of his extensive comic book collection, maxed out eight to ten credit cards with $2000 limits, dipped into a portion of funds set aside for his college education and spent insurance money awarded for a car he and Jason Mewes lost in a flood.

Since the film had to be shot at night when the store was closed, Smith needed to come up with a way to explain why the steel shutters were closed, and in turn led to a great scene in the film where Dante discovers somebody put gum in the locks and has to put up a big sign written in shoe polish that says, “I Assure You, We’re Open.” Situations like these just go to show how being forced to think outside the box can actually lead to much more rewarding outcomes.

Indie Gems - Evil Dead

Budget: $375,000

Before going on to direct the Spider-Man films (all of which feature cameo appearances from Bruce Campbell, who plays The Evil Dead’s badass action hero Ash), writer/director Sam Raimi developed a massive cult following with this ultra-violent and gory horror film, which later went on to spawn two equally excellent sequels. Shot over a period of 1.5 years with a shooting budget of less than $120,000, Raimi made sure to stay true to the fundamental rule of low budget horror films: set everything in a single easy-to-film location. This didn’t stop problems from plaguing the production, however; over the course of the year and a half when the film was shot, the movie lost almost its entire cast, requiring Raimi to use stand-ins to replace actors who had left. Meanwhile, Bruce Campbell (who did remain loyal through the shoot) underwent torturous conditions playing Ash, often returning home in the back of a pick-up truck covered from head to toe in fake blood.

Indie Gems - Following

Budget: $6,000

From the co-writer and director of The Dark Knight.

Hopefully that’s all that needs to be said to convince any hesitant viewers from checking out this black-and-white neo-noir directorial debut from master filmmaker Christopher Nolan. As has been proven with Memento, Batman Begins, and The Prestige, this is a man who can do no wrong. With Following, Nolan (who in addition to writing and directing, also filmed and co-produced the film) tells the fascinating story of a struggling young writer who tries to find inspiration by following people, and is eventually taken under the wing of a professional thief. Not unlike Memento, Following uses a non-linear plot structure to tell its story, explained by Nolan as a means to “emphasize the audience’s incomplete understanding of each new scene as it is first presented.” This plays into a recurring trademark of Nolan’s, as the themes of his films always go hand-in-hand with the style in which it’s presented.

In terms of making the film, Nolan has described the experience as “extreme.” With no money, limited equipment, and a cast and crew who all had full-time jobs to work around, the shoot took a full year to complete. Due to the expensiveness of filmstock, every scene was extensively rehearsed beforehand to ensure that the first or second take could be used in the final edit. Also, instead of using professional film lighting equipment, Nolan relied primarily on available light. He also used the homes and flats of his friends and family as locations.

Indie Gems - Primer

Budget: $7,000

I consider time travel to be one of the most fascinating subjects in the sci-fi genre, but unfortunately, when it comes to film, it’s often used as merely a means for expensive special effects and gimmicky Hollywood plot devices. I rarely go into a movie expecting the filmmakers to actually adhere to the time travel rules they establish early on, because most of the time, they could care less about the actual mechanics of traveling through time and what effects it would have on the world. Behold, Primer: a captivating ultra-low budget movie that’s actually about time travel, and isn’t just using it as an excuse for putting someone from modern times either in the past or future. If there’s a plot hole to be found in Primer’s intricately woven series of events, I haven’t yet discovered it. This could also be due in part to my lack of understanding of over half of what’s being discussed within the film, as Shane Carruth (whose name is on almost every single one of the film’s credits, including: director, writer, producer, editor, cinematographer, music composer… oh, and did I mention he’s one of the leads?) decided not to dumb down any of the technical dialogue out of respect for the audience. This gives the film an air of intelligence that the rest of today’s cinema could really benefit from. Sadly though, Hollywood doesn’t trust viewers the same way Carruth does.

By the way, if you’re still confused once the movie is over (and there’s a good chance you will be), check out this helpful guide that shows how the time travel mechanism in the film functions.

Indie Gems - Swingers

Budget: $250,000

It’s so rare to see so much new talent come together for an indie film as low budget as Swingers, and then later watch as all that talent become hugely successful A-list Hollywood stars and directors, but here’s at least one instance where that very thing happened. Most prominently, the film skyrocketed the career of Vince Vaughn, who immediately caught the attention of Steven Spielberg and was cast in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Then we have director Doug Liman, who’s amassed a rather impressive filmography following the success of Swingers that includes such pictures as The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Go. Lastly there’s the film’s writer and star, Jon Favreau, who despite having attached his name to a number of notable films as both director (Made, Elf, Zathura) and actor (Very Bad Things, Daredevil, The Replacements), only recently struck gold after directing the acclaimed box office hit Iron Man. Although it would be unfair to downplay the importance of what Liman and Vaughn brought to the table, much of the greatness that continues to make Swingers such a brilliantly funny and enjoyable (not to mention quotable) movie is Favreau’s witty and insightful script. Following a couple wannabe actors that become regulars in the stylish neo-lounge scene, the focus is much more on character interaction than plot. Not that that’s a problem; when your film is this money, who needs plot?

Indie Gems - Slacker

Budget: $23,000

Often referenced as one of the catalysts for the ’90s independent film movement, Slacker never received a wide release but eventually went on to become a cult hit, even acting as inspiration for Clerks’ filmmaker Kevin Smith. The movie, which follows an ensemble of mostly twenty-something bohemians and misfits during a single day in Texas, was one of writer/director/producer/star Richard Linklater’s earliest works, coming two years before his similarly structured other cult classic (and decidedly higher budgeted) Dazed & Confused.

Indie Gems - Eraserhead

Budget: $100,000

David Lynch is an extremely polarizing filmmaker, but none of his films are quite as perplexing as Eraserhead, a film that’s probably best described as an art lover’s wet dream. It’s so bizarre and so utterly twisted that you really must see it for yourself if you have any hope of comprehending it, and even then I wouldn’t promise anything. Shot from a script that consisted of only 21 pages (I can only imagine the entirety of the film existed solely in Lynch’s warped mind), Eraserhead was forced to shoot intermittently over the course of five years due to the lack of unreliable funding. Being that the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress in 2004, I think it’s safe to say the effort paid off.

Indie Gems - Pi

Budget: $60,000

Despite offering a decidedly more coherent storyline, Pi is stylistically very similar to Eraserhead. Directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain), the film follows a mathematical genius who theorizes that numbers can be used to understand all of existence, and that the first step to doing so is finding the patterns. This concept leads him down a path of obsession and paranoia as he desperately tries to unravel the mysteries of the universe and the nature of God. In order to raise money for the project, Aronofsky sold $100 shares in the film to family and friends, and was able to pay everyone back with a $50 profit per-share after the film was sold.

Indie Gems - Brick

Budget: $475,000

Writer/director Rian Johnson first completed the script for Brick in 1997, and spent seven years afterward trying and failing to convince Hollywood studios to help produce it. These production companies thought the material, which took a film noir style inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s hardboiled detective novels and incorporated it within a high school setting, was far too unusual for a first-time director. With this, Johnson took matters into his own hands, asking friends and families to help fund the minimum amount needed to get the film made. Johnson was then able to work around tricky camera shots and special effects by using his creativity instead of money, filming certain scenes in reverse order or playing footage backwards.

Indie Gems - Cube

Budget: CAD $365,000

As mentioned previously with The Evil Dead, it’s a common strategy when making an independent horror film to set the whole thing in one location in order to preserve budget. Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t offer much in the way variety, leading to a few too many movies where a trapped group of people are picked off one by one in some remote area. Leave it to Cube to think outside the box; or rather, inside the box (and I mean that literally). This film takes that oft-used horror formula and ingeniously alters the setting to create a mysterious and thoroughly fascinating sci-fi thriller, following 7 strangers with no knowledge of where they are or how they got there as they maneuver through a seemingly endless maze of interconnecting cubes. But here’s the kicker: some of the rooms are booby-trapped. If that premise wasn’t cool enough as it is, the real ingenuity of Cube is in its making, as only one cube had to be built for the entire movie. In order to create the illusion of different rooms, they simply used sliding panels to change its color.

Indie Gems - Napoleon Dynamite

Budget: $400,000

I’ll probably get a lot of flack for putting Napoleon Dynamite on a list that claims to only include “fantastic” movies, but love it or hate it, there’s no denying the unique and unconventional style and humor the film has to offer. It’s a weird, offbeat and relatively plotless film that indulges in its unusual assortment of characters and has no intention of being anything other than what it is. For some, those are the very reasons they despise it. For others, those traits are exactly why they can’t get enough of it. That’s just how it is; both parties can continue to bitch about it all they want, but it will never change the impressiveness of the fact that a movie made for less than half a million dollars became a spectacularly successful sleeper hit on DVD and has now become a significant part of our pop culture history.

Indie Gems - Welcome to the Dollhouse

Budget: $800,000

By far Todd Solondz’s best film, Welcome to the Dollhouse is like a much more depressingly realistic Napoleon Dynamite. The movie poignantly explores the life of an unattractive and unpopular 7th grade girl in a harsh yet darkly comedic manner, acting as an affecting reminder of the trials and tribulations of adolescence and then reaffirming at the end of it all that at least our childhoods didn’t suck as bad as this poor girl’s. It may be a depressing experience, but you won’t be able to say it wasn’t a memorable one.

Indie Gems - Mad Max

Budget: A$350,000

To think, there was a time when Mel Gibson was a highly respected name in Hollywood and wasn’t immediately thought of as being an anti-Semitic douchebag. Mad Max was one of the catalysts of that initial respect. Starring in what would later become his breakthrough role, Gibson got the part of the leather-clad post-apocalyptic survivor by pure chance, as he was only auditioning to accompany a classmate and was in very bad shape due to a drunken brawl from the night before. As fate would have it though, the casting agent liked his look (the operative word being “freak”), and he was later cast in the leading role. The film later went on to gross $100 million worldwide and spawned two sequels (the vastly superior Road Warrior, and infinitely weaker Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). Mad Max is also significant in that it helped open up the global market to Australian films.

Indie Gems - Lord of the Flies

Budget: $250,000

A solid, respectable adaptation of William Golding’s classic novel, this 1963 production about a group of shipwrecked boys who slowly revert to savagery is a film that’s easier to enjoy at a more mature age when you’re not being forced to sit through it during your high school English class. Employing a naturalistic filmmaking style, director Peter Brook encouraged his young cast to improvise, dispensing with much of the script in the process. The total amount of footage shot came in at over 60 hours, which was then edited down into a 90-minute film. In order to cast the young characters, over 3,000 child actors were looked over. Despite the extensive scouting process, Hugh Edwards, the actor who plays Piggy, got the role simply by writing a letter to Brook that said: “Dear sir, I am fat and I wear spectacles.”

Indie Gems - Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Budget: $83,532

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre wasn’t always considered a horror classic. During its initial release, the film was highly criticized for its brutal content, and ended up being banned in various countries (including Australia and the United Kingdom). Now, it’s one of the most widely referenced and imitated horror movies ever made. What I find most interesting about the film, however, is that despite being consistently referred to as one of the most gruesome and horrifying entries in the horror genre, there is very little blood and gore to be found. The terror comes from the direction, perfectly building suspense and providing an effectively disturbing atmosphere that convinces you you’ve seen a lot more than you actually have.

Indie Gems - Dawn of the Dead

Budget: $114,000 / $650,000

It’s sad to see how far George Romero has fallen. His most recent zombie-based efforts, Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead, are two of the weakest the genre has to offer, which is shocking considering that he was the one to revolutionize the zombie/horror genre with these ’60s-’70s classics. No matter; the lousiness of his later films does not taint or diminish the quality and influence of his earlier works. While the black-and-white Night of the Living Dead may not hold up as the terror-infused heart-pounder it once was (though it is still a great movie), Romero’s next zombie picture, Dawn of the Dead, continues to retain everything that made it the awesomely badass thrill-ride it’s been since its theatrical release. And hey, if the thrills aren’t enough for you, they’ve also got social commentary to boot.

Indie Gems - Halloween

Budget: $325,000 / $100,000

Not unlike George Romero, John Carpenter hasn’t had much luck during the second half of his career. But during the ’70s and ’80s, he was one of the most accomplished, influential horror/action/science fiction directors in Hollywood. His second film, Assault on Precinct 13, did poorly at the U.S. box office and received only mixed reviews. However, the film became a major hit that next year in the U.K., garnering tremendous success with both critics and audiences. It wasn’t until later that American critics and audiences started to come back around on the film, with it now being considered one of best action films of the 1970s. Two years later, John Carpenter directed Halloween, which was also dismissed by critics during its initial release but soon picked up on word of mouth and became a massive box office success. It’s now looked back on as the most significant slasher film of its era, acting as a defining mark on the horror genre and Carpenter’s most respected work.

Indie Gems - Henry

Budget: $110,000

Shot in less than a month, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer had a hard time getting released due to repeated disagreements with the MPAA over its graphic content. The film is influenced by the case of the convicted murderer Henry Lee Lucas, based more on his sick sexual and violent fantasies than of the actual crimes he committed. This focus allows for a rare and honest look at a killer, offering a twisted journey that delves deep into the mind of a psychopath.

Indie Gems - Blair Witch Project

Budget: $22,000

You don’t need to like The Blair Witch Project to appreciate what its directors were able to accomplish. One of the first films to use the Internet and viral marketing, Artisan Entertainment took advantage of the film’s documentary approach, portraying it as just that: a documentary. The film went on to gross $248 million worldwide, giving it the highest ratio of box office sales to production cost in American filmmaking history.

Indie Gems - Open Water

Budget: $130,000

If you’re only used to seeing high budget Hollywood flicks, it’s understandable that you may be put off by Open Water’s naturalistic digital video style. Personally though, I find the DV-based cinematography part of what makes the film so startlingly effective. It gives it this simple, believable quality, making it all the more terrifying when the couple find themselves lost at sea. Much like what was done with The Blair Witch Project, the filmmakers found a way to actually take advantage of the low budget, using it as a means to keep the material grounded firmly in reality.

Indie Gems - Aguirre

Budget: $370,000

Written and directed by Werner Herzog, the script for Aguirre was completed in only two and a half days. The film, which was hailed by many critics as a masterpiece, takes place in 16th century and follows the ruthless and insane Aguirre leading a Spanish expedition in search of El Dorado. Interestingly, the biggest challenge of making the film wasn’t dealing with the low budget but in dealing with the temperamental lead actor, Klaus Kinski. Kinski and Herzog were constantly at ends with each other, and at one point Kinski even fired three bullets a into hut where cast and crew were disruptively playing cards, blowing the top of an extra’s finger off.

Indie Gems - Living in Oblivion

Budget: $500,000

Living in Oblivion is a darkly comedic and satirical low-budget independent film that depicts the making of a low-budget independent film. Separated into three parts, the film features Steve Buscemi as a director driven to near-madness by his cast and crew. DiCillo’s inspiration for the film came from the frustrations he experienced when making his directorial debut Johnny Suede, as well as his ongoing struggle to make his next proposed film, Box of Moonlight. After being rejected by every producer, the director’s friends and the intended actors were so enthusiastic about the project that they helped to finance it.

Honorable Mentions:

Indie Gems - Bad Taste

Budget: $25,000 (before post) / $750,000

While not “fantastic” by any means, it’s still amazing to think that Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the 2005 remake of King Kong, would begin his career as a director of extremely violent and gory horror comedies. His debut was Bad Taste (in which he also starred), which is about aliens hunting down humans as food for their intergalactic fast-food chain. His follow-up to that, Meet the Feebles, is a hilariously warped and un-PC take on the Muppets. Watching these films will undoubtedly give you a new sense of respect and admiration for a filmmaker that’s now known for turning out epic and classy Oscar-winning material.

Indie Gems - Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Budget: £960,000

I would be cheating if I put this film on the actual list, since if you converted the budget from pounds to dollars it would most definitely be over a million (though Wikipedia lists the budget as exactly $1 million), but due to the tremendous awesomeness of the film at hand, I felt it at least deserved an honorable mention. Joining Snatch as one of the only two great movies Guy Ritchie has made (as of writing this, that is — fingers crossed for RocknRolla to up that total to three), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is above and beyond one of the best crime films Britain has to offer. It also introduced audiences to Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones, both of whom have proven themselves very skilled in the genre of “kicking ass and taking names.” Even if you can’t decipher half of the dialogue through the actor’s thick accents (thank god for subtitles), the stylish, energetic direction and intricate storyline will make sure you’re always entertained enough to not bother complaining.

Indie Gems - It's Always Sunny

Budget: $85

It may not be a movie, but regardless, the fact that the three creators of one of the funniest shows on television were able to get their pilot picked up for a full season while only spending $85 just goes to prove once again that the most important facet of any cinematic work is story, characters, and dialogue; basically, all the things that don’t cost money.

[Sources IMDB, Wikipedia]

Did we miss some? If you can think of other fantastic indie gems made for less than $1 million, let us know in the comments and we’ll update the list. Be sure to give your name so we can credit you.


Indie Gems - Once

Budget: €130,000

(Suggested by: David Nguyen)

This is just shameful. I cannot believe I forgot to list Once, a wonderful little Irish film that became one of my instant favorites of last year. Even though it has a very simple storyline, following the lives of two struggling musicians in Dublin, the movie has this charm and raw emotional power that shines through its superb musical performances. I’m not really one for romance films, but Once is in a league all its own.

5 Gmail Labs Features Everyone Should Try

Written by Sharninder

Here at Make Use Of, we’re big fans of Gmail and use it all the time. We love the interface, the features and above all, It just works.

But, as with all software, there is room for improvement and although Google has been adding features to Gmail at a dizzying pace, there’s only so much they can do, without breaking up the thing for a whole bunch of users.

And that is where Gmail Labs come in. My guess is that the Gmail team at Google got tired of deciding if a feature was good enough to be in Gmail and so have designed Gmail Labs to let the users decide, which is an awesome idea if you ask me!

According to the Gmail team,

Gmail Labs is a way for us to take lots of the ideas we wouldn’t normally pick and let you all (who use Gmail) decide whether they’re good or not.

To enable the Labs features, log-in to your Gmail account and click on “Settings”. There you should see the Labs tab. Click on that for a list of all the available features.

Gmail Labs Features

Right Side Labels/Right Side Chat

Move Labels and Chat to the Right

This is one of my favorite extensions. All it does is take the list of labels and the chat box from the bottom-left of the page and places it at the top-right of the page. What a huge difference that makes.

The problem with the labels/chat box at the default location is that one has to do a bit of scrolling and clicking to reach there. This extension takes the pain out of using the labels.

Signature Tweaks

Gmail Signature

This is one of those things that has been, in my opinion, broken in Gmail since day one. I’m glad that the team has finally got around to providing a solution to the problem. The signature tweaks extension lets you place your signature before the quoted text when replying to an email. It also removes the ‘-‘ before the signature.

Quoted Text

Quoted Text

This extension is definite proof that God exists. Gone are the days of selecting and deleting irrelevant text when replying to a message. A huge time-saver if ever there was one.

Vacation Time

Vacation Time Auto-repsponder

This is another useful extension that lets you specify the start and end dates for your vacation, so that the auto-responder can stop auto-responding to emails when you’re back.

Now, I can see that grin on your faces, I know all of you have at some time forgot to disable the auto-responder 🙂

Forgotten Attachment Detector

Gmail Attachment Reminder

We’re all guilty of forgetting to attach a file while sending an email. Hell, I’ve even sent job applications without attaching my resume 🙂 This extension is definitely a God-send for people like me … and I use it all the time.

Do you guys have any favourite Gmail Labs extensions ? Are there any extensions you would like Gmail Labs to invent? Please leave a comment and tell us your dream Gmail extension!

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(By) Sharninder is a programmer, blogger and a geek making a living writing software to change the world. He is also passionate about open source and loves to ride around the country on his Royal Enfield motorcycle. Read all about his exploits at his weblog – NomadicRider.

How To Pay Off $14,330 In 20 Months

Written by Ben Popken

Stuck in a $14,300 debt hole, reader Trixare4kids was able to dig herself out using tips she learned about on Let’s learn how she attacked her personal finances and learned to live frugally, and did it all in 20 months.

She writes: “This morning I made my very last payment on $14,300 in credit card debt and a personal line of credit for a home improvement project that was completed a few years ago. I paid it off over the last 20 months thanks to applying some of the stuff I learned at It was tough. It took discipline, but I did it!

Instead of making a bunch of changes at once, I did things a little over time. It looked something like this. It’s maybe not in the order that makes the most sense to a financial planner or in the order that someone else would do things; I just know that it worked for me.

I called every single credit card company and tried to negotiate for a lower rate. I was successful with a lot of them. In once case the rate went from 14% to 7.99%. If they would not lower the interest rate, I politely thanked them and then transferred those balances onto lower rate cards. I canceled each card as it was paid off.

I cut up every single card except one for emergencies. I actually put my remaining credit card in a big plastic cup full of water and stuck it in the freezer. That way, I’d really have to work at it to get that card. Cash only was the rule. If I did not have the cash, I did not need it. It’s still in the freezer 20 months later.

It really works. I first heard about this method on consumerist and set myself up to pay off the lowest balances first. I used an Excel spreadsheet I downloaded here. I liked this one because it was easy to add extra one-time payments. I know that it would probably save me more money to pay off the higher interest rates first, but it was very, very satisfying to get stuff paid and DONE with. I cannot even begin to explain how highly motivating it was to finally pay something off. It was worth whatever little amount extra it cost me extra to pay the smallest balances off first. It makes for that good “light at the end of the tunnel” feeling. I also set up automatic payments on payday through the online bill pay to make this a seamless process. For the first couple of months, I just started off with just $50 extra because that’s all I could afford. Once I started living more frugally, I applied more to the snowball.

Make extra payments to the snowball. They really do help, no matter how small. Every single extra penny that came my way went toward paying down the debt. At the end of the month, if I had anything left over in any of the budget categories, I immediately applied that as an extra payment. The nice thing about online bill pay is that it’s just so easy to make as many payments as you want. Sometimes it was $100, sometimes it was $10 or even $3 one month, but every little bit helps. I purchased a printer that was almost free after rebate and applied the rebate to the debt. I did a few side jobs helping a caterer do some prep work; I sold some books on, cleaned out my garage and made $300 from a yard sale, grandma sent me money for my birthday and Christmas, you get the idea. The point is, every single extra penny went right to the debt.

I made a budget and figured out where exactly my money was going.

I figured out what I could cut back on or go without. Not only did I figure out what I was giving up would save me I also diligently applied that amount to the snowball. It also really helps to figure out what something is costing you per year. I had no idea I was spending $600 a year just on manicures!

Here’s what I gave up:

Cable TV. Got a cheap netflix plan and a roku player instead. Savings: $17/month, $204 a year
Land line phone. Savings: $27/month, $324/year
Gardener. Savings: $40/month, $480/year
Got slower DSL. Savings: $10/month, $120/year
Manicures. Did my own. Savings: $50/month, $600/year
Public Radio Membership. Sorry KQED and KALW, but I have to come first right now. I’ll continue to support you later. Savings: $11/month, $132/year
Gym Membership. Savings: $30/month, $360/year
Lunches at work. Savings: $120 month, $1440/year
Starbucks. Savings: $60/month, $720/year

Total extra towards snowball: $365/month, $4,380/year.
Just like that.

I worked on cutting my spending in other ways.

I am an avid reader and I realized one of my biggest expenditures was new books. I gave up my Amazon habit and switched to the library. My local library allows you to browse the catalog online and request books be sent to the branch of your choice. I work 2 blocks from a branch so I just picked up things there. I also used, and to give books I no longer wanted and in return get books I wanted. It only cost me the price of shipping books to other users via media mail. I saved unknown hundreds and hundreds of dollars by making this simple switch.

For example, in September, I spent $36 on postage to send out used books, books that would otherwise just be sitting around and in return I received about $300 worth of books had I bought them new at retail price. For those who are into DVDs and CDs, and are also awesome sites. (Other than being a member, I’m not affiliated with any of those sites)

I stopped buying anything new. If I really, really needed something, I would ask first on freecycle and search craigslist for used items for sale. For example, my hairdryer stopped working about 6 months ago. Instead of running out to buy a new one, I posted an “Item Wanted” listing on the yahoo group and had a new and FREE hair dryer within 24 hours.

Food Budget: I ate the kind of things I normally eat; I just made some simple substitutions. I ate at home instead of eating out. I brought my lunch to work instead of eating out, but I did let myself eat out on Payday Friday. I used coupons and only bought very small amounts of perishable items so there was no waste. I stocked up on items like toilet paper when there was a really good sale, but was careful not to buy too many perishables. Nothing went to waste. I gave up paper towels and used rags instead. I shopped at the grocery outlet instead of Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck)

Instead of buying new clothes (except for bras, panties and socks) I shopped for things at thrift and consignment stores.

I know it sounds like I gave a lot of stuff up, but I don’t see it that way – I kept thinking about what I was GETTING instead, which is freedom from debt. I still gave myself a small budget for entertainment and frugal dining out once in awhile, and please, nothing could induce me to give up my hairdresser!

You’d be surprised how much you can actually do for FREE if you just look around.

Free Theatre: Lots of theatres need volunteer ushers. You work in the theatre for an hour or so before the show, maybe stuffing envelopes or something. You help seat people before the show and then you get to see the show for free. You often get good seats too. I saw 3 or 4 free show a month this way. You often have to wear black
slacks or skirt and a white shirt, but that’s a small price to pay for free theatre.

Artist’s receptions: You get to mingle and talk with people, see some (hopefully) lovely and interesting art, plus get fed wine and cheese.

I also used squidlist to find cheap and free things to do.

I was disciplined and determined and I did it! Thank you consumerist! As of today I am debt free (except for my thankfully low fixed-rate mortgage) and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my mind. My spirit feels lighter. I am FREE. I am doing a happy dance! My plan is to continue to live frugally and start building up a savings
now. I will never, ever be in that much debt again. I never want to feel the stress an anxiety of owing so much.

Oh yeah, all during this time, I also put just $40 per month away into a savings account (ING) which I set up as an automatic $20 deduction every payday. I now have $800 to spend guilt-free and after 20 months I’m ready for a vacation. So, as my prize for getting debt free, I just booked a $295 flight to Cancun a bit later in October. I really deserve this vacation for a job well done and best of all? It’s NOT going on a credit card.

Thanks, consumerist!


Excellent work! We’re proud of you, trixare. You really buckled down and make the right decisions to aggressively attack your debt. For anyone who’s in debt, even if you just adopt a few things, there’s a lot in here to get you further down the path towards true financial freedom.

(Photo: lemonjenny)

The best of best technology and gadget news

As technology develops, the number of gadget hunters also increase proportionately. many people including me wants to find the best and latest gadget there is in the market but unfortunately we are bombarded with too many reviews of almost the same kind. Sometimes it’s really hard to decide on what brand you should buy especially if they are gadgets.

Here is a feast for the Gadget hunters. A new site called who do not concentrate in listing every bit of news from each day, rather they focus on the product releases and news items that are the most significant. They don’t list down everything but the items are selected with at most care and are "best of the best" which applicable to our day to day living . It is a resource for computer hardware, software, gadgets, and tech news.Since the website showcases the best of the best products you won’t be having a hard time looking for a gadget that is of high quality and suitable for you.

For example they have reviews on universal remote control which allows you to control your TV and other electronic equipments with only one remote control.. If you don’t wanna get messy everytime you need to turn on your electronic devices, especially the ones for entertainment, you will need to choose a universal remote control for your daily. As the newest remote control that has even been produced, Gadget Advisor point out Logitech’s Advantage and its function.

Apart from this, another gadget that they have reviewed is the network media player where they dissected all the functionality and Advantage of Dvico Media Player. This is the best and the latest network media player. By having this one, you can listen to your favorite song.

Not only gadget reviews they also have Opinions and suggestion such as online backup services , where in the detailed the Advantage and downside of the online back up service. It’s suitable for those who like to protect their data online. Still speaking about multimedia stuff and what so ever, in order to support your downloading system, please make sure to have an online backup services behind. By having one, your downloading activity will run secure and smooth. All these tips are brought to you by Gadget Advisor.

So, for gadget hunters, before you find anything cool in particular, head on to Gadget Advisor first before you shell out
your hard earned money!

The 8 Most Entertaining Fake Twitter Users

Written by Neil Miller


As you may already know, I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter, the micro-blogging service that has been sweeping the internet. And despite some technical challenges, Twitter has emerged as the most used form of communication since the creation of, well, I’m not really sure – but it’s something significant. And while I use Twitter to communicate with readers, friends around the web and other movie enthusiasts, it is also a forum for fake celebrities and fictional characters.

While there are real celebrities who have used Twitter, everyone from singer Sarah Bareilles to former Star Trek star Wil Wheaton, there are even more celebrity accounts that don’t really connect to real famous folks. And in honor of the faux stars of Twitter, I would like to present a list of the 8 Most Entertaining Fake Twitter Users. Of course, this list comes with a few ground rules: Each of the users listed below are (a) related to the TV or Movie world and (b) must be relatively active Twitter users. And as you can see, they can also be fictional characters. In addition, I have included a definitive quote, or a quote that is my favorite from their Twitter feed. Also, you can click any of the names to see their actual Twitter accounts.

8. Dr. Tobias Funke

There hasn’t been much out there for Arrested Development fans, short of the swirling rumors of a cinematic adaptation, but it appears that one of the show’s most interesting characters continues to live on via Twitter. Yes, the Blue Man himself, Dr. Tobias Funke, has become the Twitterverse’s resident Analrapist. His random musings include everything from trips to Burger King to planning to ‘take a bite of the rump’ of his estranged wife Lindsay. His definitive quote:

trying to sell the film rights to book, “The Man Inside Me.” An indie shop named Vivid may make an offer without even seeing a script!

7. Borat

His movie may have come and gone, but the lore of Sacha Baron Cohen’s most popular character will always live on via Twitter. And even the fake Borat seems to have the persona on lock down, spewing mostly random pop culture observations, complete with bad grammar and clever catch phrases. Also, I find it interesting that Borat, like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, can see Russia from his house. His definitive quote:

oh this is travesty! hannah montana and miley cyrus are same person?!? how will my threesome dream every come true!!! wowahweewah!

6. Abe Vigoda

Are you wondering whether or not Abe Vigoda is alive? You are certainly not alone. Since he was erroneously reported as dead by People magazine in 1982, the real Abe Vigoda has been part of a long running joke about the state of his health. And recently, a Twitter account has risen up in his honor, one that keeps us updated as to Abe’s status. It is somewhat assinine, but it never fails to give me a chuckle. His defining quote:

Dick Clark and I have trouble determining if we’re alive!!!

5. William Shatner

In recent weeks, the fake William Shatner has been replaced by the real William Shatner (or one of his agents), but the faux Shat is significantly more entertaining. This just goes to prove the long-running theory that the persona that is Shatner is much more entertaining than the actual Shatner. This version of Shatner has done everything from calling our Lord Vader to demanding his own Chuck Norris-like meme. The latter of which leads me to his definitive quote:

I demand my own Chuck Norris meme, e.g. “You don’t impersonate Shatner, you just expose the Shatner inside of us all.”

4. Roger Sterling, Mad Men

One of the few shows that has inadvertantly gotten a big marketing push from Twitter has been AMC’s Mad Men. In fact, AMC was taken by surprise as fans created accounts for many of the show’s characters, including Don Draper, Peggy Olsen and even Roger Sterling himself, the man in charge at Sterling Cooper. And as much as I would like to say that hottie Joan Holloway is my favorite Mad Men twitter user, it is clear that Roger Sterling is a man’s man – he knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it. His definitive quote:

How could I resist a dose of @TheDailyBlonde? All I need to do is find Daily Brunette and a Daily Redhead and I’m set.

3. Megan Fox

It’s probably some 35-year old dude who imagines that Megan Fox is as sexy in real life as she is in his wildest fantasies, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t somewhat fun to read. The heat was turned up even more after the real Megan Fox admitted to being so turned on by a Russian stripper that she wanted to ‘strangle a mountain ox.’ Her definitive quote:

Sometimes I just spend the night grabbing and regrabbing my ass. You would too, if your ass was nice as mine. Admit it.

2. Stephen Colbert

There have actually been a few fake Stephen Colberts on Twitter, but none more committed than the one without the middle initial. Just like the real life host of The Colbert Report, this Twit is always topical, sometimes a little over the top and generally amusing. In fact, according to the Comedy Central Insider, it is fakers like this that has “the gang at Digg from iCreaming their open-source e-jeans.” His definitive quote:

Got a new goldfish -his name is “WMD”. Justice (my cat) doesn’t like ’em, but I think he’s cute.

1. Fake Micheal Bay

Nothing says awesome like posting your awesome thoughts on the awesome social media forum that is Twitter. So why wouldn’t Michael Bay spread his awesomeness to the rest of the world, 140-characters at a time? Everything from wanting to hump the tattoo off of Megan Fox’s shoulder to Shia LaBeouf’s constant teary outbreaks, this Fake Twitterer has it all. His definitive quote:

No, I don’t know who “Fellini” is and quite frankly I don’t give a shit.

In addition to the fake characters above, I also wanted to give you a little list of Twitter users who are of interest to movie lovers – as in, the voices of the movie webosphere, including yours truly:

And those are just a few that you should check out, should you join up with the Twitter phenomenon. Personally, I have found it to be a great forum for sharing initial reactions to films, coordinating meetups at events such as Sundance, SXSW and Comic-Con, and just having some fun back and forth discussion about movies or whatever pops into my head.

Are you on Twitter? If so, who are your favorite people to follow?

Top 10 Everyday Things People Do To Ruin Their Cars

Written by Vito Rispo

Two thirds of all Americans aged 18-24 cannot find Iraq on a map; 33% couldn’t identify Louisiana; 47% couldn’t find India; 75% think English was the most widely spoken language in the world. People are idiots, and this isn’t a uniquely American phenomenon, it’s worldwide. The majority of human beings on Earth are stone dumb. Being dumb, most people do dumb things, like unknowingly destroy their car.

So we’ve assembled the top 10 everyday things people do to ruin their cars, to help guide you through your own stupidity, into the light. Check it:

1. Not Using The Parking Brake

It’s a little pedal near your left leg, or a lever on your right. Yes, that mysterious device that you’ve never used is actually valuable. When you park on an incline, or even on fairly steady ground, without using the parking brake, you’re putting all of the stress of the car on your transmission. The only thing inside that transmission holding your car steady is a little pin called a parking pawl. By using the parking brake, you lock up the non-drive wheels as well as the drive wheels and take the stress off of the transmission. It’ll add years of life to your cars transmission. Just remember to disengage it before you start driving again.

2. Not Coming To A Complete Stop Before Shifting

So you’re in a rush, and you pull out of a parking space and shift into drive while the car is still coasting backwards. You’ve just added months of wear to your transmission in seconds. Inside your transmission is a complex set of gears, when you shift without stopping like that, you’re asking those gears to work as your brakes, which puts an amazing amount of stress on such a small area. You can also damage your drive shafts, the things that send power to the wheels, by shifting that way. After a while, it’ll lead to sloppy suspension handling, and a worn out transmission.

3. Riding The Brakes Down A Hill

If you are driving on a hill that goes on for a while, you’ll want to avoid riding the brake the whole time. Alternate between braking and letting off the brake so you don’t heat up and wear out your brake pads. It’s a common mistake, because it feels like the safest way to maneuver down a hill, but if the hill is sufficiently long, you can end up almost totally wearing out your pads, since as they heat up, they wear faster.

4. Forgetting To Change The Oil

You need to change your oil every 5,000 miles at the most. That’s really all there is to it. I actually read a blog online that said you can wait until your oil light comes on to change your oil. I’ve worked in the automotive business… by the time your oil light comes on, the oil inside your engine has turned into jet black molasses and is of no use to your engine. In the short term, I suppose it’s not that important, but more frequent changes can actually double the life of your car and greatly increase its performance.

5. Pressure Washing The Engine

I can respect a person’s desire to want a clean engine. It gets grimy under there and a guy with a pressure washer is a dangerous thing for grime – you want to point it at anything even slightly dirty. But a grimy engine that runs right is better than a clean engine that doesn’t run at all. And if you spray a high powered jet of water around rubber seals and hoses and electrical bits, you’re bound to dislodge something important. A modern engine is a complex thing, all manner of sensors and wiring harnesses and components, and it’s no place for a jet of high pressure water. A regular garden hose is OK if you want to wash it down, just be careful with the high pressure business.

6. Starting Your Car The Wrong Way

It seems simple, but you can make a big difference by turning off your radio, wipers, climate control, all of those accessories, when you start the car. Most of the wear on the engine happens when you start the car, and by turning off those accessories, your engine doesn’t have to work as hard when starting.

Another thing people do is revving the engine in the winter. This actually doesn’t help “warm up” the car. Although it does technically make the engine hotter, it’s not the kind of “warming up” that you want. Revving your engine in the winter causes extreme temperature changes right away, which is actually the opposite of what you want. When you start the car, the oil hasn’t yet worked its way through the system, so the engine is working without lubricant. The right way to do it is just let the car sit and idle for about 30 seconds to a minute at the least.

7. Ignoring Your Car’s Sounds

Every sound your car makes means something, if you pay attention, your car can usually tell you exactly what needs fixing. Those squeaking brakes mean you need new pads, and if you ignore that sound, eventually you’ll hear scraping metal, which means you need new rotors, and if you ignore that, you’ll eventually hear the sound of your own scream as you lose your brakes completely and fly off a cliff in a spectacular fireball of death. It’s more common than you think. Listen to your car.

8. Letting The Interior Go

You’re in a rush again, and you eat most of your disgusting egg and cheese bagel, and toss the rest in the wrapper on the passenger seat. Lovely. You know who you are, you’re car is filthy, never been vacuumed, 15 air fresheners hang on the mirror, and yet, no air freshener made by mortal man can stop the sickening wind within your car. You need to clean it. If you don’t vacuum your carpets and clean out the garbage every so often, you’ll develop a smell that is impossible to destroy. I’ve worked in the auto salvage business, and I know that there exist smells that are so obscene, so inhuman, that no shampoo can vanquish them. The only way to stop them is to never let them develop. Clean your car, for the sake of all mankind.

9. Running Your Car Down To Empty

There’s actually a bit of a debate about this one. The old wisdom says if your car gets down to E, the sediment in your tank will get sucked into the system and foul your fuel injectors. Although some mechanics says thats not true. Either way, running down to E does pose other problems. You cut the life of the fuel pump considerably, since the fuel actually cools the pump.

An interesting note: Most cars can drive another 60 miles+ after they hit Empty, automakers call this extra gas the “buffer zone”. US cars have the largest “buffer zone” of any vehicles. German drivers, for instance, like to know exactly how much gas in is the car, so their “buffer zone” between the gauge’s E and the actual empty tank is much smaller.

10. Driving Past Attractive Women

This is a common mistake, especially among younger male drivers. Attractive women can be incredibly damaging to your vehicle, they can cause the driver to install bizarre over-sized woofers or 22 inch rims, or even spontaneously crash the car into a nearby tree or telephone pole. When you’re driving, be careful to avoid swimming pools, beaches, college campuses, anyplace where beautiful girls assemble in any significant numbers. Your car will thank you.