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SITE OF THE YEAR 1 The Hunt for Jeanine Salla

(familiasalla-es.ro) Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence may one day be appreciated as a work of Stanley Kubrick-inspired genius. But right now it’s considered a box office disappointment that was promoted using an elaborate murder-mystery plot both detached from and more fun than the film itself. The creators of the A.I. scavenger hunt, which spanned 30 websites as diverse as rogueretrieval.com and martinswinton.com and told such a complex tale that it took people from around the globe to decipher some of the clues, are mere months from announcing their next top secret project. And maybe now it won’t have to be yoked to a movie at all.

2 BMW FILMS (bmwfilms.com) How did BMW persuade five renowned directors to make expensive marketing vehicles – in the form of short films – to show off its automobiles? The answer is as smart as the car-chase series itself: The company got Fight Club-er David Fincher to sell the idea to the other filmmakers (Ronin’s John Frankenheimer, Snatch’s Guy Ritchie, In the Mood for Love’s Wong Kar-wai, Amores Perros’ Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Ang Lee). Getting Madonna to star in one, however, was all Ritchie’s doing.

3 STARTUP.COM It took more than a decade for the Internet to reach critical mass, and less than two hours for this documentary to lay it bare. The rise and fall of govWorks.com, captured blemishes and all by filmmakers Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim, offered an ideal parable for the New Economy. Any future attempt to dramatize the manic giddiness of the late ’90s – including Fox’s upcoming movie The First $20 Million – will have to be measured against this poignant, perfectly timed document.

4 STELLA (heavy.com) The flamboyant R-rated video sketches by this rather obscure comedy threesome, Wet Hot American Summer creators Michael Showalter and David Wain and star Michael Ian Black, are the highlight of Heavy.com’s show lineup. The bizarro routines – about starting yoga-classroom brawls, playing Wiffle ball, and eating sloppy pizza – are like conventional comedy bits that have gone so terribly awry that they become dazzling.

5 GORILLAZ (gorillaz.com) While Hollywood stumbles around with synthespians, this virtual hip-hop foursome already has a hit single, ”Clint Eastwood,” and a surprising measure of respect from the cool kids (Cibo Matto, Kid Koala, and D12 are among the group’s collaborators). Cocreators Damon Albarn (the frontman for Brit popsters Blur) and Jamie Hewlett (the artist behind the comic book Tank Girl) plan to follow up the band’s debut with a soundtrack – and a feature-length movie to go with it.

6 THEONION.COM’S SEPT. 26 ISSUE These guys again? Yes. And deservedly so. The recently transplanted New Yorkers not only were among the first humorists to crack jokes after Sept. 11 but used the attacks as material. While other comedians had trouble smiling at all, the Onion scribes turned out heart-wrenching too-truisms infused with their trademark deadpan takes (”President Urges Calm, Restraint Among Nation’s Ballad Singers”). So thanks are in order, because at that point laughter was a scarce commodity.