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Best of 2013
December 26, 2013 - Nick Dutro
Two weeks ago I alluded to it, so here it is: My “Best Of 2013” List
“This Is The End,” Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
I had little to no interest to see the apocalypse comedy from the guys who wrote “Superbad,” but I could not believe how wrong I was in my initial judgement of this film. “This Is The End” found the perfect balance between over-the-top raunchy jokes, off-character cameos and bromance, and it resulted in some of the biggest belly laughs I’ve had at a movie in years. This movie is not for everyone, but I would wager that if you’ve enjoyed any movie with Seth Rogen in it, you’ll love this one.
Best Animated Film
“Disney’s Frozen,” Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Once upon a time I doubted Disney’s ability to get me to care about a movie they produced, especially anything in their “Disney Princess” line. I’m not going to say that “Frozen” has proved me wrong, but between this and last year’s “Wreck-It-Ralph,” I think that Disney has found it’s way again after playing second fiddle to Pixar for so long. “Frozen” really does it all as far as a kid’s movie can -- with a moving story featuring maybe Disney’s strongest female characters ever, fun characters for the kids, a cute romance and gorgeous visuals, it is one of Disney’s best since “Aladin.”
Best Film of 2013
“Gravity,” Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Without a doubt, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” is the best picture that I viewed this year, and maybe in the past 5 years (though honestly, I cannot think of a movie I was as inspired by). The film is at times beautiful, other times raw and completely engrossing. I have never seen a movie that put you so close to a character, that made you feel so connected and anxious. It’s an experience, not a film. And one that made me a believer in the future of 3D. I had no doubts that I was going to enjoy this movie, and it did not fail to deliver.
Most Fun I Had At A Theater this Summer:
“Riddick,” directed by David Twohy
As a youth, I loved Vin Diesel’s Riddick in “Pitch Black,” but I lost a lot of respect for the character in the second outing, 2005’s “Chronicles of Riddick.” Luckily, when director David Twohy came back almost a decade later for this movie, he left out many of the elements of that second that didn’t work, taking the character to its lone wolf and hard R roots. After seeing this, I would gladly pay to see Diesel take up the role again.
Favorite New Artist
While it may have taken almost the entire year for their single “Sweater Weather” to hit Top 40s radio play, I have been quietly impressed with this band since I first heard them in June. I can only hope they have some staying power and aren’t put away and forgotten until the next time we need our winter wear.
Best Live Performance 10 Years Later
“Such Great Heights,” The Postal Service on “The Colbert Report”
“Get Up” by the Postal Service is 10 years old. It’s wild, considering this was one of the formative records from my late teens. For me, the album is special not only because it features some fantastic tracks, but also because it was the only one recorded by the supergroup made of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello with Jenny Lewis. The band had a very limited tour after that album, and then disappeared so it’s parts could go back to their respective projects. But 10 years later, for one glorious night, I was able to watch them perform the breakout song, “Such Great Heights,” on TV and it was a treat.
Best Song of 2013
“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams
Sure, Daft Punk found some mainstream success when they were featured on Kanye West’s 2007 hit “Stronger,” but I was not ready for the huge reaction that “Get Lucky” received. For a while there, I thought the radio may have had it on a constant loop because I heard it about every time I got in my car, but that didn’t bother me because “Get Lucky” was the kind of fun hit that I needed this summer, and a song I’ll continue to jam out to every time I catch it in a music block rotation.
Best Album of 2013
“Heartthrob,” Tegan and Sara
I’m going to pull the “I knew them before they were big” card, because I started listening to Tegan and Sara back when “Walking With a Ghost” starting getting popular on the alternative scene. But this year the sister act released a radically different album that was more pop than ever before, and for the better. Everything about “Heartthrob” IS Tegan and Sara, while pointing in a different, bold direction. And almost every song is gold. On a personal note, seeing them live (with fun.) this summer didn’t hurt to cement how much I loved them in 2013.
Worst Album of 2013
With 2010’s “Congratulations,” I assumed MGMT was attempting a stripped down alternative following the massive success of “Kids” off their 2008 album “Oracular Spectacular,” but apparently I was completely wrong judging by their self-titled album released this year. “MGMT” is, quite frankly, boring and amateur, with not a single song I would consider a break-out, and fewer still I would consider worth listening checking out again. What once was one of my favorite groups, I now question if those early success were just flukes or if this is a great Andy Kaufman-type joke at my ears’ expense.
Favorite New Comedy
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Fox
When fall came around, I was mostly apathetic toward the offerings presented as far as new shows were concerned. Partially, it was that one of my favorite comedies, “Happy Endings” was not renewed, which still hurts. At the time I assumed Michael J. Fox’s self-titled show on NBC would be the show to watch (like ABC’s “Modern Family,” which has kept the status quo this year, which isn’t a bad thing) and thought Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” might be an early cancellation, but I picked them both up (as well as “Marvel: Agents of SHIELD,” but the less to be said about it the better.) But it’s Andy Sandberg’s police comedy that has kept me coming back week after week (I dropped “MJFS” after four tiresome episodes). It’s not perfect, but many of the things that I like about NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” (whose co-creator Michael Schur also co-created “Brooklyn”) are on full display here, including a cast so quirky it’s a surprise they get any work done. In some ways it’s the anti-cop drama, which is a level of meta- that is impossible for me to pass up. I’ll be continuing to watch it throughout the remainder of the year, and who knows, maybe it will grow on me to the point where it shows up on this list again next year.
“Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor”
There was a lot riding on Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary episode, with just the fact that it celebrated the milestone, let alone that it brought back David Tennant, who played the previous incarnation of the Doctor, and filled in the story of what happened in those years when the show was on hiatus. But it was pulled off brilliantly. Current Doctor Matt Smith was a dream as ever, and was just great playing off Tennant (I cannot stress how fun it was to see him back in the suit) and John Hurt’s “War Doctor.” The episode was everything I love about “Doctor Who” -- fun, smart and heartfelt. Although the season that preceded it wasn’t necessarily the best, this episode was a reminder of just how great the show can be.
Best New Series
“Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix
Any doubt that Netflix would be a producer of quality TV was quickly settled this year. While the 4th Season of “Arrested Development” may not have been everything I had hoped, other original programing proved Netflix has real staying potential outside of streaming shows you probably already have on DVD. This year I binge-watched “Orange Is The New Black” with my fiancee and, like many others, I was hooked. The story was well written, characters expertly defined and performances were incredible, even compared to high profile shows on AMC, HBO or Showtime. My only complaint is that it ended so quickly, but I guess that’s what happens when you watch a show over the course of a few days rather than a few months.
Best Show of 2013
“Mad Men,” AMC
I adore “Mad Men,” and have for a long time. Like “Orange is the New Black,” I viewed many of those early seasons by “binge watching” them, which allowed me to quickly take in the show and never have to worry about waiting for my next episode. That is, until I started watching it in regular season breaks. Season 5 was at times frustrating to get through, and while I’ve been watching the show “live” for the past few years, I felt that more in the beginning of Season 6 than at any other point in the show. That was, until about mid-way through, with a few turning points that made watching the show feel like coming home again. This season we got the evolution of characters, especially the women in Don Drapper’s life, with a rather surprising twist to his personal life in the final shot of the season. It took a bit to get there, but once again, “Mad Men” impressed me, and reminded me why I love the show so much.
Show I’m most excited to see ending
“How I Met Your Mother,” CBS
I love “How I Met Your Mother,” and have been a fan for a very long time. But I cannot say with enough gusto that I’m glad to see that it is ending. This final season has not been my favorite, although I am right up there saying that at the very least, “HIMYM” has chosen to do something never before done with it’s 9th and final season by having it take place exclusively over the course of a wedding weekend. The problem is, it has taken the characters out of their iconic New York settings and replaced them with the same three interior shots of an inn at Farhampton. But the real problem is that I’m just ready to see this show finish up before it looses everything that made it great at one time. It’s a feeling that I must share with Ted’s kids listening to the tale from the future, just hoping that he’ll finish soon enough.
Best Single Issue
“Hawkeye #11,” Matt Fraction and David Aja, Marvel
Matt Fraction’s post “Avengers” relaunch of “Hawkeye” was on my radar as a book to read since its start. And while I had only picked up the first issue, it was the 11th issue which told me this was the series I was missing out on. After 10 issues of solidly building arcs around Clint Barton outside of his costume, we get an issue which tells another side of the previous issue from the viewpoint of a dog, with a mostly wordless, muted-color and expertly crafted story. It’s not a radically new idea, but enough of one in superhero comics to tell me that “Hawkeye” was not just one of the best books of the relaunched Marvel Now imprint, but one of the best comic series Marvel has ever produced.
Best New Series
“The Private Eye,” By Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin, Self Published
When Brian K. Vaughan -- writer of one of my favorite series, Y-The Last Man -- announced his return to comics after a few years hiatus on the creator-owned series “Saga,” I was beyond excited. I wasn’t alone, the book was almost an instant success and the darling of last year’s best of lists. But this year I think special consideration needs to be given to his other series, “The Private Eye,” an uber-sleek book that chronicles a world where people hide their identity after all of our secrets were made public. No other series felt more modern after the reveal that the NSA has been snooping in on our phone and Internet records. The series has also made the argument for digital comics like no other book of 2013, with creators taking on distribution of a DRM-free book themselves, bypassing the comic shops, traditional ebook markets and even Kickstarter. This is the book I look forward to most upon release.
Best Series of 2013
“Young Avengers,” Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Marvel
I followed many series this past year, including two major events at Marvel Comics, and a handful of really fantastic creator-owned works at Image Comics (I’m looking at you, “Saga” and “Chew,”) but few books I have loved as much as “Young Aveners,” a reboot of a series that had made me a regular comic book reader. Luckily, instead of just taking the characters from that original series and telling new stories with them, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie chose to tell a story that was all their own, with few of those original characters in the mix. The result was one of the books I looked forward to the most every month, and one I will miss when they say their goodbye to the series in February.
Best Graphic Novel of 2013
“March (Book One),” Rep. Joe Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, Top Shelf
As a child I heard much about the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, but it’s difficult to really grasp what these events meant as a white boy, and more so when you are looking at the stories that focus on people who have become larger-than-life, such as King and Rosa Parks. But I imagine that I would have had a much easier time relating to those stories had I read “March” at a younger age. Written by sitting U.S. Rep. Joe Lewis, the story is an autobiography that follows Lewis from his childhood to his early years demonstrating in the civil rights movement. It’s a wonderful example of comic art, and a brilliant and gripping story -- one I hope teachers may consider adding to their classrooms in the future. Joe Lewis said he was inspired to write this book after reading about Dr. King in a comic book. I hope this comic inspires others as it did him.
Book I Hope Gets Better Soon
“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Brian Michael Bendis, et al., Marvel
With a movie only months away, it’s disappointing that “Guardians of th Galaxy” has been such a miss this year, even compared to two big event books at Marvel I was not very happy with at the end of the day. Bendis really downplayed best parts of the “Space Avengers” into a slow talkie. When it was announced that a movie was coming, and a revived, streamlined comic series to showcase it, I was excited about the possibilities. Now, I’m hoping for a new writer to take it on, and infuse it with the humor and action it so desperately needs and deserves.
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