The year is coming to a much required close, and it’s that time where every pop culture editor calls it a day with a list feature of some sort. I wasn’t actually planning on a best of feature, but fellow Schlock editor Teodor told me lists are required because, and I quote, “we like to be told what to do AND – partly due to the aforementioned tendency towards prejudice – we like to rage against what we perceive to be the ‘wrong answer’ to even the most subjective of questions.” Deep! Then he derailed on how he wants replace City Gate in Schlock’s own Capital City of Valletta with a 12 foot bronze monument of himself, so I don’t know. No wonder I avoid visiting Schlock HQ these days! It’s bad enough that whenever I show my face the Hivemind expects me make dinner. Would it pain them to ask nicely at least?
I missed on a bunch of reportedly excellent documentaries this year, having heard a LOT of good things on THE ACT OF KILLING and BLACKFISH. What I DID watch was a bunch of genre nonsense so deeply average (OBLIVION, AFTER EARTH) it near made me give up on film. Glad I didn’t, though!
5. FRANCES HA
Was near prepared to hate this at first, seeing how it kicks off as catchphrase-heavy (“ahoy, sexy!”) 20-something hipster comedy, if one shot in ponderous black and white. Am glad I stuck with it though, since the supposedly quotable quips make way to heavier, more relatable situations. The ever likable Greta Gerwig helps, too.
4. THE WORLD’S END
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost bring the Cornetto trilogy to a close, and what a ride it has been. Not my favourite of the three (that honour belongs to HOT FUZZ), but that doesn’t lessen THE WORLD’S END in any way.
3. UPSTREAM COLOR
Most beautiful film of 2013? A miracle from all-round auteur Shane Carruth, who writes, directs, shoots, scores AND performs.
2. SPRING BREAKERS
Spring break forever, bitches.
1. DRUG WAR
Certainly the leanest, meanest police thriller of recent memory, Johnnie To strips down the direction enough to make the likes of Michael Winner look maximalist. Add all round superb performances and an atmosphere as murky as the industrial setting, and what you get is a masterpiece.
TIME FOR DISAPPOINTMENTS
Expectations are a tricky thing, but one tends to expect great things when the directors of CHILDREN OF MEN (Alfonso Cuarón) and IL DIVO (Paolo Sorrentino) both release a film on the same year. Too bad both GRAVITY and LA GRANDE BELLEZZA disappoint somehow – despite being testaments of the peak of filmmaking craft, GRAVITY falls flat during its second half while LA GRANDE BELLEZZA ends up as vacuous as the contemporary art it criticises. And a pretty face is hardly ever enough, even if good lord these two films are stunning.
APPRECIATION: PACIFIC RIM
FUCK THE HATERS
Too much TV, too little time. Also, so much of garbage! I hope those poor sods writing episode recaps (the most pointless nonsense on this dumb earth) for AVClub and the like get paid decently.
5. GATCHAMAN CROWDS
No I am not going to stop going on about this show why do you ask.
4. PARTS UNKNOWN
My list of people I’m jealous of is rather short, and Anthony Bourdain tops it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to stomp and eat their way around the globe? From genteel Copenhagen to drunken revelry in Catania, sexy madness in Tokyo and an absolutely heartbreaking Detroit finale, this show delivers talk on food and just about everything else.
3. BLACK MIRROR
There’s a kind of personality test to be done over which episode of the second BLACK MIRROR season one prefers. Mine would mark me as an indecisive piece of shit since I think they’re all equally good.
2. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
The funniest sitcom about the worst possible family, ever. That this fourth season got made – seven years after the third! – is something of a miracle, and the poison on display is nigh on unbelievable. I mean, “life is a roofie circle”? That was in this show – in the episode (‘Señoritis’) showing how badly the teenage daughter of two of the show’s worst fuckups got, well, screwed up.
1. BREAKING BAD
We might disagree on the ending (although if you didn’t like you remain wrong), but can we at least agree on ‘Ozymandias’ being one of the greatest hours of television of the past year?
THE CAMEL THAT BROKE THE STRAW’S BACK AWARD
I have made no effort of hiding my contempt for AGENTS OF SHIELD, but despite all misgivings I still gave it a try. For eight episodes. That’s eight whole hours spent watching AGENTS OF SHIELD. Eight hours I could have spent serenading for potential lovers, doing pushups, watching something actually worthwhile, catching up on my sleep. One might argue on AGENTS OF SHIELD not being necessarily bad, but it’s also the entertainment equivalent of the colour beige. Fuck sticking with a show in the hopes of it becoming better, shit should be good from the first hour, if not minute.
VIDEO, ON THE WEB
I love these next two entries so much I had to create a category just for them!
Watch out Lena Dunham and any number of indie filmmakers, your work dealing with 20-something ladies has been undone in the medium of zero budget cartoons. Time to step your game up!
The cream of Japanese animation (aka Trigger) manages what Cartoon Network regularly fails to do with those mostly horrible Adult Swim shows – be incredibly funny while being very, very stupid. Best anime of 2013.
I lack a PS3 or an Xbox 360, so please don’t ask about GRAND THEFT AUTO V. Although it does look like it was designed to be as unappealing to me as possible – a game where you play not as one, but two gross middle aged dudes? If this is what gamers (as in the violent idiot manchildren developers with the biggest budgets appear to cater exclusively for) want in this day and age I’d rather stop playing videogames. Same thing applies for THE LAST OF US, even if that game looks genuinely interesting despite its also being about a middle aged male.
5. RIDICULOUS FISHING
A tender looking for father story, disguised as a fish ‘n’ shoot ‘em up. Got around to playing the Android version recently, and it’s still as playable as ever.
4. THE STANLEY PARABLE
Imagine there are two doors, one on the left and the other on the right. The door on the left leads to a PC on which you can play THE STANLEY PARABLE, while the other other leads to, well, I don’t know. It’s not important. Anyway, you go left, alright?
3. ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW LEAF
My reason for getting a 3DS, and the game that occupied most of my time (well over 150 hours!). The very definition of slow burning delight, and a great help with going through any amount of dreadful media I had to consume in the name of POP CULTURE DESTRUCTION and actual paying gigs. To think it’s just a game about paying off your mortgage to a conniving raccoon.
2. MONSTER HUNTER 3 ULTIMATE
The MONSTER HUNTER franchise features two of the things I hate the most in videogames – boss battles and cumbersome controls. Yet the boss battles of MONSTER HUNTER 3 ULTIMATE are genuine good fun, and soon enough the controls click into place. A game of tremendous depths (40 hours in and I’ve hardly mastered two of the twelve weapons available), cooking, helpful cats, silly runs, and the crafting of fabulous hats.
1. PAPERS, PLEASE
A few years back I used to work as a customer care officer at local Water Services. An experience perhaps not too unlike PAPERS, PLEASE, where you’re put as a border officer in a fictional totalitarian state. Okay, there’s some differences – my income was not dependent on how many applications I processed, and I lacked the power to summon guards to get rid of more difficult customers. Oh, and my desk certainly did not conceal space for a rifle. Damn. Anyway, if you want to experience the life of a low level cog in a vast bureaucratic machine PAPERS, PLEASE is the way to go, unless you’re already such a cog. In which case, I’m so sorry. Playing PAPERS, PLEASE will hurt.
APPRECIATION: SAINTS ROW 4
It’s like GTA V but with a sense of humour and characters you actually can give a shit about. Or is it actually a parody of MASS EFFECT 2 rolled into a THE MATRIX game that’s only a decade late? BEST GAME EVER.
A NOTE ON “NEXT GEN”
I’ve been asked on multiple occasions what I think of the supposedly “next gen” consoles, the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. The answer to such questions remains the same – it’s too early to spend money on such machines, the titles currently available are either ports or utter dreck (why would anyone want to spend money on RYSE: SON OF ROME or KNACK?) and you should get a 3DS and a Wii U instead.
I failed to read so many comics this year. Not as much as books from 2013, but only because in that case it’s ALL OF THEM. Anyway good comics from 2013 I still have to check include Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY, Blutch’s SO LONG SILVER SCREEN, Simon Hanselmann’s LIFE ZONE, Jim Woodring’s FRAN and Kyoko Okazaki’s PINK. Sorry mum, sorry dad, sorry college.
5. BATTLING BOY (Paul Pope, Hilary Sycamore)
Japanese boys’ comics by the way of Jack Kirby, if disserved by a format too small to allow one to fully appreciate the artwork.
4. HELLBOY IN HELL (Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart)
Hellboy goes back home, only “home” means “the pits of hell.” Fights against demonspawn ensure. Mike Mignola does the art, and that’s what really matters.
3. ONEPUNCH-MAN (ONE, Murata Yuusuke)
The best superhero comic of 2013 comes not from Marvel or DC, but a parody within the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump.
2. PROPHET (Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, et al)
The best, most weird space opera in comics continues apace. Issue 39 is a standout, telling the hundred thousand-year story of an immortal cyborg who used to appear in 1990s-era Image comics.
1. COPRA (Michael Fiffe)
I’ve raved about COPRA when it was halfway through, and now it’s over. I’ll miss Micheal Fiffe’s yellow envelopes, but when one writes, draws and publishes their own comic series for a straight up year they more than deserve a break.
WORST OF THE WORST
2013 saw DC releasing BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE, a mostly fine anthology book if with one exception – ‘Man-Bat Out Of The Hell’ the story opening the second issue. Written by DC co-publisher Dan DiDio and illustrated all too well by JG Jones it is near certainly the worst Batman story in the character’s 74-year history. It involves a team-up between Batman and Man-Bat, the murder of a child molester, and all that’s wrong with American superhero comics.
THESE COMICS ARE ALSO ALRIGHT
Some other comics I did like, but did not feel were worth putting in a list – SAGA (Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples), THE PRIVATE EYE (Brian K. Vaughn, Marcos Martin), THE MASSIVE (Brian Wood, various), NOWHERE MEN (Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellagarde), all comics by BOULET, most of the work on STUDY GROUP, EAST OF WEST (John Hickman, Nick Dragotta), CATALYST COMIX (Joe Casey, various). Oh, and more ACHEWOOD happened.
Thanks to prodding and pushing from a number of music aficionado buddies I got to listen to a fair chunk of albums from this year. Some of those I even actually liked! Amazing.
5. Queens of the Stone Age – LIKE CLOCKWORK
Couple of friends of mine watched QOTSA live this year and I am jealous and also hate them.
4. Omar Souleyman – WENU WENU
3. Shining – ONE ONE ONE
This came as a surprise, since I’d also managed to miss the prog-doom-jazz outfit’s 2010 BLACKJAZZ.
2. Tamikrest – CHATMA
This third album by Tuareg rockers Tamikrest (a spin-off of Pop Culture Destruction favourites Tinariwen) is a homage to “the courage of the Tuareg women, who have ensured both their children’s survival and the morals of their fathers and brothers.” That might sound rather heavy, but CHATMA is a work of beauty and, crucially, hope.
1. Deafheaven – SUNBATHER
Come on, you knew this already.
KANYE WEST APPRECIATION SEGMENT
YEEZUS was awesome, wasn’t it?