This year certainly has been weird. I can’t really place it, but 2013 just has been weird. Of course I’d be reminisce if I didn’t mention probably my favorite moment of the year: when our kickstarter funded and the again when we got another hundred dollars from a complete stranger.
It’s been a time of friends leaving and coming into my life at a rate I’ve never really experienced in my life before. Once again, things are weird, and by the looks of it next year has potential to be way weirder.
As I sit here and listen to Of Montreal swoon in my ears I realize you probably don’t care about how weird a year I had. So anyway here are my favorite 10 things from 2013. And remember I don’t constrict this list to things that came out in 2013. It’s just culled from all the things I did this year.
Best Movie: Heavenly Creatures
Yes Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson’s first big splash onto the film scene, has beaten out his newest, The Desolation of Smaug. It’s the true story of two New Zealand girls who become seriously attached and begin to live in a fantasy world together. Their parents think that they are taking things too far and try to separate the two of them. The girls can’t live with this and enact revenge on their parents.
I found that Heavenly Creatures not only scared me, but also connected with me on a pretty deep level. It’s a psychological ride that works on the shoulders of the imaginative direction and powerful performances of the two leads. No other movie this year hit me as hard as Heavenly Creatures did.
Heavenly Creatures is currently streaming on Netflix.
Best Worst Movie: Revenge of the Ninja
Revenge of the Ninja is with out a doubt one of the most entertaining movies I have ever seen. It only adds to the mystique of this film that when Tim and I originally watched it that the power went out in the ridiculous 20 minute climactic fight sequence that takes place on a series of roofs containing tennis courts, hot tubs and super long helicopter shots. We probably talked about the film for a good half an hour before we accepted that the power wasn’t coming back on.
It’s a special kind of film that is both extremely racially incentive and seemingly innocent. Because although, yes, the Asians, Italians, blacks, and Native American’s are all hilarious stereotypes they never feel malicious. They seem like what they are: a very sincere attempt at film making from someone who did not understand the culture or film itself.
The end product differs from something like say, Troll 2(Last years winner in this category), because it somehow actually quiet good at what it wants to be. It is more inventive than a lot of modern action films with it’s fight scenes and it is never boring. So, I guess Revenge of the Ninja is by some standards a really good movie.
Runners up: Nothing comes close
Best TV Show: West Wing
The TV category was by far the hardest one to pin down(which is why I split it into 3 categories). In any other year Friday Night Lights or Twin Peaks could have won. They are both incredible shows that will stick with me for a long time, but The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin’s, incredibly biting, surprisingly relevant, moving, and funny political drama wins every time.
The West Wing is not with out it’s flaws. Aaron Sorkin and the writing staff were pretty terrible at keeping long term story lines going over multiple episodes. Characters and their relationship’s drop in and out of the show with out explanation at times, and at times the cast becomes so large that the writers clearly didn’t know what to do with all the characters on their plate.
Despite these flaws, West Wing is so consistently fascinating, not only as a drama, but as a commentary on politics that I believe it’s one of the best TV shows that I’ve ever seen. The show was surprisingly ahead of it’s time in it’s politics bringing in issues that feel just as relevant in today’s climate as they were back in the day. Though this may be due to the stagnation of our political climate more than the show’s forward looking nature, it’s impossible to deny how level headed and ahead of it’s time the show was in presenting the 9/11 tragedy with a rational look at why the attacks occurred and the state of the people who we wanted to throw blame at. Plus they basically predicted Obama which is kinda weird when you think about it.
I could write about The West Wing pretty much forever. It has maybe the best cast ever assembled for a TV show and the characters are all brilliant, and I’m not lying when I say that it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite. And no, West Wing does not have a great season plot structure that we’ve come to expect from modern dramas(the type of thing Friday Night Lights did so well), but each individual episode is nearly perfect on their own.
Oh yeah and all these shows(West Wing and runners up are on Netflix Streaming)
Animation that makes me realize I don’t dislike animated stuff: Venture Bros
I’ll keep this one short and simple. The Venture Bros made me realize that there is animated stuff out there for me. I mean, I’ve always watched South Park, but everything else has kinda turned me off.
The Venture Bro’s is a comedic take on science heroes like Johnny Quest and super heroes that continually pushes things to the extreme in the most hilarious and action packed way possible. It’s comparable to Arrested Development for me, in it’s style of humor, and it carries an emotional weight that I found lacking in this years outing of Arrested Development.
Best TV show that was actually on in 2013: Breaking Bad
I mean. You saw this coming right? I basically made this category because of how many damn shows I watched this year, and I didn’t want this stuff to be buried by The West Wing.
Now, you don’t need me to tell you how good Breaking Bad is, but I do just want to point out that they did such a good job at ending the show. And I don’t mean they had a good last episode. They did! They had a great last episode, but the entire last season that would have been so easy to mess up went off without a hitch.
Plus Landry from FNL was the bad guy! Like wat?
Runners up: Arrested Development, Orange is the New Black
Best End: Earthbound
Dude. It’s so good. Here you can watch it.
Best Game: FTL: Faster Than Light
Man. My favorite game of the year is a kickstarter project of yore that got released in 2012 for $10. FTL is a roguelike set in space. What is a roguelike? It’s a game where the map you travel through is randomly generated and each time you die you restart at the beginning. Each game of FTL will take you from 10 minutes to an hour and a half depending on how long you can make it.
I know it doesn’t immediately sound like it would super fun, and it certainly isn’t that great looking of a game, but it is so fun to see how far you can make it each time you press play. As you outfit your ship with a crew and weapons and upgrade your ships systems you become attached. You come to see each time you play as a unique experience with it’s own story.
Maybe your ship’s life supports caught fire and you didn’t have enough of a crew to put the fire out and the crew suffocated to death. Or maybe you nearly made it to the final sector in the game, but a mantis ship found you and boarded your ship and you had invested all of your money into better guns instead of a fighting crew. Or maybe you foolishly entered an asteroid field in the first sector and were torn apart by asteroids as you chased down a pirate ship.
These are all totally things that happened to me, and there’s so much more that could happen. Each time you play a new story is told, and it’s just super fun.
PLUS: The developer of the game is making a free update that adds a whole bunch more stuff. So great. I’ll have to sink another 20 hours into it…
Best Album: Pet Sounds
So yes, Pet Sounds is about as removed from 2013 as you can get, but for having came out in 1966 it feel remarkably fresh and as weird as it sounds relevant. Now, there’s no mistaking that the album was recorded a long time ago, but the fact that it sounds better than anything else I’ve heard all year gives it instant credence as a classic.
The first time I listened to Pet Sounds was in a car ride where I couldn’t give it my attention. Once I sat down with headphones and let it wash over me I was immediately hooked. I probably listened to the album five times in two days. There is just so much going on in the album that there was always something to listen for, and there really never is a dull moment.
Compared to it’s contemporaries(namely The Beatles albums of the era) Pet Sounds is much more relatable to me. Unlike The Beatles who at times who range from often cookie cutter love songs to songs completely devoid of anything I can comprehend, The Beach Boys were able to create an album that holds timeless themes of loneliness, confusion, love and depression that resonate even today.
Best Read: John Cleaver Series
I broke up this category into best read and best book because I wanted to recognize all these great books I read! To be clear the distinction is that “Best Read” was the funnest thing to read while “Best Book” was the best most meaty piece of text I read, if that makes sense… I mean again it’s really an excuse to highlight all the good books I read this year.
So the John Cleaver Series! You can read my review of the first book here, and the second and third books are way better. They have a great mix of teenage drama sort of through an extended metaphor, and intense thriller action that made them really honestly hard to put down, and I don’t say that about books often.
I would also like to call out Slapstick as the only book I read in a single day this year, and probably the only time I’ve done that for many years. It was super fun and bizarre, but it wasn’t quite as amazing as the John Cleaver books.
Then Them: Adventures With Extremists was just an insane read. I don’t want to spoil any of it, but it’s biting, ridiculous, hilarious journalism at it’s best.
Best Book: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This book, like a good book can do I think, changed me. I mean, it made me look at things differently. Not only in mental health, what is done to treat it, and how Native American’s were treated, but in how a book can be written and structured. The prose itself is so artful in Cuckoo’s Nest that it will make you sit up and take notice. The way Kesey uses words and sentence structure to convey the mental state of the narrator is haunting and flawless. It’s amazing how the reader is put entirely into Bromden’s shoes, and is never quite sure what is real and what isn’t at any given moment.
And of course the overarching almost western story of good versus evil is an incredible metaphor that is honestly easy to miss, and in any other book would have been overpowering, but as I’ve stated before this book just seems to get everything right.
I’m definitely not doing this book justice. It deserves to be read.
Death of a Salesmen deserves recognition as well for creating a tragedy that I could immediately relate to and with a hero(if not protagonist) that the reader can root for.
Runner up: Death of a Salesmen