We’re already three days into 2014 and that means that, for most of us, 2013 is but a distant memory. Before we lose ourselves entirely in the new year and all the promise and mystery that it holds, here’s a quick look back at some of the landmarks of the pop culture landscape that led me to saddle last year with the tagline: “2013: It was a year!”
Favorite Movie: This is the End.
I haven’t seen all of the “big” movies that opened in the last few months that will likely contend for the Oscars in March (Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, A Madea Christmas, etc.), so I hesitate to crown a “best” movie of 2013. But there’s little doubt that This is the End was my favorite movie of the year. Danny McBride’s entrance alone would probably cement this flick near the top of my list, but the fact that such a swagger-ific moment is only one of the movie’s most memorable scenes says a lot about how solidly funny this movie is from top to bottom. This is the End features a great cast working from an amazing script playing in a sandbox featuring special effects that are almost too good to appear in a comedy with this many dick jokes. And that’s why it’s far and away my favorite movie of 2013.
Most Fun Movie: The Wolf of Wall Street.
As I posted on Twitter after I saw TWOWS on Christmas Day, I can’t say for certain that it’s one of Martin Scorsese’s best films, but it’s certainly the most fun I had watching a movie in a theater all year.
Favorite Surprise/Discovery: The Battery.
What The Battery lacks in grandiosity it makes up for in originality and sheer ballsiness. As a superfan of the (increasingly watered-down) zombie genre, I had almost given up hope that someone would find an original way to tell a story set in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But the filmmakers behind The Battery did exactly that. In fact, I was so blown away by this movie that, earlier this year, I shared my thoughts on why I consider The Battery to be one of the best zombie movies in recent memory.
Most Impressive Performance: Tom Hanks in the last 20 minutes of Captain Phillips.
Hanks’ entire performance is great but he puts on a master class in acting during the film’s closing act. Without giving too much away, Hanks’ character is in shock after suffering through more tension and mayhem than any individual could be expected to cope with. And although I don’t think I’ve ever been in the presence of someone experiencing shock in real life, I’m convinced that Hanks captures the physical and mental effects of the condition perfectly. His performance in the film’s final scene feels so real I had to remind myself that I was watching a fictionalized depiction of actual events and not a documentary. And that’s why Tom Hanks is a national treasure.
Favorite New Show: HBO’s Getting On.
The latest remake of a British show to debut on American television, Getting On is a bleak, honest look at the lives of several dysfunctional medical professionals who work with elderly patients in the extended care wing of a nondescript hospital. The show is anchored by Alex Borstein (best known for her stint on MadTV and her voiceover work on Family Guy), Niecy Nash (of Reno 911 fame), and Laurie Metcalf (who, much to my surprise, has actually worked pretty steadily since her role as Jackie Harris on Roseanne more than 15 years ago), and succeeds not only at finding humor in a setting that, at first glance, seems devoid of anything remotely funny, but also in skewering the bureaucratic nightmare that defines the current state of our country’s health care establishment. After viewing the first promos for the show I wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. It has earned its spot as a top series on my DVR.
Favorite Old Show: MTV’s The Challenge.
There are a lot of great shows on TV right now, and the fact that I get more joy out of a trashy reality competition show on MTV than just about anything else on the tube probably says more about me than I care to admit. That said, I stand by my assertion that “while you couldn’t pay me enough to let…any of the [contestants] on The Challenge within 10 miles of anyone I care about, there is no way in hell I’m missing a second of this show.”
Favorite Netflix Original: Orange is the New Black.
I tore through all of Netflix’s original series as each was released (with the exception of Hemlock Grove, which I found to be so dreadful that I couldn’t get past the second episode), and while House of Cards features Kevin Spacey at his sneering best, Arrested Development delivered just about everything I hoped for as it came back from the dead, and Derek surprised me by being simultaneously sweeter and less sappy than I anticipated, OITNB was hands down the most entertaining of the bunch. The characters are unlike any I’ve ever seen on traditional television and the writing is so sharp that I had to force myself to spread the viewing out over the course of a week, otherwise I would have devoured all 13 episodes in one sitting and risked having my flesh fuse to my couch. Season 2 will be released this spring, and I’m already counting the days until we find out what’s in store for Piper, Nicky, Alex, Pennsatucky, Red, and Crazy Eyes.
The Hardest Goodbye: (Spoiler Alert!) Richard Harrow from Boardwalk Empire.
While it was tough to say goodbye to Walter White and the Breaking Bad universe, at least I had plenty of time to prepare myself for their departure. The writers of Boardwalk Empire delivered the biggest gut-punch of the year when Harrow, the damaged former soldier who was thisclose to finally leaving behind a life of violence for the family he always wanted, met his demise on the show’s season finale. On a series that has proven time and again that few — if any — characters are safe, I should have known Harrow’s death was more inevitability than possibility, but his fate blindsided me and I don’t think I’ve fully accepted that I’ll never see this great character on screen again. I actually wrote a bunch of words about my love for Richard Harrow earlier in the year, and I’d encourage you to check out that post to get a better idea of why his death was so heartbreaking.
Favorite Album: Magpie and the Dandelion by The Avett Brothers.
Favorite Music Video: Tie between “Hopeless Wanderer” by Mumford & Sons and “Ex-Boyfriend” by Lil’ Dicky.
The Mumfords cast Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Ed Helms and Jason Bateman as their stand-ins, and in doing so, produced one of the most entertaining and flat-out watchable music videos of the year. On the other end of the spectrum you have Lil’ Dicky, a San Francisco-based rapper whose songs are brimming with frat-boy swagger and vulgar punch lines. The first time I watched his astoundingly NSFW and hilarious video for “Ex-Boyfriend,” I couldn’t believe a music video was actually making me laugh out loud. Dicky’s rhymes are solid and there is plenty of eye candy for both the ladies and the fellas, so it definitely holds up for repeat viewing.
Favorite Cover: The country/bluegrass version of Miley’s “Wrecking Ball” by The Gregory Brothers.
Favorite Athlete, UK: Willie Cauley-Stein.
WCS is fun to watch on the court, but his off-the-court adventures are almost as entertaining. Who will ever forget Hair Watch 2013 and the unveiling of his Wesley-Snipes-in-Demolition–Man-inspired ‘do a few weeks back? I’m definitely a Willie Cauley-Stein man.
Favorite Athlete, Non-UK: Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning is the focus of 98 percent of the national coverage of the Broncos, and rightfully so, but for my money the biggest bright spot of this amazing, record-breaking season has been the reemergence of Knowshon Moreno. The former Georgia Bulldog had fallen out of favor after last season and was on the verge of being labeled a bust who wouldn’t live up to being drafted by the Broncos in the twelfth spot in the 2009 draft. But Moreno came into the season with renewed focus and — capitalizing on the fact that defenses have to put most of their attention on the Broncos vaunted passing attack — established himself as one of the hardest runners and most versatile running backs in the league this year. He isn’t as flashy as the Shady McCoys or Adrian Petersons of the league, but I’ll take Knowshon’s grit-and-determination style of running any day of the week. Plus, he showed he wasn’t afraid to show his emotional side when he cried a river of tears while listening to the National Anthem in a game against the rival Kansas City Chiefs. He’s just an all around great dude.
Favorite Sports Moment, UK: UK 73, UofL 66.
Favorite Sports Moment, Non-UK: The Denver Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in New York/Jersey come February.
Technically this hasn’t happened yet and, when it does, it’s going to occur in 2014, but the roots of the victory will be firmly planted in 2013 so I’m taking some liberties here.
Happy New Year, everyone!