The Oscars are over, so now we can FINALLY lift the PCHA embargo on discussing the best films of 2013.
jk, you guys.
Actually, I sent David Simon Cowell my year-end lists a while back so we could do a joint post. But here’s the thing about DSC: he’s a perfectionist. He’s been holed up in his writing den for months now, writing and re-writing and editing and re-editing and vising and revising his lists and responses. He works so hard on his posts — he feels his responsibility to Pop Culture Has AIDS so deeply — that he sometimes gets lost in the writing process. He demands that every word, every transition, every comma services not only the post but the mission of PCHA as a whole. It’s his blessing and his curse.
As such, we are moving on without him. The best music, TV and films of 2013, according to me and me only, coming right up.
With albums though, there were at least 20-25 albums released this year that I liked enough to at least consider for a top 10 list, and it was particularly tough to whittle down the best 15 to 10.
Top Ten Albums of the Year
It’s no coincidence that King Khan’s first album with The Shrines since 2008 is also his best album since at least 2008. This is the sound that suits Khan best, and he brought a worthy batch of songs for the band to play with.
9) Okkervil River/The Silver Gymnasium
A stick-to-your-ribs album. Definitely better than 2011′s I Am Very Far, though never reaching the heights of The Stage Names or The Stand-Ins, Gymnasium fills this year’s quota for concept albums — though thankfully, it’s a concept loosely applied.
8) The So So Glos/Blowout
About as close to a ’90s pop-punk album as I’ll ever allow on this countdown.
7) CHVRCHES/The Bones of What You Believe
About as right as you can do electronica. From “The Mother We Share” to “We Sink” to “Gun,” this record is filled with catchy little gems that also reveal surprising depth.
6) Speedy Ortiz/Major Arcana
My vote for the best lyrical album of the year. Sadie Dupuis’s voice is also a huge part of Speedy Ortiz’s charm, and there’s not a bad song on their debut, which recalls ’90s indie rock in a non-cloying way.
5) Parquet Courts/Light Up Gold
Yeah, so apparently, we’re in full retro nostalgia mode, because this is the Malkmusiest album of the year. It’s also engaging, addictive and begs to played on repeat because both the album and the songs therein are so short.
4) Diarrhea Planet/I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
I’ll freely admit that seeing this band live caused this album to jump about 4 spots.
3) The Men/New Moon
The Men are slippery to get a grip on, stylistically, as a live act, and in just about every other way. But this early-year album, filled with Neil Young homages and straight-up rockers, has endured better than most anything else in 2013.
2) Kanye West/Yeezus
Yeezus is Kanye going full measures. While I liked My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it was a half measures album, sounding like Kanye was hesitant to fully embrace the direction in which he wanted to go. Yeezus is slimmed down (thanks, Rick Rubin!), tight, fucked up and mesmerizing, and finds Kanye in the best lyrical form of his career to boot.
1) Vampire Weekend/Modern Vampires of the City
A stunning achievement. Just about every song on here is close to a masterpiece, and this a perfect example of a band in their absolute prime, at the height of their creative powers. Modern Vampires and Yeezus topped most of the year-end lists I saw, in some order, and for once, I’m not about to disagree with the critical consensus.
Top TV Shows of the Year
The world of serialized television is ever-expanding, with more and more networks jumping on board with original programming. This has finally become a problem for me in the last year, as for the first time I felt like I wasn’t able to keep up with every show I wanted to or enjoyed. Babies, man.
10) Game of Thrones
I guess? I wish my list could have stopped at 9 this year, because Game of Thrones is remarkably inconsistent. Great episodes like “The Bear and The Maiden Fair” mix with dull nothing-happens episode like every season finale thus far. The infamous Red Wedding didn’t resonate with me as much as it seemed to with other viewers, because it killed off mediocre, unlikable characters we were supposed to like.
9) Parks & Recreation
Still reliably good and sporadically great, Parks & Rec is no longer reliably great. It’s a near miracle that this show has lasted six season, so let’s just be grateful for the good and great we’re still getting.
Operating on all cylinders in its second season, Veep is giving us a career-best performance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and a near-flawless supporting cast.
7) The Americans
Obviously, they had me at “Tusk.” This is a series that, going forwarded, I’m concerned will have to jump through Byzantine storytelling hoops to maintain its status quo. but after a great debut season, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
6) Arrested Development
The weakest season of Arrested Development? I suppose. But it was also measures more ambitious than the preceding three and the production needed to contend with constraints that the others did not. For the most part, the execution matched the ambition, and led to an awfully funny season. Its detractors are too lost in the haze of nostalgia to realize that none of Arrested’s three preceding seasons were completely perfect either.
Might have been a couple spots lower if not for “Decoy,” which might have been the best hour on television this year in a world without “Ozymandias.” At this point, it seems unlikely Justified will ever quite reach the heights of season two, but it keeps adding layers and textures, making Harlan an ever-more interesting place to visit. This year, the work with Tim the Deputy and Ron Eldard’s Colt Rhodes stood out.
4) Top of the Lake
The female performance of the year. Elisabeth Moss is even better here than she is as Peggy Olson. Jane Campion created a fascinating, creepy world with enough quirkiness to hold our interest (Twin Peaks) but not so much that it took us out of this reality (Northern Exposure).
3) Orphan Black
It would seem to be damning Orphan Black to call it a genre show, but that’s what it is and that’s what it excels at being. In its first season, it showed a preternatural instinct for understanding when to change directions and move on to the next phase of its plot. My only concern going forward is that it’s going to blow through story so quickly that it will run out, a la The O.C. in its first two seasons.
2) Mad Men
Mad Men has been somewhat lost in the shuffle of the well-deserved Breaking Bad kingmaking, but Matthew Weiner just keeps cranking out consistently excellent seasons, each one different enough from the last to merit notice. When it’s all said and done, Mad Men will certainly be in the conversation for best shows ever.
1) Breaking Bad
This may be the last time for a while we have such a clear-cut number one on the list, and I can’t remember the last time there was such a clear-cut gap between #1 and #2 — season 4 of The Wire? We say goodbye to a titan, and we begin the pre-obituaries for Mad Men after 2015.
Top Movies of the Year
10)The World’s End
Only because I haven’t seen Inside Llewyn Davis yet.
9) Drinking Buddies
The core cast of Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston are as likable as you please, and the film manages to tell a story without putting a neat bow on every detail.
8) The Way Way Back
One of the most likable “awkward teenager” performances in ages anchors a movie that never surprises but still manages to be entirely pleasant and moderately funny.
7) This is the End
God bless the Michael Cera Renaissance.
I can’t decide if this is the most flawed great film ever, or the greatest bad film ever. In the end, the amazing cinematography and claustrophobic thrills win the day — because they’re something you almost never see. On the other hand, the deeply problematic, overly sentimental script is something you see all the time.
5) Spectacular Now
Somehow manages to be both a coming-of-age story and a warning about alcoholism without being the most annoying fucking thing of all time. Coach Taylor helps.
4) Upstream Color
If you hated Tree of Life, you’ll probably hate Upstream Color. And while non-linear storytelling is usually a pretty good way to make me angry, the mystery structure here gives you just enough to hang your hat on while you appreciate the performances and atmosphere.
3) American Hustle
It couldn’t out-Scorsese Scorsese, but so what? Everybody in this movie seemed to be having the most fun of their lives and everybody managed to straddle the line between entertainment and believability (except for Bradley Cooper, maybe).
As unique a film as I saw this year. Spike Jonze took a premise that could have been a twee disaster, and turned it into a moving, deeply felt romance. Joaquin Phoenix wasn’t nominated for Best Actor strictly because of that whole fake rapper thing, right?
1) The Wolf of Wall Street
Until 30 seconds ago, I had Her as my #1 movie of the year. But it just didn’t feel right to commit that to text, to actually write it down and see it staring back at me. Wolf of Wall Street is the one I’ll keep going back to, the one I’ll watch over and over again, the one I enjoyed the most, the one that causes me to pound my chest every few days. The best Leo’s ever been, the best Scorsese’s been since Goodfellas, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I don’t care that it borrows liberally from Goodfellas’ playbook — it does so in service of a fantastic fucking movie.