Friday, December 27, 2013

The Best Of 2013.

Patsey explains to Epps why Gone With The Wind is so whack while Solomon looks on.

Best Film: 12 Years A Slave.

America's original sin has been the subject (or feature) of countless cornerstones of American film--Birth Of A Nation and Gone With The Wind among them--but none portray it quite like 12 Years A Slave. Time will tell if it is truly a great film, but it is certainly the greatest portrayal of slavery we've seen yet--an Uncle Tom's Cabin of our time. Chiwetel Ejiofor's portrayal of freeman-turned-captured slave Solomon Northup is nothing short of a revelation, as we watch him slowly descend into the living hell that surrounds him. It is clear that slavery was a system designed to break men, and it is through Northup that his eventual victory gives a window into all of those who toiled, suffered, and died in silence.

Best Movie: In A World...

Lake Bell wrote, directed, and starred this love letter to the industry of voiceover work. The movie's title originates from the late Don LaFontaine's cliched opening line to movie trailers, as the film chronicles a fictional version of the hunt for his successor. It is among the most original film-about-film to come along in a long time, and uses features one of the best casts of the year (Demitri Martin, Michaela Watkins, and Rob Cordoy playing against type) and surprises (Eva Longoria! Geena Davis? Cameron Diaz?!), but it is Bell's movie, and she holds it (and directs it) wonderfully. In a world of hackneyed male-dominated entertainment, In A World... provides a fresh voice and story about an industry that is hiding in plain sight.

Best Television Show: Orange Is The New Black.

In an exceptional year for television, the Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black arrived and quickly established itself as the television event of the year. Officially about a fish-out-of-water story of a fashionista who enters a female prison, this only scratches the surface: It is a portrait of being female in America--a microcosm of whites and blacks, foreigners and latinos, thugs and nuns--held together by Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who herself is stuck in the balance between gay and straight, as she leaves her fiance (Jason Biggs) to go to jail after getting ratted out by her lesbian ex-girlfriend (Laura Prepon), who just happens to be in the same prison as Piper. Hilarity ensues, but so does tragedy and complexity in equal measure, building until the cliffhanger finale of the most intense Christmas episode I have ever seen. Like everyone else, I can hardly wait for more; and with Prepon leaving midway through the next season, it seems unlikely they will ever top this one.

Best Song: "Royals" by Lorde.

17-year-old girls have always loomed disproportionately large in pop music, be it the girl who was just 17 (you know what I mean) in The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," Janis Ian learning the truth "At Seventeen," or Gram Parsons' singer being saved by a 17-year-old angel in The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Juanita." This year we have 17-year-old New Zealander Lorde and her meditation royalty, celebrity, and the luck of being to the manner born. Meanwhile, the song and production is pure pop craft. Sparse beats give way to Beach Boys-esque bursts of harmony and Dylan-esque runs of phrase that draw you into its hypnotic, weird vibe. "You can call me queen bee," she sings at one point. "And baby, I'll rule." If this song is any indication of what she is capable of, we should take her at her word.

Best Book: Autobiography by Morrissey.

So, for the third year straight, I have not actually read my pick for Book Of The Year. As the great Warren Zevon once said, when you buy a book you also think you're buying the time to read it. And I for one need about five books' worth of time to read one book. But I've been a huge Morrissey fan since college and have read nothing but wonderful things about it, so I will buy it, and will read it, hopefully before it even goes to paperback. Besides, I have to give it props for making no attempt to divide the book into any sort of sections but just go on for one straight narrative. Kicking us in our collective too-modern world face? Sounds like vintage Morrissey to me--I'm in.

Best Game: Candy Crush Saga.

This instantly-addictive, shrewdly-designed, seemingly never-ending (now at 300 levels and counting), it's like Tetris's cooler, younger offspring, if Tetris could shift the parameters and objectives of its game while tantalizing players by only allowing up to five free plays with a half-hour wait for each one. Watch out, once you're hooked, you'll see your life transform into half-hour segments divided by rounds with Candy Crush. You've been warned. Now, I think I better go check if it's been a half-hour since my last round of Candy Crush...

Best Reissue: Safety Last!

Although Harold Lloyd ranks a distant third to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in silent screen comedians, in his day Lloyd was far more popular than Keaton and at times rivaled Chaplin. Safety Last! is his masterpiece--you know it as The Movie With The Guy Hanging Off The Clock--and it's been lovingly reissued by itself on DVD for the first time by Criterion. As silent comedies go, it's on par with The Gold Rush and bested only by The General. The plot is little more than an excuse for Lloyd's hapless department store employee to scale the side of the building with increasing absurdity, pioneering a sort of thrill comedy. Criterion's special features help to reconstruct the trick shots, but in this film's pre-CGI world, you really are looking at a man dangling far above the distant street below. And it's a dazzling sight to behold.

1 comment:

  1. Best Film = Yes