December 28, 2013
Forgive the linkbait headline. What I want to tell you is that 2013 was an excellent year in culture. Sure we started with the “Harlem Shake.” But we ended with Matthew McConaughey giving the best performance of his career, a downbeat Beyonce album, and so many revelations about art and film, it was enough to make you wish for a time machine just to do it all over again. Based on no scientific algorithm other than the quickening of my pulse, here’s what made my 2013 worthwhile.
Dallas Buyer’s Club
Where to start with this painful and heart-rending film? Jared Leto is brilliant. Matthew McConaughey more so. And it’s all just so utterly gripping. For every think piece claiming Hollywood’s turned its back on serious drama, this movie, about a Texan hick battling AIDS at the height of the epidemic, proves them wrong on every level. It’s moviemaking at its finest, all grit and bared soul.
Tenth of December
If you haven’t already, go purchase this book. (But not before reading The Times‘ breathless feature on its author.) George Saunder’s mastery of voice is uncanny and the stories he tells, with deft precision and caustic wit, grab hold of you and never let go. His skewering of yuppie culture left me shaking my head laughing for days.
Yes, Queen Bey made this list. What of it? As a Houstonian, this woman represents. And as a fellow 30-something just trying to grind out work and figure out where my place is in life, it’s refreshing to hear a diva put these feelings to sound, and rather bootylicious sounds at that.
“Legendary Lovers” by Katy Perry
Something about this just grabs me and I find I’m content to allow it. “Say my name like a scripture, keep my heart beating like a drum,” Perry coos on the track, which was about as good as it got for mainstream music this year. The jungle theme, her powerful pipes and the “ah-ooh” refrain are the stuff pop confections are made of.
“Demons” by The National
“When I think of you in the city, the site of you among the skies/I get this sudden sinking feeling of a man about to fly.” It’s The National at their gloomiest and I’m lapping it up like a Park Slope terrier. Depressive Jill gives this (and the album) an A.
Cutie and the Boxer
A candid exploration of a 40-year-old romance, this is a tale only New York City could tell. The two artists, drunk Ushio Shinohara and his repressed wife Noriko, feels more like a film, and pleasantly so. The diving scene and ensuing confrontations between husband and wife are sure to move you to tears.
The Place Beyond the Pines
No, this isn’t on here because I have a thing for The Gos (although I do). Derek Cianfrance just knows the way to keep an audience glued to their seats is by tapping a riveting songsmith–in this case Mike Patton–and a certain hunk to play Handsome Luke, a deadbeat dad who finds solace in robbing banks. The film goes off the rails by the third act, but the first two parts more than make up for that.
I’m So Excited
Pedro Almodovar is known for serious fare such as Talk To Her, The Skin I Live In and All About My Mother. But he also has a penchant for camp and the proudly absurd. If gay humor makes you quiver, and not in a good way, this film isn’t for you. But if the thought of gay stewards vamping it up makes you crack a smile, buckle your seatbelt. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.