Year-End Review



As I looked back at 2013, I came upon the realization that this may be the last truly strange numerical year of my life.  Like the year 1999, like the film 2001 and like the City on the Edge of Forever, the peaks and valleys of the construct we call “time” hinges on sticking points.  As a species, we look for meaning in all things, we crave it.  Moving forward, ascribing meaning to moments that would otherwise have none but for their place in the passage of then to now.  Sweet 16’s.  Twenty-fifth anniversaries.  Centennial celebrations.  To me, 2013 is just one of those years — it once felt remote, far in the future; built on numbers, like ‘2000’ and ‘13’, that inherently evoke meanings of their own — it tickles the mind in just the right way.  Twenty-thirteen… God, what a strange year to be alive.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m on my third beer (… does whisky count as beer?).

To those who say that 2013 marked yet another year in the declining health of the entertainment business, with low box office revenues and high levels of piracy, the utter obliteration of originality through an inordinate amount of sequels, and the hysteria of the incomprehensible and the decay of proper cinematic vision … you’re right.  We’re just polishing brass on the Titanic.  It’s all going down, man, so f*ck off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns.  I say never be complete.  I say stop being perfect.  I say let’s evolve.  Let the chips fall where they may.

But that’s me, and I could be wrong.  Maybe it’s a terrible tragedy, and guys like me should stop stealing lines from movies from 1999.  Nineteen-ninety-nine… God, what a strange year that was to be alive.

Anyway… let’s take a look at some of the few things worth remembering from this weird, lost, mixed-up year that was. 

Thom’s Top Five Movies of 2013

5. The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby‘s inclusion on this list was actually a pretty big surprise for me, and one I arrived at only after reminding myself what movies it is I saw this year.  In a year where I watched disappointments like The Wolverine, superficialities like Rush, and major sequels like Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby stood out as a shockingly strong representation of the Fitzgerald novel I’m sure I’ll never actually read.

4. The World’s End

The most fun you can have watching Simon Pegg basically commit suicide for 2 hours on screen.  What starts off as a funny if straightforward comedy about a small town’s replacement by aliens and a group of former mates’ attempt to finish an epic pub crawl in spite of this winds up becoming a surprisingly heartfelt examination about never growing up.  Read the review >>

3. Man of Steel

Other than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel is the only superhero movie in recent years to make an honest attempt to really fill out the mythic aspects of its subject, and while it may not be as fun or care-free as Iron Man 3, it’s infinitely more meaningful for its ambition.  It’s also not fundamentally a rip-off of the first two Lethal Weapons.  Read the review >>

2. The Way, Way Back

A love letter to those truly scarring moments of youth, The Way, Way Back offered just the right amount of meaning, sentiment, and deep understanding to help salve the wounds that survive into adulthood.  It’s also pretty funny.  Read the review >>

1. American Hustle

One of the only movies I’ve ever seen that actually made me say “wow” out loud.  As we’re taken through what, at times, feels like an Odyssey-level adventure through confidence games, we realize that the long con may just be on the audience itself (no, it’s actually pretty straightforward).  Read the review >>

Thom’s Top Five ComicBooks of 2013

5. Batman

I resisted including Batman in this list mostly because of the apparent banality of basically saying “I read comics… I like Batman,” as if there’s nothing more to me.  But Snyder and Capullo’s “Zero Year”, retelling the first year of Batman’s tenure as Gotham’s defender has turned out to be smart, progressive, and just a lot of fun.

4. Locke & Key

A horror comic from Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, Locke & Key never really scares so much as it chronicles the supernatural events surrounding a family trying to overcome the brutal murder of its patriarch.  This year brought such a sense of catharsis to the conclusion of the series that even men such as I were almost brought to tears.

3. Young Avengers

An incredibly innovative comic about the youthful metahumans who may or may not one day become Avengers from Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Young Avengers reads like I always imagined what most Whedon fans think they’re seeing when they watch and gush all over Firefly (a show I still don’t really get).

2. Hawkeye

You might already know how much I loved the first six issues of this comic, and it’s remained consistently strong through 2013, where different issues have managed to make us care about Hawkeye’s loser brother, told us a wordless story from the perspective of Hawkeye’s dog, and further reminded us why Hawkeye really just doesn’t make sense as a superhero, all while building ongoing storylines and developing background characters we can care more about than the main characters in most other series.

1. Saga

It’s to this book’s credit that I rarely consciously remember it or bring it up in conversation.  Vaughan and Staples’ story of star-crossed lovers, their baby, their disembodied ghost babysitter, and various other hangers on in the midst of galactic war never lingers too long in my brain, even while each issue that comes out reminds me that it’s the best comicbook on the stands.  I don’t know what makes this book so good.  It just is.

Thom’s Favourite TV Show of 2013

Bob’s Burgers

Year-End - Bob's Burgers

Image courtesy of 20th Television

Bob’s Burgers has now firmly planted itself as my favourite currently airing television series.  On one hand, it is the modern day Simpsons, built on the inherent comedy of family sensibilities, but on the other hand it almost surpasses The Simpsons for its commitment to restraint and attention to thematic undertones.  I won’t blame you if you don’t love it, but there’s really something wrong with you if you don’t like it at least a little bit.

Thom’s Biggest Disappointment of 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Year-End - Agents

Image courtesy of Disney-ABC Domestic Television

There are any number of arguments to be made around why this show isn’t living up to its potential, why it’s losing viewership week after week, why everyone’s so disappointed in it, and why you shouldn’t give up on it just yet, but the clear, plain, bald-faced truth is that the producers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have done nothing but create mediocre television.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is by no means a travesty, nor will it offend your sensibilities.  That would be too easy.  It defines the term ‘not good’ to such an extent that it almost defies all logic, and it’s maddening how egregiously middle of the road it is and how completely not worth watching or thinking about it’s become.

Thom’s Favourite Thing of 2013

Pacific Rim

Year-End - Pacific Rim

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I love Pacific Rim.  I love everything about it.  Most of all, I love the completely earnest sense I get from its creators, that everyone involved was completely devoted to making exactly the kind of movie it is, from the over-the-top acting and cornball dialogue to the Kaiju and Jaeger designs, and that unbelievable score.  Pacific Rim is everything I want in an enertainment franchise, and, frankly, it’s all of your fault that it hasn’t gotten the respect, box office returns, and instant sequel status it so richly deserves.

In escaping 2013, the last truly strange year, I feel a sort of numbing sadness as I welcome 2014 and what promises to just be the future and the rest of my life. Oh sure, robot drones may be preparing to take care of all of our petty consumer needs, A.I. may be hastening its continual rise, and the singularity is still out there making its promises to change everything and everyone we know, but I can’t help but feel a sense of profound loss as I close the book on 2013, here on the edge of futures perhaps best left unknown.

On the other hand, this is just a list of things I liked last year.  Not everything gets to be all that meaningful.

GOO Reviewer
Vice President of Media Relations. No, wait… Junior Vice President
Pilot of the Jaeger Midnight Intercept