Another year is over and it’s at this time that we reflect on what 2013 has delivered in the business of entertainment and the happenings of the wider world beyond. Highs were often very high and lows were, at times, tragic but there was also a little something for everyone in-between. However, this being an opinion piece, you lucky readers get to endure 2013 through the jaded eyes of this writer so you can kiss any form of objectivity goodbye. It’s probably worth noting that there is not much in the way of music-related stuff here. Though I do enjoy music, I’ve found that much of what is deemed popular or successful these days hold very little interest to me. So without further ado, we shall begin…
Best Film: Captain Philips/Gravity.
Yes, it is a cop-out to place two films at the top spot but not for a long while have two films arrived in a given year and bowled me over so completely. Gravity has the “awesome” factor by demonstrating film making techniques that have never been seen before while Captain Philips has the sheer balls-to-the-walls intensity of many a great thriller. Both feature great performances, directors at the top of their game and gut-wrenching tales of survival in extreme circumstances. Seek them out.
Worst Film: World War Z
This choice may prove controversial as, on a technical level, it was perfectly fine (and there were far worse films released this year, like Movie 43). The acting was ok, it was paced quite well. However, this is World War Z in name only. Call it fan-boy nit-picking if you will, but considering the wealth of possibilities available from the source material, it’s totally unforgivable that the resulting film adaptation is so cliché and so pedestrian. The book dealt with the worldwide social and political fallout over the ten year span of a zombie pandemic. The film features an American called Gerry travelling the world in order to find a cure. It also has running zombies. Yeah, fuck you too.
Best Game: Bioshock Infinite/Grand Theft Auto V/The Last of Us
A trio of winners here and a trio of astonishing games that further emphasise that games can hold up to movies in terms of insanely good entertainment. The Last of Us is the most sombre of the three, dealing with weighty subjects as grief, survival and loss set in the background of a crumbling society (the fact that it features zombie-like infected people has become mute at this point), Bioshock Infinite deals with the even weightier themes or racism and religious extremism whilst delivering an enthralling central mystery with swashbuckling adventure and GTA V ditches everything weak from the previous game while improving on everything that worked. All are well worth your time.
Worst Game: Call of Duty Ghosts
The new Call of Duty being placed here is not to say that it’s a rubbish game, only that it is the weakest entry to the franchise since Call of Duty 3. Infinity Ward used to produce shooters of unparalleled quality but have now fallen in the shadow of Treyarch, the company behind the excellent Black Ops series. Ghosts is yet a further step back. Where Black Ops 2 openly aimed to move the series into new territory (a future setting, strike force missions, player choice, multiple endings), Ghosts does nothing of the sort, resorting to game mechanics that were getting old when Modern Warfare 2 came out. For a series with an annual output, it just doesn’t try hard enough.
Best Book: The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith)
This nearly went to A Delicate Truth by John le Carre, however that author’s infuriating habit of not ending his books (they always seem to just stop, without much in the way resolution) scuppered what was otherwise a terrific piece of spy fiction. The Cuckoo’s Calling, on the other hand, is the stand out this year, not only because is was actually written by one J.K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) but because she demonstrates that she is no one trick pony, and can write a truly excellent piece of genre fiction aimed squarely at adults. It’s intelligent, thrilling and brilliantly written. The promise of a sequel next year is very welcome.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was released in 2012 but I read it in 2013. It’s unbelievably good.
Worst Book: NOS4R2 (Joe Hill)
In order to avoid too much controversy with this choice I must immediately stress that I didn’t think NOS4R2 was terrible, I didn’t even think it was bad, it’s perfectly fine, but that is its main problem: it’s fine, ok, run-of-the-mill. Hill’s first two novels (Heart-Shaped Box and Horns respectively) are flat out masterpieces and immediately set him apart from his famous literary father (he’s Stephen King’s son, don’t you know) and established him as a writer to watch. My problem with NOS4R2 is it’s clearly the work of a man who has, for the first time, got carte blanche on his work and has filled it with everything a geeky mind can take. The result is muddled; the opening is rushed, the latter half too long and the central idea of these paths between worlds is never really fully explained. I’ve read worse books this year, but in terms of ones released in 2013, NOS4R2 was the one most lacking.
I’ll keep this brief, as popular music is not really my forte; ergo I haven’t really listened to much in the way of new music. Probably the best album I’ve listened to that was released in 2013 was Fortress by Alter Bridge. It won’t win anyone over if you don’t like hard rock but in terms of just how far the band has come, Fortress is stunning, especially on the back of their last record, ABIII, which was a weak effort all round.
Every year has its peaks and troughs and, unfortunately, 2013 has not been without its share of sadness. We saw the passing of four high profile and well regarded authors: James Herbert, Iain Banks, Elmore Leonard and Tom Clancy (Clancy’s final novel, Command Authority, has just been released in hardback) as well as the passing of probably the most famous movie critic of them all; Roger Ebert. Even more tragic was the very sudden death of actor Paul Walker, who was in the middle of filming Fast and Furious 7. The film has been officially delayed to 2015.
There were also highs to be found. Marvel continued their winning streak, with Iron Man 3 officially becoming the highest grossing film of the year and Thor: The Dark World also doing well commercially and critically. DC and Warner Bros made Superman cool again, with the promise of Batman/Superman mash up coming 2015. Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress, Tarantino won best original screenplay and Argo won Best Picture. In an interesting turn of events, the three and a half hour original cut of Heaven’s Gate was re-released to critical acclaim, thirty years after its disastrous opening. Stephen King released a long gestating sequel to The Shining titled Doctor Sleep to favourable critical reviews (his youngest son, Owen, also released his critically acclaimed first novel, Double Feature). Xbox and PlayStation battled it out for the title of best console with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 fighting it out for the Christmas market. The jury is still out on the outcome of that.
And that, ladies and gents, just about covers it. I must stress that the opinions detailed here are my own, not Roobla as a whole so any objections should be levelled at me alone. So what are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on twitter.