Let’s hear it for 2013! The year my PhD thesis officially failed, when I learned there were even lower levels of misery to which one can sink, and discovered that hyperbolic sarcastic exaggeration is so obviously the lamest thing you can EVER do!
On the flip side, 2013 was a hell of a year for entertainment! History’s greatest television series came to an end (and I’m not talking about that weak-ass Breaking Bad), one of the most profound movies in decades was released (only in Korea), and the best band in the universe put out a new album (yes, the universe).
So what better a time to reveal my list of the top movies, albums and TV shows of 2013 than the beginning of March 2014. Clearly I’m demonstrating the go-getter attitude that made that thesis so successful!
Let’s start with the movies. Oh movies… how far you’ve fallen. The watering down of all things great about blockbuster cinema in order to suffocate those hard-earned slave labour dollars out of the dopey foreign markets has hit mind-numbing depths. Generic, nonsensical movies with characters, plots, and scripts that can be easily translated for all the various global languages and cultures has turned the American movies that were once so fun into basically a collection of inconsistent clips of stuff.
Just when I think I’ve had enough nonsense, all these addictive trailers keep pushing onto the internet and somehow they junkie-me back in every time. They have the perfect montage blend of epic action payoff scenes and cool looking people, minus all the talking and story-lines that make these movies so damn bad. For example, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailers that came out recently have effectively gotten me completely hyped for this movie regardless of using the exact same creative team that put together the first movie, you know, the one that had me literally stomping out of the theatre kicking over garbage on the street and vowing to never have anything to do with this pathetic franchise again.
Obviously I’m not a man who is good at learning lessons or else I wouldn’t have become Dr. Loser and therefore I continue to go to these big American blockbusters every week anyways. Luckily, sometimes a movie really does surprise me, and these days that practically guarantees that I’ll go to the theatre for a repeat viewing just to remind me why I even like doing this anymore. So here are the Top 5 Movies I watched a minimum of twice at the theatre in 2013.
#5 – Ironman Three
Every bad thing I said just about the modern batch of American blockbusters does NOT apply in any way to the awesome Marvel Studios movies. And what made this third Ironman movie so surprisingly effective was that they actually tried something different and didn’t use Ironman throughout most of the movie. Crazily, that didn’t seem to matter at all, as Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is so fun to watch that even seeing him interact with a ‘cute‘ kid wasn’t irritating.
In the end when the Ironman action hit… boo-yah, it was awesome! I felt like they pulled off a trick from the classic Godzilla – Final Wars by making the bulk of the movie so interesting without the main draw that when he finally does come on the screen in full glory at the end you remember “Oh yeah, this movie is about Godzilla!”
Speaking of Godzilla, I just want to take a moment to say how much I hated that piece of trash Pacific Rim. Here was a chance for the world to get an amazing giant robot vs. giant monster movie but instead they wasted it all on a ton of night-time CGI (cheaper to make and lamer looking) and some convoluted concept of psychic-politics needing two people to control one robot rather than just making kick-ass robots. Obviously these were ploys to cover up the lack of either creative action (if one guy can just control one robot then they can just fight!) or additional budget for actual cool looking (day-time) animation. And for all those bandwagon hipsters who want to pretend they are all of a sudden into giant robots, I’ve got 2 words for you: Power Rangers. Currently in Season 21 (Super Megaforce), every week this show is packed with more giant robot action in one 20 minute episode than all of Pacific Rim, and this has been going on regularly for over 20 years!
Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, Ironman Three. Great movie.
#4 – The Wolf of Wall Street
For a straight edge guy like myself, it’s kind of fun to see a movie about the total humiliation and consequence of the full-on abuse of drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex. At the same time, for a poor, prospect-less loser it does sting to constantly be hammered with the mountains of wealth these people earned at such a young age despite being so historically messed up.
Still, the movie was funny enough that you’d almost feel guilty trying to take it seriously, kind of the opposite feeling you might have if you tried to laugh at a funny part in 12 Years A Slave.
#3 – Fast & Furious 6
In a year filled with self-important blockbusters, like that atrocious Star Trek: Into Darkness, this new Fast & Furious movie didn’t even really have to try to be the best in the bunch, it just did what came naturally.
While neither is going to win any script-writing awards, I’ll tell you where that Star Trek went wrong; they wanted to make a pulse-pounding action movie but filled it with characters who are all total dorks. They look like the science nerds who should be helping with real space exploration not shooting guns and kicking ass! Even the multiple instances of crying and male-bonding don’t really work in this new Star Trek because you can’t buy how these losers would be capable of that kind of emotion either. They need to be sitting in their rooms, staring at walls covered in thesis pages and weeping about where it all went wrong… what, oops sorry…
Leave the action to the professional cool dudes. Vin Diesel, The Rock, Paul Walker, Tyrese; we’re talking guys here who should obviously be high-fiving, blowing up stuff, driving super-cars, and hanging out at parties filled with bikini girls crotch-grinding in slow motion to dub-step.
What this movie did was put together a super-team of bad-ass dudes and basically re-made the Avengers, physics and earth logic be damned! It worked, it’s fun and I was physically (and annoyingly, I’m sure) pumping my fist in the air at the theatre during the big finale, which is not something I’d done since the first live action G.I. Joe movie and in my world that’s high praise!
#2 – Metallica: Through the Never (IMAX 3-D)
Better than an actual Metallica concert (because you don’t have to be smushed in with all those sweaty, shirtless, sing-song 50-year-old dudes) and better than an actual movie (without any dialogue, the bridging narrative between songs just used chases, crashes, fires, apocalyptic street gangs, riots and total destruction to tell a story); if you saw this in IMAX 3-D than you definitely had your face torn off with amazingness!
The only real problem I had was the conundrum at the end of whether or not I should applaud. I mean, it is a concert so your natural instinct is to cheer, chant and clap. However, I then recalled the douche chills I got last year at the theatre when everyone applauded at the end of Dark Knight Rises. Embarrassed now morons?
Metallica, in my mind I clap for you.
#1 – Snowpiercer
Snowpierecer is one of the greatest movies ever made!
And sadly, it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere, released only in Korea even though it was director Bong Joon-Ho’s first English language movie. This man continued his uphill directory from Memories of Murder, The Host, and Mother, to finally landing on his masterpiece. Each of these movies is a must see to any serious film fan, but Snowpiercer takes all the abstract concepts buried within these past glories and ties them gorgeously in this French comic book adaptation about the last survivors of a global ice-storm all living on a train perpetually in motion on tracks that circle the earth.
The poor and disenfranchised live at the back and apparently the wealthy and privileged live up at the front. At least that’s what the protagonists in the very last car seek to find out as they rush the train security and try to work their way up to the engine car. With each escalation in level, the narrative, the visuals and the intensity modifies for the situation in bizarre and thrilling ways.
It’s an absolutely cunning mix of action and philosophy, using exquisite forward movement to confront issues of politics, culture, anarchy, individualism, capitalism, the meaning of life, and then actually paying it all off in a satisfying way.
They haven’t even released this movie internationally yet because the owners of the distribution rights, the Weinstein Company, wanted to cut out 30 minutes of the movie to make it more accessible. That would be like painting over Mona Lisa’s face because her expression is too vague, changing the end of Romeo and Juliet because it’s too depressing, or cutting the line “dumps like a truck” from Sisqo’s Thong Song!
Regardless, the full-length version of this movie will be out sometime, you’ll see it and then you’ll understand why I loved it so much.
Next up I’m going to countdown my Top 5 Music Albums of 2013. Just to give you an impress of the kind of music that have topped the Dr. Loser charts in past years, you’ve got Mos Def – Black on Both Sides (1999), D’Angelo – Voodoo (2000), Tool – Lateralus (2001), R Kelly – Double Up (2007), Pearl Jam – Backspacer (2009) and last year The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet. So be warned, my taste is a pretty goofy rotation of accessible alterno-prog-pop and catchy-agro-R&B/hip-hop.
#5 – Beyonce
Hey, just like no one will be accusing me of being a doctor, I’ve never been know for my exceptionally manly taste in music, so I won’t apologise for loving this ‘secret‘ Beyonce album that came out at the end of last year.
I liked that she calls herself ‘yonce (kind of like ‘taker for WWE’s Undertaker), I liked that she says “serf-bort” instead of surfboard, and I liked that every song came with a video that were just basically her all wet and gyrating in thongs.
I’m a simple man.
#4 – The Flaming Lips – The Terror
This oddly monotonous yet wonderful album will forever remind me of the day I spent listening to it on repeat while reading back issues of Hellblazer in a Tokyo coffee shop waiting for the rain to stop so I could walk to the Budokhan Hall to the see the sold-out retirement show of legendary pro-wrestler Kenta Kobashi.
That’s right, I’m eccentric and worldly! At least, that was the personality I was trying to mould for my future as an academic doctor. Guess I’m going to have to throw all that out now! No more Flaming Lips from this point on, that’s for sure!
#3 – GWAR – Battle Maximus
When I said earlier that the greatest band in the universe released a new album this year, you knew I was talking about these guys, right?
#2 – Kanye West “Yeezus”
Seems like Kanye is the easiest guy on earth to hate, but I have no idea where all that’s coming from especially once the first few seconds of “On Sight” start off this great album:
It’s stupid, corny, funny, goofy, intense, hardcore and fun all at the same time. Good stuff! The general public might not like the guy for whatever reason, but these are the same people who probably like U2 and Adele, so does their opinion really matter either?
#1 – Clutch “Earth Rocker”
Did somebody say they wanted to see that slickly produced video of me air-drumming to the title track of this album again?
‘Nuff said. How many albums inspire you do to something that stupid on video?
Just to situate you for the next category, here are my favourite television programs of all time: Twin Peaks, Power Rangers, WWE RAW, Get a Life!, Seinfeld, Batman the Animated Series, Married… with Children, Avatar the Last Airbender and 24. You know I’m right! Now then, onto the Top 5 TV Shows of 2013.
#5 – New Girl
If you thought liking the Beyonce album was pretty feminine of me, you must have just done a massive spit take and gotten beer all over your cool moustache when you saw this on the list.
Strangely, although the title and main character may make you think this is a girly show, it could actually be one of the most ridiculously manly comedies on TV. The real main characters on the show are “new girl” Jess’s three absolutely insane male roommates. Believe what you will, but this show is kind of like the Fast & Furious of girl-helmed network sit-coms.
#4 – Banshee
I feel kind of bad typing this now, considering what a complete disappointment the currently airing 2nd season has become. Whereas last year this show was a wacky unapologetically evil, porn-ed up, ultra-violent punch-out, in 2014 they decided to tone things down and try to get serious. Guess what Banshee, no one watched for the drama in the first place, we just wanted all that stupid sex and fighting. Please give us our show back!
#3 – Ja’mie Private School Girl
Arguably the best living actor in the world today, Australian comedic chameleon Chris Lilley is a man in his late 30s who so completely takes on the persona of a teenage high school girl in this show. I’m guessing most people won’t even realise it’s a man under there. And it’s not because he looks good, he looks horrible…
… but the casual viewer will quickly get so wrapped up in his uncanny mastery of all things teen girl that they’d just figure this is a reality show about an egotistical, maniacal rich Aussie brat!
And the man has done it before with his past shows, playing a Japanese middle-aged mother, rural twins one of whom is deaf, an Australian grandmother and a black American rapper, all without once succumbing to the ‘shock’ style comedy like you’d see in Jackass or a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. No one is ‘surprised’ to meet his ridiculous characters, everything is scripted and it’s hilarious not because of his appearance but his performance. It’s truly criminal that this man’s talents are largely being ignored by mainstream popular culture but his time will come!
#2 – Arrow
In the same year that the DC Comics released the unbelievably lame Man of Steel movie that made Superman a lifeless underwear model who seemed to only know how to smash people into buildings over and over, they were also quietly putting together a frighteningly more satisfying and legit re-creation of their Green Arrow comic book universe on TV with a fraction of the budget and commercial breaks.
The ironic part is, by the time Arrow hit it’s stride at the end of Season 1 and beginning of Season 2 each episode felt as epic and exhilarating as a great blockbuster movie, while every DC Comics movie feels about as canned and cheesy as something that should be on TV. The true reversal of fortune between TV and Movies in the 20-teens era is no better illustrated than in the contrast between these two properties.
#1 – Spartacus – War of the Damned
For this final entry, and at the risk of just becoming Dr. Hyperbole, I’m still going to have to say it: Spartacus was absolutely the most amazing thing ever produced for television. I don’t even want to compare it to other TV shows because that somehow doesn’t feel fair. But anyways, here it is and here it ended, after 4 seasons of absolute insanity Spartacus went out with another mind-blowing collection of what I guess you’d call episodes.
TV after Spartacus should be like talk radio after Howard Stern went to Sirius, like the NBA after they let black players into the league, like comic books after Frank Miller and Alan Moore in the 80s, and like popular music after James Brown hit the stage at the T.A.M.I. Show.
There is no turning back. Any TV show that doesn’t aspire to live up to the standard these 4 seasons of Spartacus set can get the hell out!
You wanna know who’s really a lot like Spartacus though?
By the final season, Spartacus was leading an army of gladiators and slaves in an impossible mission to take down Rome. And they were winning. They were doing it so well that you wanted the show to slip into an alternative history and just make Spartacus conquer the world. But ultimately, they stuck to the ordained outcome and he went down in flames, so to speak.
I also just came off an epic, insane mission with my 8 long years slaving over that damn PhD, and just like Spartacus, in the end I proved that the impossible really is impossible no matter how hard you work.
Spartacus, Chris Lilley, GWAR, Bong Joon-Ho and Snowpiercer, all of these absolutely brilliant artists and their work are almost dismissed by mainstream popular culture. No matter how hard they work, they really may never get the recognition they probably deserve, and in fact are most likely considered to be total shit by a large amount of the general audience.
Isn’t this a problem? Or am I the crazy one?
At the same time there still is super popular stuff on these lists like Kanye, Beyonce, Fast & Furious, Ironman, New Girl, and Arrow, that seem to do their own ridiculous things and have found massive success.
So is all this just a coin toss?
Were the results of my PhD based on the decision of examiners who all might have all just coincidently woken up in a bad mood the day they submitted their reports? Or was it really just as terrible as they claimed it was?
Does hard work really matter? Chris Lilley most likely has to prepare like a physicist for his roles and yet has a show that maybe a few thousand people will watch in the US, while Hollywood movies seemingly glue a bunch of scenes together with some words and stuff and they’ve somehow found a way to reach more people and make exponentially more money with a superiorly less quality product.
Is it all about the process for them? Just doing the work is what matters the most, and the end level of success just might not even matter? I talked about this in my previous post and called bullshit on that, but what do I know? All this stuff is just art, right? My thesis was in Creative Writing, it wasn’t economics or medicine and nothing I wrote was going to mix a potion or build a castle. Spartacus was a real guy once, but in 2013 his story just became a vehicle for some cool story-telling, super wild action scenes, and gloriously taboo cinema sex. Maybe in a few centuries my lame life could become the stuff of such exaggerated legend, who knows?
Yeah, but what about that real Spartacus? He could have just played his role and become the most successful gladiator of all time, bringing glory and riches to his owner and gaining luxuries for himself as a slave. Instead he fought back from nothingness, from the very brink of complete failure and death, to take everything down and epically change the very shape of his universe. But in the end, he basically failed. He was killed and his slave rebellion foiled.
Was his decision worth it? Was mine? Did he do the right thing? Did I? Or in the end, was Spartacus just another loser?
Another loser, like me…
– Dr. Loser