The best comics of 2013

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Welp, this year is basically impossible. You know that insane renaissance in TV that has been happening for the last couple of years? I’d argue that 2013 saw it happen in mainstream comics, too. And for that reason among many others, the only way I can accurately award the Best Title this year is to give it a four-way tie:

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Didn’t Watch: Nebraska, Dead Ringers, O Brother Where Art Thou?

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The best thing I did last week was turning off Nebraska, 25 minutes in. I had a pristine moment of clarity: I have not, ever, actually enjoyed an Alexander Payne movie. Why was I watching another one? (Cue half the internet: “Uh, technically, you haven’t seen About Schmidt, and therefore your opinion of Alexander Payne is uninformed.”) A lot of people whose opinions of film I respect had seen the film and passed it with flying colours; and towards the end of any given year, we all (“we all” in this case being the semi-OCD online film community) try to grab as many Top Ten List contenders as we can, to pad out, and give maximum rounding to, our final choices. Top Ten Lists, especially for non-professionals, are basically a pissing match anyway: “I saw, and was aesthetically sensitive enough to value, this!” That’s why we all put at least one defiantly “you’ve probably never even heard of this” movie on our lists, every year. This year, mine’s The Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari. Look it up. I am fucking sensitive, bitch.

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I refuse to call 2013 a bad year

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Within a couple of weeks of its start, a lot of my friends jumped on the “fuck 2013” bandwagon. (Did we hashtag it? I think we hashtagged it.) I get it. 2013 really stuck it in and broke it off, annually speaking. A metric fuckload of really awful shit seemed to happen to just about everyone in my life over the course of the year - and not the usual description of “awful shit.” This was a real fuckaround. I wasn’t immune. I won’t bore you - because frankly, it bores me - but the manageable became unmanageable pretty quickly for me in 2013. You’d think someone had pushed a Big Red Button. (Oh wait: was that me?)

For me, of course, the high points of 2013 were some epic high points, so I’m not really in any substantial place to complain. A lot was lost - a lot was changed - but I found a good portion of real joy, too. I learned tons, because one does; and if I didn’t come out stronger - frankly, I think I’m about as sturdy as a newborn calf right now - then at least I came out. I wrote everything down. Here’s what 2013 taught me:

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The finest man that ever breathed - Rest in Peace, Peter O’Toole

In all my life, Peter O’Toole was my absolute favourite. He claimed this spot sometime in the mid ’90s after it had been vacated by Harrison Ford, who had been my favourite in childhood for obvious reasons, but had not, tacitly, done anything for me lately. O’Toole had not done anything for me lately either, relatively speaking, except that he had gone on Letterman a fair few times after Dave moved to CBS, and I drank it up like water.

O’Toole came into my life in the best possible manner, i.e. as Zaltar in the 1984 feature film adaptation of Supergirl. “Yes… you… can!” O’Toole barked, pushing teen Kryptonian Helen Slater up a mountain of volcanic ash in the Phantom Zone, towards a gaping white hole that lead… somewhere. This, as I wouldn’t understand until most of my life later, was O’Toole in micro: the available energy of a gathering hurricane, adrift in the languid sea of lesser copies of earlier greatness. More to the point, O’Toole played Zaltar - O’Toole doing Alec Guinness doing Takashi Shimura - as a wonderful lush. “Squirt?” Zaltar asks of Kara when she finds his wretched hovel in the Phantom Zone, before jizzing a Chloroseptic spray-bottle down his own throat, apparently the Zone’s only available mood-enhancer. In his tatty smock and late-’70s hair, we nearly expect him next to ask Kara if she parties, before indicating the divan behind him.

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The daffy mess of Howard Shore’s Unexpected Journey

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Like most fans of movie music (or of hobbits) I’m quite fond of Howard Shore’s gargantuan work for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which really is as close to a composer writing a twelve-hour symphony to accompany a movie as we’ve likely ever had in the medium. As such, I await each new installment in his follow-up work on The Hobbit trilogy with quite a bit of glee (my Desolation expanded score arrives today), and in general terms, when the expanded score for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrived last year, I wasn’t disappointed. It doesn’t raise the game, musically, but it works comfortably within the rule set that Shore established on the other trilogy. And there are some dandy bits of motif-building, too; the progressive six-tone Dwarven theme being my favourite.

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True story

In lieu of a blog post today, here’s my letter to Sex Criminals #3, on the subject of “porn in the forest” stories.

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By the way - if you’re not reading Sex Criminals, you’re wrong.

Next week on “boys and penises,” more stuff about boys - and their penises.

Film is not a mission

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"Film is not a mission," I thought to myself at some Lightbox screening or other in the last few weeks, whereupon I’d had a thoroughly uninteresting time watching some movie I was meant to have watched because it was  considered so generally significant; and amidst conversation all around me about what films in the Cronenberg series or the Coen series or the whatever-else series every one of us "should" see. "Should thinking" is the bane of human existence in all its forms, and no less so for moviegoing. Film is not a mission.

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The movie of my life

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In the movie of my life, I’d play myself. Why not? I’m young enough, and with this Avatar CGI shit, they could paint a lot of dots on my face and create a digital puppet version of myself at ages sixteen, and thirteen, and even ten. I would love to step some poor Weta digital modelling technician through my own pubescence in reverse. I’ve got the field notes, Adrian Mole style, going back to the ten centimeter range. I’ve been dying to try out a MoCap suit, or a MoCap stage, or a MoCap anything, really. That would be all of the great things about acting (freedom of experimentation; focus on the task only; craft service) all coalesced into one experience, with all the crappy stuff (pancake makeup; other people) taken away.

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Watched: The Day of the Doctor and an Adventure in Space and Time

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It wasn’t until a few hours after I watched “The Day of the Doctor” that my mind cycled back over that last scene and realized, in addition to it being that last scene, i.e. the best kept secret in the world wherein the youngest living and oldest surviving Doctors met onscreen to cap off the rather wonderful 50th anniversary of Doctor Who…  it was also, right there, my Doctors. Tom Baker and Matt Smith, Four and Eleven, the one who sent me running behind the couch as a boy, and the one who brought me back out. That’s just a bit of luck, of course, but it personalized the experience gigantically. No knock against Five to Ten, or Twelve or Thirteen or the War Doctor, but those two up on screen shot a beam of time straight through me. “I grew up!” Amy Pond objected in “The Eleventh Hour,” to which the Doctor replied, “I’ll soon fix that.” Well, mission accomplished.

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All my broken toys

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I have a things for the ones that don’t make it. You’ve probably noticed it. Anytime I’m talking about Spider-Man 3 or Alien 3 or The Phantom Menace, I’m digging into it a little bit. Anytime I name Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End my favourite movie, it’s there. There’s a reason I have a doorstop-sized ceramic refrigerator with Indiana Jones inside it on my bookcase. There’s a reason The Night of the Doctor, last week, was so bloody exciting for me. No, I didn’t like the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie any more than you did - but Eight didn’t get a fair chance. And I looooooove my broken toys.

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