My Top Stuff of 2013

Ha ha ha. Remember 2013?? I know it basically feels like a distant ancient memory at this point, but I just finished my reckoning with it! I spent the end-of-the-year time, which is normally a lull where I do this sort of accounting, in a move across the country and then the last couple months setting up shop in my new home in Seattle, so I was too distracted til now to really get this done, but still, it’s become a tradition for me to get this out there and I’ll be durned if I’m not gonna finish it this time! I realize doing it this late means almost nobody could possibly care, but I do like to be able to fit in viewings of as many movies as possible before making my big judgments, and maybe putting it up right after the Oscars will get some people interested in some worthwhile alternatives the Academy didn’t consider…and anyway I’m mostly just doing this for myself anyway, to make me feel like I’ve been doing something worthwhile and memorable with my time and sort it into a digestible time capsule, and to have something to show for myself around here.

2013 was a hard year, maybe the worst of my life in a lot of ways, but neither I nor even anyone I’m really close to died, and a lot of people I love were really there for me all year long, so honestly it wouldn’t be fair to complain. And things are already looking way up in 2014!

I still managed to have quite a bit of fun in the year, as you’re about to see below. I took trips to Ohio, Pittsburgh, the Hudson Valley, and Austin/SXSW/San Antonio, and then the one really major road trip with a Penske truck and my friend Jenny, where we made some really memorable stops in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho and Oregon before finally settling in Seattle.

For most of 2013, the two fun part-time jobs I’d been working continued, as well as adding in a new nearby venue gig near the end of the year (in addition to my Band Mom radio promo), which you’ll again see reflected pretty heavily when we get down to my Top Shows lists, much as they were in my Top Stuff of 2012 and 2011 and actually also 2010 and 2009, before I even worked at those venues. I’m maintaining the rule that Band Mom Bands are ineligible for the Top Albums list because I couldn’t possibly rank them against each other, but that I can’t rule out shows where I worked the door or stage managed for my Top Shows lists, because then there would be almost no shows to consider.

As always, I never claim stuff on this list is the ‘best’ of the year. Art is impossible to grade on an objective scale, and it’s insulting and ugly to posture as though one could do so. These are just my favorites:

top 15 albums (or EPs) of 2013:

  1. phosphorescent – muchacho

  2. the national – trouble will find me

  3. tegan and sara – heartthrob

  4. grand hallway – horses

  5. mansions – doom loop

  6. thao & the get down stay down – we the common
  7. casiotone for the painfully alone – in cambridge
  8. mutual benefit – love’s crushing diamond
  9. the blow – the blow
  10. colleen green – sock it to me
  11. youth lagoon – wondrous bughouse
  12. yo la tengo – fade
  13. mikal cronin – MCII
  14. kurt vile – walkin on a pretty daze
  15. the ruby suns – christopher

I kept my Top Albums list to a reasonable number this year because I listened to my 9 Band Mom albums plus the ones that made the cut above a TON, then there were like 100 more that I listened to just a little bit, so the list was gonna be either 100 or 15. This time I went with 15, but I can’t promise next year won’t be another 2010. As mentioned and as always, Band Mom artists are ineligible for this list because I wouldn’t even begin to know how to rank them: this means you, dc pierson (songs for crap kingdom comp), the hairs, eternal fair, mal blum, tie these hands, tereu tereu, spirits of the red city, cumulus and the fold. That’s artists (and their curators) from Brooklyn, Seattle, Lincoln NE, DC, Chicago, LA, Denver and a few other decentralized exotic locations. You all released FANTASTIC albums that are tied for number one in my heart, and I love you the most.

top 15 shows (concerts):

  1. the postal service w/mates of state @ barclays center (brooklyn ny, june)

  2. phosphorescent w/strand of oaks @ bowery ballroom (manhattan ny, bowery)
  3. the mountain goats w/baptist generals @ maxwells (hoboken nj, june)
  4. cumulus w/the lonely forest @ mercury lounge (manhattan ny, october)
  5. dean wareham @ bell house (brooklyn ny, november)
  6. shout out louds, telekinesis, mount moriah, mikal cronin [merge records sxsw showcase] @ the parish (austin tx, march)
  7. califone w/richard buckner @ littlefield (brooklyn ny, may)
  8. advance base @ silent barn (brooklyn ny, august)
  9. dana falconberry w/paperbird @ mercury lounge (manhattan ny, may)
  10. chuck ragan, jenny owen youngs, rocky votolato @ bell house (brooklyn ny, march)
  11. hi ho silver oh [sxsw] @ dogwood (austin tx, march)
  12. grand hallway @ pete’s candy store (brooklyn ny, october)
  13. jonathan richman w/tommy larkins @ bell house (brooklyn ny, february)
  14. youth lagoon w/magical cloudz @ bell house (brooklyn ny, may)
  15. the breeders @ bell house (brooklyn ny, march)

aw, I miss working at venues (looking for one in Seattle to call home if you know anybody!). I’d also like to mention my one Band Mom Presents show at Union Hall of the year, which I’m not allowing to count but which was a real highlight of my year nonetheless: that was 3/1 with Good Field, Ramesh (formerly of Voxtrot) and Matt Bauer, and also the tour I helped promote that included a totally excellent Pete’s Candy Store stop with Anthonie Tonnon.

top 50 movies:

  1. upstream color

  2. fruitvale station
  3. her
  4. the east
  5. 12 years a slave
  6. kill your darlings
  7. the place beyond the pines
  8. the great gatsby
  9. inside llewyn davis
  10. in a world…
  11. stoker
  12. short term 12
  13. frances ha
  14. stories we tell
  15. the world’s end
  16. nebraska
  17. crystal fairy
  18. much ado about nothing
  19. before midnight
  20. this is the end
  21. monsters university
  22. spring breakers
  23. the act of killing
  24. wadjda
  25. the square
  26. touchy feely
  27. drinking buddies
  28. the kings of summer
  29. the grandmaster
  30. all is lost
  31. dirty wars
  32. as I lay dying
  33. the wind rises
  34. the hunt
  35. dallas buyers club
  36. the reluctant fundamentalist
  37. cutie and the boxer
  38. the spectacular now
  39. it’s a disaster
  40. magic magic
  41. blue is the warmest color
  42. blackfish
  43. oldboy
  44. side effects
  45. the way, way back
  46. girl most likely
  47. ain’t them bodies saints
  48. gravity
  49. the heat
  50. philomena

honorable mentions (roughly in order; this whole list was initially a numbered top 100+ until I considered how ridiculous that is. but FYI I feel EXTRA strongly this time about the top 35 of the above list, but strongly enough about all of these to mention ’em. I did see 52 other 2013 movies that didn’t make any list at all!):

v/h/s/2, the hobbit: the desolation of smaug, good ol’ freda, prince avalanche, warm bodies, prisoners, 20 feet from stardom, the broken circle breakdown, elysium, black rock, the hunger games: catching fire, august: osage county, we steal secrets: the story of wikileaks, the secret life of walter mitty, trance, blue jasmine, lone survivor, enough said, closed circuit, a band called death, the wolf of wall street, the great beauty, mandela: long walk to freedom, don jon, the family, mother of george, thanks for sharing, anchorman 2: the legend continues, about time, all is bright, the punk singer, frozen, the armstrong lie, rush, europa report, hell baby, mud, no, to the wonder, how i live now, best man down, austenland, only god forgives, identity thief, berberian sound studio, bling ring, the to do list, evil dead, you’re next, room 237, una noche, escape from tomorrow, computer chess, mr. nobody, passion, rapture-palooza, the wall (die wand), A.C.O.D., this is martin bonner, behind the candelabra, the inevitable defeat of mister and pete, thor: the dark world, a single shot, coffee town, family weekend, john dies at the end, man of steel, now you see me, carrie, wrong cops, pussy riot: a punk prayer, i’m so excited!, i give it a year, byzantium, the iceman, world war z, big sur, admission, the sapphires, the fifth estate, winnie mandela, despicable me 2, the conjuring, diana, the internship, ass backwards, museum hours, captain phillips, syrup, the lifeguard, upside down, somebody up there likes me, something in the air.

top NEW actors of the year (as in i’d never heard their names before/hadn’t noticed them in anything and now they seem like a big deal to me, were each in several things i loved): riz ahmed (the reluctant fundamentalist, closed circuit), brie larson (short term 12, the spectacular now, don jon, and a couple episodes of community) & moises arias (kings of summer, plus a particularly memorable performance in the otherwise-bad ender’s game)

standout actors of the year (who were not new to me, but were in a bunch of stuff i loved and seemed to have a really big year): lake bell, clark gregg, daniel brühl, olivia wilde, & rob corddry.

also as an aside, a few years ago I made up a ‘best sound design‘ category because I felt so strongly about black swan’s and then we need to talk about kevin’s, and was mad that they were slighted in oscar nominations, and this year I feel the same way about the sound in UPSTREAM COLOR.

oh and here’s a new category i got excited about creating this year: best use of a pop song in a movie. i was really knocked over by the use of moby’s “the day” in danny boyle’s trance, and also grand hallway’s “horses” in lynn shelton’s touchy feely, and i wanted to tell you about it.

some stats notes on movies: in 2013 i saw 263 different movies. exactly 100 of them were in theaters, and to date i’ve seen 197 movies that came out in 2013 (that’s 80 more than last year! although I’m also publishing this almost 2 weeks later than last year. this includes several that i watched after the year ended, so they’ll be among the total i will report having watched in 2014, but they’re also part of the group of 2013 movies i’m counting as eligible for this best-of list).

as for movies with questionable release dates, the rule i made up is basically that if i saw it in like a festival or limited-engagement special event in 2013, even if it didn’t get even limited national release otherwise, it counts for my list, but if i did not see it in a festival before 2013 and its first limited release (a usa release that’s not a specific festival, even if it showed in fests pre-2013) was this year, then it counts. in other words it’s pretty subjective to my perspective, but it had to have its (limited or wide) release begin in 2013 OR be seen by me in a festival or special event (i saw movies at NYFF and a few assorted micro fests, and in theaters and homes in New York, Seattle, and San Antonio…somehow missed out on movies at my mainstays SXSW, tribeca, and BAM cinema fest this year, boo) in 2013. (I did, however, participate in the New York Comedy Festival, Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, Del Close Marathon, and comedy shows at SXSW, so I guess comedy beat movies fests-wise for me this year, much like 2012).

also of note, i saw 12 2013 movies in 3d (and only one in IMAX: pacific rim; i saw gravity in 3d but not IMAX, and the hobbit in 3d but not the HFR this time, regrettably). i continue to think 3d is a stupid cash grab that almost never adds to the film, but I suffer from pretty severe fear of missing out so i keep getting suckered in. the only one that was really worth it this year was gravity, although monster’s university and thor had their merits as well.

this is my longest movie list ever…there are just so many that I truly feel strongly about! also I saw more last year than any other year in my life, because of this service called Moviepass where I pay a monthly fee for nearly-unlimited movies so that it actually made financial sense to see MORE movies than less, and I was happy to oblige (mostly post-midnight screenings after work). Since I’m no longer in the movie theater mecca of NYC, I expect 2013 to be a lifetime peak, my high-water mark. (particularly sad to be leaving behind the greatest movie theater of all time, which I only just discovered this last year: the AMC Loews at 84th St.) But I also got paid for writing about movies last year for the first time ever, and intend to keep that up, so I do hope to continue to stay as engaged as possible here in the also-very-hip Seattle.

here’s what 1.92 trips to the movie theater a week (plus a few extraneous otherwise tix) looks like, btw:

although i obviously saw a ton of movies this year, you’ll always miss a few; there are a few that i still intend to see. Although i feel pretty good about the above list, really got pretty much all of the serious contenders in for once, these might have had a chance at making the above lists had i been able to catch them: ernest & celestine, the missing picture, omar (those are the only 3 of the 43 oscar-nominated features that haven’t been available to watch yet, so i haven’t!), the past, dear mr watterson, casting by, great expectations, grace of monaco, harry dean stanton: partly fiction, 47 ronin, out of the furnace, homefront, he’s way more famous than you, the last days on mars, the selfish giant, first cousin once removed, life according to sam, losing you, metro manila, sun don’t shine, the missing picture, let the fire burn, a river changes course, go for sisters, after tiller, gideon’s army, a touch of sin, gloria, afternoon delight, pit stop, my sister’s quinceañera, and the foxy merkins. pretty much everything else, if it had a theatrical release in 2013 and it’s not listed here, it’s on purpose. SO THERE.

saw filmmakers/actors in person promoting:

-crystal fairy (michael cera & director sebastián silva, IFC center, july 12)

-dazed and confused (20th anniversary screening at the NYFF, oct 10, with richard linklater, jason london, parker posey, and anthony rapp!!!!!)

-also went to my first-ever screening with a live cast of rocky horror picture show (chelsea bowtie cinema, formerly chelsea clearview, nov 27), and also a “shouting at the screen” showing of blaxploitation film Abby with wyatt cenac, donwill and matt braunger (indiescreen, on halloween) – those weren’t filmmaker screenings, obviously, but they were “event” film screenings.

my 25 favorite comedy or spoken-word shows I saw (top 2, by far):

-john hodgman’s secret society, at union hall throughout the year, and also the “secret secret society” in a catacombs 6/17

-mike birbiglia’s final performance of my girlfriend’s boyfriend, in addition to his union hall shows all year, @ carnegie hall 6/2

(the rest in chronological order, with some photographic evidence):

-the jukebox, one featuring victor varnado, james adomian, garth johnston, christian finnegan, and lizz winstead; the other featuring john hodgman singing ‘no children’ by the mountain goats @ union hall 2/19 and 3/19

-night job, hosted by katharine heller and dean haspiel, featuring angry bob, rev jen, and brooke van poppelen @ union hall 3/21

-marc maron @ union hall 4/14

-jen kirkman @ bell house 4/27

-the thrilling adventure hour, my favorite bell house show: Paul f Tompkins, John Hodgman, Paget Brewster, Mara Wilson, Marc Evan Jackson, Mark Gagliardi, Maria Thayer, Craig Cackowski, Jonathan Coulton, Scott Aukerman, Ira Glass, Scott Adsit, Rich Sommer & more @ bell house 5/11 and 10/11

-the interview show, podcast taping hosted by mark bazer, featuring chris mills, emily nussbaum, sam lipsyte, kathleen hanna @ union hall 5/16

-greg proops, podcast taping of ‘the smartest man in the world’ @ bell house 5/25

-going off track, podcast taping hosted by jonah bayer, steven smith and 2 others, featuring lyle preslar (minor threat), jenny owen youngs, chris gethard, frank iero (my chemical romance) @ union hall 6/8

-ask me another, npr show taping hosted by ophira eisenberg with jonathan coulton as the house band, featuring paul feig @ bell house 6/24

-nick thune, special ‘folk hero’ taping @ bell house 6/26

-heart of darkness ‘jaguar paw’, hosted by greg barris with house band the forgiveness, featuring dave hill and mind warrior heather berlin @ bell house 6/28

-mike birbiglia, eugene mirman, reggie watts and daniel kitson @ bell house 7/10

-low times, podcast taping hosted by tom scharpling, maggie serota and daniel ralston, featuring alan vega of suicide, the wrens, and craig finn @ union hall 10/5

-cheap date, hosted by sharron paul and calvin cole, featuring hari kondabolu, barry rothbart, skinny bitch jesus meeting, andrew short, kat burdick, eli sairs, and matt wayne @ union hall 10/8

-literary death match, featuring raj sivaraman, maris kreizman (of slaughterhouse 90210), iris smyles, and jason koo @ union hall 10/9

-simon amstell @ union hall 10/11-12

-running late, podcast tapings hosted by scott rogowsky, one featuring eugene mirman, demitri martin and grizz chapman, and the other featuring amber tamblyn and josh pais @ littlefield 10/23 and 12/18

-the grawlix, new york comedy fest show, featuring jonah ray, kate berlant, and sean patton @ union hall 11/8

-oh, hi, mark, a nycf show, featuring greg sestero (mark from the room!!!) @ union hall 11/9

-jenny slate’s new york comedy festival show featuring max silvestri, greg johnson and nick kroll @ littlefield 11/10

-night train’s 1-year anniversary show, hosted by wyatt cenac, featuring david cross, nikki glaser, ted leo, eugene mirman, seth herzog, kurt braunohler, michael che, andy wood, michelle buteau, and free daly pies @ littlefield 11/25

-geeking out, hosted by kerri doherty and leslie goshko, featuring steve heisler, the vigilante, and jason zimbler (ferguson from clarissa explains it all!!) @ union hall 12/3

-tom shillue’s funny story, my last comedy show as a new yorker, with joy behar and gavin mcinnes @ brooklyn brewery 12/19

Last year I included a separate category to list the podcasts/tapings I participated in or worked the door for, but it was just too much this year, so I rolled the highlights in above. My involvement with the New York comedy community is one of the biggest things I miss now that I’m gone, try not to forget me!

favorite new tv shows:

derek

house of cards

orange is the new black

brooklyn nine-nine

favorite non-new tv shows:

arrested development

parks and recreation

breaking bad

new girl

an idiot abroad

happy endings

bob’s burgers

misfits

community

adventure time with finn and jake

american horror story

downton abbey

mad men

girls

misfits

30 rock

archer

portlandia

luther

childrens hospital

eagleheart

the killing

the mindy project

it’s always sunny in philadelphia

(netflix really owned it in 2013! looking forward to justified, parenthood, boardwalk empire, house of lies, veep, shameless, bunk, comedy bang bang, enlightened, episodes, a young doctor’s notebook, hello ladies, masters of sex, peaky blinders, and true detective eventually joining this list…need more hours in the day)

and lastly, some stray cool stuff i did in 2013 that didn’t fit into any of the above categories:

-daniel kitson’s one-man theatrical production ‘analog.ue’ @ st ann’s warehouse

-‘once’ on broadway

-‘the unavoidable disappearance of tom durnin’, a play at the roundabout theatre company, followed by a q&a with stars rich sommer, david morse, and david denham

-michael shannon ‘in conversation’ during the new yorker festival, followed by a short performance also by his band, corporal

-an uncategorizable event put on by philip seymour hoffman’s theatre company, featuring performances by kevin corrigan and my composer roommate kenny jaworski plus a group-bonding exercise

-spent the 4th of july in gardiner ny, the hudson valley, on my first MetroNorth trip visiting my former roommate emily

-spent a fun summer day with some long-lost australian friends, including visiting the superhero supply store

-danced on the ucb’s stage with friends to springsteen during the del close marathon

-worked as a “location assistant” on several film & tv sets

-had a music video shot in my apartment

-i did also read at least 8 books, for the record, which is an improvement because i spent the last 3 previous years combined crawling my way through gravity’s rainbow

-i also had surgery 3 times, which super sucked, but my mom came to mommy me in brooklyn each time for several days, which was really wonderful. nothing in life is all just one thing.

And the bonus: i’ve used these posts in my last few years to brag about my favorite “celebrity encounters”, and this one was a tough call so i included a the photos with couple runners-up above. But this time, I’m going to bypass bragging about rubbing elbows with people like dan harmon, missi pyle, rich sommer, kathleen hanna, jd samson, travis morrison, al madrigal, gilbert gottfried, buzz aldrin, suzanne vega, jay pharaoh, thao nguyen, jonathan ames, judah friedlander, rhys darby, michael ian black, david wain, janeane garofalo, jason mantzoukas, zach woods, pat kiernan, amber tamblyn, grizz chapman, chris mcculloch/jackson publick, and everyone else listed above (see how I skipped it?), because a Life Highlight happened just before I moved away this year. At the end of the last Secret Society show I worked, john hodgman called me up onstage, to join him along with jonathan coulton, jean grae and john roderick. They kind of interviewed me about my move, and then sat me down in a hi-backed chair while they gathered around & got the whole audience (many of whom have genuinely become friends through this show) to join in singing Auld Lang Syne. It’s difficult (and in violation of a solemn oath I swore) to even express how special the Secret Society was to me throughout the year, and to get that kind of send-off to tell me I’ve been special to them as well is really something to be treasured. Also I cried onstage at my workplace.

THE END! I love you.

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