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Jan. 5, 2014

The best in movies, music and TV in 2013

by Dylan Ahunhodjaev, Online Editor-in-Chief
2013 was quite a year. But obviously it wasn't all that different from other years because it too comes with its own—get ready—obligatory year-end best-of lists! Complete with all the impotent rage you might feel if an album, movie or television show you thought was the best thing ever didn't make the short list. To be fair, there were a lot of acclaimed movies released this year, but who has the money to see all of them? Nobody, that's who. If we at Silver Chips Online were to spend our days in front of the television, not only would we not be as fit and gorgeous as we are (take our words for it), but we couldn't keep as alert a metaphorical finger on this school's metaphorical pulse. As far as music goes, we've been far too perplexed over Chance the Rapper's appearance on a Justin Bieber track and Kanye West's hourly updates on his rapid descent into madness to bother with much cutting edge stuff. So please, focus less on what isn't on the list ("American Hustle" is probably really good, and "Run the Jewels" is just insane) and try instead to take a step back into that fading mistress 2013's cupboard of cultural wonders and revisit that which you might have missed.

TV

3. "Bob's Burgers"
If there was a list of the biggest losers of 2013, every animated show besides Fox's "Bob's Burgers" would be on it. The show, lightning quick with barbs and full of memorable storylines, is funnier than "the Simpsons" has been in years, and with this past season it has become the next logical successor to the role of best animated sitcom on television. Other shows seem like tired disappointments compared to this fresh, unique take on old sitcom conventions; "Bob's Burgers" is a show that doesn't bend to schlock and nonsense to stay relevant but instead basks in the warm, fluorescent glow of its own quirks to hilarious results.

2. "Game of Thrones"
Red Wedding. Red Wedding. Red Wedding. Anyone who watched "Game of Thrones" (GOT) on HBO this year knows what's up, and how completely explosive the "Red Wedding" episode was. They should call this whole season of "GOT" "Red Wedding," because most of what anyone can recall from this long and incredibly dense round of episodes is the climax of "Red Wedding." That's not to say this whole season wasn't great; the small-screen adaptation of George R.R. Martin's book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" is just as epic as it has been in its previous two seasons. But watching "Red Wedding" in real time was a truly remarkable television experience, a veritable roller-coaster ride ending in a very, very red way. Or was that too much of a spoiler?

1. "Breaking Bad"
Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul star in AMC's nearly legendary "Breaking Bad." Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment
Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul star in AMC's nearly legendary "Breaking Bad."

A lot of people, at this point, have probably had enough of AMC's "Breaking Bad." Five years on the air and it has garnered more attention than a lot of shows in recent memory. Just saying the words "Breaking Bad" in a room full of people will cause them to erupt in a flurry of conversation over plot twists, spoilers and how far along people are in watching it on Netflix. It is endlessly parodied on other shows and media, and will likely go down as one of the greatest shows in the history of television. So yeah, it's a big deal. But imagine how nice it will be, for those who have not seen it and have no particular interest in seeing it, to not have to hear everyone you know constantly bring it up and have oddly spirited discussions over things that have happened on it of which you could honestly say you have less awareness of than the day-to-day life of beings on other planets. This is the future of a world without "Breaking Bad," until the next big thing comes along and you have to hear about that. So it takes the top spot, purely because anyone who sees it isn't in the top spot will probably want to talk to somebody in earshot about why that is.

Movies

3. "Enough Said"
A movie centered on the romance of a pair of middle-aged people (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini) may not be the most exciting fare for many in say, high school, but get past the premise and you'll find an intensely charming and enjoyable movie. "Enough Said" is one of the year's great films, one that may not explode in your face or feature a muscle-bound superhero saving the world, but an understated and hilarious love story for the time we live in.

2. "Gravity"
As far as movies go, "Gravity" is about as far removed from the rest as its setting, hovering in orbit of the Earth for nearly all of its run time. Sandra Bullock's character Dr. Ryan Stone is essentially the only voice present in this film, stranded in outer space and fighting desperately just to reach land. The movie is so completely immersive from the very beginning that it's difficult not to place yourself in Stone's quaking space boots; director Alfonso Cuarón alternates between claustrophobic close-ups of Stone's mind-bending panic and magnificent, enormous shots of the Earth from space. The impossibility of Stone's situation is what reels you in; the enormity of the movie itself is what keeps you glued to your seat.

1. "12 Years a Slave"
When watching "12 Years a Slave," it's almost understandable why Hollywood waited so long to make a movie that captures every ounce of the brutality of slavery. It's not exactly the most lighthearted subject, and "12 Years" doesn't spend much time dilly-dallying with cinematic comforts that might ease the uneasiness of watching it. The viewer is hardly ever more than ten feet away from the humans that make up the world of slavery, from the slaves to the slave drivers, and the scenes of unimaginable human suffering attract even tighter camera angles; every bead of sweat, drop of blood and howl of agony are presented in vivid, arresting detail. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery on a Louisiana plantation. His performance as Northup is a revelation, but it's one of many in a movie that features the talents of Michael Fassbender as his drunken master and Lupita Nyong'o as his captive contemporary. There is no question, "12 Years a Slave" is simply required viewing for 2013.
Michael Fassbender and Chiwitel Ejiofor in 2013's best movie, "12 Years a Slave." Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Michael Fassbender and Chiwitel Ejiofor in 2013's best movie, "12 Years a Slave."


Music

5. The Haxan Cloak—"Excavation" Tri Angle Records
A great record that is mostly a collection of unsettling "bumps" and "whooshes" is hard to come by, nay, many would say impossible, but "Excavation" is pretty much exactly that. The album is about as dark and depressing as can be, 45 minutes of atmospheric muted synths and the aforementioned bumps and whooshes arranged in a string of sparse patterns meant to mimic the sense of dying. Yet, in being so coldly dissonant and unnerving, the Haxan Cloak has created a record that begs to be listened to and experienced. "Excavation" is so brilliantly and frigidly composed that it's almost a visual experience as well as an aural one, so masterfully crafted with such an opposition to what many would call "music" that some might experience some freezing and tingling in the extremities by the end of it.

4. Restorations—"LP2" Side One Dummy
Drop the needle on this soon-to-be-classic and you'll know exactly why it's being called a soon-to-be-classic. "LP2" just sounds important, from its sweeping, swelling choruses to its sweeping, swelling everything else. Restorations have been accused of making punk for grownups, punk that is somehow both explosive and measured, punk that is completely un-punk in how mature and knowing it is, punk that is completely epic from start to finish. They nor anyone else would deny those accusations. With this release, Restorations have some considerable weight to throw around as they attract some well-deserved attention for themselves.

3. Kanye West-"Yeezus" Roc-a-Fella, Def Jam
This album divided fans and ultimately proved to be a questionable commercial decision for Yeezy (or Warhol, or Jesus, or whoever he's claiming to be right now), but after the initial shock of the album's darkness and confrontation subsided, it became clear that it was brilliant, no matter what the charts said. As fractured and brooding as anything by Death Grips but saturated in the same maximalist decadence of West's 2010 masterpiece "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," "Yeezus"is the year's gutsiest record by an established commercial artist and among the boldest statements made by a hip hop artist in the last decade.

2. Deafhaven—"Sunbather" Deathwish Inc.
"Sunbather" is an incredibly apt name for this record. Listening to Deafhaven's blistering summer jam is not unlike staring directly at the sun on a clear day: on one hand its rays are warm and inviting, and on the other it's blinding in its intensity and prolonged exposure might just scorch your face off. The listener is a sunbather all right, but the experience is a little closer to sunbathing on Venus than Earth. "Sunbather," Deafhaven's sophomore studio record, explodes with peals of searing black-metal-meets-shoegaze guitar noise, blended with the kind of melodic, almost ambient lead guitar work one could expect from post-rock bands like Sigur Rós or Mogwai. A black metal/shoegaze fusion
Chance the Rapper blew up the music world this year with his second mixtape, "Acid Rap." Courtesy of Rolling Stone Magazine
Chance the Rapper blew up the music world this year with his second mixtape, "Acid Rap."
record should have no right to be this compelling and brilliant, but "Sunbather" totally is.

1. Chance the Rapper—"Acid Rap" Self-released
This is the best record of the year, but of course you knew that because here it is at Number One. You would also know that if you spent about five seconds listening to Chance the Rapper's brilliant second mixtape, self-released on digital download this spring. Freewheeling over the kinds of skittering, lo-fi electronic rhythms that define Chicago's dance scene, Chance the Rapper's jubilant and intensely soulful energy is a breath of fresh air, especially when compared to today's crop of young rappers hooting "Versace Versace Versace" endlessly over dime-store beats. But "Acid Rap" is the year's best record because it pulls off being serious and fun in equal measure. Chance is full of a youthful exuberance that does not make him blind to the ills all around him in his hometown of Chicago, and he can more than pull off heady excitement as well as social and emotional consciousness, which is a claim most rappers would have a hard time making. This year was defined by movies and music that were almost oppressively austere—12 Years a Slave and Yeezus come immediately to mind—but Acid Rap is the opposite of a horror show; it's a monster of a mixtape that displays all the vibrancy and genius Chance is capable of, and sets the bar almost impossibly high for him and his peers in the rap scene.




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  • yeezy season approaching on January 5, 2014 at 12:58 PM
    glad that you included yeezus & acid rap on your music list. yeezus is the opposite of "maximalist," tho — it's a minimalist record. and i don't think anyone would know that acid rap is the best project of the year through 5 seconds of listening. for me personally, i had to take in the whole tape as a whole multiple times in order to really understand how good it was... it's definitely an acquired taste. also, Versace bumps!
  • Yikalo (View Email) on January 9, 2014 at 9:50 AM
    My Name Is My Name by Pusha T is undisputedly the best record of the year. It is easily a better record than Yeezus and it's better than Acid Rap. Acid Rap is easy-listening musico to vibe to, but MNIMN is a much better record. MNIMN has almost no filler and each song is quaility. Blue Chips 2 by Action Bronson is also a better rap mixtape than Acid Rap.
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