You know what sucked about 2013? A lot.
Did you think “The Fox” sucked? Are you unhappy with how Dennis Rodman and Vice handled partying with Kim Jong-Un? Or maybe you really disliked that Charlie Hunnam decided to bow out of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Or you want to rag on the Star Trek game. Or Call of Duty.
You get the idea. For the worst of the year we didn’t focus on any one particular category. Anything from movies, books, games, music or any other kind of consumptive media to various horrible types of pop-cultural ephemera was fair game.
Let us grouse together.
Man of Steel
Look, up on the screen. It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s Superman! Actually, no, it’s not. Whatever Henry Cavill was channeling in Man of Steel – from the muted blue costume that ditched the trademark red undies to his head-scratching decision (SPOILER ALERT!) to kill General Zod at the end – the hero wasn’t a particularly recognizable iteration of the super hero created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and first brought to the movies in a single bound by Richard Donner. From the moment movie-goers arrived on a Krypton to see Jor-El fly around on a dragon (!) in the first few minutes of the film, we were asking, “whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”
– Ethan Sacks
She came in like a wrecking ball and she couldn’t stop. She ground on Beetlejuice’s junk at the VMAs, slapped a black lady’s ass in what was practically a minstrel show and wore a skin suit that made her body resemble that of a boiled and plucked turkey. She blazed up in Amsterdam, she sported a dress with Biggie and Tupac sprawled across her chest and she sang with a monstrous lip-syncing cat in front of thousands of people. She also licked everything; she licked balls, tubs, walls, sledge hammers and god knows what else. I think I saw Little Ray Cyrus’ tongue this year more than I saw my family. Her image took over the internet in satire and was unavoidable. The Vines, the memes, the news coverage and the sub-reedits amassed digital piles of Miley Cyrus bullshit.
The endless memes went so far as to follow me on vacation this fall as she became the butt of every lame joke in every show at Universal Studios Orlando. The walls comprised of pale flesh, confusing hair do’s, spandex, latex, tongues, veneers and un-purchased copies of her album “Bangerz” seem to be collapsing into themselves in a spiraling, imploding, pop-cultural black hole of unimaginable and devastating horror. Just when I thought it was safe to watch the flat screens at the gym again, Barbara Walters decides to choose Cyrus as one of her “Most Fascinating People of 2013.” Seriously? Wake me up when this is all over.
P.S.: Thanks for getting the same haircut, Jennifer Lawrence.
– Erik Weinbrecht
Black Flag’s What the…
The first indication that something is not right with Black Flag’s new album is the cover. In the past, these were often iconic images drawn by Raymond Pettibon and depicting something violent, something messed up or insane, or a combination of all of three: the classic image of Henry Rollins punching a mirror. For their new album, What The…, the cover is a neon catastrophe featuring the boring cousin of the Hawaiian Punch guy. After decades of founder and only consistent Black Flag member Greg Ginn failing with solo project after solo project, this abomination of a release was only natural, but it really says something about Ginn’s legendary dickishness that only former vocalist, Ron “Chavo” Reyes – a Black Flag alum with only one EP under his belt – came back for this album, and even he has been fired after a couple of months of playing overpriced shows.
Oh yeah, the shows. 2013 saw Black Flag cosmically split into two entities. I thought one of these bands were going to charge less than $30 for their cover band shows, but nope. Fifteen-year-old me might have been initially upset that I skipped out, but once adult me filled him in, I’m sure he’d understand.
– Mike Edwards
Why was Obamacare one of the biggest drags of 2013? From the website fiasco to conservative vitriol or just the fact that no one knows exactly what the hell the policy even means, it isn’t hard to find something to hate. Moreover, Obamacare has come to represent the political morass in Washington that has produced one of the ugliest years in recent memory. With mid-term elections to look forward to in 2014, things don’t look to be getting easier any time soon.
– Owen Smith
Having spent nearly a decade as a journalist of one stripe or another, I usually roll my eyes when I hear someone talking about how terrible The Media is. It seems for many people that The Media, like The Government of the even more nebulous They, has a reputation for being a towering force of conspiracy and manipulation. For me, as a member of The Media, I can assure there is no evil agenda. It is just a job, like any other. Most days at the Daily News, I was amazed that the paper got printed at all, let alone in multiple editions.
The real problem with news coverage is that it is dumb. And alarmist. And shrill. And endlessly repetitive. There isn’t a national conversation any more so much as a national shouting match and it only pauses long enough for breathless reporting on whatever idiotic antics of the celebrity du jour’s tongue. For a break, we read listicles. The news fuels Twitter and the outrage on Twitter fuels the news. This is the interconnected world, the promise of non-stop 24-hour news cycles.
And the worst part is that it has been like this for decades. Welcome to the future, same as the past.
– Stu Horvath
Star Trek Into Darkness
The other day, I was watching Star Trek: First Contact while wrapping my Christmas presents. In the film, The Next Generation bad guys, the Borg, go back in time to enslave the human race before they make first contact with an alien species. It’s a big story that weaves together a lot of different elements of Star Trek mythology, but it ultimately tells a coherent tale about discovery and evolved sensibilities.
Star Trek Into Darkness does not do that. Before I tear into this piece of crap, let me say that the cast in this movie is phenomenal. They do a lot of heavy lifting around a story that makes no sense. The Enterprise crew is likeable and the villains come off as dastardly. They really try to sell the picture. Unfortunately, the movie they’re selling is the equivalent of a Ford Pinto.
Peter Weller (playing the exact same character he played in 24) runs a black ops organization that wants war with the Klingons. So he thaws out a 300 year old despot, Khan, to design weapons for this war under an assumed name. Robocop’s asshole grandson then uses the rest of Khan’s frozen crew as leverage for Khan’s cooperation. So Khan goes rogue and convinces a member of that clandestine group to blow up their base. And then Khan attacks a bunch of captains. Then Khan goes to Klingon space and… ARGH! I can’t deal with this shit anymore. The movie is an overly complicated mess. There’s no immediacy to the threat of Khan other than that his name is Khan.
There is a scene where new Spock Skypes original Spock and asks him if he ever faced someone named Khan and how did they beat him. “At great cost,” OG Spock says. The scene is clearly meant to be an Easter Egg to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Wink wink, nudge, nudge people! Get it?!?!?! It’s because Spock DIED stopping Khan! The writers needed to steal tension from ANOTHER MOVIE because their own story was incomprehensible. There was something about experimental torpedoes with genetic supermen hidden inside that went nowhere except to implicate Jack Bauer’s mentor as a bad guy.
The movie starts with a “cold fusion” device that turns an erupting volcano into an iceberg! It’s like Star Trek Idiocracy. There is no subtext about man tampering with nature or how mankind has evolved since learning we are not alone in the universe. No. There’s just charming people blowing shit up in space and then crash landing in San Francisco. Ugh.
– Ian Gonzales
Black Sabbath’s 13
It sounded perfect two years ago when the original Black Sabbath lineup announced a reunion album. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler had proven they still had it when they got back together with Ronnie James Dio for the Heaven & Hell tour and album, but as soon as that first press conference happened in 2011, it seemed like everything went to shit. Tony got cancer. Bill Ward was sacked and replaced with Brad Wilk. The reunion tour and new album got pushed back further and further, and by the time it came out in June, the impact was far less than expected. It wasn’t a terrible album, but it certainly wasn’t as good an album as 2009’s The Devil You Know. The songs were overly long (and I say this as a prog rock fan) and were mastered way too loud. When new bands like Orchid are doing a better job of being Sabbath than Sabbath, that says a lot.
Me, I blame Sharon Osbourne.
– Don Becker
In early September – months after “Blurred Lines” had already been called as 2013’s song of the summer – Gawker made the laughably self-important claim that the title actually went to “The Fox,” a single from the Norwegian band Ylvis. It went viral after the claim, leaving in its wake a sea of me-too commentators that predicted the track would soon be more ubiquitous than “Gangnam Style” was in 2012. But even if you put aside the sheer pointlessness of the debate, the most obnoxious thing about “The Fox” is that its inane lyrics were basically a meme pre-packaged as a single. Given that a picture book using the song’s lyrics just hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list (for Children’s Books), it’s pretty clear that no one got the joke.
– Steve Haske
I didn’t even play BioShock Infinite when all of its big dumb secrets were revealed to me. I watched my younger brother play most of it.
I had hope, since it was a BioShock title. I couldn’t help but be amazed at the visual style. Irrational Games had clearly done their research on the imagery of the early 20th-century, even if the final effect wasn’t as powerful as the original. The soaring, jingoistic architecture combined with the weaving of historical and fantastical elements was effective yet subtle. Even the way the vigors were introduced, through carnival games, was an example of how game mechanics can be organically introduced into the game world.
But the game is filled with so many half-assed ideas that they could occupy their own episode of America’s Stupidest Home Videos. The game sabotages itself at every turn. The caricatured racism of Comstock and his Columbia weaken any connection to DeWitt, and make their coalescence seem preposterous. The gameplay offered nothing substantially grandiose to account for the tension lost by expanding its environment. And the time travel. The most I can say about the time travel elements is that, the more I try to think about their purpose and ramifications, the more it makes me want to watch Back to the Future III instead. That’s right, the third one.
My brother thought the same. As the game ended, he stood there blankly, not quite able to process the inane story he was swiftly bombarded with. His only words were “I feel cheated”, which he murmured again and again, like he was trying to conjure through repetition another world where he didn’t waste 15 hours on a pretentious, overreaching game. No matter what coins he flipped, or what scotch he drank, or even what other games he played, he couldn’t escape that faint, palimpsest-like call: “I feel cheated.”
Maybe in an alternate universe BioShock Infinite is a great game, but it sure as hell ain’t in this one.
– Nick Michal
And here most of us thought the outrage culture of last year was bad – turns out it was nothing compared to the degree we were pissed off about whatever in 2013. From the NSA to “Blurred Lines” to Xbox DRM, the inclusivity of videogames and outrage over Miley (and let’s not forget outrage over outrage over Miley), few stones were left unturned in the seemingly never-ending war against the most egregiously offensive cultural touchstones of our time. Thank Christ for Twitter – wait, we got totally screwed by the IPO. F#$%ing bastards!
– Steve Haske