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Best of 2013 - Movies, Music and Podcasts Edition

As half-predicted in last week's WriteBlog, my fiction-writing has slowed to a standstill thanks to festive distractions and an inconvenient cold. I'm just about keeping up with Hobson & Choi commitments, but aside from those, all quiet.

So, both to keep this blog ticking over and because I genuinely love reviewing stuff, I'm going to do a few posts about stories, shows and stuff I enjoyed during 2013. These are in no particular order and may involve items released pre-2013 that I've only just got round to dealing with, though I'll try to keep those to a minimum.

This time out: movies, music and podcasts. Subsequent posts will cover books, comics and TV.


Django Unchained

My film viewing has been slack, so this shouldn't be a long segment. My favourite film from 2013 was Django Unchained, released on January 10th in the UK, so it does count. The ending ran a bit long, but I enjoyed the characters and knowing meta-Western aesthetic a lot. Christoph Waltz was as amazing as everyone says, but no-one was bad in this movie. Well, except Tarantino during his cameo.

Elsewhere, I didn't even keep up with superhero movies that well - not seen Man of Steel or The Wolverine - but Iron Man 3 was excellent, one of the best Marvel movies bar Avengers and maybe the first Iron Man. Heavy on character and light on costumed punch-ups, but I think we're all getting a bit numb to shiny fights anyway.

Speaking of which, Thor: The Dark World was decent superhero fun-action, but we're so saturated with these films at the moment, "decent" isn't necessarily enough to make a huge impact. Still, it was enjoyable and didn't let the side down.

The World's End was a fun cap-off to the Cornetto trilogy that has been rumbling through my entire adulthood; Zero Dark Thirty has already been reviewed on this very blog, and was compelling and light on triumphalism; I finally saw The Hunger Games just as everyone else watched the sequel and it did a great job of capturing what I liked about the books and converting the unfilmable parts into film. Also saw Looper and yes, that was a dynamic, entertaining sci-fi movie, although maybe I've watched too much Doctor Who to be totally blown away by time travel mindscrewery.


Arcade Fire - Reflektor

This should be even shorter as I've dropped out of current music almost entirely - Frank Turner released Tape Deck Heart, which was listenable and stayed on rotation for a while, but the new Arcade Fire lasted even longer, especially once I cut out the draggy second and third tracks. Seriously, try it yourself if you're struggling to get into Reflektor - cutting We Exist especially makes a difference.

The Duckworth Lewis Method debuted Sticky Wickets, their second cricket-pop album. Yes, I'm aware songs about cricket veer into novelty music territory, but since half the band is indie-pop maestro Neil Hannon (of The Divine Comedy), it was still excellent, catchy work. Recommended, especially if you've enjoyed Hannon's stuff in the past.

Finally, we dive full-on into the novelty music vortex, as both of the former Amateur Transplants duo released new parody album in the last few months. Adam Kay's album Specimens features more inventive offensiveness, whereas Suman Biswas's Still Alive After Amateur Transplants is catchier and longer. Both are good purchases if you enjoyed their previous work, or Weird Al-style word-swapping pun-parodies in general.


The Bugle

The podcast champion of this year is probably satirical-surreal mocknewscast The Bugle, even though it always is and they're almost too obvious a choice. The schedule was patchy at times this year, probably due to John Oliver's increasing stateside celebrity, but news stories like the US government shutdown and the UK's huge pig semen exports meant they were always on form when they did release.

Elsewhere, I subscribed to Welcome to Nightvale like everyone else in the geekosphere, and yes, it is excellent. Creepy, funny, endearing, generally lovely. Perhaps less predictably, I also listened to the entire backlog of Me1 vs Me2 Snooker with Richard Herring. It's an acquired taste, perhaps best kept for when you're also doing something else, but I got strangely into it.

Daniel Ruiz Tizon, South London's master of darkly comic melancholy, seems to have put his Daniel Ruiz Tizon is Available podcast on hiatus for now. However, he did also write and star in The Letter for Resonance FM, a tragicomic series of monologues that distilled the best of his recent work into a single run. If you've never tried his stuff before, this is definitely the one to go for, and if the end of his regular show means more work like The Letter, I will have to grin and bear it.

House To Astonish

Finally, I listen to a few podcasts about comics, the best of which continues to be House to Astonish, dissecting recent comic book news and releases with exactly the right levels of fannish enthusiasm, cynicism and good humour. I also picked up Alternate Cover and Silence! this year, both of which also have good thoughts, analysis and chat. And yes, despite reading largely American comics, I only seem to like comics podcasts hosted by British folks.

Not entirely a podcast, but the makers of Alternate Cover also released a sci-fi sitcom called A Brief History of Time Travel this year, which is worth a look if you enjoy the Hitchhiker's Guide/Red Dwarf Brit sci-fi comedy genre. Wrote a longer piece about ABHoTT for Many A True Nerd if you're interested.

And that is it for now. Hopefully there's stuff in there you haven't already seen and might consider giving a shot. If I've missed anything of note, let me know in the comments below - especially in the podcast category, always looking for more good listening. I shall return in the near future to cover another category or two - probably Books & Comics unless plans change.


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