Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

2013: A binge-worthy year

It's hard to imagine we endured all this in one long sitting

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Pop culture. It's good, it's bad, it's shamefully interesting. Here, in no particular order, is a list of the most memorable moments of 2013.

SO, NOT ALL GOOD, THEN: Notoriously food-phobic celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow releases a new cookbook. Warning against dairy, meat, wheat, sugar, fat, chicken eggs, deepwater fish, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and soy, it is (somewhat ironically) called It's All Good.

SHE DON'T LIE, COCAINE: Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, accused in court of a drug habit, defends herself by pointing to her voluptuous figure and saying, "Cocaine users do not look like this. They are scrawny." We believe you, Nigella, but it's unfortunate that 2013's most famous cocaine user is Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford.

CALL ME IN 13 HOURS: Netflix releases the entire first season of the back-stabbing, power-grabbing political series House of Cards at one time. People start using "binge-worthy" as an adjective.

SUPERFANS, A DIFFICULT BUNCH (PART 1): The Breaking Bad finale garners record audiences, as the meth-fuelled "Mr. Chips to Scarface" trajectory of Walter White comes to a soul-baring and satisfying conclusion. Maybe too satisfying, according to some Bad purists, who insist the "real" ending was Ozymandias.

SUPERFANS, A DIFFICULT BUNCH (PART 2): The bloody, bawdy HBO series Game of Thrones finally reaches the trauma-inducing ultra-violence of the Red Wedding scene. The Internet is flooded with viewer-reaction videos, including several scenes of non-book-reading fans sitting next to book-reading fans who have these really smug looks on their faces.

NEVER MIND THAT OLD MAD MEN QUESTION, "WHO IS DON DRAPER?": Who the hell is Bob Benson? Where does he come from? What is he up to? And why is he always carrying two cups of coffee?

SHARKS. TORNADOS. TARA REID: Sharknado, a low-budget schlocker about freak storms dumping sharks onto Los Angeles, becomes an instant anti-classic of made-for-TV badness. Still, it was no Ghost Shark.

WE ALL HEAD TO THE MULTIPLEX TO FEEL LONELY: In 2013, we spent a lot of time sitting in crowds and watching movies about solitude, isolation and imprisonment: All is Lost, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Mandela and Inside Llewyn Davis.

THE BLAME GAME: The Lone Ranger, an empty, noisy, pricey would-be summer blockbuster, rides off a cliff at the box office. Johnny Depp cites mean, misunderstanding critics, not the fact that his Tonto looks like Alice Cooper with a taxidermy crow on his head.

REMIND US AGAIN WHY IT MATTERS SO MUCH WHO WEARS THE MASK AND SPEAKS IN A RASPY VOICE: News that Ben Affleck has been cast as the next Batman nearly breaks the Internet, as irate fanboys complain that he's too old, too A-list, too good-looking, too Bostonian, too light, too married to Jennifer Garner. Well, at least he's understanding: "If I thought the result would be another Daredevil," he tells one journalist, "I'd be out there picketing myself."

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, SORT OF: Jennifer Lawrence has a terrific year, gaining critical acclaim for American Hustle and lighting some box-office fires for the second Hunger Games movie, all the while remaining adorably normal. Saying what she likes, wearing what she likes, eating what she likes, J-Law is like our new blurty, trippy, unfiltered BFF. (But what if the whole not-having-an-act thing is an act? Oh, the humanity!)

WHO'S SORRY NOW: 2013 is notable for bad apologies (Lance Armstrong's hyper-controlled non-apology apology on Oprah) and multiple apologies (Southern-fried celebrity chef Paula Deen's two-in-a-day apologies for using vile racist language).

And then, of course, we have bad multiple apologies. Rob "First One To Admit I'm Not Perfect" Ford offers such an incoherent stream of apologies, admissions, excuses, attacks and accusations that PR websites start posting the videos as "what not to do" lessons.

DEFINE YOUR TERMS: People magazine declares Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine the "Sexiest Man Alive," prompting calls for clarification of the words "sexiest," "man," and "alive."

DIS-BELIEBERS: Remember when Justin Bieber could have easily made the cover of Lisa Simpson's Non-Threatening Boys magazine? Not in 2013, when the Biebs tests the pure-hearted adoration of his tween fans with charges of public urination, monkey abandonment and Brazilian brothel-frequenting.

MILEY, MILEY, MILEY: The former child star makes headlines this year with her twerking, her toking, her pants-optional wardrobe and her propensity for licking things (herself, hotdogs, heavy machinery). On one side, we have tut-tutters who see her as the face of 21st-century trash culture as it spirals out of control. On the other side, we have commentators who suggest the 21-year-old multi-millionaire knows exactly what she's doing.

WE GET THE "FANTASTIC SELF-REGARD" BIT: The spectacle of Kanye and a topless Kim Kardashian motorbiking through a sci-fi-cosmic, inspirational-poster, Thomas-Kinkade-painter-of-light landscape in the Bound 2 video could be monumental kitsch. Or, as New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz suggests, it might be a masterpiece of something he calls The New Uncanny: "Un-self-consciousness filtered through hyper-self-consciousness, unprocessed absurdity, grandiosity of desire and fantastic self-regard." Right, then.

MEME THIS: Yes, we have Doge and Actual Advice Mallard and "You Had One Job." But there is something supremely satisfying about the Unflattering Beyoncé meme: Internet democracy in action, it demonstrates that airbrushed celebrities don't always get the final word on their image.

YOUTUBE CUTENESS OVERLOAD: Box... full of... corgi puppies. Box full of corgi puppies!!!!! That's all I have to say.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2013 D14

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