Everyone’s a Critic, II
In 2013, the ‘death of the critic’ bell that has been sounding since the birth of the internet finally reached a fevered, Chuck-Berry-style ding-a-ling. Film critics were especially hard-hit by algorithms, aggregators, and amateurism, the so-called “Five As” referred to by badly educated but enthusiastic bloggers. Stripped of the need to spell correctly, do research, or be aware of films made prior to the release of Star Wars, criticism has been largely replaced by boosterism, and it is no longer necessary to have opinions more weighty than “available for viewing at a theater near you”. Box office rankings are the new populism, and the only way a director can disappoint is to say something impolitic in his personal life. In a year that saw Roger Ebert become both the greatest film critic who had ever lived and a corpse, the art form he championed became a war between lines of code and unpaid publicity. It is in this spirit that I selected the greatest film of this, the luckiest year of the 21st century.
I humbly — nay, fearfully — present my picks for the best movies of 2013.
5. Bang the Drummer Slowly
Cromie Washbaugher’s nakedly honest, and honestly naked, tale of coming of age in the alternative era struck a chord with critics of a certain age. Starring Melidia Fluxger as the L7-t-shirt-non-wearing record store clerk who finds herself helplessly attracted to one sullen man-teen after another in the lo-fi days of the early 1990s, the film invites everyone who came of age during the era of arguing over whether or not to use definite articles in referring to bands to remember what their girlfriends might have been like, had they existed, and been fond of taking their clothes off at the drop of a thrift store trucker hat. By fearlessly and pointlessly re-creating the promising youth of self-identified tastemakers, Bang the Drummer Slowly manages to, in the words of Rickard Cromagnum, “give pandering a good name.”
4. I Married My Girlfriend
With this shocking exposé of the mating rites of a new millennium of millennials, the mumblecore genre finally gains its own Pudovkin, in the person of Providence, Rhode Island mini-maverick Kelvin Lutania. Maintaining the hallmarks of the form — moderately attractive middle-class white people who are unable to properly give voice to their diffident feelings towards one another — Lutania adds an element of verbal ambiguity, writing dialogue so opaque and deeply unfelt that it virtually dares the viewer to care about its actual meaning. “Realistic to the point of complete banality” is how Cheddgar Ruinne describes the Lutania storytelling aesthetic, which is heightened here by his determined reluctance to learn to operate camera equipment or hire a cinematographer of basic confidence.
3. Foxy Brown II: Quickly Jumping Over the Lazy Dog
2013 was the year blaxploitation revivalism truly came into its own, as America engaged in a wholesome rush of post-ironic racism and flocked to the theater to hear African-American millionaires read jive-heavy scripts written by white guys in their late 30s. And no white guy is later in his 30s than director Jimson Duraflameo, who is widely credited for reviving the careers of dozens of blaxploitation stars of forty years past, whether they wanted their careers revived or not. In this action spectacular, Duraflameo sets a new record for use of the n-word by a person who swears he is not racist in a tale of a crack-smoking pimp turned basketball star/vigilante, and keeps his own vital career as an actor going by playing quick-witted honky manservant Mansplain Moreskin in a role so ironic it comes out on the other side.
2. The Man Who Determined Liberty’s Covalence
In an era where originality is more poisonous to a motion picture’s success than subtitles, black and white film, and the slightest hint of realism combined, no director is more determined to eschew it than maverick billionaire Grack Skion. Having already shown his principled stance by crafting the so-called “Hack’s Manifesto”, which, among other things, demanded that no film feature less than seven credited screenwriters and made it a point not to proceed with any plot point that did not come directly from producer’s notes or test screenings, Skion reached the apotheosis of his art by taking the helm of TMWDLC, the first movie in Hollywood history to be a third remake of a director’s original adaptation of a Broadway musical based on a television show adaptation of a carnival ride styled after an anecdote about a poem. He was rewarded for his allergy to the new by $625 million in box office profits.
1. Dr. No Thank You
No one expected Ishop Trellfager’s big-screen sci-fi epic to be the biggest hit of the summer. It was a risk on every level: Trellfager was an untested Hollywood outsider with only six successful TV shows to his credit, and few knew him outside of his multigenerational industry family and millions of rabid fans. He chose only second-tier stars in the casting process, eschewing first-tier superstars except for voice-overs and cameos. He used an SFX studio and a CGI team that were barely in the top three, and deliberately chose to replace some of the original story’s more controversial human characters with robots. And he determined not to let a soulless team of corporate executives assemble the soundtrack, leaving the job instead to his own wife and her loose instincts as a top 40 singer/songwriter. Somehow, though, all these disparate elements not only came together, but came together in a way that somehow encouraged the audience for the novel on which the movie was based, the biggest-selling sci-fi book of the last two decades, to follow their fandom to the movie theater. It is in the spirit of such artistic daring that I make my top pick.