Top Ten Entertainment Moments of 2013

The year was 2013 and madness ensued. Here’s yet another meaningless top ten countdown, where someone will bitch about how I didn’t include HBO’s “Enlightened” being cancelled.

 10. The Rise of the Mini-Series

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To start off the countdown, I’d like to take a moment to recognize a phenomenon that has captivated audiences in 2013: the mini-series. Unlike any year before, these productions have combined the high production value of films with the periodic elements of a television show. Most notably is FX’s American Horror Story: Coven, the third installment to Ryan Murphy’s anthology series, which follows the struggle between the witches and voodoos in New Orleans. Another popular mini-series this year was BBC’s Top of the Lake, starring Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss as a detective who uncovers the disappearance of a twelve-year-old pregnant girl. The story unfolds with strong cultural ties to the New Zealand landscape. BBC’s other masterpiece this year was Parade’s End, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a conservative aristocrat who falls in love with a progressive suffragette. So do yourself a favor and watch a mini-series! It’ll be worth your time.

 

9. North West

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At number nine is the baby of the year – and we’re not talking about the future heir to the English throne – we’re talking about North West. On June 15th, reality star Kim Kardashian gave birth to a baby boy, who, along with boyfriend and rapper Kanye West, named North West. As a nation, we gasped, thinking of this kid’s first day of Kindergarten as a confused schoolteacher takes attendance and calls out a compass direction, rather than a name. This was also a big year for Kimye as a couple. From Kanye’s music video for “Bound 2” was parodied by James Franco and Seth Rogan, to his public fight with Jimmy Kimmel, to his record smashing CD release of Yeezus, tabloids have been stocked with juicy stories about Hollywood’s newest power couple.

 

8. Lorde releases “Pure Heroine” 

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At number eight comes a young girl from down under – New Zealand to be exact. In the midst of the Royal Baby craze, she reminded us that, “We’ll never be royal.” This girl’s name is Lorde and her album, “Pure Heroine” hit shelves September 27 to critical raves and a whopping four Grammy nominations.

 

7. Jennifer Lawrence wins Oscar, trips

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Moving on to number seven, we take a trip back to February’s Academy Awards, where America’s budding sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence took a trip of own. On her way up to the stage to accept her award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence stumbled up the steps – but still managed to make it look like a Chanel ad. The Girl on Fire has had a full year, starring in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the upcoming David O’Russell flick American Hustle, where another Oscar could be in store for Lawrence.

 

6. Deaths of James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith

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For number six, we take a somber moment to remember two great men gone too soon. In June, news broke that Sopranos front man James Gandolfini had died of a heart attack. Gandolfini had just wrapped up filming of a recently released film Enough Said alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which has gained a lot of critical attention. Then in July, we learned the passing of Glee star Cory Monteith. The show postponed the start of their fifth season in order to properly pay tribute to Monteith’s legacy in an episode entitled “The Quarterback.” At the 2013 Emmy Awards held in September, Edie Falco and Jane Lynch paid tribute for their respective co-stars in a tearful in memoriam.

 

5. Sandra Bullock Brings The Heat and is Suspended in Gravity

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Number four on our countdown goes to Sandra Bullock, whose films this year brought audiences to tears of laughter and desolation. First, in her summer blockbuster, The Heat, Bullock stars as a ridged, by the books FBI agent from Manhattan, who is tasked to work with a Boston cop, played by Melissa McCarthy, to take down the nation’s most notorious drug dealer. Then in October, Bullock captivated audiences as Dr. Ryan Stone in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Bullock’s character goes through a range of emotions in the ultimate “stranger in a strange land” film. The only thing in the way of Bullock’s second Oscar is Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmine, but my vote’s for the lonely astronaut.

 

4. “Rains of Castamere”

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Have you heard someone say “Spoiler Alert!” at all during the past year? If so, chances are pretty good that that someone was about to talk about Game of Throne’s “Rains of Castamere” – which comes in at number three on our countdown. In one of the bloodiest hours in the history of television, the HBO fantasy drama unexpectedly killed off a slew of protagonists, as jaws dropped around the globe. Like clockwork, fans took to the Internet to vent their concerns, leading to dozens of viral “reaction” videos to the episode’s infamous moment, now known as “The Red Wedding.” Basically, if you haven’t started watching television’s most expensive drama, you should probably make that your New Year’s Resolution.

 

3. Miley Twerks at the VMAs

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She’s still just being Miley. At number two on our countdown comes Disney star turned provocative twerk-er. In August, Miley Cyrus performed a rendition of “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke, and proceeded to do the “Twerk Seen Round the World.” Was it a publicity stunt? Probably. Did it work? Definitely. Before the year was up, Miley had hosted SNL, performed a head-scratching rendition of “Wrecking Balls” at the AMA’s, and released a relatively successful album, Bangerz, all while sporting her now iconic short hair-do. Say what you will, but she’s just being Miley.

 

2. Breaking Bad Finale

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At number five, America said goodbye to its favorite meth cook – Walter Hartwell White. AMC wrapped up the fifth and final season of Breaking Bad on September 29th, as audiences packed auditoriums and movie theaters around the nation to view the shocking conclusion to one of the greatest television dramas of all time. To honor the show’s legacy, the Emmy’s awarded Anna Gunn with Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama, and the Outstanding Drama award went to the cast and crew of Breaking Bad.

 

1. Netflix Produces Original Content

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For my number one moment in entertainment for the 2013 year, I log onto my Netflix account to view their new, original content. Racking up an impressive fourteen Emmy nominations and one win, the online streaming site has become a television network in its own capacity. From reviving fan-favorite Arrested Development, to the political drama House of Cards, Netflix is doing everything right. Over the summer, Netflix added yet another outstanding show, Orange is the New Black, which has demolished all notions and prejudices America has had about female correctional facilities. At $8.99 a month, Netflix is more than just entertainment – it’s an experience.

Do you agree with my top ten? Let me know in the comment section. Be civilized, people.

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A Word On AMERICAN (HORROR) STORY: COVEN

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Don’t get me wrong: American Horror Story: Coven is a great show and it has truly expanded Ryan Murphy’s repertoire as a producer and an artist. But there’s something about this season that has been a bit…off.

In the anthology’s first two chapters, we were introduced to a world with haunted houses and demonic spirits. We were genuinely shocked to learn of Violet’s death – almost three episodes after she had actually died! We were concerned about Sister Jude’s deteriorating state as a patient at Briarcliff. We felt for the characters. However, in this season I’m not sure I can say the same. And it all comes down to one character: Misty Day.

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Misty Day, who is played by AHS vet Lily Rabe, is both the best and worst part of Coven. As the regenerative witch with a thing for Stevie Nicks, Rabe is a scene-stealer whenever she pops up. However, her ability to bring characters back to life (the list tallying Kyle, Madison, Myrtle, and herself) makes everyone virtually invincible – so there are no real stakes anymore. We are no longer shocked by a death like television audiences have proved to be (Red Wedding, anyone?).

On a slightly better note, I’m glad that Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett have stepped out of their hyped spotlight to let the former AHS stars take the helm of the show. And again, I’m not saying this season is bad, it’s just not what I would have wanted from the third installment of the horror anthology.

Enter the COVEN

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It’s witching hour, my friends. But stow away your brooms, return your wands, and hide your Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, because American Horror Story: Coven leaves all the fun-loved, preconceived notions of witchcraft at the gates.
In the third installment of Ryan Murphy’s twisted anthology series, our favorite actors return to modern day – ditching the dreadful Massachusetts insane asylum for the bustling streets of New Orleans.
This story opens on Taissa Farmiga as Zoe – just your average, sexually deprived teenage girl, whose kiss kills her boyfriend. In a flash, she’s sent on a train to a boarding school for witches – and don’t worry, they saved themselves by making a Harry Potter joke. Cordilia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) resides over the school and teaches the girls how to channel and control their powers.

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Zoe’s classmates provide some much needed comic relief to this dark drama. Emma Roberts essentially plays herself, an actress whose telekinetic super powers have been too grand for the limelight. Her cover story is that she’s in rehab for a heroine addiction – believable. Precious herself, Gabourey Sidibe, plays Queenie, the human voodoo doll. This smack-talking, street-smart girl wound up at the school after she plunged her arm into a frialator, burning her obscenely rude customer to blisters. The last houseguest is AHS alum Jamie Brewer, who played the sweet-loving Addie in season one. This season, the actress plays a clairvoyant child, who knows too much for her own good.

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The queen herself, Jessica Lange, has traded her nun garb for some more traditional clothes. Her name is Fiona Goode (a reference to Salem, no doubt) and she is “The Supreme.” On her quest for eternal life, Fiona decides to dig up the corpse of Madame LaLaurie, played by the terrifyingly wicked Kathy Bates. It seems like Lange has finally met her match. But the power struggle continues, and her name is Angela Bassett, who plays the voodoo, Marie Laveau. Much like Queenie, we learn that Laveau is a direct descendent of Tituba, the slave from Barbados who was one of the first accused witches in Salem.

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And then there’s Lily Rabe. As last season’s fan favorite, Sister Mary Eunice, the shy, obedient nun turned kinky, Devil-possessed entity, Rabe has gained quite the cult following. In this season, her character is no saner. Misty Day is a witch with the power of resurrection. After being burnt at the stake, Misty rises and makes it her first mission to bring back some alligators to kill their hunters. She derives her inspiration from Stevie Nicks, who she calls “the white witch.” I really would have loved to be a fly on the wall during Ryan Murphy’s chat with the singer’s manger…
Also returning this season is Evan Peters, who, along with Lange, has appeared in the most episodes of the anthology series. Instead of being the outcast he played in season one, he plays a frat brother named Kyle Spencer (who he probably would have gunned down as Tate). Kyle and Zoe meet at a party, as if Tate and Violet are meeting in another life, just as Kyle’s frat brothers are graphically raping Madison. Kyle breaks up the horrific scene and the brothers scramble back onto their bus, but not before Madison regains consciousness and uses her power to flip their bus, instantly killing seven of the nine passengers, including one of the star-crossed lovers, Kyle.

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Cue the episode entitled “Boy Parts,” in which the girls attach the best limbs to Kyle’s head, just as Misty comes along to turn Kyle into a monster worthy of Dr. Frankenstein.
Meanwhile, the seemingly innocent Cordilia Foxx learns that her hormones are not helping her fertility, so her husband urges her to turn to magic. In a steamy sex rite, involving black powder, multiple herbs, fire, and hatching snake eggs, the two attempt to conceive a baby. Will it work? Probably. Will there be consequences because they used magic? Definitely.

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While this season has planted some strong roots, I’m a little disappointed that the show has moved on to incorporate big names like Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, and Emma Roberts. Part of what has made AHS the show it has become is the no name actors making a niche for themselves. Where are Naomi Grossman and Chloë Sevigny, who played fan favorites Pepper and Shelley in Asylum? How about James Cromwell? His performance as Dr. Arthur Arden won him an Emmy and definitely should have won him a spot in Murphy’s script. Other notably absent series regulars are Zachary Quinto and Dylan McDermott, but Quinto’s run on Broadway and McDermott’s new role on CBS’s Hostages probably negated any hopes of their return to AHS. But with the set up this show has, there’s no reason why they can’t come back for the show’s fourth season. Or fifth. Or eleventh – it’s possible, right?

Flashback: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM

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With the mini-series categories blowing up within the past year, I have taken it upon myself to use my very abundant amount of time to explore these amazing artistic and creative feats. Most recently, I have checked myself into Briarcliff Manor – the setting for FX’s smash-hit American Horror Story: Asylum. And the things I saw were…well, horrifying – in a good way.

From the ironically deranged mind of Glee’s Ryan Murphy comes the second installment of the AHS anthology, the first of which followed a modern day family moving into a haunted house in LA. In the second chapter, however, Murphy quite beautifully recycles his actors to tell the story of an insane asylum in the 1960s and all of its inhabitants.

Once a prestigious tuberculosis ward, the manor was converted to a monastery-run home for the criminally insane. Owned by papal hopeful Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes from Shakespeare in Love), the asylum is under the rule of a Nurse Ratchet-type, Sister Jude, played by the incomparable, two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange, who played Constance in the first installment.

The overambitious reporter, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), attempts to come in contact with one of Briarcliff’s patients, a murderer by the name of Bloody Face, but her naivety gets her placed in the nuthouse herself.

Accused murderer Kit Walker (Evan Peters, who played Tate in the first installment) is locked up for Bloody Face’s crimes – but did he do it?

With the help of Dr. Oliver Thredson (Star Trek and Heroes’ Zachary Quinto), both Lana and Kit plan their escape from Sister Jude’s rule.

The show’s many religious undertones and gruesome sights of the conditions within the asylum create a much more ominous sense of horror, whereas the first season relies a lot on cheap, “jumpy” scares and Connie Britton just being afraid.

The second season continued the tradition of a Romeo and Juliet-type relationship that Tate and Violet have in the first season. This time around, former Nazi and asylum doctor Arthur Arden and the Devil-possessed Sister Mary Eunice meet their tragic fate. Ironically, it’s the ex-Nazi that initiates their incineration.

The show also plays well on the Cold War hysteria that has become a timestamp for the asylum generation. At the time, the threat of extraterrestrial war was just as real as that of the atomic bomb.

However, my one criticism for this amazing and addictive mini-series is that the ending seemed too dragged out. Not to spoil anything specific, I feel like they turn society and the media into the antagonist, which I didn’t feel was necessarily what Murphy intended to showcase. I would have much preferred they stuck to the “curiosity killed the cat” theme, but hey – who am I to say so.

If you have yet to delve into the series, please do yourself a favor and watch it. You can find the first season on Netflix and you can get a little creative when viewing the second.

Production of American Horror Story: Coven is now in the works in glorious New Orleans. Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Evan Peters are set to return amongst others, Joining the cast will be Kathy Bates (Fried Green Tomatoes), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire), and Emma Roberts (Scream 4).