The best moments in culture from 2013

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From Beyonce’s Super Bowl extravaganza in January to last week’s debut of the “Bound 2” video, The Daily Texan Life & Arts staff fondly recounts some of the best pop culture moments, movies and music of the year. 

Best Films of 2013

“Short Term 12” — Brie Larson’s natural, warm performance as Grace, a supervisor in a halfway home for at-risk kids, is only the beginning of what’s great about “Short Term 12.” The film plays out with genuine emotion, bringing viewers into the lives of the kids Grace oversees and effortlessly breaking the audience’s hearts with something as simple as a character detail clicking into place. This film didn’t make much of a splash upon release, but it’s a quiet classic, simply waiting to be discovered.

“The Spectacular Now” — Teen romances are a well-worn genre, but “The Spectacular Now” is a surprise stunner, telling the story of borderline-alcoholic Sutter (Miles Teller) and good girl Aimee (Shailene Woodley). Teller and Woodley are both incredible in the film, and their chemistry gives way to an authentic, charming romance that perfectly captures the soaring highs and shattering lows of not only teen romance, but of growing up.

“Stories We Tell” — “Stories We Tell” marks director Sarah Polley’s first excursion into documentary, and she still manages to make the genre distinctly hers, in line with her artistic pursuits and in keeping with her personal, observant style. The film is equal parts memoir and mystery. Polley tells the story of her journey to find out who her real father is after her mother’s infidelities are revealed and never strays from playing in the messy emotional territory inherent to the subject matter.

— Alex Williams

“Gravity”  — A stellar movie about surviving catastrophe in space, Alfonso Cuaron’s epic is a visual masterpiece that uses 3-D so well it makes you believe that you are braving the elements of space. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were praised for their excellent performances as astronauts struggling to get back to earth. While watching the film without 3-D or IMAX may lack a visual punch, the movie still deserves credit for a great plot and fantastic cinematography.

“Man of Steel” — Zack Snyder’s reimagining of Superman takes on a darker tone and delves into the psychology of one of the greatest superheroes ever created. A powerful movie that plays up intense action, the original story of Superman is given the similar face-lift that Batman received under Christopher Nolan, focusing on the angsty psychology of the protagonist. The result is a true blockbuster spectacle that shouldn’t disappoint fans of the comic.

“August: Osage County” — A depressing but great film about women facing a family tragedy, “August: Osage County” boasts outstanding performances from Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. Director John Wells tells a bitter story about the escalation of family feuds and the somber fact that not all relationships, even between blood, can end well.

— Alex Pelham

Best Moments of 2013

Beyonce — Queen Bey had quite the year in 2013. She reunited Destiny’s Child at the Super Bowl, debuted her self-directed documentary on HBO, chopped her locks off into a sweet pixie cut — and who can forget that time her hair got caught in a fan? Too bad we are still waiting for a new album. 

“Orange is the New Black” — Admit it, we all went into a Netflix coma at some point this year to binge-watch “Orange is the New Black.” Now it’s time to go forth and prepare the microwave popcorn and candy in anticipation of season two.

Selfie — Like it or not, the word “selfie” is Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, beating out other winners like “twerk” and “bitcoin.” These words and more were added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online, though “double denim” still has my vote for word of the year.

— Elizabeth Williams

Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature  — Munro, often referred to as the master of the American short story, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. The Canadian author is the 13th woman to win the prize. At 82, and after 14 published works, the award is well-deserved to a woman regarded for her brief, but deeply affecting tales. 

— Sarah-Grace Sweeney

Miley Cyrus at the VMAs — Miley’s twerking incident, broadcast to millions at the Video Music Awards, is easily one of the most popular and strangely controversial moments in 2013. “Me and Robin Thicke the whole time said, ‘we’re about to make history,’” the 21 year-old pop star said in an MTV clip. And Cyrus certainly did make history. Miley’s performance of “We Can’t Stop” was forever immortalized in almost every media platform, inspiring parodies and halloween costumes everywhere. 

Kanye West — Kanye West has once again managed to surprise and entertain with his annual antics, with this year perhaps being the most entertaining yet. The birth of his and Kim Kardashian’s baby girl, aptly named North West, along with the premiere of a new album, Yeezus, and the subsequent hit music video to his song “Bound 2” all make for yet another year of the rapper’s wild success.

— Lauren LAmie

Best Albums of 2013

Kanye West, Yeezus — Rather than build on the grandeur of his last album, West ruled 2013 with his harshest, most minimalistic and challenging record to date. Yeezus is an outburst of anger, a twisted representation of West’s inner psyche, and a complex masterpiece that stands amongst the best work the controversial superstar has ever made. 2013 belonged to Yeezus.

Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt — By mixing elements of pop-punk with influences like Liz Phair or early Cat Power, Katie Crutchfield has been putting out some of the most emotionally resonant music of 2013. For a 22-year-old, these tales of heartbreak, frustration, and uncertainty serve as a pitch-perfect soundtrack. 

— David Sackllah

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City — The NYC band’s third album is also their best. Yet again combining undeniable pop hooks with intellectual themes, Modern Vampires of the City tackles love, life and religion in ways that no other band could do. It’s a pleasure to listen to, and fits perfectly with the college student psyche. 

Lorde, Pure Heroine — Perhaps the most important debut album from this year comes from Lorde. Pure Heroine is a notable introduction from the promising new artist, and her musicality and themes will only develop more as she matures. It’s a concise representation of her melancholic style and will keep filling radio waves for a long time to come.

— Kris Ohlendorf

The National, Trouble Will Find Me — We screamed with Matt Berninger on 2005’s Alligator, we took long and pensive drives to 2010’s High Violet and now we are both crying and dancing along to this year’s Trouble Will Find Me. Arguably The National’s best release to date, Trouble Will Find Me is a perfect addition to the band’s already spectacular discography. 

— Hannah Smothers