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posted: 12/27/2013 6:00 AM

From Cumberbatch to Targaryen: The best of 2013

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  • Benedict Cumberbatch's face was inescapable this year, but he was invisible in his best performance of 2013.

      Benedict Cumberbatch's face was inescapable this year, but he was invisible in his best performance of 2013.

  • Elsa of Arendelle (Idina Menzel) sings the instant Disney classic, "Let It Go," in the movie "Frozen."

      Elsa of Arendelle (Idina Menzel) sings the instant Disney classic, "Let It Go," in the movie "Frozen."

  • Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) got married this season on "Game of Thrones," but that's far from 2013's most dramatic development in Westeros.

      Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) got married this season on "Game of Thrones," but that's far from 2013's most dramatic development in Westeros.

  • Video: "Let It Go"

 
 

I don't have a top-10 list for you, but I do have a look at a few of my favorite things (no, Carrie Underwood, not your performance) from all corners of pop culture in 2013. To wit:

Best bit of Cumberbatch
Buzzworthy British actor Benedict Cumberbatch was seemingly everywhere this year. You caught up with "Sherlock" on Netflix; saw him on the big screen in "Star Trek Into Darkness," "The Fifth Estate" and "12 Years a Slave"; and clicked on a million gushing GIFs of him on Tumblr. But his best work was a vocal and motion-capture performance as the titular dragon of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." His acidic verbal acrobatics provided the otherwise tiresome Middle-earth escapade with a much-needed shot of adrenaline, stealing the movie before Bilbo Baggins ("Sherlock" co-star Martin Freeman) could steal the dragon's prized jewel.

Best Netflix gems
Add these two films to your streaming queue: "Room 237," a trippy, amusing exploration of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" that presents five fans' theories on what the classic horror film is actually about, and "Upstream Color," an unconventional sci-fi mystery directed by indie wunderkind Shane Carruth ("Primer").

Best newcomer
Stephanie Beatriz is not as well-known as her "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" co-stars Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher and Terry Crews, but her performance as the blunt, intimidating Det. Rosa Diaz is absolutely the best reason to watch Fox's fledgling cop comedy. Check out Episode 3, "The Slump."

Best podcast episode
"Kevin Pollak's Chat Show," in which the actor/comedian interviews Hollywood's best and brightest, coaxed 150 minutes of juicy and hilarious Hollywood stories out of "Men in Black" director Barry Sonnenfeld in April. You can listen to it and the rest of Pollak's exhaustive interviews at Earwolf.com, or watch the video version on YouTube.

Best song to belt out in the car
Elsa, the queen of Arendelle with the power to conjure ice and snow, defiantly sings about who she is -- not what she wants, like so many of her fellow Disney heroines -- in "Let It Go," the showstopper from one of the best films of the year, "Frozen." The words are by Robert Lopez ("Book of Mormon") and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and the powerful vocals are by "Wicked" alum Idina Menzel. (No, I can't hit the high notes. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try!)

Best action scene
"The Lone Ranger" didn't connect with critics or audiences, but it's impossible not to like director Gore Verbinski's expertly staged, climactic train chase. Composer Geoff Zanelli fires up the iconic "William Tell Overture" with bombastic additions, the Ranger (Armie Hammer) jumps from train car to train car astride Silver the horse, Tonto (Johnny Depp) performs some Jack Sparrow-esque feats with a ladder, and the bad guys meet their explosive fates. Those 10 minutes are worth a trip to the Redbox.

Best TV show not named 'Breaking Bad'
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) laid waste to her enemies with the help of her fire-breathing dragons. Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) fought a bear. Unlikely hero Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) defeated a White Walker. But all of these memorable and dramatic developments on HBO's "Game of Thrones" paled in comparison to the infamous "Red Wedding," which saw the slaughter of several of this fantasy epic's beloved characters. Walter White would have been impressed.

• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and tireless consumer of pop culture. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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