Pop culture has had a serious case of the overtimes for a while now — just ask anyone who’s grown curly sloth claws waiting for a Judd Apatow movie to end — but 2013 seemed to push clock eating to new lengths. The Lone Ranger? Those are 149 minutes you’ll never get back, kemosabe. The Great Gatsby? Say toodles to two and a half hours, old sport. (Yes, the French lesbian drama Blue Is the Warmest Color surpassed them both at 179 minutes, but I loved it, so I’m giving it le pass.)
In music, Arcade Fire’s otherwise strong Reflektor eked toward exhaustion at 85 minutes, while Justin Timberlake went timberlong on not one but two albums. And books were bricks: Donna Tartt’s long-awaited The Goldfinch weighed in at 784 pages, which actually paled next to acclaimed bios of a baseball star (the Ted Williams profile The Kid, 864 pages) and a screen icon (A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1,056 pages — and that’s just the first volume).
But hark! Behold the trailblazers of blessed brevity: Gravity got Sandra Bullock back to Earth in 53 fewer minutes than it took Man of Steel to defend it. The haunting Fruitvale Station was no less powerful for wrapping up in under an hour and a half. Britney Spears delivered a whittled-down Britney Jean in 36 minutes; EW’s No. 1 album of the year, Kanye West’s Yeezus, took up just four minutes more. Slim collections like George Saunders’ Tenth of December and Jess Walter’s We Live in Water wowed, while short-story master Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize. On Broadway, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal gave us 90 whizbang minutes of Rachel Weisz/Daniel Craig cuckolding. I could go on…but don’t you think this essay is long enough already?