The Lardy

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the fifth annual Lard Biscuit Achievement Awards! Round about every December, everybody just loves putting together their meaningless and self-important lists of the best and biggest accomplishments of the past year, so I'm getting into the act with my own awards ceremony that has utterly no significance to anybody besides myself. I don't care if anybody else gives a shit or not.

Without further ado, I hereby present the winners of the 2004 Lardies, bestowing the coveted and voluptuous golden trophy that honors only the most outstanding achievements in lardy goodness. The envelope, please...

Best Album of 2004

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
U2

This was a heck of a great year for music, with a crowded field of contenders for album of the year, as the long list of honorable mentions below attests. Nonetheless U2 easily distinguished themselves from the pack, delivering their best album since the '80s on the twentieth anniversary of my all-time favorite of theirs, The Unforgettable Fire. In recent years I'd felt that the legendary U2 was washed up, their talents crushed under the weight of their own hype. But How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb has dismantled the band's tiresome infatuations with electronic-techno sounds and smug, self-referential irony, stripping Bono and the gang back down to the rock & roll band they once were before they became caricatures. Every song on this album is fantastic, all possessing more heart, passion and simple honesty than I ever thought we'd hear from U2 again. Nice to have you back, boys.

Honorable Mentions:
Studio 150, Paul Weller
Bubblegum, Mark Lanegan
The Secondman's Middle Stand, Mike Watt
Gold Medal, The Donnas

Best Movie of 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore

Okay, so it would be a lot easier to rave about the significance of this movie if Bush hadn't won in November. But the outcome of the 2004 elections in no way invalidates the towering achievement of Fahrenheit 9/11. I've been a fan of Michael Moore's work since Roger & Me, and I'm not ashamed to call myself a liberal. So you might say it was a given that I would lap up his documentary that attacks President Bush and the war in Iraq. But I really believe this is a film that transcends Republican-bashing and forces the audience to confront some unpleasant questions about the American government and its use of military force. I applaud Moore for having the courage to raise these issues and for proving that a non-fiction (and non-conventional) film can be a box-office smash. Viewing Fahrenheit 9/11 was one of the most intense and memorable theatrical experiences of my life, truly a communal event that no television presentation could ever match, with the entire audience gasping and laughing and muttering indignations as if in unison. And I seriously don't think my audience was 100% liberals, either.

Honorable Mention:
Team America: World Police, Trey Parker

Best DVD of 2004

The Star Wars Trilogy The Star Wars Trilogy

Well, duh. The Holy Trilogy takes this Lardy award as effortlessly as a Dark Lord of the Sith takes a blaster pistol from a hostile Corellian. In anticipation of its release, I bought myself a widescreen HD television, and these long-overdue discs lived up to the hype. All kneel before Lowry Digital and their mighty powers of restoration! Now you can see every grain of sand when Artoo and Threepio land on Tatooine, with nary a speck of earthly dirt to spoil the view. Incredible. The improvements to the 1997 Special Editions are most welcome — now the computer-generated Jabba the Hutt is not so embarrassing, and the crappy old Emperor hologram is replaced by a splendid Ian McDiarmid performance, and best of all, Luke once again has his silent dignity intact when he chooses not to join Vader at Cloud City, instead of screaming like a girl. Not all is perfect with these DVDs, of course, with the unaccountable rash of botched lightsaber effects in Empire and Jedi especially pissing me off. But at least we can hope for any annoying imperfections to be remedied in the grand ultimate six-film saga HD-DVD box set due out sometime around 2017.

Honorable Mention:
Arrested Development, Season One

Best Comics Series of 2004

Promethea Promethea
Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray

I should probably rename this category "The Promethea Award," since Alan Moore's enchanting series has won it for four years straight. The final issue will be published in 2005, so after that I hope some other comic book will be good enough to win instead. There were only three issues of Promethea published in 2004, detailing the story of how the world ends. Satisfying endings typically aren't Moore's strongest suit as an author, and I'm sure the way he chose to play out this grand finale to end all grand finales was frustratingly anticlimactic to some readers, and too hippy-trippy cosmic for others. I don't want to spoil it for those who might read it later, but let's just say it's the happiest, most feel-good apocalypse ever. Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice, but Alan Moore says it will end in love and enlightenment. And dude, I totally dig it. I've never smoked pot, but it seems to me that Promethea is like lighting up a fat doobie and expanding your mind, minus the legal hassles and bad smell.

Honorable Mention:
Love and Rockets Vol. 2, Los Bros. Hernandez

Best Book of 2004

America (The Book) America (The Book)
A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction
Jon Stewart and the Writers of The Daily Show

Books written by comedians are usually crap. Material that's hilarious when skillfully performed often comes across bland and tedious when transcribed on the silent printed page. But Jon Stewart and his Daily Show crew found an ingenious way around that pitfall by choosing the visually dynamic and universally recognizable format of the school textbook. Their transfer of political and social satire from one medium to another succeeds brilliantly, and America (The Book) takes full advantage of ink and paper to produce all kinds of jokes that would not be possible on television, and by that I don't just mean adding nudity and cuss words. While it may be true that some of the humor gimmicks wear thin, such as the over-reliance on putting wacky anachronistic slang in the mouths of historical figures ("Motherfuckahs love that motherfuckin' tea," says the Duchess of Kent, etc.), overall it's funny as hell and occasionally profound. The chapters on the media and the election process, in particular, are thought-provoking examinations of what's pathologically wrong with our country today.

Honorable Mention:
Shatterpoint, Matthew Stover

Best TV Series of 2004

Arrested Development Arrested Development
Fox

The term "situation comedy" is entirely inadequate to describe Arrested Development. That ancient genre pretty much ended with Cheers and Seinfeld, and any weekly comedic fictional series still around today is probably either pathetically insipid, a cartoon, or Arrested Development. It is in a class of its own, and stands as the most intelligent and entertaining scripted program on broadcast television in years. Naturally, nobody watches it, and it's a miracle of biblical proportions that Fox actually renewed it for a second season. The show really is too clever for its own good, so densely packed with obscure references, freeze-frame gags and intricate continuity with previous episodes that any new viewer trying to jump aboard by this point must feel hopelessly intimidated. If you're not already an Arrested Development fan, and you probably aren't, do yourself a favor and buy the endlessly re-watchable DVD set of season one and visit this obsessively detailed fan site so you can get caught up on the Bluth clan and their crazy shenanigans just in time for Fox to cancel the show.

Honorable Mention:
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central

Hottest Chicks of 2004

Melissa Masi The Made to Measure Models

Beauty Plus Power is an online directory of women's plus-size fashion retailers, dedicated to the laudable proposition of "a world of voluptuous women with full wallets, full bellies and fully fashioned wardrobes." For its first photo editorial feature, the site enlisted photographer Les Delano to shoot a number of beautiful plus-size models wearing — take a deep breath, Trull — tight tank tops (!) with their "comp card" statistics (!!) written boldly across their chests (!!!). The clear message here is that these women's generous proportions are nothing to hide or be ashamed of. As icing on the cake, the shots are captioned with delightful size-positive comments from the models. "I love my hips... I feel very womanly and I wouldn't have it any other way," says the radiant 46-39-46 Nikki, whose hips I happen to love, as well. Stunning 43-32-45 blonde Ivory explains why plus-size models are easier for photographers to work with than skinny ones: "We're fun and nice. You can't be angry on a full stomach." Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? I'm telling you, for a man like me, having a lifelong fascination with luxuriously upholstered women and their measurements, these images are the stuff dreams are made of. Congratulations, Beauty Plus Power, for creating the all-time sexiest and best plus-size modeling pictorial in the history of the universe, ever.

Honorable Mention:
The Donnas

The 2004 Lard Biscuit Person of the Year

Jon Stewart Jon Stewart

These days I get most of my news from The Daily Show. That's a sad statement, but I don't think it's so much a reflection on my lack of sophistication as it is on the sorry state of the news media. Jon Stewart is a comedian, not a journalist, but the fact is that I trust and believe in him more than any of the major figures in "real news." Stewart took over the minor-league assemblage of news gags that The Daily Show was under original host Craig Kilborn and transformed it into a shrewd satirical tour de force that remains razor-sharp night after night. You can always depend on Jon Stewart to sniff out the bullshit in any political or social development that's grabbing headlines, and he dares to say the things that we're all thinking but no news reporter has the balls to go near. His now-classic denunciatory guest spot on Crossfire was enough to convince me once and for all that Jon Stewart is The Man. Oh, how I have longed for someone to put the smackdown on that dick Tucker Carlson...

The 2004 Lard Biscuit Assholes of the Year

TrimSpa The Bush Voters

H. L. Mencken plainly foretold it all, way back in 1920: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

The 2003 Lard Biscuit Achievement Awards

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