The Lardy

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the eleventh 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 2010 Lardies, bestowing the coveted and voluptuous golden trophy that honors only the most outstanding achievements in lardy goodness. The envelope, please...

Best Album of 2010

Wake Up the Nation Wake Up the Nation
Paul Weller

Each new Paul Weller album over the past ten years has been praised to some degree as his finest solo work to date, a "return to form," his most brilliant statement since The Jam, etc. The truth is, every one of those albums has had some great songs alongside some pretty weak songs that made you question the Modfather's skills a bit. So now, in the case of Wake Up the Nation, I have to cut through the rock critic cliches and insist that this one really is his best work in a long, long time. Its 12 songs are short and concise in contrast to the extravagant explorations on 2008's ambitious 22 Dreams, but every single song is fantastic, forming a focused masterpiece that can stand alongside Sound Affects and Wild Wood. Some listeners have pigeonholed this as a hard-rocking punk throwback, but only the title track and a few others have that sort of feel. Wake Up the Nation presents a complex and challenging mix of sounds, from the Motown love ballad of "No Tears to Cry" and the Style Council soul of "Aim High" (with the first Weller falsetto vocal in 20 years!), to the Bowie space-out of "Andromeda" and the hand-clapping honky-tonk of "Grasp and Still Connect." The most artistically successful piece is "Trees," a five-part mini-opera in four minutes, touchingly inspired by Paul's visits to his father in a nursing home before the elder Weller's recent passing. And all this is leaving on the really Big Deal on the album, which is the momentous reunion with bassist Bruce Foxton on two of the songs. It's been 28 years since the best two-thirds of The Jam played together, and by God they sound so right. The only way Paul is going to easily top Wake Up the Nation next time would be a whole album with Bruce, and these days it seems like that may not be so impossible to hope for.

Honorable Mention:
We Are Born, Sia

Best Single of 2010

Fuck You Fuck You
Cee Lo Green

This year I have to dust off this seldom-award category in recognition of the finest mainstream pop song to come along in ages, though ironically the proper version is not available for mainstream broadcast. Cee Lo Green has crafted a peppy, lushly arranged and instantly unforgettable pop/soul classic built upon one of the nastiest of all expletives. And the profanity is not gratuitous, it's fundamental to the structure of the song. Just listen to the Glee-friendly bowdlerized version, "Forget You," and it's not even the same song at all. Cee Lo does wondrous things with the sonic qualities of that K-sound: "Seen you drivin' 'round town with the girl I love, and I'm like, FOCK-kyu-ooo... (hoo hoo hoooo!)" It's just sheer genius, and that chorus will get stuck in your head all day, singing "Fuck You!" with a big grin on your face. I've also enjoyed the spectacle of Cee Lo's gorgeous all-girl band performing on various talk shows, which is how I first got exposed to the song. What a grand television moment it was on The Colbert Report when Cee Lo agreed to censor himself by substituting another appalling exclamation in place of the title phrase: "Fox News!"

Best Movie of 2010

True Grit True Grit
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

You wait at the bus stop for hours, and then three buses pull up at once. Likewise, you go through an uninspired year at the movies where Iron Man 2 is the highlight, and then two Jeff Bridges masterpieces show up right at Christmas. Tron Legacy was totally fun, but True Grit delivered the true greatness. First off, it's the first time the Coen brothers have gone back to Jeff Bridges since The Big Lebowski, and now we have definitive proof of a director/actor synergy that need replication as often as possible. Few actors could dare to step into the shoes of John Wayne without coming out looking ridiculous, but the Dude is clearly up to the task of following the Duke. Even though the original True Grit is a classic, it looks cartoony and shallow in comparison to the Coen version, which draws more upon the original novel and seems far more realistic. Bridges as the grumbling and growling Rooster Cogburn is more of a pathetic old shambles than John Wayne stooped to being, and he positively charges up the screen with charisma even when you hate Cogburn's actions. Matt Damon is way more capable in the role of the Texas Ranger LaBouef than Glenn Campbell was. But the real quantum leap in quality over the 1969 film is the casting of the true star of the movie, and the key exemplar of true grit, the young Mattie Ross. Hailee Steinfeld runs away with the movie in a thoroughly convincing and captivating as the tough-as-nails 14-year-old out to avenge her murdered father. Steinfeld has a gift for rendering the complex, high-level vocabulary that the Coens are so fond of writing, and the brothers really piled it on her. It's so refreshing to see filmmakers unafraid to pack in loads of fast-paced, difficult dialogue that challenges today's idiot popcorn-munchers to keep up. Following on True Grit, I'm hoping to see two things: more of Jeff Bridges working with the Coen brothers, and more of Hailee Steinfeld in similarly powerful roles in a long career ahead.

Honorable Mention:
Tron Legacy, Joseph Kosinski

Best Blu-ray Disc of 2010

Yojimbo and Sanjuro Yojimbo/Sanjuro
Akira Kurosawa
The Criterion Collection

As the Blu-ray format continues to mature, the most exciting thing for film buffs like me is the opportunity to see old classics remastered in beautiful HD. Sure, I enjoy the eye candy like Avatar, but the thrill of Blu-ray releases like Fellini's 8 1/2 and Ford's Stagecoach is way more fulfilling. A number of Akira Kurosawa masterpieces arrived on Blu-ray Disc this year, including Seven Samurai and Ran. For the difficult task of naming a favorite, I have to single out the amazing Criterion box set of Kurosawa's Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Although Seven Samurai is a better film and looking astounding on Blu, this boils down to a personal visual preference. I have a deep passion for 1960s jidai-geki films in shot in black and white cinemascope, and I own dozens of such features on DVD. Now for the first time, I have two of the finest and most influential films in this particular genre in the Blu-ray format, impeccably transferred to 1080p. My eyes are accustomed to enjoying these movies quite happily through a slight haze of age and technical limitations, and now it's as if a layer of gauze has been lifted from the screen. Seeing classic mid-period Kurosawa with the clarity of brand-new films sparks a sensation of cognitive dissonance that is pleasantly intoxicating. In the Yojimbo scene of the two rival gangs squaring off in the street while Toshiro Mifune laughs from his rooftop perch, I can actually see the individual facial features and snarling expressions of every last yakuza roughneck in those wide shots, for the first time. Just magnificent. Even though Yojimbo is the more historically significant film, I've always preferred the story in Sanjuro and I'm delighted to see it ride its big brother's coattails into Blu-ray paradise ahead of so many other films. I've heard people say they can't see the point of old black and white movies on Blu-ray Disc being any better than regular DVD, because, you know, they're old and black and white. I just feel sorry for people like that.

Honorable Mentions:
Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa, The Criterion Collection
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season
Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season

Best DVD of 2010

The Gogglebox The Gogglebox

When I attended Madness's 2009 Madstock festival in London, the concert was filmed for a projected DVD release. Some 16 months later, the document of my epic experience has arrived as part of a deluxe 4-DVD box set called The Gogglebox, marketed to fans exclusively through the official Madness web site. "Gogglebox" is an old British slang term for a television set, and indeed the very nifty packaging is designed to look like a 1950s telly, complete with a diecut window and the option to shuffle the disc sleeves inside to show the seven different members of the band on the TV screen. Apropos to my personal experience, the Madstock DVD is subtitled A Fan's Tale and is intercut with fan footage shot from the crowd. All things considered I would most prefer a concert film entirely composed of professional camera work on Blu-ray, but this disc does a phenomenal job of capturing the experience of being there and succeeds in conjuring vivid flashbacks of that July day. In fact, in one brief pre-concert crowd shot, I can spot the back of my head! Now, this priceless Madstock film would be enough to secure the Lardy Award on its own, but there are three other discs besides. Julien Temple's film of the Liberty of Norton Folgate preview shows at the Hackney Empire is here, augmented from its previous release with bonus "greatest hits" performances and an excellent behind the scenes documentary. The vintage 1981 Madness docudrama Take It or Leave It is also included, with no new added features. Though it's in anamorphic widescreen for the first time, the top and bottom of the frame are cropped, so it's really a downgrade from the original DVD that had a commentary track. The fourth and final disc is an assortment of bits and pieces highlighted by a full recording of a special Norton Folgate album launch gig at a bar located in the Norton Folgate district. There's also a previously unreleased Madness comedy pilot from 1984, which is so abysmally horrible that I can only give thanks it never made it past the pilot stage. But warts and all, I do dearly love goggling at my Gogglebox, and the Madstock disc preserves my memories of a magical event. Oh what fun we had!

Honorable Mentions:
Miyamoto Musashi Box Set, Tomu Uchida
The Specials 30th Anniversary Tour

Best TV Series of 2010

Breaking Bad Breaking Bad

In a historic first for the Lardy Awards, I'm naming a TV series as the best of 2010 even though I never watched a broadcast episode of it in 2010. The series in question is Breaking Bad, and this past year I discovered it through the Blu-ray releases of the first and second seasons. I just want to kick myself for not listening earlier to all the talk about how awesome this show is. Vince Gilligan, formerly best known as a writer/producer on The X-Files, has fashioned a television out of a dark and gut-wrenching premise: a downtrodden high-school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer chooses to raise money to leave for his family by becoming a manufacturer and dealer of crystal meth. Walter White, portrayed by Bryan Cranston, stands to become one of the most compelling characters not only in TV drama but in the realm of modern fiction. What's really fascinating is his slow, incremental transformation from an ordinary decent guy into a nasty drug lord. For instance, when Walt unwillingly has to make his first direct contact with established meth kingpins, he wears a silly-looking fedora and sunglasses, and adopts the off-the-cuff science-nerd pseudonym of "Heisenberg." In the course of time, the Heisenberg persona attains the status of fearsome legend in the drug-dealer community, and his iconic hat, shades and mustache look becomes a symbol of reverence and awe. Furthermore, Walt and his drug-savvy sidekick Jesse are one of the great odd-couple teams in pop culture, and just seeing them on screen together is magic. So to atone for missing out on its greatness for its first two years, I'm proclaiming Breaking Bad the best thing on TV in 2010, even though as of this writing I've only seen the season premiere from the 2010 season. That will change soon enough, and I'm confident that my opinion will not.

(P.S. My former favorite, Big Love, sucked big time this past year, and I hope its final season in 2011 can redeem its sullied reputation.)

Honorable Mention:
Mad Men, AMC

Best Book of 2010

The Making of The Empire Strikes Back The Making of The Empire Strikes Back
J.W. Rinzler

2010 marked the 30th anniversary of my favorite movie, The Empire Strikes Back, and on this august occasion we got the first comprehensive baehind-the-scenes book on the making of this landmark film. Lucasfilm historian J.W. Rinzler authored 2007's excellent The Making of Star Wars, and like the two respective movies themselves, the follow-up is even better. I've always been fascinated with how successfully Episode V built upon the foundation of the original, taking a story that could have gone in a million different directions and seemingly finding the one best course. This exhaustively detailed book delves into the heart of that creative process, going far beyond circumstances like how cold it was to shoot in Norway and how hard it was to build the Dagobah swamp sets. We get the unvarnished inside scoop on how this modern myth was made, and the massive anxieties surrounding George Lucas's private financial gamble on a sequel whose profitability prospects were then no certain matter. One thing becomes crystal clear: for all his brilliance, Lucas did not have the story all master-planned from the beginning, and he relied mightily on a talented team of co-creators to reach the final destination. Foremost among them was the great Irvin Kershner, whom I rank along with John Williams as Lucas's top most valuable collaborators in making the saga. Sadly this anniversary year also saw the passing of Kershner, and Rinzler's accounts of the director's on-set vision and decision-making process serve as a profound testament to a man whose touch was sorely missed on the subsequent Star Wars films.

Honorable Mention:
House of Fun: The Story of Madness, John Reed

Best Video Game of 2010

Space Invaders: Infinity Gene Space Invaders: Infinity Gene

I'm a fan of vintage arcade games, and whenever some developer gets the bright idea to update a classic franchise for the modern video game market, it usually ends up being an unplayable mess of crap flying around in 3D and no connection to the game mechanics that made the original so appealing. is a welcome exception to that trend, a successful remake fashioned from a most unlikely source, an ancient great-great-grandfather preceded in age only by Pong. Infinity Gene gets it right by sticking to the basics that made Space Invaders fun to play: it's still a 2D environment where you're shooting upwards at throngs of alien attackers. Even the low-res monochromatic sprites and laser sound effects of the original are faithfully preserved. It's just that everything is pumped up to an insane level of speed and sheer frenzied numbers of things moving about, set to a thumping techno beat and acid-trip backgrounds. The game premiered on the iPhone platform, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense on the PS3 (also Xbox 360), where a full TV screen and real controls give you more of a fighting chance to negotiate such an onslaught. I only have two complaints about the game. One is that you have to suffer though interminable loading times between levels, which should not be an issue on such an monstrously powerful machine as the PS3. Secondly, this is one of those games that reaches a certain level where the difficulty shifts from challenging to impossible. A thousand enemy missiles fly at you and you just have to die. Or maybe I just suck at it. But in any case, it's loads of fun to play until the game decides not to let me continue.

Best Uncategorizable Art Thing of 2010

Mr Kipling Fruity Pies Unearthing
Alan Moore

Acclaimed writer Alan Moore has pretty much left the comic book industry behind these days, and not entirely coincidentally, so have I. It's great to see him spreading his artistic wings in other media, and his latest effort is a strange beast that defies any attempt at classification. Unearthing is a spoken-word piece packaged in a lavish box set on 3 CDs and a vinyl LP. Photographer Mitch Jenkins is credited as co-creator, but the set only offers a handful of photos. There is also a transcript of Moore's monologue prepared (for reasons explained at the end of the narrative) on accordion-perforated paper from an obsolete dot matrix printer. Moore has previously released a number of spoken-word projects, recordings of various on-stage performances of magical rituals and incantations, which I've enjoyed and respected. In its opening section Unearthing seems to follow in the same vein, delving into a dense treatise on the history and psychogeography of the Shooter's Hill district of London. But following this solemn preamble, Moore settles into a fond biographical sketch of his close friend and Shooter's Hill native Steve Moore (no relation), often credited as the man who taught Alan how to write a comics script. Steve Moore is painted as the quintessential nerd, bookworm and social misfit, finding comfort in comic books, mythology, paranormal phenomena and the occult. Alan's poetic narrative weaves together layers of lunar symbols carrying significance throughout various episodes in Steve's life, culminating in a magical ceremony in Alan's living room in which Steve conjures up a manifestation of the Greek moon goddess Selene. As heady and bizarre as it gets at times, Unearthing is ultimately the most accessible of Alan Moore's recorded works and a touching personal tribute between friends, the likes of which no other artist is ever likely to render.

Hottest Chick of 2010

Denise Bidot Denise Bidot

She's got long, flowing brunette hair and big brown eyes. She's got exotic Puerto Rican/Arabic features, flawless olive skin and a radiant smile. She's got an ample bustline, a round belly, thick hips and a beautiful big butt. She's 200 pounds and admits she doesn't deprive herself when it comes to eating. She is Denise Bidot, plus-size model and the sexiest woman alive. In the past year Denise has emerged from being the anonymous Hips & Curves model to make a name for herself as one of the leading faces in the industry. As far as I'm concerned, Denise Bidot is my vivacious, curvaceous, food-loving brunette fantasy woman come to life, Misty McIntyre made flesh, matching the heights of perfection previously attained by Anna Nicole Smith in her glorious prime. And clearly Denise has the potential for a far longer and happier reign as my Goddess Supreme.

Honorable Mention:
Tara Lynn

The 2010 Lard Biscuit Person of the Year

Conan O'Brien Conan O'Brien

I have to hand it to Coco. While he still lacks the comedic achievements to rank side by side with Johnny Carson and David Letterman, he's still the best of his generation and potentially destined to join those giants. NBC had made the right move by handing The Tonight Show over to him, assuring that they would have a strong late-night presence for decades to come. For seven months he delivered an entertaining program. Then NBC caved under pressure from the whining affiliates over their dropping local news ratings and made the weaselly decision to reverse the epic failure of Leno at 10. Instead of accepting a deal to move to midnight, O'Brien did the honorable thing and told NBC to fuck off. Now he's back in business at TBS, instantly turning a network of Seinfeld reruns and baseball into a major late-night talk show player. That one episode with Conan wearing the jeggings and interviewing the Kardashians was more hilarious that everything Jay Leno's ever thought of in his career of suckling the NBC (pea)cock. And in another few years, Big Jaw's gonna get too old and retire, and then what's NBC gonna have? The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon? Congratulations to Conan for proving that it really doesn't matter which channel you're on, the audience will find quality programming, and the evil bastard executives running their show biz empires don't always have to win.

The 2010 Lard Biscuit Assholes of the Year

BP Oil Spill Everyone Responsible for
the BP Deepwater Horizon
Disaster and Response

I want to move beyond the easy target of BP's CEO Tony Hayward being such a lying, self-centered douche who wanted to have his life back. The asshole situation here is far larger than that. BP entered into this drilling proposition understanding that they would have no idea how to handle the very possible occurrence of a major spill. Their hubris and greed led them to proceed regardless, committing all manner of worker safety and environmental violations along the way. After hell broke loose and Pandora's box was torn open on the ocean floor, I felt that the daily live feed of the profane spew of 4.9 million barrels of crude oil should be a global wake-up call. Here on our TVs was an unrelenting parable of man raping nature in the ass and our world suffering the consequences. After 112 days of horror, government and industry should have teamed up and worked furiously to change things, not just to make sure it never happens again, but to get serious about decreasing and ending our society's dependence on this evil black poison. But no, society is back to normal, we're pretending that the Gulf is fixed, and the only prevalent concern over petroleum is that gas is inching back up over $3 a gallon. What the hell will it take to make us notice we're destroying our future?

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