The 2015 Lard Biscuit Achievement Awards

Best Album of 2015

Saturns Pattern Saturns Pattern
Paul Weller

The Modfather explains that he randomly came up with the phrase "Saturns Pattern" when writing song lyrics, just thinking it sounded groovy and psychedelic. Then it turned out to be an actual astronomic phenomenon. Saturn's polar region bizarrely has a hexagonal cloud formation thought to be created by magnetic fields and flow dynamics. This coincidence inspired the hexagon design on the album cover. I love stuff like that. Poetic whimsy intersects with factual reality to yield art of depth and substance. It's perfectly emblematic of the music on Weller's latest album, which is rich, complex and rewarding throughout. Weller himself reckons "Going My Way," is one of only three perfect songs he's ever written, but my top top track is the minimalist jazz-funk of "Pick It Up." I have to recommend the Deluxe Edition of the album, apparently available only in digital format, which includes the essential bonus songs "(I'm a) Roadrunner" and "Dusk Til Dawn" that bring this fine musical collection to its proper conclusion. I also had the pleasure of seeing Paul perform much of the album live in Washington, DC this past year, on the day after my birthday. The guy is still blazing with fire and skill.

Honorable Mention:
In Your Mind, Woody Woodgate

Best Movie of 2015

The Hateful Eight The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino

No, the award does not go to The Force Snoozes. That's a discussion for another day. The Hateful Eight is easily the best Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, being the first since then to recapture that big, sloppy, deep-dish narrative feast that made his early works such instant classics. Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained came close, but each of those lost points in their delirious wish-fulfillment fantasy endings. The Hateful Eight succeeds by maintaining the necessary measure of discipline to the bitter and bloody end. I know there were groans and eyerolls when Quentin inserted himself as the narrator at the start of Chapter Four, but I thought that move was brilliant. At this point he's set up this huge, juicy story dripping with suspense, and it's like he joins in with us to say "All right, I know you guys are already dying to see what's next, all right, but guess what other crazy shit is about to happen?" It's rare to get that level of joy and excitement in the process of storytelling, and this time Tarantino managed to finish off his beautiful mess in a fully satisfying and self-assured manner. Plus I was lucky enough to have a 70mm exhibition right here in my town of Durham, NC. The glorious film presentation with overture, intermission and souvenir program made for a complete package with class and panache.

Honorable Mention:
Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller

Best Blu-ray Disc of 2015

Mad Max Fury Road Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller

I was never a fan of the original Mad Max movies, so I missed out on the new one. Then I kept hearing all the praise of how amazing it was, and I liked the looks of the clips I saw. Strong female warriors and crazy kamikaze dudes spraypainting their teeth silver? Okay, that sounded pretty good. So I got the Blu-ray and it ended up being one of the greatest blind buys of all time. What a thrill ride from start to finish. It's way more than a mindless action flick -- it actually has a meaningful story and fine performances. But it is foremost an audio-visual feast, the kind of cinematic experience that reminds you how gobsmackingly incredible the Blu-ray format can be. Those rich, saturated colors, the oil-drenched symphony of all those thrumming engines, the variation in tones and textures from one chapter of the story to the next... these elements could not be replicated at home through DVD or streaming video. How many times can a person replay this disc? Witness me!

Honorable Mention:
Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Sion Sono

Best TV Series of 2015

Daredevil Daredevil
Netflix

The king has lost his crown. For the first time since the series debuted, Game of Thrones does not win this award. Although the fifth season had its moments (especially the alliance of Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, and the massacre at Hardhome), the horrible season finale soured the whole thing for me. So I'm giving the nod to a rookie series that meant a lot to me. Finally my favorite superhero has been properly brought to life and the awful Ben Affleck version can be forgotten. Charlie Cox is perfect in the role of Matt Murdock, and Vincent D'Onofrio was born to play the Kingpin. The dark, mature storytelling brings a new layer of complexity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And perhaps most notably, the fight choreography is flat-out superior. I would say the hand-to-hand action scenes are the best ever do new in a non-Asian production, whether film of television. For those of us who enjoy skillful ass-kicking, Daredevil is a joy to behold. I will admit that some parts of Wilson Fisk's criminal plots didn't make logical sense, and I do wish that Josie's Bar and Turk were portrayed more like in the Frank Miller stories. But I'll overlook those quibbles and hope for an even better season two, with the introductions of the Punisher and Elektra.

Honorable Mentions:
Jessica Jones, Netflix
Better Call Saul, AMC
You're The Worst, FX

Best Book of 2015

Daredevil Artifact Edition Frank Miller's Daredevil: Artifact Edition
IDW Publishing

And speaking of Daredevil... Recently when I was browsing at Forbidden Planet in London, I saw these beautiful oversized comics art hardcovers in a display case. Later I found out they belong to a series of Artifact Editions from IDW Publishing, which is "dedicated to showcasing outstanding artists in a format as special as their work deserves." So it's kind of like the Criterion Collection for comic book art. The hallmarks of these Artifact Editions is their monumental size -- up to 16"x20" -- and their glorious reproduction quality. Browsing these volumes is the closest thing to viewing the original artwork in person. You can see all the unearned pencil lines, the strokes of white-out, the pasted-on lettering, editor's notes in the margins, everything. From an eBay seller I got the Miracleman edition and the Frank Miller's Daredevil edition, and since Miller's Daredevil is my all-time favorite, this book is a huge thrill for me. Its 144 pages cover a representative sampling from throughout the 1979-1983 run, with a nice focus on Elektra's appearances, including the bulk of Daredevil #181, "Last Hand." I own a framed page of original art from Daredevil #180, and I had the impression that this 12"x"17 book blew up the artwork bigger than than originals, but it actually is life-size. I could pore over this time for hours. How cool to read Klaus Janson' notes on how the colorist should handle areas of zip-a-tone, and to learn that Miller drew some issues on board stock stolen from DC Comics! For any lovers of great comic book artwork, I completely recommend shelling out the big bucks for these sweet Artifact Editions.

Honorable Mention:
Breaking Bad: The Official Book, David Thomson

Hottest Chick of 2015

Me and Caro Emerald Caro Emerald

This past year, Dutch delight Caro Emerald continued to be the most beautiful, charming and fabulous woman alive. And I'm not just saying that because I met her. In November 2015 I traveled to England, attending the Madness House of Fun Weekender in Minehead and seeing Caro for the first UK date on her Absolutely Me Tour. I had front-row VIP tickets and got to have a meet and greet with Miss Emerald before the show. I have to tell you, she is even more stunning in person than in photos and videos. Wow, this woman is gorgeous. And so kind and friendly to us fans. She was so impressed with my custom-made Keep Calm and CARO On T-shirt that she posted a picture of it on her social media! Caro's boldest and sexiest move of 2015 was her decision to cover a certain notorious pop song in her live shows: "All About That Bass." As she told us in Oxford, "I don't want to waste too many words on my I chose it, but I think you can guess." How wonderful to see Caro embrace her full figure without apology. And plus, she can sing about a million times better than Meghan Trainor. I just love everything about her.

Honorable Mention:
Tara Lynn

The 2015 Lard Biscuit Person of the Year

Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders

When Senator Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, it was treated as a joke. Even Jon Stewart, who'd had Bernie on as a guest and should have given him a due measure of respect, joined in on the "Wouldya get a load of this guy?" ridicule. Myself, I've admired the senator for years as a champion of the common people who fights against corruption. So it's been wonderful to see him defy the assumption that Hillary's a shoo-in with his massive grass roots support. Maybe Sanders can take the nomination and maybe he can't. Either way, he deserves to be taken seriously, and he deserves our thanks for elevating the level of discourse in this ridiculous circus show of a presidential campaign. Just compare the substance and basic maturity of the Democratic debates against the Republican "build a wall and keep 'em out and kill 'em all" dick-swinging pageants. My fellow Americans, I submit the time has come to feel the Bern.

The 2015 Lard Biscuit Asshole of the Year

Asshole

Obviously.

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