The Lardy

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the thirteenth 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 2012 Lardies, bestowing the coveted and voluptuous golden trophy that honors only the most outstanding achievements in lardy goodness. The envelope, please...

Best Album of 2012

Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da
Madness

Yes yes, I love love Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da. My favorite band is back again with their tenth studio album. It's pure Madness delivered with panache, verve and numerous flashes of brilliance. Some critics are calling it a disappointment following their acclaimed 2009 release, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, accusing the band of reverting to simple pop songs. In my estimation Oui Oui follows directly in the same vein as Folgate, a mix of danceable pop and complex, insightfully crafted numbers, in roughly equal parts of both. "Death of a Rude Boy" is an old-school Brit ska number with a booming bassline, "How Can I Tell You" is a charming recitation of little life lessons, and "Misery" is a dance-hall celebration of optimism. On the more serious side, "Small World" is a meditation on the 2011 London riots and "Circus Freaks" is an elegy for the band's Camden Town homegirl Amy Winehouse. My favorite track "Leon" brings together lyrics, vocals and melody to epitomize the very alchemy of the Nutty Sound. The main shortcoming of the album is its omission of several outstanding new songs the band has played live, such as "Big Time Sister" and "1978," but this should be rectified on the expanded deluxe edition planned for 2013. I also regret that Madness performed nothing from Oui Oui when I traveled to see them on the U.S. west coast last spring. I guess that leaves me an excuse to go see them again at my next opportunity.

Honorable Mention:
Sonik Kicks, Paul Weller

Best Movie of 2012

Celebration Day Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day
Dick Carruthers

I will admit, when I heard that a concert film of the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion show was getting a limited theatrical release, my first reaction was "Why?" The thing happened five years ago, and while a home video release would be nice, putting it in theaters seemed a bit unnecessary. How wrong I was. I caught the one-night-only exhibition of Celebration Day at my local cineplex and it ended up being the most thrilling and memorable time I had at the movies all year. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones getting the Led out one more time, for possibly the final time, with Jason Bonham capably filling in for his father. It was a powerful experience that deserved the giant screen and auditorium sound to somewhat simulate the sensation of those enviable few who scored tickets to the O2 Arena that special night. These gentlemen's massive, still-shining talents and emotions came to life, enhanced by tasteful and creative stage visuals that brought a different mood to each of the 16 songs. Simply spectacular. I watch the Blu-ray of the film all the time, but I'm so happy to have had that large-scale theatrical presentation shape my first impression. The band members have my respect for doing things on their own terms -- this show came about as a tribute to Atlantic Records executive Ahmet Ertegun, someone unknown to the general public, and they have turned down the fortune they could assuredly make with a world tour. I think it's all for the best. After all, without Bonzo, they're not Led Zeppelin anymore. They're the world's best Led Zeppelin tribute band.

Honorable Mentions:
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
The Avengers, Joss Whedon

Best Blu-ray Disc of 2012

Lone Wolf and Cub Blu-ray Lone Wolf and Cub
The Complete 6-Film Blu-ray Collection

AnimEigo's Blu-ray release of the cult favorite Lone Wolf and Cub series has been denounced in the cinephile community for the alleged overuse of digital noise reduction. This technique is often used to reduce the appearance of film grain and give older films more of a modern look, but it can also wipe out fine textures and make skin look waxy. Now, I've seen some bad DNR elsewhere, but it my book, Lone Wolf and Cub looks freaking gorgeous. Take a look at all the closeups of Tomisaburo Wakayama's craggy face where you can count all the skin pores and whiskers, and tell me where the damn problem is. As a samurai film aficionado accustomed to putting up with some seriously rotten-looking DVDs, I can testify that the picture quality here is magnificent. These films of Itto Ogami and Daigoro's dark adventures served as the major gateway that got me into jidai-geki about 10 years ago. I hadn't seen all six of them in several years, and I had huge fun revisiting them in HD. Once you get into them, Lone Wolf and Cub movies are like Lay's potato chips: no one can eat just one. So it's convenient to have three films together on each disc, so you can keep on marathoning. I found it hard to rank the individual films in quality, since they're so consistent in their entertainment value, but if I had to pick on favorite it would be number three, Kenji Misumi's Baby Cart to Hades: a complex story structure, interesting supporting characters played by notable actors, and of course bloody torrents of death. So ignore all the spoiled crybaby critics whimpering about DNR and their other first world problems, and enjoy this worthy collection of outstanding chambara classics.

Honorable Mention:
The Samurai Trilogy, Hiroshi Inagaki
The Criterion Collection

Best DVD of 2012

Thirteen Assassins Thirteen Assassins
Eiichi Kudo

In 2012 AnimEigo did samurai film fans a huge favor by releasing the "Samurai Revolution" trilogy of films by Eiichi Kudo. Sure, it would have been nice to get them on Blu-ray, and maybe have some kind of deluxe set of all three movies in one package, but those are petty quibbles. The important thing is that they are now available in English-subtitled editions for the first time in the North American market. The crown jewel of this unofficial trilogy is Thirteen Assassins, the 1963 classic remade in an excellent update by Takashi Miike. The new version may be slicker and more epic, but the original can't be beat for its acting, cinematography and that wild, tension-packed finale sequence. Once again AnimEigo has sourced a flawless print with a black and white scope image so detailed that it virtually looks HD. I'm especially thrilled that this is the first film starring the great Chiezo Kataoka to be released in the U.S. market, not to mention one of the regrettably tiny number of Toei studio classics available here. Little by little let's hope more are on the way.

Honorable Mention:
Eleven Samurai
Eiichi Kudo

Best TV Series of 2012

Game of Thrones Game of Thrones
HBO

After garnering widespread praise and awards in its first season, HBO's medieval suffered a sophomore slump in the eyes of many viewers. As far as I'm concerned, having recently rewatched season two, these critics are about as mentally gifted as Hodor. Critics complained that not much happened in this season, but that's kind of like faulting The Empire Strikes Back for lacking resolution. It was ten hours of spectacular further exploration into a mythology as rich and expansive as the fantasy worlds of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, with many stories yet to unfold. And maybe some viewers were still butthurt over the exit of Sean Bean. But we met so many fascinating new characters, such as Stannis Baratheon, Jaqen H'ghar, Brienne of Tarth and Lady Talisa. I've only partially read the first two books, but from what I can judge, executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have brought considerable improvements to the George R.R. Martin originals. For instance, the whole crucial plot thread about Arya being Tywin Lannister's servant girl never happened in the books. And I can't wrap up this summary without mentioning the battle of Blackwater, where the explosions of green wildfire created the single most memorable hour of television in 2012. By the old gods and the new, I'm loving the hell out of this series.

Honorable Mention:
Breaking Bad, AMC

Best Book of 2012

America Again America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't
Stephen Colbert

Nation! America's #1 leading pundit of conservative truthiness has returned to the literary world with a follow-up to his first volume of wisdom, I Am America (And So Can You!) Which is pretty astounding, considering how much Stephen Colbert (the character) hates books and very notion of reading anything. Typically I don't care much for books penned by comedians, since their delivery and physicality gets lost in cold print. Colbert compensates by using a colorful, image-heavy presentation, not unlike "the USA Today," playing with publishing conventions like footnotes and image captions to spin his humor in styles not possible on television. The book is Stephen's ode to American exceptionalism, tackling the conundrum that America is unquestionably the single greatest, extra-best, most freedom-enriched and awesome country that God has ever given man on the face of the Earth, just like Sean Hannity says, and yet America has also fallen from her past greatness into broken, immoral depravity, and we must act now to take our country back! And yet our nation is still perfect and #1 at the same time! USA! USA! USA! Some choice bits include the listing of "All Time Favorite Luthers" that features Lex Luthor King Jr., the polite letter from a "sourry" Canadian, and this passage on energy policy: "...the way to get this nation back on track is through coal mining, oil drilling, drill mining, coal oiling, oil milling, drill coaling, and droil mllillning." Read it and feel the patriotism churning up in your gut!

Honorable Mention:
Inside HBO's Game of Thrones, Bryan Cogman

Best Video Game of 2012

ToeJam and Earl ToeJam and Earl
PlayStation Network

The funkmasters from outer space are back! ToeJam and Earl was probably the single best game ever made for the Sega Genesis, an endlessly original and entertaining oddity. I let some neighbors borrow my old game cartridge many years ago and never got it back, and at last its 16-bit glory is reproduced exactly on my ridiculously more powerful PS3. No need for an HD makeover or any nonsense like that. This humble game is already perfect in every pixel of its construction. Just a simple game scenario about collecting prizes and spaceship pieces, with an array of oddball variables that create a different gameplay experience every time. Incidentally, I always play as Earl because he looks so funny with his doofus expression and big gut, whereas ToeJam's three-legged walking style has always disconcerted me a bit. I have fond memories of this game being a great way to spend time when you're sick -- you can spend hours in a trance state traversing the levels and outwitting those damn boogeymen and phantom ice cream trucks. Now I almost look forward to the next time I come down with the flu.

Honorable Mention:
Soul Calibur V

Special Achievement in Lardy Goodness

i13 EAT! i13 EAT!
ironman13

Over the last few years I've taken up digital artwork as a hobby, which is one big reason why my volume of output on this Lard Biscuit site has dwindled. It's an odd little community, this world of Poser 3D art, and difficult to explain to outsiders how we purchase characters and accessories to use in our original creations. But anyway, this year a vendor in the Renderosity marketplace released a product that was seemingly custom-made especially for me and my artistic stylings. i13 EAT! is a collections of food props, poses and expressions designed to depict digital ladies enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs. It's absolutely perfect Misty McIntyre and my other heavy-snacking characters as showcased in my deviantART gallery. Thus there was no question that content developer ironman13 should receive a special Lardy in recognition of her outstanding work. Yes, ironman13 is a woman, and a darn cute one from her photos. I salute her, and my characters' full bellies shall do likewise.

Hottest Chick of 2012

Cleo Fernandes Cleo Fernandes

Brazil has become the international hot spot for plus size models, as well as the leading exporter of Lard Biscuit hot chicks. First came Fluvia Lacerda, then Julia Pires, and now the lovely Cleo Fernandes. After struggling with her weight and eating disorders as a teenager, Cleo first got into modeling as a part-time job for extra income. She cites Fluvia Lacerda as a major inspiration whose photos encouraged her to enter the field. Cleo quickly found success and went on to win the crown of Miss Plus Size Brazil 2012 at the age of 24. The sweet-faced brunette stands 5' 9" and weighs 216 pounds, with plush measurements of 44-34-49. "After I started modeling, my point of view about my body began to change," Cleo says. "I was leaving behind that desire of having a skinny body, and began to have my own opinion on beauty, putting aside the social standards. I defend happiness independent of the scale and believe that beauty goes far beyond your dress size!"

Honorable Mention:
Mariesther Venegas

The 2012 Lard Biscuit Person of the Year

Chris Christie Governor Chris Christie

Yes. A Republican is being honored in the Lardy Awards, and not in the Asshole category. In this election year when President Obama represented the Antichrist to the GOP, and everything associated with his administration and the Democratic party had to be torn down, reviled and resisted, there finally came a moment of sanity. It's terrible that it had to be precipitated by a natural disaster, namely the devastation of Hurricane Sandy the week before the election. But in this hour of crisis, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie rose up, set aside the political bullshit and showed what leadership is. He showed that Obama is not the enemy and both parties can work together to solve problems. As they should. "If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don't know me," Governor Christie declared to the friendly friends of Fox and Friends, causing the hosts' little pea brains to explode. God bless the governor for acting like a grownup and serving the best interests of the people who elected him. You know, like democracy is supposed to do.

The 2012 Lard Biscuit Assholes of the Year

The NHL The National Hockey League

Lord knows, in 2012 this distinction could go to any number of prominent figures: John Boener or Todd Akin or Karl Rove or Donald Trump, or countless other contenders. But I'm going to give the election losers a pass and turn to another organization whose dickishness has gone largely ignored. You see, we used to have this sport called hockey. But then the owners and players decided they weren't splitting up their millions properly, so they called the whole thing off. The players were willing to keep playing while the suits worked out a deal, but the owners said, "Naw, let's not." Oh yeah, and they also did this same thing seven years ago. I've never been a big sports guy, but in recent years I've gotten into my local Carolina Hurricanes and became a loyal season ticket mini-plan holder. But all the greed and stubborn idiocy has soured me on the whole idea of dudes on ice skates slapping a hunk of rubber around. At this writing there's talk that a deal is being reached and there will be a shortened season, but like 99.9% of the American public, I don't care. I've cashed out with a refund on my ticket deposit to let the NHL know they can't take this fan's money and loyalty for granted. Fuck you, Gary Bettman. Fuck you, Donald Fehr. Congratulations on shitting all over something I once loved.

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