Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Happy holidays all, I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season, somewhere nice and warm like in front of a fire with family and loved ones.
It's easy to forget during all the tinsel and sparkliness of xmas that we are just a few short days away from the biggest party night of the year, New Year's eve. But before the festivities can get underway, we must reflect on the year that has passed and, in this particular year, the decade that has passed.
And so, before I head off to Paris, I will compile my massive review of the "best of" awards from the past year and the past decade in general. Each of these will then be divided into five categories: Cinema & TV, Music & Theatre, Videogames & Technology, Sports & Personal.
It's a massive undertaking, but I will follow it up with a list of the hottest tips for 2010 that you should look out for, as well as a retrospective look at my predictions from last year.
So without further ado, here are the 2009 Debbie Awards:
Best of 2009
Cinema & TV
1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year
Runner Up: Flight of the Conchords
Without a doubt the under appreciated gem of the television world, Entourage reminds us exactly why HBO is the best network out there. A kick ass blend of humor, drama, glamor and the good life, Entourage is back to its best after a shaky previous season. The show continues to follow a hollywood star and his buddies as they attempt to conquer hollywood, and features everything that a good tav show needs; smart writing, great cast and a top soundtrack. Now heading into its 7th season, Entourage is the best show on television.
Sadly this year's runner up, Flight of the Conchords, has come to an end. Vaguely reminiscent of Peep Show, Conchords was quite honestly the funniest thing I've seen for a long time, and at only two seasons of 8 episodes, it's far too short. Then again, considering they have to record a whole album of music for each season it's not entirely inexplicable.
2. The Debbie for Film of the Year
Winner: District 9
Runner Up: Avatar
2009 was the year of good sci-fi, with excellent films like Star Trek not even getting a look in ahead of the competition. Instead, the award goes to the brilliant District 9 which has received universal acclaim for giving us one of the freshest and most original films in years, with one of the best directorial debuts in recent history.
Meanwhile the runners up prize has to go to what is surely the biggest film of the year, James Cameron's latest, Avatar, a breakthrough in cinema technology and a cinematic event like few others.
Music & Theatre
3. The Debbie for Theatrical Production of the Year
Winner: Twelfth Night
Runners Up: A Doll's House
The Donmar followed up their astounding Ivanov production from the end of last year with an equally remarkable portrayal of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, featuring Derek Jacobi as Malvolio and a host of other fine actors.
Also from the Donmar, Gillian Anderson gave an excellent performance in A Doll's House.
4. The Debbie for Album of the Year
Winner: Manners - Passion Pit
Runner Up: Still Night Still Light - Au Revoir Simone
Passion Pit achieved something special this year with Manners, a hyped album that did not disappoint. In doing so, they produced one of the most infectious, catchy, euphoric and downright excellent albums you'll have heard in a long time, with tracks like Moth's Wings and To Kingdom Come. And this from a debut album as well.
Meanwhile, Au Revoir Simone's latest album reached a new high for the band. Elegant and charming, Still Night, Still Light is their most consistent album yet and one of the best of the year. This album runs the gamut from the classic pop of Another Likely Story to the dizzying Only you can Make you Happy and the laid back Take Me As I Am.
5. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year
Winner: Manners - Passion Pit
Runner Up: XX - The XX
Passion Pit already won the best album of the year with their debut effort, so of course they're also going to win the best debut album of the year with their album Manners.
XX, meanwhile, is an album that I am sorry I didn't get around to reviewing on here, but man what an album. The XX bring a fresh, minimalist style that is frankly beautiful in a way that few songs are. In particular they have received acclaim for the single Islands, but VCR also demands a listen.
6. The Debbie for Song of the Year
Winner: Into the Clouds - Sound of Arrows
Runners Up: Snookered - Dan Deacon, Skeletons - Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
It was a year that saw many more good songs than good albums, and it really took me a long time before deciding that Into the Clouds would be my song of the year. It's an ethereal, uplifting joy to listen to that sounds like it's being beamed down to Earth from some higher power, and it whets the appetite for what we can only hope is a full album next year.
Meanwhile close runners up included Dan Deacon's trippy Snookered, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' absolutely dreamy Skeletons and the club anthem of the year I Gotta Feeling, by the Black Eyed Peas, their best song by quite a distance.
Videogames & Technology
7. The Debbie for Technological Innovation of the Year
Winner: Amazon Kindle
A revelation, pure and simple. The day of having a library full of paper books and piles of old newspapers is now a thing of the past. You can have all your books and as many different newspapers as you want right here on a thin, handheld electronic device. As if that was not enough, the screen uses the absolutely fantastic e-ink technology which is effectively the same as printing something with real ink, requires no power to maintain an image and can be read in the exact same lighting conditions as real ink printed pages. Has to be seen to be believed.
8. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year
Winner: The Beatles: Rockband
Runner up: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
It was a pretty slow year for videogames, with Modern Warfare 2 the only release that was particularly hyped up, and most of my modest videogaming time was instead spent playing games from 2008 like Fallout 3, and your standard annual fare like Fifa and Football Manager.
One game, however, was impossible not to fall head over heels in love with, the Beatles: Rockband. This perfect celebration of the greatest band of all time was a joy for all the senses and definitely the game this year which above all others earned that pricey fee.
Meanwhile, Modern Warfare 2 is my runner up. It was, ultimately, a fun well made game, but full of technical bugs (on the PC version anyway) and was so brainless that I honestly felt stupider for having played it.
Sports & Personal
9. The Debbie for Party of the Year
Winner: New Years at the Crillon
Few things compare to a new years eve balcony party overlooking the Place de Concorde. Retro party masks and free vintage Veuve-Clicquot is the clincher here.
10. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year
Winner: O Ya
Runners Up: Hakkasan, Vingt-Quatre
It was a very dark year for food, following the closure of my favorite restaurant in the world, Gallopapa. It turns out that having a restaurant in the lamp lit tunnels under a tiny town in Tuscany is not particularly lucrative, no matter how absurdly awesome and pretty it is.
However there is much great food to be had in this world of ours, and the pick of this year's selection is without a doubt O Ya, from Boston, Massachusetts in the US. This small, unassuming sushi place, located in an old firehouse, produces some of the most mindblowingly fantastic sushi you will ever taste. Honestly, to compare it to other sushi restaurants feels somehow fraudulent, because it is just so different, and so amazing. The highlight is the La Ratte potato chip with black truffle sushi, like a pure distillation of what heaven tastes like.
Meanwhile, Hakkasan is an old favorite that never disappoints, and Vingt-Quatre, the 24 hour bistro in Chelsea has been my saving grace so many times this year at 3am after a night of drinking that frankly it has to be mentioned (the food is fantastic too).
11. The Debbie for Douchebag of the Year
Runner Up: Ben Fitzgerald
Fast on their way to becoming the "Myspace" of social news websites, Digg continued its odd strategy of selling out to the unwashed masses whilst simultaneously giving all the actual power to a select few 'power users'. The final straw came with a series of incidents in which entire college dorms and people who logged in via public computers found their accounts mysteriously deleted without any official word.
And Ben… you're just a douchebag, seriously you're such a douchebag.
12. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year
Winner: Lionel Messi
Runner Up: Fernando Torres
Looking at the current crop of football players there is one that stands head and shoulders (not literally in this case) above the rest, in terms of both pure talent and consistency over the entire year. Lionel Messi, the little Argentinian wizard is the best of the "new Maradonas" that have popped up every few years, and even at his tender young age, the best player in the world right now.
Picking a runner up was very difficult, but in the end the award has to go to the man who, when fit, is simply the most unstoppable striker in Europe. Torres not only has the pace and the skills, but the immense strength that can batter through opposition defences.
13. The Debbie for Nightclub of the Year
Winner: Absolut Icebar
Runner Up: Grace Bar
It may be a bit of a gimmick, but no one can deny that the Absolut Icebar is damn fun, and a beautiful place to get hammered. Meanwhile Grace Bar needs to make the list after the great halfway dinner there.
14. The Debbie for Book of the Year
Winner: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - William Kamkwamba
An inspiring and hard to believe story that also happens to make a damn good read.
Best of the Decade
Cinema & TV
15. The Debbie for TV Show of the Decade
Winner: Arrested Development
Runner Up: Life on Mars (UK edition)
There really is just nothing that compares to Arrested Development as a TV show. The calibre of writing in this show has never even come close to being matched. And it's not just because it's extremely funny and extremely smart. It's the attention to detail with every single character, every single word of dialogue, with all the songs featured in the show having been written specially for the show, and it's the unique style with which it is done. But above all, it's that by the time you reach the end of the series you see that they clearly had every detail of the show mapped out from the start, with every episode peppered with injokes and omens of things that happen years later. It's brilliantly self referential and really a staggering accomplishment.
Frankly, most British TV shows are pure crap like Skins, however every once in a while they throw up a real gem, like Fawlty Towers or the Office, or in this case, Life on Mars which might just be the best of the bunch. This is one of those sublime shows in which everything is pretty much perfect; great cast, direction, awesome soundtrack, fantastic writing that mingles expertly between funny and serious, and also that intangible quality of genius that the best TV shows have.
16. The Debbie for Film of the Decade
Winner: Donnie Darko (2001)
Runner Up: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Now this was a very difficult one to choose, but in the end in a decade with far too many wonderful films, I decided to give the grand prize to Donnie Darko. This is just one of those films that I can watch over and over. It has everything, humour, suspense great direction and top performances from the entire cast, from the star Jake Gyllenhal to the supporting cast of Maggie Gyllenhal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, and the list goes on. The soundtrack is sublime and the whole package is just an incredible, darkly comic, trippy, and epic emotional experience.
The runner up is a film that is almost as good. Starring the always underrated Jim Carrey and oscar winner Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine is probably the trippiest film you will ever see, in a good way. But more than that it is intelligent and moving, touching viewers on a core level. Thought provoking, well made and well acted, Eternal Sunshine is an utterly beguiling journey with few equals.
Music & Theatre
17. The Debbie for Theatrical Production of the Decade
Runner Up: Ivanov
The best thing I have ever seen in the theatre has got to be Frost/Nixon, as directed by Sam Mendes and starring the same cast as in the film, in its original Donmar production. Frost/Nixon tells the story of the David Frost interviews with Richard Nixon, one of history's great personal battles.
The close runner up, and this is very close indeed, is last year's Ivanov, a great play by Anton Chekov, made better by excellent performances by Kenneth Branagh, and the underrated Kevin McNally, and top direction from Michael Grandage.
18. The Debbie for Album of the Decade
Winner: By the Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers (2002)
Runner Up: Hot Fuss - The Killers (2004)
The Red Hot Chili Peppers surely hit their peak with By the Way, one of those rare albums where every single song is great, whether it is the titular By the Way, or the chilled tones of Dosed, or the funky rock of Can't Stop, there's something for everyone.
Meanwhile, The Killers have emerged as one of the biggest bands in the world in recent years, and it all kicked off with the impressive debut showing of Hot Fuss. Last year's Day & Age may have been musically superior in some ways, but Hot Fuss was really a revolution, and also contains two of the biggest and best songs of the decade in All These Things I've Done, and of course, Mr. Brightside.
19. The Debbie for Song of the Decade
Winner: Wham City - Dan Deacon (2007)
Runner Up: Mr. Brightside - The Killers (2004)
You either love it or hate it, but Wham City is a simply incomparable track. At 11 minutes long, this masterpiece sounds like information overload at first until you realise how perfectly placed each and every note in this song is. This is as close to the zen of pure musical bliss as anyone has ever gotten, an epic, trippy journey.
Mr. Brightside, on the other hand is a song that everyone loves. In fact there are few songs in existence that provoke such a universally positive reaction like this whenever you hear it being played at a club or a party, even now years after it was released. When this song plays, everyone in the house goes wild, and there's a reason for that.
Videogames & Technology
20. The Debbie for Technological Innovation of the Decade
Winner: Facebook (2004)
Runner Up: iPhone (2007)
Few things have changed the world in recent times as Facebook has. Suddenly the entire planet appears small, as friends and family everywhere can easily stay completely up to date with the details of each others' lives. But that's not even the end of it. With apps, gifts, events and the tendency to become reunited with old friends from as far back as pre-school, Facebook has become an integral part of many people's lives, for better or for worse, and now as important a part as brushing your teeth in the morning and eating breakfast is checking Facebook.
The iPhone, meanwhile, has made Star Trek style technology a reality. Versatile, handheld and with a big beautiful touch screen, there is not a single person anywhere who didn't say 'wow' when they first laid their hands on this.
21. The Debbie for Videogame of the Decade
Winner: Half Life 2 (2004)
Runners up: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004), Rock Band 2 (2008)
On the other hand, it was a pretty damn incredible decade for videogames. The winner I have chosen (this was an easy one) Is Half Life 2. Valve really take their sweet time when making a game, but boy is it worth the wait. Half Life 2 is a technical marvel, with graphics which were way ahead of its time, and still look good today. It also gave the world a revolution in terms of game physics, and even made it a key part of the game's gameplay with the gravity gun. Most important of all though, is the fact that unlike every other game ever, this game is simply pure joy from the first minute to the last, thanks to expert pacing and the introduction of fresh new gameplay features right up until the last level, where most other games throw it all at the player in the first level. One of the best games of all time.
Choosing the runners up was difficult though, mostly because the best games were those which expanded upon innovations from earlier games. For example, Grand Theft Auto III was an amazing step forward in open world sandbox games, one which has inspired a whole genre of copycats, but Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the better game, and the absolute epitome of the genre so far. It was brilliant fun, but also gave us a game world so huge it has never since been equalled, with three huge cities and miles of countryside in between. Even more impressive was the level of customisation, letting you work out and eat, thus changing the physical dimensions of your character, as well as choosing the haircut, wardrobe, designing your own cars, etc. But the best thing about this game was the introduction of stats for absolutely everything. Drive around your car for a while and you become a better driver, use one gun a lot, and you become more proficient, it adds a whole new dimension to the sandbox genre.
Meanwhile my second runner up was Rock Band 2. As before, credit must go to Guitar Hero for being the real innovator, but Rock Band 2 is the most perfect realisation of this genre so far, with full band play and a huge, expandable song list that is larger than most people's music libraries.
Sports & Personal
22. The Debbie for Party of the Decade
Winner: James' 18th Birthday Party
Some nights have it all; people falling down the stairs, beds and doors coming off their hinges, 4am pasta cook offs, and all topped off with a rousing call to arms of Churchillian epicness, lest we forget to tango with "the Captain".
23. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Decade
Runner Up: O Ya
Gallopapa is probably the best restaurant I have ever been to, the service, the location, the small appetisers and treats. But of course the most important thing is the food, there is no other restaurant that I will eat absolutely everything on the menu, no matter how weird it sounds, and it will be as awesome as it is here. Unfortunately it has now closed, but rest assured I am keeping tabs of the chef to find out where he reappears, and he will.
24. The Debbie for Douchebag of the Decade
Winner: George W. Bush
Runner Up: Guy who tried to steal $200 from me on eBay (and failed)
You really can't say enough about this absolute disgrace to the office of President, a man who almost destroyed the country, squandered the largest surplus in history, lied to and manipulated voters, effectively froze scientific progress with his luddite policies and led to the needless death of thousands. The undisputed most disastrous administration in history has resulted in what is widely known as "the lost decade" and now "the lost generation" who are unemployed and in debt because of this jackass. His name doesn't deserve to appear in this article in bold.
25. The Debbie for Footballer of the Decade
Winner: Zinedine Zidane
Runners Up: Ronaldinho, Frank Lampard
Not only was Zinedine Zidane a good player, he will go down as an all time great. This man had pace, skills, strength, absolutely everything. But more important than any of that is 'genius', pure and simple. Zidane was one of those players who was always 10 steps ahead of his opponents, knew the exact location of every player on the pitch at any one time, and had the technique to hit a pitch perfect pass from anywhere on the pitch. Top class.
Ronaldinho, on the other hand, was just a pure joy to watch during his peak. This man could pull off tricks, flicks and dummies that you simply could not believe, with some of the best technique you will ever have seen. As unpredictable as he was effective. What's more, he always played with a smile on his face, this was a player who epitomised "the beautiful game". Meanwhile Frank Lampard has to earn a place as a runner up simply for showing the kind of immense goal scoring ability that no midfielder has ever had before. Not just did he win the player of the year award for the English national team 4 years in a row, not only did he score more than 20 goals a season from midfield for 6 years in a row, not only has he been decorated with every domestic personal award, but this man pulled the strings in the Chelsea midfield, one of the most successful teams of the decade, and somehow managed to outshine each and every one of his teammates, even in a squad of 30 million pound world beaters.
26. The Debbie for Book of the Decade
Winner: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
Murakami is an absolutely fantastic author, whose power lies in the ability to convey deep meaning in subtle and deceptively simple language. An easy read and a good read, the Wind-up Bird Chronicle is probably the best of his numerous trippy and mind expanding books.
Well there you have it, it's been a pretty damn good decade, and a fairly mediocre 2009. I have a good feeling that 2010 is going to be something pretty special, read on to the next article to find out why.