Sunday, 29 December 2013
Everyone, it is time to raise your IKEA champagne flutes. The red carpet is set on Fulham Road, and the celebs are out in force from The Ephemeric's family to The Ephemeric's cat. The orchestra is warming up in the kitchen nook and the guests are filing in to take their seats on The Ephemeric's two-seater couch. Welcome to the year's most glamorous and esteemed of occasions, The Debbie Awards.
Initially conceived as a way to slag off people we don't like, these awards have since grown into a ceremony greater than the Grammies, Emmies and Latin Grammies combined. So without further ado, let the curtain fall upon 2013 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:
2013 Debbie Awards
Cinema & TV
1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year
Runners Up: House of Cards, Arrested Development
On the surface it may be risqué, vulgar and chauvinistic but after a few episodes spy-movie pastiche Archer reveals itself to be a much smarter affair than is first apparent. The show's razor sharp wit and spot on parodies owe much to the excellent work of its writers, but it's the brilliant metafictional call-backs and in-jokes, reminiscent of shows like Arrested Development or Monty Python, that will keep longtime fans returning. Without a doubt one of the funniest shows on TV and currently at the height of its powers.
Our two joint runners up both hail from the revolutionary new wave of Netflix original programming. First is House of Cards. Featuring the heavyweight talents of David Fincher and Kevin Spacey, this deliciously cynical drama is simply the best political TV show since the West Wing; clever, well acted and inherently watchable.
But Netflix's impressive debut lineup focuses not just on brand new IPs, resurrecting cult classic Arrested Development for a 4th season. While the show's tone and structure may have changed somewhat, focusing on individual characters with little opportunity for the impressive ensemble cast to play off each other as has been the case in previous seasons, the hallmark multi-layered writing of the series is back and even more fiendishly clever than ever. This season's episodes may feel largely isolated, but are so bafflingly and surprisingly intertwined that they simply get better and better with each one, and as with previous seasons, better by orders of magnitude with each repeated viewing.
2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year
Winner: House of Cards
Unsurprising that our runner up for best TV show of the year would also win best new show of the year. House of Cards is not only fantastic television, but a real statement of intent by Netflix exhibiting not only the capacity to produce work of quality, but to attract superstar names. Season 2 duly approaches in 2014, and you would do well to ensure it's top of your list.
3. The Debbie for Film of the Year
While we have yet to see many of the awards season films, The Ephemeric is still very happy to name Gravity as the best movie of 2013. A sublime piece of cinema, beautiful, streamlined, and flawlessly produced, Gravity shows exactly how a film should be made. This is a film that reminds us that intelligent human drama, even with niche subjects like space exploration, can be both worthy of artistic merit and commercially successful. Simultaneously it sets new standards for technical excellence in the production of film, featuring some of the greatest space photography ever used in a film, stunning special effects, and brilliant cinematography.
Music & Theatre
4. The Debbie for Best Theatrical Production of the Year
Winner: The Drowned Man
Runners Up: This House, American Psycho: the Musical
This year's theatre Debbie goes to something truly unique, the latest production from pioneering immersive theatre company Punchdrunk. The Drowned Man sees a fully realised world arranged over 5 storeys of abandoned warehouse, all fully explorable and every inch filled with an impossible attention to detail. The result is something like a haunted house for adults, and one of the most atmospheric settings in which you will ever set foot.
The close runner up is the National's witty political account of 1970s Government This House. Poignant and full of laughs with sharp as a tack satire, the story of gamesmanship and partisan tribalism is eye-opening for its total relevance in today's political landscape.
A late addition as joint runner-up is American Psycho: The Musical. A new West End adaption of the controversial book and film, the musical version emphasises the text's absurd and darkly comic elements to brilliant effect. As a very recent production there is no review yet, but stay tuned, maybe.
5. The Debbie for Worst Theatrical Production of the Year
Winner: In the Republic of Happiness
It may have won this award last year, but In the Republic of Happiness was so damn bad that it warrants the award for another year running. At the same time it raises a legitimate concern; ever since the new artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre took charge last year pretty much every show has been weak at best, abysmal at worst. The Ephemeric feels it is important to highlight this as a potential recurring theme going forward.
6. The Debbie for Album of the Year
Winner: Reflektor - Arcade Fire
Runner Up: The Next Day - David Bowie
Its announcement came as something of a surprise just a few weeks before release, but Arcade Fire's newest album was an absolute triumph, a work of artistic ambition and a daring reinvention of a band accused by many of veering too close to mainstream in recent years. Reflektor is bafflingly brilliant; profound and complex, sounding like nothing else you'll hear this year.
A very close second this year is an album that almost certainly would have taken the top prize but not for the surprise release of the fourth Arcade Fire album. After ten long years David Bowie has returned to the charts with a new album, but what is most surprising is just how fantastic The Next Day is. Far more than just a nostalgia trip for Bowie fans, this album shows that Bowie is still at the forefront of music, a work that is more than comparable to even his best from decades past. It is no coincidence that both our top two albums have had contributions from this man, but this time it's the new generation of artists that pip the old master to the prize.
7. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year
Winner: Sing to the Moon - Laura Mvula
In a year where the music landscape has been much more focused on returning giants like David Bowie, Daft Punk and Arcade Fire, there has been much less in the way of impressive debuts. Of the fairly mediocre assortment one standout is the impressive first album from Laura Mvula, a showcase of an artist with exceptional musical talents. Sing to the Moon straddles genres, not quite jazz or modern electro pop but full of classic soul and a diverse range of musical influences, not to mention one of the most unique voices of a generation.
8. The Debbie for Song of the Year
Winner: Reflektor - Arcade Fire
Runners Up: Free Your Mind - Cut Copy, She - Laura Mvula
The winner of this year's coveted best song Debbie is the all-encompassing lead single from this year's best album. Reflektor is multi-layered and beguilingly inventive in its production, progressing in movements from its dark, winding opening to its euphoric midsection and a stunning symphonic finish. Reflektor is perhaps the single most impressive piece of work in Arcade Fire's already glittering career.
Our first runner up continues Cut Copy's streak of releasing albums with exactly one excellent song, and not a lot else. Free Your Mind is a trippy, euphoric dance anthem that keeps getting better and better as the song goes on, building into a rush of 1960s flavoured harmony and multi-instrumental bliss.
The joint runner up is lead single from Laura Mvula's impressive debut. She is a song of rare beauty, stripped down and low-key with rich vocals that are all the more powerful for the musics restraint until swelling to a great crescendo for the finale.
Videogames & Technology
9. The Debbie for Greatest Technological Innovation of the Year
Winner: Applied Graphene Materials
Graphene has been called, among other things, a miracle substance. This one atom thick configuration of carbon is not only super lightweight but stronger than diamond and bears unique conductive properties. The many potential uses have been proposed in fields including medicine, electronics, energy storage, solar cells, neural connections, drinking water purification and just about anything you can think of; frankly a substance with the potential to revolutionise the industrial world. The trouble is, graphene has typically been very difficult to create. This year various companies, most notably Applied Graphene Materials of Durham University, have started developing methods of large-scale industrial production. If these methods are as effective as forecast we could see some revolutionary advances over the next decade, all thanks to this tiny substance.
10. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year
Winner: Grand Theft Auto V
Runners Up: Bioshock Infinite, Fire Emblem: Awakening
2013 was a very interesting year for videogames. Many of the better ones have been from this new wave of pre-release indie game alphas, such as Kerbal Space Program and Starbound, games which are not technically out and so do not qualify for this award. Sometimes, however, the major AAA release titles do manage to justify their hype. Grand Theft Auto V is one such game. A landmark game, massive in scale and polished to perfection, playable to an almost indefinite extent. GTA V is not just incredible fun to play, but a staggering accomplishment in technical and design terms. Truly one of the great games of all time.
Our first runner up is another major AAA title that received much critical acclaim this year, Bioshock Infinite. While it may have been slightly overrated, and far from perfect, there's no ignoring the stylistic brilliance, the originality of world design that graced this game, not to mention one of the most empathetic characters ever created in a videogame, and one of the finer stories written for a game. Bioshock Infinite is a game of beautiful moments, twisted vistas and stunning musical work that ties into the deep and complex mythos of the game's world while touching on real-world nostalgia in each player. But most of all it is that most rare of things, a game that is truly thought provoking, weeks and months after you've finished playing.
The second runner up is Fire Emblem: Awakening. The newest entry into the Fire Emblem series was the finest of a strong bunch of Nintendo 3DS games this year, and finally took the series into the mainstream in western markets. A deep and finely tuned game of tactics that is nevertheless completely accessible and a joy for anyone to play, but what impresses most is the level of polish and presentation. Possibly the most impressive and absorbing handheld game ever created, a new standard has been set for any which follows.
11. The Debbie for Videogame Console of the Year
Winner: Nintendo 3DS
2013 was certainly the year of the Nintendo 3DS, the best selling of all videogame systems and the top mover of software as the games finally came to a console that had hitherto been lacking in this regard. 2013 saw Super Mario Land 3D, Mario Kart 3D, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Fire Emblem: Awakening and a whole host of other games that achieved mass critical and commercial success, the likes of which no other one console can claim this year.
12. The Debbie for Software Development Firm of the Year
One of the premier firms from the budding Boston tech industry, Apperian has started making serious waves in the mobile app business, notably for recent developments in remote app technology that go beyond even what Apple themselves have produced. Plus they have this up and coming rockstar software engineer on the books, Jeremy something or other.
13. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year
Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid
The question of Leo Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo has been a controversial one. Few would argue that for the past few years Leo Messi has generally been considered the better of the two. But this year we argue that the title has changed hands, and so The Ephemeric awards this most coveted of Debbies to Ronaldo. Blessed with the intelligence, speed and technique of Messi, but with twice the physicality, Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the most complete footballer in the world, and along with Messi will surely be remembered as one of the all time greats.
14. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year
Winner: Romelu Lukaku - Chelsea
Romelu Lukaku is arguably the most feared young footballer in the world. A lethal goalscorer for country and on his two loan moves to West Brom and Everton which have seen him threaten the top goalscoring tables in the English Premier League, Lukaku appears to have all the makings of a world class centre forward. Lukaku has pace, particularly on the turn to beat defenders, and the quality of touch typical of a much more technically oriented player. But what strikes particular fear into the league's defenders is his physicality. The man is almost twice the size of most competitors, described by teammates as being "like shaking hands with a refrigerator". The truly scary part? Lukaku is only just 20 years old.
15. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year
Winner: Jupp Heynckes - Bayern Munich (former)
When it comes to the Debbie for Football Manager of the year there is only one name which comes to mind, former Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes. The man took Bayer Munich from European also-rans to what is generally considered the best club football team in the world. A lethal mix of power, pace and technique, Heynckes Bayern side is typified by eleven players all of whom are total footballers, capable of performing magic on the ball when in possession as well as fighting for the ball when out of it. Barcelona be damned, Bayern Munich have set the standard by which all modern football clubs will now be guided.
Social & Lifestyle
16. The Debbie for Party of the Year
Winner: 100th Anniversary Message in a Bottle Party at Suvretta House
Some parties go beyond simply being awesome, some parties are life changing. When the Suvretta invited a couple dozen lucky 20-somethings to a free party weekend in their resort this March I don't think many people realised quite what they were in for. Skiing, crepe bars and a beach party among the snowy mountains, this was truly the party to end all parties, and for The Ephemeric personally, a life changing event.
17. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year
Runner Up: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Paris, Saint Germain)
Light the torches, The Ephemeric has a new favourite restaurant! Arnolfo is the only two Michelin star restaurant in Tuscany outside of Florence, and it's easy to see what the Michelin judges find so exceptional about the place. Located in the supremely romantic setting of Colle di Val D'Elsa in the hills of Tuscany, with candle lit tables under a naturally growing canopy, Arnolfo is that rare mark of quality in a restaurant that can innovate with bold, unusual dishes and twists on classic staples and execute both perfectly. With a range of set menus to cater to any taste, a delightful à la carte and the ability to handle any dietary requirement, Arnolfo's menu includes dishes such as blue lobster ravioli, trilogy of scampi and risotto with quail breast and pecorino cheese. A must for any trip to Italy.
Our runner up this year is a restaurant commonly considered among the best in the world, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. This particular restaurant has three locations, all of them bearing two Michelin stars. The Ephemeric's particular locale of choice is the Paris, Saint Germain location. The menu is varied, and arguably overpriced, but every single dish tried was among the most delectable things ever eaten. The staff get extra marks for class, chipping in a beautiful free birthday cake.
18. The Debbie for New Restaurant of the Year
Sometimes a restaurant can try too hard too impress, while others are just effortlessly cool. Slabs is a great example of the latter. With its trendy Marylebone location and chic decor Slabs is more than just your average burger kitchen. Their menu runs the gamut from gourmet sliders to lobster, but the best dish is the spanish burger, a beef burger with chorizo, serrano ham, manchego cheese and garlic aioli. Simply finger licking good. Add to this friendly service and a top notch cocktail menu and it's easy to see this place as a fixture in London life for a long time to come.
19. The Debbie for Nightclub of the Year
Winner: Cirque le Soir
Sure, it won this award last year, but it's still the best night club in London. London is celebrated for its club scene, and the standout from this year's crop is Mayfair's Cirque le Soir. Cirque lives up to its name by turning the standard dance club fare into a circus/carnival extravaganza. Costumed dancers, face painters, games, giant popcorn vending machines and all sorts of other craziness create one of the most unique night spots in London.
20. The Debbie for Mixologist of the Year
Winner: Alessandro Palazzi
Another Debbie being taken by the same party for two consecutive years, but few would argue that it is deserved. The Duke's Bar owner Alessandro is famous across London for making Ian Fleming's drinks, and in particular his flair for unique martinis turn heads. Whether he's making his signature Fleming 89 or whipping up some original creation on the spot, there's no finer cocktail around. This year's special creations include the coffee flavoured Blue Mountain martini.
21. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: Barcelona, Spain
This year's destination of choice is Barcelona, Spain. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities on Earth, Barcelona has two main things going for it: its history of daring, progressive creativity which has spawned some of the most groundbreaking art and architecture anywhere in the world, a unique amalgamation of European and African style, and its mediterranean climate along the southern coast of Europe. Barcelona contains some of the most stunning sites of natural beauty in Europe and man-made beauty in the works of its various artists.
22. The Debbie for Wine of the Year
Winner: San Fabiano Calcinaia, Cerviolo 2001
The little-known vineyard of San Fabiano Calcinaia is one of the most under appreciated in Tuscany, and in particular their two main products, the 100% sangiovese Cellole and the heartier Cerviolo, which is 90% sangiovese, rank up there with the very best. This year's number 1 bottle is very hard to come by, the 2001 Cerviolo. 2001 is known as one of the better years for wine in the region, and that year's vintage from this small vineyard is very difficult to find. A delicious, fruity red, deeply warming.
23. The Debbie for Champagne of the Year
Winner: Franck Bonville, Cuvée les Belles Voysec
This year's coveted champagne Debbie goes to a relatively small up and coming house, Franck Bonville. Their winner comes in the form of the stunning blanc de blancs (100% chardonnay) Cuvée les Belles Voyes. Produced from the 2004 harvest, this cuvée is everything that a blanc de blancs should be, rich and complex with hints of pear and vanilla. One of the more delicious champagnes out there, absolute top of the line.
24. The Debbie for Best Dracula Impression
A truly deserved Debbie award for such a dead-on unintentional impression of the Count from Sesame Street. Living proof that people from central Europe do in fact laugh "Ah Ah". Now lets hope all the other vampire stuff was inaccurate.
Well there you have it, another great year, and here's to the next one being even better!