LA Weekly Web Awards 2012: The Winners!
So the center of the tech universe is still in Northern California. Big deal. Facebook's in freefall; the iPhone 5 is a snooze. Yes, innovation continues to matter, but these days, it's less about the platform and more about the content.
On that front, L.A. is king. The top YouTube stars live here. The funniest comedians record their podcasts here. And have you checked out just how many L.A. musicians and writers are killing it on Twitter?
Our third annual Web Awards celebrate the projects and people who bring joy to our screens — whether those are bulky old desktops or sleek new phones.
We thank the judges who volunteered their time to help us choose them: Tony Pierce, Adam Lisagor, Willy Blackmore, Jo Stougaard, Kevin Bronson, Mitchell Frank, Shira Lazar, Ze Frank and Nancy Miller, we tip our hats to you. And to the winners, we salute you. Thanks for making the online world such a fun, interesting place.
Readers Choice: Best Podcast
Reader favorite How Did This Get Made? features hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas gleefully vivisecting Hollywood's lowlights with a cavalcade of guests. Their targets range from such recent big-budget dross as Spider-Man 3 ("Peter Parker and Mary Jane have the chemistry of two sacks of wet dogshit") to such dusty drivel as 1988's E.T. rip-off Mac & Me ("The aliens look like if Dizzy Gillespie got caught in a fire"). The crew's obvious joy in plumbing the depths of each flick's awfulness makes this one of the most consistently entertaining listens around.
Readers Choice: Best YouTube Star
We can't feign surprise that our readers voted Freddie Wong "Best YouTube Star" — Wong's two YouTube channels have earned more than 4.5 million subscribers and 800 million page views. With fellow USC grad Brandon Laatsch, Wong has mastered the art of creating high-quality, low-budget shorts with special effects to rival most Hollywood blockbusters. And, as the Weekly's Paul T. Bradley reported in a profile earlier this year, Wong isn't just an FX genius — he's also a nice guy. Many of his videos explain to fans how to pull off the kind of stunts he's perfected.
Readers Choice: Best Web Series
Following the adventures of a body-swapping badass, Bammo's sci-fi series Sync is an ultra-violent master class in what VFX software and dedicated stuntmen can pull off nowadays. Directed by Corridor Digital's Sam Gorski and Niko Pueringer, Sync's wildly ambitious action sequences belie the modest web series' budget. Subscribers anxiously await the release of each new episode, eager to see another tongue-in-cheek blast of pure, kinetic ass-kicking.
Best Neighborhood Blog
This blog breaks a ton of news — it's not uncommon to see it cited in larger news outlets — and it does so with a panache befitting the community it covers. Just reading a few posts should make it clear that WeHo is not all fancy restaurants and fabulous clubs. One judge writes, "I followed when I lived in West Hollywood, and still follow now from Echo Park. It's really the best way to keep up on late-breaking tranny disputes, Burger King robberies and streets that have cars with bodies buried in the trunk. I credit WeHo Daily with the realization that I really needed to move. Not that I don't get homesick."
Best Online Do-Gooder
"It started it off with $45, a camera, a laptop, YouTube and Twitter," says Mark Horvath. It became InvisiblePeople.tv, a series of simple interviews that serves as a startling snapshot of modern homelessness. (For more, read our full profile of Mark Horvath and InvisiblePeople.tv.)
Best Breaking News Source
Judges gave high marks to runner-up @LAist but acknowledged that no one does it better than Harvey Levin and his crew of dedicated scandalmongers. Whether it's Lindsay Lohan's endless brushes with the law or Prince Harry cavorting naked in Las Vegas, juicy celebrity scandal rarely breaks anywhere else first. As one judge notes, "I read @LAist every day, but for breaking news, you have to give it to the multimillion-dollar celebrity news source that knew Michael Jackson was dead before God did."
Best Sports Blog
When the Southland came down with a case of hockey fever watching the Kings take home the Stanley Cup this year, there was no better place to follow the team than John Hoven's Mayors Manor. Hoven, a longtime sports writer and freelancer, is "the perfect combination of seasoned pro and passionate fan, giving you a view of Kings so close to the ice you can feel the body checks against the boards," one judge reports.
Best L.A. Personality Twitter
A comedian who writes for a Disney Channel show we've never heard of (umm, A.N.T. Farm, anyone?) Megan Amram just happens to be so hilarious that no fewer than 266,000 people follow her every word on Twitter. "Anyone who doesn't request unlimited salad and breadsticks as their last meal is an idiot," she tweeted recently, to the delight of our judges. Also: "Siri, FIND MY SON." Writes one judge, "Megan Amram has never put out an unfunny tweet in her life." Judges also praised her "staggeringly bad, perfectly hideous Twitter avatar," which earned the public distaste of no less than Rosie O'Donnell.
Best Public Safety Twitter
One judge explains the obsessive following for this Twitter feed. "I don't sit around at night waiting for Mad Men or Breaking Bad to come on. I wait for the moment that #scanneron scrolls by on my Twitter feed. That's the moment when @LAScanner begins performing, encapsulating the weird, wild world of nighttime crime in Los Angeles in 140-character bursts — it's a glimpse that's invariably hilarious and slightly terrifying." Adds another, "@LAScanner recently put his breaking news into Twitter-perfect poetry — rhymed and everything. I mean, do you know how hard it is to find a word that goes with 'stabby'?"
Best L.A. City App
A companion to the Hammer Museum's "Made in L.A." 2012 biennial, this free app provides geo-located audio segments featuring the city's up-and-coming artists talking about what makes Los Angeles great. If you're close to a site they're talking about, the commentary plays; otherwise, you get a soundtrack of tunes by, yes, local musicians. The app was a clear winner with our judges. One says, "It gives L.A. the arts and culture narrative we don't get credit for having."
Javier has posted more than 1,500 photos to date and earned almost as many followers. Our judges give him marks for both his artistic eye and the depth of his coverage. In the words of one, "Murals, street scenes, people, details and even Jack White's recent pop-up show at Mariachi Plaza? Javier has it covered, con sabor." (For more, read our profile of Javier Gullien.)
Best Arts & Culture Site
It's easy to see why our judges loved this website, created by local indie TV station KCET. On one recent visit, we found everything from a story about origami to a defense of embattled MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch and the idea of art as entertainment. Writes one judge, "The sheer amount of territory covered by KCET's Artbound is admirable." Adds another, "Who said 'public' and 'local' were over? Artbound curates the best and most offbeat the city of L.A. has to offer."
By startup standards, BakeSpace may be entering its teenage years, but its innovative spirit and social media savvy still exemplify everything we love about L.A.'s growing Silicon Beach startup scene. As one judge writes, "I can't find a single downside to this user-friendly, mouth- watering, recipe-swapping site, except that the iPad app is damned hard to use while you're wearing oven mittens."
Best Fashion Blog
A street-style photography blog, Streetgeist was born in Greece but moved to Los Angeles with its founders in 2010. Its well-shot photos make the case that L.A. has style to spare — and no, we're not talking about the cliché of Ugg boots and Juicy sweatsuits. "It's a simple, elegant photo blog that somehow makes you want to start a conversation with its subjects, on the pretense, of course, of eventually stealing their clothes," one judge writes.
Best Sex Blog
This sometime L.A. Weekly contributor has an exotic background (born in Peru, raised in the Northern Mariana Islands and educated, in part, in Hawaii), as well as an elegant take on all things sexy. Flox doesn't update her personal blog as much as we'd like, but she's still an active presence on Twitter, and her sex-positive worldview comes through clearly on blogher.com, where she edits the Love & Sex section. Says one judge, "A.V. shares and says all those things we ladies are too afraid to say. Her blog bares all, from fantastical fiction to her own real-life sexual escapades!"
Best Musician Twitter
The Hollywood-based rap artist formerly known as Jody Christian is so funny on Twitter that the Weekly's music columnist Jeff Weiss recently declared him, definitively, "more entertaining than you are." (Sadly, it's true.) One judge explains his vote for Riff Raff thus: "People will email me his tweets." Another judge offers an example that made him laugh: "WAS YOUR FATHER A PiRATE ? ... BECUZ i COULD DRAW A TREASURE MAP ON YOUR FOREHEAD."
Best Musician Instagrammer
Malia James of the Dum Dum Girls
Writes one judge, "I realize the chances are slim that I'll ever (A) be a Dum Dum Girl, or (B) hang out with the Dum Dum Girls. But Malia James' Instagram keeps the dream alive." Another explains, "She actually takes pictures, as if she knows her iPhone camera works with the lens facing outward onto something or someone else." What, there are options other than duck-face self-portraits?
Best Musician Online Presence
Our judges gave the nod in this category to Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt. (Note to haters: We know, we know, you're sick of us writing about this group — but what can we say? They're good at just about everything, from music to, well, maintaining their online presence.) "Earl Sweatshirt has the optimal carrot/stick approach to interacting with fans online," one judge explains. "He doesn't RT compliments, which a surprising number of successful people still seem to do."
Best Food Blog
There were many worthy finalists, but judges preferred KCRW's Good Food site, run by restaurateur, radio host and cookbook author Evan Kleiman. Writes one, "Kleiman is the mother of our food-loving, restaurant-obsessed community." Asks another, "Where else are you going to find a recipe for wild elderberry hand pies?"
Best Food Twitter
Formerly personal chef to Michael Jackson and the restaurateur behind Culver City's sophisticated, vegetarian-friendly Akasha, Akasha Richmond earns raves for her presence on Twitter. "Akasha's tweets show all aspects of a chef's life," one judge says. "From visits to farmers markets, new dishes in her kitchen to her travels abroad." Adds another, "She not only shares the going-ons in her own kitchen but great organic recipes and pics."
Best Food Instagrammer
The Pinoy Panda
OK, so everyone loves to make fun of photo-snapping food obsessives, but it's impossible to sneer when the experience is as exuberant as with the Instagrammer known only as Remil, aka the Pinoy Panda. One judge writes, "He dines all over Los Angeles, from Josiah Citrin's Mélisse to Pondahan Filipino restaurant in a West Covina strip mall. And he Instagrams every bite."
Best Bar Blogger
Caroline on Crack
"Thirsty and opinionated, Caroline on Crack is always a dependable resource about booze in L.A.," says one judge. Writes another, "Need a new bar recommendation? Want to know who serves L.A.'s best cocktails? Caroline will have the details first." She is, they conclude, both thirsty and spirited.
Best Online Food Presence
Kogi BBQ Truck
Duh. The food truck that did it first still does it best, with social media maven Alice Shin providing tweets that combine truck locations with links to quirky blog posts by ever-buzzy chef Roy Choi. Writes one judge, "Alice Shin puts all other restaurant blogs to shame. No one does it better." Seconds another, "The brand that started the food truck movement continues to impress and engage online. Plus, their tacos are damn tasty!"
See a full list of finalists for the LA Weekly Web Awards here. Congrats again to all winners and finalists!
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