In 2001 DVD Talk was fortunate to add a number of very talented reviewers and columnists to our staff. Each of them has come up with his/her own 2001 top DVD list, each with a different take on which DVDs were most notable this past year. We encourage you to check them all out, because in a year with so many amazing DVDs, it's really impossible to have one definitive 'best of' list that covers them all.
Read The DVD Talk Reviewers and Columnists take on the Top DVDs of 2001 :
DVD Talk Main Best of 2001 Page
Brian R. Boisvert
Glenn Erickson (DVD Savant)
G. Noel Gross (CineSchlock-O-Rama) (list coming 1/4)
Each year I sit down with the very difficult task of putting together my own top DVD list. There are so many reasons to both include and exclude movies from this list, it's hard to settle on 10 films that, for whatever reason, should be considered 'the best'. There are a number of films which I fell in love with on DVD in 2001 which didn't make this list (The Road Home and Wonder Boys to name a few) and I plan to do a more comprehensive review of the DVDs from 2001 in my column Our Week in DVDs and Movies. But in the end, everyone likes to see that all important top 10 list (I admit, I like them myself).
So here it is. I'm sure if I sat down on another day this list would come up a bit different, and I'm sure in a week or so, after reading DVD Talk Member feedback I'll realize that I've both included DVDs that are near to your hearts and missed some. Having said all that, here are my personal top 10 DVDs from 2001. - Geoffrey Kleinman
DVD of The Year:
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
My #1 pick for 2001 is an example of an amazing DVD for a movie that was less than amazing. With Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Lucasfilm creates the blueprint for the ultimate DVD, one which many DVDs will surely follow. Although I have my issues with the movie itself, Star Wars Episode 1 DVD looks and sounds amazing, sporting a THX EX audio track which will blow you away. There once was a time where deleted scenes were rough and raw scraps from cutting room floors, but the Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace DVD takes the concept of the deleted scene to a new level. Lucasfilm spent over $4 million in production costs on this DVD (including doing production on the deleted scenes) and it shows. For me the biggest payoff of their investment is the integrated 'Lap 2' deleted scene in the Pod Race Scene; it makes one of the most exciting races I've seen on film even better. The gem of this DVD though is the hour long making of feature 'Episode 1 - The Beginning' which gives an open and honest look at how George Lucas works. It's a stunning documentary which gave me some real insight into the first chapter of the Star Wars series. Love or hate the film, the DVD is simply the most impressive thing we've seen this year.
Citizen Kane: Special Edition
Citizen Kane has always been on my top 10 movies of all time list, and so I was extremely excited this year when it was released on DVD. Warner Bros. gave Citizen Kane the DVD release it truly deserved with an immaculate transfer, two exceptional commentaries (one by director Peter Bogdanovich and another by film critic Roger Ebert) and a 113 minute documentary 'The Battle Over Citizen Kane'.
As with Dark City, Roger Ebert shows he is the 'master' of film commentaries, and his insight into the film brought out things I've never seen in a movie I've seen at least 15 times. 'The Battle Over Citizen Kane' does an amazing job of contexting the film in the real world battle between Orson Wells and William Randolph Hurst and really shows what a miracle it was that the film ever got shown to anyone. What's most important is that Citizen Kane is now truly preserved in an impressive DVD that will be accessible for generations to come.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Special Edition
It's very easy to take some movies for granted. For me Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs had always gotten grouped in my mind with movies like Cinderella and Peter Pan, but I never really realized how 'important' a film it was until I sat down and watched the breath-taking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Special Edition. Disney has done an amazing job bringing together a wealth of information and content as well as tell the story of why Snow White was such an amazing breakthrough accomplishment. Aside from the dizzying array of special features, Snow White looks and sounds amazing. I understand why Disney has seen Snow White as the crown jewel of the Disney family, and the DVD is simply a must-own.
I missed Moulin Rouge in the theaters, and eagerly awaited its release on DVD. I wondered how well this big musical would translate to the smaller world of the home theater. I was blown away at how well Fox presented Moulin Rouge on DVD. The picture of Moulin Rouge is bright, crisp and full of vivid colors. It's a flawless transfer which is truly reference quality. The audio was equally impressive with a rich and full DTS track that kept pace with both the music and the dialogue. Fox filled the 2 DVD release of Moulin Rouge with a treasure trove of special features which look at almost every single aspect of how Moulin Rouge was made. There are some real gems here from clips of the director and screenwriter acting out some of the scenes to extended multi-cam versions of some of the dance scenes. Moulin Rouge is one of those packed DVDs where quality was never sacrificed for quantity and the big screen experience was captured and reproduced for the home theater.
Almost Famous: Untitled - Special Edition
I knew from the get-go that Almost Famous Untitled would make my top 10 list for 2001. It was one of my favorite films of 2000, and with 39 additional minutes it was like supersizing an order of hot crispy french fries. With all the deleted scenes on DVDs it's clear that more movie isn't always better, but in the case of Almost Famous, the additional integrated scenes truly make a great movie even better. Additional footage aside, the real reason Almost Famous makes my top 10 list is the exceptional commentary track with Director Cameron Crowe and his mom, Alice Crowe. In 2001 I listened to enough bad commentary tracks that I was beginning to dread them, but Almost Famous restored my faith that a great commentary track can be as entertaining as the movie itself, and sometimes even more!
Unbreakable : Vista Series
I think a lot of people had extremely high and possibly unrealistic expectations for Unbreakable because it was the first 'Vista' film, which is too bad. No matter what you call a Special Edition DVD (Vista, Infinnifilm, Platinum), it's all just a fancy way of saying that a studio put more time and attention into the added features than the regular DVD. What makes Unbreakable such a fantastic DVD is how the special features provide the context to really appreciate this fantastic film. Nowhere is this more apparent than the info packed 'making of' feature which completely changed the way I saw this film. Complimented with a short feature on comic book heros, the special features are like the liner notes on an album that changed the entire meaning of your favorite song. In addition to the 'making of' material, I also found the deleted scenes to be extremely interesting and enjoyable. M. Night Shyamalan does a great job introducing the deleted scenes and convinced me that deleted scene intros are the way to go (verses deleted scene commentary). Unbreakable is one of those rare films which is made better by the content on the DVD.
Stanley Kubrick Collection: Remastered
There's no getting around it, the first Stanley Kubrick Collection was immensely disappointing. When I popped in The Shining (non-remastered edition) and saw the print, I was mortified. As disappointed as I was the first time around is as satisfied I am with the Remastered box set, the highlight of which is the magnificently restored 2001: A Space Odyssey which in both picture and sound bring this classic Kubrick film up to the level of many films out today. The Shining looked dreadful the last time around, but now looks and sounds fantastic in the remastered edition, and went from one of the worst restorations to one of the better. The real reason to get the new Kubrick Box is Jan Harlan's A Life in Pictures, a wonderful 140 minute journey through the life of one of the greatest and most misunderstood directors of our time.
Requiem For A Dream: Unrated SE
Many people probably opted to skip Requiem For A Dream due to its extreme depictation of drug abuse. It's not an easy film to watch, but it is a brilliant one, and so is Artisan's DVD release. Requiem is one of those 'tough' films that need a second viewing. The first time around it's so easy to be shocked, disturbed and grossed out to catch any of the subtleties of the film. Requiem's Special features are all aimed at providing a deeper understanding of what's going on in the film and how it was done. Of particular note is the 35 min making of, which is a great 'raw' look at the experience of making Requiem. It's rare for a Director to have such an open look at his creative process and the Requiem 'making of' really does let you be a fly on the wall for some of the key scenes. Deepening that understanding is a strong commentary track from Darren Aronofsky, who also provides commentary on 9 deleted scenes.
Hedwig and The Angry Inch
When I first saw Hedwig and The Angry Inch at the Sundance Film Festival, Hedwig Director/Creator John Cameron Mitchell hinted at an extensive making of he was working on for the DVD. I had no idea how extensive that feature would be until I got the DVD. That documentary '"Whether You Like It or Not: The Story of Hedwig" is a phenomenal 83 min look at the complete genesis of Hedwig, from concept through release. After watching the documentary I was convinced that a single comprehensive documentary is the way to go on DVD verses a collection of 7 or 8 different featurettes. In addition to the documentary, Hedwig features an entire deleted sequence which could have easily fit back into the film (it's that strong). Hedwig is an odd and fascinating film, and together with its extensive documentary, it's one of this year's best DVDs.
When pulling together a list of the best movies of 2001, it was easy to start with the movies with great special features, best commentaries, great deleted scenes. That's why I feel a little funny about naming Desperado: Superbit, a movie with no special features, as our #10. But Desperado: Superbit was an important and stunning DVD. Columbia Tri-Star went out on a limb with their Superbit series and Desperado clearly delivered on their promise of amazing picture and sound. The improvement between the initial release of Desperado and the Superbit release are so striking I found that I could hear elements in the audio track that I had never heard before.