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Best DVDs of 2002
by Aaron Beierle

Top Ten DVD’s of 2002

It's been an interesting year for the DVD format. While the early part of the year was fairly dry, the Summer brought with it some stronger releases and Winter really delivered the hits. New Line's 4-DVD edition of "The Lord of the Rings" is the finest DVD set I've seen in this or any other year, while TV on DVD also took off this year in a major way. Still, problems occured ("Back to the Future" framing issues) and some films ("Indiana Jones" trilogy, the original "Star Wars" films) are still not out, nor do they appear to be that close to a release (although the "Indiana Jones" series may hit for Christmas 2003). Next year will really be a key year in how DVD proceeds in the future (studios will hopefully start to educate more about the benefits of widescreen! One can hope they will, at least), as more and more players are being sold (and more and more people seem fed up with the moviegoing experience, which costs more than the average DVD). There's also the smaller battle between the multi-channel music formats, as more and more players are starting to offer one, the other or both (I have one, can't afford to get the other). SACD currently is putting out a more interesting selection of titles, but some stronger DVD-Audio releases have been appearing lately, as well. Still, for all of the ups and downs that have occured in the DVD world over the past year, I'm excited for next year, as I do see room (and potential) for exciting improvements.

1) The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition (New Line)
This is, for me, the easiest choice of the entire list. The best DVD that I've seen from this year (or any other year, for that matter), this "Extended Edition" of "Lord of the Rings" not only offers a great improvement on the film itself (the addition of thirty important minutes, complete with newly done score), but the supplements included are both incredibly entertaining and remarkably informative, taking the viewer through the entire production process with four commentaries and six hours of documentaries. After being even more impressed with the second film in the trilogy ("The Two Towers", now in theaters), I can't wait for that film to reach the DVD format.

2) In The Mood For Love: Special Edition (Criterion)
Wong Kar-Wai's dazzling romantic drama gets the full Criterion treatment, with a stellar transfer and a great deal of supplements. The cinematography is remarkable and the performances are award-worthy. The second disc's supplements are revealing and insightful, providing a great look at how this fantastic film was skillfully crafted.

3) The Usual Suspects: Special Edition (MGM)
One of my favorite films of all time, "The Usual Suspects" finally got the treatment it deserved earlier this year with this new "Special Edition". Not only have the film's audio and video been improved over prior editions with a new anamorphic widescreen presentation and 5.1 audio, but more supplements have been produced. Aside from the hilarious and highly enjoyable commentary with director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie that has been in existence since the film's laserdisc, we get a new commentary from composer/editor John Ottman, documentaries and much more.

4) The Project Greenlight Box Set (Miramax Home Video)
I've found few things more entertaining all year than catching up with this HBO series on DVD. The 12-episode series focuses on Matt Damon, Chris Moore and Ben Affleck's "Project Grenlight" screenwriting contest, where winner Pete Jones was selected out of thousands of entries to make his own film. The only problem? Pete Jones has never directed before and thinks that, even on a $1.5m budget, anything is possible. Every episode brings a new nightmare that Jones must face and, at the end of it all, there's the movie: "Stolen Summer", a movie that, by the looks of the events of the documentary, must have been edited together by a powerful blend of magic and luck. Miramax's 4-DVD set also offers "Stolen Summer"; while not a great film, I found it pretty interesting to watch after completing viewing of all of the episodes of the series. There's also a fourth disc of "Greenlight"-related supplements, including many of the entries of the "Greenlight" contest where Affleck asked viewers to send in their best imitation of producer Chris Moore.

5) Tron: 20th Anniversary (Buena Vista Home Video)
One of the biggest pictures of all time, "Tron" was released during the second week of the year in this new 2-DVD set, which offered an improved anamorphic widexcreen presentation and a new 5.1 soundtrack.

6) Pulp Fiction: Collector's Edition (Miramax Home Video)
While the lack of a Tarantino commentary disapoints (especially given how good the commentaries he's offered on other people's films are), this new DVD does offer a new anamorphic widescreen transfer, new DTS soundtrack, and a set of informative and well-produced new & old documentaries on the second DVD.

7) Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn - Special Edition (Paramount Home Video)
Arguably the most exciting and dramatic of the "Star Trek" films, "The Wrath of Khan" was re-issued in August in this 2-DVD special edition. While audio and video were only subtly improved, the supplements - including a commentary and a group of well-produced documentaries - certainly make this a fine edition of a superb film.

8) Royal Tenenbaums (Criterion/Buena Vista)
Wes Anderson's third feature is a bit more of a mix of drama and bittersweet comedy than his prior two features, but it usually mixes the two successfully, while Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow and others offer some of their finest recent performances. Criterion's 2-DVD edition offers fine audio/video quality, along with a second disc full of interviews, documentaries and other supplements of interest.

9) Simpsons: Season II(Fox Home Video)

The second season of everyone's favorite animated family really sent the show into high gear, with a seemingly endless supply of inspired storylines for the still-developing characters. Fox's DVD set offers respectable audio/video quality, but tons of supplements, including great audio commentaries on each of the episodes.

10) Ocean's Eleven (Warner Home Video)
10) Traffic (Criterion)

The ultra-productive Steven Soderberg kept busy during 2002, as two films he directed (Full Frontal, Solaris) were released, five films he served as producer on were released and two DVDs of his films were released on Special Edition DVDs. Certainly one of my favorites of 2001, "Ocean's 11" gets fine treatment from Warner Brothers, with a rock-solid presentation and two audio commentaries (one from Pitt/Damon/Garcia and the other from Soderberg and writer Ted Griffin). "Traffic" also recieved first-class treatment from Criterion, as the 2-DVD set for that film included three commentaries, no less than 25 deleted scenes, featurettes and much more.

Runners-Up: CQ: Special Edition (MGM/UA), E.T. (Universal), Changing Lanes: Special Edition (Paramount), Ice Age: Special Edition (Fox), An Evening With Kevin Smith (Columbia/Tristar), Waking Life (Fox), Minority Report (Dreamworks), Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (Dreamworks), Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (Fox), Himalaya (Kino Video), Say Anything: SE (Fox), Insomnia (Warner Home Video), Hard Day's Night (Miramax), Swingers: SE (Miramax), Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (Image), Speed: SE (Fox), Zoolander: SE (Paramount), Amelie (Miramax Home Video).

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