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Best DVDs of 2000
by Brian Boisvert

Best DVDs of 2000 - Brian Boisvert

Let me state at the very beginning that boiling down any year's DVD releases to a "top-10" list is a difficult prospect at best. Of the thousands of discs, how do you pick just ten? What criteria do you use? What if a film was fantastic, but the DVD was lackluster? What if a movie had great picture quality, but little or no supplements? Are there any great titles that you may have not seen yet?

Having said this, my list is sure to not match yours exactly. Cries of "Why did he include that?" or "How could he forget this?" are bound to be heard at terminals across the land. For this, I apologize in advance. But my hope is that my list may possibly bring a DVD to your attention that you otherwise would have ignored. I've tried my best to include in this list what I felt was best about DVDs in the year 2000. (I've even cheated a bit, grouping similar titles together to expand beyond 10 discs.)

For better or worse, here is my TOP 10 DVDs OF 2000 (in no particular order):

  • Fantasia Anthology / Toy Story: Ultimate Toy Box --
  • Disney has begun to show signs that they understand how to do a proper DVD. These two sets have literally everything a fan could want, including amazing picture and sound quality. The hours and hours of extras show that Disney is fully capable of creating special editions that rival any other studio. I hope that Disney begins to shower its other films with the same loving attention in 2001 and beyond. (Likely initial candidates would be Tron, Mary Poppins, and Alice in Wonderland -- films with previous deluxe treatment on LaserDisc, but movie-only DVDs.)

  • Gladiator / X-Men--
  • 2000 was, in general, a terrible year for major Hollywood theatrical releases. Most of the big-budget blockbusters were virtually unwatchable. These two titles represent the best of the bunch, and both showed up in excellent DVD editions. Gladiator was the clear winner of the two: a gorgeous 2-DVD set with an amazing number of entertaining and informative extras. X-Men had far fewer extras than most people had hoped for, but still resulted in an exciting viewing experience with high-quality video and sound.

  • The Indian Tomb / Les Vampires -- Two rare, epic-length silent masterpieces. Both have been painstakingly restored and look great. Film buffs would be well served by seeking out these little-seen gems.

  • North By Northwest / The Time Machine -- Warner showed us just how great 40-year-old films can really look on DVD. These discs -- in terms of video, audio, and extras -- should serve as a guide for future classic releases from all studios.

  • Planet of the Apes: The Evolution -- A case where the positives overcome the negatives. Negative: the films are not enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Positive: the set includes all 5 movies, reasonably priced, with great audio/video quality. Plus an amazingly wonderful 2-hour documentary about the series. Lack of anamorphic-enhancement aside, it's tough to imagine what else a fan of this series could want.

  • Seven / Fight Club -- Two recent, intriguing David Fincher films, both given a huge number of supplements detailing every aspect of production. Watching these DVDs is like attending film school in your own living room. We can only hope that 2001 will find other major filmmakers (Lucas and Spielberg, are you listening?) treating their works with the same respect and attention to detail.

  • Supergirl / Carnival of Souls -- I realize that these two films stick out on a top-10 list. Supergirl? Hardly a classic film. And that's exactly why it makes the list. Both of these films are relatively obscure, with a very small, cult audience. Yet both were released in deluxe 2-disc sets, with great restored picture quality, alternate cuts, and a wealth of supplemental material. Both Anchor Bay and Criterion deserve kudos for investing so much time and effort into films that other studios would never release in the first place.

  • Treasures from American Film Archives -- This stunning box represents a collaboration between 18 different preservation institutions to highlight rare and important films throughout history. The 4-DVD collection (along with a 135-page book) makes for fascinating viewing, and net proceeds from the set are donated to support further film preservation.

  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day / The Abyss -- Two of James Cameron's best films get the deluxe treatment on DVD. Preserving/recycling the extra material from previous LaserDiscs (and adding some new stuff too!), these sets are truly the "ultimate edition" of the films. Video and audio quality is stellar (although The Abyss barely made the list, due to its lack of widescreen enhancement). Both films include multiple versions, and the supplements will take you hours to pour through. These sets are prime examples of the value of bringing LD special edition material over when creating DVD content.

  • The X-Files (Season 1+2) / The Sopranos (Season 1) -- Two fantastic television series presented in a wonderful fashion: full season boxes, reasonably priced, with great audio/video quality and some added supplements. Paramount (home of 2 Star Trek episodes per DVD) and Warner (home of the "Best of Friends" collection) could learn a thing or two from this approach. If people like a TV show enough to buy it on DVD, they want all of the episodes.

Honorable Mention: American Beauty, The Blob, Braveheart, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Charlie Chaplin DVDs from Image Entertainment, Chasing Amy, The Conversation, Dead Again, The Dead Zone, Edward Scissorhands, Flash Gordon serials, Jurassic Park, The Lathe of Heaven, Men in Black, The Omen, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Plan 9 from Outer Space: Special Edition, The Sound of Music, Universal's "Classic Monsters" Collection.

Missed Opportunity: While studios like Columbia/Tri-Star and Fox are producing some stunning 2-DVD sets, Universal dropped the ball on two major releases this year: Jaws and Touch of Evil. While both of these are very good DVDs, they are clearly not as good as they could (and should) be.

Jaws saw its audio "upgraded" to a 5.1 soundtrack (with newly-recorded sound effects). While the results are generally pleasing, to not include the original mono soundtrack (the way this classic has been enjoyed for the past 25 years) is a shame. A THX-approved, digital mono track was created for the previous LaserDisc, so why not include it? Additionally, the wonderful 2+ hour documentary from the LD has been trimmed to about half its original length. I thought that the increased capacity of DVD was supposed to overcome the space considerations of LD? Instead of an major improvement of the LD box, we get "Jaws Lite" -- improved video, but altered audio and fewer supplements. Universal should have made this a 2-DVD set and done it right.

Touch of Evil was finally recut to get closer to Orson Welles's original vision (as detailed in his legendary 58-page memo to the studio). Great idea. To release the DVD without the promised documentary and without the original theatrical cut for comparison? Bad idea.

Final Thoughts: Overall, 2000 saw tremendous growth in availability and variety of titles on DVD, from extremely obscure cult classics to major blockbusters. People who focus too much on the lack of availability of some specific titles (The Godfather, Star Wars, Indiana Jones) would be better off if they used this time to explore what actually is available. With nearly 10,000 titles on DVD, there are plenty of amazing films out there just waiting to be discovered. Whether it's a silent classic or a low budget B-movie, I guarantee that there are films currently released that you will love and cherish.

If 2000 is any sign of things to come, 2001 should be an exciting year for DVD. Studios appear to be learning from past mistakes. They are not only preparing to release some great, often-requested catalog titles (Superman, Close Encounters, Ben-Hur, Rear Window, Lawrence of Arabia), but they are also revisiting previously released DVDs, improving the quality and adding additional supplements (Die Hard trilogy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apocalypse Now). I can't wait.

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