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Best DVDs of 2000
by Gil Jawetz

Best DVDs of 2000 - Gil Jawetz
Top 12 DVDs of 2000 (I couldn't pick just 10)

1) Fight Club - The most complex and layered American film in years stretches the notion of theme and character during a journey into the very core of identity. To dismiss it as simply being clever ("How's that working out for you?") is to completely miss the point. Fight Club is a rare brave film that dares to prove itself wrong, and it does it over and over until it gets it right. The DVD, however, gets it right the first time. The only release available is this posh 2-disc set that, while not quite as academic as it could be, looks at the film from more angles than most filmgoers are used to.

2) X-Files Season 2 - Season 1 introduced us to Mulder and Scully, two of the best television characters ever, but season 2 is where we really started to care about them. Besides, mention some of the episode titles to real fans - "The Host", "Duane Barry", "Ascension", "Anasazi" - and watch their eyes glaze over with joy. You could just put the amazing freak show-themed "Humbug" on a DVD by itself and I'd be happy.

3) The Bridge on the River Kwai - A masterpiece of a film (in the top ten of both the AFI and the BFI top 100s), Bridge deserved a big DVD release. The 2-disc set is perfect. Documentaries, both new and old, add unique insight into the creation of this epic and newly remastered sound and picture remind us why David Lean is still referenced as the grandest of directors and why Alec Guinness, who passed away last year, was one of the very best actors.

4) North by Northwest - A flawless transfer and a plethora of extras help open up one of Hitchcock's most playful masterpieces for a whole new generation. Although it may not reach for the emotional complexity of Vertigo or Rear Window, North by Northwest doesn't skimp out on plot twists as Cary Grant tries to figure out why his well-ordered life has just flipped upside-down.

5) The Conversation - A spare and simple film that showed Francis Ford Coppola as capable at minimalism as he was at grandeur (incredibly, The Godfather Part II came out the same year), The Conversation is absolutely astonishing in how it draws such a detailed portrait in so few strokes. A wonderful new transfer and commentary from Coppola and editor / sound designer Walter Murch (who is becoming a major player in DVD with his restoration of Touch of Evil and his upcoming Apocalypse Now! recut) just add to a disc that suggests that The Conversation may indeed have been Coppola's best film ever.

6) The Last Temptation of Christ (Criterion Collection) - An emotional and controversial film if there ever was one, Last Temptation presents Jesus' journey as one taken by a real flesh and blood human, not an idealistic saint. Therefore he is prone to anger and confusion. Director Martin Scorsese also came under fire for depicting a deep bond of love between Jesus and Judas, something that deepens the film and the story immeasurably. It's hard not to feel the Judas' agony when Jesus asks him to turn him in to the Romans. That so many Christians have a problem with this scenario points out their latent anti-Semitism and homophobia. What the film depicts is a powerful and honest relationship borne of intense respect.

7) Blue Collar - A rare and obscure film on video, Blue Collar is significant for its unusually strong cast (Richard Pryor, Yaphet Kotto, Harvey Keitel) and for its dark dark subject matter. Paul Schrader's directorial debut stands up after all these years for it's brutal honesty and for the truths about the corporate ownership of America that seem more prevalent today than ever.

8) The Harder They Come (Criterion Collection) - A raw and loose film with the best soundtrack ever, Harder has never looked as good as it does here and, even though the transfer is not anamorphic, the colors pop and the images are crisp. The commentary, by director Perry Hanzell and star Jimmy Cliff, gives social and political insight into a turbulent nation during a complex time.

9) Three Kings - Two commentary tracks and several documentaries help illuminate this complex, opinionated film but the real treat here is "An Intimate Look into the Acting Process with Ice Cube", where Spike Jonze subverts the filmmaking process better in three minutes than he did in all of Being John Malkovich. Give us Being Ice Cube!

10) Little Odessa - Almost forgotten among the rush of mid-90's gangster movies, Little Odessa's wide vistas were cropped horribly on video and laserdisc. The DVD restores director James Gray's incredible cinematography and provides Gray, along with star Tim Roth, an opportunity to discuss the emotionally grueling film on a commentary track. Plus, Gray's watercolor storyboards, narrated by the director, are unusually illustrative and provide real insight into his subtle, textured visual style.

11) Gimme Shelter (Criterion Collection) - The Rolling Stones' disastrous free concert at Altamont has been called everything from the end of the 60's to the end of the world and this film about it has a real apocalyptic flavor. Although the commentary from the filmmakers oversimplifies the social implications of the concert, a large package of extras - including radio broadcasts and a fat booklet of essays - helps flesh out the darkest point of an era.

12) Chicken Run - While Wallace and Gromit may be Nick Park's lasting contribution to humanity, Chicken Run provided a fantastic 90 minutes of entertainment. The chickens are so incredibly life-like that it's very easy to forget the painstaking process of frame-by-frame animation that these masters undertook to make them that way. The generous behind the scenes footage on this disc serves as a source of as much wonder as the film itself.

Worst DVD of 2000

Timothy Leary's Last Trip - Why the hell would anyone want to watch this amateurish piece of nonsense? Barely one hour long, this "film" gives no insight whatsoever and makes Leary and his cronies out to be even more lazy and stupid than they really were.

Biggest Dissappointment

Touch of Evil - With nearly all the extras removed, the original cut of the film not included, and the price tag left high, this previously-planned special edition was a major missed opportunity. If Universal had played their cards right I'd be calling this the year's very best.

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