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Best DVDs of 2001
John Wallis
Best DVDs of 2001 - John Wallis

10 Personal Favorites of 2001

In no particular order.....

MISHIMA: A Life in Four Chapters- Paul Schrader.s groundbreaking 1985 bio of legendary author Yukio Mishima gets a fine DVD treatment. Unlike any other biopic ever made, told in three styles, flashbacks to Mishima.s youth, his last day alive, and stylish stagings of his writings; it manages to go beyond the classical, .just the facts. biography, to actually getting into the very heart and soul of one of the literary worlds most fascinating characters. The DVD features Schrader.s informative commentary, as well as, star Ken Ogata.s narration that he studio previously had Schrader replace with Roy Scheider.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Sword - Ang Lee.s perfect marriage of arthouse drama with classic Chinese wuxai swordplay adventure. From top notch performances, to soulful pacing, gorgeous photography, and, of course, dazzlingly beautiful action courtesy of fight choreography master Yuen Woo Ping. A DVD with well rounded extras, docs, commentary, interviews, leaving fans perfectly satisfied (well, I could have done without co-writer James Shumas snide jokes)..... On the same note, a great example of the kind of film Ang Lee was inspired by can be found in the Mainland China WA DVD release of the long lost 1980 sword and chivalry film, The Sword. (Technically, I could find no official release date, but I bought it in January). Examining similar themes of a fighters struggle with becoming the best, balancing a life of bitter rivalry, and forsaking love and relationships in their quest for mastering the sword fighting arts, The Sword is an excellent precursor to Crouching Tiger. Two films presenting an excellent way to see the evolution of a particular genre.

Akira (Special Edition)- The anime that changed the world...... well, at least for most of the USA, sparking the conciseness of Americans, and raising the bar for anime in general. Pioneer takes a classic and gives it its due, polishing up the film, new English dub, tinkering with the soundtrack and subs, but most of all, an entire second disc of extras to make any geek drool.

Mystery Science Theater 3000- Manos : the Hands of Fate and Mitchell- Rhino drags their feet with their Mystery Science Theater releases, but one of the most unique television shows finally gets its due with this years release of two of their finest episodes. Manos, legendary as one of the worst, most completely inept films they ever riffed, yielded hilarious results, leading to one of the shining moments for the Satellite of Loves crew. Likewise, Mitchell was an important note in the shows history, not just for the sharp, side splitting comments about the slimy, 70.s, Joe Don Baker film, but because it marked the heartbreaking departure of host and show creator Joel Hodgeson. Rhino should be commended also, for including the fan favorite, 30 min outtake/blooper special, Poopie as an extra on Manos (puppets on fire, always a funny thing).

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Special Edition) - What can you say? Easily on the of the funniest films ever made. Technical glitches some people are having aside- when it works, you get the film looking the best it ever has with an awesome assortment of extras that are easily as funny as the film and informative in the silliest way possible.

Requiem for a Dream and Seul Contre Tous (I Stand Alone)- This years award for masterful, provocative, and undeniably bleak and dark cinema goes to these two films. Requiems harrowing look at addiction makes Refer Madness, look like Song of the South, and Aronofsy and Artisan Entertainment present the film in all its depressing glory, now budget priced and with plenty of worthwhile extras..... Likewise, Strand Releasing presents I Stand Alone, one of the most purposefully provocative and mean, stomach churning, artistic works ever committed to film. Its story of an outsider, mad, paranoid butcher, wandering and raving about the pitiful, distasteful world he sees around him makes Taxi Driver look like The Sound of Music, and has inspired more walkouts than any film in recent memory (so much so that in an funny bit of foresight, filmmaker Gaspar Noe actually throws up a title card telling the audience the film is about to get more offensive and begins a countdown to let the audience start exiting the theater).

The Great Silence- Director Segio Corbucci.s Spaghetti Western that most people haven.t heard of finally sees a wide US release. From the bleak winter setting, to Ennio Morricone.s haunting music, its one of those slightly under the radar films deserving of a wider audience. Image Entertainment also managed to include the film uncut, letterboxed, and with the alternate .happy ending. as an extra.

Twin Peaks: Season One- David Lynch.s unique take on the weekly drama, a surrealist vision of darkness hiding, invading, a seemingly innocent small town, was as impossibly popular as it was offbeat. The series start sees a DVD treatment including such fan worthy extras as the Log Lady intros, commentary, interviews, and all thats missing besides the elusive televised pilot is a coffee mug and a slice of cherry pie.

Gummo- Not everyones cup of tea, for sure, Harmony Korine.s debut film is either trash, brilliance, or brilliant trash. I think its the latter, a jazzy, one part improv, one part documentary, one part traditional surrealism, non-narrative exploitative tale of Southern degenerate kids aimlessly existing. And, seeing as how Korine had always half-threatened to not release his films for home viewing, the DVD release was a welcome one.

Dragon Inn and Return of the Deadly Blade- Two sides of the same coin, and two of my personal favorite, wild, HK action fantasy films see pretty good DVD treatment. Tai Seng presets the star studded and charming Dragon Inn the best its ever looked, and this fine example of the early 90.s HK new wave fantasy deserved it...... Ground Zero.s Return of the Deadly Blade was one of those more obscure early 80.s HK fantasies, a forerunner to Dragon Inn, East is Red, Storm Riders and the like. The first film from noted action choreographer and director Ching Sui Tung, who would go on to such noted films as Chinese Ghost Story, Duel to the Death and Swordsman 2. A film I thought I would never track down. Luckily, not only does Ground Zero release it, but they do it with a gaggle of extras that add up to over an hour of chop socky, classic HK kung fu entertainment. Plus, it was the first DVD I reviewed for DVDTalk, so that tugs at the heart a little.

-John Wallis

DVD Talk Reviewers and Columnists take on the Top DVDs of 2001 :
DVD Talk Main Best of 2001 Page
Aaron Beierle
Brian R. Boisvert
Jason Bovberg
Phillip Duncan
Glenn Erickson (DVD Savant)
G. Noel Gross (CineSchlock-O-Rama)
Chris Hughes
Gil Jawetz
Matt Langdon
Holly Ordway
John Wallis

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