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Best DVDs of 2001
Phillip Duncan

Best DVDs of 2001 - Phillip Duncan

The powers that be said that we could do a Top 10 DVD List of 2001 if we wanted and it seemed like an exciting opportunity. I've always liked lists such as these and I have done one or two before (like Best Horror DVDs and such), but this list really proved hard to do in the short time I had.

After looking over the selections from last year I decided I would try to put together a list that was a little different from everyone else. What good is having 8 different people do a Top 10 list if they all list the same thing? Therefore my selections are hopefully different in a few places. There will of course be common selections, some just cannot be helped, but here is my attempt at the years Top 10 DVDs.

This list is based on a combination of DVD and film. There are some great, technologically stunning DVDs for not so great films and there are great films with bland DVDs. When I set out to pick my personal Top 10 I wanted 10 that were a happy medium, a combination of a great movie and a great DVD.


Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace - This is probably the least compelling film on this list, but it does what it needs to do. It sets up the characters and lets us see what George Lucas and his team at ILM are capable of doing when unleashed into a new world. The movie is filled with stunning visuals and this DVD contains probably the best audio of the year. Mix that with the best animated menu sequence and an unparalleled Making Of.. Documentary and that brings this DVD into the Top 10 easily.

9. Big Trouble in Little China - The little cult film that could is the best way to describe this 2-disc set. Take a quirky movie and pair it with a hilarious commentary and excellent extras and this is what you get. The story of Jack Burton battling supernatural forces in Chinatown was ahead f its time when released in 1986 and missed its audience. Luckily for us it found its calling on home video. With the current infatuation of oriental culture and effects dominating the cinema after Crouching Tiger appeared, this one should continue to do well.

8. Unbreakable - M. Night Shyamalan's follow up to the Sixth Sense didn't find it's audience in the theater either, but that didn't stop the studio from releasing one of the quirkiest and well produced sets of the year. The elegant packaging and artwork form acclaimed artist Alex Ross combine perfectly with the real life comic book feel of the film. Shyamalan tackled a subject that was obviously very dear to him and managed to do it with integrity and believability. He used the son's worship and love for his father to ground this story in the everyday while focusing of the unusual aspects the made Bruce Willis a hero.

7. Superman: The Movie - From one hero to another, this Warner Brothers release was long overdue and well worth the wait. While some panned the remastered sound and new edit of the film, better bang for the buck could not be found. The colors and sound were vibrant and the story at the heart of the film is still as effective today as it was when it was released in 1978. An amazing amount of documentary footage and extras were piled onto what could have easily been a two-disc set and left almost no stone unturned. The Man of Steel finally received the treatment he deserved.

6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Another disc receiving the treatment it deserved is this 2-disc set of Monty Python's classic spoof on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Plenty of extras from the past and present easily bring this disc to the front of the field and the animated menus couldn't be more appropriate. This set widely improves upon the earlier release that featured the movie and nothing in the way of extras. The best part of the disc--besides the movie-- is the present day documentary where some the original locations are scouted once again. This movie can be watched over and over again and with the transfer and sound, it's no longer an unpleasant experience.

5. Snow White
- It took Disney a while to get on the DVD bandwagon, but now that they have it's a mixed bag of results. Like Snow White, when done right, they easily out-perform almost any set out on the market. The luscious transfer and restoration alone make this a disc to have, but the extras from the Disney archives make this an unbeatable deal. Disney has outdone themselves with this transfer. It's a shame that we only get one classic movie done this well every year, everything else is released as a bare bones edition or not at all. The layout and structure not only make all the extras manageable, but fun as well. A must-have for animation and Disney fans alike.

4. Godfather Trilogy - How can this be number three when inevitably others will list it at the top? Well, there are other great releases and the expensive price of the set knock it down a little from the top. Still, the unequaled and always imitated trilogy finally made its way to DVD in top form this year. Coppola's best and most lasting work is presented here in it's as it should be. The elegant case combined with the beautiful transfer make this the set on everyone's Christmas and Birthday list for years to come. The additional disc of extras delves into the other important aspects of them film including the music and cinematography and also includes the extra footage edited in when aired on television as the "Godfather Saga."

3. Memento - Young filmmakers often have the most daring and inventive ideas for films and it definitely shows in Christopher Nolan's freshman film. Guy Pearce is Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from the inability to form new short-term memories. The power of the movie lies in the fact that you know what is going to happen, because you're shown at the beginning (or is it the end) of the film and you still become engrossed with Leonard's search for his wife's killer. Excellent and mysterious menus and a recreation of the website keep the mystery going. It was a hard choice placing this film at number 3; it could have easily been in first.

2. Citizen Kane - Yes, it's the predictable choice and 3000 lb. Gorilla of the film world and it's on my list as well, but not in first place. Warners gave this film the treatment it deserves with a beautiful transfer and 2-disc set. Aside form the historical relevance this film has it's also accompanied by an unbeatable 2-hour documentary. Chronicling the rise and fall of William Randolph Hurst and Orson Welles. It points out what a visionary each man was in his respected field and explains the why behind the film. Tack on a wonderful commentary from Roger Ebert that virtually explains what all the fuss is about and this is another disc that deserves the number one spot.

1. Requiem for a Dream
- Darren Aronofsky's film version of the power of drug addiction is easily the most powerful film I've seen all year. This blunt, realistic portrayal of the many levels of drug addiction is unflinchingly real and rightly so. The many characters that you accompany on the way down the path of addiction make it all the more compelling. It paints a picture of a universal problem, rather that an easily solved one. The controversial ending is graphic, but rightfully so and not in an exploitive way. A seamless menu and informative extras combine to make this my pick for the best DVD of the year. It's a powerful film that has been preserved and presented perfectly. The excellent documentary is simply 30 minutes of home video footage accompanied by Aronofsky's narration. It's the little touches that make it the perfect combination of DVD technology and excellent film this year.

There you have it. That's what I consider to be the best of this year. Do I expect you to agree with me? Not at all, but I hope it encourages you to pick up a few films you may not have seen. It was a tough choice and good films like: *61, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Traffic, the Wicker Man and others all deserve a spot, but were narrowly beaten out by the above choices. With that out of the way, I'd like to list three DVDs that will likely take top spots next year.

Most Anticipated DVDs for 2002

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
- This box office beast will make its way to DVD in August or September of next year with a trailer for the December 2002 part 2, The Two Towers.

King Kong - The original 1933 film is still a classic and here's hoping it finally makes it way to DVD, as rumored, in 2002. The stop-motion animation by master Ray Harryhausen still holds up and looks real enough to accomplish the job. This was back before CGI was even thought of and the effects had a weight and life to them.

Rashomon - Akira Kurosawa's 1950 tale of murder and rape in feudal Japan is an interesting tale that has influenced many filmmakers with is multiple point-of-view story and twists and turns. It's the equivalent of Japanese Film Noir. After multiple viewings it's still hard to decide what is the correct point of view, if there is one. Of course it's going to eventually be remade by Hollywood, as all of Kurosawa's films have. This Criterion Collection release will easily make it onto a Best Of List next year.
- Phillip Duncan

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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