This year, unlike others, I was particularly out of loop on some major DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Despite my title as Pajiba’s DVD Review editor, my reviews have been limited to a handful of purchases and some Netflix rentals. I simply do not have the physical space or the spending money to pull out all the stops every Tuesday. More significantly, many of the films that I love have already found excellent releases on DVD or Blu-Ray and double-dipping (or, in some cases, triple-dipping) on titles just doesn’t make sense. Essentially, I just want to provide a disclaimer that this is, as most year end lists are, a highly subjective list. Now, without further ado, here is my list of my five favorite home video releases of 2010.
America Lost and Found: The BBS Story [Criterion Collection, Blu-Ray]
While I’ve only reviewed a few selections of this set thus far for the site (Head, Five Easy Pieces, and The King of Marvin Gardens), Criterion’s release of New Hollywood films, many classic and some under appreciated, was a breath of fresh air. Nearly every disc I’ve taken for a spin has boasted an incredible AV transfer and an abundance of informative supplemental features. The current price, $90 for seven films, is a relatively small investment for cinephiles.
Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Edition [Blu-Ray]
The Blu-Ray release of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was one of the few that I could not justify a triple-dip on, despite containing some incredible features and a dazzling transfer. The film is far from one of my favorites, overly long and thematically shrill in my opinion but I appreciate it immensely. While the set includes the original theatrical cut and the 2001 extended, Redux version, my favorite feature, not included on “The Complete Dossier” set from a few years back, is the Blu-Ray treatment of the 1991 documentary chronicling the making of the film, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. Hearts of Darkness is one of the few documentaries that focuses on the trials and tribulations of filmmaking, without the PR sugar-coating.
Daria: The Complete Series
Daria (1997-2002) was one of my favorite television shows throughout my high school years. Unlike The Wonder Years (1988-1993) or Saved by the Bell (1989-1993), Glenn Eichler’s off-shoot of Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head (1993-1997) focused on puberty without the rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Yet, despite Eichler’s critical approach, Daria remains an often hilarious, bittersweet experience. It still shocks that, despite being a cartoon (the medium whose basis lies in caricature), this is one of the more nuanced approaches to young adulthood captured by contemporary media (Freaks and Geeks is one of its few rivals). The set, which boasts few extras in comparison to the other offerings on this list (short interviews with the voice cast members and creative team and the release of the feature-length films Is It Fall Yet? and Is It College Yet?, disappoints on the supplemental side of things. However, the excellence of the main course makes it one of my favorites.
The Night of the Hunter [Criterion Collection, Blu-Ray]
I’m not sure what else I can say about Criterion’s treatment of Charles Laughton’s seminal Gothic fairy tale Night of the Hunter (1955) that I haven’t already written in my review. The stunning AV quality and the abundance of extras all stand in loving appreciation of Laughton’s once overlooked gem. This is a hell of a release.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World [Level Up Edition, Blu-Ray]
My opinions toward Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World differ greatly from our own Dan Carlson’s, but that is for another time and place. On the other hand, Universal’s outstanding treatment of the title is indisputable. A gorgeous sight to behold on Blu-Ray, the set boasts not one but FOUR commentary tracks with participants ranging from Wright, comic scribe Brian Lee O’Malley, and the cast members. Yet, the supplements do not stop there. The set also includes a 45 minute “Making Of” documentary, over an hour and a half of footage chronicling the pre-production process (including casting tapes and makeup tests), Wright’s 12 video blogs…and an assortment of smaller extras (deleted scenes, bloopers, a trivia subtitle track, trailers, and more). Frankly, the set almost includes too many supplements to wade through but to critique a release for that would be like blasting Old Country Buffet for offering too many types of protein. Well done, Universal!
Drew Morton is a Ph.D. student in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles. His criticism and articles have previously appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the UWM Post, Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Flow, Mediascape, The Playlist, Senses of Cinema, and Studies in Comics. He is the 2008 and 2010 recipient of the Otis Ferguson Award for Critical Writing in Film Studies.