Gabe Powers' 2005 DVD Awards
Gabe presents awards to this year's finest achievements in DVD technology
Best Reason to Watch TV on DVD:Home Movies, Seasons 2 and 3(R1)
My favourite animated sit-com would’ve been lost forever had it not been for the advent of TV series on DVD sets. Thanks to the sales of other Adult Swim shows, like Family Guy, Futurama, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Sea Lab: 2021, series saviour Shout! Factory was able to release Home Movies on DVD. Last year saw the release of season one, which was the weakest season, and still featured the admittedly annoying ‘squiggle vision’ animation process. This year’s seasons two and three release features some of the shows best episodes including Guitarmageddon, Revenge of the Dorks, and Writer’s Block. The DVDs themselves featured an eclectic range of silly special features including guitar lessons, a ‘Decide Your Doom’ game, and Jon Benjamin’s ‘A Featurette for People Who Don't Necessarily Like Home Movies™’.
Home Movies is what most would refer to as an acquired taste. The crudely animated show concerns the (mis)adventures of Brendon Small, a third grader who, with the help of his friends Melissa and Jason, writes, directs, stars in home made feature films. The show is improve based, which some viewers may find obnoxious, but it is the slapdash dialogue that makes Home Movies the second funniest series in my collection (right behind the quintessential UK genius that is Spaced). Brendon’s soccer coach, John McGuirk, is the show’s standout as a full-grown man who can’t seem to differentiate between right and wrong. As Brendon’s main source of male role model like advice, including such gems as what to do in case of imprisonment (act mentally unbalanced), why to separate during a tornado (because it will keep you from bumping heads in the funnel), and how to gain the attention of the opposite sex (all women have fat fathers, and are thus attracted to fat men). I’d also like to ad that nobody I’ve ever met, including myself, was fond of the show the first few times they watched it. If you think you hate Home Movies, you should probably give it another chance before you dismiss it completely.
Honorable Mention: Aeon Flux: Complete Animated Collection(R1).
Best Double Feature Concerning the Adventure of Wealthy Psychopaths:American Psycho: Killer Collector’s Edition(R1) and Batman Begins: Deluxe Edition(R1).
Here’s an assignment for all the aspiring film students out there—edit American Psycho and Batman Begins together, and attempt to make them seem as though they are really the same film. Think about it, what if Patrick Bateman was the alter, alter ego of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne? The roles are more similar than you might think. Both men lead double lives, both men are psychopathic and prone to violence, and most importantly, both men are portrayed by Christian Bale. There is already a hint of schizophrenic behaviour in Bateman, and the validity of his crimes is such that he may not have actually committed them. Perhaps the Batman persona is really Bruce Wayne’s way of dealing with the sins of his ghoulish counterpart. I’m sure that Scarecrow’s gas could’ve had something to do with this psychotic break as well.
Though I was a little disappointed by the whole of Batman Begins, it’s still far and away the second best Batman film ever made (right behind Mask of the Phantasm). The two disc DVD is pretty stacked with features, including a pretty encompassing documentary about the film’s genesis. Buying the deluxe edition was a no-brainer for me, and I’m happy I didn’t wait, because now I have a neat little out-of-print comic book to show for my efforts.
American Psycho is a film that has grown on me over the years, and after watching the jam-packed featurette on the new DVD release—which was released this June as a cash-in on Batman Begins—I’ve found even more appreciation, enough to call it one of the most overlooked films of the new millennium. I’d been waiting for a proper release of the uncut version for some time, and now that I have it I can’t believe I didn’t buy the previously available version five years earlier. American Psycho belongs in the ranks of such satirical black comedies as Fight Club, and I’m thankful that I took the time to appreciate it.
Best Year Since 2001 to be a Dario Argento Fan:2005
Back in 2001 I took the day off work in anticipation of the DVD releases of two of my favourite Argento films, Suspiria and Opera. Unfortunately something far more important occurred on that day of September 11th, which made the release of a few Italian horror flicks on DVD seem pretty insignificant. My hopes were up for 2005, when three titles were announced for release, the classic The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, the not so classic Trauma, and the brand-spankin'-new Card Player.
Though Trauma has always seemed pretty problematic, it was nice to own an anamorphically enhanced and uncut version to replace my awful region two Tartan release. The making-of material and deleted scenes were nice, especially when I realized the film was made in my current home town(s), the Twin Cities of Minnesota, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Card Player was another in a long line of recent Argento films that I somehow convince myself aren't that bad while I'm watching them. In reality, the film is a sub par episode of CSI, featuring a European cast, and very few exciting moments. I'm happy to own it for collector's reasons alone.
The shining star of this year's Argento releases was Blue Undergrounds long delayed release of the director's first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The special features were lacking, and the A/V qualities weren’t exactly mind blowing, but it meant a lot for me to own a watchable version of this, one of my favourite among Dario's films. See my review here.
Best Year to be a Star Wars Fan Since 2004:2005
Though the official release of the original trilogy, in any condition, ranks higher on my personal excitement gage, 2005 saw the release of the final chapter of the prequel trilogy, and the release of both sets of Cartoon Network's fabulous Clone Wars animated series. I admit, without hesitation, that I really enjoyed Revenge of the Sith. It is a film that I'm tired of defending to my friends and family, and this will be my final word on the subject: I liked it a lot. The DVD itself was a tiny bit of a disappointment in the extras area, as I was really expecting the kind of all-encompassing documentary that was found on the Episode One DVD. The audio commentary was only really interesting to me when George Lucas spoke, as his mindset while making this flawed series has always been fascinating to me. Honestly, I couldn't care much less about the technical standpoints of the film.
The Clone Wars animated series had been languishing around my house for a while previous to DVD release, in the form of an old fashioned VHS tape. As a fan of director Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack series, I was happy when LucasFilm selected him as the creative power behind the animated adventures of Anakin and Obi-Wan. The shorts are so good that the actual films suffer a bit when a direct comparison is made. Chris Gould's Revenge of the Sith Review
Best Reason to Double-Dip:(tie) The Fly: Collector's Edition(R1), Raging Bull: Special Edition(R1)
Two classic films that were screaming out for special edition treatment have finally seen their days in the sun. Both two-disc sets are beaming with fascinating documentaries and revealing commentaries. The sounds and images have been polished, and one can actually refer to these as definitive editions. Matt Joseph's review
Honorable Mention: Malcolm X: Collector's Edition(R1).
The About Damn Time Award:King Kong(R1) (1933)
At long last, what may be the final truly classic film to not be seen on region one DVD has been released. Available in three different sets, depending on one's price range, I opted for the plainest on the market, the anything but plain two-disc non-collector's edition. The DVD comes complete with what's most likely the best picture and sound that will ever be made available for the incredibly old film, a warm and loving commentary track from Ray Harryhausen, and a detailed documentary about the man behind the monkey. It's about damn time.
Honorable Mention: The Frighteners: Director's Cut(R1)
The super-special edition laser disc finally made its way to DVD in 2005, complete with the director's cut version of the film, Jackson commentary, and the epic making-of documentary. Back in the days of laser disc a nearly four hour documentary about the production of a two-hour film was almost unheard of. Lucky for us Jackson wanted to share. This special edition can be seen as the direct precursor to the mammoth Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVDs that have changed the very definition of the phrase ‘special edition’. Thanks Pete.
The Now You Have No Excuse Award:Oldboy(R1, R2, R3)
In 2005 Park Chan-wook's masterwork, and possibly the best film of the last ten years, Oldboy saw an official region one release. This means that the film is now available in just about every DVD region on earth, which means the ‘I don't have a multi-region player’ excuse doesn't work anymore. Neither does the ‘I'd rather rent it than blind buy it’ excuse, because just about every major American video store now carries the film in its original, uncut form. Cas Harlow's R3 review
Honorable Mention: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance(R1, R2, R3)
Oldboy's thematic prequel also saw an official region one release this year. Though not the utter masterpiece Oldboy is, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance proves to be one of the most wrenching and personal films ever made.
I Loved It, and Don't Care What You Think Award:Land of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut(R1)
My second favourite theatrical release of the year (though I didn't see many films theatrically this year) was George A. Romero's triumphant return to the genre he created, Land of the Dead. The DVD release wasn't exactly bursting with extra features, but the additional zombie carnage and Romero's commentary were all I really needed to make it one of my favourite DVD releases of the year. See my erroneously glowing review here
Surprise of the Year:The Devil's Rejects: Uncut Special Edition(R2)
After the semi-travesty that was House of 1000 Corpses, including its R rated, non-special edition DVD release, I held out little hope for Rob Zombie's follow up. Thankfully, I was so very wrong. The Devil's Rejects is the best of an ever growing crop of 1970s horror throw backs, including another of my favourite 2005 releases, Alexander Aja's Haute Tension. The DVD features one of the best making-of documentaries of the year, and all the footage originally cut to achieve the theatrically friendly R rating. See my region two review here.
All Around Best DVD Release of the Year:Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated(R1)
Sin City was most likely the best major American theatrical release of the year. The film itself, while not being exactly deep and meaningful story wise, was a testament to innovation and film as an art form. It was also hilarious and the most entertaining found on the big screen all year. Fans of the comic—of which I'd consider myself, in that I've read them in the store without buying them—immediately recognized the unbelievable lengths co-director Robert Rodriguez went to in assuring the film's undying trueness to the comic, including the hiring of the book's creator, writer, and artist, Frank Miller, as a second director.
Beyond simply being true to the comic, Sin City was the comic, from its sparing use of vibrant colour, to the character's hard-boiled dialogue. You can't get more post-modern than a film pretending to be a comic pretending to be a film, and the art form has rarely been so beautifully displayed as it is here.
The original DVD release was bare bones and disappointing, but the promise of this better release was always in the cards. Though the special features aren't as comprehensive as such uber-collections like New Line's Lord of the Rings collections (which really have become the new benchmark), they're more than passable. The inclusion of the entire Hard Goodbye (originally plainly titled Sin City, back before the film was released and confusion needed to be averted) graphic novel is inspired, especially considering the set's affordable price tag. Now fans of the film not familiar with the comic can compare and contrast for themselves. The incorporation of scenes deleted from the theatrical version of the film was my personal selling point, and I appreciate the inclusion of the original cut as well, though I'll probably never watch it again, sans commentary. Ben Willcock's Standard Edition Review
Final Thoughts and Other Fine Releases
There were actually quite a few decent releases this year, but as I said, none of the medium changing sets that we saw last year. There aren’t too many titles I still long for out there, with the exceptions of Michelle Soavi’s Cemetery Man ( Delamore Delamorte), which was promised by Anchor Bay Studios, but never delivered, Argento’s two lost films, Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Five Days in Milan (there’s very little hope for these), and a complete special edition of Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies. In the wake of their pretty Aeon Flux animated release, I also pray for DVD releases of other MTV bygone classics, including Sifl and Olly, The Head, and The Maxx. Maybe we could see some Lord of the Rings size special editions for Peter Jackson’s other magnum opuses, Braindead ( Dead Alive) and Heavenly Creatures to coincide with King Kong, 2005’s inevitable 600-pound gorilla edition.
A few other 2005 releases that I didn’t make up awards for, but enjoyed nonetheless are as follows:
- The Incredibles (R1)
- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: Collector’s Edition (R1) My Filmophobia Article
- A Tale of Two Sisters: Special Edition (R1)
- The Life Aquatic: Criterion 2 Disc Edition (R1)
- I Heart Huckabees (R1)
- War of the Worlds (2005)(R1) Chris Gould's R2 review
- Howl's Moving Caslte (R2) My review
Editorial by Gabriel Powers
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