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The Bottom Shelf by Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Best Discs of 2010

We get asked a lot of questions here at The Bits but one that comes up a lot is, "Whatever happened to the Bitsy Awards?" Remember those? Yes, our "annual" celebration of the best in DVD and Blu-ray... which hasn't actually appeared since 2008. Whoops.

All of us here shoulder a bit of blame for the Bitsys' recent disappearing act. Believe me, Bill, Todd and I discuss it every year. But then other things come up and before you know it, it's June and far too late to acknowledge the best discs of the previous year. We try to time the Bitsys to appear around the same time as the Oscars, which is terrifically clever and all but it also means we don't start thinking about them until some time in February. Meanwhile, everybody else in the world did their best-of roundups around the holidays. You know, the time of year when we actually have a moment to slow down and reflect on the previous twelve months.

This year, I'm offering up my personal choices for the ten best discs of the year. I've been doing a best films of the year column for a long time now but this is the first time I've done one specifically for discs. I'm hoping this will kick-start our thinking on the Bitsys a little earlier this year and maybe we'll actually get the damn thing done for a change. Keep in mind, this is NOT the Bitsy Awards. These are my own favorites (presented alphabetically) and don't necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Messrs Hunt, Doogan, Maxwell, et al. Although I wouldn't be surprised to see at least a couple of these turn up in the Bitsy voting. And don't worry... I'll be back in early January to annoy you with my usual look back at the year's best movies. Until then, I wish you all the very, very best of holidays.

Alien Anthology (Fox)

If this had simply been a high-def upgrade of the existing Alien Quadrilogy set, it wouldn't be on this list. Even when it became clear that new material was being produced, I was skeptical. After all, how much better could it be? Well, quite a bit, actually. After this example, we're all going to have to be a lot more careful before we start throwing the word "definitive" around.

America Lost and Found: The BBS Story (Criterion)

If you had told me a year ago that The Monkees' Head would be released on Blu-ray, by Criterion no less, I'd have said you were severely delusional. Shows how much I know. This amazing box set collects some of the best (and strangest) titles the New Hollywood had to offer, including The Last Picture Show, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and more, packed with fascinating new extras. An essential set for any fan of 70s cinema.

Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Edition (Lionsgate)

As you might know, I'm not a fan of upgrading a perfectly good DVD to Blu-ray merely for the sake of upgrading it. I've somehow made it through most of my life without high-definition and am none the worse for it. If you want me to double or triple-dip, you'd better bring more than your A-game. With Francis Ford Coppola's modern classic, Lionsgate knocked it out of the park and into orbit. Blu-ray producers take note: between this and Alien, the bar has officially been raised.

Brewster McCloud (Warner Archive)

I know some of you consider Warner Archive and other MOD programs to be the Fourth Horseman of the DVD Apocalypse. But have you actually watched one of these discs? I mean, it isn't like they've got some intern burning these on a laptop and scribbling the title in Sharpie on the disc. The quality is generally quite good, especially with Warner's remastered titles. Warner Archive has released a lot of JET's Most Wanted this year, including The Green Slime, The Phantom Tollbooth, Pretty Maids All in a Row, Americathon, and many more. But the title that made me happiest was Robert Altman's bizarre 1970 comedy-fantasy. When I first saw Brewster McCloud years ago, I dismissed it as one of Altman's weakest efforts. But it stuck with me and I often wondered if I'd misjudged it. I still don't think it's a complete success but there's something incredibly compelling about it. I'm thrilled that I can finally revisit it whenever I want.

Galaxy of Terror (Shout! Factory)

I could cheat here and just say the entire Roger Corman's Cult Classics line from Shout! Factory. These guys are doing a phenomenal job with these movies and every title so far has simply delighted me. Galaxy of Terror isn't the best movie they've come up with (that would be Rock 'n' Roll High School, which you should also add to your collection post haste) but for my money, it's the best disc in the bunch. The transfer is surprisingly good and there isn't a single skippable bonus feature.

The Complete Metropolis (Kino)

It seems a bit churlish to leave this off just because it could be better. Sure, it'd be nice to have the Alloy Orchestra and Giorgio Moroder scores to make it truly "complete". But that's kind of like complaining that you only got one cherry instead of six on your hot fudge sundae. This is a fantastic presentation of one of the best films ever made, beautifully restored and lovingly transferred. This is a heroic job of restoration that I never thought would see the light of day.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (CAV)

If you think a four-hour documentary about the Nightmare on Elm Street series sounds like a less-than-fascinating way to spend an evening, I'm here to tell you that, with all due respect, you don't know what you're talking about. You will be amazed at how quickly the time passes while watching this funny, informative, affectionate (but not uncritical) documentary on all things Krueger. Even more remarkable, the exhaustive feature still leaves you eager to dive into the hours of extras on disc two. One of the very best filmmaking documentaries I've ever seen, bar none.

The Night of the Hunter (Criterion)

It'd be easy to fill this list with nothing but Criterion titles, so I've intentionally limited myself to picking just two. But even in a year that saw such remarkable releases as Paths of Glory, House, The Thin Red Line, Antichrist and many others, it was easy to choose The Night of the Hunter as the second title. The transfer is nothing less than breathtaking and the extras are even more comprehensive and fascinating than I'd dared hope. If you don't want this disc, you must not like movies very much.

The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story (Columbia)

If I were doing a ten best list for Matt Rowe's MusicTAP, this would show up there, too. But since the package is evenly split between CDs and BDs (or DVDs), I think it's fair to include here. Bruce Springsteen's best album sounds better than ever and the two discs of discarded songs are revelatory. Top this off with a top-notch documentary, two Blu-rays full of amazing concert footage both old and new, and a beautiful, meticulous reproduction of Springsteen's notebooks and you've got one of the best music reissues ever produced. Scratch that. Not one of... simply THE best.

Thriller: The Complete Series (Image)

I'll admit, this one might have been trumped by The Six Million Dollar Man collection if Time-Life or somebody had sent it to me (hint hint). But more likely, I'd simply have made room for two TVD titles on the list. Thriller is a brilliant example of what DVD can do, resurrecting and reintroducing a classic series to a generation (or in this case, several generations) who never had a chance to experience it. The show is fun and the insightful commentaries and extras provide much-needed context for an age of television that's now long gone.

Dr. Adam Jahnke

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