Best DVDs of 2007
As the snow is falling (at least in Boston) and the year ending, I find it appropriate to arbitrarily rank the ten best DVDs releases this year. After all, a critic is only as good as his lists, and since I don’t get to review movies theatrically, this is all I got. In all seriousness, these DVDs are all great, and would make valuable additions to your collection, no matter their position. I combed over this list to make sure there was no filler, and I must say, it’s all good.
And no, I have not forgotten the new Blade Runner DVD. It was way too obvious a choice, and nothing I say could possibly persuade or dissuade you anymore. For what it’s worth, I know I would be thrilled to find it under my Christmas tree.
Before I lose your attention (I already feel it waning), here is the list:
NOTE: Should you want to buy any of the titles simply click on the box art to be taken directly to Amazon.com.
This fascinating documentary pulls no punches in its warts and all narrative chronicling the evolution of England’s Glastonbury Festival. We feel like participants in its evolution humble hippy music festival to something much bigger, and the film’s grimy aesthetic makes for some of the best “you’re right there” moments I’ve ever experienced. The highlight of the DVD is in the special features. There are several uncut performances by a staggering list of great performers including Paul McCartney, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, R.E.M, The Killers (before they sucked), and Radiohead (!), whose startlingly incendiary performance of “Idioteque” alone makes this worth owning. You can check it out below:
The really great thing about this DVD is that Jean-Pierre Melville’s WWII masterpiece is now actually available. Applying the style of film noir to an incredibly bleak story of a small French Resistance cell and released in 1969 Army of Shadows (L’ArmÃ©e des Ombres if you’re feeling French) was thrashed by critics, and never saw a stateside release until a limited theatrical run last year. This year, the Criterion Collection, in their first of many appearances on this list, gave it the treatment it deserved. With the stunning high-definition transfer and all the usual first-rate documentaries, promotional materials, and archival interviews you’d expect from a Criterion DVD, Army of Shadows puts up a brave fight for your money.
Most Rope of Silicon readers probably don’t need me to explain why The Departed is the best gangster movie in recent years, so I’ll focus on why this edition is worthwhile. The second disc is mostly comprised of cookie-cutter featurettes you can take or leave, but there’s also something else. Something better. You also get a ninety-minute long special that’s nothing but Martin Scorsese talking about all of his movies up to The Aviator. Marty is one of the best, smartest directors of all time, and hearing him candidly speak about his numerous masterpieces (and a few flops), is a treat. This feature alone keeps merits The Departed‘s place on this list, and should be seen by all.
When it was in theaters as part of Grindhouse, Death Proof seemed to be slightly better than Planet Terror. On DVD, however, it becomes quite obvious that Tarantino knows his grindhouse cinema better than Robert Rodriguez does. With the “missing reel” restored and the run time fattened to almost two hours, Death Proof stands among Tarantino’s best work. You develop a better appreciation for the characters in this version, especially Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). The reinsertion of several subtleties and nuances provide much more insight into his insanities and insecurities, and he becomes even more interestingly complex than he already was. This extended cut is so revelatory, it doesn’t even need to rely on its special features (a collection of pretty featurettes) to earn your cash. Revising a movie on DVD can be a very risky proposition, but in Tarantino’s case, it truly has created a whole new, better movie.
Hailed by critics as “France’s answer to Do the Right Thing” upon its original release in 1995, La Haine (Hate) is just as devastating now as it was twelve years ago (perhaps even more so now, considering the 2005 riots in Paris). Director Matthieu Kassovitz was only 29 when he made La Haine, and he instills it with angrily energetic style he would never manage to live up to. Following three young men (a Jew, and African, and an Arab) over the course of one day after a race riot, this is a movie that grabs you from the beginning, and never lets go. The extras on the DVD command your attention, too, particularly Kassovitz’s surprisingly candid English-language commentary and a documentary featuring new interviews with the cast and crew. I can’t stress it enough that La Haine is also a very, very cool movie. The stark black and white cinematography give it a look of its own, and Kassovitz’s inspired, free-wheeling camera movements (which you can check out below) make for one hell of an experience.