December 16, 2009

Best DVDs of 2009

You still have two weeks to marathon this year’s standouts. Painstakingly judged by all-around value, here is 2009’s must-spin list.

Best outrageously priced (and entirely worth it) boxed set: 
AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa (Criterion) 
Twenty-five of the Japanese mega-auteur’s better-known classics and lesser-known gems (including four previously unreleased titles) are collected in what’s probably the most lavish DVD package of all time. Not even film school was this comprehensive. 

Best appearance of the term suffix “’sploitation”: 
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (Mongrel) 
Mark Hartley’s hugely engaging doc on the 1970s boom in Antipodean cinema zeroes in on dozens of Oz-some money shots and dissects them with cast, crew and celebrity fanboys like revered ’sploitation buff Quentin Tarantino.  

Best high-def reissues of legendary rock concerts: 
The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Criterion) Woodstock: 40th Anniversary (Warner)Gimme Shelter (Criterion) 
Who says Blu-ray is all about visuals? These three mythmaking 1960s rock events occurred over two years, but you can experience them in one consecutive sitting and in lossless HD audio. 

Best nostalgic coming-of-age dramedy, or a much better reason to fall in love with Kristen  Stewart than Twilight: 
Adventureland (Maple) 
Mark my words, Greg Motolla’s underdog of a movie will grow in appreciation over the years, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be ahead of the times and pick up this well-rounded release that has more repeat value than Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus.” 

Best goofball cult flick that took forever to hit home video: 
Night of the Creeps (Sony) 
Halloween was all the more eventful thanks to the DVD debut of one of the last guilty-pleasure classics of the ’80s. Fred Dekker’s 1986 homage to drive-in drivel finally gets the deluxe treatment it deserves. Toss that cruddy VHS tape aside and upgrade. 

Best weepie we’ve been waiting forever to revisit: 
Magnificent Obsession (Criterion) 
Douglas Sirk’s most lurid melodrama was never properly released on DVD, but judging from this (ahem) magnificent two-disc set, the wait was worth it. Hell, they even throw in John M. Stahl’s 1935 adaptation for good measure.  

Best surrealist shocker to overlap with a related news event: 
Repulsion (Criterion) 
Roman Polanski’s recent arrest occurred weeks after Criterion released his groundbreaking second feature, which went on to influence such influential film’s as Eraserhead and Pi.  

Best sketch-comedy series ever (…to air on MTV): 
The State: The Complete Series (Paramount) All four seasons of this beautifully bizarre series merit shelf space next to your esteemed Kids in the Hall collection. 

Best intellectual alternative to watching The Hangover: 
Husbands (Sony) 
If The Hangover didn’t quench your drunk-and-disorderly-middle-class-dude thirst, check out this long-awaited extended cut from the defining American indie auteur, John Cassavetes. Stick around for the fantastic half-hour doc that accompanies this first-time-ever DVD release.