DVDS OF THE YEAR 1 Citizen Kane & The Godfather
(Warner, PG; Paramount, R) If you owned a DVD player and if you love movies, 2001 was a year to make your head explode from sheer film-geek bliss. The studios finally committed to the disc format by opening their archives and releasing dozens of crown jewels, which makes choosing a measly 10 items to represent the year’s best an insult to cinema history. This year, then, my 10 are 20, and sitting atop the list are two movies that a lot of people consider the greatest ever made. Since DVD is all about more, the Citizen Kane set includes a two-hour documentary and commentaries from Roger Ebert and Peter Bogdanovich, while the massive Godfather DVD Collection includes all three movies, a disc of truly remarkable extras, and a running commentary from Francis Ford Coppola that, on Part III, achieves a Lear-like pathos all its own. But, listen, forget the smorgasbord and cue up Kane and the first Godfather: They remain the two most alluring and troubling portraits of American striving ever put on film, and they’re more clear-eyed than ever.
2 NOTORIOUS (Criterion, unrated) REAR WINDOW: COLLECTOR’S EDITION (Universal, PG) The two best Alfred Hitchcock movies? That’s an argument to start a bar fight at the Cahiers Cafe, but the DVDs offer backup. If Notorious is the brutally romantic yin of Hitch’s early Hollywood period, Window remains the perverse, expansively witty yang of his 1950s golden age — not to mention a profound treatise on the pleasures and terrors of watching. There are fine extras for cinephiles — the commentary tracks on Notorious are as good as film school, and several thousand dollars cheaper — but the real glory is the restoration work that gives both classics back their teeth.
3 MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL: SPECIAL EDITION (Columbia TriStar, PG) FAWLTY TOWERS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (BBC, unrated) Slap the Holy Grail disc on and scratch your head in confusion as an obscure 1961 British comedy called Dentist on the Job unreels for several minutes…until, with stop that! abruptness, the Python’s shambolic, sublime first feature kicks in. Other goodies include an all-Lego reenactment of the ”Camelot” musical number and the sight of various middle-aged Pythons nearly having coronaries while hiking up to the original locations. The Fawlty set isn’t big on extras, but never has the Pythonic sensibility been so compressed into pure comic hostility as in the 12 episodes of John Cleese’s perfect sitcom farce.
4 SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (Walt Disney, unrated) AKIRA: THE SPECIAL EDITION (Pioneer, R) Two benchmarks of animated movies (granted, if Walt Disney were alive to see Akira, it would kill him) receive the deluxe DVD treatment. As the first feature-length cartoon, Snow White has a lot to answer for — the making-of documentary points out that, for the first time, tie-in toys were in stores on opening day — but its historical importance and undeniable artistry make all the extras worthwhile. (Yes, even the ”Heigh Ho” karaoke.) 1988’s Akira, by contrast, merged anime with cyberpunk and set the stage for both grown-up cartoons and the Japanese animation invasion: It’s meaner, bloodier, and smarter than any Pokemon that came after.