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page created: 3/12/07


The 8th Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards!
Outstanding Achievements in DVD for 2006

back to Editors' Top 10 Choices

DVD SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - THE LIEBERFARB

The LieberfarbThe Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection

Every year, we have a hard time awarding The Bitsys without having it turn into The Criterion Collection Awards. This year it was harder than ever, as Criterion stepped up their A-game to produce some of the finest discs the format has seen. Take a look at these titles: 3 Films by Louis Malle, The Complete Mr. Arkadin, Dazed and Confused, Equinox, A Canterbury Tale, Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales, Brazil, Seven Samurai, The Double Life of Veronique, Pandora's Box. And those are just SOME of the highlights of their year.
Ten years into the DVD format, we decided it was high time to create a special achievement award honoring those who have made a significant and lasting contribution to DVD. We call it the Lieberfarb, named in honor of Warren Lieberfarb, the "Godfather of the DVD" himself. And who better to receive the inaugural Lieberfarb than Criterion? For years, they have quite simply set the standard for special edition work. From film selection to restoration to production of special features to their often beautiful artwork and packaging, Criterion DVDs are in a class by themselves. For consistently raising the bar and creating a truly indispensable collection of important classic and contemporary films, we're proud to award the first Lieberfarb Award to The Criterion Collection.


BEST DVD - OVERALL

The BitsySuperman: Ultimate Collector's Edition

Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition
(Warner Bros.)

This was a tough call this year, which is too bad because what this massive 14-disc set does right should have made this award a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the initial pressing of the set had a couple of major problems: An incorrect audio track slipped onto Superman: The Movie and the wrong disc of Superman III made its way into the box. To their credit, however, the folks at Warner stepped up to the plate and quickly worked to correct these mistakes. Once those are taken care of, this set truly lives up to its name, and the unintended errors can hardly be counted against all that's great here... and virtually EVERYTHING here is great.

There's enough content included on these 14 discs to keep the most rabid Superfan busy for days. Virtually every stage of Kal-El's career is represented, from all of the beautifully remastered Max Fleischer cartoons, to all of the Christopher Reeve films (including the legendary, long-awaited Richard Donner cut of Superman II) to Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Along the way, you get more extras than you can rattle a kryptonite necklace at. Thanks to Warner's quick response time on those initial problems, the Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition deservingly flies to the top of the heap.


BEST DVD - SPECIAL EDITION

The BitsyKingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut

Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut
(20th Century Fox)

It's become commonplace to see movies re-released with additional footage as an "extended" or "unrated" version. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is one of the few cases where the new cut makes a significant difference, turning a pretty but hollow movie into the sweeping epic it was always meant to be. Bolstered by terrific video and audio quality, an engrossing audio commentary, an epic, six-part documentary on the making of the film and much more, the Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut defines what a good special edition DVD should be. This set trumps its predecessor in every way, and belongs in the collection of every good DVD fan.

THE RUNNERS-UP

If you upgrade only one movie in your Superman collection, make it the Superman: The Movie - Four-disc Special Edition. Criterion's Seven Samurai is one of the best movies of all time and now has a 3-disc DVD worthy of it. Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Extended Edition gives the fantasy epic a comprehensive look. Tartan's Oldboy: Ultimate Edition serves up Park Chan-wook's cult classic with a ton of extras and a cool tin case. And while it isn't quite as complete as its title suggests, Paramount's Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier still does an admirable job upgrading one of Coppola's finest films.


BEST DVD - STANDARD EDITION (TIE)


The BitsyKiss Kiss Bang Bang

The BitsyLittle Miss Sunshine

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
(Warner Bros.)

Little Miss Sunshine
(20th Century Fox)

Ah... the joys of the standard edition DVD. They're not loaded up with bonus material, but they're still perfect for discovering movies you may have missed and don't even realize you love yet. Movies like Shane Black's dark comedy throwback to classic film noir, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Movies like the surprising ensemble comedy Little Miss Sunshine, by newcomer directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Both movies hold up nicely to repeat viewings and play just as well at home as they did in the cinema. The discs even toss in a few choice extras. Not bad for a couple of "standard" DVDs.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Other movies worth discovering this year sans special edition DVD included the Oscar-winning Capote, George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, Woody Allen's Match Point, and A Prairie Home Companion, the late, great Robert Altman's final film.


BEST DVD - CLASSIC RELEASE

The BitsyThe Searchers: 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition

The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition
(Warner Bros.)

One of the very best collaborations between John Wayne and director John Ford gets a spectacular DVD upgrade. The movie itself had never looked better, with a transfer that makes the film look as if it was shot yesterday. The 2-disc set's bounty of well-produced extras includes documentaries, vintage TV segments and an audio commentary from Peter Bogdanovich. The Ultimate Edition version tosses in reproductions of memos, the original press book... even the 1956 Dell Comics adaptation. It's a classic film given a classic DVD treatment.

THE RUNNERS-UP

After years of waiting, Double Indemnity finally returned to DVD, and Universal's Legacy Series release proved to be well worth the wait. Warner, one of the best studios when it comes to their classic catalog, went above and beyond the call with A-plus special editions of The Maltese Falcon, Forbidden Planet and Grand Prix just to name a few. And Paramount lavished Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist with a level of attention that belies the DVD's bargain price.


BEST DVD - BOXED SET(S)

The BitsyJames Bond Ultimate Edition: Volumes 1-4

James Bond Ultimate Edition: Volumes 1-4
(MGM)

James Bond came roaring back in a big way in 2006. Even if you didn't care for Daniel Craig's turn as 007 in Casino Royale, you could take comfort in revisiting the character's glory days with these four jam-packed box set collections. MGM's previous Bond special editions were awfully good, but these new versions (two discs for each film, housed in slim packs) are even better with picture-perfect new transfers, great new digital sound, nearly all of the previous bonus features and even a bunch of newly-produced bonus features too, including audio commentaries by Roger Moore. Consider your license to kill renewed.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Warner made it easy to pick up some of the best westerns of all time with the John Wayne/John Ford Film Collection and Sam Peckinpah's Legendary Westerns Collection. The Warner Bros. Tough Guys Collection gathers six great classics that may not be on the tip of your tongue, but still provide hours of entertainment. Two of America's finest filmmakers received their due with Sony's The Premiere Frank Capra Collection and Universal's Preston Sturges: The Filmmaker Collection. And though you may need to take out a second mortgage to afford it, Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films is practically as much a work of art as the remarkable films it collects.


BEST DVD - FOREIGN FILM

The BitsySeven Samurai

Seven Samurai
(The Criterion Collection)

Much as Akira Kurosawa's Ran from Criterion blew us away in last year's Bitsy Awards in this category, Criterion's three-disc remastering of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai on DVD hit us like a hurricane. With its newly-remastered sound and video, a plethora of new special features and the fact that it just happens to be one of the greatest films ever made - maybe THE greatest - this is a DVD set that no self-respecting DVD consumer should be without. Just as a side note, this edition of Seven Samurai lasted well into the discussion of our Best DVD - Overall pick, with the Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition just barely edging it. If you don't already own this set, do yourself a favor and pick it up tonight.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Criterion simply owns this category this year, which is just one of the reasons why we gave them the inaugural Lieberfarb. So if you're a fan of foreign films on DVD, we suggest these stellar sets from the company: 3 Films by Louis Malle, The Double Life of Veronique and Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales. Reading is fundamental. Reading movies... well that's just good sense.


BEST DVD - PSYCHOTRONIC

The BitsyDust Devil: The Final Cut - Limited Collector's Edition

Dust Devil: The Final Cut - Limited Collector's Edition
(Subversive Cinema)

Long-awaited by some of us at least, director Richard Stanley finally got the chance to release his preferred cut of his flawed but fascinating Dust Devil. But Subversive's mammoth five-disc set doesn't stop there. Not by a long shot. The set packs in three of Stanley's best, hardest to find documentaries, as well as a work print version of Dust Devil, featurettes, audio commentaries... even the soundtrack on CD. If this top-notch DVD doesn't broaden Dust Devil's cult following, nothing will.

THE RUNNERS-UP

The buzz is back. Dark Sky provided the definitive version of Tobe Hooper's original classic with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: Ultimate Edition while the underrated sequel gets some long overdue respect in MGM's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: The Gruesome Edition. After 50 years, American audiences finally got to meet the real King of the Monsters with Classic Media's release of Gojira. Criterion successfully put an obscure monster movie on the same level as Kurosawa and Fellini with Equinox. It's Russ Meyer's and Roger Ebert's happening and you can find out how much it freaks them out on Fox's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Synapse gets down and dirty with the Troma-esque Street Trash: Meltdown Edition. But there's only one real Troma and Uncle Lloyd and the Troma Team revisit one of their best in high style on the Tromeo & Juliet: 10th Anniversary Edition.


BEST DVD - VIDEO (NEW FILM)

The BitsyKingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut

Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut
(20th Century Fox)

Ridley Scott films are always a feast for the eyes, and this is one of his most evocative to date. But at 191 minutes, a movie of this size needs room to breathe on disc. Thankfully, Fox took this into account, spreading the director's cut of Scott's Kingdom of Heaven over two dual-layered discs to maximize the video bitrate. The film's gorgeous cinematography can truly be appreciated in this beautiful anamorphic transfer. Short of Blu-ray, it doesn't get better than this. Hold that thought.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Computer animated films almost always look spectacular on DVD, and Disney's Cars and Sony's Monster House are no exception. And while the animation of Warner's Corpse Bride was more old school, the high-tech digital photography looks spectacular on disc. Blockbuster movies get blockbuster transfers too on Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Universal's King Kong: Extended Edition. And for something a bit more low-key, New Line's The New World showcases the lush, painterly images of Terrence Malick's latest film perfectly.


BEST DVD - VIDEO (RESTORATION)

The BitsyThe Searchers: 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition

The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition
(Warner Bros.)

Warner almost always goes the extra mile when restoring their classic catalog titles for DVD release, and that extra effort pays off handsomely on The Searchers. Shot in VistaVision and Technicolor, the 2-disc release presents a crisp, lush image that will leave you feeling like you've just seen this classic film for the very first time.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Even if the new high-def transfer were all it had going for it, Criterion's Seven Samurai would still be worth the upgrade. Universal's Double Indemnity bathes your screen in a sea of rich, inky blacks and high-contrast lighting. Fox's restoration comparison shows just how far they came with the transfers on the Mr. Moto Collection: Volume One. Warner's Grand Prix shows off the Cinerama racing epic at its best. And newer movies need love, too. MGM's James Bond Ultimate Editions and Paramount's Reds: 25th Anniversary Edition look better than ever.


BEST DVD - SOUND

The BitsyKing Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition

King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition
(Universal)

Have you ever wondered what a 30 ton brontosaurus sounds like as it's about to step on your head? Well, how about a whole stampeding herd of them? Ever wax philosophic over the sonic qualities of a mutant-sized rampaging gorilla, or a swarm of lead-spitting biplanes? Then rest easy friends... you'll find out the answers to all of the above on this three-disc set, thanks to a Dolby Digital 5.1 that will rattle your bones to the marrow.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Disney gave home theater surround sound systems a workout this year with the NASCAR din of Cars and the cannon fire of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Fox's Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut provides an audio experience nearly as good as its video. You don't need super-hearing to be immersed in the soundscape of Warner's Superman Returns. And Fox's Walk the Line provides a top-notch musical audio track worthy of the Man in Black.


BEST DVD - "MAKING OF" FEATURETTE OR DOCUMENTARY

The BitsyA History of Violence: Platinum Series

Acts of Violence
A History of Violence: Platinum Series
(New Line)

In an era when "making of" documentaries sometimes run longer than the features themselves, Acts of Violence proves that sometimes less is more. An expertly-edited collection of interviews and intimate behind-the-scenes footage, Acts of Violence puts you on the set of David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. We see him working with the actors, blocking shots and spending time with the designers and effects guys behind the camera. It runs less than an hour, but packs more valuable information than many documentaries twice its length. If you're a Cronenberg fan (and if you're not, you should be), Acts of Violence is an essential window into his creative process.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Hell has frozen over. How else to explain Warren Beatty's participation in the excellent Witness to Reds from the Reds: 25th Anniversary Edition? The Path to Redemption is an epic and exceptional doc befitting its subject from the Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut. Learn about all things Kryptonian in You Will Believe from the Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition and the outstanding Requiem for Krypton from Superman Returns. The classic documentary of the year is easily Shadows of Suspense from the Double Indemnity: Legacy Series. You'll discover the countless uses of the term "cocksucker" in Trusting the Process with David Milch from Deadwood: The Complete Second Season. And special mention is due the fascinating and moving Chasing Planes: Witnesses to 9/11 from the elusive United 93: Special Edition.


BEST DVD - PACKAGING

The BitsyAlias: The Complete Collection

Alias: The Complete Collection
(Buena Vista)

Not only is this box set cool looking, containing no less than 30 discs of complete Alias goodness (every single episode, all the previously released extras plus an exclusive bonus disc of new extras), it's compact enough to fit on your video shelf without taking up silly amounts of space, it's cleverly and elegantly designed, it includes a hardcover book... AND it's meant to replicate the most important prop from the series itself. At $200 it isn't cheap, but if you're an Alias fan, it's definitely the ultimate.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Sure, the Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films is basically a coffee table book. But it's a damn nice one and contains over 50 films on disc to boot. You've got to give Fox credit for making its Planet of the Apes: Ultimate Collection "ape head" packaging available here in the States. It's not a cool as the I, Robot head from last year, but still. HBO reserved a cool grave marker for its Six Feet Under: The Complete Series, and threw in some turf too. Finally, it's tough not to like the Trapper-Keeper memories evoked by Paramount's Strangers with Candy: The Complete Series.


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