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page created: 3/12/07
updated: 3/21/07

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

continued from last page

The BitsyWarner Bros.

The BitsyBCI/Eclipse

MAJOR - Warner Bros.

At this point, it would almost be nice for Warner to make a huge mistake so that someone else could have a chance in this category. They came close this year with the errors on the Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition set, but by flying into action to correct the problems so quickly, they cinched the award yet again. Coupled with their continuing commitment to restoring their library of classics, and their high-quality new release slate, Warner continues to show the other major studios how the game should be played.

MINOR - BCI/Eclipse

This time last year, BCI was on nobody's radar. But with the acquisition of the massive Filmmation library, the creation of the Ink & Paint label and the hiring of DVD producer Andy Mangels to create extras, things turned around big time in 2006. BCI/Eclipse is now leading the pack with their top-notch releases of nostalgic Saturday morning TV favorites from the 70s and 80s, each one stuffed to the max with fantastic bonuses. It's studios like this one, with their high-quality output and totally awesome lineup, that make DVD so much fun.

Special thanks to our friends

The BitsyNew York Doll: The Movie

New York Doll: The Movie
(First Independent Pictures)

This is a brilliant look at a man lost and found. Having been in one of the most interesting and short-lived bands of his day, Arthur "Killer" Kane had much to lament... and much to be thankful for. New York Doll is far more than your standard rockumentary. It's a story of broken dreams, lost hope and redemption.


They don't make 'em like this anymore... Warner's The Busby Berkeley Collection serves up five toe-tapping, old Hollywood musical spectaculars. And the Bitsy team knows better than to argue with one hundred million tweens... Disney's High School Musical rocks the hizzy, yo! (Just checking to see if you guys were paying attention).

Special thanks to our friends

The BitsyKISS: KISSOLOGY - Volume 1
(VH1 Classic Records)

You wanted the best? You got the best! With its many looks at a rising band that has done as much as any band could hope for, this early collection is pure KISS Bliss. Stick it in, crank it up and get ready to rock and roll all nite.


Pay homage to one of rock's pioneers with the overstuffed four-disc Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. We'll meet you on the dark side of the moon with Pink Floyd: Pulse. And Jonathan Demme directs yet another great concert film with Neil Young: Heart of Gold.


The BitsySuperman II: The Richard Donner Cut

The BitsyKiss Kiss Bang Bang

Richard Donner & Tom Mankiewicz
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
(Warner Bros.)

Shane Black, Val Kilmer & Robert Downey Jr.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
(Warner Bros.)

Looks like we've got ourselves a good old fashioned tie, boys. Donner and Mankiewicz enthralled us with a historical look at the hows and why of Superman II. The two old friends get together just for our benefit and discuss the problems with the producers, what they would have done differently had they been allowed to finish the film, ideas for different endings and what worked in the original. If you love your commentaries "film school in a box" style, then you can't go wrong here.

On the other hand, we fell in love with the commentary for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It's not quite "film school in a box", but it matches the fun and enthusiasm of the film it supports. Black is honest and funny, Kilmer is quirky and smart, and though Downey doesn't chime in as much as we'd like... when he does, it's gold.


There were a LOT of great commentaries this year. If you want our advice, check out George Clooney and Grant Heslov on Good Night, and Good Luck, David Cronenberg on A History of Violence, Craig Brewer on Hustle & Flow, Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore on The Complete Mr. Arkadin, Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle on Sam Peckinpah's Legendary Westerns Collection (there are four commentaries in the set, all of which are worth your time) and of course, the film school in a box champion himself: Francis Ford Coppola on Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier.


The BitsyWhy We Fight

Why We Fight

Visit the documentary section of your local video store and you can't spit without hitting quite a few politically oriented films (depending on your personal politics, you probably won't need much encouragement to spit at some of them). Why We Fight is different. It's a complex and remarkably even-handed look at the last several decades of the American war machine. Director Eugene Jarecki takes a difficult subject and explores it from all angles, crafting an argument that is both compelling and chilling.


Michael Apted makes another seven-years-later return to the men and women of 49 Up. One of the biggest corporate scandals of all time is deftly explored in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Al Gore warns about the looming threat of global warming in An Inconvenient Truth, while Spike Lee visits New Orleans in the epic When the Levees Broke. And on the lighter side of non-fiction DVD, Wordplay delves into the somewhat less controversial world of crossword puzzles.


The BitsyHowl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle

Any time a Miyazaki film comes out on DVD here in the States, it's time to rejoice. But now that Pixar is overseeing the American releases of the Studio Ghibli films on disc, it's just that much more of a big deal. For a traditionally-animated film, Howl's Moving Castle looks flawless on DVD. The picture and audio quality are superb and the extras, though not vast, are as cool as the film. Disney's Miyazaki releases are simply impressive.


We're also quite impressed with the work that went into the Journey Back to Oz DVD from BCI. Also worth their weight in gold: Corpse Bride, The Little Mermaid, Monster House, Wallace & Gromitt: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Cars and the platinum edition of Lady and the Tramp.


The BitsyDungeons and Dragons: The Complete Animated Series
Dungeons and Dragons: The Complete Animated Series

New category alert! TVD is now such a major part of the format's success that it's impossible to lump it all into just one category. So we've created this new section for nostalgic Saturday morning (and after school) favorites. D&D was the clear winner, collecting every episode of the much-loved fantasy adventure series and sweetening the deal with a wealth of fantastic extra features produced by the prolific Andy Mangels, including a radio-play-style production of the never-produced series finale. Order a pizza, stock up on Mr. Pibb, lock the basement door and catch up with the Dungeon Master.


Pretty much anything from BCI's library is worthy of your time with special attention due to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Ark II, Flash Gordon and Groovie Goolies. Warner continues to do well with their line-up of animated DC heroes and titles like Animaniacs. Paramount made a lot of us happy by releasing Star Trek: The Animated Series. A&E served up the final seasons of Danger Mouse, while Anime Works collected Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Shout! Factory made learning cool again with The Best of The Electric Company. And it's technically not a TV show but Sony Wonder's Transformers: The Movie - 20th Anniversary Special Edition certainly fits the spirit of this category.


The BitsySaturday Night Live: The Complete First Season

The BitsyGet Smart: The Complete Series

Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season

Get Smart: The Complete Series
(Time Life/HBO)

For years, it seemed like clearance issues would mean that the closest we'd ever come to getting SNL on disc would be those lame "best of" compilations. Thankfully, Universal finally stepped up and gave us the real deal. Every sketch and musical performance from SNL's classic first season is included here, and they're just as good as you remember. Finally, it can be live from New York whenever you want. That's a great thing indeed.

Get Smart: The Complete Series was released in 2006, but only online from Time Life (it will be in stores later in 2007). But not only does the box set include all five seasons - all 138 original episodes in remastered quality - you get just a huge amount of great extras, including audio commentaries (by series creators Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, actors Barbara Feldon, Bernie Kopell, Bill Dana, Don Rickles, James Caan and many others), original blooper reels, new interviews, scores of new featurettes, vintage promos and TV appearances by Don Adams and other cast members, vintage commercials, the Museum of Television and Radio's 2006 Get Smart event featuring Adams and others, liner-note booklets... and would you believe that's just scratching the surface? Well, it is. Awesome.


We know... it's not TV, it's HBO. Whatever you call it, Deadwood: The Complete Second Season and Rome: The Complete First Season are some of the finest hours produced for the small screen. No need to wait to complete your collection when you can pick up the amazing Alias: The Complete Collection or Strangers with Candy: The Complete Series. One of the best new dramas on TV is well-represented on Grey's Anatomy: Season One and Season Two. And let's hear it for the continuing great work of some returning champions: Lost: The Complete Second Season, The Office: Season Two and 24: Season Five.


The BitsySuperman II: The Richard Donner Cut

The BitsyThe Complete Mr. Arkadin

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
(Warner Bros.)

The Complete Mr. Arkadin

How do we define "most surprising DVD"? Well... how about something that by rights, shouldn't exist at all? Fans have long been aware of the controversy surrounding the replacement of Richard Donner on Superman II, and the rumors as to how his version would have differed from Richard Lester's became legendary. In 2006, we finally got a chance to see for ourselves.

As for The Complete Mr. Arkadin, when this title was announced by Criterion, our first thought was that it was impossible. Orson Welles' movie went through countless edits (and multiple titles) since its release, none of which were considered to be the real deal. Criterion did an amazing job of putting all the pieces together, collecting more Arkadin-related material than many of us thought existed.


DVD is in a pretty good place when studios have to dig deep into their vaults to keep things fresh. Witness Fox's The Will Rogers Collection: Volumes 1 & 2 and Tokyo Shock's Zatoichi: The Television Series, titles we never thought would see the light of day.


The BitsyThe Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition

Virtual Disneyland Ride
The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition
(Buena Vista/Disney)

Take a ride on a Disneyland attraction that never was. The Little Mermaid explores the Under the Sea ride that was developed by Disney's Imagineers but never built, using DVD technology to recreate the experience in anamorphic widescreen with full 5.1 surround sound. Once you're done, ride it again with audio commentary by the designers. In some ways, this is almost better than a real ride. At least here you don't have to wait in line for an hour with screaming kids.


Ten years into the DVD format, many of those once-innovative special features have become pretty standard. But despite the feeling of "been there, done that," there's still some interesting work being done here and there. Thanks to seamless branching and fantastic video compression, the new Lord of the Rings: Limited Edition discs offer both the theatrical and extended versions of the films on a single disc. And we're impressed by BCI/Eclipse's use of PDF files to include entire scripts and show bibles on many of their releases in a format that both Macs and PCs can access - simple, but effective.


The BitsyV for Vendetta: Special Edition

Natalie Portman's "A Day in the Life" SNL Digital Short
V for Vendetta: Special Edition
(Warner Bros.)

You may have thought that V for Vendetta took Natalie Portman to some awfully dark places, but uncover this hidden feature and you'll discover that it's pretty much business as usual for this hardcore gangsta girl. "We love you, Natalie (I wanna @#$& you too)!"


Uh... none. Do people still look for these things? 'Cause we've kinda stopped. Life's short, folks. If something's really worth checking out, it's probably not hard too find.


The BitsyKingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)

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

Weren't we just saying something about how the only way this film could look better on disc would be Blu-ray? Well, here you go. This was THE Blu-ray Disc title to own in 2006. Not only does Ridley Scott's evocative visual imagery look great in full 1080p high-definition video, but the clang of all those swords sounds more live than Memorex in DTS-HD. If Blu-ray's your high-def format of choice, you dare not miss this reference-quality disc.


Also well worth checking out in Blu-ray... Sony's Black Hawk Down, Buena Vista's Pearl Harbor, Paramount's Mission: Impossible - Ultimate Missions Collection, Warner's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Fox's X-Men: The Last Stand.


The BitsyBatman Begins (HD-DVD)

Batman Begins
(Warner Bros.)

Yes... the Caped Crusader swings into action in full 1080p high-definition video, with Dolby TrueHD audio as well to make sure you hear all the punches. Not only does Warner dazzle you with reference A/V quality, they add virtually all of the standard DVD edition's extras and a couple of new things just for HD as well. If you're looking for the best HD-DVD release of 2006, here it is.


Here's some more must-have discs for HD-DVD fans... Universal's King Kong, Paramount's Mission: Impossible - Ultimate Missions Collection, and Warner's The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Searchers and Casablanca.

Special thanks to our friends
The BitsyThe Moody Blues - Remastered (Hybrid SACDs) The Moody Blues - Remastered Deluxe Editions (Hybrid SACDs)
(Universal Music)

Unfortunately, high-resolution audio titles seem to have fallen by the wayside in 2006. Thankfully, a few companies have kept the faith with audiophiles, mostly on SACD format, by releasing hybrid CD/SACD catalog titles in fully remastered deluxe editions. The best of these were easily Universal Music's reissues of The Moody Blues, which included On the Threshold of a Dream, Question of Balance, To Our Children's Children's Children, Days of Future Passed, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and In Search of the Lost Chord. In a period of so little, these hi-profile packages should restore a bit of faith in the high-resolution market.

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