The top 20 DVDs of 2010
Still struggling for a few last-minute Christmas gifts? Worry no more, as Time Out’s David Jenkins and Tom Huddleston present the definitive guide to the 20 best DVD releases of 2010
These discs won’t all suit every taste, but each title listed here is some kind of masterpiece, and we guarantee there’s something here to please pretty much everyone (footballing gaffes enthusiasts notwithstanding). The list is a countdown, from 20 down to one...
20. The B-movie collectionA roughly 50-50 mixed bag of corkers and crap: ignoring the latter, the set is worth picking up mainly for the first DVD appearance of Larry Cohen’s phenomenal puddingsploitation classic ‘The Stuff’, with notable mentions for Roddy Piper in a giant metal nappy in post-apocalyptic amphibious sleaze-fest ‘Hell Comes to Frogtown’, and appearances from a heavily bouffanted, pre-‘ER’ George Clooney in both culture-splice comedy ‘Return of the Killer Tomatoes’ and surprisingly smart pre-‘Scream’ self-aware slice 'n’ dice, ‘Return to Horror High’.
Recommended for fans of Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, really rotten moviesWhat we said Much of the collection is padded out with the kind of animal-rampage filler that used to choke up video shop shelves back in the ’80s: with titles like ‘Slugs’, ‘Spiders’, ‘Octopus’ and ‘Rats’, watching them back-to-back is roughly equivalent to working the night shift at Huntingdon Life Sciences. But when the apocalypse comes and we’re all fighting mutant killer octopodes on a daily basis, this shit might be more valuable than the ‘SAS Survival Handbook’. Buy it here
19. Shinjuku Boys/Gaea GirlsThe competition may be stiff, but one could easily argue that director Kim Longinotto is one of the most eloquent, intelligent and politically enraged documentary makers currently working from the isles. Never one to be shackled by the geographical accessibility of her subject, the globe-hopping director turned her camera on two Japanese subcultures for this pair of exceptional films. The first, ‘Shinjuku Boys’ (1995) profiles the cross-dressing employees of a hostess bar, while ‘Gaea Girls’ (2000) is an enjoyable, empathetic and immersive study of what it takes to become a female wrestler in Japan. Recommended for fans of Good, thought-provoking documentary. What we said As critic Sophie Mayer rightly identifies in her accompanying essay to this latest two-film release from the always-interesting Second Run label, Kim Longinotto is a director who makes films about women who have ‘opted out of conventional gender roles’. While probably not as strong as her superlative Iran films (‘Divorce Iranian Style’ and ‘Runaway’), these titles add further credence to the argument that Longinotto is by far one of best directors working out of the UK.
Buy it here
18. EarthThe reputation of Alexander Dovzhenko as the great, swooning rural lyricist among the otherwise predominately formalist, constructivist cadre of great metropolitan Russian revolutionary directors has been questioned and qualified over recent years. But there’s no doubt that the silent ‘Earth’, made in 1930, remains one of the most beautiful tone poems in cinema history. This was a fine release from up-and-coming DVD imprint, Mr Bongo.Recommended for fans of Andrei Tarkovsky, Alexander Sokurov, Terrence MalickWhat we said From its celebrant beginning – an old Ukrainian peasant dying among the autumn fall and feasting babies in his orchard – to its emotional ending – the funeral of his (Kulak-) murdered grandson Vasilly – ‘Earth’ is no simplistic so-called ‘tractor’ movie nor Soviet propaganda piece. It’s a uniquely vibrant and rhapsodic paean to the cycle of life and death, driven as much by Dovzhenko’s dynamic musical rhythm and expressive parallel montage as it is enriched by the extraordinary cinematography of Daniel Demutsky, which creates a damn-near convincing vision of a grand unity of man, his machines and his mother, nature. Fantastically vital filmmaking – and as fresh as an open sunflower. (Wally Hammond)
Buy it here
17. Lizard in a Woman's SkinIt was a great year for obscure horror reissues on DVD, but two of the finest must have been this prize pair of Italian-funded, British-made early ’70s gorefests. ‘Lizard…’ is more of a mystery thriller, as an Italian expat in London begins to have mysterious Sapphic dreams about the murdered woman next door. But ‘Manchester Morgue’ is an altogether more bloodthirsty affair, as Romero-esque zombies come to life in a remote Lakeland village (the title is, admittedly, misleading). Both films sport phenomenal prog-funk soundtracks.
Recommended for fans of 'The Sweeney', Dario Argento, King CrimsonWhat we said A berserk, unmissable double bill of ’70s horror featuring pan-European casts of (mostly dubbed) character actors. ‘Lizard…’ is the classier of the two, superbly directed by Giallo legend Lucio Fulci and sporting a slinky score by the maestro, Morricone. ‘Manchester Morgue’, meanwhile, is arguably the more entertaining: cruder, sillier and far bloodier.
Buy 'Lizard' here Buy 'Manchester Morgue' here
16. The Edge of the WorldMichael Powell came of age with this near-documentary portrait of life on the remote Scottish isle of Foula. This BFI Blu-ray reissue makes the remarkable monochrome cinematography – all wild seas, towering cliffs and stern, weathered faces – even more beautiful.Recommended for fans of Martin Scorsese, Robert Flaherty, ‘Hamish Macbeth’.What we said The stand-out scenes in Powell’s film are those shot on Foula’s enormous sea cliffs, and anyone who has seen Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’ should remember his fondness for Powell, and that Powell’s last wife, Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell, is his editor: the influence is clear. (Dave Calhoun)
Buy it here
15. ChockyThose who remember this unnerving ITV John Wyndham adaptation from their ’80s childhoods will be pleased to hear it’s lost none of its strange charm and brooding, surprisingly adult intelligence. As much a story about a father’s fear for his son’s failing mental health as an ET-like alien encounter romp, ‘Chocky’ is dreamlike and fascinating.Recommended for fans of ‘The Tripods’, ‘Close Encounters’, ‘Grange Hill’.What we said Exploring ideas of parenthood, paranoia, madness and creativity, ‘Chocky’ is a challenging piece of work, as much for adults as their kids. Despite some rocky performances, a painfully twee middle-English setting and some outrageous ‘80s hair, it’s a haunting, beautifully crafted and surprisingly intense experience.
Buy it here
14. Under the Sun of Satan + A Nos AmoursEven though it was mainly last year (2009) that Masters of Cinema started to roll out the remarkable back catalogue of much-maligned/neglected French director, Maurice Pialat, the beginning of this year gave us fine DVD versions of two of his highly impressive later titles. 1983’s ‘A Nos Amours’ is his philosophical, cinematically unfettered study of teenage ennui that marked the startling acting debut of Sandrine Bonnaire (who was 16 at the time of shooting) as a flighty, manipulative nymphet. Bonnaire is also excellent in 1987’s Palme d’Or winner ‘Under the Sun of Satan’ where she plays a boisterous murderess out to test the faith of strayed-from-the-flock priest, Gérard Depardieu.Recommended for fans of ’80s French Cinema, Robert Bresson, John CassavetesWhat we said Two more reasons why Maurice Pialat, the high priest of brusque French realism, should be first in line for inclusion on any list of underpraised modern auteurs.
Buy 'Sun of Satan' here Buy 'A Nos Amours' here
13. Breaking AwayA small town coming-of-age sports movie from a time when that description recalled ‘The Bad News Bears’ rather than ‘The Mighty Ducks’, ‘Breaking Away’ has stood the test of time thanks to a handful of winning central performances from the likes of Dennis Quaid and Daniel Stern, Steve Teisch’s sweet-but-smart script and some riveting cycling sequences.Recommended for fans of ‘Stand By Me’, ‘The Outsiders’, the Tour de France
What we said It’s a gem, at once utterly enjoyably from start to end and pleasingly adult in a way so many Hollywood films don’t even try for these days. For all its gags and uplifting drama, it speaks volumes about class, generational differences, friendship, smalltown life, and much, much more. (Geoff Andrew)
Buy it here
12. Diamonds of the NightIn what was an all-round great year Second Run DVD – those fervent champions of far-flung/little-known/lost esoterica – we must say that it was this introspective World War Two chase movie by Czech director Jan Numec that blew us away the furthest. Based on the memoir ‘Darkness Casts No Shadow’ by Arnold Lustig – about the author’s escape from a train en route to the death camps – this isn’t a mere historical retelling of facts, more an cinematic exhumation of the source material’s dark soul.
Recommended for fans of ‘Come and See’, Alain Resnais
What we said It starts to loop in on itself, developing a dense visual and aural landscape and inserting surreal fragments of the protagonists’ memories of the degrading lives they led prior to their capture. The curt editing and grungy cinematography are sublime, making this more than another liberal treatise on the horrors of war.
Buy it here
11. The Larry Sanders Show Series 1Only previously available as rubbish ‘best of’ DVDs, the appearance this year of arguably the best American sitcom ever was a cause for huge celebration. As it becomes increasingly evident that Gary Shandling has basically retreated from the comedy limelight (despite occasional appearances in Hollywood blockbusters and celebrity court cases), this series will forever stand as the pinnacle of a remarkable career, and the template for the current glut of snarky-sarcastic, disarmingly good-natured mainstream American TV comedy. And there are still five more seasons to come…
Recommended for fans of ‘Seinfeld’, ’30 Rock’, ‘I’m Alan Partridge’.
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