Old, Embarrassing Things I've Written

by Andy Jay Bennett


I used to have a home entertainment column in the Northland Reader. I wrote this column around this same time back in 2005, picking my favorite things from 2005. Enjoy. And try not to cringe TOO much.

REMOTE VIEWING - Best of 2005

By Andy Bennett

Do you hear what I hear?  Do you?  It sounds a little like Fran Drescher gargling battery acid.  Hear it?  It’s the exasperated cursing of Hollywood as they collectively throw up their hands in the face of an audience they no longer understand.  That’s you, by the way.

Now don’t feel bad, the filmmakers will be okay.  You’d be surprised how quickly their mood improves when they can make their 20-year-old personal assistant buy them new underpants.  It’s just that you’ve made their year a little tough.  More films were released this year than almost any other year in history, and yet the box office is down 7 percent. In fact, of the hundreds of new releases this year, only 15 can be regarded as genuine hits. What’s causing the slump at the multiplex?

It’s a combination of two things; DVD and television has become truly first-rate, and Hollywood makes some crappy, crappy movies. With films being released on DVD mere months after their theatrical debuts and the networks unleashing schedules boasting innovative, genre-pushing programs, it’s no wonder you’re staying home. The couch has taken the place of the cinema at the entertainment mountaintop, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.

With that in mind, I offer my picks for the best DVD releases and television programs of 2005. It may have been a rough time for Hollywood, but for the living rooms of America, it was a very good year.

DVD:

Alfred Hitchcock - The Masterpiece Collection: A career-spanning sampling of work from the finest director of suspense in film history.  With digitally re-mastered versions of 14 films, documentaries, retrospectives, and a revealing interview with Hitchcock himself, it’s more than worth the $120 sucker punch you’re going to give your wallet.

Frank Miller’s Sin City (Recut, Extended, Unrated):  This violent, vulgar masterpiece gets the treatment it deserves in this two-disc set loaded with multiple versions of the film, commentaries, featurettes, scene dissections, and even a cooking lesson.  Robert Rodriguez is a one-man movie studio, and with this special edition of his best film yet, Rodriguez flexes his do-it-all movie muscles and shoves the Independent back into independent films.

The Wizard of Oz: A process called “ultra-resolution” is responsible for the crispest, sharpest version of this film ever, a treat that’s worth the sticker price alone.  Yet this set doesn’t rest on its shiny, Technicolor laurels.  It heaps making-of documentaries, a music-only track, deleted scenes, trailers, and outtakes onto this three-disc set.  Oz has never looked or sounded this good, and the extras will keep you from clicking your heels and returning to the real world for hours.

The Daily Show – Indecision 2004: Much more than a collection of the best bits from the funniest news program on television, this three-disc set serves as a time capsule of one of the most contentious, divisive elections in history.  Neither party is spared from the razor-sharp barbs of Jon Stewart and Co., nor should they be; years from now this set will still reek of levity, intelligence, and common sense.  I wish I could say the same for politics.

Batman – The Motion Picture Anthology: Sure, most people will buy this for the first two films, and the marvelous commentary by Batman director, Tim Burton.  But what makes this set exceptional Joel Schumacher’s commentary, where he actually takes responsibility for turning a fascinating tale of the darker side of human vengeance into a bubble-gum pop display of one-liners and rubber nipples.

TELEVISION:

Lost:  This is the most exciting, rewarding, moving, fascinating show in years.  Time will tell, but if this show continues its run of exemplary storytelling, it just might end up as one of the greatest shows of all time.  Just watch it, already.

Arrested Development: I guess I don’t even know why I’m bothering, since this show is all but canceled, but this is the rare comedy that doesn’t pander to its viewers, refuses to go for the easy joke, and rewards viewers that tune in every week.  Come to think of it, that’s probably exactly why it’s being cancelled.

24:  What makes this show so good is not just the mileage Kiefer Sutherland gets out of the word “Damnit,” but also the non-stop bull rush of action and intrigue that refuses to let its audience get ahead of them.  You know how in action movies the hero disarms the bomb with one second to spare?  On 24, they prefer to let the bomb go boom and then play with the bloody little pieces.

Scrubs: A supremely underrated show that consistently blends outrageous humor and real human drama into touching and heart-warming 22-minute episodes.  Last year’s episode My Life In Four Cameras was not only a smart satire of everything wrong with sitcoms, it was also a unsentimental tear-jerker that made viewers want to give a big hug to whoever was near. 

Gilmore Girls: One episode contains more obscure references than Dennis Miller on speed yet is still able to take you through a dozen different emotions.  This show is perfect for sick days, snow days, or Tuesdays.  Tuesdays at 7 to be exact.  Give it a chance, won’t you?

From my seat at the summit of Entertainment Mountain, the view from the couch looks pretty fantastic.