Warner Bros. is celebrating its 90th anniversary by unpacking some of its Best Picture winners from the vault.
The new 20 Film Collection: Best Pictures, available now, offers everything from Peter Jackson's triumphant trilogy topper The Return of the King to the classic World War II yarn The Best Years of Our Lives.
Packaged in a slick golden case, the DVD collection is a perfect complement to Oscar season. It's also a way to compare what passed muster for Oscar consideration then ... and now.
Some selections represent modern triumphs, like Jackson's Rings finale which meshed state of the art effects with a tale first told decades earlier. Around the World in 80 Days is generally considered one of the weakest Best Picture winners, while Unforgiven found screen legend Clint Eastwood reinterpreting his hard-boiled film persona with glorious consequences.
The selections do more than honor film achievement. They occasionally serve as reflections on their respective eras. Consider One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the Jack Nicholson-led gem which typified the anti-authoritative spirit of the '70s.
An American in Paris unites Gene Kelly, director Vincente Minnelli and composer George Gershwin for what could be the perfect movie musical.
This critic remains ambivalent toward Million Dollar Baby sharing space in a set like this, Oscar bona fides notwithstanding, but the film does mark director/star Eastwood's remarkable late-career surge.
DVD box sets can frustrate consumers. The typical package pairs great films next to clunkers that are much harder to sell in solo editions. Franchise sets are even worse, making us pay for not only the first few installments in a series but also the inferior, later editions. Consider the mostly excellent Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology a fine example of the latter.
The 20 Film Collection offers both consistency and something for every movie fan. One craves a companion book to supplement the films, although some of the disks include significant extras, from commentary tracks to production featurettes and other extras.
The set, which comes in three installments (1929-1942, 1946-1959 and 1975-2006), features:
The Broadway Melody
Mutiny on the Bounty
The Life of Emile Zola
Gone with the Wind
The Best Years of Our Lives
An American in Paris
Around the World in 80 Days
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Chariots of Fire
Amadeus: Director's Cut
Driving Miss Daisy
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Million Dollar Baby