I think this year is going to be fondly remembered as the pivotal moment in Blu-ray where most all the studios raised the bar and finally brought the format up to its full potential.
That's not to say the studios have been a lousy job up to this point. I don't think there's any argument that Warner Brothers, Sony, Disney and Paramount have been putting out spectacular Blu-ray transfers over recent years. However going back a year ago there seemed to be a significant disconnect between film fans on forums like these and the studios. What I remember dominating discussion on this forum was the topics of the studios holding back on catalog favorites and putting out titles that were plagued with digital noise reduction in an attempt to make them as "synthetically" pleasing as possible to those who have no idea the value of grain to film.
This year is different. For the first time everything is coming up roses for Blu-ray. It's as if almost all the studios were in competition to release the best catalog Blu-ray product they possibly could, showing off their miraculous transfers and daring the others to do better. In the meantime, members of Home Theater Forum have congregated together to create a "buzz" that has been absent for quite some time. Until the studios were willing to put titles and transfers out there worth praising, there really wasn't much to talk about.
If I was asked to give the crown to one single studio this year it would be Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. You really need to understand how far this studio has come in the past two years to appreciate what they have done in 2010. It was just two years ago that Fox fell under heavy criticism for its release of Patton and The Longest Day which made DNR a household name. Having personally seen Patton, I thought it looked like a Pixar film rather than something representative of the period. I think the studio learned from its mistakes with those initial releases and it's my hope that one day they are remastered and re-released.
But Fox Home Entertainment has done a bit of restructuring over the past two years and there are good people in place who have taken a keen interest in this
forum and the opinions of its membership. Perhaps you have already interacted with one of their executives. It seems as if they are listening.....
Within the span of a few short weeks the studio unleashed The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Moulin Rouge, The Sound of Music, Aliens Anthology and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. If you were going to pick catalog powerhouses to release all these titles would be worthy. Suddenly the format went from famine to feast in the period of two months. To give you an idea of how flooded the Blu-ray market suddenly became, many of us had to pick and choose how much we were willing to spend on all these releases. I ended buying all the Fox titles and was forced to delay purchases of Back To The Future, Dr. Zhivago, Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Bridge on the River Kwai. And I apologize for not being able to comment on those titles as I am certain I would be commending them as well. Reading feedback from HTF members, I see the struggle they are having picking and choosing what to purchase themselves. This is a tough economy to be able purchase everything we want.
I put so much emphasis on this one studio because they didn't fart around (and fart is not the "F" word I wanted to use). They not only put out prime catalog product but each with transfers that were amazingly stunning. I tip my hat to Schawn Belston who is one of the most renowned film restorationists in the business today. What he and his team have done with these catalog titles is unbelievably awesome. It has been a long time since I have opened dialogue within this forum about current product releases, but over the past weeks I have been praising one Blu-ray after another (see links above). Funny how I promised myself I would not repurchase titles I already owned on DVD and now I can't wait to see how much better they now look.
I also need to give special mention to American Zoetrope. I'll admit that when I initially heard that the Lionsgate would be handling the release of Apocalypse Now I was skeptical about how much care they would put into the transfer. However, what I did not originally realize is that American Zoetrope handled the remaster, and now knowing that, it all makes perfect sense. I would not hesitate to say that what we got was the most impressive transfer I have seen this year. If you click on the linked title above I think you will have a better understanding of just how much I was affected by this film's pristine transfer.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I would very much enjoy reading what all of you think of the Blu-ray titles released over the course of the year. Which title(s) do you feel deserve the most praise? What studio(s) do you think are putting the most care into their product and which ones still haven't figured it out?