If you’re someone who likes watching movies at home, here’s some good news: It’s never been easier to find something you want to see from the comfort of your own couch.
With video on demand (VOD), premium cable, and the seemingly endless proliferation of subscription streaming services — nearly all viewable via smart TVs, set-top boxes, and a multitude of portable devices — there’s rarely any need to go out, to the chagrin of the movie studios.
Now here’s the bad news: We may look back at 2017 as a turning point in home entertainment… and not necessarily a positive one. Next year, Disney is set to launch its own subscription service, with Pixar, Marvel, “Star Wars,” and possibly 20th Century Fox among its assets.
More major media companies may follow suit, pulling their archives from cable and Netflix and keeping them locked behind their own separate paywalls. Next year at this time, we might all need dozens of accounts (with dozens of passwords, and a pileup of fees) to get the same level of home video options we’re getting now.
The solution? Buy more Blu-rays and DVDs. Digital media may be in flux, but physical media are forever. Once you buy a box set, no one can take it away from you when the rights change hands.
As it happens — and has been the case for the past couple of years — the dominant trend in the home video business has been toward big collections, aimed at film and TV connoisseurs.
Each year’s prominent movies and shows still come out on DVD and Blu-ray (and 4K and 3-D). But hobbyists keep their eyes out for sets that bring a lot of disparate material together under one cover, providing cultural experiences worthy of keeping in a personal library… and something beyond what the streaming services are equipped to provide at the moment.
Here are some of the year’s best:
1. “100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012” (Criterion)
Not just the best DVD/Blu-ray set of the year, Criterion’s ambitious collection of Olympics documentaries is one of the most essential of the past decade, gathering historically important, aesthetically exciting, and inspiring footage of humanity at its physical peak.
2. “Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series” (Paramount)
Whether David Lynch’s return to television should be considered an arty serialized drama or a mind-bending 18-hour movie, it’ll be looked at as one of 2017’s signature artistic achievements — now available as a features-packed Blu-ray set that puts the work in its proper context.
3. “The Vietnam War” (PBS)
Documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have rarely been as on their game as they are with this exhaustive look at the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, which considers how the war changed the country in ways that still resonate.
4. “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection” (Universal)
Bob Hope’s remarkable 1940s run of witty, fast-paced comedies have been re-packaged dozens of times, but never as well as in this box set, which offers nice-looking versions of some still-hilarious movies plus a feature-length “American Masters” documentary.
5. “The John Wayne Collection” (Image)
Most movie buffs have seen the classic westerns John Wayne made between the ’40s and ’70s, but the 21 films in this bargain-priced set come from the stretch of the ’30s when “the Duke” hardly ever left his horse, as he cranked out pictures that defined both his screen persona and Hollywood’s myth of the American frontier.
6. “Daughters of the Dust” (Cohen)
Long overdue for renewed appreciation, Julie Dash’s dreamy indie film about the post-slavery culture of a small South Carolina island finally arrived on a Blu-ray that captures both how good the movie looked in theaters in 1991, and why it still matters today.
7. “Notfilm / Film” (Milestone)
Two experimental films, made decades apart — one written by Samuel Beckett and starring Buster Keaton, and the other a free-form essay-documentary constructed from the outtakes of that project — collectively make for a lively tribute to silent comedy and avant-garde art.
8. “The Jacques Rivette Collection: Limited Edition” (Arrow)
Two of Jacques Rivette’s wildest films — the fantastical “Duelle” and the offbeat swashbuckler “Noroît” — are joined by extensive interviews and featurettes that paint an agonizing, tantalizing portrait of the more complicated suite of movies that the ambitious French New Waver was unable to complete.
9. “The DC Universe Original Movies: 10th Anniversary Collection” (Warner Bros.)
Some of the best superhero films of the past decade have been DC’s straight-to-video animated specials, which have adapted the comics publishers’ most memorable story lines to the screen in ways more faithful to the anything-goes spirit of the genre than the company’s overly serious live-action movies.
10. “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Series” (Time-Life)
The late ’60s hippest TV series looks dated now, with its psychedelic sets, Nixon-era political references, and creaky old vaudeville gags; but the performances of rising stars Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin remain spectacular, and this set’s a fascinating look back at a time when showbiz was evolving quickly.