The year in DVDs

Year-end lists are literally the last refuge of a slacker, so here’s mine—utterly knee-jerk yet completely sincere. These may not be the “best” DVDs released this year, but each is important for bringing heretofore difficult-to-see movies as close as your Netflix queue.

Criterion’s Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara features a trio of collaborations between Japanese literary provocateur Kobo Abe and the set’s titular director; Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, and especially Pitfall offer rich, absurdist interrogations of cosmic indifference to human toil.

Speaking of which, Charles Burnett’s stunning, all but lost Killer of Sheep—a poetic reflection on working-class drudgery and surreptitious joy—was restored for Milestone’s retrospective set, which also includes a revised version of the L.A. auteur’s follow-up, My Brother’s Wedding.

Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop stands on its own, albeit with Criterion’s typical bounty of extra features; this flat-affect answer to Easy Rider has been out of print for years, so now’s your chance to relish such, um, allegorical lines as “I could suck you out my tail pipe!”

Warner’s Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938 collects the first 60 theatrical adventures of America’s favorite existential seaman, while Teruo Ishii’s shambolic, ostensibly banned fetish nightmare Horrors of Malformed Men, from Synapse, rips out the rotting heart of postwar Japan and rolls it around in the muck.

Some TV-on-DVD highlights from 2007 include Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, from Criterion; HBO’s third (and, sadly, final) season of Deadwood and heart-crumpling fourth season of The Wire; and Paramount’s first half of season one of The Fugitive—was a network television hero ever more wretched?—and entire first season of Hawaii Five-O, in which wretchedness is a capital offense.