Best Film Restoration – Lawrence of Arabia: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
This selection was a no-brainer. Sony took years to get this restoration right, and we’re delighted to say that their care and effort paid off magnificently. All you have to do is watch the shocking before and after footage comparisons in the box set’s Lawrence at 50: A Classic Revisited featurette to get a sense of just how much work was required here from Grover Crisp and his restoration team. Best of all, Sir David Lean’s 65mm masterpiece was restored in full 4K resolution, so it’s ready for generations to come.
Runners-Up: There was a lot of great restoration work on display on Blu-ray in 2012, including (but certainly not limited to) Paramount’s Wings and Sunset Boulevard, Warner’s Singin’ in the Rain, Disney’s Cinderella, Criterion’s Heaven’s Gate and many, many others. It’s also worth noting that Fox’s Patton was finally (and all too quietly) delivered to Blu-ray in the quality it deserves, correcting the terrible disservice done by the original Blu-ray release. We sincerely hope that 2013 will continue this fine trend of magnificent film preservation work.
Best Box Set – Bond 50: Celebrating Five Decades of 007
Yes, it took a long time to finally get this box in our hands. Yes, the bonus disc could have been stronger. And yes, Casino Royale isn’t the 2-disc version. But still… the simple fact that you can now buy all 22 classic Bond films on Blu-ray Disc – each loaded with extras of its own – in a single gorgeous and affordable package made this hands-down our favorite big box of the year. The Amazon price amounts to just $7 per film and the damn thing even has a slot for Skyfall! That’s easy cash on the barrelhead.
Runners-Up: Paramount’s Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures and Universal’s Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection were also clear stand-outs in this category. Noteworthy as well were Olive Film’s The Otto Preminger Collection, Criterion’s David Lean Directs Noel Coward and Three Colors sets, and Warner’s Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection among others.
Best TV Release – Star Trek: The Next Generation – Seasons 1 & 2
This was also the unanimous choice of Bits staffers. The simple fact that this series is even coming out on Blu-ray at all is impressive, not to mention the fact that CBS Digital is taking the time, effort and expense to rebuild every single episode – shot by shot – in full high-definition and to polish up the visual effects where needed. Add in all the old extras plus Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett’s outstanding new bonus features and you have a clear winner.
Runners-Up: Also impressive in newly-upgraded high definition is Image’s The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series and Warner’s Friends: The Complete Series. More recent shows weighed in too including Anchor Bay’s The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season, HBO’s Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season and the BBC’s Sherlock: Season Two.
Best Documentary – Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Magnolia’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi blew us away. If you’re a sushi fan, watching this documentary in high-definition is enough to bring you to tears and fill you with the desire to spend big bucks for a plane ticket to Tokyo and a rarefied reservation at Jiro Ono’s Michelin three-star restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro. Even if you’re not, you can’t help but be amazed at the perseverance and dedication of Ono, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to pick one thing and work tirelessly to be the very best at it. Truly a delight.
Runners-Up: Also be sure to check out Criterion’s And Everything Is Going Fine, MPI’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl, Anchor Bay’s Corman’s World and Eagle Rock’s Produced by George Martin, among others.