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The 2003 Golden Gavel Awards

On January 12th, 2004, DVD Verdict announced their Golden Gavel awards for the best DVDs of 2003. The reviewing staff of DVD Verdict each drafted a list of their ten picks for the best of the year, and those lists were compiled into a master list based on the rankings given to each film. Seventy-seven DVDs appeared on the lists from the 18 voting staff members, and from those nominees emerged the ten winners:

1. The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers: Special Extended Edition
Read our review (Judge David Johnson)
The Extended Edition of Fellowship of the Ring was our top pick in the 2002 Golden Gavels. You can probably guess what will be the top pick for the 2004 awards. New Line once again spared no expense to bring you the ultimate DVD release of Peter Jackson's epic. Forty-four more minutes added to the running time, Entdraught-clear video, amazing audio, four commentaries, and the series' hallmark, two discs packed with information both on the books and the making of the film. Just think, other studios, you only have one more year to wait before you have a crack at our top spot!
1st Place: 6
2nd Place: 6
3rd Place: 1

2. The Alien Quadrilogy
Read our review (Judge Dan Mancini, Judge Adam Arseneau, Judge Bryan Byun, and Chief Justice Mike Jackson)
The Alien series had a strong four-disc (five-disc, if you count the disc available by mail) release back in 2001—good video and audio, an extended version of Aliens, but not a whole lot in the way of extras. Well, Fox rectified that in a big way. Each entry in the series got its own extended version, along with its theatrical release available via seamless branching. This included the version of Alien released theatrically in 2003, and an "assembly cut" of Alien3 based on David Fincher's original vision. Plus, two entries got upgraded DTS audio. If that wasn't enough, each film had an extra disc with two to three hours of documentary material and more, and a ninth disc (whew!) wrapped up the series.
1st Place: 7
2nd Place: 3
9th Place: 1

3. The Adventures Of Indiana Jones
Read our review (Judge Rob Lineberger)
For years, most film geeks had two film series perennially on their "why aren't these on DVD?" lists: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Lucasfilm has finally caved on one of them, with Star Wars rumored for 2004. The Indiana Jones films may not have been showered with extras. Paramount may not have opted for DTS audio. And why the heck won't Steven Spielberg record commentaries? But hey, at least we finally have Indy on DVD, and that's enough to earn it a spot on our list.
1st Place: 1
2nd Place: 3
3rd Place: 3
5th Place: 3
6th Place: 1
7th Place: 1

4. Casablanca: Special Edition
Read our review (Judge Dan Mancini)
This is the start of a beautiful friendship between the DVD community and Warner Bros. They've finally proven that their Citizen Kane two-disc set from two years ago (and our #1 pick for the 2001 Golden Gavels) was not a fluke. Casablanca may not have the critical acclaim of Orson Welles' masterpiece, but it has the adoration of millions, and that was enough to earn it a stellar special edition, featuring remastered video, two audio commentaries (including one by critic Roger Ebert), a 90-minute documentary, and much, much more. We are not often forgiving of double-dips, but this one has an exit visa.
4th Place: 4
5th Place: 3
6th Place: 1

5. Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection
Read our review (Judge Bill Treadway)
The Looney Tunes cartoons have long been synonymous with Warner Bros., but until 2003 they were nowhere to be found on DVD, save for Space Jam, which is not worth mentioning. WB rectified this, in a big way, in 2003. Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection contains 56 classic cartoons, uncensored and lovingly restored, with an Acme Steamer Trunk full of bonus material. This set certainly did not take a wrong turn at Albuquerque…
1st Place: 1
2nd Place: 2
4th Place: 2
8th Place: 1

6. Once Upon A Time In the West
Read our review (Judge Bill Gibron)
Another "why isn't this on DVD?" title crossed off the list, Sergio Leone's landmark western received stellar treatment from Paramount, a studio not known for strong catalog support. The video has been painstakingly restored, a newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track complements the restored mono track for the purists, a commentary, and a "treasure trove" of extras make this a western worth owning.
1st Place: 1
3rd Place: 1
4th Place: 1
6th Place: 1
7th Place: 2
10th Place: 1

7. X2: X-Men United
Read our review (Judge Michael Stailey)
Comic book movies are all the rage, but none could match Bryan Singer's impressive follow-up in the X-Men series. Unlike the first DVD release of the first film, Fox opted for the full-on special edition treatment with X2 right out of the gate. Perfect video and audio are expected, but you also get extraordinary features, like two commentaries, deleted scenes, history of the X-Men, and more. It's uncanny!
3rd Place: 1
4th Place: 2
5th Place: 1
8th Place: 1

8. Finding Nemo
Read our review (Judge Jonathan Nelson)
Finding Nemo was the top grossing film of 2003, and surpassed The Lion King as the top-grossing animated film of all time. But even if it had been a box office bomb, Pixar would have produced a Golden Gavel-worthy DVD…which of course they did. Learning from the mistake of including widescreen and full-frame on the same disc with Monsters, Inc., Pixar made this a two-disc set with one version on each disc. Naturally, the digital-to-digital video transfer cannot be beat, and the audio shows off Gary Rydstrom's typically lush sound design. The unique video commentary anchors a solid set of extras. And I'll bet you wish you could speak Whale too.
3rd Place: 1
4th Place: 1
5th Place: 1
8th Place: 1
9th Place: 1
10th Place: 1

9. The Adventures Of Antoine Doinel: Criterion Collection
"Adventure" seems to be the key word in the titles of this year's Golden Gavel winners. Standing apart from the crowd of action movies is François Truffaut's new wave classics The 400 Blows, Antoine & Collette, Stolen Kisses, Bed & Board, and Love on the Run, chronicling the "adventures" of hopeless romantic Antoine Doniel. All we have to do is mention that this is a Criterion release, and you know the intricate detail that went into its creation. Cineastes will not be disappointed.
3rd Place: 3
10th Place: 1

10. The Adventures Of Robin Hood
Read our review (Judge Erick Harper)
Another title finally on DVD, The Adventures of Robin Hood is widely considered the definitive version of the English legend—it's just not Robin Hood without men in green tights. Extras are plentiful, though the video presentation leaves something to be desired.
2nd Place: 1
3rd Place: 1
6th Place: 1
9th Place: 1

Other Nominees:

The Apple Dumpling Gang
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: Special Collector's Editon
Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition
Bruce Springsteen: Live in Barcelona
By Brakhage: An Anthology: Criterion Collection
The Chaplin Collection, Volume 1
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Dances with Wolves: Special Edition
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Four
Day of the Dead: Divimax Special Edition
Die Another Day
Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy: Criterion Collection
Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas: Criterion Collection
A Film Trilogy By Ingmar Bergman: Criterion Collection
Firefly: The Complete Series
The Flesh Trilogy: The Touch Of Her Flesh, The Curse Of Her Flesh, The Kiss Of Her Flesh
Futurama: Volume One
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Hours
How Green Was My Valley
JFK: Director's Cut Two-Disc Special Edition
Kangaroo Jack
Kiss Me Stupid
La Strada: Criterion Collection
The Lion King
The Matrix Reloaded
Metropolis: Restored Authorized Edition
Mildred Pierce
Miller's Crossing
The Mondo Cane Collection
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: Special Edition
Naked Lunch: Criterion Collection
Phantom of the Opera: Ultimate Edition
The Pianist
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
The Quiet American
The Raven / The Comedy of Terrors
Russian Ark
Scarface: 20th Anniversary Edition
The Singing Detective (1986)
Something Weird Traveling Roadshow Films
Spirited Away
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete First Season
Star Trek: Nemesis
Straw Dogs: Criterion Collection
Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
Three Colors Trilogy (Blue / White / Red)
To Live and Die in L.A.
Tokyo Story: Criterion Collection
The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection
Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty: Special Edition
West Side Story: Special Edition
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: Vista Series
Winged Migration
Wings of Desire
Winter Kills
X-Men 1.5
Yankee Doodle Dandy

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