1. Twin Peaks season two
Yes, yes, it's scheduled for DVD release "some time in spring 2006." We'll believe it when we see it. The bulk of David Lynch's groundbreaking gothic soap opera/murder mystery has never been available on DVD, and if the number of times it's been scheduled and postponed—or promised but never given a firm release date—is any indication, it never will be. (If this does finally turn out to be its year, we can always start agitating for Lynch's bitterly satirical, short-lived follow-up series, On The Air, instead.)
Before Lars von Trier was spearheading indie-cinema manifestoes, making heartbreaking movies about self-sacrificing women who destroy themselves for love, or being cruel to Jørgen Leth in The Five Obstructions, he made three dark visionary films about the past and future of Europe. The third, 1991's Zentropa, starts memorably and ends unforgettably, with a grim narrator addressing viewers directly, and counting off the moments to their deaths. In between those intervals comes a stylish, jarring, and heavily symbolic look at Germany's postwar reconstruction, in the form of a surreal story about a new train conductor learning the ropes from his uncle. It's more fun than it sounds, and much more darkly playful.
3. Cemetery Man
Comedies don't get much blacker than Italy's horror-romance Cemetery Man (a.k.a. Dellamorte Dellamore), which did the bloody-but-funny-zombie-movie thing a decade before Shaun Of The Dead, and even better. Rupert Everett stars as a cemetery caretaker whose job includes re-killing his charges when they drag their bleary way out of their graves; the duty has taken a hefty toll on his morale, but a worse one on his love life. Gory as a George Romero film and grim as any lovesick Italian neorealist tragedy, Cemetery Man is nonetheless uniquely offbeat and full of wry humor, with an ending that's almost as touching as it is bizarre.
4. Animaniacs, the complete series
Warner Bros.' pop-culture-spoofing, sketch-based series Animaniacs was as close as the studio has come to duplicating the magic of its original Looney Tunes without actually recycling and retooling the characters—it had its hits and misses, but the humor was fast-paced and banter-rich, the songs (some densely educational, some satirical, some just goofy) were well-written and memorable, and the giddy take-no-prisoners humor was pitched to a place where kids could get it but adults could chuckle at what they were missing. It was the perfect answer to anyone who sighed over classic Bugs Bunny cartoons and said "They don't make them like that any more."
5. The War Between Men And Women
Melville Shavelson's 1972 domestic comedy has some pacing problems and a fairly high cheese factor, but Jack Lemmon is terrific as ever as a cranky cartoonist who shoots for a quick fling with Barbara Harris and is horrified to learn that she comes with kids, an ex-husband, and expectations for the future. Will he be a bitter, jilted crank forever? More significantly, the film is based on the writings of James Thurber, and features a great deal of his art (sometimes animated, sometimes in strikingly innovative ways) and his black, barbed humor, which makes this a flawed but gleaming gem.
6. The Butcher Boy
With Breakfast On Pluto hitting theaters and generating some good (albeit quiet) buzz, there's never been a better chance to get out a DVD of the previous collaboration between director Neil Jordan and author/screenwriter Pat McCabe. Sort of a cross between Angela's Ashes and Pink Floyd's The Wall, it follows an Irish boy whose vicious alcoholic father (Stephen Rea, of course) and suicidal mother contribute to his own slide into insanity—the kind of insanity that causes Sinéad O'Connor to turn up as a Virgin Mary stand-in. Like Breakfast On Pluto, it can be a difficult watch, but it's a memorable one.
Anticipating Columbine by 30 years, director Lindsay Anderson began a trilogy of Malcolm McDowell films with this stark, shambling drama about a young man who sucks up all the abuses of the British school system and comes out shooting, in an over-the-top climax that feels like vengeful catharsis for overstressed teens everywhere. The capper to the trilogy, Britannia Hospital, hit DVD in 2001, but the middle film, the improbable musical O Lucky Man!—is just as overdue for a DVD outing.
8. Mighty Mouse, The New Adventures
Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi credits this Ralph Bakshi project with saving him from Saturday-morning animator hell; it also briefly saved Saturday-morning cartoons from predictability and stodgy sugared-up cheer. Aggressively surreal and pop-culture-referential in ways the creators of the wholesome mouse superhero could never have imagined, the series was canceled after a flap over whether a crushed flower Mighty Mouse snorted was meant to represent cocaine. Call it youthful indiscretion if necessary, but the series was never much of a kids' show anyway, and fans of the likes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force would likely eat it up.