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The Criterion Collection presents

Beastie Boys Video Anthology (2000)

"You've got gall, you've got guile/ to step to me...I'm a rapophile!/ If you want to battle/you're in denial/ coming from Uranus to check my style!/ Go ahead, put my rhymes to trial/ cast you off into exile!/ Intergalactic planetary/ planetary intergalactic!"- Lyrics from Intergalactic

Stars: The Beastie Boys (Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, Adam Horovitz)
Director: Nathanial Hornblower, David Perez, Ari Marcopoulos, Spike Jonze, Adam Bernstein, EvanBernard, Tamra Davis

Manufacturer: Metropolis DVD
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some language, mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:05m:04s
Release Date: 2000-11-21
Genre: rap

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+A-A+ A+


DVD Review

Despite the fact the Beastie Boys (Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, Adam Horovitz) were musically active in the early 80s as a loud, low-budget punk band, it's without question that their moment of true emergence was in 1986 with the release of their first, full-length album License To Ill. At the time, the hybrid of prankish rock with satirical rap was regarded as a freak of nature. The Beastie Boys were looked on with derision, seen as not only making fun of the rap movement, which some took as an insult to the black community, but also as simply a shock group. In fact, License To Ill was targeted by Tipper Gore's infamous PMRC as an example of music that corrupted youth. I remember when my brother picked up the Ill LP and exposed me to it. I pretty much took it as a novelty record and nothing more. Then I started actually listening to the record and was surprised to find some truly innovative and interesting musical ideas there. In fact, one could argue that this album managed to start building a bridge between how rap and other music forms would start merging and blurring the lines.

The Beastie Boys were largely misunderstood and their satirical ways were taken too seriously. They found themselves painted as some sort of wanna-be troublemakers and pseudo-gangsters, despite their strong anti-violence and anti-hate stance. The 1988 release of Paul's Boutique was almost totally overlooked by mainstream musical press. In fact, I wasn't even aware the album existed until I stumbled upon it in a record store, and after listening to it, I was suitably impressed with the amazing layering of sound and technique found on the album (helped along by The Dust Brothers). This wasn't simply "rap", it was something slightly new and exciting. With that, a Beastie Boys fan was born, and I've thought that their music since has always had the energy and creativity to interest me, despite the fact I have no interest in conventional rap or hip-hop.

The Criterion release of Beastie Boys Video Anthology in many ways mirrors the band itself. It takes something we've seen before (a music video compilation) and spices it up with lots of extra features and a level of interactivity that escalates it way above the average. While very authoritative, the collection does have some obvious exclusions. No videos from the License To Ill period are present here. While I never receive official word on this from Criterion, I'm going to safely assume the reason for this omission was because of licensing issues with Def Jam Records (now known as American Recordings). Def Jam was none-too-happy when the Beastie Boys wanted to get off the label, and the lengthy legal battle that ensued has undoubtedly tainted that aspect of their history.

All that aside, this anthology will easily please the discerning fan, from their latest entries like the wild Intergalactic, all the way back to Holy Snappers, dating back to their early punk days. The discs are separated into two sections: the regular videos and then the videos with supplemental material. The difference is that the supplemental version of the videos were specially designed to hold all the special features, meaning that the sound and video are slightly lower quality. Don't worry, though, this is a good thing. By "lower quality", I mean only a tad. With this kind of architecture, basically what Criterion has done is create one set of the videos at the maximum of quality, then another that can be slightly compromised if need be. This compromise, though, is minor at best.

If there's one thing guaranteed, it's that Beastie videos are always visually entertaining and usually funny in some sort of bizarre way. Nathanial Hornblower is credited with most of their work, but other big music video names like Spike Jonze and Evan Bernard are included. Included are homebrew works like Shake Your Rump and So What'cha Want?, as well as the more elaborate film pieces like Body Movin', a clever satire/send-up of the 1968 Mario Bava film Diabolik! (one of my favorites from the 60s). Of course, many of you might wonder who Nathanial Hornblower is, the one who comes up with many of these strange concepts: he's none other than band member Adam Yauch. It should also be noted that the videos here are in their full-length form. Many of these pieces were edited for television broadcast in order to shorten them or censor them, but now they're finally presented as filmed.

With 18 videos spread across 2 discs (to accommodate the elaborate extras, discussed below), Beastie Boys Anthology is a must have for any fan of the band, casual or otherwise. Every band should be so lucky as to have an anthology like this hit the shelves, and trust me when I say that your money will go well-spent with this package.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image quality varies from video to video. Some pieces were made with professional equipment, and others, not. Overall, everything looks outstanding with sharp, delicate transfers that show absolutely no signs of compression artifacts, pixelization, or edge enhancement. The newer videos are more impressive, but even the older material still comes across very well. Some videos used a lot of stock footage and/or home video footage, and those obviously have source problems. Despite the fact that Criterion warns that the supplemental versions of the videos may waver in quality from the original, straight versions, I couldn't find anything noticeably worse in these versions. The only song with noticeable problems (in either version) is the video for Three MCs and One DJ which has videotape errors during its early moments. The subtitles are white, but nicely placed and sized.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The normal versions of the videos (referred to as 'Videos in sequence' on the disc) feature outstanding mixes, in every way, shape, and form. To start, there are two main audio tracks: a Dolby 2.0 Surround mix and a Dolby 5.1 mix, both specially-engineered for this release. They are also both mastered at 24 bits/96mhz. As a result, the songs are crisp, clear, and filled with amazing clarity and depth. The 5.1 mix uses subtle power on the surround channels to add a sort of studio-like ambience to the tracks, resulting in a very effective, loud, surround experience—almost auditorium-like, if I had to describe it better. The 2.0 sounds just as great, but the surround channel information is somewhat dropped. They support the mix at certain points rather than continuously pumping out information. In fact, both mixes are so outstanding, it will most likely be a matter of preference for listening rather than the type of your equipment. Neither mix has specific directionality (other than normal, stereo, left/right effects), but there are a few moments where sound effects and certain notes will trade between the front and rear.
In the supplemental versions of the videos, the remixes and basic audio features are all Dolby 2.0 Surround. They carry the same amazing clarity, though, so I'm assuming they, too, are 24-bit audio. Using the same kind of mixing, this material is just as excellent as the standard tracks. All of the audio has wonderful imaging and bass-management, and never feels too heavy or exaggerated.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+ 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Music/Song Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (lyrics) with remote access
0 Multiple Angles with remote access
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by (1)The Beastie Boys, (2)Adam Bernstein, Evan Bernard, Tamra Davis, Spike Jonze, AriMarcopoulos, David Perez, Nathanial Hornblower (Adam Yauch).
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Various alternate audio tracks with remixes for indivdual songs, including a cappellaversions
  2. Double-sided, 14 1/2X20" poster
  3. Photo Stills
  4. Original, complete cut of the Intergalactic: Robot Vs. Octopus Monster video
  5. Bits of behind-the-scenes and promotional material
Extras Review: Where to begin? There are 2-3 hours of extras here. First, the normal "videos in sequence" contain 2 commentary tracks. One with the Beastie Boys, and another with the various film directors. The Beastie Boys commentary is a bit light on actual depth (they stop talking for very long periods sometimes), but still makes for an entertaining listen. Mike D., Yauch, and Adrock (as they're known) basically sort of joke around and laugh at their own stuff. It's not the best of commentaries, but the director's track makes up for this.

The director's track features an uncredited Nathanial Hornblower (Adam Yauch), Spike Jonze, and Evan Bernard sitting together live, doing the commentary. The other directors are contacted via speaker phone (during the live recording, when needed) by Criterion representative, Ralph Spaulding. The normal commentary provides a lot of production tidbits and humorous anecdotes. It's also cool that the directors are together commenting on each others work, rather than being isolated for each video. The moments when directors are contacted by phone is very weird to say the least, but it certainly is a break from the norm of commentaries and provides some laughs as well. In one instance, Adam Bernstein (director of the video Hey Ladies) is contacted and doesn't believe it's Criterion, but rather a prank by one of his friends. He does the commentary, but still never quite sure if it's a joke.

The normal videos also feature complete lyrics, provided by a subtitle track. They are amazingly on-time, precise, and allow the viewer to sing along with the tunes quite nicely.

The supplemental versions of the videos will provide hours of entertainment to the hardcore Beastie fan. Most of the videos contain several alternate angle features. In most cases, the alternate angles are the complete reels of film shot from various cameras in unedited form. For example, in Intergalactic, the video is filled with clips of the Beastie Boys wandering around Japan. One of the alternate angles for that video is JUST that footage, with no cuts. Being able to edit the video "on the fly", as it were, is extremely addictive. In some cases, the angles are curiosities, but in most its very interesting footage.

Most of the videos also have alternate remixes, many of which were made specifically for this DVD feature. The remix artists include Fatboy Slim, Moby, Prisoners Of Technology, DJ Moe Love, Micky Finn & Special K, and many, many more, as well as Beastie Boys' own mixes. Some songs even feature a cappella versions. Whether you like the remixes will be a matter of musical taste, but again, this gets addictive. Since many videos have mix-and-match capability (select an angle, select an audio track) you can essentially create your own videos and play with them while they're executing. This video/audio select feature compares closely to the similar feature for the supplemental material on Fight Club.

Some videos also feature additional material, usually a photo still gallery; some have behind-the-scenes material. For example, Body Movin' has a reel of funny outtakes and Sabotage includes the fake interview show with the "stars" of the cop show, "Sabotage." Appearing on this DVD for the first time anywhere is the 10-minute, "movie-style" version of Intergalactic, which tells the story of The Robot vs. The Octopus Monster in a short-film style, rather than strictly music video style. Extras like these pepper the videos, but each one has an informational section as well, providing full credits, photos of the single and album covers, and, sometimes, storyboards.

Each disc has an identical weblinks section that points you to sites oriented towards the "Free Tibet" movement, which has long been a cause of the Beastie Boys'. If you're really confused, each disc also has instructions on how to operate all the supplemental features.

If all this wasn't enough, the package comes with a double-sided, high-quality poster featuring the art from the cover and back cover of the disc (sans credits and other text). Presentation-wise, the disc gets full points not only for it's great cover art, but for the stylish insides. The manual is made up to look very much like a serious, technical manual, and the menus are all incredibly well-designed—themed around a weird schematic of a space station. All of this has seemingly been approved by the Beastie Boys, and with good reason. I tried seeking out easter eggs around the disc, but couldn't find any. Who knows, maybe there are some lurking about.

Extras Grade: A+

Final Comments

Criterion's 100th DVD project is a monster effort that exudes quality from every aspect. Even if you don't like the Beastie Boys, it cannot be denied that these discs have set a towering example for music video anthologies to follow. Fantastic audio, video, and extras blend together for one of the most entertaining and vibrant music DVDs yet made. If you are a Beastie fan, why are you still reading? Go out and get this package, now! Highly recommended.

Dan Lopez 2000-12-12