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This first appeared in the Dec. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
20th Century Fox, $39.99, Dec. 4
The top Oscar contender on Blu-ray is Benh Zeitlin’s rapturously ramshackle film about preternaturally plucky 6-year-old Hush puppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) in the Bayou’s flood-prone Bathtub region. Likely nominees include Wallis and cinematographer Ben Richardson, who placed his hand-held camera at Wallis’ eye level and sprinted after her to capture her quicksilver performance. The Blu-ray features the auditions that made Wallis and Dwight Henry (as her dad, Wink) instant stars. In his commentary, Zeitlin says that deleted scenes like the food fight where Hushpuppy slaps people with a big fish about half her size had a “chaotic humor [that] was a big part of the original intention of the film,” but he wound up concentrating on the poignant father-daughter relationship instead. Good call.
Disney, $49.99, Nov. 13
This animation Oscar front-runner about a Scottish princess is a stunning advance in animation, from the unruly yet uncannily detailed red ringlets on the heroine’s head to the emerald moss beneath her feet to the minute woven threads on her tapestry. The shot-by-shot commentaries and extras on the five-disc set are comparably elaborate, including features on the hair, moss, tapestry and even the Highlanders’ painstakingly detailed bad teeth.
The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros. $35.99, Dec. 4
The three hours of extras on the three disc combo pack are nearly as good as Christopher Nolan’s Batman finale itself, a contender for cinematography and many tech awards. The best extra: a one-hour doc on the superhero’s car, from the Lincoln Futura on the 1966-68 ABC show (which Adam West in Batman costume drove to go trick or treating near the studio one Halloween) to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batcar with a Viper jet tailpipe to Nolan’s 2012 Tumblr, a Humvee crossed with a Lamborghini. Sometimes, the Batman designers overlooked crucial details. “When we shut the lid the first time out,” says effects man Andy Smith, “his little ears were sticking out, trapped in the door.”
Focus, $34.98, Oct. 16
Wes Anderson’s bizarrely charming contender (for screenplay, score, plus maybe cinematography, editing and production design) looks sensational on disc. It’s like a colorful coffee-table storybook about puppy love and revolt in a 1960s Boy Scout camp. The funny, deadpan set tour by Bill Murray and making-of featurettes with narrator Bob Balaban strike the same odd tone as the movie, but they’re heartbreakingly short.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Fox, $39.99, Sept. 18
Studded with superb stars who redeem its over-obvious comedy plot about Brits rediscovering themselves in India, Marigold features Oscar contender Maggie Smith in crabby-crone mode. But Judi Dench is quieter and better as a widow who finds she’s great at Indian call-center work. The cast interview is good as far as it goes — 3 minutes and 55 seconds.
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