Slumdog’s Oscar haul—eight of ‘em, including Best Picture, Best Director & Best Adapted Screenplay—seems a little bewildering. It’s certainly a good film, but is it the kind of profound film deserving of being called Best Picture? It’s not the first such film to win (remember Shakespeare in Love stealing the prize from Saving Private Ryan?) and probably won’t be the last. Sometimes it’s just fun to root for the underdog.
Specials Highlights: If you loved the movie you can watch it again twice, with commentary from lead actor Dev Patel and director Danny Boyle or from producer Christian Colson and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy. Too bad the commentary wasn’t included on the large selection of deleted scenes, which hint at a possible change in ending.
It’s a rare movie that begins cryptically—with riddles and half-revealed truths—and ends up with a payoff that’s both worth the wait and not gleaned by the audience in a ho-hum way early in the film. Seven Pounds manages to keep its mystery, and even though you may at some point guess what’s coming, it’s still rewarding to watch director Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness) reveal it. As an IRS agent practicing atonement (for what, and how are the mysteries), Will Smith does an outstandingly subtle job of balancing sadness, conflict and hope.
Specials Highlights: Doc about the deadly box jellyfish, plus “Seven Views on Seven Pounds” presents the “making of” in a fresh way, particularly highlighting the genesis of the story (from writer Grant Nieporte).
Marley & Me
Although Marley & Me appears at first glance to be just another treacly sweet dog movie, it’s actually much more about a marriage (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) with a ridiculously bad dog on the side. Based on the bestselling memoir by real life journalist John Grogan, David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) handily directs without crossing the line into silly reaction shots of the Marley (the dog) quirking his ears after doing something awful, and manages to convey the reality of starting a family, managing a career and how a pet can change your life.
Specials Highlights: Plenty of deleted scenes, a surprisingly unfunny gag reel and several docs about the 22 dogs who played Marley (one of whom—a puppy—went to Grogan as a gift of the filmmakers.)