'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Blu-ray review: One of 2012's best shines on disc
The film tells the story of six-year-old Hushpuppy (remarkable newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis) who lives with her father, Wink (equally remarkable, if significantly older, newcomer Dwight Henry) in a Southern delta community called "The Bathtub." It's a terrific debut feature from director Benh Zeitlin, full of vibrant energy, impressive creativity and raw emotion. You can literally feel the passion and enthusiasm of everyone involved.
It's no surprise the movie is emerging as a major player in Hollywood's award season -- already nabbing four Film Independent Spirit Award nominations (for Best Feature, Director, Female Lead and Cinematography) and earning recognition from the National Board of Review for Breakthrough Actress, Best Directorial Debut and one of the top 10 films of the year.
The Blu-ray offers a quality assortment of special features to enhance the experience for anyone who loved the movie in theaters, or is just catching up with it now. They include:
- A 22-minute making of featurette that details the film's unusual production process and includes a lot of invaluable footage of Wallis at work. She's a natural on camera, and obviously just as fun and full of life off screen as well.
- Original audition tapes for Wallis, Henry and the two of them together, which makes it easy to see why the filmmakers believed in them despite a lack of experience.
- 14 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary by Zeitlin. The scenes provide an idea of how much the film changed during the editing process, as a lot of comedic diversions and sequences establishing the Bathtub and its residents hit the cutting room floor so the film would have a tighter and more effective focus on Hushpuppy and Wink. There's also more clarification about what happened to Hushpuppy's mother. While Zeitlin clearly has affection for these scenes, he's right to believe they didn't need to be in the actual movie.
- Illuminating and enjoyable short featurettes on the film's dynamic musical score (composed by Zeitlin and Dan Romer) and the "Aurochs," mythical creatures that play a pivotal role in Hushpuppy's story. Although you may not want to watch the Aurochs piece if you don't want the magic to be spoiled.
- Zeitlin's 25-minute short "Glory at Sea," which played at Sundance in 2008 and shares certain similarities with "Beasts" in tone and style while being different enough to stand on its own.