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American Beauty: Awards Edition

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If you’ve been itching to ”look closer” at how director Sam Mendes put together his multi-Oscar-winning movie debut, you’ll be disappointed with American Beauty: Awards Edition. In a running commentary track, Mendes freely discusses a number of key passages he axed from Alan Ball’s script in an effort to turn mundane murder-mystery elements into a more cryptic Rorschach test for audiences, including a segment showing an innocent teen neighbor (Wes Bentley) jailed for the murder of suburbanite Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey). But Mendes doesn’t allow us to see any excised scenes, which seems highly unsporting of him. He also hogs so much talk time that co-commentator Ball is all but shut out. A segment comparing storyboards with cinematographer Conrad Hall’s final images is interesting but very technical, and a 20-minute making-of doc offers exasperating puffery. As a disc maestro, director Mendes could have used a director. B-