The Watcher - A hunting I will go

Discovering Oscar's Easter eggs

I am shocked, nay, appalled, that an Oscar isn't awarded to Best DVD Special Features. Sure, some DVDs offer little more than the movie, but many of this year's nominees are sparkling examples of DVD art that include movie-enhancing extras beyond director's commentaries.

Take Capturing the Friedmans, nominated for Best Documentary. As creepy as stories of pedophiles are, the additional case information in special features make this film more distressing. The Discussion menu features talkbacks from various premieres that include responses from the case's judge and investigating police. And the police were pissed. They felt that director Andrew Jarecki left out key pieces of evidence to make them look bad — like additional adult suspects charged with the same crimes as Arnold and Jesse Friedman.

Although it never appeared in the movie, an interview with one of the additional suspects is included, as well as more of the interview with the principal witness for the prosecution. There's also a stomach-turning segment featuring the threatening phone messages the Friedmans received from the neighbors during the investigation. Between case files, additional interviews, more Friedman home movies, case documents (PC-only), and a get-to-know-each family member segment, you can watch two hours of new material that either answers some of your questions — like why Seth Friedman didn't participate in the film — or opens whole new ones.

While Capturing the Friedmans sets the bar of DVD excellence by enriching the story of the movie, nominee for Best Music A Mighty Wind falls flat. Although the DVD offers deleted scenes and the faux-TV performances in their entirety, more doesn't always mean better. It just means more.

But Best Adapted Screenplay nominee American Splendor takes DVD extras to a whole new level with hidden features, commonly known by DVD aficionados as "Easter eggs." I suppose they're called Easter eggs because you never really know if you've found them all, sort of like hidden tracks on CDs. American Splendor certainly isn't the first DVD to feature Easter eggs, but it does have a few particularly tricky ones.

Go to the Languages menu, and sit for two minutes or so. Don't touch anything. Sit patiently and ponder the difference between English 5.1 and English 2.0 while images of Pekar cross the screen. Magically, a record player will appear. Hit enter on your remote and you'll see a quick explanation of how the special effects team used blue screens. For another nifty egg, go to the Chapters menu, then highlight Main menu. Press right on your remote, which makes an arrow appear. Then click enter and a 75-second clip will explain why Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis never look directly at each other.

There are a few other eggs buried in the Special Features menu. To save a little time, pop it into a DVD-ROM, and pass the mouse over the drawings. If the objects highlight, click to reveal the Easter egg. It's labor intensive to find these extras, so get help from www.dvdreview.com or www.moviefreak.com for reader and reviewer-submitted lists of Easter eggs and how to get them to work. Getting most Easter eggs to play isn't as complex as finishing moves in Mortal Kombat, but it's the same premise: You have to hit the right sequence of buttons at the right time or nothing cool happens.

Kids have the patience to try random sequences of buttons, so Best Animated Feature nominee Finding Nemois loaded with Easter eggs, plus interactive games and Pixar short film Knick Knack. But as an adult, I got tired of five-second clips that took 20 minutes to find. Dear Disney: If you're going to hide features, make sure the treasure is worth finding.