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On DVD: See why 'Invictus' was no 'Blind Side'

In December, "Invictus" rode the Clint Eastwood critical wagon train to a flock of raves and predictions of Oscar glory. How could it miss? After all, it told a would-be inspirational, fact-based story about Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and the captain of the South African rugby team (Matt Damon) working together to unify their post-apartheid country. And it had Eastwood as director, a credit that these days guarantees a "Certified Fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes (the latter-day equivalent of "Two Thumbs Up").

But "Invictus" disappeared from theaters. Freeman and Damon did win predictable nominatons for best actor and best supporting actor; otherwise the film made no dent at the Oscars. With good reason.

Academy voters and moviegoers nationwide saw the film for what it was: a stiff.

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Defenders tried to argue that its dramatic impotence was actually cinematic tact: director Eastwood refusing to inflate uplifting emotions or sentimental pay-offs. That explanation is a lot of bunk. Eastwood filled the film with Kodak moments that he was too complacent to develop with conviction, from the bonding of Mandela's white and black bodyguards to the rugby captain's mom and black maid cheering the team on together.

"The Blind Side" didn't receive the same sort of critical respect. And no one could call it nuanced or subtle. But unlike "Invictus," it succeeded at delivering an amazing true-life story with theatrical gusto, sports savvy, and a palpable sympathy that crossed class and color lines. It won Sandra Bullock an Oscar and became a blockbuster -- and in this case, the award was just and the public was right.

Both films were earnest, but "The Blind Side" had real zest. Did you see the two of them in the theaters? What did you think of them as "human-interest stories" and sports sagas? Did the raves persuade you to rent or buy the "Invictus" DVD?

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