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Those God-awful DVD commentaries

 
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Alex Paquin
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:23 am    Post subject: Those God-awful DVD commentaries Reply with quote

In the great tradition of the "Hilariously Awful DVD Covers", allow me to inaugurate the Awful DVD commentary thread, where we will get to discuss those rambling yak-tracks that never seem to get anywhere, featuring people who don't have anything to say in the first place.

Let me provide the first example: the commentary track to Giant (1956), a film now mostly famous for showcasing James Dean's last performance. The 2-disc special edition features a commentary by film critic Stephen Farber, screenwriter Ivan Moffat and George Stevens, Jr. (the son of the director). The whole thing sounds as though all three have been recorded separately (I know this happens quite often, but here it's obvious) with their comments then put together. And since it's a 3-hour film they seem to run out of things to say. And I swear one segment was used twice, one time on each disc (it's a segment about Around the World in Eighty Days winning the Best Picture Oscar that year, and how its producer Michael Todd's marketing strategies were reminiscent of Harvey Weinstein, etc.).

And of course there's the rather famous case of Ahnold getting paid $50,000 for a commentary track to Total Recall.

I love commentaries when they give some insight about the film or its makers, but I fear now that more and more commentaries are getting released strictly because the public has come to expect them.

So I'm launching this discussion: the worst commentaries you've heard, and why. (And, at the other end of the spectrum, your favourite ones.)
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David Cornelius
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: the Anchorman track is unbearable. It's a big drunken party that has nothing to do with anything, which, as a joke, gets too old before it even gets started.


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TheAngryJew
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After rifling through a bunch of Fox noirs, I can say that Eddie Muller gives great commentary. Matter of fact, almost ALL of the film historian/professor commentaries I've heard are pretty darn good.

On the flip-side ... anything by Rob Reiner.
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Alex Paquin
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheAngryJew wrote:
On the flip-side ... anything by Rob Reiner.


I agree with you. Based on his commentary for A Few Good Men, he had really very little to say, and only once every five minutes approximately.

However, there are other commentaries I love strictly on a guilty pleasure basis -- I'm thinking about Courtney Solomon and Justin Whalin discussing Dungeons & Dragons. They are so enamored with that piece of crap they made that their passion makes it fun to listen to the track.

Pity that Ed Wood isn't alive today to record commentaries....
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MP Bartley
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the negative side, I was sorely disappointed by Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow commentary. Very dull and put me off listening to any more of his.

For a great one, check out either the director/writer or the main cast of Shaun of the Dead. Highly amusing, detailed and informative.

This is Spinal Tap has a great character commentary too.

Giamatti and Haden Church are most amusing on the Sideways commentary as well.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 4:07 am    Post subject: THE WOODSMAN and MYSTERIOUS SKIN Reply with quote

Of these two films that address two sides of a many-sided coin in the currency of an intense issue that has become (at long last) current, only the commentary of 'The Woodsman' stands out for me.

'The Woodsman' Director commentary was well-balanced in making mention of both Production and Shoot Period points of interest as well as insight verging on opinion of the film's sensitive topic.

Hmm, I can't even remember if 'Mysterious Skin' even had one, but do remember that it actually had an entire actor read-through in the special features which lost my interest early on.

Needless to say, both are more than worthwhile films, but neither easy to stomach.
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David Cornelius
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Today's a good day to mention how disappointing the Star Wars commentaries are, if only because Lucas seems to be intentionally ignoring discussing the changes he made. Not a single "oh, this is a new shot" comes from his lips. Dammit!!
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I used to work as a courier, on my Saturday treks from Texas to Oklahoma and back, I'd hook up the portable DVD player, put on the headphones, and just sit back and savor any one of the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell commentaries.

But, yeah, there are some bad ones out there. One of the worst is Mel Gibson's for Braveheart. He, like many others, fails to realize that we've seen the film before listening to the commentary, so it's not necessary to jump in, oh, every fifteen minutes with something to say. Maddening, this. Michael Mann's for Manhunter was also a huge disappointment, so much so that I've been reluctant to check out his one for Heat, though him and James Caan contributed a fine, jovial one for Thief.

(Oh, and concerning the Schwarzeneggar track, I don't know how much Stallone was paid for his for First Blood, but it was worth it, for it's one of the best I've ever listened to.)
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Alex Paquin
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

David Cornelius wrote:
Today's a good day to mention how disappointing the Star Wars commentaries are, if only because Lucas seems to be intentionally ignoring discussing the changes he made. Not a single "oh, this is a new shot" comes from his lips. Dammit!!


At least it's better than Spielberg, who just won't record a commentary because "it destroys the cinematic experience he spent so much time seeking to provide" *. So Steven's afraid of spilling the beans and showing to the rest of the world that his "movie magic" isn't really magic after all. (How fitting that his attitude reminds me of that of magicians around the world, who are very protective of their tricks and will only explain them to fellow magicians). Honestly I don't really care about "movie magic" to begin with, but I'm always interested in technique, although I prefer to see it when it's done on a miniscule budget, not a hundred million dollars.

*Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A3282842
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smrtpants



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 1:12 pm    Post subject: sidebar... Reply with quote

it's a good thing that you don't care about mm, and that you are budget-friendly because these days mmb has been all-but replaced with epb...and all epb is, well not all it is, but most of it, is a prod/pm-friendly excel spreadsheet...

...'yipes, how did that p.a.d. get there...'

...'f'd if i know, but we can afford a nominal crew gift because of it...'
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petersob
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At the risk of defending Spielberg--even after "Munich"--the DVDs of his films usually include a ginormous documentary, featuring his full participation, that includes practically everything that anyone would want to know about the film. (I especially recommend the ones for "Jaws", "Close Encounters" and "1941"). I think what he objects to is having the tricks explained to you while you are actually watching the film itself. (Brian De Palma also has the same attitude, although I understand that he did break down and record a track with Paul Williams for a proposed Criterion laserdisc of "Phantom of the Paradise" in the days before laser went the way of the second-week grosses of "Snakes on a Plane")

Compared to people like Clint Eastwood or Woody Allen, who don't even do that much most of the time, Spielberg actually does quite a bit. Besides, I would rather have no commentary at all than a draggy one from someone who sounds as if they wish they could be anywhere but that recording booth.
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smrtpants



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

petersob wrote:
...
...Compared to people like Clint Eastwood or Woody Allen, who don't even do that much most of the time, ...


sean penn hangs with these guys too, at least as far as the 'mystic river' and '21 grams', dvd's are concerned.
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David Cornelius
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allen, I believe, has always said that the movies "should speak for themselves." Which explains all the bare bones releases.

But as Peter said, at least Steve and Clint toss in kick ass making-ofs. (Or makings-of, if you will.)
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Alex Paquin
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave Cornelius wrote:
Allen, I believe, has always said that the movies "should speak for themselves." Which explains all the bare bones releases.


In other words, Allen's movies tell they were made by a hyperactive snob who feels compelled to glorify one of the most arrogant cities on the planet.

But the truth is, I can't even imagine what a Woody Allen commentary would sound like (not like his screen acting, I hope!). And in addition, Allen has never made a movie strictly for popcorn-munching value -- even when he tried -- while Spielberg's most famous films (with the exception of Schindler's List, a.k.a. Close Encounters of the Third Reich, and Saving Private Ryan, a.k.a. Let's Kill Off Tom Hanks and Everybody Else Because Some Guy Listened to Too Many Kate Smith Records) are about this "movie magic" mentioned before, not Art. You expect a self-professed Artist to be a snob and therefore to say as little as possible about his own filmmaking (I'm still surprised that Altman is doing commentaries), but not a popular-appeal-seeking director like Spielberg -- except when being tight-lipped means keeping the audience in gaping-mouthed thrall.
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David Cornelius
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alex Paquin wrote:
(I'm still surprised that Altman is doing commentaries)


I never got a "snob" vibe from Altman. Too laid back to care about being uppity.
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Jack Sommersby
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2006 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Totally agree about Altman. I'm not his staunchest defender, but his contributions to the DVD format have been numerous and commendable. Hell, I wish the university's media library would get his Quintet into their catalog. It's finally available on DVD but is only available now in a 4-disc set with 3 other films I don't like enough to buy. Then again, I've watched Quintet once every year -- this Ice Age-set film is best watched when it's winter -- and I'm wondering if the DVD will be too cleaned up and not have the grain in the transfer that's essential to a film that's purposely visually-soft.
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