Thursday, November 23, 2006

Commentary on DVD commentaries

There are few things as consistently shitty in movies (I want to say in life, but that's a pretty broad spectrum) than DVD commentaries. For all of the time that studios put into DVD releases nowadays, why do most commentaries seem to have the applied effort of a hungover physics student writing a practical exam? The directors-actors-writers rarely have interesting things to say, there are more awkward pauses than during one of my dates, and there is an odd air of tension over the proceedings. It's almost as if you can feel the fact that most of the people would rather be doing anything than recording commentary about a movie that they may or may not hate or have become totally sick of after having it consume their lives for months at a time. When something is so dull that a filmmaker or actor (the most egotistical creatures known to man) doesn't want to talk about themselves, you know you have a loser.

Notable exception to this rule: Roger Ebert. His commentary on Citizen Kane is about as good as the movie itself. Apparently, Ebert has given lectures where he and an audience have literally broken down Kane shot-for-shot over a period of a few days, so the man knows his shit. Hopefully he continues his practice after his body recovers from exploding.

Anyway, notable moments in the history of the DVD commentary....

* Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's commentaries for Seinfeld, which are disappointing to the extreme. If you took a shot every time one of them went "Which episode is this?" or "Oh, this was a good one," you'd be dead. The Seinfeld commentaries are somewhat redeemed by the cast commentaries, which feature Michael Richards saying maybe three words in total, and all in somewhat crush-esque praise of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Good thing she's not black, or else Richards would've apparently had more to say. I always thought Kramer's puffy hair was shaped like a Klan mask.

* The Coen Brothers had a 'film historian' do an Ebert-style commentary track on their movie Blood Simple that simply made everything up. For example, "the opening scene was shot upside down with the actors reading their lines backwards, then everything was switched in post-production."

* Any time the cast or crew gets drunk while doing the commentary. Proud examples of this include Boogie Nights, Eurotrip, and Stifler and Ashton Kutcher during Dude, Where's My Car?

* Bob Odenkirk and David Cross recorded a commentary on their commentary for the Mr. Show DVDs. Their commentary-commentary almost entirely consisted of comments like "Boy, that was an insightful fact, Dave!" "Thanks Bob!"

* The Simpsons' DVD commentaries by Matt Groening and various writers and actors. These are so wonderful and so clearly show that these people love and respect their work that I can't believe Simpsons has been so dull for the last 5-6 years.

* Speaking of the Simpsons, Seth Macfarlane did a set of Family Guy commentaries entirely as Stewie and Brian.

* Any Kevin Smith DVD commentary, since the whole thing breaks down into he and his cast just ripping on each other. I love Kevin Smith. I think I would pay into the three figures for him, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee and company to record a series of commentaries for a Ben Affleck box set.

* The commentary for This Is Spinal Tap. The three guys do the commentary in-character, claiming that Marty DiBergi (director of the documentary-within-the-film, played by actual director Rob Reiner) intentionally made them look silly, and that scenes were taken out of context. Of course, their explanations of these contexts is even funnier.


Chris in NF said...

Also: the director commentaries on The Lord of the Rings are quite good, and the actor commentaries are really funny -- largely because it's really just the four hobbits for the entire thing, with occasional comments by other actors obviously recorded separately. The hobbits are hilarious largely because their commentary essentially consists of stuff like "hey, do you remember that pub in Aukland?" and laughing at how fat Sean Astin looks whenever he's on screen.

I find the Buffy commentaries by Joss quite good, but they tend to be a little hit and miss.

Also: Ebert does the commentary for Dark City, and he's pretty amazing there too. He'd make a great film prof.

Chad Nevett said...

Trey Parker and Matt Stone's commentary-minis on the South Park DVDs as well as the That's My Bush! collection are great. Short, to the point and full of information--mostly because they only talk for four or five minutes.

I love commentaries. That was the best part of my work study at Western. While proofreading transcripts of shit from 1660s England, I could stick a commentary on.