DVD Commentary Commentary
Since nobody complained last week and I'm still a lazy bum, here are a few more of those old-time chuckle-filled Fireman Comics. Before television, comics were the third most popular form of entertainment, next to burning witches and lynching former slaves. So let's take a merry trip down funnybook memory lane, shall we?
Oh those wacky firemen! How inspiring!
Now that the Internet isn't as cool anymore, I'm pretty big into DVD's and movies. Hooray for pre-recorded digital video with supplementary features! Unfortunately, I'm kind of a sucker for cool and / or cheap DVD's. It doesn't matter if the movie sucks or not, I'll buy it if it's a) $5 to $10 or b) a 2-disc set in cool hologram packaging loaded with extras. I'm such a sap. In the future, everything will have holograms!
Any fan of DVD knows that the quality of supplemental features varies widely. Some DVD's try to pass off trailers, production notes, cast and crew bios, and - lamest of all - recommendations for other films off as extras. Fools! These are completely worthless trivialities that add little or nothing to the enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the film. Commentary tracks, on the other hand, can offer a lot of insight into the production of the film by the people who helped make them, and be entertaining and amusing to listen to, too. In theory, at least.
In reality, the quality of these tracks varies widely. Here are a few examples of the types of commentary tracks I've encountered.
The Sorry Loner - The socially challenged director of a sub-par film awkwardly tries to explain or justify his failed masterpiece by pointing out flashes of adequacy and offering lame excuses for the flick's lesser qualities. These tracks are usually filled with minutes of awkward silence, as the director looks on in horror, tries to pick something from his nose, or dozes off. A variation of this is the "Ben Stein" commentary, where a guy with a boring monotone drones on and on until you either pass out or turn it off. Yet another variation on this is the lone foreign director who babbles on and on in a wacky accent no one but a 7-11 clerk or a cab driver could possibly understand.
Redundant Retard - The director or actor fills the majority of the commentary track by merely repeating what's happening in the movie. Actors are especially guilty of this. In nearly every commentary track with actors, you'll hear an exchange like this:
Useless Trivializers - Overly enthusiastic directors who didn't have any actual involvement in the writing of the script or the story usually do these types of commentary tracks. They spend the duration of the movie pointing out stupid stuff only they could possibly care about, usually things that don't even have anything to do with the plot of the movie itself. For example, they'll point out that they filmed this scene in their childhood friend's backyard, and their Uncle's mechanic can be seen in the background trying to open a beer, their good friend Artie who they met playing basketball in 1984 during the writer's strike plays a bit role as the Janitor, and they had trouble filming one scene with 24mm lenses because it rained the previous day it caused the zombies to be backlit too much. These people also like to point out other movies they've ripped shots or dialogue from.
Table Tracks - Table Tracks are tracks that consist of at least three people sitting around a table commentating on the film simultaneously. These are often the best kind of commentaries - if they're done right -since everybody has something unique to add, there are less awkward pauses, and there's usually at least a funny moment or two when somebody gets dissed or embarrassed. But these kinds of tracks only work if the group of people participating in it are friends. If they're not, then the following unentertaining scenarios unfold:
So there you have it, an expert's guide to commentary tracks or some junk. Maybe some day I'll have the good fortune of recording my own commentary track with Lowtax or something. It wouldn't even have to be a commentary track to a movie we made, I'd be happy with doing a commentary track to a movie the director was too ashamed or too dead to say anything about. Then we could just make up false stories about how the lead actor absolutely had to rub his inner thigh with imported dog hair before each take. It'd be great!