Your favorite DVD commentary tracks?
December 8, 2003 1:28 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite DVD commentary tracks?
posted by Prospero to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Since I've been a fan of the Simpsons for so long, I love the tracks on all the Simpsons discs due to all the insider info I've never heard before. For fans, it's an amazing bunch of supplimental information that you wouldn't have heard otherwise.

Not a lot of others spring to mind as standouts, though I find a lot of good tracks make me like an otherwise mediocere movie so much more.
posted by mathowie at 1:42 PM on December 8, 2003

Paris, Texas* by Wim Wenders.
Okay, first of all you must like Wenders Films. But if you do, this one is for you. The film was done in 1984 long before marketing of commentary tracks had been thought of. So here Wenders is looking back from over a decade on his film. Now that it has been a success he does't have to sell it anymore but can speak very frankly about how it came into being. This is especially interesting since they started filming without the script being finished. Also the pace of the film allows for plenty of spoken comment and you will learn a lot about film making (light, lenses, funding ... ).
*(UK, not yet available in the US)
posted by meikel at 1:45 PM on December 8, 2003 [1 favorite]

This Is Spinal Tap is pretty excellent- the cast does their commentary in character, complaining about how the movie was a hatchet job. It's sort of like having a whole new Spinal Tap movie.
posted by COBRA! at 1:46 PM on December 8, 2003

Dude, Where's My Car. The movie is absolutely trash, but listening to the audio commentary makes it very funny. I also liked Zoolander's audio commentary.
posted by riffola at 1:54 PM on December 8, 2003

ghostbusters was pretty interesting, i never realized that dan akroyd did so much of the writing behind it. that, and there are some great new york moments revealed about the filming of it there.
posted by Hackworth at 1:56 PM on December 8, 2003

Spaced, series 2. Even the 20 second deleted scenes have commentary. Either that, or the full cast commentary on the Fellowship of the Ring DVD.
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:01 PM on December 8, 2003 [1 favorite]

Ridley Scott's Alien commentary is great (especially when he's comparing modern special effects to the way they did Alien, with raw meat and rubber gloves). And John Carpenter and Kurt Russell on The Thing (not so informative, but very much like sitting around, yeah, beer...with the two of them, highly entertaining).
posted by biscotti at 2:05 PM on December 8, 2003

King of Town Special Edition DVD featuring America's #1 Son and Sweetheart to All the Ladies.
posted by turbodog at 2:16 PM on December 8, 2003

The Director and Cast commentaries on the two extended Lord of the Rings discs that are out so far, plus the Director's commentary on 1776.
posted by anastasiav at 2:17 PM on December 8, 2003

Oh, also, the commentry on Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back, where Jason Mewes says like 3 words, and leave to go to the toilet at one point.
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:28 PM on December 8, 2003

Weekend at Bernie's... god, I almost peed my pants. And I thought it was a riot the first time I saw it. Well heck, anything directed by Ted Kotcheff is a winner in my book. I think we can all agree on that. And may I add that Andrew McCarthy is probably one of the most under-rated actors of all-time. He was unreal in Fresh Horses.
posted by Witty at 2:31 PM on December 8, 2003

and TTT, the extended versions, spring immediately to mind, as does The Wizard of Oz. TWOO was the first DVD movie I ever saw the behind-the-scenes commentary on and I found it fascinating. Oh, and Tron,
where the commentary showed the extraordinary hoops Disney animators went through to make regular cel animations look like computer graphics.
posted by Lynsey at 2:39 PM on December 8, 2003

Without the Blair Witch Project commentary, I would be unaware of the "white trash lazy bird", a half ass extension of the middle finger.
posted by machaus at 2:52 PM on December 8, 2003

I really liked Julie Taymor's commentary on the Titus dvd. She's insightful and passionate and captivating and convincing.
posted by gluechunk at 2:59 PM on December 8, 2003

The first and second season of Mr. Show. Specifically, episode five of season two. It's all very good, but at one moment Bob Odenkirk laughs at Droopy and says "what an asshole!"-- like Droopy is real isn't his character. I also learned that Droopy was based on a real person.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:13 PM on December 8, 2003 [1 favorite]

Every Werner Herzog film, the commentary is a must listen.
posted by corpse at 3:14 PM on December 8, 2003

Kenneth Loring's commentary on Blood Simple is without a doubt the best audio commentary ever.
posted by birdherder at 3:16 PM on December 8, 2003 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks. I have a number of these DVDs, but have never listened to the commentary tracks for them--it's good to have people weed out the wheat from the chaff.

For me, the best tracks are the ones that don't sound as if they were censored by the studio before their release. So in addition to the others, I'll add Terry Gilliam's commentary on the Criterion Brazil, and the commentary track for Krull, which is a less-than-mediocre movie. It's actually worth at least renting Krull to listen to the commentary track, if you want to hear what a film going wrong sounds like. The participants are recorded in separate rooms and edited together, and one of the actresses (Lysette Anthony) has nothing but undiluted hatred for the movie. It's all good fun.

Oh--and Roger Ebert's commentary on Dark City is genius.
posted by Prospero at 3:28 PM on December 8, 2003

Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois couleurs series has a very good DVD commentary (and some nice extra features too).

Agree with gluechunk on Titus - also, do not miss the extra features (usually the extra features are special effects stuff, but in these two cases they are almost part of the commentary).
posted by MzB at 3:29 PM on December 8, 2003

Rollerball is another bad movie made hilarious by the actor commentary.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 3:31 PM on December 8, 2003

The commentary on Cannibal! The Musical is great. Not only funny as hell, and informative about the independent film-making process, but they also drink whiskey pretty steadily through the commentary, and are completely incoherently smashed by the end. Simply brilliant.

Also, see DVDTracks for many home-brew commentaries, some of which (Mulholland Drive springs to mind) are very well done. Others, not so much.
posted by majcher at 3:37 PM on December 8, 2003

Carpenter and Russell are also great on Big Trouble in Little China, where beer and cigarettes are the order of the day.

Herzog is spotty, but when he gets animated about Kinski, he's a must listen. (The problem on the Anchor Bay editions is that the guy they have questioning him is such a dolt.)

Quentin Tarantino's track for Reservoir Dogs is surprisingly good, as is Kenneth Johnson's for V. The Ilsa commentaries are fun, because everybody's willing to take the piss out of themselves. And Yankovich's was great on UHF. He actually called Victoria Jackson near the end.

And I'll second This is Spinal Tap as one of the greatest commentaries ever.
posted by ed at 3:41 PM on December 8, 2003

Sorry. True Romance.
posted by ed at 3:43 PM on December 8, 2003

I find the commentary tracks on the Criterion Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaum DVD's to be very relaxing. I know the movies backwards and forwards, and Wes Anderson's voice is good company when I am drawing late at night. Plus his observations are often things perpendicular to the movie so it feels more like what you would talk about at a party than what he is trying to do in a scene.
posted by thirteen at 4:52 PM on December 8, 2003

I don't know if the DVD commentary is the same, but the commentary on the Clerks laserdisc is quite amusing. They spend half the film gently kicking a hung-over, partly passed-out Jason Mews in the ribs.
posted by majick at 5:22 PM on December 8, 2003

Yeah, the used the same commentary from the disc on the DVD, and I think they even start off with "welcome to the laserdisc of Clerks"

I just heard it for the first time a couple weeks ago.
posted by mathowie at 5:23 PM on December 8, 2003

In fact, on the Criterion Chasing Amy, Kevin Smith apologizes for his "Fuck DVD" tirade, one of many things migrated from the laserdisc.
posted by ed at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2003

John McTiernan's commentary on Die Hard is quite good...interesting anecdotes and some excellent background on how to make a big budget action film. A good example of how *not* to make a commentary is Die Hard 2 in which Renny Harlin comments during every scene (I kid you not) as to whether the snow is real or fake (spoiler: it's mostly fake).

Other good commentaries: David Fincher, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton track on Fight Club, John Hughes on Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 6:44 PM on December 8, 2003

I've never watched a DVD that hasn't been ripped to .avi. Wow. I feel like I should add ', d00d!' to the end of that sentence.

Guess I'm missing out, huh?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:14 PM on December 8, 2003

I recently had the opportunity to watch the newly released DVD of Citizen Kane, which has not one but two really outstanding audio commentaries: one by film critic Roger Ebert, one by director and Welles friend and biographer Peter Bogdanovich. I'll admit it, the "genius" of Citizen Kane has always pretty much escaped me, but after hearing Ebert give what amounts to a master class in script construction and composition and Bogdanovich provide heaps of personal material about Welles, I feel as though I can finally appreciate the film. I actually sat through the damned thing four times - first without any commentary, then the two tracks, then again undistracted by commentary. Highly recommended.
posted by JollyWanker at 7:23 PM on December 8, 2003 [1 favorite]

I'm with juan on the fight club commentary.

I've been watching The Shield Season One DVD collection and the commentary by Shawn Ryan and various stars is really entertaining.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:35 PM on December 8, 2003

Guess I'm missing out, huh?

I love the various extras, especially on television series.
posted by The God Complex at 7:40 PM on December 8, 2003

24 Hour Party People is a film about the Manchester music scene, seen through the eyes of one of its biggest movers, Tony Wilson, and he does an excellent commentary track, acid and insightful both.
posted by tranquileye at 8:44 PM on December 8, 2003

I've never watched a DVD that hasn't been ripped to .avi.

That's the suckass part about pirates, there's no love of the craft of film. Commentary tracks are pretty much the only reason I buy DVDs, since if I really wanted to see the movie I would have caught it in the theater the first time around. None of the pirate networks I've ever checked out traded alternate soundtracks with the movies. It was always the straight ahead movie ripped as divx or mpeg.
posted by mathowie at 8:46 PM on December 8, 2003

"...since if I really wanted to see the movie I would have caught it in the theater the first time around."

You, sir, clearly do not have children around the house.

The reason I buy LD and DVD (or watch avi rips) has nothing to do with craft -- though I appreciate craft well enough and can enjoy a quality commentary or extra featurette -- and everything to do putting the "home" in "home theater". It's all about being able to actually see a movie that isn't full of singing and dancing animals. I'll take the post-bedtime viewing of straight ahead movie if the other option is limiting myself to that which I am willing to share with children.
posted by majick at 9:20 PM on December 8, 2003

Not quite commentary but Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the subtitles for "people who don't like the movie" (it's Shakespeare's Henry the IV pt II) is quite amusing. Not nearly amusing, however, as a certain Mefite and his coconspirators doing Shakespeare in Simpson's character voices.
posted by m@ at 9:44 PM on December 8, 2003

i worked in video for 12 years, 11 of it before DVD arrived. Laserdiscs (LDs) were a niche market but without them it's hard to say if DVD would be what it is today. I heard hundreds of commentaries on DVD, including just about every Criterion release.

Without doubt, the best commentary I've ever heard was Howard Suber's track for The Graduate. It is stunning how amazing it is. I have listened to this commentary more times than I've watched the movie without it and I learned more about story telling in the 105 minute audio track than I did in 4 years of film school.

Find a copy on eBay and then get someone to dub it for you. I've begged Criterion to release it on DVD but they say they do not have the rights. (If buying off eBay, email the seller and double check the presence of commentary. I believe the disc also came out in an edition sans Suber.)
posted by dobbs at 9:59 PM on December 8, 2003 [1 favorite]

the Criterion edition of Powell & Pressburger's The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp has a wonderful commentary track by Powell himself, recorded just a few months before his death

amazing stuff, check out the movie because it's a lost gem

"I've never watched a DVD that hasn't been ripped to .avi."

*angrily calls Mr Valenti on his cell phone*
posted by matteo at 3:41 AM on December 9, 2003 [1 favorite]


I plead both poverty and unavailability in English. Hey, I go see the movies in the theatre if I like them!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:43 AM on December 9, 2003

...if they're actually playing in a theatre I can physically get to, which is highly unlikely, unless it's the latest boom-boom-kapow hollywood crapbuster.

Pirated versions may well suck ass for their lack of artistic add-ons, but when you live on a cultural desert island (at least in terms of, er, American culture), your choices are insurmountably circumscribed, unless yer rich as feckin' Croesus.

Which I'm not, for some stupid reason.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:09 AM on December 9, 2003

On the other end of the spectrum, the commentary that accompanies Kieslowski's Tricolor movies is painful to listen to. The director had died by the time the DVDs were released, and they have a French film historian/academician type narrating them, so that all through Red, for example, she points out instances of red in the movie. I suppose it's possible that they get better as they go on, but I can't imagine anyone hanging in for more than ten minutes.
posted by anapestic at 8:37 AM on December 9, 2003

I second Roger Ebert's take on Citizen Kane. Excellent audio commentary. I wish he could do more. I also recall enjoying the audio commentary on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, although the name behind the voice escapes me. The commentary on Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" was interesting. Fritz Lang's Metropolis helps shed some light on what's been missed and fills one in on the gaps of the present work, since so much of it has been lost. Aliens (2) and Jackie Chan's Drunken Master each also had fun and informative commentaries on their dvds. Aliens' commentary only lacked Signourney Weaver - practically everyone else weighs in at one point during the recording. Bill Paxton's a treat.

Oh! And Amelie'! Great movie. Great commentary. The director's excitement for his own work is admittedly egocentric but it's also captivating.

Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) fans would enjoy his commentary on the episode "Restless" from the second season, and I also enjoyed Jane Espenson's take on her own work in the Angel series, for the Cordelia-driven episode "Rm w/a Vu" which is one of the best Angel episodes they ever did. Further, I'd recommend those two for nonfans who want to know what all the fuss is about.

You'd think the commentaries for Red Dwarf, featuring almost all the original cast members would have been great, but the end result is kinda so so. I mean with the injokes and the improvisational repartee. It just feels like they're killing time cuz someone told them to do it.

DVD commentaries I've recently heard which I'd recommend avoiding would include Coupling season two, Fawlty Towers, High Noon, Wrong Turn, and Frida. Actually, avoid Wrong Turn entirely, but especially the commentary. The others were enjoyable but I hated the commentaries.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:35 AM on December 9, 2003

Also, Roger Ebert did a commentary for Casablanca. Bar none, he's one of the best.

I'll second ZachMind's recognition of the Red Dwarf tracks as vapid idiocy. Fawlty Towers is horrible too, almost as bad as the commentary for American Pie. The Zucker brothers and Altman are about as unrevealng as it gets, and thus more frustrating than anything else.

Another good one: Nicholas Meyer on Star Trek II, revealing how he directed Shatner.

anapestic: Annette Insdorf, I believe. Yeah, she's not exactly user-friendly. I believe she did a similarly snooze-oriented one for Peeping Tom (can't remember offhand who did the commentary for that). But she does have some very valid observations to make, if you can get through her voice. But she's not nearly as bad as Bruce Eder, who sounds as if he's a comatose brain in a jar reading from the page.

Geez, now you all know what a DVD geek I am. :)
posted by ed at 10:52 AM on December 9, 2003

stavros: xvid allows for multiple audio tracks as well as subtitles. An increasing number of films (not a large amount yet, but growing) are available in this format with commentary and subtitles.

So I've heard.
posted by ODiV at 11:00 AM on December 9, 2003

ODiV, what do you play xvid movies with that supports these multiple audio tracks?
posted by mathowie at 11:23 AM on December 9, 2003

Matt, try BS Player.
posted by punilux at 11:37 AM on December 9, 2003

Ooh! And the Bowling For Columbine dvd audio commentary features not the voice of Michael Moore, but instead some of the interns and researchers who supported Moore in completing the film; they're the ones who found all those facts and figures that critics say Moore made up himself. Really fun stuff, for those who actually like Moore.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:35 PM on December 9, 2003

Since this is Askville... I've wished for the following item for awhile, perhaps it already exists?

I'd like to have a stand-alone DVD player (not a PC-related program) that is capable of playing two audio tracks at the same time. Ideally, there would also be a headphone jack on the player. This would allow me to listen to the commentary track via headphones while the other viewer in the room is listening to the standard track via the standard audio/speaker set-up.
posted by gluechunk at 1:48 PM on December 9, 2003

gluechunk, I've never heard of such a thing but you might want to call these people toll-free at 1.800.563.7776. I would think that if such a machine is possible (I doubt it) or available, they'd know.
posted by dobbs at 10:33 AM on December 10, 2003

I love the moment in the commentary to 'A Knight's Tale' when the director and writer suggests the listener goes off and get's a beer.

Or in the LotR: TTT when Peter Jackson suggests they could embellish the existing films with another year's filming instead of making sequels and his wife Fran tells him to stop.

Or the whole of Almost Famous:Untitled which Cameron Crowe delivers with his mom in the room.

Or Vanilla Sky in which he calls Tom Cruise halfway through to ask him some questions.

Or any of the tracks on the Ocean's Eleven remake.

Or the bit on the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones which Lucas tries to make a Kevin Smith reference and gets it terribly wrong.

Or The Limey where the writer picks a fight with director Steven Soderbergh who he believes ruined his words.

Or Y Tu Mama Tambien in which the two teenagers deliver the commentary in character, sounding as though they're getting high.

Katie Manning in any of her Doctor Who commentaries. She's daft as a brush.

Or Spinal Tap, again in character in which the band seek to debunk the enterprise.

Or the bit in The Player commentary when Altman says he can't be bothered doing audio commentaries.

Or The Opposite of Sex in which Don Roos and friends talk about how poor some sections of the filming where and how they could have done so much better.

Or Pretty Woman as Gary Marshall sounds like your dad making a film and names names on failed casting choices.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:43 PM on December 11, 2003 [2 favorites]

Or The Limey where the writer picks a fight with director Steven Soderbergh who he believes ruined his words.

indeed, The Limey's tracks are superb. Lem Dobbs is a very interesting writer, imo. I love how he bitches out SS and then SS says "So, Lem, when are you going to direct...?" and the response is, "well if you did it right, i wouldn't have to."

Or the bit in The Player commentary when Altman says he can't be bothered doing audio commentaries.

There's a great bit on the original Criterion release of the Player where Altman and Michael Tolkin (the writer) are shooting the shit. It's the scene where Tim Robbins is climbing, naked, from the mud bath. Tolkin says, "A lot of people don't know this but when I wrote the character, I wrote it for an uncircumcised man. Unfortunately, Tim Robbins is circumcised, but he wanted the role really badly so we had to get a prosthetic foreskin built for him for this scene. Look how fake it looks."
posted by dobbs at 2:58 PM on December 13, 2003

  |   Questions about HDTV Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.