tangent A commentary about DVD commentaries
By Brian Lind
Filmmaker commentary tracks on DVDs: A good source of informative, witty insights into the filmmaking process or vanity yakking to sell a few more DVDs? Mostly, it's both.
For the uninitiated, one of the most popular "special features" on DVDs is the commentary track, which gives you the option of listening to a running commentary by a director (or other filmmakers, or even some actors) while watching the film. Ever since its creation back in the days of the laserdisc, the commentary track has become the sweet, sweet nectar of the diehard film buff.
Commentary tracks can range from the wacky antics of Kevin Smith ("Dogma") to the dignified drollness of Ridley Scott ("Thelma and Louise") to the overblown conspiratorial undertones of Oliver Stone ("JFK"). Some commentaries can make unwatchable movies entertaining, such as the vacuous cast commentary on Scooby Doo.
Perhaps the most notorious DVD in the short history of commentaries is David Fincher's "Fight Club." In addition to being the first DVD to feature four different commentary tracks, this might have also been the DVD that prompted movie studios to add a disclaimer to subsequent films disavowing legal responsibility for anything said during the commentary. Apparently the fact that Edward Norton trashed the new VW bugs and joined Mr. Aniston in trashing other celebrities and critics did not sit well with Fox.
The upcoming "Matrix" 10-DVD set will feature perhaps another first: two modern-day philosophers (Ken Wilber and Cornel West) discussing the hidden depths and philosophical principles in all three "Matrix" films. An alternate commentary track will feature three critics of the movies dissecting its utter shallowness. Too bad Keanu couldn't get Socrates from his "Bill &; Ted" days.
As the commentaries catch on with mainstream DVD buyers, I have a short list of suggestions for future DVD commentary tracks.
Mea Culpa track: This commentary track would allow filmmakers to give us a feature-length apology for the horrible dreck that we paid to see in movie theaters. Forcing George Lucas to apologize for episodes I and II "Star Wars" won't make it all better, but it's a good start. If the Mea Culpa track catches on, Dan Ackroyd will finally be in demand again.
"Mom"-entary: This track would feature a commentary by an actual mom who will tell you how much she likes the film you picked, no matter how inappropriate she thinks it is, just so she doesn't hurt your feelings. She will also sporadically ask you "Do they have to use such foul language?" and "Who would want to stay inside watching a movie on a day as beautiful as this?"
Shakespeare track: For those of you who wouldn't want to be caught watching low-brow fare, this track would replace the original dialogue with eloquent phrases straight from the Bard's mouth: "Et tu, Fat Bastard?"
Instant Plot Summary track: This track would be for people who are continually pestered by their movie-going companions to tell them what just happened in the film. Every 60 seconds, the deep, soothing voice of James Earl Jones would whisper a summation of the film's previous 60 seconds. When using this track, home theater owners who are interested in keeping the plaster on their walls will want to make sure their subwoofers are set well below Armageddon.
And that leads us to perhaps the commentary that would truly bring the movies home:
The RealTheater track: This track would add such movie theater staples as randomly crying babies, obnoxious laughter at inappropriate moments, patrons yelling out advice to movie characters and pointless audience applause at the end of the film.
Day-old nachos sticking to the bottom of your shoes are not included.
Brian Lind is a Rochester freelancer. If you want to e-mail him to tell him how funny he is, or for any other reason, send your comments to email@example.com.