Talking over the Talkies
August 31, 2006 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Ever wonder if that DVD commentary might put you to sleep? Well, wonder no more. Learn about the first, the worst, and find out what other people think are the best. Vote for your favorites, and add your own reviews. "The definitive commentary track database" is at your service. Link courtesy of Whedonesque.
posted by ZachsMind (57 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Terry Gilliam does do a great commentary---he get 4 in the top 10 and a few more further down---though I'd rate HST's above the director's on Fear & Loathing.

posted by carsonb at 7:54 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

john waters does the best dvd commentary ever
posted by troybob at 8:14 PM on August 31, 2006

The commentary for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the best, and not even on that list bloated with nerdware. I no longer think Val Kilmer is a complete ass, and Robert Downey Jr. is elevated to god-like status. Note: see movie and listen to commentary before snarking about previous statements.

Your Favorite Commentary Track Sucks.
posted by intermod at 8:16 PM on August 31, 2006

The nerdocracy is out in force! Excellent to see the wonderful wonderful UHF commentary get some love. Hard to believe the commentary for John Carpenter's Mouth of Madness wasn't on the worst list. Listening to some guy ramble about lighting every scene while carpeter just encourages him is horrible. I guess he makes up for it with some others, but also no They Live! on the list. I also seem to be in the minority about Fight Club - I thought the screenwriter and novel writer duo was fantastic. I guess I'm just a fan of director/writer commentary, though - I found the entire Buffy ones great except, of course, of the one chatty one with Seth Green. I also thought the Goonies Full Cast Commentary got kind of obnoxious after about 20 minutes, so I probably have biases.

I am also sad to see that the Carrot Top commentary for Rules of Attraction is missing. You'd think it's the worst idea ever, but it's really comically surreal.
posted by absalom at 8:26 PM on August 31, 2006

Gotta give love to Commentary Tracks of the Damned.
posted by fungible at 8:31 PM on August 31, 2006

At least two Kevin Smith titles, and no Werner Herzog? In a top 100 list? Rediculous.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:59 PM on August 31, 2006

Herzog is the best.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:16 PM on August 31, 2006

I listen to a lot of commentary tracks. I dunno why, but I'm fascinated by them. I've always liked Robert Rodriguez tracks because he really goes into detail as to how he manages to do stuff on the cheap.

But I think my favorite commentary (or at least my favorite that is first coming to mind) is the crew commentary from the first Resident Evil movie. Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez's banter is just damn funny. As I recall the commentary from The Rundown with the Rock was also quite entertaining.

So yeah, that's the hook for me. Tell me how you did stuff or have the cast being funny.
posted by quin at 9:16 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Your Favorite Commentary Track Sucks

It apparently does. But I found Jerry Seinfeld laughing at his own show fun to listen to.

Julia-Louis Dreyfus & Jason Alexander are bores, however. They seemed to act like they were above it all - or bemused by the task.
posted by wfc123 at 9:18 PM on August 31, 2006

At least two Kevin Smith titles, and no Werner Herzog? In a top 100 list? Rediculous.

Any Werner Herzog commentary is tremendous... like people are always getting maimed and shot at during his shoots. Add to that he's always doing these intersting things during filming, like that film where he had all the actors under hypnosis. Fascinating stuff.
posted by bobo123 at 9:18 PM on August 31, 2006

I like the commentary for Stir of Echoes. It provides what I really want in a director's commentary: an intelligent, in-depth discussion of how he put the film together, the kinds of problems he encountered and the solutions he came up with.
posted by SPrintF at 9:21 PM on August 31, 2006

A dead-on addendum to the Commentaries of the Damned:
The 15 People You Meet Listening To DVD Audio Commentaries.

posted by Iridic at 9:39 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

The Almost Famous track is a unique train wreck: Cameron Crowe and his proud mother. She has a couple of worthwhile things to say during the early scenes with Frances McDormand, but for rest of the film, she just gushes about her son. Ugh.
posted by muckster at 9:52 PM on August 31, 2006

Not much validity to these lists, really. All these rankings are based on a minimal amount of votes. Serenity, which I liked, took the top spot with only 10 votes.

My favorite commentary is the fake one done by "Kenneth Loring" for the first Coen Brothers flick, Blood Simple.
posted by Arch_Stanton at 9:54 PM on August 31, 2006

That list is a fraud! Neither of the two greatest commentary tracks I have ever heard are anywhere to be found.

1) The Critereon of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has a commentary track with Hunter S Thompson being insane, audibly snorting things, taking random phone calls and making weird squealing noises when his lizard brain takes over then resuming his sentence without missing a beat.

2) The Schwartzenegger commentary on Conan the Barbarian is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. I bought the DVD a few years ago and have never since seen that film without the commentary on. Ahnold doesn't remember half the shoot and loves to describe what is happening on screen instead of talking about it. "This is me riding a horse" Director John Milnius tries his best to hammer home any imagery he put in the film "He is strong. Like steel!" And the greatest open to a commentary ever:
Ahnold: "This is John Milnius"
Milnius: "And this is Arnold Schwartzenegger"
Ahnold: "And if you are believing this, you are also believing that there are little Richard Simmons juniors running around. HA!"

posted by thecjm at 10:02 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just in case anyone missed it, the Onion's AVClub Commentary Tracks of the Blessed covers the same ground. I can personally recomend the Starship Troopers commentary, its great! Both the director and writer appear to have black belts in shit-stirring, and aren't afraid to use them against each other or anyone else they feel didn't like their movie enough.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:16 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

CHUD. Nuff said.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:22 PM on August 31, 2006

Zachsmind: you total Whedonesquer you!
posted by Sparx at 10:25 PM on August 31, 2006

Heh, they didn't have the commentary track for Blood Simple which seems to start off as the stuffy film critic Kenneth Loring patiently explaining how the film was made, and then gets more and more bizzare with lines like, "actually, getting this shot is difficult, they filmed this upside down and backwards..." and "due to budget cuts, that's an animatronic dog, the state of the art has progressed to the point where it is cheaper to use robot dogs than a real dog trainer..." The middle of the piece has Loring spin off this wild shaggy dog story about how the original script was a spy movie centered on a character's wrist-watch.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:30 PM on August 31, 2006

The wonderful thing about this website though is if you feel a commentary is missing, or have something to add, you can do it on the website, rather than, y'know, bitch about how it's not there. You can do something about it. That's cool. And you can vote your favorites or pan the ones you don't like. Admittedly it's still in its infancy, but when the ten or so votes become several hundred, then the results will have more weight to them.

I'll be sad if Joss ever gets toppled from the number one spot though. I really dig his commentary.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:40 PM on August 31, 2006

Sparx: "you total Whedonesquer you!"

I'm in good company. =) And with that cryptic comment, I'm going to bed.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:42 PM on August 31, 2006

And jumped to 66. Two haters just gave it a rating of 0. Way to go, haters. Like that's not gonna backfire.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:27 PM on August 31, 2006

At least they've got Blade 2 rated relatively highly. Seriously entertaining commentary and it's such a fluffy movie that it never makes these lists!
posted by Silentgoldfish at 11:57 PM on August 31, 2006

The Worst: Any commentary by directors Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly -- they just name every background extra, their relation to that person, and any details about said person having nothing to do with the film. They have done this on every single commentary for their films on DVD. They really have no interest in talking about anything related to making of the film, what's happening on screen at the time, etc.
posted by jca at 1:05 AM on September 1, 2006

I don't think I've ever seen Terry Gilliam rated so highly as I have on this list. Where though are the Sam Mendes films? American Beauty and Road to Perdition were two of the most informative commentaries on the craft of film-making I've ever watched.
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:38 AM on September 1, 2006

Solaris remake at 89? I'd say it was probably the best commentary I've ever listened to. A brilliant balance of the technical&financial information along with the pure art of film making and the techniques involved. It works mainly thanks to the great back-and-forth between Cameron and Soderbergh. They have a lot more common ground than I would have initially thought and there is also a great deal of respect for each other that becomes obvious when listening to the commentary. Also, both guys have a really good sense of humour. One of those commentaries that really makes you understand and appreciate the amount of thought and work that can go into making a film.

My second favorite commentary does not even make the list... Way of the Gun with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie and the composer Joe Kraemer. It's a really interesting commentary, with a nice balance of 'directorial' information and relatively rare conversations about the music (there's also a slightly inferior commentary track for the score). What I love most about is how candid McQuarrie is about his short-comings as a first time director and him recounting the difficulty of getting the film done.

And yeah, I agree, most Fincher commentaries should be required 'listening' at film school. The man knows his stuff and is extremely focused. You don't have to like the man (or his films), but you have to give him respect for the amount of effort and thought he puts into every single frame of his films.

So, yeah, thanks for the find! This is truly manna from heaven for a commentary nerd like myself.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:06 AM on September 1, 2006

I seem to recall thinking that quite a bit of the commentary on the first couple seasons of The Simpson's DVD set was hilarious....sort of like discovering lost episodes from the glory days.
posted by well_balanced at 3:50 AM on September 1, 2006

On the Sopranos season 5 set, actress Drea de Matteo's commentary (over the episode where her character Adriana is killed) is entertaining. No chin-stroke-worthy deep insights into the mysteries of the Creative Process or anything, just a fun listen from a groovy gal.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:53 AM on September 1, 2006

Soderbergh's also hilarious on Schizopolis, doing some sort of fake-pompous shtick if I remember correctly. Or maybe he meant it.
posted by muckster at 4:28 AM on September 1, 2006

Yeah Muckster, Steven Soderbergh interviews Steven Soderbergh the meglomaniac movie mogul.
posted by john at 4:54 AM on September 1, 2006

I'm not sure about many of the ones in the best/worst I saw listed, but I'll certainly chip and agree the SpaceBalls commentary had to be the worst I ever heard. I picked it up and saw that Mel Brooks had done the commentary. I thought "Wow, the man himself, this should be good". The reality is that he didn't remember nearly anything about the film and didn't say much and just rambled.

I wish someone had been taking the time to review these a long time ago, it certainly helps to know which might be useful to sit through and which to skip.
posted by inthe80s at 6:11 AM on September 1, 2006

I always thought the best commentary track of all time is the reunion of the kids on the Willy Wonka (original) DVD. Freakin' hysterical. Veruca & Veronica discussing their scheme to "share" Charlie because they both had a crush on him is so adorable. And speaking of adorable, I'm a big fan of the Say Anything commentary.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 6:16 AM on September 1, 2006

My favorite commentary is Graham Linehan's track on the Father Ted Christmas Special. He clearly doesn't like the episode and audibly cringes throughout. About half way through he shouts "Jesus, is it still going?" After this he's so bored he starts telling jokes.

Having said all this, Linehan does good commentaries and he's often funny and informative although he has a tendancy to be far too critical of himself.
posted by dodgygeezer at 6:56 AM on September 1, 2006

The commentary track on This Is Spinal Tap is hands-down the best, since McKean and gang are in-character throughout. It's like a second movie.
posted by NationalKato at 7:02 AM on September 1, 2006

* is sad *
posted by ZachsMind at 7:54 AM on September 1, 2006

My favorite is the one for "Bound", the Wachowski Brothers film befor they made the matrix. They (the W brothers, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, and someone else?) spend most of the commentary calmly describing the movie, with occasional comments like, "where's Jennifer Tilly? She's supposed to be here".

Jennifer finally shows up about 15 minutes before the end and totally hijacks the commentary with non-stop talking.
posted by dr. fresh at 8:17 AM on September 1, 2006

Nobody's mentioned my favorite bad commentary, on The Matrix.
You can listen to Carrie Ann Moss, John Gaeta (the fx director) and the editor (who apparently was a real tool). Listening to the editor try pick up lines on Carrie Ann Moss is priceless, as is his attempt to wrest meaningful commentary from an audibly (lots of heavy sighs) annoyed Gaeta.
posted by asavage at 8:31 AM on September 1, 2006

Thanks for posting this! I'm a commentary junkie and I'm always on the lookout for a good track.

Haven't seen them mentioned here: Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi on the Evil Dead series commentary tracks. A lot of great info on low-budget filmmaking, they love pointing out their own mistakes, and they're both hilarious.
posted by notmydesk at 8:33 AM on September 1, 2006

Oh, and don't forget Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass's commentary for The Goonies.
posted by Iridic at 8:39 AM on September 1, 2006

This Is Spinal Tap is really the best ("Were you using two-in-one conditioner at this point?"), but the 7th Seal had a really good, informative commentary track.
posted by geoff. at 9:03 AM on September 1, 2006

Wow, I wish I could add my thoughts to the greatest/worst list but the truth is I have never had time to listen to a single commentary track; it takes all my viewing time to watch all the movies, documentaries, and TV shows being released on DVD once.

So my question is, "Are y'all just giving up on new stuff in order to rewatch old favorites? "
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:11 AM on September 1, 2006

I really enjoy the commentary podcasts that Ronald Moore does for Battlestar Galactica (which I think are then recycled for the DVDs). He chain smokes and drinks scotch through them and is pretty honest about what he thinks works and what he doesn't like about the episode.
posted by octothorpe at 9:22 AM on September 1, 2006

I thought the Matchstick Men commentary was great. It alternates between director Ridley Scott and the two screenwriters. Scott provides thoughtful insights about characters and settings, and at one point gets into a discussion of what lens he used for a scene and why. The two screenwriters start by describing their awe that Scott wanted to film their script, and talk about how they adapted the novel. They happily point out what Scott contributed (for example, the parking structure sequence, based on a one-sentence description in the script). I think they all talk about how many clues they should dare provide the audience with about the ending.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:27 AM on September 1, 2006

Not everything is good, Gravy. In fact, I'd argue that most movies are crap.

Why not get a more in-depth experience with the good stuff, as opposed to wasting your time with more junk?
posted by MythMaker at 9:36 AM on September 1, 2006

Some of the most interesting commentary and "how we did it" stuff that I've seen in a long time was on the DVD for the movie "Ghost Ship." The movie may have been so-so, but the behind-the-scenes for the special effects & gore was pretty damn good.
posted by drstein at 10:55 AM on September 1, 2006

I like a commentary where the people involved sound like they're having fun as well as telling great stories. Commentaries like the ones for UHF or The Goonies are great for that, but my favorite is still Mallrats.

Although, I can't believe the pasted-together commentaries for Seven and Fight Club are considered *good*. I love both of those films, but if the people involved in the commentary aren't all in the same room watching at the same time, it's JARRING and ANNOYING.
posted by grubi at 11:05 AM on September 1, 2006

Any Guy Maddin commentary is worth a listen, and the ones with screenwriter George Toles are amazing. I actually ripped them to listen on my MP3 player they're so interesting.

The audio commentary for series 2 of the Mighty Boosh is almost funnier than the show in some places, especially when Rich Fulcher and Noel Fielding really get going ("Hey Christy! 50,000 dollars for a crown of thorns? What the hell?")
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:10 AM on September 1, 2006

The Schwartzenegger commentary on Conan the Barbarian is one of the funniest things I have ever heard.
I second that. Here is another fine excerpt (I'm paraphrasing, but it's pretty close)

Schwarzenegger: What is the Wheel of Pain?
Milius: It's for grinding grain.
Schwarzenegger: Well where did they get the grain??
Milius: From out in the fields.

As far as the top 100 goes, I have listened to many of those listed and I have to agree that they are all excellent. I really enjoy listening to Gilliam and Coppola esepcially.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 11:25 AM on September 1, 2006

"I actually ripped them to listen on my MP3 player they're so interesting."

Woah, cool! do ya do that?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:46 AM on September 1, 2006

I use DVD Decrypter in IFO mode to grab just the audio stream as an AC3 file. Then I use DB Poweramp to convert it to MP3. You probably would like more detail than that: I could've sworn I found the actual steps on doom9 but I can't seem to dig them up. There's a couple AskMe threads about doing it too, where people suggest a number of different methods.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:06 PM on September 1, 2006

I recently enjoyed Jodie Foster's commentary track for Contact. One of the first tracks I've listened to from my dvd's, it was a great mix of memories from shooting, insight into the character, and her appreciation of other people's work in the film.
posted by bullitt 5 at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2006

Howard Suber speaking on the Graduate Criterion laserdisc is the best ever. End of story.

And Gilliam? Thanks for the laugh. His Fisher King commetary is pretension defined.
posted by dobbs at 7:53 PM on September 1, 2006

Wow - lots of great suggestions to commentaries to check out. Thanks all - a trip to the video store is in order. because I only own one DVD. Serenity. Not that I hang out at Whedonesque or anything. Swear.
posted by Sparx at 8:24 PM on September 1, 2006

You know what I wish had commentaries? Dead Like Me season two. I'd like to hear Patinkin ream Showtime a new one in that subtle but underhanded and passive aggressive way that only he can.

[bad Mandy Patinkin impersonation] "We offer you great writing, you kick us onto the street. We offer you tremendous talent and a unique perspective on life and a guaranteed nonstop comedy drama suspense you name it we got it -- don't want it? You throw us out on the street. Fine. I'll just go whore myself at the temples of Procrit and Crestor and make a hell of a lot more money than you sorry ass shits ever paid me. It won't fuel my soul but at least I can look at myself in the mirror in the morning which is more than I could say for you sorry ass network executive turdballs with legs. Oh look! Here's another scene where Jasmine upstages me! The damn whore! See what I have to put up with? No really I love her to pieces but she needs to shave her feet - don't tell her I said that."
posted by ZachsMind at 10:06 PM on September 1, 2006


The 'Brother Bear' commentary by Bob & Doug (Dave Thomas & Rick Moranis) didn't make the top 100?

Man, I hated that movie with a passion - until I spun up their commentary. One of the most hilarious, surreal experiences ever... We learn the truth as to how Disney really animates it's films, 'cartoon stunt doubles' and chipmunks as harbingers of danger.
posted by jkaczor at 10:14 PM on September 1, 2006

Ooops, I guess 'Brother Bear' did exist - their search box is not too reliable.

This has been around since 2004? And no one informed me - dammit MeFi, you are loosing your edge!
posted by jkaczor at 10:36 PM on September 1, 2006

Glad to see the Escape From NY commentary on there, although I thought Carpenter and Russell were more entertaining on the Big Trouble In Little China commentary.

absalom, I agree with you about the Mouth of Madness commentary. Even the hilariously frequent flicking of Carpenter's lighter couldn't save it.

To the worst list I'd add Deep Blue Sea. Harlin is fine and informative, but Sam Jackson just makes horrible jokes and talks about golf.


Luckily he leaves after his character is eaten.
posted by brundlefly at 12:52 PM on September 2, 2006

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