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Student needs help. Educational DVD commentaries?

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#1 of 47 OFFLINE   JonCW



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Posted August 30 2004 - 05:36 AM

Hey all. I'm a film student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Currently I'm working on an honors thesis paper on a subject I love: DVD Audio Commentaries. The main purpose is to determine the educational value of these commentaries to film students such as myself. I know from experience that some titles work well and some fall very short. Unfortunately, my personal experience is limited compared with the vast comprehensive knowledge of this fantastic forum. In addition to countless time spent listening to tracks, I will also be sending surveys to film schools around the country to teachers and students determining interest and it's current place in universities. Here's what I'm asking from you. I'd like anyone interested in helping me out to list the DVD audio comentaries that they personally feel to be of educational value to a film production student. The person talking on the track can be anyone, just as long as it's insightful. Genres would be a big help (fiction and all it's various sub genres, documentary and animation -- I'd love to touch on them all). I must ask for only audio commentaries and not other special features. Although featurettes, etc. can be helpful in the same manner, it's too much to take on in one semester. From your suggestions, I will compile a master list and continue my research. As thanks for your time and help to a fellow film buff, your name will be included in the proper appendix. When it's all said and done I'll post a link here again to where you can see the paper. It'll be up on my film review site sometime in mid-December, when the semester is over and I have graduated. Thanks for your help. I look forward to all your suggestions.

#2 of 47 OFFLINE   Randy A Salas

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Posted August 30 2004 - 07:16 AM

It's widely despised by many (including me) for being clinical, redundant and dry, but the sole saving grace of the commentary by director John Carpenter and cinematographer Gary Kibbe for In The Mouth of Madness might be that it is beneficial to film students. At the continual prompting of Carpenter, Kibbe details the lighting, equipment used and its placement for the entire movie.




The effect for even hard-core fans is mind-numbing, which explains why this commentary usually appears on worst-ever lists. But I can fathom how a film student might be able to learn something from what Kibbe says by comparing it with the results onscreen. I can't recall another that gets into such technical detail.
Randy A. Salas
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#3 of 47 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted August 30 2004 - 07:39 AM

Any of the Ebert commentaries are like Filmschool 101. Citizen Kane, Casablanca and Dark City. Start with CK, it is presented as a scene by scene analysis of Welles' masterpiece by a man who truly knows and loves film. I learned more about dialog and use of lighting and position by listening to Ebert's Casablanca comments than I have from any number of others. I have not listened to Dark City, but I've heard it is up to par with the other two.

#4 of 47 OFFLINE   ChristopherBlig


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Posted August 30 2004 - 08:48 AM

Any commentary of Ridley Scott: Alien (I recommend the 20th Anniversary over the Quadrilogy) Black Hawk Down Gladiator Hannibal Matchstick Men The Duellists Thelma & Louise Steven Soderbergh: Catch 22 The Limey (track with Lem Dobbs is classic) John Frankenheimer: Manchurian Candidate Ronin French Connection II Seven Days In May Robert Altman: 3 Women: Criterion Collection (make this your primary one) Cameron Crowe: Almost Famous: Untitled Vanilla Sky Say Anything... Jerry Maguire: SE Fast Times at Ridgemont High (a classic one with Amy Heckerling) Peter Bogdanovich: Targets Hope these great titles can be of assistance to you. Christopher Bligh
(Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

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#5 of 47 OFFLINE   TedT


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Posted August 30 2004 - 09:29 AM

Ebert's commentary on Dark City was the first one that came to my mind.

#6 of 47 OFFLINE   Runar_R


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Posted August 30 2004 - 09:38 AM

The commentary-track by the director and photographer on "Roger Dodger" was very good. Actually it was like a film-school. Very technical, discussing camera-angles, lighting etc.
"These are the moments I live for.
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#7 of 47 OFFLINE   DaveGTP



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Posted August 30 2004 - 09:54 AM

The best MOVIE commentary I've heard, personally, was the commentary for The Seven Samurai Criterion. The dude that does the commentary sure knows his stuff, and really knows Kurosawa.

The commentary on the Momento Limited Edition is interesting because it employs branching technology. At a certain point towards the end of the commentary, it branches into a random (one out of three) track. Each track tells you a different thing about the end of the movie (the 3rd being a very neutral, either-way sort of track). The creator trying to mind**** you even more than the movie already does. Posted Image
Matheson- "There are probably some who'll say that by doing this, we are interfering with their culture."

Gideon - "Probably. Screw them."
-Crusade, Visitors from Down the Street

#8 of 47 OFFLINE   Gary Seven

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Posted August 30 2004 - 10:19 AM

Well... I remember when I took film in school, we had no DVDs then... but laserdiscs. Being heavily into film, there were many times I disagreed with my professor and she often graded me in relation to that disagreement. Therefore, as a way to gauge if she was somewhat prejudiced in grading me, I did a little experiment on my final paper... a full critique of a film complete with illustrations to make my points. So I used Criterion's laserdisc of "The Graduate". Watched the movie, listened to the commentary and based my paper completely on that commentary. I guess she wasn't as prejudiced as I thought... I got an 'A'.

#9 of 47 OFFLINE   Sean Moon

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Posted August 30 2004 - 12:32 PM

The Ebert commentary on Dark City is wonderful. Some of the best educational documentaries are on the lord of the rings movies, especially the ones with the tech and design crews. All very informative with minimal joking around. Surprised someone else didnt mention these quickly.

We must stand in awe of the infinite capacity of the human mind to reject the introduction of useful knowledge.

#10 of 47 OFFLINE   Adam_S



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Posted August 30 2004 - 01:54 PM

The Seven Samurai commentary is a truly amazing resource. Equally amazing is the Grand Illusion commentary. Listening to these two commentaries really opened my eyes to new ways of viewing and understanding film. They open up new perspectives many lay people may never have considered or understood before. They are about as educational about film art and film technique/execution as you can get, but they're never dry and are always very passionate and well done. Adam

#11 of 47 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted August 30 2004 - 02:18 PM

Citizen Kane (Roger Ebert / Peter Bogdanovich) Casablanca (Roger Ebert / Rudy Behlmer) The Ten Commandments (Katherine Orrison) Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich) Once Upon a Time in the West (Carpenter, Milius, Cox, Frayling, Hall)

#12 of 47 OFFLINE   Dave Simkiss

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Posted August 30 2004 - 09:08 PM

I find commentaries by Robert Rodriguez to be very indepth into the film making process, especially when he's talking on his own.

#13 of 47 OFFLINE   Harold Wazzu

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Posted August 30 2004 - 11:01 PM

Anything with David Fincher, the guy is a perfectionist! Haven't listened to the Panic Room 3-disc commentary yet but that might be a set you might want to look at.

#14 of 47 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted August 30 2004 - 11:32 PM

I'm doing an Honours thesis on Super 35, so I sort of know what you're going through. I wish you the best of luck. I really enjoy the commentaries by Paul Schrader, not only does he talk about thematic concerns, but he works on small budgets so often he discusses the simple logistics of how he shot a scene. So for that I recommend his commentaries for: Forever Mine Blue Collar (talks about directing his very first film) Light Sleeper (talks more about thematics here, but you can tell it is one of the films that he really really cares about) A young film maker I find interesting is James Gray, he has only made two films, but again, he explains away all the details of how he went about shooting. Little Odessa (only the SE version has the commentary) The Yards. I really like the commentary for Cast Away, not necessarily the Zemeckis part. What I liked was hearing the sound designer talk about how he goes about his work, particularly on a film with so much looping and other wise reconstructed sounds. That commentary really made me appreciate even more what is a wonderful sound mix. Obviously there are heaps more that I really like, but those are a few of the ones that other people are possibly not so intersted in.

#15 of 47 OFFLINE   Paul Strilka

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Posted August 30 2004 - 11:36 PM

Scorsese's commentaries on the old criterion laser disc's "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" are film school lectures. Also Robert Rodriguez commentary on his low budget film "El Mariachi" makes you want to pick up a camera and make a movie.

#16 of 47 OFFLINE   streeter



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Posted August 31 2004 - 02:25 AM

You should try talking to some directors who have done audio commentaries and ask them for their insights. Why do they keep doing them? What is their intention for recording commentaries?
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#17 of 47 OFFLINE   Will*B


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Posted August 31 2004 - 03:08 AM

Two wonderfully enlightening commentaries are the on the DVD's of the following Godard films:

Contempt (Criterion) commentary by Robert Stam

Breathless (Fox Lorber) commentary by David Sterritt

They are both excellent studies of the films, offering both production-related material as well as personal interpretation and discussion.


#18 of 47 OFFLINE   JonCW



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Posted August 31 2004 - 06:21 AM

Hello again, I'd like to thank everyone for their great suggestions so far. There have been a couple of interesting issues/comments that have resulted from your posts that I hope to address in my paper. One is if the educational value of a commentary track sacrifices the entertainment value and if so, then to what extent. The other is interviewing those involved. Last night, before Michael posted that, I was thinking of trying to contact DVD producers and see how and why they approach the commentary recordings. Also I'd love to talk to someone from the early days of Criterion, since, please correct me if I'm wrong, they were the pioneers in commentaries and special features (and widescreen). So, if any of you have leads to pass along as far as that goes, you can send me a private message or email and I'd much appreciate it. In the meantime, I wanted to just let you know that I thank you for your help (and will continue to do so). I'd love to put together a massive comprehensive list to attach to the paper, even if I can't personally include them all in the context of the paper itself. So, keep them coming. Anyone know of any documentary or animation titles? Thanks again.

#19 of 47 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted August 31 2004 - 06:48 AM

Jon, I'd double-check before putting it in the syllabus/study notes, but I'm fairly certain that Criterion invented the commentary track back in the LD days. With rare exceptions, no one does it better. Rare exceptions: "The Limey" Soderbergh and (...?....) "The Talented Mr. Ripley" Anthony Minghella My favorite Criterion tracks: "Seven Samurai" Michael Jeck "The Lady Eve" Marian Keane "Notorious" Marian Keane again (not the Behlmer track, though that's a good one, too) "Peeping Tom" Laura Mulvey (perhaps teach this in concert with her famous flic-crit article "The Male Gaze")
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#20 of 47 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted August 31 2004 - 06:49 AM

For animation, you cannot beat the Pixar titles' commentaries. While a little soft on hard tecnical info, they are entertaining and lend a lot to the creative rather than technical side of animated movie making.

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