Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Calm Before...More Ramblings From The Head Of The Anti-PC League

Actually, this will be a light hearted affair.

I have a real addiction to DVD commentaries. I listen to each and every one, whether the movie sucks or not. I really feel like I learn something from them. Even in the case of my fellow Jersey-ite, Kevin Smith, who is so damn funny, but really sheds little into the actual process. So last night, I popped in Equilibrium, a film I thought was a better than average dystopian tale. I wasn't in love with it. But the commentary is very informative. He was a first time director with EQ with a relatively small budget, and he goes into how they shot some action sequences on the cheap, and some in as little as thirty minutes, because they had no time or money left. He is honest about the criticisms of the movie, and is hard on himself much of the time. Is this day and age, when people just fluff each other up on a commentary track because they made a shitty movie, it's nice to hear someone who's humble. I really recommend giving it a listen. Of course, it goes without saying you should watch the movie without it first.

So without further blah blah, here are my top five commentary tracks:
1. Tarantino on True Romance -He is a fast talker who never lets up. He gives you personal thoughts on what he was thinking as he wrote the script, as well as little stories from everything from his friends to the origin of the 'sicilian' scene to how he turned down directing it. A great, informative and funny commentary by someone who truly cares.

2. Any Kevin Smith track- You know what you're getting with this guys commentary tracks. A self depreciating, ball busting funny man who is an honest and genuine person, not too high on himself, and takes just as much abuse from his cohorts as he dishes out. I can honestly recommend any of his movies for their commentary tracks alone. Don't forget the Clerks Cartoons, which are hilarious, and offer even funnier commentary for each of the six episodes.

3. Boogie Nights-Paul Thomas Anderson starts off his BN commentary by stating: Alright, listen up, because I learned everything I know about film from these commentary tracks I used to listen to on Laser Disc. I'm paraphrasing, but what he says is true. I've learned ten times as much from commentary tracks as I did in my six months of Film school. And you know what? This guy pulls no punches, he curses like a sailor, which I love, and he is dead honest about who he thinks he ripped off in certain shots. Frankly, he's one of my favorite directors, and this commentary is chock full of stories and insights into the why's? and how's? of this great film. As an added bonus, check out the other track, with Anderson again, who basically interviews each actor individually for the track. It's an amazing look into the start of filming, to the end of the process as they look back. Plus, he asks each actor "Do you think Luis Guzman is high in this scene?", including Luis himself, I think. And what he does with Mark Wahlberg, and how he keeps him seated for the entire run is absolutely hysterical. It's a must listen.

4. Evil Dead-Bruce Campbell Or Sam Raimi/Tapert tracks- Two great commentary tracks. The track with Bruce Campbell is full of little behind the scenes stories about the production, which took many years. He is a naturally humorous man, and his personality is perfect for this medium. The Sam Raimi track is just as good. And just as many stories, and different takes on the same story. I haven't listened to them in awhile, but they're absolutely a top option.

5. The Godfather-FF Coppola- How could I not put this on the list? He gives great technical explanation and dives into the stories, like how he was pressured to fire Pacino, how he himself was on the verge of being fired, so he fired his AD in a pre-emptive strike, why Clemenza doesn't return for part 2, and about 20 more great little stories. A classic movie, and a classic commentary.

I could go on and on, and list dozens more, but I'll list 3 runners up without going into detail.

1. Goodfellas-Scorsese and a second track with an FBI agent and Henry Hill
2. The Thing-John Carpenter and Kurt Russell
3. Fight Club- Fincher, Fincher and the stars, The novel writer and the screenwriter together

I just had a Risky Business moment as I rocked out(can you guess my age?) in my living room to 'Alright now" by Free, and 'The Boy's Are Back In Town' by Thin Lizzy. It doesn't take Ingwie Malmsteen fancy shmancy guitar work to fucking rock, people. Just listen to these two songs. Simple riffs, but they just have that raw sound. Awesome!

DIRT. is going as planned, if not a tad slower than normal. I already had thirty one pages in the bank when I started up again. So the progress bar is a little inaccurate. That's my progress after page thirty one. So really, I have about seventy five pages done. The reason I started the progress bar on zero is I thought it would take another hundred pages to finish. And I think that's about right. It certainly is an epic in my mind. And there certainly will be no market for it. But screw it, I'll film it myself if need be. It's not full of special effects, it's a character/period piece. Think the epic scale and arc of Boogie Nights with the humor of Swingers. That's what I'm aiming for anyway.


Matt Reynolds said...

Those are all great movies. I love listening to commentaries too, you learn so much from them. I've found some of the commentaries on the Sopranos and Six Feet Under discs really useful to because often they'll get the writers rather than the directors to do the commentary.

PT Anderson: I read once that he went to NYC but dropped out in the first semester because he handed in a Dave Mamet play as a screenwriting assignment and it got a C-.

JD said...

That's great if he actually did that. Man is that funny. It's like the story of Casablanca and Citizen Kane being given to executives, unbeknownst to them, and they all passed on them.

I listen to The Simpsons commentaries. I haven't spent the 90 dollars a piece for The Sopranos box sets, but I would imagine I would love the commentary. It's one of my favorite shows.

John Donald Carlucci said...

The Se7en commentary was terrible. Brad Pitt (I do like him) was just outclassed by Freeman.

The Resident Evil commentaries were impossible (tho I love Mila) were also awful.

Kevin Smith is always an E-ticket and I LOVE the comments on the animated Clerks.

Tarantino I dislike for an ungodly number of reasons.

The EVil Dead commentaries are also gold.

The three new Gamera DVDs feature amazing commentaries with the actor that plays Gamera (not a human, a seventy foot tall turtle actor, another actor known as soldier number seven who yells out "There I am" everytime and extra runs on screen, and weird other characters). The also feature an alt language track where EVERYONE talks Tex-Arc like Boomhower from King of the Hill.

King of the Hill is cool because they use characters from the show to do the commentaries.

Firefly has a fantastic collection of commentaries. Including one where Mal discusses Adam Baldwin giving himself a sponge bath (erp).


JD said...

Well, interesting that you bring this up. I felt Freeman was patting himself on the back too much, while Pitt was humorously challenging Norton the whole time. I'm not sure if they just interviewed Freeman and overlapped snippetts of it over the movie or not, but that might explain why, during the scene with all the tree fresheners hanging from the ceiling, Freeman is talking about his extensive and illuminating work in The Electric

JD said...

JDC, I would be interested in why you loathe Tarantino so much, though I have a hint of what it may be.

TN_Dreamer said...

love the list, & like tarantino (more as writer than director) but I have a hard time listening to him.

for commentaries, Fight Club (of course) & anything with Gilliam or Van Sant or Freeman.

watched a friends' Wes Craven. Horrible!

JD said...

Which Wes Craven film? I listened to Last House On The Left and Scream, and found him to be light hearted and humorous.

John Donald Carlucci said...

I used to be a huge fan (of the gang coming up at that time Mr. T - R Rod - K Smith).

Tarantino pats himself on the back hard and constantly. The fact that he bought short film scripts off of friends that comprised most of Pulp Fiction is wrong. The fact that he (used to) record the conversations with his friends and transcribe those into the films sucks.

The fact that I loved Dusk Til Dawn (and T did a GREAT acting job) until the damn film switched genres in the middle then killed off ALL OF THE ANTAGONISTS in the second act leaving us with extras for the rest of the film sucked LOTS.

The fact that he "discovered" all of these Asian gems and releases them with his name all over them drives me bat shit.

The fact that the Kill Bill films are homages through the eyes of an eight year old boy doped up on sugar and little clue as to what those films were about. The one drop of blood flying through the air in House of Flying Daggers had a STRONGER message than any of the blood SOAKED images from Kill Bill.

The fact that they cut the movie in half after it was made violates any structural integrity established in the script. Act 1,2,3? Lord of the Rings was designed that way.

And his damn foot fetish crap annoyed me even on the ep of ER he directed!

Pant, pant, pant - I haven't unloaded on Tarantino like that in a while.


JD said...

Well, lets see. I disagree that he pats himself on the back all that much. I think he does it about as much as any other big time young director.

I'm not sure about that Pulp Fiction story. And besides, it was story by Avary and QT.

I strongly disagree with From Dusk til Dawn. Not about the structure being f'd up. But I love the movie. It's meant to be exactly what it is-a gore ridden cheesy action horror flick.

The Asian film thing, I think, is the studios own decision to market the movies under the QT moniker to gather increase sales. Even if you disagree that he discovered them, theat's becuase you're versed in asia cinema. Most are not. So the ends justify the means in this case, for the big picture of getting asian cinema to the masses.

He wasn't paying homage to House, it was 70;'s cheese, which is...well...cheese. I don't think he meant Kill Bill as a direct counterpart of the recent artistic achievments of Crouching tiger, Hero or House.

He basically was forced to cut the movie in half. Miramax, the Weinstiens, are not dumb. If you have one 3 hour and 45 minute movie, how many times a day can you show it in a theatre? To maximize the money making of Kill Bill, they had two reasonably short movies that could each play 10 times a day. More money, again.

No that I know I've changed your mind. Thank me later! ;-P

TN_Dreamer said...

yes, scream. light-hearted and humorous and a guy I would prob like in person, but not as a director. no insight, no true genius.

John Donald Carlucci said...

"He wasn't paying homage to House, it was 70;'s cheese, which is...well...cheese. I don't think he meant Kill Bill as a direct counterpart of the recent artistic achievments of Crouching tiger, Hero or House."

I know those films were not the source - films like Master of the Flying Guillotine were the source. I just hate listening to these fanboy who act like he created this shit.

To me, he glories in violence while never understanding violence. That would be the flaw I see in him and in his work.

I'll tell you a story that shows why I still love Robert Rodriguez. A guy brought his eight year old up to Robert at a con (I believe) and told him that he loved Robert's work. Robert thanked the man for the compliment and was stunned when the father said his favorite film was Rodriguez's Desperato. Robert ripped the guy apart because he let such a young child watch that film. He decided that he would stop making those films since parents couldn't be trusted to parent their kids. SpyKids was born after that. Thanksfully, he also returned to adult fare after a while, but I didn't enjoy the thrid film in the El Maraichi series that much (Johnny Depp rock of course).

I'll reconsider many things in life, you can never get me to reconsider the Big T.

However, David Mamet is a god!

We would probably have some strong arguments over coffee about film. Sounds like fun!


Anonymous said...

James Cameron on Terminator 2 is quite good as well...I hear Paul Anderson is working on a flick about Big Oil with links to the White House (can't wait)

JD said...

MQ-I think it's based on a book, if I'm not mistaken. Which kind of disappoints me in a selfish way. I love the originality in PT Andersons scripts. But it should be interesting.

JDC-I was just needling ya. I know I can't change your mind on QT. I also really dig Rodriguez the person, not his movies as much. He's very hit and miss with me. But he is also a great dude, and really good on commentary tracks also. You're right about Once Upon A Time In Mexico. The only redeeming quality is Depp, who is absolutely brilliant.

John Donald Carlucci said...

I agree with you on the hit or miss of Robert's films. OUTiM was all over the place. There were characters that should have been combined and Salma was in like two minutes of film. Depp was worth the price of admission.

I'm just needling you too (we aren't gonna hug now?)

I do thing that Desperato is the equivalent of a Asian action flick in mythical quality. That bar scene just fucking rocks. I've never listened to his commentaries.

I did love the first half of Dusk To Dawn and wish it had been allowed to complete the crime drama. George was awesome and Quetin was a brave son-of-a-bitch to play that character. My friends and I would do the pussy speech for weeks afterward.

Aren't you happy to have this much traffic and talk on your site?

I can bullshit movies forever - as much as comics.


John Donald Carlucci said...

I'm wondering if I was the only one who liked the direction of T3 and the dismal end


JD said...

Yeah, stir the pot a little, and they will come.

I liked T3 somewhat. The dialogue was so lacking that it basically made me cringe until the next action sequence. I mean, I could have written kick ass dialogue for that movie, and it would have been a classic without changing a shot. Well, maybe the Arnold bar scene.

I am all for dismal endings. They resonate with me much longer than the happy pappy crappy.

Anonymous said...

PT is still doing the screenplay though, it will have his flair to a certain extent