Saturday, September 1, 2018

An Exhaustive and Unofficial Guide to Film Commentaries

As a lifelong lover of movies, and a filmmaker for more than 10 years, I can honestly tell you that I have learned more about film and filmmaking from DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries than I have from any other single source.

I’ve listened to thousands of commentaries, and there is almost always something to gleam from them. If you love a movie, a commentary can make you appreciate the film even more. Or, perhaps more significantly, a great commentary can give a fresh perspective to a movie you were otherwise lukewarm about.

In the late ‘90s, when DVD commentaries started becoming more regular, I read an interview with Spike Lee in which he said that he always tells his NYU film students to listen to as many director’s commentaries as possible. Essentially, Lee’s point was that if his students weren’t listening to commentaries, they were ignoring free film lessons. I took that to heart, and I’ve never regretted it.

Instead of simply listing my favorite commentary tracks, I thought I could cover more ground by discussing the different types of commentaries and the value, or lack thereof, that can typically be found in them. As the title of this post suggests, this is not a complete guide to movie commentaries, but hopefully you can take away some great tracks to feast upon.

The Consistently Great Commentary
Before we dive specifically into different kinds of commentaries, it’s beneficial to list a handful of directors who consistently deliver amazing commentaries. Spike Lee, David Fincher, William Friedkin, Michael Mann, Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott, and Werner Herzog never disappoint. Each of these directors has recorded commentaries for many of their films, and their tracks always have value. Lee is typically riled up; Fincher and Mann seamlessly fuse technical aspects with story development; Stone provides an enormous amount of historical context; Friedkin never shies from sharing his opinion; and Scott and Herzog are engaging throughout.

The true standout director of movie commentaries, though, is Steven Soderbergh, whose tracks have taught me more than any other director. Soderbergh has done tracks for no less than 12 of his own films, and has contributed commentaries for classics like The Graduate, Point Blank, The Third Man, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Because Soderbergh shoots and cuts his own movies, his knowledge of the technical aspects of filmmaking are limitless. His humor is wonderfully dry, and his attitude is consistently self-effacing (he takes credit for nothing). If you put on a Steven Soderbergh commentary track, you’re going to learn something. What a damn shame it is that he hasn’t recorded a track since 2009’s The Informant!

The Fun Commentary
A commentary can be fun for a few reasons. Could be that the participants get along well (or not), could be “stunt casting,” or it could be the fact that alcohol is clearly involved. A few fun examples:

The Limey 
(Steven Soderbergh and Lem Dobbs)
Perhaps the most notorious commentary ever recorded, it’s clear right away that this is a different sort of track. To fit the wild editing structure of the movie, Soderbergh messes with the sound of this track, playing sound bites out of order that we eventually hear later, in context with the movie. But, most notably, screenwriter Lem Dobbs was not happy about Soderbergh’s fractured editing of the movie, and he let’s Soderbergh know it. Dobbs is pissed off, and Soderbergh just rolls with it, giving it right back to Dobbs with his trademark dry humor. This is a commentary of commentaries.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 
(Hunter S. Thompson)
If you’re a fan of this movie, director Terry Gilliam has a great track, as do Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro (though the actors were recorded separately). But if you want an off the rails experience not unlike the movie, Thompson’s track is a must listen. Thompson is wild and incoherent, and while you won’t learn much from this track, I can promise you’ve never heard anything like it.

(Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck)
I actually wrote a whole breakdown of this commentary recently, because the track is absolutely hilarious. Bay’s arrogance is astounding, but Affleck is the real highlight. I have never heard an actor shit so hard on a movie they’re in, while getting paid to promote that same movie. I wish the entire track was only Affleck talking.

Boogie Nights 
(Paul Thomas Anderson)
I can’t say for certain that PTA had a solid buzz the whole time he recorded this track, but man, this guy knows how to have a good time while he talks. This is one of my favorite tracks because PTA, while clearly proud of the film, never ventures into egotism. He just has a ball telling us what inspired the movie, how it was made, and crazy stuff that happened on set. Listening to this track makes me wish PTA recorded a commentary for all his films, but sadly, he stopped here. (Note: Later, PTA recorded another track for Boogie Nights with a lot of members of the cast. It’s damn fun as well.)

(Steven Soderbergh and Gary Ross)
This is a great example of a track making a decent movie better. Soderbergh and Ross are friends in real life, and they are engaging throughout this commentary. Most notably, though, is that when Soderbergh and Ross are on a subject that interests them, they straight up pause the movie and keep talking. The DVD actually transitions to a still screen as Soderbergh and Ross banter on. I’ve never seen that done on a commentary track before, and the result works flawlessly.

Many other tracks deserve mention in this category. Made (in which Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn use a “Madden style” pen to make physical marks on the screen); Fight Club (in which David Fincher, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton bust each others’ balls throughout); and True Romance (in which Quentin Tarantino doesn’t stop talking for a second), are a few more highlights.

The Informative/Historical Commentary
If you want to really learn about the historical context of a movie, historian and film critic commentaries are gold. These tracks dig deep into the respective film, so I cannot recommend these types of tracks unless you’re already a huge fan of the movie.

Peter Cowie and Marc Gervais
For me, film historians, Peter Cowie and Marc Gervais, are synonymous with Ingmar Bergman, because they have recorded such memorable tracks for a number of Bergman’s films. Cowie has recorded informative commentaries for Autumn Sonata, Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries, and more, but it was his amazing track for The Seventh Seal that helped cement my Bergman obsession. Similarly, Gervais’ commentary of Persona gave me a whole new perspective of the film, and his tracks for Bergman’s Horror Trilogy (Hour of the Wolf, Shame, The Passion of Anna) help the audience understand Bergman’s tortured psyche.

The Criterion Collection
One of the reasons I love the Criterion Collection so much is because they try to include commentaries on the films they release whenever possible. The Criterion Collection is where historian-based commentaries thrive. Consistently engaging, rarely stale, it’s hard to go wrong with a historian commentary track from Criterion. (A few I love: 8 ½, The 400 Blows, City Lights, and Seven Samurai.)

Citizen Kane
(Roger Ebert)
You haven’t really seen Citizen Kane until you watch the movie with Ebert’s commentary. This track is a thing of absolute wonder. Ebert’s vast knowledge of film, and obvious appreciation for Orson Welles’s classic, comes through with every passing sentence. Early in the track, Ebert encourages the viewer to pause and rewatch a scene, just so you can understand and appreciate the impact that scene had. It almost makes me wish the people who released the DVD gave Ebert full control over the film as he recorded, allowing him to stop and start the movie (like Soderbergh and Ross on Seabiscuit). That track probably would’ve taken five hours to get through, but what a thrill. (It’s also worth noting that Ebert delivered great tracks for Casablanca, Crumb, and Dark City, among others. All must listens.)

JFK and Nixon 
(Oliver Stone)
Oliver Stone has some pretty radical thoughts about nearly every aspect of American history, and his dissection of JFK’s assassination and Richard Nixon’s life are certainly no exceptions. Still, whether you agree with Stone or not, there’s no denying that the man researches the ever loving shit out of this subjects. His commentaries for both films are vast and offer tons of historical insight, but his second commentary for Nixon doubles down on Stone’s beliefs, offering more about the politics and history of the period than you can possibly imagine.

Apocalypse Now 
(Francis Ford Coppola)
Francis Ford Coppola is another steadily engaging film commentator. He tends to focus on the scene we’re watching at that exact time (not always a bad thing), but he always fuses in historical context to his tracks. The best example of this is his exhaustive commentary for Apocalypse Now. Coppola talks about the movie, Vietnam, and the absolute hell he endured to get the movie made.

The Technical Commentary
Now, if you really want to get into the weeds of a specific aspect of a movie, the technical commentary is for you. Composers, cinematographers, production designers, and editors can bring a enormous amount of knowledge to a single piece of a film. These tracks aren’t exactly entertaining, but they sure as hell are informative. A few of my favorites:

(cinematographer, production designer, professor, editor)
The 2-disc Platinum Series release of Se7en contains four commentary tracks. The one with David Fincher, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman (Freeman was recorded separately) is my favorite, but a technical track with (deep breath) cinematographer Darius Khondji, production designer Arthur Max, professor of film studies Richard Dyer, film editor Richard Francis-Bruce, and David Fincher will tell you damn near everything about the technical side of Se7en that you want to know.

The track with Steven Soderbergh and writer Stephen Gaghan is one of my favorite film commentaries ever recorded, but the technical track with composer Cliff Martinez is a wonderfully geeky listen. If you’re a fan of Traffic, or Martinez’s music in general, this track dives deep into the musical landscapes of the film, and how score can change a movie.

Escape from New York 
(producer and production designer)
The production design of Escape of New York was incredible for the time, and the track featuring producer Debra Hill and production designer Joe Alves gives great insight into how the special effects and sets were created. Also cool to hear Alves talk about his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws.

Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X 
(director, cinematographer, production designer, editor)
Commentaries that feature a bunch of different people (recorded together or separately) are hard to pull off, but such tracks for these Spike Lee joints are a grand exception. Cinematographer Ernest Dickerson has wonderful insight into his contribution for both films, as does production designer Wynn Thomas (on Do the Right Thing), and editor Barry Alexander Brown and costume designer Ruth Carter (on Malcolm X). It’s great to hear how these people brought Lee’s vision to life.

Boyz n the Hood 
Sometimes, you listen to a commentary track simply because you adore the film, and you inadvertently stumble across a compact master film class. That’s the case for John Singleton’s incredible track for Boyz n the Hood. Singleton spends the lot of this track detailing the importance of sound in movies, and how he applied that to his film. Singleton wrote Boyz n the Hood in his early 20s, while he was still in film school. He said when he wrote the film, he knew very little about the technical aspects of sound, and he relied heavily on his crew to help enhance the movie with audio. In short, this commentary track taught me more about the use of sound in movies than damn near anything else I’ve heard or seen.

The Deer Hunter 
(cinematographer and film journalist)
Vilmos Zsigmond was one of the best cinematographers to ever work in film, and hearing his stories on this track, with the aide of film journalist, Bob Fisher, is nothing less than spectacular. Technical, thrilling, and engaging throughout. But Zsigmond knows how to have a little fun too. Early in the track, Fisher asks Zsigmond why he frequently shot from such low angles, to which Zsigmond casually admits, “Oh, because I’m so short.” Sometimes the best explanations are the simplest.

(the cop and the crook)
There are two commentary tracks for Goodfellas, and the one you want to be good (featuring Martin Scorsese, Ray Liotta, Thelma Schoonmaker, and others), isn’t. (More on why later). But the track featuring the real Henry Hill and the FBI agent who helped him (Edward McDonald, who plays himself in the movie) is incredible. You’ll learn how accurate Goodfellas is, and listen in delight as McDonald still refuses to take any sort of bullshit from Hill. A must listen for any Goodfellas fan.

The About-Face Commentary
An about-face film, as I’ve defined it, is a movie you rewatch years later, and gain a new appreciation of. A great commentary track can help with that. These are hard to find (as it’s difficult to find someone talk passionately about a mediocre film), but when you do, they are a joy to hear. The track for Seabiscuit, which I’ve mentioned, is a great about-face track, but here are a few others:

Stir of Echoes 
(David Koepp)
David Koepp was an accomplished screenwriter before he wrote and directed Stir of Echoes, and the main fault of Stir of Echoes has nothing to do with the film itself. Stir of Echoes is a movie about a person who can see dead people (or one person, specifically) that had the misfortune of being released just weeks after The Sixth Sense, the most famous movie ever made about a person who can see dead people. Regardless, Koepp’s track is one of the best I’ve ever heard. He’s humble, engaging, and incredibly informative about the film, production, and screenwriting. This track made me see the movie in an entirely new light.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 
(David Fincher)
Don’t get me wrong, I love David Fincher, but aside from Alien 3, I think The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is his weakest film. His commentary track, though, helped change my perception of the movie, mainly because Fincher details the painstaking efforts his crew put in to the special effects in the film. And the track is full of little Fincherism that I adore. In one scene, when Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett’s characters hug briefly, Fincher scoffs and says, “I hate sentiment. And I certainly hate when people are happy in movies.” Think about how much that statement rings true in all of his work.

(director, writer, editor, actor)
I fell in love with Warrior long before I heard this commentary (recorded together with director Gavin O’Connor, writer Anthony Tambakis, editor John Gilroy, and actor Joel Edgerton), but this track cemented it. For such a macho film, these speakers are so adept at getting to the heart of the thing as they discuss where the film came from, and how it resonates with each of them.

Tropic Thunder 
(Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black)
I’ve always liked Tropic Thunder, but listening to writer/director/star, Ben Stiller, try to keep this commentary on track as Robert Downey Jr. refuses to break from his Kirk Lazarus character, and Jack Black shows up late and has food delivered to the recording studio, is absolutely hilarious. This track also belongs in the Fun Commentary section, certainly.

The Composite Commentary
Now for some bad news. The truth is that, while I adore film commentaries, for every great commentary, there are three bad ones. Commentaries that include a bunch of people typically don’t work, for a few reasons. Chiefly, it’s difficult to get so many in-demand people in the room at the same time, so these tracks are made up of people who recorded their commentaries separately, and their comments have been edited together. What’s missing from tracks like these is the banter that people sitting together in a room can engage in. Instead, these composite tracks are a bit meandering.

Worse, still, are the dreaded interview commentaries. This is when a sly editor uses sound bites from previously recorded interviews and lays them over the film, in an attempt to make them sound like a recorded commentary. The main track for Goodfellas (which I hinted at earlier) features 10 people, the majority of which didn’t even record a commentary. In fact, you can hear identical comments from Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker in other special features on the disc. Same can be said for Scorsese and Schoonmaker’s “track” for Raging Bull.

There are, of course, exceptions, most notably the tracks for Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, which I mentioned previously.

The Self-Serving Commentary
More bad news. Actors typically make the worst film commentators, especially if they are recording their tracks alone. They may tell an amusing behind the scenes story here and there, but mostly, they end up narrating exactly what we’re watching. They also tend to be a little too self-serving about their contribution to the film, (as in, “Yeah, that was a hard scene, but I pulled it off.”). An infamous (and hilarious) case of this type of track is Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commentary for Total Recall. Verhoeven is a thoughtful speaker (his track for Starship Troopers rocks), but for Total Recall, he is outshined by Schwarzenegger, who spends the entire commentary telling lame jokes and narrating exactly what we are seeing.

There is an amendment for the actor’s commentary though. If an actor had another role in the movie, such as a writer or producer , they are inherently more invested in the film, and therefore have much more interesting things to say about it. (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s excellent commentary for Good Will Hunting comes to mind.) But, in general, I’d shy away from the solo actor’s commentary. In some instances, I’ve actually thought less of an actor after listening to their commentaries, because 1.) Their track made it clear that they aren’t very bright, 2.) They have no real idea how the entirety of a movie is made, and 3.) They think acting is the most important aspect of a movie.

I should note, however, that bad commentaries are not limited to actors. Listening to a bad director’s commentary can be like meeting your hero, in the sense that you can find yourself wildly disappointed. Sometimes, directors simply don’t have anything interesting to say, and you can feel the, “I can’t believe my agent signed me up for this shit,” inflection in their voice. A great example of this is William Friedkin’s special track for The Exorcist (The Version You've Never Seen), which is awful. That’s probably because he already recorded a fantastic commentary for an earlier DVD edition of The Exorcist, and he was pissed that he had to record a new track for the same movie.

Other directors are arrogant, entitled, and unfunny. I suppose it’s worth mentioning that many commentaries are recorded in a single day, and it’s easy to catch anyone in a bad day. 

Final Thoughts
Give a film commentary a try. Start with a track for a movie you love, and see how you like it. I’d stay away from commentaries for documentaries, because a documentary already is a commentary, in essence. I noticed I didn’t mention any of these names above, but Paul Schrader, Richard Linklater, Paul Greengrass, and David Cronenberg consistently deliver great tracks as well. If you have a question about any other commentary, let me know. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about tracks you discover as well.

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  1. I'm happy to see the mention of the Fincher/Pitt/Norton commentary for Fight Club, which is one of my favorites. I'm also a fan of Stir of Echoes--I'm not sure I need to see it in a new light, because I think it's the superior movie compared with The Sixth Sense (and is far more rewatchable).

    You might want to try the commentary for the oddball Bubba Ho-Tep; Bruce Campbell does one as Elvis.

    1. So happy you're a fan of commentaries. Moreover than seeing Echoes in a new light, that track is a masterclass in filmmaking, especially for new filmmakers. I suppose that's what I appreciate most about it. And I really enjoy Campbell's Bubba Ho-Tep track. An in-character commentary is such an audacious choice. Few pull it off better than Campbell.

  2. I used to listen to a few audio commentaries. I agree the Fight Club track was fun. Another favorite might be the Ultimate Matrix DVD Box Set in which two philosophers talk about the trilogy in ways I hadn't thought of. Do you know if Friedkin did a commentary for Sorcerer (1977)? That's a movie where I'd be curious to hear how the amazing bridge stunts were achieved. Thanks for the tips here, I now want to listen to the Hunter S. Thompson track, he's a one of a kind :)

    1. I've actually never listed to that Matrix track, but I'll have to give it a listen now! And no (sad face), Friedkin hasn't done a track for Sorcerer which is a damn shame. He was heavily involved in the Blu-Ray transfer of that film, and I hoped he'd do a track for it, but no such luck. Damn shame. Good luck with Thompson's track, it's a real doozy haha

  3. It's funny because my daughter and I had a conversation about director commentaries the other day. I was telling her I generally don't watch them (I don't), but you can get lots of good information on the movie. She struggles to see the value in watching a movie with someone talking over it (teenager). This post makes me want to watch some of these, especially since I own a number of these movies. Great post.

    1. Thanks so much! And I totally get what your daughter is saying. The first commentary track I ever heard was Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's commentary for Scream, which I put on by mistake (I was a teenager at the time). I remember thinking, "What the hell is this? Why would I want to watch a movie this way?" But I kept going, and was hooked from then on. But, still, it's definitely an adjustment.

  4. One of the things that I love about special features are the audio commentary tracks. For me, one of the best individuals to ever do commentary is Sir Christopher Frayling. Hear him talk about Sergio Leone's films make you realize the richness of those films and why films buff love them. His voice is so warm and full of passion. I could listen to him talk about Leone for eons.

    I also liked Jack Nicholson's commentary for The Passenger where although it's a little relaxed and quiet as he talks about the film. Yet, it's the stuff that relates to the film's penultimate shot and sequence that is a must-hear. The attention to detail about what he says about that shot is incredible.

    There's several films I would love to hear commentary tracks for yet I would love to do a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 take on Glitter. Notably that sequence of Mariah and her boyfriend being in 2 different places far away from each other as they're both writing the same song. Such an awful sequence but all I can think of was just making the noise of "do-do-do-do-do-do-do" as if I was a satellite or something.

    I do remember reading from the old IFC magazine (anyone remember that) where they did a year-end thing on DVD releases as they gave worst commentary to Guy Ritchie for Swept Away as he didn't really give anyone anything about the film other than saying "oh, that's a beautiful location". Why would I want to listen to a commentary that boring of a shitty remake of a great movie that didn't need to be remade?

    1. Okay I need to listen to Frayling's commentaries right away, and Nicholson's. Those both sound amazing.

      This is so embarrassing, but I actually have listened to the commentary for Glitter (by the director), and it plays like a Mystery Science Theatre track. Whenever there is a plot hole in the movie (which is often), the director says he relied on "magical realism" for the scene. It is baffling and absolutely hilarious.

      And I've heard rumors about that Swept Away track, but never braved a listen for myself. Ohhh, Guy.

  5. Back in my single days (when I had all sorts of time on my hands), I would buy any movie that was five dollars or even cheaper, if it had a commentary track. That's how I discovered some truly great films like Kissing Jessica Stein, and I'm still a huge fan of Jennifer Westfeldt and she has done commentaries for her other films, Ira & Abby, and Friends with Kids.
    Back in my Kevin Smith days, he was always good for commentary tracks, then Zack & Miri came with no commentary track (which made sense at the time, for how hard of a flop it was, and he was doing so many podcasts at the time, it is easy enough to find his opinions on the film and the production elements of it).
    I really do miss listening to commentary tracks but they lose some steam when I can only listen to them in 30 minute chunks.
    There was a while there, if I couldn't go to sleep, I would throw on the technical commentary track for Spider-Man 2 and that would knock me out within 20 minutes.

    1. I like Jennifer Westfeldt a lot as well, as I'll have to check out some of her tracks. Great call there!

      Kevin Smith is one of the few people who is able to cram a bunch of people on a room, and somehow get a decent commentary out of it. I remember his track for Dogma, and he's great at keeping everyone on point (when needed), or let it fly off the rails when appropriate.

      And I love the Spider-Man 2 technical commentary as a sleeping aid. That's hilarious.

  6. Fantastic breakdown! The GoodFellas and Silence of the Lambs commentaries are 2 of my favorites for their having Henry Hill and John Douglass respectively. As a history geek I ador Stone's commentaries for JFK and Nixon. And of course, Soderbergh's tracks are always a go to upon buying a movie of his.

    Some of my dream commentaries:
    Michael Cimino on Heaven's Gate
    PT Anderson on anything post Boogie Nights
    William Friedkin on Sorcerer

    Curious what yours would be.

    1. Uh, I hate to break it to you but Michael Cimino died 2 years ago though there is 31-minute audio interview with Cimino and producer Joanne Carelli on the Criterion Blu-Ray.

    2. I'm well aware. Which is why the commentary is in a permanently fixed state of dream.

    3. I love listing our favorite dream commentaries! For me, Bergman on anything would've been great, though Bergman Island is a very worthy substitute. More realistically:

      -Steve McQueen on anything, but particularly Shame
      -Terrence Malick on, well, everything
      -Steven Soderbergh on anything post The Informant!
      -Lynne Ramsay on You Were Never Really Here
      -Shane Carruth on Upstream Color
      -Christopher Nolan on anything post Insomnia, though it probably wouldn't be difficult to cut together one of those interview style commentaries based on how much Nolan contributes to the special features on his films.

  7. Wow, great list! I actually feel kinda bad, because I've never actually heard a commentary until now. I've had, until this point, the same reaction as the teenager: why watch a movie with additional tracks on it, I couldn't understand anything from it. But I guess it would be perfect for a second view, to better understand it. So, do you find them on special editions of DVDs or BluRays? can you find them online, separately? I'm a bit clueless, to be honest. But I'd love to hear some of them, especially for the movies I really enjoyed or I was impressed by. I think Soderbergh, Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson would be great to hear!

    1. And I completely get why people wouldn't be interested in them. They definitely take getting used to. Back in the day, commentaries were far more common than they are now, which is a real shame for today's movies. Today, very few first-run DVD's and Blu-Rays feature good commentaries, but that is the best place to find them. Some dedicated cinephiles upload commentaries on YouTube from time to time, but I've never had much luck matching those tracks with the film. Too much hassle. So I'd start with the DVDs if you're interested. Fincher has done a commentary for nearly every one of his films (Se7en and Zodiac are my favorites, but they're all gold), PTA did them for Hard Eight and Boogie Nights, and Soderbergh did them for nearly every film he made before The Informant! Enjoy!

  8. I don't often listen to the commentaries but I'm gonna have to give it a go next time I rewatch something. Fincher's Gone Girl commentary is so hilarious. I need to listen to that Tropic Thunder one, love that movie!

    1. LOVE Fincher's track for Gone Girl! I remember listening to Fincher's track for Gone Girl with a friend, who was not accustomed to Fincher's dry sense of humor. And when Fincher said they had to stop shooting for three days because Affleck refused to wear a Yankees hat, my friend was like, "Wow, that's a bit of an overreaction." And I was like, "Dude... he's kidding." I adore Fincher so much.

  9. Awesome post! I've never listened to director commentaries; not because they don't seem interesting, but I just automatically choose the movies without them or some movies don't have them. Tropic Thunder might be the only one I've listened to on this list, and it's hysterical. My sister and I love the movie on its own, but it was interesting to hear the small details no one probably thinks went into the production. I've seen gifs of Fincher's commentary on tumblr and they can be hilariously dark and informative. This has really opened my eyes to see which movies I own that have commentaries and giving some a try. The Fight Club track sounds amazing.

    1. I hope you enjoy the ones you check out! Every Fincher track is great, and his one for Fight Club does not disappoint. I love that Tropic Thunder track too. It's so funny but so informative.

  10. Great post! I do not listen to director commentary enough. You make me want to go back to my favorite blu rays and do so. I don't know why I don't either. I remember listening to Catherine Hardwick's commentary over Thirteen and I felt I learned so much more about the film.

    1. Thanks! Ohhhh Hardwick has a great commentary on Thirteen - I forgot about that one! I totally get why people don't listen to commentaries, but they can definitely help you appreciate a film you love even more.

  11. Such a great post, as usual Alex. I appreciate all the work that went into this, and though I haven't spent much time listening to commentaries in the past, this has definitely got me to add a good handful to my watchlist. Fantastic stuff!

    1. Thanks man! I so appreciate YOUR comments. This post was a few years in the making, but your comment on my Armageddon post helped give me the push to publish this, so thanks for that!

  12. Hi Alex, Shane Carruth did an amazing commentary track for Primer. Throughout it he explains exactly how he went about making such a great film on a micro-budget. Its extremely interesting and a valuable lecture for any low budget filmmaker. Someone uploaded a copy of it to soundcloud, otherwise its only on the 2004 DVD release I believe. Love the blog!

    1. Wow, I had no idea Carruth did a commentary for Primer! I have to track that down ASAP. I really appreciate you letting me know. And thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Carrie Fisher's commentary on Postcards From the Edge is hysterical.

    Terry Gilliam gives the smoothest, most fulfilling commentaries that make me feel as if he's a friend sitting next to me in a screening room, sharing what he knows or thought or felt for every minute of each of his films.

    1. I love Gilliam's commentaries so much, for exactly that reason. And I haven't heard Fisher's commentary! Thanks for that, definitely going to check that out. I miss her.

  14. Hi Alex,
    Can you recall where you saw that article on Spike and his commnets about encouraging his NYU students to watch director commentaries?

    1. Hey there, whew, that's a tough one. I can't recall a citable article, but I promise Spike has said that a ton. He's even said it in his director's commentaries, I'm just not sure which ones. If I remember, I'll comment here!