The DVD has allowed filmmakers to provide unprecedented insight into the film-making process. From deleted scenes to documentaries, film fans can find a bounty of behind-the-scenes info on these precious discs. One feature that often falls through the cracks is the commentary track, wherein those most knowledgeable about a film speak about it as it plays. It's often hit or miss, as even the most accomplished actors and filmmakers can be total duds when it comes to talking about their work. Below are five DVD commentaries that are almost as enjoyable as the movies they cover.
"Almost Famous" is a wonderful film filled with sweet scenes of adolescence and a complete respect for rock and roll music all due in part to Cameron Crowe. It was his experience at Rolling Stone that breathed life into this project. His commentary speaks from his heart just like the majority of his work and his anecdotes of the set and his experiences with Lester Bangs is almost as good as the movie. Also, in the bonus material you can read some of his work from Rolling Stone and get a tour of his favorite albums of 1973. I thought that the film couldn't become more personal but this DVD set proved me wrong.
4- Fight Club
On the "Fight Club" two disc collector's edition there are a couple of commentary tracks but the track featuring Director David Fincher and actors Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter is especially nice. The topics range from getting the film off the ground, censorship, and some insight into the "Jack" character. The three boys of the track seem to really be having a great time and Carter (recorded separately) has a few quips to chime in as well. The majority of the commentary comes from Fincher, Pitt, and Norton who all seem to have a wonderful sense of pride about the film and a lot to say about critics who had not supported the film upon its release.
3- Boogie Nights
Paul Thomas Anderson knows a shit-load about movies. And it is evident from one of the few commentary tracks Anderson has done for his work. Being a part of the "VCR Generation" who gained the knowledge of being a filmmaker in the living room of their house, Anderson's influences are many and this commentary gives a great insight into the Director's vision and process. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil to list all of the directors and films Anderson cites as his influences from the famous one shot pool scene to the Chinese man throwing fire crackers. Just like the film the commentary leaves you physically exhausted and with a finer appreciation of cinema.
2- This is Spinal Tap
With commentaries you usually pray that the director or writer has some sort of charisma that will get you through another two hours of watching the film. In the case of "This is Spinal Tap", its like watching the film over again from scratch with your favorite characters taking control of your DVD player. Instead of the actual director and actors giving insight here David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, and Derek Smalls all rap about what it was like being filmed upon the release of "Smell the Glove". Absolutely hilarious from start to finish this commentary track is just like watching a classic all over again for the first time.
1- My Voyage To Italy/ The Century of Cinema
Okay, so this isn't really a DVD commentary--it's more like a documentary. But it's Martin Scorsese! Imagine the greatest films of Italian and American cinema history narrated by this iconoclastic Academy Award-winning filmmaker. In "My Voyage to Italy" Scorsese shows the audience some of the films he watched in New York as a kid that made him want to stop studying to be a priest and become a filmmaker. His personal reflections on the Italian new-realism style of filmmaking is particularly stunning because he points out how it was a way for him to connect to his family who came to America from Italy. And in the Century of Cinema Scorsese cover a whole range of American films from Westerns all the way to Musicals with a child like enthusiasm that is contagious. Each film clocks in at over three hours but his passion is If anyone is in need of a cinematic history lesson and also wants to gain valuable insight into the craft of the moving picture then look no further than these two movies.