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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 10:05 pm 
The great Donald Richie and Stephen Prince have done the best ones as far as I am concerned...

I could listen to Richie read a wine label, such a voice...


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 10:50 pm 
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Not sure how geeky this is, but here's a site relevant to the discussion. It's helped a bit, but not a lot of people have voted there. For instance, the famed Straw Dogs commentary has zero votes....

http://www.ratethatcommentary.com/

On a side note, the site helped me discover the Frighteners Signature Collection Laserdisc, which has a 4 1/2 making-of documentary!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 2:55 am 
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Well, I don't think it's very relevant at all. The site seems to reflect a strong interest in director's commentaries, rather than scholarly commentaries. Since your opening post pertained to tracks by film scholars (in particular, those for which the CC is reknown), why would you tout a site that virtually ignores them? Unless I miss something, their top 25 features no scholar tracks, and only one (Ebert, #17) that would pass for offering critical insight. It's no wonder the "famed" (and I think it is only "famed" among a small sub-set of scholar-hounds, here on this forum) Prince commentary on Straw Dogs has no votes; hard to get Peckinpah to chime in these days.

Not that there's anything wrong with filmmaker's comments, if you are interested in such things (I'm not; bwv812 apparently prefers them), but that wasn't the context in which you launched the thread.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 6:14 am 
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At first I thought you were kidding. I asked for "film school" type commentaries, and directors surely do apply in this respect. I would think commentaries like the one Gilliam recorded for Brazil prove a director could know a thing or two about the craft and the process.... yes? The "launch" of this thread was in pursuit of densely packed commentaries that could enlighten me, the listener. I certainly did not "tout" that site, since I stated they are just beginning. However, a database rating commentaries for DVDs and laserdiscs surely bears some relevance to this thread.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 7:49 am 
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Mr_sausage wrote:
I've always been particularly fond of the commentaries on Spartacus--especially the Dalton Trumbo scene analysis, which was fascinating in offering a glimpse of how even minor changes to the screenplay, or differences in visuals, can change a scene entirely. Plus it's always fascinating to get the screenwriter’s view of the movie, considering how they're mostly silent participants in the film business.

I also want to mention Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and David Weddle's commentaries for Junior Bonner and The Osterman Weekend. Consistently solid commentaries; the commentators have an infectious passion for Peckinpah and a hefty amount of knowledge and insight into each one of these films. They aren't much akin to the excellent Prince commentary on Straw Dogs, as they aren't set up as an argument. But they are just as good, and always listenable.

Yes and also good are the unused music cues in between the Dalton Trumbo analysis. I think the mark of a good commentary for me is when I decide to have a quick listen, not intending to listen to it all and then end up doing just that! I did that last week with the filmmaker and Robert Harris commentary on Spartacus - not a bad achievement for such a long film - although it did mean not getting to sleep until 2 a.m!

The same three commentators on The Osterman Weekend disc also did the commentary for the Freemantle UK DVD of Straw Dogs. There was also an alternate track with Katy Haber. It is just as good as The Osterman Weekend with the bonus that it is not as downbeat a discussion as they are not talking about a flawed, albeit fascinating, final film of Peckinpah. It's a feature thats meant I've kept my Region 2 of Straw Dogs as a companion to the Criterion, even though the other features are ported over (the interviews with Susan George and Dan Melnick (which are just talking heads on the UK disc, the Criterion includes the photograph cut-aways), the isolated score, the regional TV footage)

It is great to hear a discussion and ideas discussed that are challenged between the three and are not meant to be the final word on the subject. That perhaps is rare because I think the culture is that people have to make set in stone statements. I got the impression from those commentaries that it was as thought-provoking for those speaking as it was for those who listen!

The Stephen Prince commentary is also excellent though! I really liked his commentary on Red Beard.

I'm embarrassed to admit that the Trouble In Paradise disc is yet another I've got in my 'to watch' pile and has been there for quite a while. Roll on the holidays so I can get through some of them!


Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jan 04, 2005 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 12:29 pm 
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To be fair the original request for 'film school commentaries' was made in a post that used only film historians as examples which might have led to the confusion - Bruce Eder, Michael Jeck, Howard Suber and an allusion to Peter Cowie. And they will have a different outsider perspective on a film than a filmmaker so maybe the two groups should be treated differently as they both have their own advantages and disadvantages.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2004 3:41 am 
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Stam's commentary on Contempt is the best in the collection. Incredibly informative, it's a mini seminar on what is Godard and what constitutes Godardian. It gave me more on Godard than most books I've read. Criterion certainly earned their stripes with that extra alone. I hope that they can get Stam again. Weekend, maybe? Just imagine a commentary on that movie.
Coming in second is 8 1/2. I found the comments on Metz to be a great help. The commentaries on the BRD Trilogy merit special attention, too. Who else but Criterion would have gone to such lengths for Fassbinder? I'd like to know how much they pay these folks for commentaries.
Most disappointing? Cowie on Bresson (of course) and Marian Keane for Notorious and The Lady Eve.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2004 9:13 pm 

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I've always found it strange that three of the major cornerstones of the collection - Grand Illusion, The Seventh Seal and Rashomon - have such weak commentaries. All three tracks spend a daft amount of time simply reiterating what is readily evident on the screen, with only cursory bits of information or insight.

I'm also rather unconvinced that Ozu needs full commentaries at all. Some accompanying explanatory notes on Japanese culture and cast and crew biographies would always be welcome, and perhaps a video essay on Ozu's unique approach to film language and grammar (ala the splendid 'Eisenstein's visual vocabulary' piece on Ivan The Terrible) on one of the titles would also be an excellent idea. But the characters (and therefore the real value and heart) in Ozu's works are always so clear and direct, they simply don't require that sort of play-by-play analysis.

The best option would be for Criterion to resurrect the "Exploring the film" thing they did on the Bergman boxset, but with the likes of Donald Richie or David Bordwell giving a 10-15 minute introduction to the film. I know some folk felt David Desser's track on Tokyo Story was overly intrusive in "definitively" informing us of the characters' motivations and temperaments, where Ozu's genius partly lay in the ambiguity of all his characters. It would also shave a good $10 off each of the releases, which is no bad thing.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2004 10:34 pm 
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Narshty wrote:
I've always found it strange that three of the major cornerstones of the collection - Grand Illusion, The Seventh Seal and Rashomon - have such weak commentaries. All three tracks spend a daft amount of time simply reiterating what is readily evident on the screen, with only cursory bits of information or insight.

I'm also rather unconvinced that Ozu needs full commentaries at all. Some accompanying explanatory notes on Japanese culture and cast and crew biographies would always be welcome, and perhaps a video essay on Ozu's unique approach to film language and grammar (ala the splendid 'Eisenstein's visual vocabulary' piece on Ivan The Terrible) on one of the titles would also be an excellent idea. But the characters (and therefore the real value and heart) in Ozu's works are always so clear and direct, they simply don't require that sort of play-by-play analysis.

The best option would be for Criterion to resurrect the "Exploring the film" thing they did on the Bergman boxset, but with the likes of Donald Richie or David Bordwell giving a 10-15 minute introduction to the film. I know some folk felt David Desser's track on Tokyo Story was overly intrusive in "definitively" informing us of the characters' motivations and temperaments, where Ozu's genius partly lay in the ambiguity of all his characters. It would also shave a good $10 off each of the releases, which is no bad thing.

I think it's always better to have have a commentary than not have one (I, for one, really think that the Seijun Suzuki releases would benefit from critical commentaries) and Ozu is no exception. I'm not a big fan of Desser's Tokyo Story track, but think that Richie's commentary on Early Summer is one of the best I've ever heard.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2004 11:05 pm 
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I enjoyed much of Richie's commentary for "Story of Floating Weeds" -- I was not so impressed by that for "Early Summer" (I felt there was a fair amount of misinformation and mis-analysis). I like David Desser's (written) work, but thought his commentary for "Tokyo Story" took a turn for the worse mid-way through the film. Frankly, I don't think running commentaries serve Ozu's films well -- I think well-focused visual essays would be far more useful (and appropriate).

MEK


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 3:57 am 
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I've always like David Cronenberg's commentaries (in and out of the Collection). Although his monotone can induce sleepiness.
Rudy Behlmer is always great, especially on the Universal Horror DVDs and the Hitchcock CCs. Maybe it's that grandfather voice of his.
Terry Gilliam always gives good ones as well. I appreciate any director who 15 years on, still laughs at his jokes. And he's always very informative about the technical side as well.
Tim Lucas is a good commentator too. He does a lot of Mario Bava and other Euro-horror DVDs. He gets RIDICULOUSLY in depth on his tracks!
Robert Rodriguez is a director who is also a good technical commentator. On the El Mariachi disc, he is literally telling you how to make a movie cheap!
Whoever the film historian is on the Good Bad and the Ugly SE. He manages to keep going through almost the whole film.
And for fun, Python commentaries are always great.
Forgive me if I've gone off-CC. I've just listened to a lot of 'em.

BAD -
Many people seem to like Marian Keane's commentary on the Hitch discs. Personally, I had to shut her off of Spellbound about 2 minutes in. Just seemed annoyingly high-brow to me.
The scattershot track my Scorcese on the Goodfellas SE wasn't too hot either.
And the award for staying completely off-subject goes to Abel Ferrara's track on King of New York. I mean, the guy uses more mental acumen talking about the T and A he cast on the screen, than anything having to do with the film.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 2:13 am 
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bcsparker wrote:
Whoever the film historian is on the Good Bad and the Ugly SE. He manages to keep going through almost the whole film.

Ugh! Richard Schickel? That one was a tough one to listen to!
lots of "Umm...." "Umm...." and even getting one of Leone's movie titles wrong.

I must say that a great guy on commentary is (although not Criterion)
John Canemaker, animation historian. (Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc) and speaking of that, Walt Disney (the guy, not the company) is great on commentary too.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 8:54 am 
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While on the subject of academic commentaries although it is outside the Criterion Collection, I'd like to mention Bey Logan who has been doing an excellent job on the region 2 Hong Kong Legends releases. He provides a lot of well structured and in-depth information and there is so much information given that I've had to stop the commentary at points due to information overload! No dead space in his commentaries! He is even more ubiquitous for Hong Kong Legends than Peter Cowie is for Criterion though! And he has been pressed into service on many Hong Kong films that fall outside his area of expertise (martial arts) such as Hong Kong 1942 (a historical romance with Chow Yun-Fat), the gunplay films of John Woo and with the Premier Asia label films such as Bichunmoo, The Warrior and Ichi The Killer. But I don't really get tired of hearing his take on the films. I think there are only four or five non-Bey Logan commentaries from Hong Kong Legends, so I would be interested to get another perspective, (maybe in the form of another academic commentary track on the same film? I have noticed that there are a few commentary tracks for Hong Kong films in Region 1, so I might check those out as well). I think he generally works better alone than with others on a commentary track as he can move at his own pace. I am seriously considering getting the UK edited version of Ichi The Killer just for the commentary!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 3:16 pm 
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Just watched Robert Altman's Nashville commentary, which was a mostly disappointing snore. He pretty much just reiterated what was covered in the 12-minute interview, included separately.

Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell's Army of Darkness track is possibly the most entertaining I've heard -- funny and informative.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 3:04 pm 
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How come no one has mentioned my favorite commentarist. For my money, no one compares to Rudy Behlmer.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 3:44 pm 
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manicsounds wrote:
Ugh! Richard Schickel? That one was a tough one to listen to!
lots of "Umm...." "Umm...." and even getting one of Leone's movie titles wrong.

I just listened to Schickel`s track on Unforgiven, and it was pretty bad. All throughout the movie, he offered character interpretations that were flat out wrong, and sometimes obviously so. Also, he constantly used 'we' when talking about the making of the movie. "We' had to do this and 'we' had to do that, when I never saw any shred of proof of his actual involvement in making the movie.

I, for one, enjoy critic`s commentaries because they only know what`s in the movie and directors talk about what they wanted to be in the movie, which reaches its flabbergasting culmination with the Donnie Darko director`s commentary, where the directors offers points he was trying to get across but which are completely nonexistent in the movie itself.

Best commentaris in my opinion were the Ebert one on Citizen Kane, Prince on Straw Dogs, all the commentaries in the Warner Noir Box and all PTA commentaries. For sheer entertainment value, cast and crew on Below, Helgeland and Bettany on A Knight`s Tale and all View Askew commentaries.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 11:35 am 
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Its interesting that with Ashes and Diamonds and Jules et Jim, Annette Insdorf joins the Criterion commentators!

Does anyone have any information about Richard Pena, who is commentating on L'Eclisse?


Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Jan 07, 2005 4:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 12:06 pm 
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He's the Program Director of the NY Film Festival and, by all accounts, a top bloke. I'm really looking forward to his commentary.

Quote:
Richard Peña received his M.S. in film and video from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently the program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the director of the New York Film Festival, as well as an associate professor at Columbia University School of the Arts, Film Divisiton. He has also taught film history and theory at Harvard University, MIT, University of California (Berkeley), and City University of New York. Peña is the host of "Conversations in World Cinema" on the Sundance Channel, and, in January 2001, he was named Officier of the French Order of Arts and Letters.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:44 pm 

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colinr0380 wrote:
Its interesting that with Ashes and Diamonds and Jules et Jim, Annette Insdorf joins the Criterion commentators!

Her commentry on Jules and Jim is from the old Laserdisc.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 5:05 am 
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Sorry about that, got over excited! I should have qualified it with 'on DVD'!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 10:26 pm 
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the worst a tie between Cowie on Diary of a Country Priest and Ebert on Floating Weeds

Do others agree? Is the Ebert commentary that bad? I should find out soon, since I just ordered this set. But I was curious since I didn't recall anyone mentioning this commentary before.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 10:55 pm 
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I really can't bear to watch Floating Weeds with someone talking over it, but I did sample Ebert's commentary. Just in the bits I heard I noted an awful lot of errors -- and not much that was especially useful. So far, none of the Ozu commentaries so far (except Richie's for "Story of Floating Weeds") have impressed me. These have simply hardened my dislike for running commentaries in general. ;~}


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 11:31 pm 
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This is a tiny thing, but I think I remember Ebert saying Ozu directed "five" color films (instead of six). I raised my eyebrow at this while I was watching, but I may have misheard him.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 10:21 am 
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> I think I remember Ebert saying Ozu directed "five" color films (instead of
> six)

I think you recall correctly. Also he got some basic dates wrong. There were other things -- but I don't recall the details now.

MEK


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:26 pm 
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I think someone who gives rather good commentaries is Roger Corman. The Fall Of The House Of Usher, The Tomb Of Ligeia, and The Pit And The Pendulum all have interesting, entertaining commentaries. I find it amusing when he forgets little details because he hasn't watched the films in a long time. For good schlock type commentaries John Waters, and H.G. Lewis are for the most part interesting as well. Besides the CC ones already mentioned like 8 1/2, Straw Dogs, and Spartacus i thought the Solaris commentary by Vida Johnson, and Graham Petrie was informative as well. But of course i didn't know much about Tarkovsky before hearing the track either.


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