Who Gives Good Commentary?

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aox
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#351 Post by aox » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:29 pm

cdnchris wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:16 pm
Funny, I remembered it being two commentators as well but Jon Lee Anderson does both parts.
And, he isn't pleased about it if I recall correctly. I don't think he liked the film(s).

And I second Coppola. His commentaries are fantastic. Especially Godfather 3 which is essentially a strong yet humbly honest defense of the film and what he was trying to accomplish.

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Monterey Jack
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#352 Post by Monterey Jack » Tue Feb 23, 2021 10:52 pm

Bey Logan did a number of wonderful commentaries on the defunct "Dragon Dynasty" DVD label, sadly much of which isn't available on Blu. These were enthusiastic, well-researched and engaging.

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Maltic
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#353 Post by Maltic » Wed Feb 24, 2021 12:59 am

At least a dozen of Logan's commentaries can be found on YouTube. He'll often use the film merely as a jumping-off point for talking about the HK industry in general, but yeah, it's well-informed and engaging.

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MichaelB
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#354 Post by MichaelB » Wed Feb 24, 2021 4:41 am

He certainly used to be a benchmark for the quality of his research and the inclusion of info that you simply couldn’t find anywhere else in English - and a major reason why I turned down Eureka’s Mr Vampire is that I knew I’d never be able to match that level of engagement or come anywhere close.

I love the film and have done for decades, but personal enthusiasm isn’t enough - with commentaries in particular, I think people should stay firmly inside their comfort zone. They’re so demanding in terms of overall word count and detailed engagement (unless you favour lengthy digressions into issues only tangentially related) that if you’re ultimately not up to the task it becomes painfully obvious.

Orlac
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#355 Post by Orlac » Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:44 am

Logan was very much my introduction to audio commentaries. The recent revelations about him actually stung me a bit, as I had corresponded with him in the past, and was so used to his voice, it was like finding out something bad about an old friend.

I do recall a gag backfiring on his original Fist of Fury commentary where he points to an random white-haired Caucasian extra as a young Steve Martin! He then apologised for that on the Platinum Edition commentary five years later!

The "new " Logan on some of the recent BDs is Mike Leeder but he is much sloppier in terms of research - getting actors and locations mixed up. On his recent Shaolin Wooden Men commentary, he makes about half a dozen references being made in Korea when in fact it was made in Taiwan. When he says "these extras don't look Korean", I went "Gee, I wonder why?"
Last edited by Orlac on Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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MichaelB
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#356 Post by MichaelB » Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:56 am

I don't know this for certain, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if his well-publicised (and indeed Harvey Weinstein-connected) #metoo problems have made current labels fight shy of licensing his stuff, as he's recorded a Mr Vampire commentary in the past that presumably would have been easy enough to get hold of.
Orlac wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:44 am
The "new " Logan on some of the recent BDs is Mike Leeder but he is much sloppier in terms of research - getting actors and locations mixed up.
That's why I wouldn't personally take on a Hong Kong title, despite being a fan of HK cinema for nigh on forty years - I don't speak and can't read Chinese and have never been to Hong Kong, and so would be totally reliant on other people's research presented in English, and of course if it's inaccurate I most likely simply wouldn't notice. And while I've certainly made tiny mistakes in my own stuff (show me a commentator who hasn't), the risk of making huge and glaring ones in a situation like this is far too great.

Orlac
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#357 Post by Orlac » Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:47 am

MichaelB wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:56 am
I don't know this for certain, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if his well-publicised (and indeed Harvey Weinstein-connected) #metoo problems have made current labels fight shy of licensing his stuff, as he's recorded a Mr Vampire commentary in the past that presumably would have been easy enough to get hold of.
88 Films was commisioning new commentaries from him for their Shaw Brothers releases until the news broke. I expect if that hadn't happened, 88 and Eureka (and maybe Criterion) would have retained his old HKL commentaries for their Golden Harvest titles.

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MichaelB
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#358 Post by MichaelB » Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:22 am

Very likely indeed, I'd have thought. Unless the licensing fees were unrealistically high (which sometimes happens - put it like this, you don't see Criterion commentaries ported over to other labels very often), why reinvent the wheel unless there's a pressing reason for doing so?

beamish14
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#359 Post by beamish14 » Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:01 pm

Another one of my absolute favourite directors to listen to is Keith Gordon, who is just so incredibly articulate, passionate, and informative when speaking over his films Waking the Dead, Mother Night, The Chocolate War, etc. He's also a pleasure to see in interviews, as indicated by his discussions on Indicator's Birdy and All That Jazz. He used to be a frequent contributor to the Kubrick usenet group, and I had a few lively discussions with him there, including taking him to task on why he changed author Robert Cormier's ending for his film on The Chocolate War (although I've come around to what he did and completely believe he made the right choice; interestingly, during an on-camera interview included with said film, he mentions the criticism he received from people online, so I like to imagine he's referring to our interaction!).

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MichaelB
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#360 Post by MichaelB » Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:37 pm

Oh, he's terrific - as you say, we've hired him as an on-camera appreciator on a number of Indicator releases (Birdy, Blue Collar and Missing), and he's always given superb value.

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Monterey Jack
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#361 Post by Monterey Jack » Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:47 pm

Gordon also did a delightful commentary with John Carpenter on Christine. He's also contributed great on-camera interviews for that film as well as Dressed To Kill and even Jaws 2.

beamish14
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#362 Post by beamish14 » Thu Feb 25, 2021 2:03 pm

Monterey Jack wrote:
Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:47 pm
Gordon also did a delightful commentary with John Carpenter on Christine. He's also contributed great on-camera interviews for that film as well as Dressed To Kill and even Jaws 2.
MichaelB wrote:
Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:37 pm
Oh, he's terrific - as you say, we've hired him as an on-camera appreciator on a number of Indicator releases (Birdy, Blue Collar and Missing), and he's always given superb value.

It's a credit to the immense number of special features on Indicator's discs that I completely forgot that he was on Blue Collar and Missing! I have seen the Jaws 2 interview, and he did enhance my appreciation of it. I need to listen to all the commentaries on Kino Lorber's Blu-Ray of the limited series Wild Palms, which has Gordon speaking over the 2 episodes he helmed. There is also a commentary from Phil Joanou, who's also made highly enjoyable commentaries on his films Three O'Clock High and State of Grace.

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Ovader
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Re: Kino Lorber Studio Classics Acquisitions

#363 Post by Ovader » Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:24 am

Maltic wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 9:00 pm
Adrian Martin had an article last year about life as an audio commentator and the future of commentaries in an age of streaming. I read it at some point, but it's behind a paywall now, unfortunately.

A veteran of DVD and Blu-ray extras laments the decline of this particular form of cinephile expression, and calls out the current state of play.

He says you'll often have just a few weeks to prepare and record the commentary, from the time you get the assignment.

FWIW, he makes a distinction between what he calls cinephile commentaries and cult commentaries, respectively.
Martin has made his essay available to read on his website. He addresses the criticism of his essay at the beginning of the piece.

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MichaelB
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#364 Post by MichaelB » Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:56 am

Just to respond to this passage...
A case in point: how about a halfway decent match-up of films, directors or genres with the people out there who are genuine experts on them? We’ve reached an anything-goes situation in which filmmakers even vaguely assimilable to “cult” cinema and its circuits of fan appreciation – Buñuel, Bergman, Godard, Jodorowsky, Chytilová, Borowczyk, Melville, Pasolini, you name it – automatically get the down-home treatment. I often have the sense that some disc producers are simply unaware of the best writings (and thus potentially the best contributors) out there, including those that are easily accessible online.
Although the question that he then proceeds to ignore (or, more likely, quietly elide) is to ask how many of these outstanding scholars would be up to the task of recording a commentary given all the various timing and budgetary constraints, plus of course the deeply peculiar nature of the medium itself. As a highly experienced commentator himself, Adrian knows full well that it demands a highly unusual skillset, and plenty of outstanding writers either won't touch commentaries at all or will do it once but never again.

The Scott Eyman piece that I linked to above is still one of the best I've read about the often dramatic differences between producing scholarly writing and creating a scene-specific 90-minute-plus commentary. I've hired commentary debutants (from the day I was first given commissioning powers, I made a point of hiring newcomers for whatever medium I've had the power to commission for, as I strongly believe in giving people similar breaks to ones that I've enjoyed myself), and while some discoveries turned out to be naturals, others decidedly weren't - I've already mentioned the guy who started noticeably running out of material after twenty minutes (if that), and his credentials as a scholar/researcher were precisely along the lines that Adrian's calling for. And I've just remembered someone who's unquestionably one of the leading scholars when it comes to one of the filmmakers that Adrian singles out (and with multiple books on that particular topic to prove it), but whose first commentary was less than enlightening, with far too much unnecessary description of what was happening onscreen. Which, again, illustrates the difficulties people have in adjusting to the commentary medium, no matter how impressive their qualifications going in.

Incidentally, thus far Indicator's Columbia Noir boxes are making a point of using a different commentator for each and every title - including Adrian, as it happens - and it's been fascinating working with the end results, because the approaches have been so diverse. Most of the contributors are known to be safe pairs of hands, but there've also been at least two debutants thus far.

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