Who Gives Good Commentary?

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cdnchris
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#401 Post by cdnchris » Sun Jun 26, 2022 11:00 pm


zedz wrote: I've listened to a lot of Ellinger's commentaries over the past several years, and I think very few fall into the IMDB trap. At worst, she can be free-form and personal, but that can still be entertaining. Most of the time I find her engaged, informed and passionate. Her Flaubert fangirl commentary for Chabrol's Madame Bovary definitely increased my appreciation of that film.
I have to agree. I must be listening to the wrong ones because I've listened to a lot of her's and not one of them I'd group as an IMDB one. I also really liked her Bovary track and also rather enjoyed her track for Flowers in the Attic, a genuinely terrible film, which she acknowledges, but I enjoyed the material around the series of books and gothic tropes within them.

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Grand Wazoo
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#402 Post by Grand Wazoo » Mon Jun 27, 2022 8:35 am

Her track on Boise-Moi is really something, going in depth on her own assault, how she coped with it, and how that colored her view on rape-revenge movies.

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domino harvey
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#403 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jun 27, 2022 10:38 am

After this outpouring of support, I will cautiously give her another chance and will happily rescind my denunciation if merited

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Maltic
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#404 Post by Maltic » Mon Jun 27, 2022 10:59 am

Her commentaries on Under Capricorn and Easy Living didn't inspire confidence, so I didn't return. Same with Deighan on Desire and Christmas in July. I've also come across them on various podcast. But as Domino says, might be worth another shot.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#405 Post by Jonathan S » Tue Jun 28, 2022 5:42 am

ChunkyLover wrote:
Tue Jun 21, 2022 4:57 pm
Maltic wrote:
Tue Jun 21, 2022 2:59 pm
Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

I don't recall any negativity about of her work on here (let alone regular airing of grievances as with Welles/Armond/Svet), so I guess we're off the hook.
I didn't really care for her "Cloak and Dagger" commentary on Eureka's release. I could tell that she wasn't a fan of the film because she relied heavily on biographical info (sometimes stating outright that she's reading from Wikipedia), excerpt/quotes from other cited work, and a decent amount of just letting the film play (including not saying anything at all during the opening title sequence). I also didn't care for her using slang such as "simp" to describe Cooper's character at one point.
I didn't listen to all her Cloak and Dagger commentary but was also disappointed by what I did hear, particularly the mundane dismissal of the film's highlight (the fight in the doorway) as "a good old-fashioned bit of Gary Cooper biffo" when, besides the couple of book quotes she offers, there's so much more that could be said about it, e.g. the similar use of a street-singer as in La chienne (which Lang had just remade), the fact that the Italian ballad accompanying it Vieni sul mar is the same tune as that for its Victorian parody Two Lovely Black Eyes (during a scene where the villain attacks the hero's eyes), the way the love song reaches a climax simultaneously with the fight, etc.

Instead of judging whether a commentary is worthwhile to me from the opening minutes, I tend to check how the key scenes are treated because I admit I am heavily biased in favour of commentaries that, most of the time, are closely synchronised to the action on screen, which seems to me the best use of the medium. I'm not even against "mere" description, providing it draws attention to aspects of form - or even obscure content - that a casual or first-time viewing might miss. The ability to describe any work of art accurately, expertly and comprehensively is a rare gift. For general biographical or background information, I'd rather consult written material, even if it means doing my own research, though I'd make an exception for a commentator who had personal contact with the film-maker(s) discussed.

I'm also disappointed by what I've heard so far of Farran Smith Nehme's commentary on Murder by Contract (Indicator) - no discussion, for example, of the jaw-dropping scene in the real firearms store with the pot of small swastika flags on the counter (obviously intended to be noticed as it moves from the end to the middle of the counter in adjacent shots)... unless it's covered in another section I haven't heard. On the other hand, the commentaries by Imogen Sara Smith and Nora Fiore in the same noir set were among the most perceptive and entertaining I've heard, with a welcome sense of humour that's often missing from drier efforts. Indeed, I always hope that a female perspective will bring a new slant on genre pictures that have traditionally been the preserve of male critics. I'd also welcome more LGBTQ+ commentaries on these types of films - not that you have to be LGBTQ+ to be able to decode them in this way, but it probably helps!

I wouldn't avoid a commentator (female or male) on the basis of one or two examples I disliked but I certainly do seek out more commentaries by the critics I have enjoyed. I don't have the patience or time to listen to them all - and I'm only a consumer, not a reviewer - so have to be selective, often listening only to portions. One feature I really do appreciate is an index of subjects for a commentary but I'm not sure if any label other than Criterion usually offers this? (And for the actual films, I also increasingly miss the Scene Selection that used to be offered on most DVDs.)

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#406 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jun 29, 2022 3:33 am

Jonathan S wrote:
Tue Jun 28, 2022 5:42 am
Instead of judging whether a commentary is worthwhile to me from the opening minutes, I tend to check how the key scenes are treated because I admit I am heavily biased in favour of commentaries that, most of the time, are closely synchronised to the action on screen, which seems to me the best use of the medium.
Yes, for me this synchronicity is a major part of what makes this such a stimulating medium. I'll always allocate a chunk of the film when nothing particularly interesting is happening to discuss other things like pre-production and reception, but I'm constantly scanning the scenes in question to make sure that I'm not missing anything out that's worth flagging up. In fact, it was during just such a scan at a fairly late stage that I realised that one of the songs in the dance sequence in Black Peter actually namechecked Miloš Forman's ex-wife (a huge local star), which I obviously had to mention, even though it meant butting into a discussion about something else.
For general biographical or background information, I'd rather consult written material, even if it means doing my own research, though I'd make an exception for a commentator who had personal contact with the film-maker(s) discussed.
But to what extent are you prepared to do your own research? Merely identifying the actors in Black Peter, 90° in the Shade and The Round-Up was no small task (the credits merely provided a list of names, not parts), and the potted biographies that I came up for them were pretty much entirely sourced from non-English material. Although I'm keenly aware that there's nothing more boring than an IMDB-style filmography recitation, especially if it involves films that aren't known outside the countries in question, so I do make a real effort to come up with something interesting to say about them - the guy in The Round-Up who'd been sentenced to death for his 1956 activities nearly a decade earlier, for instance, or the man who, three years after The Round-Up, would be the first to utter the now legendary phrase "the Hungarian orange".

This was a particularly worthwhile exercise in connection with The Round-Up, which is very unusual for a Miklós Jancsó film from his great period in that virtually every character part was played by an actor as opposed to a non-professional, and Hungarian audiences would certainly have recognised most of them. And it was also a great excuse to big up other major Hungarian films of the period - because, brilliant though The Round-Up undoubtedly is, it wasn't the only great Hungarian film from the mid-Sixties, and if I end up encouraging people to explore further... well, that was fully the intention.

(I did make a point, though, of sticking to Hungarian films that are accessible in English-friendly form; I don't think anyone would have thanked me for raving about something that's effectively impossible to see!)

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#407 Post by EddieLarkin » Wed Jun 29, 2022 4:26 am

Michael, I (and I'm sure others) would appreciate a list of all of your commentaries so far, if you can post them. Adrian Martin maintains a list on his wikipedia page that I've used before to seek out specific releases. So far I've only listened to your track on The Snorkel with Johnny Mains, which was excellent and one of a tiny number of non-solo commentaries I've been able to sit through (typically they feel too unscripted/unplanned to me).

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#408 Post by Jonathan S » Wed Jun 29, 2022 4:30 am

MichaelB wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 3:33 am
But to what extent are you prepared to do your own research? Merely identifying the actors in Black Peter, 90° in the Shade and The Round-Up was no small task...
Yes, I can appreciate the examples you quote would be tough to research but (implying no disrespect to the films or your work on them) they don't happen to fall within my collecting parameters, which for various personal reasons are narrowing. I suppose the nearest equivalent for me would be an obscure silent or the sort of pre-nouvelle vague French film that only receives a disc release in France. But in these cases I'm often forced to do my own research anyway, either by lack of extras or lack of English subs for them. I do find free digital resources like the Internet Archive's vast selection of scanned material a useful supplement to my own library. Even basic research was certainly tougher for me in the 1980s and '90s.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#409 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jun 29, 2022 7:23 am

EddieLarkin wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 4:26 am
Michael, I (and I'm sure others) would appreciate a list of all of your commentaries so far, if you can post them. Adrian Martin maintains a list on his wikipedia page that I've used before to seek out specific releases. So far I've only listened to your track on The Snorkel with Johnny Mains, which was excellent and one of a tiny number of non-solo commentaries I've been able to sit through (typically they feel too unscripted/unplanned to me).
No problem!

In order of recording:

2016
The Night of the Shooting Stars (Arrow Academy)

2017
The Deadly Affair (Indicator, with Johnny Mains)

2018
The Snorkel (Indicator, with Johnny Mains)
Black Peter (Second Run)
Nightmare Alley (Signal One, with Johnny Mains)

2019
Diamonds of the Night (Second Run)
90˚ in the Shade (Indicator)

2020
Blind Chance (Arrow Academy)

2021
Viy (Eureka)
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Arrow, with Johnny Mains)

2022
The Round-Up (Kino Lorber)

(The release of Nightmare Alley was significantly delayed until earlier this year, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was recorded nearly a year before the release, thanks to a late decision to upgrade it to UHD.)

Although the ones with Johnny Mains obviously aren't scripted, they're thoroughly planned - we work out in advance what our specialist discussion areas are going to be and roughly in which part of the film we want to discuss them, then I go down to his home in Plymouth for an entire weekend, where we have a full viewing of the film on the night before the recording session - basically to make sure that we have enough material before the recording session proper.

The solo ones are much more carefully planned in advance, although not "scripted" in the conventional sense - I record snippets over a complete copy of the film in Final Cut Pro X, and they gradually expand until the entire audio timeline is full, at which point I record the whole thing from scratch. Because I edit the end result myself, I don't have to hit my marks absolutely perfectly during the recording as I know I can always tweak the timing later.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#410 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:46 am

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jun 27, 2022 10:38 am
After this outpouring of support, I will cautiously give her another chance and will happily rescind my denunciation if merited
I'll chime in that they definitely vary in quality.

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Maltic
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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#411 Post by Maltic » Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:06 pm

EddieLarkin wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 4:26 am
Michael, I (and I'm sure others) would appreciate a list of all of your commentaries so far, if you can post them. Adrian Martin maintains a list on his wikipedia page that I've used before to seek out specific releases. So far I've only listened to your track on The Snorkel with Johnny Mains, which was excellent and one of a tiny number of non-solo commentaries I've been able to sit through (typically they feel too unscripted/unplanned to me).
You can search for a particular content provider on the Criterionforum review site to see such a list, although only releases which have an entry on the site will be listed (hence Kino releases don't appear, unfortunately).

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#412 Post by Maltic » Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:24 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:46 am
domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jun 27, 2022 10:38 am
After this outpouring of support, I will cautiously give her another chance and will happily rescind my denunciation if merited
I'll chime in that they definitely vary in quality.

The capsule reviews of commentaries you did somewhere in this forum were great, btw (was you right?). You rarely find these with "professional" disc reviews, unfortunately. At most, the reviewer will describe the commentary with a few lines a la "much info was imparted, I learned a lot"

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#413 Post by cdnchris » Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:43 pm

Maltic wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:06 pm
You can search for a particular content provider on the Criterionforum review site to see such a list, although only releases which have an entry on the site will be listed (hence Kino releases don't appear, unfortunately).
I'm slowly adding Kino stuff, though at some point I'll be focusing on their titles specifically.
Maltic wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:24 pm
You rarely find these with "professional" disc reviews, unfortunately. At most, the reviewer will describe the commentary with a few lines a la "much info was imparted, I learned a lot"
I'm positive MOST don't actually listen to them, or only listen to the first 10-minutes at best.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#414 Post by Maltic » Wed Jun 29, 2022 1:39 pm

cdnchris wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:43 pm

I'm slowly adding Kino stuff, though at some point I'll be focusing on their titles specifically.
Oh I see, thanks! :) It wasn't meant as a criticism, of course. It must be a ton of work, and the feature is very useful as it is.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#415 Post by cdnchris » Wed Jun 29, 2022 8:03 pm

No worries, I didn't take it that way, but wanted to inform there is something that resembles something of an end goal with it.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#416 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:05 pm

Maltic wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:24 pm
The capsule reviews of commentaries you did somewhere in this forum were great, btw (was you right?).
It was! I've been doing several Kino recently, and I'm sure there must be exceptions, but the general trend is IMDB career biographies on cast and crew. The one for Panic in Year Zero (Richard Harland Smith) was like that, except for some initial historical contextualizing about the fear of the bomb. Barely acknowledging what's on the screen for most of it. Really disappointing and I don't see the interest at all in those.

I'll second Easy Living by Ellinger as drudgery.

On the other hand the two for Corman's X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (Corman himself and Lucas) were quite worthy, as was Eddie Muller (as usual) on 99 River Street.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#417 Post by brundlefly » Wed Jun 29, 2022 11:51 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:46 am
domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jun 27, 2022 10:38 am
After this outpouring of support, I will cautiously give her another chance and will happily rescind my denunciation if merited
I'll chime in that they definitely vary in quality.
I also look for the balance of organization and well-timed engagement that Jonathan and Michael described, and the Ellinger ones I've heard have felt so off-the-cuff their insights have been buried by redundancies and ramble. Her stuff may just not be my thing. Or may be suffering a quantity/quality drop-off as she's become everywhere. Imogen Sara Smith's so good she has to have been asked to do more than she has done; wonder if she's got a higher price point or a stronger sense of quality control. And I do admire people who only perform in their wheelhouse, like Shelley Stamp. But the mention of that Boise-Moi track is intriguing. Looking forward to the Kat Ellinger Commentaries Worth/Not Worth a Bother thread.
cdnchris wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:43 pm
I'm positive MOST don't actually listen to them, or only listen to the first 10-minutes at best.
Your fortitude and attention are appreciated. But also, if the commentator can't display enough enthusiasm for the material out of the gate, not sure anyone owes them the patience to let them find their groove.

I often put one on when I'm having trouble sleeping (basically Fall of 2015 - present), so the number of partially/spottily digested tracks certainly outnumbers that of ones consumed whole. Sometimes it's a relief if they get dull real fast.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#418 Post by cdnchris » Thu Jun 30, 2022 12:13 am


brundlefly wrote:
cdnchris wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:43 pm
I'm positive MOST don't actually listen to them, or only listen to the first 10-minutes at best.
Your fortitude and attention are appreciated. But also, if the commentator can't display enough enthusiasm for the material out of the gate, not sure anyone owes them the patience to let them find their groove.

I often put one on when I'm having trouble sleeping (basically Fall of 2015 - present), so the number of partially/spottily digested tracks certainly outnumbers that of ones consumed whole. Sometimes it's a relief if they get dull real fast.
I mean, I agree, but I was commenting on online reviewers who passively write on a commentary but clearly have not listened to it without acknowledging that fact. If they say something along the lines of "I listened to some of it but it's shit so I stopped" i cant argue with that, but a lot of the time I doubt they even turned it on.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#419 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jun 30, 2022 10:41 am

Maltic wrote:
Rayon Vert wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:46 am
domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jun 27, 2022 10:38 am
After this outpouring of support, I will cautiously give her another chance and will happily rescind my denunciation if merited
I'll chime in that they definitely vary in quality.

The capsule reviews of commentaries you did somewhere in this forum were great, btw (was you right?). You rarely find these with "professional" disc reviews, unfortunately. At most, the reviewer will describe the commentary with a few lines a la "much info was imparted, I learned a lot"
I also strongly recommend CineOutsider’s commentary reviews, which are as thorough as everything else on that site.

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Re: Who Gives Good Commentary?

#420 Post by Randall Maysin Again » Wed Aug 03, 2022 9:37 pm

I'm pretty sure the "commentary by screenwriter Ernest Lehman" on the North by Northwest dvd (or maybe its just on the bluray) is actually just some or all of the Lehman interview clips from the old making-of documentary made in 2000 that came with the special edition VHS haha, recycled, plus a couple, literally three at most, I think (I didn't suffer through watching the whole movie with this, uh, commentary) of what must be additional outtakes from interview footage shot for the documentary thrown in. Most if not all of his comments from the documentary are repeated verbatim, making for a useless and highly disappointing extra, unless I really missed something. :(

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