I don't know how many of you actually listen to the commentaries on DVDs but if you do you know that most of them are pretty uninformative. Directors don't seem to talk much about the things I find interesting - like storytelling, staging, editing, acting, etc. - and they all seem to fall into talking about things that I don't really have any interest in hearing about. They usually talk about stuff like which scenes were shot on location and which were shot on a soundstage, how hard it was to get the movie made or how they were able to persuade a particular actor to be in the movie.
Maybe I'm in the minority here and the public is actually interested in hearing about stuff like that. But all filmmakers - even bad ones - are always thinking about story and how to put the movie together while they are working on their films so I wish they would discuss it and give us all the chance to learn from their experiences. Maybe by the time the film is done they are just sick and tired of talking about it. Or maybe they don't want to share their secrets with the rest of us!
In any case I make it my duty to let you know whenever I stumble across a good commentary. So this last week I listened to both commentaries on the "Miramax Collector's Series" edition of the"Swingers" DVD and I enjoyed them very much!
The first commentary is by Doug Liman (the director) and his editor. There are some good little sections where they discuss the editing and storyline of the movie that are pretty interesting. Doug talks about some scenes that were changed in the script and why they didn't work and how they fixed them. That's always great to hear. There are some sections where they discuss the locations where stuff was shot and how they managed to pull off making the film with no budget and stuff that is probably interesting to guerilla filmmakers. I have no interest in that kind of stuff but some people might, and like I say, there's enough interesting stuff to make it worth listening to.
The second commentary track is by Jon Favreau (who not only acted in the movie but wrote the script as well) and Vince Vaughn. I found this track to be really interesting and informative. Usually when actors do a commentary track they don't have much of interest to say but Jon and Vince are really articulate and really have a lot of great stuff to say. They really know why every scene is in the movie and they talk about what makes the movie work and why their characters do what they do. One of the things Jon said that really struck me was that since he was writing a movie about friends he "wrote scenes where they were always fucking with each other, because that's what friends do. You don't really mess with someone unless you know them and like them".
Another good feature on the disc is some deleted scenes. There is an alternate scene for the ending that Doug refers to in his commentary and he says "It just didn't work that way so we used this version". It's really great to compare the deleted scene with the one in the movie because you see right off the bat why the final one is superior. The deleted one was just wrong in tone and the staging really hurt it. It's always great to be able to compare and contrast scenes that way.
Anyway I don't want to oversell the DVD but, to me, thecommentaries were far superior to the usual DVD fare. The worst one I ever listened to was "The Score" - Frank Oz and his cinematographer talked about what kind of lights they used to light each scene. I'm sure this is interesting to budding cinematographers but it drove me insane because that's not my area of interest.
Now take all of this with a grain of salt. Personally, I really like "Swingers". To me it's a really smart movie and unlike anything else I've ever seen. And every time I watch it I see a new layer. But that's just me and it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea. It's a small indie film and it's not "Lawrence of Arabia". Doug Liman is one of my favorite directors (am I the only one that thinks "Go" is a work of genuis?). Anyway, I always hate to recommend something that people might not enjoy as much as I did, but for $10.99 from Amazon I think this disc is definitely worth buying. Or add it to your Amazon wish list and someone will get it for you for Christmas. Or add it to your Netflix queue. Hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as I did!