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By: Wayne Graham

Five Essential DVD Commentaries

This is Spinal Tap (MGM Special Edition)
Commentary by Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls, and David St. Hubbins
Six words.
Commentary by Spinal Tap. In character.

Fight Club
Four commentary tracks, including director David Fincher, actors Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter, author Chuck Palahniuk, screenwriter Jim Uhls, and assorted technical crew

The first set of the DVD age to take full advantage of the home film-school properties of the medium, these four commentaries - separating discussions on direction, acting, writing, and technical know-how - leave no element of the filmmaking process (and the context in which the film was released) to the imagination. Far from a dry, industry jargon-fest, the commentaries on this controversial powder keg of a picture are a document of a huge number of people who were truly passionate about what they were working on. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

The Limey
Commentary by director Steven Soderbergh and Screenwriter Lem Dobbs

In this 1999 noir gem starring Terence Stamp as an newly released ex-con tracking down his daughter’s murderer, director Steven Soderbergh - at the beginning of a creative second wind that would extend through the better part of this decade - received substantial critical acclaim for taking a non-linear hacksaw to writer Lem Dobb’s standard Point Blank-inspired revenge script. On the commentary, while Soderbergh attempts a detailed analysis the film, Dobbs’ resentment of the accolades that he himself was denied practically seethes out of your home theatre speakers. The film is great. The commentary is a masterpiece of sour grapes and awkward pauses.

Almost Famous (Director’s Cut)
Commentary by writer/director Cameron Crowe and Alice Crowe, his mother

In interviews at the time of its theatrical release, Cameron Crowe frequently referred to this semi-autobiographical look at his days as a wunderkind Rolling Stone journalist as a “valentine” to his mother, played in the film magnificently by Oscar-nominee Frances McDormand as a symphony of single parent neuroses. Who better to share a commentary track with than the object of his affection? Crowe the Younger is typically charming and funny here, but Mama Crowe steals the show, as she calls her son out on inaccuracies and clucks her tongue maternally at the rock n roll youth gone wild on display.

Dazed and Confused (Criterion Edition)
Commentary by writer/director Richard Linklater

Despite Richard Linklater’s numerous claims that his 1993 cult-classic look at jocks, stoners, nerds, and freaks on the last day of school in bicentennial Texas is no nostalgia piece, it’s hard not to notice a sense of fondness for the way his characters try to escape their growing pains through beer blasts, bong hits, and Aerosmith. His commentary matches that delicate balance beat for beat, mixing the story of his frustrating experience working with a major studio for the first time, and the soft spot he clearly still has for the cast and crew Most good commentaries tell you how a movie is made. The one on this long-overdue bells and whistles two-disc set tells you how it feels.


All opinions expressed by Wayne Graham are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

© Stay Thirsty Media, Inc. 2006
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