If my computer is not dead tomorrow I will try to have seen almost all of Religulous and share that with you. Also, Slumdog Millionaire inexplicably showed up via Netflix so I guess I'll check that out.
Also, tomorrow I'm going to have to go on a bit of a tear about Netflix's new Blu-Ray policy, no doubt in part to the less than honest renters who "lose" their discs or swap them with dvds... but tomorrow is another day.
Since I'm going to have to duck out here shortly, I thought I'd bring out "One from the Vault" that may have been overlooked. It's hard to read a post every single day and I expect more than a few of you have missed them. This will be a nice way for me to
Yeah... that's the ticket.
From the Fall of 2008:
I now see why so many dvd commentaries are so awful. It was an experiment, sort of: Dr. Adams wasn't all that interested in just another discussion of Sunset Boulevard, especially since half the class never says anything as it is.
So he cued up Sunset Boulevard on the dvd player and said "let's do our own commentary". Mercifully, it wasn't recorded, because when the room gets dark, even the chatty students seem to shut up. Some of them fell asleep (I think).
There were fits and bursts of analysis, particularly regarding the way Billy Wilder was playing with expectations for his second fore into film noir. Sunset Boulevard could, in fact, be considered a proto-neo-noir; much like Ace in the Hole (or The Big Carnival, whatever you've heard it called), Sunset Boulevard is Billy Wilder playing with the conventions of noir in very different circumstances. He subverts and in many cases reverses shots, themes, and motifs established in Double Indemnity (six years separate Indemnity from Boulevard), so it's hard to say it fits cleanly into "classic" noir*.
But that's getting away from the discussion of our group "commentary", which ended up being mostly Dr. Adams pointing something out, one of three of us occasionally piping in noticing something strange (like the connection between Mabel Norman and Norma Desmond in a biographical sense) or pausing to appreciate the deep focus during the coffin scene. Most of the time we just watched the movie. For long stretches I'd want to say something but instead got caught up watching what was happening on-screen and not wanting to narrate the action.
To be honest, I don't know how many of you listen to commentaries, but they frequently fall into one of the two traps I just listed. The other big one is the actor commentary which is generall anecdotal stuff about pranks on the set or "how great it was to work with blah blah blah". Very rarely do you get a commentary track that provides solid technical information, decent analysis of subtext, narrative, or intertextuality.
One of the reasons I enjoy Steven Soderbergh's films so much is that when he records commentaries (for his films or others like Point Blank, The Third Man, and The Graduate), they're frequently very informative beyond "it was really sunny that day". For as bad of a movie as it is, the commentary on his remake of Solaris is endlessly fascinating. Soderbergh is teamed up with director James Cameron (who produced the film), and they have very different styles of direction which leads to a good discussion of the process of adapting existing material and approaches to shooting it.
There are some good commentaries out there, but often they're a lot like the Film Noir class was this afternoon: lots of dead air, sporadic bursts of qualitative content, and two hours better spent watching the film itself. Next time I'll try harder, or maybe MST3K had the right idea all along: riff til you see the credits rolling.
* Yes, that's really the title of the movie.