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LA Times Notes Lack of Audio Commentaries

Old 12-17-06, 09:39 PM
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LA Times Notes Lack of Audio Commentaries

LA Times article about the best and worst of DVD in 2006 notes a disturbing trend in DVD - the vanishing audio commentary. Warner Home Video, far and away the greatest studio for classic DVD releases, appears to be dropping them as a standard feature.

http://www.calendarlive.com/printedi...,1334019.story

A quick look at recent and upcoming WHV classic releases may confirm this trend:

Errol Flynn Collection Vol. 2: five films, only one commentary (Don Juan)
Literary Classics Collection: five films, only one commentary (Billy Budd)
Forbidden Hollywood, Vol. 1: four films, no commentaries
Robert Mitchum Signature Collection: six films, three commentaries
Taylor and Burton Film Collection: four films, one commentary

Also noticed that Disney is no longer including commentaries on its Platinum Editions. And Fox didn't bother for its overpriced Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto sets.

I am glad to have the classics released, but it can't be that expensive to throw us a commentary, especially when there are surviving cast and crew.

Last edited by js097; 12-17-06 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 12-17-06, 09:48 PM
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Disney included a commentary on their last Platinum Edition, The Little Mermaid...it just wasn't advertised. Beyond that, I'm fine with a lack of commentary, if it's not going to be a worthwhile one.
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Old 12-17-06, 10:59 PM
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I'd hate to see commentaries disappear - for me, they are the best possible extra.
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Old 12-17-06, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by marty888
I'd hate to see commentaries disappear - for me, they are the best possible extra.
co-sign!
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Old 12-17-06, 11:28 PM
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i probably havent heard of any of those movies in those collections!!
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Old 12-18-06, 01:24 AM
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And Fox didn't bother for its overpriced Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto sets.
But every film in their Gable and Will Rogers sets, three in the Grable, two in the Mansfield, and both Flint films had them. Chan and Moto are definitely the exceptions here, and they're the only ones, apart from the Flint films, to have original documentaries (as opposed to episodes of Biography).
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Old 12-18-06, 03:46 AM
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Do the studios have to pay the directors, actors any additional fees to record an audio commentary for DVD's? I know alot of commentaries appear to be recorded during the films initial release in theatres, which would probably force the actors, stars to do it as part of the promotion of the film.

I can understand for some older films it's probably a little harder for the studios to locate and convince the directors and stars or "experts" to devote 2-3 hours of their time recalling a movie they may or may not have enjoyed working on.
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Old 12-18-06, 10:34 AM
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I've noticed this trend as well, though largely for Warner releases of more recent films like Batman Begins, Superman Returns, the Harry Potter movies.
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Old 12-18-06, 01:02 PM
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I'd rather there be a cutback in commentaries and a push for a smaller number of *GOOD* commentaries instead of numerous commentaries done because "commentaries are expected".

Nothing is worse than a boring commentary.
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Old 12-18-06, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Rizor
I've noticed this trend as well, though largely for Warner releases of more recent films like Batman Begins, Superman Returns, the Harry Potter movies.
I still think they're doing it to get more people to buy the 2-disc versions. The thinking is that if they include a commentary, that would be enough supplemental material for some. More people will buy the 2-disc version if it's required to get any extras at all (or more than just a token featurette anyway). With Mystic River, they even produced a different disc without the commentary for the single-disc edition of the film.

BTW, the HD DVD of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a commentary from Tim Burton. Unless it was recorded later, it was apparently left off intentionally from the DVD.

In the case of the older films, could it be that they're just getting around to less popular titles that don't merit a commentary? I mean, I'd expect a commentary on a widely-known classic like Casablanca or Citizen Kane, and they did get commentaries, but some of the films in those sets aren't nearly as well known and beloved. It would be nice if every film could get a commentary, but anyone who has been buying DVDs knows that some films get better treatment than others.
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Old 12-18-06, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Skoobooz
Disney included a commentary on their last Platinum Edition, The Little Mermaid...it just wasn't advertised. Beyond that, I'm fine with a lack of commentary, if it's not going to be a worthwhile one.
I kind of wish, Disney/BVHE would include more commentaries on their pre-1980 animated films from varying film historians.
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Old 12-18-06, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by DJariya
I can understand for some older films it's probably a little harder for the studios to locate and convince the directors and stars or "experts" to devote 2-3 hours of their time recalling a movie they may or may not have enjoyed working on.
I think that's precisely what's happening here. Mos of the key players in these older films are deceased, and the ones still alive probably can't recall much about the making of the film.

Current releases like Superman Returns not having a commentary are usually for different reasons, but mostly at the director's discretion. Bryan Singer believes that he needs to distance himself from a film before he can offer a worthwhile commentary.
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Old 12-18-06, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Numanoid
I think that's precisely what's happening here. Mos of the key players in these older films are deceased, and the ones still alive probably can't recall much about the making of the film.
that doesn't stop Criterion from getting film critics/historians to reflect, recall and/or analyse a film.
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Old 12-18-06, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Drexl
I still think they're doing it to get more people to buy the 2-disc versions. The thinking is that if they include a commentary, that would be enough supplemental material for some. More people will buy the 2-disc version if it's required to get any extras at all (or more than just a token featurette anyway). With Mystic River, they even produced a different disc without the commentary for the single-disc edition of the film.
IIRC, the 2-Disc Constantine DVD has a commentary while the 1-disc version did not. So I think in the case of BB and SR, it's up to the directors. I read that Nolan doesn't like to do commentaries even though he did 'em for his previous movies (Memento and Insomnia).
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Old 12-18-06, 05:11 PM
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I couldn't care less about audio commentaries for recent films -- especially since a lot of them are just the actors and directors talking about how great everyone was to work with, etc. -- but I would be disappointed if the commentaries on classic films by historians and critics were to start disappearing en masse. Those are the ones I tend to learn something from.
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Old 12-18-06, 06:34 PM
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I love commentaries. I honestly couldn't care less if the latest Adam Sandler or Rob Schneider flick has one but I love when a studio goes above and beyond for the sake of commentaries...The Delta Force commentary on Black Hawk Down, commentaries by historians, and commentaries by now deceased actors (Jimmy Stewart!) are absolutley priceless to me, as they should be for most film lovers.
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Old 12-18-06, 06:49 PM
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I always look forward to the commentaries. Thats usually bonus points in my book.
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Old 12-18-06, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by UAIOE
Nothing is worse than a boring commentary.
Not quite. *NO* commentary at all is worse than a boring one.

I've said it before, but as they cut more and more features, my dvd buying has gone *way* down.
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Old 12-18-06, 08:02 PM
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I've posted this comment before in other discussions about commentaries, but if I'm on the borderline about purchasing a title as a blind buy, a commentary will usually sway me toward the purchase.
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Old 12-18-06, 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Walter Neff
I couldn't care less about audio commentaries for recent films -- especially since a lot of them are just the actors and directors talking about how great everyone was to work with, etc. -- but I would be disappointed if the commentaries on classic films by historians and critics were to start disappearing en masse. Those are the ones I tend to learn something from.
100% agree. I need commentaries for Bergman films 'cause I'm too stupid to understand what I just saw without them.
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Old 12-18-06, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by DJariya
Do the studios have to pay the directors, actors any additional fees to record an audio commentary for DVD's?
Usually the production company/studio pays for the cost of producing all the extras, doc's and commentary's. Typically the actors will record a commentary for "scale" (basically lunch money for most high paid actors), unless it's negotiated differently. Many actors are too busy or don't want to be bothered with recording a commentary, most are done as favors. Almost every single actor, director and or regular production person working in Hollywood is a member of one of dozen or so union/locals in town. No matter how big the person may be, or how much money they make, every hour worked goes towards some sort of health insurance and "vesting" retirement/pension package. Whether they ever need to utilize any of these benefits is an entirely other matter.

The sad fact is there are hundreds of poor retired "everyday" actors living in union run retirement homes.

But to answer you question, yes they get paid. Unless of course it's a commentary for some non-union low budget indie film.
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Old 12-18-06, 10:48 PM
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I really enjoy watching commentaries as it gives me a whole new way of watching the film - especially if it's one done by either a film critic, historian or the director (without the cast around). I hope this isn't a trend...
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Old 12-18-06, 11:18 PM
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Although I have noticed that a lot of the 'no commentary' disks try to make up for it with extra long 'Making of...' features. Not quite as interesting, but it gets the job done.
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Old 12-19-06, 03:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Feathers McGraw
Not quite. *NO* commentary at all is worse than a boring one.
I would rather there be no commentary than one slapped together for the sake of saying "look, a commentary".

Also I'd like my commentary to be insightful, interesting and sometimes funny. What I don't want is to pay for two hours of someone (or group) sounding like they have better things to do than record a commentary.
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Old 12-19-06, 08:25 AM
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I HATE commentaries. Actually, have almost totally stopped listening to them. I find them to fall into the following categories.

1) boring..snooze fest
2) Lots of dead air interspersed with some interesting info (honestly, what do people do with the dead air - do laundry and keep an ear out for when the commentary kicks in again?)
3) r.e.a.d.i.n.g...f.r.o.m...a..s.c.r.i.p.t
4) duplicate of another supplement (behind the scenes, featurette)
5) duplicate of info on booklet insert (Criterion's Carnival of Souls)
6) arrogant "hey - aren't I great? Did you see how well this shot came out?" (Devil's Advocate)
7) back slapping "s/he was GREAT To work with. Honest - their the best!!...(other person) "ah shucks. It was so EASY working with YOU. You are the best"
8) Commentators don't even want to talk about the movie (i.e. Clive Barker and Hellraiser)
9) fun filled commentary that is truly enjoyable to listen to (anything that Kurt Russell or Bruce Campbell has done)
10) Truly enlightening commentary that adds real value to watching the film (Image's Dr. Mabuse comes to mind)

But I find that #9 and #10 are in the vast minority. I would say less that 5% of the commentaries I have listened to fall into those categories.

If eliminating commentaries will help reduce cost and make it easier/faster to release films (especially classic ones), I say 'full steam ahead!!"
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