Introducing — Commentary Conundra

*camera pulls in closely on tuxedoed figure* Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in mass media, for that is what you and I are going to be observing for the rest of our lives! And remember, my friends, future home video rereleases will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, the catering — that is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing you the full story of what happened in that one director’s living room. We are giving you all the evidence — based only on the well-publicized testimony of the agent-ridden souls who survived this one hot afternoon before going out clubbing. The incidents, the places…my friends, we cannot keep this a secret any longer! Let us punish the guilty, let us reward the innocent. My friends, can your hearts stand the shocking facts about…DVD COMMENTARIES?

More to the point, heya. It has been alleged I apparently hate many things, including movies, but this is in fact a fib, I lurve ’em. And I lurve DVDs and I especially love commentaries, from directors, actors, key grips. Sometimes I find myself waiting for movies to end so I can actually get around to the commentary. I think it’s partially because it’s such a wonderfully disconnected medium — you don’t have to be watching the movie to concentrate on the commentary, necessarily, and usually some of the best commentaries ditch talking about it all together to yak about other things, and we’ll yet see a few of these examples.

So the idea is a (hopefully) weekly installment of commentary reviews — forget the quality of the film, although sometimes that will inevitably (and perhaps hilariously) be a factor. New, old, in between, doesn’t matter. No ranking per se but I will try at least to tell whether or not it’s worth it for you to be slogging through the movie a third or fourth time on your rental just to hear the one guy who worked in the sub-mud-creation department talk about how long it took him to animate the piece of slime in the corner. Because who knows, maybe it is?

Kicking it off:


Commentators: Weird Al Yankovic, Jay Levey, Emo Phillips, Michael Richards, Victoria Jackson

I figure the best commenting is a matter of combining information with sheer BS — not necessarily falsehoods but the type of random folly that just happens. This doesn’t quite actually hit that mark because the folly is a bit preplanned, but such are the ways. It’s mostly Yankovic and Levey — who besides being the film’s director turns out to have been his manager for about twenty years now — and of that it’s mostly Yankovic, who merrily details everything from stories of rotting fish to extremely specific street locations in Tulsa, where said film was made. Somehow the whole thing seems to suit Yankovic’s general persona as the guy who has faced celebrity with no more worry than that whole Coolio thing, and even that was a hiccup. Levey does have some things to say here and there and there’s a bit of behind-the-scenes ‘we did this to do this and have this happen’ stuff as well, but mostly this is about random memories and why Yankovic is tossing the grapes to the one guy and that Joel Hodgson auditioned for Anthony Geary’s role and things like that.

So it’s where it tries to have conscious fun with everyone else is where it succeeds and falls down a bit. The other three folks all put in obviously preplanned cameo appearances, but whether or not they’re done awkwardly enough is the question. I’ll buy that Victoria Jackson may have (supposedly) just been called up on the phone briefly towards the end of the film to talk a bit about kissing scenes and all that, she actually sounds a touch flustered. Emo Phillips suddenly saying to Yankovic after the man wonders where he is “I’m right behind you” is great but please — at least have him open the door or something (but the reenactment of the cut opening intro to their respective joint bit in the film is pretty damn funny). Michael Richards, to his credit, does not barge in a la Kramer, and sounds a bit distracted enough about his car being parked in the wrong place outside to offset his deadpan and low-key weirdness. There’s enough…not pauses, but moments where you want to see the stares that you’re somehow hearing. And who wouldn’t?