I have built a respectable library of movies and television shows since the early 2000s. Many people have asked me why I keep buying DVDS and BluRays. They say it is a dying industry and a waste of money because everything is streaming online.
While I completely understand the freedom of streaming, there is something lost by not watching it on DVD or BluRay. I still stream things on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Have I watched something streaming even though I own it and didn’t want to get up and physically put in the disc? Of course. I’m not a Luddite, just occasionally lazy.
There is another reason I own these titles and it is a dying art; special features and commentaries.
I remember the first commentary I ever listened to was The Usual Suspects. It was on a separate VHS tape that you could check out at Blockbuster. It was a big deal. I had heard Christopher McQuarrie speak at a writer’s conference in Chicago and wanted to know as much as I could about it. I listened to the commentary and watched all the special features available. I own it now on BluRay and watch it whenever the mood strikes.
There is one DVD I own for the sole purpose of enjoying the Special Features. I hated the movie and had to be physically restrained from cursing at the screen. Yet, the sheer terribleness of the movie didn’t outweigh the extras on the disc including “Men Without Fear: Creating Daredevil.” It has a collection of interviews in it that include Stan Lee and Frank Miller.
There is a lot that goes into making a movie that is not always immediately obvious to someone watching it for the first time or even the tenth. When you watch the behind the scenes or listen to a good commentary track, you learn a lot more about the reasons and decisions that went into a scene or moment. A movie that you might have had mediocre feelings about might change entirely once you know something that puts a new spin on it.
Even if you are not an aspiring filmmaker, learning more about how the movie is made can be interesting. Once you learn something, you can’t unlearn it and it might be something you will look for in the next film. As I mentioned in a previous post about Every Frame A Painting, your movie going experience is enhanced by knowing more about what goes into a movie.
As with all things, not all extra or special features are created equal. Star Trek has recently stepped up their game and have added a lot more to their movies and shows on BluRay. There are some filmmakers like David Fincher, Joss Whedon and Edgar Wright that give insightful commentaries. There are commentaries by critics and historians that add new information from people removed from the process like Gone With the Wind and Sunset Boulevard. The TV series, Justified, has some special features that both add a new flavor to the characters and teach a great TV 101.
Moulin Rouge! has a second disc filled with fun extras including all of the camera angles for four different dances. There is an extended cut as well as the ability to choose which angle to watch as if you were editing the scene. Monty Python and the Holy Grail gives you the option of subtitles from Henry IV, Part II if you don’t like the movie, an educational film on How to Use Your Coconuts, as well as several scenes recreated in Lego.
In addition, you have ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic telling stories as well as the addresses to all the locations on UHF. This Is Spinal Tap has a commentary track by the actors in character commenting on it like it is a real documentary. Tim Burton’s commentary on Sleepy Hollow is unintentionally scary. He stops talking long enough that you forget you have the commentary on. Then he suddenly speaks and you leap five feet off the couch accidentally scaring your cat…so I have heard.
There are websites that give reviews on the extras and rank the best ones, such as Screenrant.com or Sound & Vision. They will let you know which ones are worth watching aside from the ones I have mentioned. If you are still leery of spending any money on them, you can check them out for free from your local library.
Do you have any that you recommend to check out or avoid? Please list them in the comments section.
My personal favorite type of extra is the blooper reel of a drama. The comedy ones can be disappointing (if it was that funny, they would have left it in the movie), but I feel like the humor tacked onto the end of a drama is like an unexpected treat. A little hilarious emotional sorbet.
My favorite movie is Amelie and I have watched and listened to all the extras. Since I have no idea about special effects, it was neat to watch them as the filmakers commented on how they were made.