A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Special Features are there to be watched!

In Directors, Documentary, media on July 3, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I was just listening to a podcast that was reviewing the Israeli-animated documentary, WALTZ WITH BASHIR (that I just commented on); and in it these guys were clearly watching the movie via DVD – as I just did – and they’re sitting there assuming that the animation was done the same way as the Richard Linklater movies, WAKING LIFE and A SCANNER DARKLY. And my initial thought was, “in the supplemental material, it’s talked about, about a half-dozen times that that is not how this  movie was created.” So, these guys didn’t watch any of that stuff (there was a making of, a pre-vis to storyboard to final animation comparison, a Q/A with the director and a director’s commentary!)

This bugs me for a couple of reasons – not the least important of which is that I personally love the Special Features on DVD and will even pass over renting (or buying) a movie because it lacks certain things. (I’m a big fan of the audio commentaries.) Secondly though, has to do with studios drastically cutting back on these features, specifically because it’s extra money spent to produce extra content. And if people aren’t watching this stuff, then what’s the point of putting it on a disc? The biggest step – backwards, in my opinion – is in the recent announcement by certain studios, that they will be releasing different versions of movies to rental outlets, like Blockbuster and Netflix, sans any special features. With those only being available on the discs for sale  through retail stores (ie. Amazon and Walmart). Being that I’m more of a renter, than a buyer at the moment – for economic reasons – this really gets my goat as I was already conned out of not getting any special features with my seeing SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and VALKYRIE, both having commentaries by their writers and/or directors, that I was very interested in hearing.

But, the biggest problem I see, especially with the abundance of DVD reviews of recently released movies, is that people are guessing at things that are just a click away to see the answers to their questions. You don’t go to a play, and then write a review saying that the lead character looked like a certain actor, when you’ve got the playbill sitting right on your lap (I know; who looks at those, either!).

But, if you look at certain DVD’s, you’ll see the amount of detail and effort that goes into making these supplemental materials – which, quite frankly in a number of filmmaker’s hands become full-length features unto themselves. Look at the releases of movies by people like David Fincher (both the Criterion edition of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and the Special Edition of ZODIAC, featured multi-hours of material of behind the scenes, and background material.) and Peter Jackson (All you have to do is look at the cases for the Extended Editions of the THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, or his KING KONG: Ultimate Edition, to see that there’s a little more there than just some epic movies) to know that this isn’t just some extra crap thrown onto the discs, like those cheesy anti-piracy commercials. Maybe I’m the weird one in thinking that these people that make movies and so obviously love them enough to create all this extra stuff for fans and future-filmmakers, to swim through; that it’s special and really one of main reasons why the media of DVD’s overtook and killed the VHS tape so quickly.

So, watch the Special Features for movies. Not only will you get to see the passion that goes into these movies – from everyone working on them – but you might actually learn something that you can then write/discuss that perhaps most other people won’t know.

Recommended Special Features:

Audio Commentaries by Steven Soderbergh, Joel Schumacher, Martin Scorsese, Paul Greengrass and Francis Ford Coppola are all fun informative and show the thought that goes into their movies.

Supplemental/Behind The Scenes material: Anything, as mentioned by Peter Jackson, David Fincher and George Lucas (I’m thinking more THX-1138, than Star Wars, but those have their moments as well.) and movies that essentially are special features in their own right: LOST IN LA MANCHA – the documentary about Terry Gilliam’s failed endeavor to make the movie, THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE; and the look at the making of APOCALYPSE NOW, made by F.F. Coppola’s wife, Eleanor, HEARTS OF DARKNESS (released both on it’s own, and also in the “The Complete Dossier” edition of the movie, containing both the theatrical and REDUX version of the movie.).

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