I have a confession to make: I’m one of those weird people who listen to audio commentaries.
I say “one of those weird people” because, despite the fact that audio commentaries have been a thing for a long time, the vast majority of commentaries contain a moment where at least one of the people on the commentary track wonders who listens to commentary tracks and why.
I do. That’s who listens to them. Also, whoever runs this site that reviews commentary tracks, but I think we might have different reasons for doing so, and different interests.
I like hearing about the process, but not so much in terms of the production. I don’t care about the specific types of cameras, or the angles of light, why it is or isn’t widescreen. Unless it’s funny. Anything I ever say I don’t care about always has the caveat of “unless it’s funny.” I don’t tend to care about relationship dramas, unless it’s funny. I don’t tend to care about politics, unless it’s funny. (Or so fucking frustrating that I can’t help but give a shit.)
I like hearing about the thought that went into things that I didn’t think about. The work that went into twenty seconds of cool footage. I’ve listened to the Russo’s commentary on Captain America: The Winter Soldier a good half-dozen times, because they put so much thought into the structure of that movie and the different character arcs. They talk about including Black Widow in the narrative, why her and not any other Avenger. They talk about making Steve’s trust in Falcon believable. They talk about the controversy of the “winter soldier” in terms of both the Thomas Paine quote and the Vietnam hearings. They talk about narrative structure and the different “buys” the audience is asked to make throughout the course of the film.
It’s a good commentary, I recommend it.
I also put commentaries on when I’m working. It’s the equivalent of half-heard coffee-shop conversations, but soothes my over-the-shoulder anxiety by not actually involving the presence of other people. While a movie is like to distract me with it’s plot and story-line, I can dip in and out of commentaries, because they’re not stories so much as a stitched together collection of anecdotes on a common theme.
There’s something about knowing the work that goes into a finished product that’s comforting. As the anxious propagator of a work in progress, I like to hear about all the ways in which creation wasn’t easy. I like to hear about hasty re-shoots and conflicting schedules and sound issues. I like to hear about the solutions and the workarounds that make every single film in existence possible, whether they’re discussed or not. Nothing ever goes to plan, and I like to get the details of the digressions.
The audio commentary is a strange thing, and it’s strange to like it, but I do. Other creative forms don’t really have that, or at least it’s not a function that’s ingrained at the industrial level in the same way as the audio commentary. I know that there are annotated lyrics and 25th anniversary edition forewords to books, but it still has that shiny, no-quite-real quality of something that was intended to be seen. I like that people doing audio commentaries don’t know who their audience is, so they aren’t pandering. Their just bewildered and talking about this thing that they made. And it’s too long a span of time for them to be glib and give pat answers and prepared stories. I’m sure there are some of those in there, but it’s not like an interview. And oftentimes when there are multiple people in the commentary, one of the others will interrupt what is obviously a prepared answer, possibly because they are bored hearing it and don’t imagine anyone else will anyway.
There’s are two commentaries from How I Met Your Mother with Jason Segel hitting on one of the male writers. In the first one it’s playful and joke-y. In the second one, he hired a driver and got purposefully drunk, and apparently brought condoms. The driver says hello to his mom.
That has nothing to do with anything, it was just a commentary that was entertaining but completely pointless.
Okay. Confession done. I feel like a weight has been lifted.
Well, not really, but I feel like I’ve done a sufficient job of justifying something I enjoy without fully understanding why. Which is almost as good. Because it’s not as though this is a guilty pleasure, it’s just something I’ve never had an easy answer for when bewildered friends asked why I liked it.
Any other audio commentary fans out there?