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The Ultimate Dream DVD Commentaries

The Ultimate Dream DVD Commentaries (photo)

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Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel, hosts of the DVD Afternoon podcast, were nice enough to invite me on their show to talk about podcasting and film criticism and assorted other topics. We closed our conversation, which you can listen to here, with a topic so intriguing I thought it was worth extra discussion: dream DVD commentaries. In other words, if time, space, and technology were no obstacle, what people would you like to hear discuss what films in DVD commentary form?

Paul, Heather, and I had some interesting choices, and you can hear them all on the podcast. When I sat down to pick my three choices, I decided to go against anything too super obvious to spice up the show. But I have no problem leaving this blog post unspiced, and my initial shortlist included a lot of highly desirable but totally impossible gimmes. There’s plenty of great possibilities for Classic (But Dead) Filmmakers Exploring Their Most Important Work, from Orson Welles on “Citizen Kane” to Billy Wilder on “Double Indemnity” to Walt Disney on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” or Buster Keaton on “Sherlock Jr.” Of course those would be great. But we can go deeper.

All of my picks on the podcast wound up being in the subcategory that The A.V. Club calls Commentary Tracks of the Damned, tracks for flops, failures, and camp classics. Since so many DVD commentaries are backslapping lovefests, I treasure the ones where filmmakers wrestle with their work publicly, explaining their questionable creative choices and revealing the places where studio heads or censors impinged on their work. For example, as part of my 25 Oldest Looking Teenagers piece, I just watched the commentary by director David Nutter on the film “Disturbing Behavior.” Though spoken through a somewhat rose-tinted microphone, Nutter’s commentary explains the various places where executives demanded changes, like the unwarranted happy, sequel-threatening ending. I wouldn’t recommend the movie by itself, but I would recommend the commentary.

DVD Afternoon co-host Heather brought up a good area for dream DVD commentaries I hadn’t even considered: Notoriously Troubled Productions. In reality it might be impossible to convince a director to record a commentary track for a movie that was taken away from him in the editing room, or an actor to talk about the movie he got fired from. But in the world of Dream DVD Commentaries anything is possible. I like the idea of using the power of God to lock people in a room together and forcing them to talk against their will about a film (admittedly, my ambitions as a deity are small in scope). How about a “Back to the Future” commentary track featuring Michael J. Fox and the guy he replaced as Marty McFly a month into production, Eric Stoltz? Or how about a group commentary by all three credited directors on “Gone With the Wind?” Or all six directors of the James Bond spoof “Casino Royale?” Or what about getting director Michael Cimino and former SVP of production for United Artists Steven Bach to sit down for all 219 minutes of the studio bankrupting flop “Heaven’s Gate?” I lament the fact that there are so few DVD commentaries that end with the contributors coming to blows.

The last area of impossible awesomeness is one I thought of after we stopped recording the podcast: Historical Figures On The Movies About Them. That’s another subgenre of commentary of which there are precious few examples. But how amazing would it be to hear Richard Nixon’s reactions to “All the President’s Men?” Or Mark Zuckerberg on “The Social Network?” Houdini on “Houdini?” Spartacus on “Spartacus?” Granted the first half hour of that last one would probably just be him flipping his wig over the concept of movies and television and DVDs and doors with hinges. But it’s a long movie.

Yes, this is all wasted breath and key strokes on things that can by definition never come to pass. But it’s fun to imagine the impossible sometimes. So how about it readers? What Dream DVD Commentary do you crave?


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.