I love the Internet. It gives us things like this:
Ok. Technically, John Milius, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a youtube user called “shastatheragdoll” gave us this. Beyond that, I discovered the video thanks to a user named “lightninglouie” on io9. In turn, io9 had posted an excellent clip of Arnie expounding on his role in Total Recall, where he also decides to explain in bewildering detail his character’s actions and the environment surrounding his character. Things we can already see, or already saw in the film, assuming you’re not some kind of crazy person who watches a film with the commentary on before you watch the film itself.
I love the Internet. I do. Sometimes though, it makes me sad. I really like commentaries on films. At some point, it was inevitable that I would get around to Total Recall. I’m thoroughly stunned by Arnie’s approach to commentaries. Hopefully, there’s some other input than “my guy is doing X right now, LOOK!” but I’m doubtful.
Commentaries are fantastic. The actor commentary on much derided Stephen Sommers CLASSIC (no sarcasm) Van Helsing was one of my early favourites. It essentially involves most of the headline actors beyond Hugh Jackson and Kate Beckinsale reflecting on their experience shooting the film. This includes the revelation that Richard Roxburgh met his wife (Sylvia Colloca) on set and that David Wenham’s nick name was, mystifyingly, Daisy.
Commentary tracks on films are also great for working from home, or exercising at home, or basically doing anything that allows you to occasionally look at the TV but doesn’t require you to be watching the whole time. Radio with visual support, really. Of course, they also suck for working at home because it’s yet another excuse to be working. Let’s not allow that to sully our view of commentaries however. They’re fab.
Some are overly technical, some just sound bored, some (like our dear Arnie’s attempt) are unable to step back from the material and actually tell us something interesting. My least favourite are often those by the actors themselves. When actors are relaxed and having fun and confident in their own work, the actor commentaries are the best. Often, unfortunately, these commentaries end up being soporific beyond belief. Actors will then be the absolute worst, basically resorting to complimenting each other incessantly or, worse, kissing the ass of the lead actor successful enough not to be participating in the commentary. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. These are the kind of people who think we take the Oscars seriously. (HINT: Nobody takes the Oscars seriously anymore.)
My personal favourite moment from a commentary comes courtesy of director John G. Avildsen, who while reflecting on Stallone’s cooperative nature and helpfulness on the first Rocky film noted that it was completely unlike his experience with Rocky V, when Stallone remained in his trailer between takes like the “prince of Lichtenstein”. Frankly, I wish more people on commentaries would take a moment to generally bad mouth and call out people in the industry. Sure, it would be tasteless and immature, but hey, I don’t know these people. It would be entertaining for me!
Now to go and order that Total Recall DVD…