05 March 2008

Insight Men

I've been gorging myself on movie commentaries recently. It's the perfect insomnia aid because you can close your eyes, still visualize the movie, but also get some stimulation while you pass out. Okay, fine, it actually keeps me awake half the night but I'm working on it alright? Some of the time, the commentary is better than the movie -- Spider-Man 3 and The Graduate for example.

It sure helps to hear what the creators think in any endeavor doesn't it? They should have a commentary track for works of (visual) art. It should be semi-mandatory, like how we have with movies nowadays. So much of art is contextual that it's silly to just look at something without much explanation.

Anyway, if you want to see an incredibly in-depth and revealing look into what it takes to make a movie, check out the DVD for The Sea Inside. The included behind-the-scenes documentary shows Alejandro Amenabar (The Others) walking us through many of his processes. Amenabar is a youngish fellow and he not only co-wrote the screenplay, directed, edited, and composed much of the film. Yeah, we hate him just on principle.

But really, the documentary gives you a chance to peer into what a director thinks as he chooses between all the technical and artistic details; especially for a movie as important and tricky as this one. I didn't even like the movie that much -- the slow pacing knocked me out for the middle bit -- but the documentary was amazing.

Bryan Singer, famed for being the director of the Usual Suspects, and also the man challenged with adapting the X-Men to the big screen, also reveals quite a bit during his commentaries. There's no doubting that Singer was a visionary and a genius the way he handled the transition from comic to movie.

I, of course, have heaps of extras from the two Singer X-Men movies so I've watched everything at least twice. It takes faith in your abilities to make something that you know will be scrutinized every step of the way. The easy way would have been to concede certain points to fanboys or to execs nervous about playing it safe. Instead, Singer mapped out a direction and stuck with it and created the modern comic book movie.

For the second installment, Singer also hired two really younger writers to help him pen the script. Seeing as X-Men 2 is the best of the series, it's no small compliment to say that Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty were probably a big part of its success. The two lucky bastards got to be on set all day and think X-things for months on end.

I've also been watching all movies with sub-titles on because it helps to not miss one bit of dialogue. In addition, I'll get to the end of a movie and then watch the first twenty minutes or so again, to see what I might have missed at the beginning (try this with 21 Grams). You'll be shocked how much you can pick up by doing these two things. I think it's only respectful to the film to give it its full attention when you know every moment is there for a specific reason.