You wouldn't think that after what I said about Joy Ride on Monday I'd still have the DVD hanging around on Friday night. Didn't I say I was going to return it for something better? Yeah, but instead I watched it four times this week. The DVD has three commentary tracks, and I felt compelled to watch all of them.
Now that I've done that, I've discovered a whole new way to appreciate movies. According to this method, you have to watch the movie once through, so you know what it's about and what there is to like and dislike about it from your own point of view. Mostly, you have to watch the movie in order to enjoy the commentary, which is really the point of the method.
Something different comes out of each commentary, and in the process of watching them all I got a little more out of the movie itself each time. It's still not my favorite film, but seeing what went into making it gives me a better appreciation of the experience.
Still, since I've given myself over to my new theory of movie watching, the process has become more important than the product. I'm not sure if that's the case for the filmmakers, but I think it is for a lot of artists. In fact, I believe the product suffers if the process isn't the main point for the creator. If not the whole point.
In the actors' commentary, I learned some of the details about the experience of being in a movie. Steve Zahn relived the shooting with us as he recorded his track, and it was a kick to know how much fun he had. I think it shows in his performance, too.
The director's commentary is full of details about the creative process, and you get inside his head as he sets up scenes, chooses locations and coaches actors. He also comments on the alternate endings and deleted scenes, so you know why they were changed or dropped.
Listening to the writers, J.J. Abrams and Clay Tarver, is a lot like sitting around watching this movie with them, and letting them riff on whatever comes to their minds. The story started with them, of course, so they've lived with it longer than anyone else. Plus, they're funny guys who don't take themselves too seriously. You hear about some of the scenes they wrote that got edited out, or changed, or never shot in the first place. They even point out some of the holes in their own plot.
In a scary movie, the commentary track can make up for not seeing the film in a theater, where the group experience makes the fear factor more intense. That's why I liked the writers' track so much, because they play off each other.
Besides, once I got into the rhythm of having everything I saw on screen parsed and joked about, I joined in the commentary. "That's a cool shot," I'd say to the TV. "Why doesn't someone mention what a cool shot that is?"
From there I moved on to commenting on my own life. After one viewing of the movie I went to the kitchen and washed dishes, and I pointed out to my nonexistent audience the chip on a plate, so that I could explain to them just how it happened. (I think I had to make something up, because I couldn't remember the truth.)
Anyway, four times through Joy Ride is enough for now, although you do develop a certain affection for a movie you see that many times. I'll mail the disc back to Netflix tomorrow and see what they send me next. I've top-loaded my rental queue with DVDs that they've listed as having a "very long wait," so if I time it right I might get one of those. Otherwise, I'll still have something fairly high on the list by this time next week.