You are on page 1of 3



PSSST! HEY, BUDDY. Have you gotten your tickets for Avengers: Endgame yet? Well, if
you were hoping to go on opening weekend, chances are you might be out of luck. According to
the latest projections, the movie is on track to make $200-250 million in its opening weekend
and online ticket retailers are struggling to keep up.

If the movie hits the top end of those projections, it'll handily beat Star Wars: The Force
Awakens. (Remember how hard those tickets were to get?). If Endgame brings in more than
$257.6 million, it'll beat out its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, for the biggest domestic
opening weekend of all time. And it should. Not necessarily because people reading the box
office runes predict that it will, but because it's the culmination of 20-plus movies going back 11
years, the film that will bring together all of their narrative threads—or at least try to. It is, to
put it hyperbolically, the event movie to end all event movies. The endgame in every sense of
the word. Infinity War was too, and now that Marvel is finally putting a bow on its Phase 3
package, we all get to share in its gifts. Nobody wants to be the person at the watercooler on
Monday who hasn't seen Endgame, so people are rushing to secure their tickets, clogging
AMC's online ticketing site and breaking first-day sales records on Fandango (crushing—you
guessed it—The Force Awakens). This may prove to be a singular achievement; as Marvel
moves into Phase 4 it'll likely keep churning out good movies, but it's hard to imagine the studio
will ever again have a crossover event of this magnitude. Also, its impending box office feat is
already under threat. When Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on December 20, it could easily
supersede its Disney sibling. Both franchises have massive fanbases, but Star Wars has been
around for decades longer than the Marvel films. Not to mention that Episode IX is not only the
final film of the current trilogy, it's also the end of the Skywalker Saga, which has been going on
since 1977. If all those generations of fans turn out opening weekend, the box office opening
weekend numbers will far eclipse Endgame's. And, let's face it: If it's not Star Wars, it'll be
something else. Franchises are constantly leapfrogging each other for the title of Biggest
Opening Weekend these days. A quick look at the 25 top grossers of all time shows a long list of
comic book films, Lucasfilm offerings, Harry Potters, Star Warses, and YA movies—all of them
released in the last two decades or so. Another monster movie will come soon, and the
Avengers' reign will come to an, ahem, end.


LIKE MOST PEOPLE, you’ve probably watched Get Out at least once. Maybe twice. But
the best way to see Get Out is with Jordan Peele sitting right next to you. Last spring, long
before Get Out's eventual Oscar win, the movie was released on home video with a
commentary track from its writer-director. A decade ago, in the pre-streaming era, this
wouldn’t have been news: Back then, seemingly every movie got a commentary track, even
Good Luck Chuck. Then the DVD market began to decline, and the commentary track went from
a being standard-issue add-on to relative rarity. Even recent Best Picture nominees like Mad
Max: Fury Road, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, and Spotlight were released sans
tracks—bad news for anyone looking for behind-the-scenes intel on Mark Ruffalo's little-Ceasar

In the last few years, though, several high-profile films—everything from Star Wars: The
Last Jedi to Lady Bird to Get Out—have been released with commentary tracks. That means you
can spend your umpteenth viewing of Peele's film listening to him talk about how he modeled
the opening credits on those of The Shining, or how the film's title was inspired by a routine
from Eddie Murphy Delirious. For casual movie watchers, such details may not be too thrilling.
But for film nerds who absorb behind-the-scenes trivia and how-we-made-it logistics, tracks like
the one for Get Out remain the cheapest movie-making education available.

I've listened to hundreds of commentary tracks over the last 25 years—a pursuit that
goes back to the mid-’90s, when it was possible to rent a laserdisc player(!) and a copy of the
Criterion Collection’s The Silence of the Lambs, and spend a weekend listening to Jonathan
Demme and the film's cast and creators chat for two hours. That track remains a classic of the
genre: Demme talks nuts-and-bolts filmmaking 101; Jodie Foster discusses story arc and
character; FBI agent John Douglas talks about serial killers. It's like taking a half-dozen
freshman-level introductory classes at once. There are other classics of the commentary genre.
Some are practical, like the Citizen Kane commentary in which Roger Ebert breaks down Orson
Welles' various on-screen tricks, or the Aliens track in which Jim Cameron discusses the best
lens for special effects. Others play out like their own mini-movies: On the track for The Limey,
director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs semi-gently spar over how the movie
came out—a rare look at the messiness of creative collaboration. Then there are the all-
purpose tracks that combine practical-moviemaking details, flotsam of trivia, and hang-out
banter, like the crowded Fight Club commentary that covers everything from CGI explosions to
Rosie O'Donnell giving away the film's ending on her talk show ("just unforgivable," star Brad
Pitt laments). The best commentary tracks don't bog you down with technical details or fill up
dead air with dull plaudits: They footnote the movie experience, answering questions you may
not have known you had about everything from casting to cinematography to marketing. "You
can learn more from John Sturges' audio track on the Bad Day at Black Rock laserdisc than you
can in 20 years of film school,” Paul Thomas Anderson once said.

That might be true‚ but for years the commentary for that 1955 thriller was out of print
and near-impossible to find. Eventually, it popped up on YouTube, which has become home to
countless bootlegged commentary-track rips, some of them listed under fake titles (and some,
like Get Out, are easy to spot). With minimal searching, you can also find MP3s archived on
Tumblrs and old blogspot pages, in case you want to download and watch along—or listen to a
commentary track while doing errands or exercising (maybe I’ve taken the hilarious, deeply
non-informative Step Brothers play-by-play out with me for a long walks). But there are also
hundreds of digitally preserved commentary tracks available through legit means. On
FilmStruck—the streaming service featuring older movies from the Criterion Collection and
Turner Classic Movies—you can listen to Terry Gilliam discuss Time Bandits and Steve James
talk Hoop Dreams. Indie powerhouse A24 has produced filmmakers’ commentary tracks that
are bundled on outlets like the iTunes store, meaning you can listen to Paul Schrader walk
through every step of his excellent First Reformed. And Disney has been releasing tracks for
recent hits like The Last Jedi and Avengers: Infinity War. Only a few years ago, commentary
tracks seemed all but dead; now, there are almost too many to keep up with—including the
numerous fan-recorded ones available as podcasts and hours-long YouTube clips. It’s telling
that many of the filmmakers (and film lovers) now recording commentaries are in their thirties
and forties—meaning they came of age in the first commentary-track era during the
Bush/Clinton years. When Peele opens his Get Out track, he notes that it's a "surreal honor" to
be recording it—a testament to how crucial these commentaries are for anyone looking to
sneak behind the screen. And now, online, you can pretty much stay there forever.

Related Interests