Last night I watched the Spike Lee Joint, Get on the Bus. Oh, and it is a great movie that I could talk about for a few paragraphs, but I'll save that for some other time. After finishing the movie, I watched a little of it with the director's commentary turned on. Spike Lee had an approach to the feature that I had never heard before. It was as if he were a friend sitting next to you on the couch who happened to know a lot about all the actors and the setting of the film. He would also repeat lines he thought were poignant or funny. To be honest, I didn't love it, but it was a new style. And so, here are the styles of commentary that I have come across.
Technical Expert: These directors spend most of the film explaining every detail of how they managed to fit a camera in the air duct or managed to get the car to blow up without hurting Joan Cusack. It's about special effects and secrets of the film industry. Usually you find these commentaries on movies like Air Force One.
The Gossip: "During this scene Julia Roberts was having trouble keeping her hair in that up-do. It took about 12 takes." "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but Tom Arnold loves twinkies." I think you know what I mean. You'll find this on movies like America's Sweethearts.
The Film Junkie: This director will tell you every influence and explain every shot choice. They tend to talk almost the entire time and trying to help you better understand their vision. Example: I can't think of one right now, but comment if you can.
Plot Hounds: Similar to the film junkie, these directors explain the intentions of the film but in relation to the plot. I could see this being used for Memento.
Timid Types: This is more of a style. These folks are usually talking on their own and are either embarrased or like the movie to speak or itself. Either way, they're quiet. Spike Lee was like this for Get on the Bus.
Off-topic: These guys just talk about everything and anything, except the movie. "That couch reminds me of this time in college when..." Amusing, usually. I imagine Woody Allen would be like this if he ever did a commentary track.
These are the big ones I could come up with. As you could imagine, there are a lot of combinations. I wish more directors would do multiple commentary tracks that covered some of these different styles. Anything I missed?