Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Bay And The State Of Modern Cinema

What with the deaths of Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Sky Saxon and Michael Jackson, there's a shitload going on in Pop Culture...

But the 24-hour news networks will need content, and I don't want to overshadow them, so I'll move on to another artist who is dead to me: filmmaker Michael Bay.

I'll leave his producer credits well alone, because all producers shouldn't be to blame for the shit other people end up directing and concentrate on his director credits instead - all popcorn summer fare.

Some people see genius in shit-storms Transformers and Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. They are either sarcastic or out of inspiration. Or too inspired. Not only are these machines absolutely not the Transformers of our youth, the action is a blur and rarely makes sense; Megan Fox's clothes go from clean to dirty to clean in the same chase without ever being washed, the minute-to-minute continuity is iffy at best; if you're not into explosions, you shouldn't be purchasing tickets to this at all. Oh, and the U.S. Army not only saves the day but are the best humans on earth.

Then there's The Island. How many movies can you make with the plot from Logan's Run?

The best part of Pearl Harbor is when Ben Affleck gets a champagne cork in the eye while opening a bottle - a fluke accident.

Speaking of fluke accidents, Armageddon is probably the best movie to watch on a rainy Sunday - ever. I don't know if it's Bruce Willis dying, Liv Tyler being Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi being a pervert, Billy Bob Thornton being an asshole - but it all clicks, it fucking works.

Much better than The Rock, anyhow. Dudes want to escape from Alcatraz. Hey, that hasn't been the plot of any movie since the 50s, eh?

And Bad Boys, while unoriginal in the ''two cop friends have a falling out, a girl comes between them and they become friends again'' category, was saved by the acting of Will Smith and Téa Leoni. It may be the best buddy-cop film of the five years prior and the five years after it. It was, however, smeared by the poop that was Bad Boys II.

So how exactly is it that Michael Bay still has a job?

We all know the big studios prefer profits to good art, and, really, who could blame them? Who is to judge what constitutes good art anyway? And with friends like Steven Spielberg, wouldn't at least a little bit of talent shine through on Bay as well?

But it's not that good movies don't make enough money, it's that not enough of them would be made in a year. If every studio only made good, smart films, they'd only release 10 or 15 each per year, and that's no way to make a living, not for companies whose CEOs make hundreds of millions of dollars a year on bonuses alone.

Instead, they release dozens of films per week, hoping to generate the maximum amount of cash from the totality of their releases, be it in theaters or on DVD, by using formulaic screenplays and déjà-vu scenes, remakes and sequels, pretending to update previous creations, not only claiming the original to be groundbreaking (often when it is not), but also quickly adding that the new version is ''so much'' better.

By dumbing down their product, our expectations grow smaller each time, and they're that much easier to satisfy. That is how a piece of trash like Titanic can win hundreds or prizes and 10 Oscars. The acting was great, up to par with the best performances of the past 20 years, but the love story was the most common inane and cliché'd chronicle of that year (especially compared to Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy, Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, just to name three), the direction was a 100-million-dollar version of the Star Wars miniature model school of cheap special effects, and its marketing was just outright indecent.

And we're back to Michael Bay: the same bullshit, without the good acting (except in Armageddon and Bad Boys), and the special effects, instead of using no humans, no real raw material and miniatures of locations, uses no humans, no real life raw material and computer-generated images. Too many computer-generated images, that move too fast for us to decipher any of them, leading to the conclusion that they looked terrible anyway, or he might have taken the time to show them.

So what's the point of making a movie if you're not going to show us what you've been working on? It seems more like a kid that forgot to do his homework and scribbled shit on a piece of paper on the morning bus ride to school rather than a genius who wants to demonstrate the futility of modern film.

But maybe that's just me.

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