Tuesday, May 1, 2012

If Michael Bay makes a film and nobody sees it, does it still make a sound?

While I have always gone against the notions of what a filmmaker and educator should put their top 10 (favorite film: RoboCop), I can't help but question certain things. I can usually see films for what they are, be it pure entertainment, gratuitous pulp, rock/rap star-become-actor vehicle, whatever.
But there is nothing good about what Michael Bay does, nothing.
Sometimes I get on rants about particular things...Joel Schumacher for instance. I have long stood on my soap box, screaming to anyone who would listen that Mr. Schumacher might just be the worst filmmaker ever. This is all based on the fact that he single-handedly tried to ruin the Batman franchise forever and thanks only to Christopher Nolan do we get redemption. In hindsight, after looking at his career as a whole, I may have been a bit rash. He has, in fact, made some of my favorite films from youth. But that all may be skewed (see my post: Nostalgia Takes the Place of the Real, 12/2/10). I did re-catch The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) a few weeks ago on TV, and besides being a nice attempt at social satire on consumerism and women's role in society, the film is hot garbage. But The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Falling Down...are all great for sure. And who can argue with Marsha Warfield's riveting portrayal of a poor and desperate cab driver trying to save her boss's business, along with the likes of Mr. T, Gary Busey, and Bill Maher,  in 1983's D.C. Cab? Seriously though, Schumacher's career has hit on many different emotional levels from a fun romp (D.C. Cab) to a moving biopic (Veronica Guerin) to an emotional study of a complicated relationship (Flawless). And even though he did attempt to destroy Batman with absurd casting and suits with nipples, it's not all bad.
Michael Bay is a jerk. He's like the star high school quarterback who everyone hates. Cocky, brazen, a real show off. I'd probably like him, he reminds me of...me. I'm all for violent battles full of explosions, so fast that if you are sitting too close to the screen you miss half of it. And who doesn't enjoy scantily-clad women who have little to no lines to speak? But to look at someone's career as a whole and not be able to discern any level of depth, passion, or narrative is a great concern, especially to someone who often preaches to his students the importance of a story with a beginning, middle and end, of character development, and taking pride in what you do.  Even Ed Wood, Hollywood's best known hack, had passion for what he did. He believed in his heart of hearts that he was making good cinema. And he tried, you could see it on screen, even through the continuity errors, the strings from the flying saucers, and terrible make-up effects. What he lacked in talent he made up for with unmatched verve.
So let's take a brief look at Mr. Bay's catalog:
I can find humor in some of the witty banter between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the Bad Boys series but how much of that is Smith and Lawrence or the four, that's right four, folks it took to script it?
I hate Nicolas "Coppola" Cage too (not Hollywood's biggest example of nepotism, but possibly the worst results. And who isn't waiting, losing sleep over even, the reboot of Thelma & Louise starring Suri Cruise and Rumor Willis?). So it only seems too fitting that he and Bay meet up in the pressure packed The Rock (1996). To hear Cage utter "I love pressure. I eat it for breakfast," has to be a highlight of any $70 million blockbuster. Then there's Armageddon (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001), and The Island (2005). Judge for yourself.
And of course there's The Transformers series. Films that should have starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the nerdy, bumbling high-schooler turned action hero, Sam Witwicky, but instead we get Shia LaBeouf whose acting is reminiscent of Doug Kinney #4 in Multiplicity. Come on, can't you picture him turning to Optimus Prime, with that slack-jawed look, motioning towards Megan Fox, "She touched my pepe, Steve!" And speaking of Megan Fox, can it be true that this talentless "actress" has been the only one to call out Bay? Or is the fact that no actors with any actual talent will work with him a sort of silent protest that points directly to his reputation in Hollywood?
I'm not sure. But look for Bad Boys 3 and another Transformers sequel by 2014 and another, and another, and another...

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