Mister Cinecal

Mister Cinecal

Monday, 28 July 2014

We Need To Talk About Michael Bay's Self-Hatred

Someone with a stronger stomach than me for watching Michael Bay films is going to have to enlighten me; just what is that guy's deal exactly? An early scene in his latest Transformers film sees an elderly gentleman who owns an old theatre bemoaning the state of cinema today. "The movies nowadays!" he complains, are "sequels and remakes, a bunch of crap!", an odd sentiment to express in the 4th film in a trilogy of loathed action movies about cartoon robots made to sell toys in the 80s. For all it seems that Bay is an incredibly easy film maker to get a read on, sometimes there are signs, deep, deep down, that he wishes he could be more. This may seem a little bit like conjecture, but clearly Michael Bay hates himself and wishes he could be something better, and I think that needs to be addressed. We're here to help Michael, with the debilitating problem that you definitely have.

A character in a Bay film bemoaning sequels and remakes may seem like a softball line for critics to seize upon, but the Transformers series are the only movies Bay himself has directed that really fit into that category. Okay, there is Bad Boys 2 (unfortunately), but even that is a sequel to one of Bay's own and given that it came out nearly ten years after the original it isn't exactly a cheap cash grab. Though he takes a lot of flack for them, the remakes of the likes of Friday the 13th and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are spawned out of his production company, not actually made by him. It seems likely that Bay's opinion of the Transformers series isn't very high, especially with how reluctant he was to work on it in the first place. When approached to be the director of the original, Bay called it a "stupid toy movie" and wouldn't do it. The only reason he signed on was because he wanted to work with Steven Spielberg, who was the producer. Bay's interests leaning towards simple popcorn action movies has it's roots in his admiration for Spielberg, which is another way of saying 'This is all Steven Spielberg's Fault'.

Spielberg's Fault

Bay's inspiration to be a filmmaker in the first place came from Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark. He worked as a clerk for Lucasfilm when Raiders was being made and didn't think it would be any good. The finished product made him want to be a director. He clearly wants to make fun, energetic action films, and in the strictest, most technical sense, Bay has to be classed as an auteur. The only problem is that nearly 20 years after his first film there are still basics of filmmaking that Bay gets wrong. The editing is consistently unclear, he chooses the wrong shots at the wrong time and he cannot pace a film to save his life. Also, he and Spielberg are both guys that love making a country-sized pile of money from their films but Spielberg is much more capable at tapping into something real or sincere, even in his summer flicks. Bay's movies are typically cynical, featuring constant squabbling and comic relief that either humiliates the protagonists or mocks people who are 'other' in any way. The relationship between Autobots and the human race they have sworn to protect in his Transformers movies is that of a bitter married couple who never liked each other. Bay thinks that Sincerity is the name of his new hotpants adorned leading lady. Spielberg isn't the only filmmaker that Bay struggles to emulate though. Strange though it sounds, the Coen brothers are other idols of his.

With Michael Bay's mindless jock persona it's hard to imagine him enjoying movies like Fargo or Barton Fink yet there are clear signs that he is a big fan. There has always been a big overlap in their casting, in fact, since the Coens broke into the public consciousness with the success of Fargo in 1996, every Bay movie with the exception of Pearl Harbor has featured an actor from their typical stable, like Francis McDormand, Steve Buscemi or John Turturro. Bay has admitted to being a big fan in the past and said that he would love to do a film in their style, which after building a large surplus of clout, he finally did last year, in Pain and Gain. Given the chance to make a passion project of his very own, Bay decided to make a dark comedy, admittedly one filtered through his particular point of view, and the critical reception soared all the way to 'mixed'! Some people even liked it! It was still unintelligent and cynical though, but when Bay was actually doing his movie, something that he was actually interested in, audiences responded to it more positively. Transformers is Bay's 9-5, his temp office job that he only took for that one summer to make some money so that he could go to...I don't know...steroid school, that ended up being the next ten years of his life. He's assistant manager of that office now. He can't just quit, no matter how much he hates it. Who will oversee the bland CGI?
Cry for help

Bay keeps getting picked for these big budget explosion movies because he's a fast worker, crews generally like him and he can get the job done for a lower budget than others (insane as that might sound with his budgets). There is a certain type of film it looks like he'd rather be making, unfortunately the skills required, such as telling a coherent story, getting good performances out of his actors or doing anything visually interesting with his direction (swirling Steadicam shots don't count) are the exact skills that he doesn't have. It's okay though Michael. You need to be okay with yourself. You're an rich asshole and only a small number of people in Hollywood are more powerful than you. You own your own production company, why not finance a Coen brothers style film rather than the cheapo horror films and Ninja Turtles output that Platinum Dunes specialises in? If not, look, someone has to make these garbage action movies Bay, to keep the pyrotechnic people in work, so it might as well be you.

It's not your fault.

It's not your fault.

Listen to me son. It's not your fault.

...it's Steven Spielberg's.

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