2013 is coming to an end. We’ve had some great movies. Some have not yet been released for wide audiences or in foreign territories. That always happens. So before I get into my most anticipated films of 2014, I’d like to mention the 2013 films that I’ll only get to see next year at this point. Some of these will be (or are already) available for my American friends by the end of the year, but not in sad and small Switzerland. Here it goes: Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness, Spike Jonze’s Her, Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius, Alexandre Payne’s Nebraska, Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best, Sono Sion’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. As you can tell from this list I base my anticipations for a film mostly on the director. Now then, let’s see what 2014 has in store for us. Continue reading
Few directors are known by name by the general movie-going audience, even fewer are hated as heatedly as action director Michael Bay. It’s difficult to exactly point out why so many so-called cinephiles and wannabes feel so strongly about a director who has not one but two films featured in the prestigious Criterion Collection (The Rock and Armageddon). Is it that he gets to work with a big budget and the best industry professionals despite his films generally getting horrible reviews? Is it the Victoria’s Secret models, hot cars and his passion for explosions that make people envious? Is it the fact that he doesn’t care about anything people write about him on the internet? I am still not sure.
My most likely answer would be that people enjoy his films, the box office numbers speak for themselves, but since critics hate everything that has his name on it pretentious moviegoers feel conflicted about his work. On one side his entertaining and hectic films are must-see events, on the other hand they’re not good enough to be declared favorites without losing a lot of street creed. This puts aspiring film experts in a tough position, where they ultimately give in to “peer pressure” and declare they don’t like his films, while still actively seeking them out and watching them. The excuse is that they’re “going to see how bad they are” or “laugh at them and make fun of how bad they are”, while secretly enjoying them.
While it is not socially acceptable to like a Michael Bay film, without the rare approval of Rotten Tomatoes or other “authorities”, his pictures are too big to ignore. It is a well known fact that Bay innovated the action genre with his hectic videoclip style editing and action set-pieces/explosion centered plots. Undeniably nobody can make objects, people or computer generated imagery look as sexy as Bay does. His fetish for visual perfection at the cost of anything else, be it story or characters, is in its own way a valid mean of expression. While his artistic statement might not be the deepest, it is certainly far more interesting than many pandering art house director’s annoying ideology and propaganda. That’s right, because much like say the Coen brothers Michael Bay is in his way an auteur. He has a clear vision, his films come from a very personal place and he makes most of the decisions on the projects he works on. So why is there no respect for the Los Angeles boy who likes to blow up shiny toys and is one of the few that still prefers practical special effects (when possible)?
One reason is envy. Many professional critics are self-centered egomaniacs, that take themselves far too seriously and believe only their opinion matters. It is only natural that critics would hate Bay, because he gets to ignore them. He doesn’t need good reviews to be successful. He stopped trying to make a critically acclaimed film after Pear Harbor, didn’t do it for him. Critics feel powerless against Bay (inferiority complex), because no matter what they say he doesn’t have to play by the rules. So regardless how we feel about his catalogue, we can all agree that Bay represents some sort of anomaly in the Hollywood studio system. As long as his films are profitable he can do whatever he wants. He gets to have fun, he gets to direct movies and gets to do them the way he likes them. Isn’t that every filmmaker’s dream (getting paid for what you enjoy doing anyway)? As a matter of fact isn’t that everybody’s dream (in a way)? Oh, and did I mention many people who become critics once were aspiring filmmakers? Does it start to make sense now?
Personally, I enjoy Michael Bay’s films, especially on a technical level and because I like to disagree and challenge with mainstream ideas, I admit it. I also think he’s a likable guy (based on the interviews I’ve seen) and a professional, with a work ethic I respect. Even if you like Bay however, let’s say you genuinely hate him or his films. That’s fine. You don’t have to like every director, it’s impossible. I myself tend to actively dislike certain directors, mostly when they make “cold” films that are hailed as masterpieces or when they are very judgmental and annoying about their “message”. Anyways, the reason or event that inspired me to write this piece was a news bit I read this morning about Michael Bay possibly being punched on the set of Transformers: Age of Ultron, in Hong Kong. Reading some people’s reactions I was saddened not only to find a lot of hate for his films, as expected, but also people rejoicing about the incident. The same people probably would define themselves against violence. Some gloating attitudes even transpired from articles written by what I consider to be respectable bloggers.
So when is hating a director too much? To me the answer is clear: When it becomes personal. We are here to judge their work, not who they are as a person. Sure that influences their work, but why should we be happy that they were possibly physically hurt? I guess it’s easy and even satisfying (in the moment) to hate someone and cheer when something bad happens to them, especially if it’s a person you envy. Then however I asked myself how I’d react if a public personality I hated got punched and I remembered when the ex Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was allegedly punched and I thought it was great. I could justify myself and say that Berlusconi has done a lot of damage to Italy and basically destroyed the country’s image and goodwill, while Bay can be merely held responsible for “ruining people’s childhood” by taking on the Transformers franchise and producing horror remakes, but that wouldn’t be right.
What can we learn from all this? Firstly, I’m no better than other people or bloggers: I just happen to dislike other people. In other words a little bit of healthy auto-critique every once in a while prevents you to become exactly what you say you hate in other people. Secondly, hating and envying famous people doesn’t make you feel any better about your life, in the moment it might be a gratifying feeling, but it’s destructive and will make you feel miserable in the long run and we should really focus our time and energy on things we truly love and enjoy. Thirdly, does there need to be a third point? I don’t know, usually it’s three, but I guess I had only two. So this is how I feel about Bay. I hope that whether you like him or not, that I still gave you something to think about. I’m not going to try to convince you that he’s a great director and that his films are masterpieces, but if you can watch and appreciate Bay’s cinema for what it is without the need to insult it or feel guilty about it: My job is done.
Howdy. It’s been a while. I’ve been
busy lazy. Sorry. For some odd reason I also didn’t watch a great deal of movies last week. Only four to be exact. Luckily, all four were home runs. Well, two I had already seen, so I knew they were good (or to my liking) but still, I’ve had some bad surprises re-watching movies. That wasn’t the case however. Moving on, here are a couple of thoughts on the movies I watched this past week.
Love Exposure (2008) – 9 (IMDb 7.8) – Action, Comedy, Drama, Romance (Japan)
Sono Sion is probably my favorite Japanese director. His movies are always very violent, but also very dramatic and deliberately paced. This film however moves at a brisk pace, probably because it’s four hours long. It doesn’t feel four hours long however. It’s very entertaining and there’s not a single dull or boring moment, if you can believe it. I’ve seen it a while back now and it was due for a re-watch. It did not disappoint. The film is about a young man (Yu played by Nishijima Takahiro) whose father becomes a catholic priest. It all starts to become crazy when his father asks him to confess his sins every single day, but he has nothing to confess. So he joins a gang of misfits and starts getting into a life of crime to “connect” with his father. Meanwhile an evil cult is planning some evil shit and out main character is falling in love with a girl who is very distrusting of men. Wonderfully acted, great soundtrack and fun story. The humor is a bit “Japanese” and results “weird” for a Western audience, but other than that I have no complaints. My favorite scene is still when Yoko (the main female character played by Mitsushima Hikari) recites Corinthians 13.
Pain & Gain (2013) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.7) – Comedy, Crime, Thriller (USA)
I enjoy Michael Bay’s films and it’s no secret/mystery/shame for me. Some people believe in guilty pleasures, I believe in watching whatever you like and stand by it. Pain & Gain might just be Michael Bay’s masterpiece. It’s his “fuck you” to everyone who said he can’t do a film about characters, although it’s still not quite satisfying in that respect. What Bay really excels at is the visuals. His films are insane in that regard and he is a true innovator and the most copied action auteur (along with Tony Scott, may he rest in peace). What’s baffling about this film is that it’s based on true events. It’s played as a dark comedy, which is an interesting thing to do, especially if you know how serious some of the things in the film are and how everyone else would have gone the serious route to be “respectful”. Bay doesn’t care. He shoots the story of three bodybuilders kidnapping a rich guy, just as he would have done with any other picture, only his budget is considerably smaller this time. It feels a bit like we’re back to Bad Boys. What really stood out in this film for me were the performances, especially Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson’s. This really is the year for films about the American Dream, and Pain & Gain‘s take is just as interesting as the ones that are going to win a ton of Oscar gold.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Into the Abyss (2011) – 9 (IMDb 7.3) – Documentary (USA)
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – 8 (IMDb 7.8) – Comedy, Drama, Romance (USA)
I liked Wes Anderson’s film the first time I’ve seen it, but revisiting it I felt like I really got it. I might just have to write an analysis of it at some point, but I’m too tired to do so right now. Anyway, Moonrise Kingdom is about two young kids falling in love and escaping together. It’s about boy-scouts and broken families, flawed, lonely individuals and lush visuals: Basically it’s a Wes Anderson film. It feels like a very personal and important story for him and it’s also one of his best (my favorites still remain The Royal Tenenbaums and the very underrated Darjeling Limited). The two kid actors do a fine job for their first film, I liked them a lot more rewatching it and the supporting cast is great, but of course that’s to be expected with big names such as Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Jason Schwartzman and other great performers. Also very noteworthy: Alexandre Desplat’s score, boy was he on a roll lately. Roman Coppola co-wrote the screenplay, and I feel that I need to remind people of that, because they tend to underestimate him and his collaborations with Anderson. Not much to add, very sweet and romantic and of course one of my favorites of last year.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully I get to see more movies next week, but then I’ll also have more to write, but hey. I know I’m getting to see my most anticipated of the year (
which you should know by now you’re sick and tired of hearing me talk about) in two days, so expect a review on The Bling Ring soon!
Michael Bay just released a first look at the new Bumblebee for Transformers 4. Looks like B is back to vintage, with more of a muscle-car look. It’s “a highly modified, vintage 1967 Camaro SS” to be precise. Optically there’s clearly less yellow, more black.
Personally, I think it looks totally badass. I was always a fan of the Camaro in the first half of the first film, because it had more character, as an old time American icon. This one looks even better, although I must say I preferred the previous paint job with the stripes.
There are no plot details on the movie yet, but honestly who needs them? It’s a Michael Bay film, we watch those for the big action set-pieces and the glossy visuals. The cast however has already been announced: Mark Wahlberg, T.J. Miller, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles and Li Bingbing.
Bay’s new action extravaganza will hit theaters June 27th, 2014.