Home / General / Can Michael Bay Be Defended? (SPOILER: No)

Can Michael Bay Be Defended? (SPOILER: No)

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“Sarris has noticed that in High Sierra (not a very good movie) Raoul Walsh repeated an uninteresting and obvious device that he had earlier used in a worse movie. And for some inexplicable reason, Sarris concludes that he would not have had this joy of discovery without the auteur theory…

…These critics work embarrassingly hard trying to give some semblance of intellectual respectability to a preoccupation with mindless, repetitious commercial products.”

–Pauline Kael, “Circles and Squares”

Kael’s famous essay, as has often been noted, was unfair to Sarris. Sarris was a good critic, and I like lists and arbitrary rankings as much as the next guy and think they have their place. But what is often missed in discussions of the personal conflict between them is that “Circles and Squares” is a really brilliant essay, and many of its points about the perils of the 60s version of auteur theory were devastating.

Which brings us to the latest contrarian defense of Michael Bay:

And yet Bay isn’t simply crass and commercial; he’s also a visionary with a clearly identifiable style and a tendency toward filmmaking that can be reasonably described as challenging and even experimental. In other words, he’s an auteur — the author of a film — whose movies reflect a distinctive, personal sensibility.

Few filmmakers are as stylistically consistent as Bay, who recycles many of the same shots, editing patterns, and color schemes in nearly all of his films: He loves hot neon color contrasts (especially teal and orange), and his movies often appear to take place in a perpetual magic hour, with moody sunsets and sunrises looming in the background.

The problem with this is not that anything Suderman has written here is wrong. Bay is a hack, but he is indeed a hack with a very distinctive personal style. The problem with this argument is that this distinctive personal style is an amalgamation of terrible ideas that produce horrible movies. With great consistency, Michael Bay movies (particularly after The Rock) generally have no plots or characters to speak of, go on for fucking ever despite this, and in their interminable running time consist mostly of instantly-tedious action sequences edited so incompetently that the viewer typically has no idea who’s shooting at who or what’s blowing up. And it’s not as if there’s real disagreement on this point; Suderman essentially concedes it.

What Suderman is really saying is that Bay is pretentious. There’s noting necessarily wrong with this, but the problem is that the only pretensions Bay achieves are ones that aren’t worth achieving. He’s like someone adding technically competent guitar solos to twelfth-rate hair metal songs, only if Bay was the bandleader the solo he added to the song from he took from Slaughter’s reject pile would go on for 35 minutes, repeating the same licks again and again.

Bay does, in same ways, have the sensibility of an art house director. The thing is, art house movies can be as terrible as, er, Michael Bay films. It’s not actually a defense. A director repeating a terrible style consistently is not a virtue.

That’s the real promise of Bay’s movies: that regardless of anything else, they will be awesome, and every frame will be packed with awesome things: awesome robots, awesome cars, awesome chases, awesome explosions.

Substitute “promise” with “threat” and this does pretty much get it. In practice, it really is insanely boring. If you’re a 9-year-old boy eating freezer-case chocolate cake for every meal sounds awesome. But even when you’re nine you’d get tired of it pretty quickly.

[PC] Not the Onion:

Authorities have in custody a man who they believe accidentally shot and injured a woman in a Renton movie theater Thursday night, Renton police Cmdr. David Liebman said.

Investigators believe the 29-year-old man was intoxicated when he entered a showing of the film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” at Regal Cinemas The Landing 14, 900 N. 10th Place, with a loaded gun before 8:15 p.m., he said.

After he fumbled with the gun, it accidentally fired, hitting the 40-year-old woman in the shoulder, Liebman said. Medics took her to Harborview Medical Center, where she was in serious condition Friday morning. A hospital spokeswoman said she is improving and in intensive care.

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  • Honoré De Ballsack

    He loves hot neon color contrasts (especially teal and orange)…

    Huh?

    http://www.cracked.com/article_18664_5-annoying-trends-that-make-every-movie-look-same.html

  • advocatethis

    Forget it, Scott. It’s Suderman.

    • brad

      Why would anyone have trouble taking Mr. McMegan seriously?

      • trollhattan

        Being hitched to McMegan is surely awesome. Or awe…something. Am guessing, based on this bit of dreck, they truly deserve each other, and the damn blender from hell.

      • Anna in PDX

        Right, I bet those of us who read Roy Edroso on the regular saw the name and stopped caring what he had said that Scott was on about.

    • Ronan

      Tbh , I didn’t read suderman as being serious, I think he’s more exaggerating for effect/taking the piss. He spends a paragraph defending incoherence as a narrative structure . I’d take it with a pinch of salt personally

      • Rob in CT

        Pink Himalayan salt, of course.

        • trollhattan

          Aaaaaand, scene.

        • Anna in PDX

          LOL!

      • Warren Terra

        Yup, it’s a Slatepitch through and through. Though as a Professional Conservative it’s an opportune moment for him to be saying nice things about Bay.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I will say that both Klein and Yglesias are longstanding, sincere fans of Michael Bay. Whether Suderman agrees with them or is writing a subtle Straussian article making fun of this while taking their money is not entirely clear, although my money would definitely be on the “kidding on the square” theory rather than the “clever subversion” theory.

          • When he writes, “Bay, of course, is rumored to be a not-so-secret conservative himself,” i.e., “I’ve heard rumors of this thing that is apparently not a rumor,” he is writing too incoherently to interpret it as mockery.

            He really believes the tedium and incomprehensibility of the film proves that wingers can be artistic geniuses, and the effort he’s making, parallel to the argument he’s making about Bay, is to show that he’s in the same quirky and interesting intellectual class as Ezra and Matty.

          • Or, shorter, “Michael Bay can make a movie that is recognizably his but doesn’t make any money, doesn’t that prove he deserves to be as famous as that communist Orson Welles?”

            • JMP

              But Orson Welles starred in a Transformers movie that was actually really good, and much better the four and counting unwatchable pieces of trash that Bay has directed to try and ruin the franchise.

              “For a time, I considered sparing your wretched little planet, Cybertron. But now, you shall witness IT’S DISMEMBERMENT!”

              • It’s a central part of my argument that whatever Suderman says should be wrong.

      • It is possible it’s a kind of “well some people (and I’m not saying whether or not I’m married to some of them) thought it wasn’t total crap” kind of post. And there’s no shame in that.

        Or maybe he really finds Bay weirdly fascinating. I myself have a kind of shadow version of The Rock in my head where it’s really about a nerdy Columbia scientist who finds himself suddenly getting to play James Bond, and the mistake about Alcibiades has some deep meaning to it.

      • Halloween Jack

        “lol j/k” is rarely an adequate defense for bad work, especially since so many people seem to be falling back on it these days. There are any number of third-string AV Club and former Dissolve writers who could do a better job at it, and Suderman only has his because he’s married to one of the original Kool Kidz bloggers.

    • Casey

      How many times do you think he’s sung along to REM’s “I am Superman”, substituting his own last name?

      • Bill Murray

        all of them, Katie. and maybe even the original version by The Clique

      • Warren Terra

        Well, if you try to enter his name by using Swype you get “Spider-Man” as often as “Superman” (and those are the strongest hits, along with Sherman – another superhero)

  • Nobdy

    I’d also add, technical filmmaking and storytelling abilities (or the lack thereof) aside, he also ruins everything with his awful awful sensibilities.

    He made a movie about giant robots and still SOMEHOW managed to shoehorn in both racism and bad testicle jokes even though robots don’t have races or testicles. That’s an impressive level of completely unnecessary horribleness. It’s one thing to drool over Megan Fox’s butt; misogynistic but par for the course for Hollywood. It’s another to shoehorn racist caricatures into a GIANT ROBOT MOVIE. And not even in the human characters. IN THE ROBOTS! He doesn’t just default to bad, he goes out of his way to create bad crap when BEING LAZY AND HAVING NO STYLE would be the better choice.

    I think certain of his movies, and parts from others of his movies, can be defended, but yeah in general he is perhaps the worst director who consistently helms big budget movies working today. And as a producer he’s nearly as bad, since his hired guns tend to work within his house style.

    • NonyNony

      Eh, I’m not so sure that the racist caricatures were shoe-horned in rather than just being another example of his unthinking hackery. Kinda like Lucas with the Trade Federation and Jar-Jar Binks – I don’t think that Lucas intentionally set out to make racist caricatures, it’s just that he ripped off some early 20th century source material stuffed full of racist caricatures and he wasn’t aware enough to realize what he was doing.

      Likewise, Bay is ripping off action movies from the 80s and 90s. And when he does that he ends up with racism and dick jokes.

      • Nobdy

        I give Lucas no quarter for Jar Jar or the trade federation either.

        When you are working with aliens or giant robots racism and misogyny are even worse because they’re not just the default (Someone who has no insight into women but wants to make a woman character will make a bad woman character based on stereotypes because that’s all they can do.) They are actively being shoehorned in.

        Your DEFENSE of Bay is that he saw old racist action movies, liked the racism, and put that racism into his movies without really thinking about him. That’s the CHARITABLE view.

        • NonyNony

          Your DEFENSE of Bay is that he saw old racist action movies, liked the racism, and put that racism into his movies without really thinking about him. That’s the CHARITABLE view.

          Well, more that he saw old racist action movies, didn’t realize they were racist, and put it into his movies without thinking about it. But otherwise yeah.

          Basically white privilege is a hell of a drug. It’s amazing the kinds of things that just fly by when you’re high on it.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Apparently black privilege is a helluva a drug too ‘cuz until just this moment I hadn’t considered the “racist” robots of the Transformers. Someone has just jumped the shark, and I don’t think its Michael Bay.

            • ColBatGuano

              Someone has just jumped the shark, and I don’t think its Michael Bay.

              You?

            • brad

              I’m going to assume you never saw the second one, here, have a quick, low quality sample of… awfulness.

            • Captain Oblivious

              Hint: the bad one is black.

        • Sly

          Your DEFENSE of Bay is that he saw old racist action movies, liked the racism, and put that racism into his movies without really thinking about him. That’s the CHARITABLE view.

          A view that I don’t think holds up, particularly with regards to Bay’s misogyny. Megan Fox repeatedly told him she had a problems with her character in the Transformers franchise, and his response was to get his underlings to publicly call her an ungrateful, stuck-up bitch on his own website.

          That’s not the behavior of someone who merely should know better but doesn’t. That’s the behavior of someone who should no better but doesn’t, and calls you an asshole for trying to teach him.

      • Origami Isopod

        Hey, let’s not compare dick jokes with racism. Dick jokes are funny.

        • random

          I give Lucas no quarter for Jar Jar or the trade federation either.

          Hey, let’s not compare dick jokes with racism.

          Can’t decide which of these quotes is more win.

    • John F

      And he had John Turturro say this in one of those Giant Robot films:

      Let’s not get episodic, okay, old timer? Beginning. Middle. End. Facts. Details. Condense. Plot. Tell it.

  • Dilan Esper

    I’m not a fan of Bay’s movies, so I wouldn’t defend him, but if one were GOING to defend him, wouldn’t the starting point be that he’s a hitmaker? I mean, people like his stuff, he has entertained a lot of people, and that counts for something even if more discerning audiences don’t like what he does.

    I saw Britney Spears a couple of years ago in Las Vegas when she started her residency there, and that’s someone I completely WOULD defend on that sort of ground. I mean, she can’t sing that well, is only a passable dancer, and her music is very derivative. And yet, she turned out hit after hit and entertained a ton of people, and I find a lot of her music infectuous.

    And that’s my defense of Britney Spears. But if anyone defended her based on her vocal technique, for instance, I’d find that ridiculous.

    • AMK

      This is it. And If Bay were just honest with himself and others…”I string explosions together on screen; kids love it, and I make millions doing it, so it beats working a cubicle 9-5″…then nobody would care. But of course, like all shitty directors, he has to be a pretentious auteur, the way every conservative who runs an ad “taking a stand” against ISIS has to be Churchill in the Blitz.

    • Nobdy

      He’s made a lot of money but how many people actually like his movies?

      Michael Bay makes movies easily sold as disposable packaged goods. He came up from directing commercials and music videos, and he makes movies that can be cut into a decent TV commercial or trailer (about the length of a music video.) At that length his quick cut style feels fast paced rather than unwatchably fractured and exhausting.

      He also, recently, has worked with properties with pre-existing fanbases like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers. He makes movies that look good in commercials and have pre-existing audiences so people go see them.

      Doesn’t mean they necessarily ENJOYED them.

      McDonalds sells a lot of hamburgers but that doesn’t mean it can be defended as a good restaurant. It’s a good marketing operation.

      • Dilan Esper

        Be careful about assuming your tastes and judgment are shared by the masses. I can’t prove a lot of people like Bay’s movies, but the box office certainly seems to suggest it. And your McDonald’s example is telling– I know plenty of people who like Big Macs (especially kids, but even some adults) and even I like their fries and shakes (but not their burgers).

        • Nobdy

          If you’re going to say that things are good just based on selling a lot then there’s not really a point in trying to discuss whether a successful filmmaker (or restaurant or whatever) is good or bad.

          I think you have to start from the assumption that something can be popular and still bad.

          • Dilan Esper

            I do assume that! Read my original comment again.

          • Hogan

            Eat shit! Fifty million flies can’t be wrong.

      • NonyNony

        Bad Boys is the movie that put him on the map and might be the best movie he’s made (although I do enjoy The Rock far more than I probably should). But then he got the budget to do Armageddon and that stupid movie performed so well that I think he became a made man in Hollywood.

        The Transformers franchise is big, but I can’t believe that its big just because of the Transformers fanboys – his movies hit a chord with the general public that really just wants to sit in a theater and watch some car chases and explosions for a couple of hours.

        So the McD’s analogy works. Lots of people eat at McD’s because they want food and they want it to be familiar and they don’t want to think too hard about it. So yeah, like a Michael Bay movie.

        • Nobdy

          I don’t think Transformers is big just because of the franchise, but as I said I think that it’s to a large degree because Michael Bay movies look cool as commercials or trailers.

          The thing about Michael Bay is that you can watch his movies for car chases and explosions and still be unsatisfied because the car chases and explosions are badly done.

          I watch mindless action movies from time to time and enjoy them. I like Face/Off which is supremely silly. But John Woo knows how to make a stylistic action scene, even when his plots and characters are at best entertaining caricatures.

          Michael Bay doesn’t even have the doves and diving two fisted unlimited ammo handguns. Just a bunch of choppy “what the heck did I just see? I think it was a robot and something blew up?”

          • ColBatGuano

            The thing about Michael Bay is that you can watch his movies for car chases and explosions and still be unsatisfied because the car chases and explosions are badly done.

            This is what I don’t understand. His action scenes are so over the top and disjointed that following them becomes almost impossible. I watched the first Transformers movie and in the climatic robot battle I couldn’t tell if I was rooting for the Autobots or the Decepticons.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Right. The problem with Bay is the same problem with Guy Fieri’s restaurant. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with commercial action movies or American comfort food. It’s that in these cases they’re done really badly, and the real snobbery or condescension would be not to apply any standards.

      • postmodulator

        He came up from directing commercials and music videos…

        As did, among many others, David Fincher.

        • Nobdy

          In and of itself it’s not a bad thing.

          But David Fincher and Spike Jonze, to name another filmmaker I love, make feature movies differently than they made commercials and music videos.

          Michael Bay movies are just commercials or music videos but more of it. They even have about as much product placement as a commercial!

        • Todd

          And even in the realm of music videos, many suspect Bay of simply stealing/mimicking shots and effects from earlier Fincher videos.

        • Captain Oblivious

          Worth noting is that Jerry Bruckheimer, perhaps the hackiest of all Hollywood hacks, was the producer on Bay’s first few films and gave Bay his first big break (Bad Boys).

          No doubt he saw a kindred spirit in Bay.

    • NonyNony

      but if one were GOING to defend him, wouldn’t the starting point be that he’s a hitmaker?

      Yes. The fact that Michael Bay’s movies make the studios that employ him a lot of money is the only defense that Michael Bay needs. Popular entertainment does not also need to be great art.

      • Hogan

        It should, however, be competent art.

        • KadeKo

          I have a feeling that the comedies the hitmaker director wanted to get away from in “Sullivan’s Travels” were at least competent.

          I really don’t want Bay to get Serious on us.

          • Hogan

            Isn’t that what 13 Hours is?

            • tsam

              Boy did I miss the message of that film.

    • sonamib

      I think Pop culture has a lot of success because it’s the thing you’re supposed to like “by default”. Ok, so you like metal, I like rap and they like country, but we can all agree to listen to generic electro-pop music when shopping in supermarkets. Similarly, my friends have different tastes in movies than me, so if we see a movie together it’ll be a big thing like Star Wars or James Bond or whatever.

      Of course, it’s certainly possible to really enjoy some parts of pop culture. I like Radiohead and that one song of Britney Spears (“Toxic”), also Star Wars.

      • witlesschum

        This gets it, I think. Michael Bay movies are the sort of thing most people don’t dislike strongly. Domestically, I think they thrive on people saying “Hey, I want to go to the movies” more so than “I want to got see this movie” and internationally, as Suderman points out, they thrive on the fact that you aren’t missing anything if the dialogue is indifferently dubbed or subtitled into your language.

        But why does Michael Bay, specifically, get to make those movies? He’s obviously pretty good at convincing Hollywood higher ups that it matters he’s the hack directing the Transformers movie and he must not be difficult to work with for the people above him. Presumably he doesn’t blow budgets and has yet to use his clout to make some sort of passion project that flops. Hollywood’s small and insular, remember, so personal factors have to be considered. He’s a reliable commercial filmmaker, so when in doubt you choose him to make your huge summer crowd pleaser. Seems like a feedback loop where you hire the safe reliable guy to make your safe reliable Transformers movie and so far he’s always done it.

        • The Temporary Name

          But why does Michael Bay, specifically, get to make those movies?

          Sometimes the shit directors who keep getting jobs are just reliably nice guys who people like to work with. That shouldn’t be the case with Bay, but maybe the people he gets along with are the important ones.

        • random

          Presumably he doesn’t blow budgets and has yet to use his clout to make some sort of passion project that flops.

          13 Hours was his deal and it only made about half its production budget back.

          The key ingredient to the monetary success of his movies is in franchises and marketing, not who’s directing it.

          • Bill Murray

            he probably also didn’t spend 2x what he was supposed to.

            • random

              Any money spent on your pet Benghazi-truther project is 2x what you were supposed to.

    • random

      Even then, I still think its fair to adjust for the effects of extremely well-funded international marketing campaigns and conclude that he objectively sucks.

      • Dilan Esper

        This was brought up in the other thread on the Eagles. I don’t understand why everyone thinks that just because something is heavily marketed, the public’s love for it is somehow artificial.

        Star Wars is the most heavily marketed thing on earth, and the public loves it. Meanwhile, there have been plenty of heavily marketed box office disasters in Hollywood history, and plenty of other films that have succeeded or failed without heavy marketing.

        There’s no reason to think that Bay’s movies are only succeeding because of marketing. A fair amount of the public likes blowing stuff up. Seriously, there’s way too many people who assume that their tastes are the only real tastes and feel they have to find reasons why someone else might like something they think is bad.

        • random

          just because something is heavily marketed, the public’s love for it is somehow artificial.

          Except the public doesn’t love Michael Bay movies. It’s not ‘discerning viewers’ who think his movies are terrible, the *average* person also thinks he’s terrible and this includes most of the people who have seen his movies as well. In pop culture “Michael Bay” is basically a stand-in for “horrible shitty industrial product”…it’s not snobbery to point out that he sucks, the people that pay to see his movies also think he sucks.

          Star Wars is the most heavily marketed thing on earth, and the public loves it

          The average film-goer did not love the Phantom Menace or Attack of the Cones and it’s a running joke that they were awful and horrible and the new movie is tons better.

          Again, not the opinion of film snobs but of the average man on the street who paid money to see the movies.

          There’s no reason to think that Bay’s movies are only succeeding because of marketing.

          There definitely is. Look at the list of films he’s made, and the marketing budget and how much they grossed. The pattern there is that if it’s a well-funded internationally-oriented marketing campaign it makes an order of magnitude more money than the ones that don’t. All his top-grossing movies are Transformers movies.

          (I have never heard of any person who liked Pearl Harbor, most everybody saw it because it was marketed well)

        • random

          A fair amount of the public likes blowing stuff up.

          His most recent movie has that, but a crap marketing campaign. It was a huge flop.

          Seriously, there’s way too many people who assume that their tastes are the only real tastes and feel they have to find reasons why someone else might like something they think is bad.

          Nobody’s assuming that though. The average person who has paid money to see a Michael Bay movie will also tell you that it was horrible and typically point out that they only went because their child who’s too little to go to the movies alone wanted to see it.

          It’s not snobbery at all to say that he sucks. It’s very, very much an accepted fact among the populace at large that Michael Bay makes shitty movies. This is not some elitist or controversial belief.

          • Scott Lemieux

            One way of showing this is that the Blu-Ray from the most recent Transformers movie-like product ranks at 1,981 in Blu-Ray sales at Amazon. That sure looks like a movie a lot of people saw but didn’t particularly like than a movie people love to me.

            • random

              Good point.

              Another way is to look at audience-ranking websites and compare between equivalently budgeted/grossing films.

              For example audiences gave Force Awakens a 90% on RT but the Phantom Menace gets a 60%.

              The 1st Transformers managed to get a 86% at RT but all the rest get less than 60%. The most profitable one in the series actually has the lowest audience ranking.

              • Dilan Esper

                The Phantom Menace is one of the biggest grossing movies of all time, and if it was so bad, why did everyone go back to see Clones and Sith?

                There are some very loud Star Wars geeks who hate the prequels. That DOES NOT mean the general public hated them. This is “I don’t know anyone who voted for Nixon”. You may not meet the people who liked those movies on the internet, but they are out there.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Star Wars is the most heavily marketed thing on earth, and the public loves itit sucks in direct proportion to the volume of marketing blown on it.

  • janitor_of_lunacy

    Ed Wood was also an auteur.

    • Dilan Esper

      As was my grandfather, who was Ed Wood before Ed Wood. :)

      • Jean-Michel

        Oh shit, he was really your grandfather? That’s awesome.

        Don’t know if you’ve seen The Forbidden Room yet (or even had the chance to), but it has a hilarious “remake” of How to Take a Bath, written by John Ashbery of all people.

        • Dilan Esper

          Oh, I have to see that.

      • sparks

        That’s not telling me much. I may well know since I watch a lot of low-budget films. Did he work for one of the poverty row studios?

        • Dilan Esper

          Dwain Esper Sr. definitely didn’t work for one of the studios. He might have stolen some studio movies and exhibited them, though. :)

          • Thirtyish

            I have to give him credit for Reefer Madness and Maniac, two hilariously incompetent films that manage to entertain.

            • Dilan Esper

              He stole Reefer Madness. Didn’t make it. (Though he did make Marijuana: Weed with Roots in Hell.)

              He made Maniac though. There are a ton of stories passed down in the family lore about that one.

              • sparks

                I had a few reports on him in the trades which were not too complimentary. The business about the Gasnier film wasn’t in the trades I read, oddly enough.

                P.S. I didn’t get that you were using a real name and not a handle here.

          • Bill Murray

            how the dead outlaw he exhibited was that purloined or purchased?

            • Dilan Esper

              I have no idea. But he stole a lot of films.

  • mds

    and every frame will be packed with awesome things

    One of the criticisms I read more than once about Tranformers [INTEGER]: Who the Fuck Cares? was that in fact much of the robot fight action tended to not be in the frame, but was instead blurring past at the end of the street and the like. So I’m afraid I’m going to have to stick with Suderman being wrong, Lemieux’s disclaimer notwithstanding.

    I really enjoyed Bay’s original Aaron Burr “Got Milk?” advertisement, though.

    • AlanInSF

      Isn’t the Second Rule of Dramaturgy, “Motion is not action”? Of course, the First Rule of Dramaturgy is “Never talk about the Rules of Dramaturgy,” so I’m already in trouble.

      But srsly…is Michael Bay even an action director?

    • CP

      One of the criticisms I read more than once about Tranformers [INTEGER]: Who the Fuck Cares? was that in fact much of the robot fight action tended to not be in the frame, but was instead blurring past at the end of the street and the like.

      This is my problem with a lot of action movies nowadays, especially the hand-to-hand blurry shaky-cam quick-cut stuff.

      One of the things I loved about the Indiana Jones movies of thirty years ago was that you could see every punch, kick and backhand land. That might be simply due to them having a bar brawl fighting style rather than krav maga ninjitsu what-have-you, but I was a fan. I was also a huge fan of that action sequence in Daredevil last year because it felt like the first time in forever that I could follow the action from start to finish.

      • random

        This is my problem with a lot of action movies nowadays, especially the hand-to-hand blurry shaky-cam quick-cut stuff.

        This can be extremely effective when done right.

        It is never, ever done right in a Michael Bay movie.

        • Steppanhammer

          It drew a lot of criticism from what I’ve heard, but in my opinion the Bourne trilogy used it very well. Seemed very appropriate.

          • skate

            I recall getting motion sickness watching one of the fight scenes in the second or third Bourne movie and having to close my eyes until the scene was over lest I leave my cookies on the theater floor.

  • catbirdman

    When it comes to having a consistent, recognizable artistic style, Thomas Kinkade rulez!

    • Honoré De Ballsack

      Fun fact: Both Kinkade and Michael Bay (and Zak Synder, as well) are graduates of the prestigious Art Center College of Design, which–to put it mildly–hammers strongly into the head of every student the need to develop a “consistent, recognizable artistic style.”

      (Full disclosure: I am also an alumnus of that institution.)

      • KadeKo

        Really? I don’t wish to disparage your school, but when I think “art school” I think of Franz Ferdinand or Talking Heads.

        • Vance Maverick

          Talking Heads came out of RISD, and from what I can see online Franz Ferdinand didn’t come from art schools at all.

          The real point being, art schools are not all alike. If Michael Bay had gone to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago or the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, we might not be having this conversation.

      • AlanInSF

        Adrian Lyne, Riddley Scott, Tony Scott, and Alan Parker all came out of advertising, and although each of them has done one or two pieces of really good work (well, maybe not Tony), all of them are famous for their repetitive personal “style” and their inability to distinguish “stories” from “things that look like stories.”

  • Ronan

    It’s a long way from story driven mega drama that the denizens of French Canada were reared , hence this hatchet job

    • sonamib

      Heh, I love a good old melodramatic French Canadian movie (like Mommy or Incendies). I wonder if they count as pop culture in Quebec.

      • Ronan

        I’m partial to a bit of melodrama myself. Those films look quite actually (from wiki) I’ll have to check them out.

        • Ronan

          The Above comment is missing the word “good “

          • N__B

            “I’m partial to a good bit of melodrama…”

          • Ahuitzotl

            so are the films

  • LifeOntheFallLine

    Our dog from my childhood – a beloved golden retriever – would drag his ass on the floor in his own special way and he dragged his ass on the floor in this way pretty much every time he did it.

    And he was still just a dog dragging his ass on the floor.

    • Halloween Jack

      Did he leave his mark?

  • nocutename

    Can Scott Lemieux be defended? (SPOILER: No). He is a professor at a university that simultaneously sucks and charges the kind of tuition that a non-suck university would charge. Would any of you send your kids to St. Rose?

    • trollhattan

      Oh, snap! Burn and such.

      • Scott Lemieux

        This would be one of the lamest would-be BURNS in known intartubes history even without knowing the recent background information that makes it hilarious.

        • Hogan

          Right? And this is at least his second try.

        • nocutename

          I spent $120,000 on a poli-sci degree from St. Rose. St. what? St. Rose. It’s lame for you, but even lamer for your students.

          • Halloween Jack

            Well, at least you’re not bitter.

    • lsimmonds

      I wonder if his argument can be refuted? You should try that sometime.

      • mds

        NOCUTENAME: I refute it thus. [Attempts to kick rock; misses and falls over]

    • Dude, now he is really not going to change your grade.

    • This misses the key Lemieux failing: Wild overuse of the Rhetorical question? (SPOILER: No) pattern.

      Seriously, throw that trope under the bus on steroids!

    • Well, here’s some sort of (I would say weak) evidence:

      Saint Rose ensures that students are job-ready and in the most recent Career Center survey, 94% of recent graduates said they were employed or pursuing masters’ or doctoral degrees, and 97% said that Saint Rose prepared them for entrance into law and medical schools as well as highly competitive master’s and doctoral programs. Many commented on the “value” of their experience saying that their net cost was comparable to a public university and 91% said they would attend Saint Rose again.

  • Todd

    The Suderman piece is just a misapplication or misunderstanding of auteur theory. Bay doesn’t really have any arthouse sensibilities that I can think of (elaborate explosions maybe?). Porno directors make choices too, and I would imagine that they are often pretty consistent.

    Suderman is trying to make a case that Bay is something like Tarantino, or one of those cult directors that Tarantino so constantly references. But that is wrong. There is no disputing tastes, but Tarantino at least tries to make films that are formally interesting, with lots of allusions to films and/or shots he likes. Even the level of profanity in his films is stylistic. I don’t even really like half of Tarantino’s films, but he is an artist. His ambitions go beyond the level of cgi dynamite in each production, and even his failures (imo) are interesting. And many of Tarantino’s plots and storylines are just as ridiculous as Bay’s. Bay just stinks at being an interesting director. He simply points the camera at a connection of high budget action sequences.

    • Nobdy

      He used to point the camera at high budget action sequences.

      Now he points the camera at sets with actors reacting to green tennis balls and pays computer nerds to insert the high budget action sequences in post.

      • Jean-Michel

        This is actually kind of unfair to Bay. He obviously doesn’t work with real giant robots and he obviously didn’t really destroy Chicago for whatever Transformers movie it was where Chicago got destroyed, but he probably does as much practical work as possible for that kind of movie. A lot of the explosions are real explosions at real locations, the cars flipping through the air are real cars, the actors are really there when it happens and aren’t just composited in later, etc. I’m not saying his action scenes are actually good, but he’s not just filming the actors in front of greenscreens and having the VFX artists add everything else.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      Tarantino is an artist, no doubt, but I have been baffled for a long time as to why the critics and the art film lovers always eat his crap up. So skilled technically, but has the story telling sophistication of a 13-year old boy.

      • AlanInSF

        The dialog.

        • The Temporary Name

          The cleverness. Critics really go for meta-films.

          • sparks

            For me, this. Critics seem to love getting the references to other films/filmmakers, whereas I was far less impressed by that.

  • sleepyirv

    You hear this all the time in sports. “Sure, Catcher X hits .220, but he CONSISTENTLY hits .220! Why would you want to replace him?”

    • Rob in CT

      He does the little things well.

      Best .230 hitter you’ll ever see (that’s a John Sterlingism, referring to Luis Sojo, I believe. Of course, Adam Dunn was probably the best such hitter you’ll see but nevermind, he was rolling).

    • tsam

      Mendoza is not a river in Egypt.

  • Karen24

    My 14-year-old son and his friends loathe Michael Bay. When you have lost the late-middle-school-male demographic, especially when you specialize in explosion movies, you really need to find another career, like just staring at you giant piles of cash.

    • tsam

      Or clean up your act. I mean it’s not like Bay couldn’t try harder.

      • N__B

        I’m not so sure. Remember “if you keep making that face it’ll get stuck that way”? Bay may no longer be capable of doing anything better on film.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      Well, his latest was a flop. In general Hollywood will give dudes who have made billions of dollars many second chances, though.

      • Captain Oblivious

        Transformers 5 is allegedly going into production this year, but according to Wikipedia. Bay says he’s going to produce, not direct.

      • Jean-Michel

        I’m pretty sure 13 Hours (like Pain and Gain before it) was a “one for me, one for you” kind of deal. Of course the fact that these might actually be passion projects for Michael Bay says a lot about him, but it also means they could be Ishtar-level bombs and it would have no effect on his career, since Paramount knows he’ll give them another Transformers and they’ll easily recoup whatever they lost.

        • Captain Oblivious

          From what I can tell without spending hours looking it all up, Bay pretty reliably brings pictures in on budget and schedule. So even if the studio doesn’t have much faith in his vanity projects, they at least know how much his vanity is going to cost them.

  • John F

    He’s like someone adding technically competent guitar solos to twelfth-rate hair metal songs

    Whatever happened to White Lion?

    • Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb

      The children cried, but I let them know that White Lion tried.

  • Anna in PDX

    I am not a fan of action movies, especially propagandistic ones, so I despise Michael Bay’s work.

    But I also read a RS interview with Michael Bay about this latest stupid movie and it does not seem to me that he takes himself all that seriously. If stupid right-wing columnists like Suderman do, that’s fine for them I guess (it’s a meal ticket), but he is just doing what he does. I seem to remember a quote of his saying something like who spends time worrying about his legacy, that’s just stupid, or something like that.

  • lsimmonds

    I’m really not an expert in film, and can’t call myself a competent critic, but if someone has a reason that Pearl Harbor isn’t the worst film ever made I’d like to hear it.
    For my layman’s taste that film alone is enough to keep me from ever watching anything else Bay has ever made. That fact that I’ve heard that 13 Hours described as Bay’s first historical film since Pearl Harbor doesn’t help.

    • John F

      if someone has a reason that Pearl Harbor isn’t the worst film ever made I’d like to hear it.

      M.
      Night
      Shyamalan

      After
      Earth

      which isn’t even as bad as

      Battlefield Earth

    • Captain Splendid

      if someone has a reason that Pearl Harbor isn’t the worst film ever made I’d like to hear it.

      Easy answer: There are so many worse films.

      For starters, Transformers #2 through #4, the Galt Movies, anything starring Seagal after Under Siege, anything starring Chuck Norris that’s not Way Of The Dragon.

      I’m also pretty sure no one would care if the Chipmunks and Fockers franchises were taken behind a barn and shot in the back of the head and buried next to Blues Brothers 2000.

      I could go on, I really could, but I’m already feeling a lil nauseous…

      • Jason

        Chuck Norris has been in some movies that are hilarious, though I am not sure if he is aware of this. Lone Wolf McQuade, Missing in Action, and Hellbound are all in the so bad they’re good category of films to me. I can’t think of any Michael Bay movies post The Rock that would rate. And as mentioned, Pearl Harbor is particularily terrible, though I couldn’t call it the worst film ever made in a world where Battlefield Earth and Carrot Top’s Chairman of the Board exist.

        • N__B

          Not to mention – really, we shouldn’t mention – Shakes the Clown.

          • The Temporary Name

            Shakes the Clown has good scenes!

            • N__B

              Good scenes of what?

              • The Temporary Name

                Drunk clowns at kiddie parties!

                It’s not a good movie but neither is it Transformers 2.

          • Jason

            The Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies!?

          • random

            Shakes the Clown is stupidly hilarious, but also features several at-the-time 2-bit actors who went on to gross huge amounts of box office as well as a decent and uncredited cameo by Robin Williams.

            It was made for almost no budget, and is better than anything Michael Bay has ever done except that one milk commercial.

            • nixnutz

              Right now Bobcat Goldthwait is one of my favorite writer-directors working, I haven’t seen Shakes the Clown since it was new but at the time I liked it a lot, it was my favorite Robin Williams movie, although I really detested Robin Williams at the time. He did do quite a lot of good stuff later on but Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad is probably my all-time favorite.

          • Captain Oblivious

            No love for Lucas here? Let us not forget Howard the Duck and 1941, to say nothing of The Phantom Menace.

            • The Temporary Name

              1941 is Spielberg.

              • Captain Oblivious

                No love for Spielberg here? :D

                • The Temporary Name

                  I haven’t seen Hook…

        • Halloween Jack

          Missing in Action 2 was better than the first one; that’s not to say that it was actually good, mind you, but not tedious like the first one, which was just Norris making a me-too Rambo clone, and a criminal misuse of M. Emmet Walsh and James Hong. Stephen King once described a particular horror film as being the sort that made you want a cigarette halfway through the first reel; I felt that way about MIA1, and I don’t even smoke.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        I think we should at least control for budget. Too lazy to Google, but most of the comparisons in the end would probably be with other Michael Bay movies.

        • random

          Phantom Menace. He had an unlimited budget, total creative control, almost any actor he wanted would have agreed to be in it, etc. and still made a really awful movie.

          TBF, the action sequences in Phantom Menace are a lot more coherent than anything in Michael Bay.

          • The Temporary Name

            In a contest between Transformers and The Phantom Menace, is it dispositive that the former includes a peeing robot?

            • random

              Without a curve, Transformers is actually worse but he likely didn’t have full creative control, so some of the blame is diffused.

              With Phantom Menace you have one guy with more power than an entire studio who still manages to make a pile of garbage with one good race sequence and one good lightsaber threeway sticking out of the pile of garbage.

              Still, every action sequence in SW is better than any action sequence in any Michael Bay movie.

          • Warren Terra

            TBF, the action sequences in Phantom Menace are a lot more coherent than anything in Michael Bay.

            I don’t remember the space-fighter action sequences being at all comprehensible in the prequels (even though this was a strong point in the original Star Wars), especially the later prequel that started with one (whichever one that was). And the big lightsaber fight between Anakin and Kenobi was comprehensible, in a way, but also really boring.

          • Halloween Jack

            The prequel trilogy is more explicable if you see the movies as setting up the videogames. (I’ve played the arcade pod-racing game, and it was kinda fun.) Thus, the painfully awkward-and-not-in-a-funny-way scenes where Anakin and Padme are trying to romance are basically superfluous.

      • wengler

        Transformers 2 may be the worst film I’ve ever seen. It fails on every conceivable level. It’s racist, xenophobic, jingoistic. It dispenses with geography because the distance is inconvenient. The robot fights are endless, out of frame, and worst of all, boring. And then to top it all it gives us robot heaven and robot balls.

        Pearl Harbor was just fucking boring.

    • Honoré De Ballsack

      if someone has a reason that Pearl Harbor isn’t the worst film ever made I’d like to hear it.

      Robert Altman’s Popeye.

      • The Temporary Name

        Yet it has “He’s Large”.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRUa_E1CugU

      • sharculese

        You shut your fucking mouth. Popeye is amazing.

        • nixnutz

          Seriously, people keep naming my favorite movies. WTF?

    • Steppanhammer

      Spider Man 3.

      • Halloween Jack

        Not sure why people hate on it so much. Yeah, it’s got at least one too many supervillains, but it was fun watching Peter Parker turn into a douchecanoe.

    • Bill Murray

      Taking Lives, unless you highly rate Angelina Jolie’s naked breasts

  • toberdog

    There’s such a fine line between clever and … stupid.

  • Murc

    That’s the real promise of Bay’s movies: that regardless of anything else, they will be awesome, and every frame will be packed with awesome things: awesome robots, awesome cars, awesome chases, awesome explosions.

    Here’s the thing, though; no, they won’t be, because Bay takes those awesome things and makes them not awesome.

    You know what movie was essentially one long car chase that was awesome? Fury Road. Because it was actually competently composed and shot. So, you know, it can be done.

    Speaking as someone who is awfully eager to tell you about the history of class and race tensions and how they interact on Cybertron (yes, Transformers have racism, that’s a thing) Bay managed to take a bunch of movies that should have shot themselves and turned them into dogshit. It shouldn’t be possible to fuck up giant robots, but he managed it.

    Just because there’s an explosion or a cool car or a giant robot on-screen doesn’t mean that it’s going to be awesome. It’s a good start! Bay is so bad he takes a good start and squanders it. Children’s TV shows with less than a third of his budget for five times his running length manage to compose more interesting car chases and robot fights than he does. That should be shaming to him.

    • NonyNony

      That should be shaming to him.

      But it won’t. Because the last Transformers movie made $1 billion dollars in worldwide release. (And that’s just the release – who knows how much it makes on the Blue Rays and the incidental tie-ins).

      Hollywood is the ultimate capitalist enterprise. And capitalists only know shame when they fail to turn a profit.

    • Nobdy

      Children’s TV shows with less than a third of his budget for five times his running length manage to compose more interesting car chases and robot fights than he does. That should be shaming to him.

      I think your numbers are off here. Transformers 3 had a $200 million budget and was 2.5 hours long. Five times the running length is 12.5 hours, so let’s call it 13 hour long episodes or 23 half hour episodes. 1/3 of $200 million is about $66 million. That’s about $3 million an episode for a half hour show, which is unheard of in children’s TV. Even on a huge network hit $3 million would be a lot for a half hour.

      $6 million (which is the budget if the show is an hour long) is about a Game of Thrones episode budget.

      So Michael Bay makes unwatchable crap for 15 times the cost per minute of Game of Thrones (which is already a very expensive show.)

      • Murc

        Technically I did say less than a third, saving me using semantics, but yeah, I highballed it big time, didn’t I?

        That makes Bay look even worse.

      • Colin Day

        Murc did say “less than a third of his budget” (emphasis added)

    • keta

      You know what movie was essentially one long car chase that was awesome?

      Yep. Duel.

      • N__B

        The peak of Spielberg’s career.

      • heckblazer
      • Woodrowfan

        Mad Max: Fury Road?? Smokey & the Bandit? Is Terminator II just a long chase scene or no??

        • Halloween Jack

          There is in fact a 40-minute stretch in the middle of T2 in which the T-1000 (Robert Patrick, intermittently imitating an LAPD cop and the Silver Surfer) doesn’t appear at all. That’s taken up by Arnie and the Connors gearing up and bonding, and playing show and tell with Miles Dyson.

      • SatanicPanic

        The original Vanishing Point was mostly awesome. Has a great soundtrack.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      I’d also put Bay’s crap up against any of the Fast and the Furious movies, which are nonstop, fluffy fun with great visuals.

      • Captain Oblivious

        I thought F&F 1 was actually pretty good. The rest are okay.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          I enjoyed the latest one, which was, admittedly, a bit eerie as digital technology was used to finish out the late Paul Walker’s part in the film.

          • Murc

            The way that sort of thing can be used is actually starting to trouble me a bit.

            Like, Disney preformed digital surgery on the late Alec Guinness saying “afraid” to get his voice to say “Rey” in the latest Star Wars film. And that just seems ghoulish to me. Guinness didn’t agree to be shackled to the franchise from beyond the grave when he told George Lucas “sure, I’ll play your space wizard.”

            • postmodulator

              Nothing is ever going to be as ghastly as the horrible reanimation of Nancy Marchand after she died between seasons of the Sopranos. I can’t believe they let it go out like that.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS0DQKHMpM8

              • Halloween Jack

                Game of Death, and, of course, Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor standing in for Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

  • heckblazer
  • royko

    I was a big Transformers fan as a kid — had the toys, watched the cartoon, read the comics. As an adult, I left all that behind. But I was pretty psyched when I saw there was a Transformers movie out. I didn’t really remember the individual characters very well, except for the main ones, but I figured that watching the movie would bring it all back to me.

    No such luck. None of the robots had any personality, let alone enough to be considered distinct characters. Bumblebee had the mute thing going (huh?), and Optimus Prime had…well, the same voice I grew up with. Even visually, each one was an ever-shifting jumble of metal scraps. Unless they were in vehicle mode, I couldn’t tell who was who, let alone what they were doing. They were just indistinguishable morphing collections of metal. And this was for a former fan, with considerable background in the material.

    Don’t get me wrong. A brilliant filmmaker could probably make one hell of a movie around faceless, incomprehensible alien robots. (Most likely in the horror genre.) But Michael Bay is not that filmmaker, and Michael Bay did not set out to make that kind of film.

    I get that audiences like explosions and kinetic action movies. It’s Friday night fun. But I can’t imagine that anyone will much remember, let alone care about, anything that happened in any of these movies a week after they leave the theaters.

    • KadeKo

      I read somewhere that the folks behind The Lego Movie took it on specifically to.see if they could characterize and emote with those limited (virtual) painted polygonal dolls’ faces.

      Quite the different outcome.

  • mikeSchilling

    And yet Bay isn’t simply crass and commercial; he’s also a hack with a clearly identifiable style and a tendency toward filmmaking that can be reasonably described as obvious and even moronic.

    FTFH.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    Any halfway competent director, given the story of “Pain and Gain,” and the friggin brilliant cast of “Pain and Gain,” could have pulled off a dumb-crooks movie that was at least entertaining. Bay failed comprehensively. Unfrigginforgivable.

  • Cheap Wino

    I’ve got some definite snobbish tendencies when it comes to popular culture. But there are so many exceptions to the rule that about 10 years ago (at 40, I’m not that smart, kinda slow on the uptake) I finally came around to each to his own and not putting much interest into what people, regardless of background or supposed intelligence, have to say about art and culture. Hell, I think Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off is a damn good tune yet still hold most popular music in disdain.

    I also am a typical guy who enjoys a mindless action flick now and then and have been very entertained by the spate of comics based films out over the last decade. It’s been great to have that happen while my 10-year-old son is growing up. We can both enjoy them. Shout out to Pixar while were at it.

    So I should be fine accepting Bay films for what they are. But, no. Emphatically no. Transformers movies suck, and that includes 1. It’s as if Bay is striving to make the most boring action movies ever. It goes beyond the horrible way they are cut (so that you can’t really ever know what is actually happening). There is an overwhelming lack of anything compelling about the characters or the plot. The movies are simply boring as hell. No need for critical analysis, he’s a shitty, boring, tiresome filmmaker. Watching a Bay film is an utterly worthless waste of time. I think people are attracted to them in the same way birds are attracted to a shiny piece of metal.

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