“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.