Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Somebody Stop Michael Bay!

In 1963 the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock released a quiet, but haunting film about bird, yes it was called The Birds.  The suspense ridden film terrified audiences because of the simple nature of the premise, and the dark path a simple creature in nature took toward humanity.  The original film centers around Melanie Daniels, played by Tippi Hedron who is traveling in Northern California, and attacked by these vicious creatures.  The film is based on the 1952 short story by Daphne du Maurier, Hitch as he was known, as used Daphne du Maurier's work and adapted the book Rebecca into a film.  Many people will say its time for an update, but the work of Alfred Hitchcock is timeless, look at when Gus Van Sant tried to remake Pyscho.  Now imagine the production/direction of over-exploder, and visual effects extraordinaire Michael Bay, because that's what may happen.

Michael Bay is in talks to produce a re-make of The Birds with Naomi Watts in the lead role, most other details are non-existent, but this is that point when the intervention needs to happen, and someone says put down the bottle, or maybe time to think before you trounce the legacy of a film.

It's hard to believe that it was almost 20 years ago when Michael Bay began his directing career with the film Bad Boys (1995).  Bad Boys reminds me of a seen in the cancelled television series from Logo Noah's Arc. The two men are watching this inane cop duo have things explode around them as the walk in slow motion away from everything.  Bad Boys was a slow start for the director, it only made 65 million, but eventually did well in a VHS, cable world, and was the launching point for Bay's next film.

One year later explosions were becoming part of the box office game (even more), and Bay's The Rock (1996) took the concept of escaping from Alcatraz and it took it to an explosive next level.  Like all director's many films which are part of their early career are usually the best, and this is honestly true for Bay, Bad Boys is fun, The Rock is enjoyable because of Cage and Connery, these were fun 90s roller coaster rides.

The Bay blasted off into some people's hearts with the asteroid epic Armageddon (1998).  Armageddon was the second highest grossing film of the year making 201 million domestic, which was phenomenal, the average ticket price was under 5 dollars back then.  Armageddon was the beginning of the end, force feeding a story that did not matter, placing a cheesy love ballad, sounds like the beginning of the era of his I am going to try and be James Cameron type films.

Bay is seen as "the devil" by many, his directorial style is often offensive and too loud with quick cuts that never let you absorb any of the story.  Bay is quoted as saying the following "There are tons of people who hate me. They hate my movies and whatnot. But you know, hey, my films have made a lot of money around the world. 2-something billion dollars, that's a lot of tickets. They said that I wrecked cinema. They said that my, uh...cutting style. They say I cut too fast. And yet now you see it in movies everywhere. Do I take pride in people knowing my style? I think it's nice people know a director has a style. And you can reinvent yourself too."

I have two responses just because a director has a "style" which is cited does not mean its good, and just because a film makes money does not mean its good either.  He has contributed even further to the style over substance aspect of movies.

Bay tried to be like James Cameron, again,  tackling an interesting real life historical event, and use a love story as a back drop, the end result was trash, oh sorry, Pearl Harbor (2001).   The sad part is there was more time between his films, which means Bay put effort into this crap.  On his television show Rober Ebert destroyed the director/producer saying "Does he actually think we didn't research every nook and cranny of how armor-piercing bombs fell? He's watched too many movies. He thinks they all fall flat - armor-piercing bombs fall straight down, that's the way it was designed! But HE's on the air pontificating and giving the wrong information. That's insulting!"

Audiences fell for this film, it made 198 million dollars domestic.  I almost thought we had Bay on the ropes as a director with his film The Island (2005) it only made 35 million domestic, and cost tons of money.  Enter two eras of Bay, the nostalgia based franchise films, Bay has directed all of the Transformers films, and the reboot of the horror genre, Bay as producer.

Let's tackle the first, Bay has directed all three Transformers films, and is directing the fourth, which is set be released this year.  Worldwide all three of these films have made about 2.6 billion dollars, just at the box office.  Those are huge numbers, while the franchise is weakening on the domestic side, this franchise has only grown at the international box office. The Transformers films are the kind of over cut generic film making style Bay is known for, and Mark Wahlberg will not be able to change or add anything to this fourth film.

To bring things full circle, Bay is known for remaking films within the horror/thriller genre The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Amnityville Horror (2005), Friday the 13th (2009) to name a few.  Bay was also attached as a producer on the God awful The Purge (2013).  Bay will most likely be a producer on the film, not the director like with these other horror film remakes, but does this need to happen?  Does Hitchcock need a reboot?  A&E has put their own spin on Psycho with Bate's Motel, and while the ratings have proven strong, and this is a fresh look at the material, I am often confounded at the lack of originality in the the minds of people working in Hollywood.

Let's add the part that Bay's films are extremely misogynistic.  In the piece "Dark Side of Michael Bay" the author writes "Michael Bay thinks women are for sex; women are the sexy version of ‘people’ (read: men).  Michael bay only has two ‘real’ female characters in his movie because they make a comment about sex (and really isn't that the only thing they’re good for?).  The rest of his characters are male because those are the ‘normal people’ who can be protagonists and accomplish things (who would want to put those things in the hands of a woman? – which is of course where the ‘caricatured mockery of female leadership’ comes in.)"  This quote centers around the Transformers films.

There was also talk of Megan Fox being difficult, but at the end of the day the bro-fest of Bay films stuck up for the director.  Fox left the Transformers franchise after the second film, but in a world where the men stick up for the king of films for 16 year old boys are you surprised Fox was demonized?  In the the blog The Feminist Guide to Hollywood, the author writes a piece entitled "The Sexist Beatdown of Megan Fox."   The article cites the following "Bay has a history of demeaning his leading ladies, including "Pearl Harbor" star Kate Beckinsale; an individual close to the actress recalled that the director "wasn't very nice" to her on the set, either.Apparently, Fox wasn't the only "Transformers" cast member affected by Bay's rude behavior. TheWrap also learned that "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" star Isabel Lucas chose not to join her co-stars on a publicity tour for the film because she didn't get along with the director, who was described as being "too powerful" and "not well-liked" by the female talent community."

Not only does Bay blow up everything in site, but his representation of women is abhorrent.  I get that "women are not his audience" and that "these films are what 16 year old boys like" but at the end of the day Bay is shaping the mind of young individuals who think women should be a sexualized version of Megan Fox, sex objects for the soldier hero, or even Shia Lebouf.  Bay may have his own understanding of his style, and he may cast Naomi Watts in the reboot of his new film, but it's time for him to hit pause, and realize that his films impact the way others are made, and that the gaze of his characters, especially women, is one without depth.  While Bay still makes tons of money, his films are taking this industry in a dangerous direction, and should not be given The Birds to handle.

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