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Topics/Questions/Exercises of the Week — 25 June 2009

Last week, we wrote, " [T]he Transformers films are abominations which any grown adult ought to be ashamed to even bring up in conversation." Hence, this week: Transformers!

The jive (or whatever its is that what they're talking is called)-talking robots of Michael Bay's Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen are called out for racism, and Bay defends the characterizations by saying "they are robots, by the way." Which actually begs the question as to why they're speaking any form of colloquial English, let alone ebonics. Frustrated, Bay throws up his hands and exclaims, "It's like is everything going to be melba toast?" I think it's cute that something like Melba Toast still enters his alleged mind.

Speaking of Bay's alleged mind, usage and grammar mavens were amused by the dumb-ass use of "would of" rather than "would have" in a letter Bay wrote to the Paramount brass complaining of the company's promotional campaign. (Said letter leaking, as such things tend to do, to the thoroughly erudite gossip website TMZ.) But come on, the guy's upset. He still runs into so many people even this weekend with kids. Even though he has been locked away editing for six months. Okay, now I'm confused. But for some reason I really enjoy the phrase "I consider this so lame."

Also, note the reference to "my good friend Steven," who has made "a lot more successful movies than us."  That's Spielberg, not Seagal. Spielberg is one of the executive producers of the Transformers films. This will prove to be of significance later.

Quoth Bay: "It's easy to go shoot an art movie in a winery in the South of France." Not to put too fine a point on it, but just what the fuck art movie is he talking about? Have you seen any art movies involving vintners lately? The last one I can recall is Rohmer's Conte d'automne all the way back in 1998. No, my friends, I deduct that Michael Bay's idea of an art movie is actually Ridley Scott's 2006 A Good Year. Now that's scary.

Over at Big Hollywood, John Nolte hears that Bay's film contains a swipe at President Obama, and giggles with glee waiting for his "Obama-loving friends" to have their otherwise enjoyable Transformers experience ruined by a sucker punch. Precisely, because NPR-listening Obamacons are in fact the Transformers' films core demographic. Later, in comments, Nolte notes that the presence of an Obama swipe in the film naturally "makes many of the negative reviews [of the film] suspect." Except, that is, for the review by Nolte's conservative friend Christian Toto. Who hates the film for pretty much the same reasons liberal critics do. Later, Nolte see the film himself, and hates it, calling it "Bay's worst since Bad Boys II." Which is saying something. (By the way if you're thinking Big Hollywood looks like a helluva lot of fun, you'll get over that after your third or fourth Burt Prelutsky column.)

All of which leads us to...(drum roll please)...our

Armond White-ism Of The Week: "Why waste spleen on Michael Bay? He’s a real visionary—perhaps mindless in some ways (he’s never bothered filming a good script), but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is more proof he has a great eye for scale and a gift for visceral amazement." See, told you the Spielberg thing would prove to be of significance later. Also: "a great eye for scale?" As in, "holy crap, that's ENORMOUS" and/or "ooh look it's a teeny-tiny thing?" Oh, never mind.

Moneybrawl: Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal put Steven Soderbergh's Moneyball into turnaround mere days before its principle photography was to begin. Brad Pitt or no Brad Pitt. (Note to those unfamilar with trade lingo: to put something "into turnaround" is to "ankle" it, some might say. To "ankle" is to "bail." To "bail" is to abandon a project that had one been "greenlit." Whatever: the studio said "Hey, guys, we're not letting you make this," is all.)

Regardless of what you thought of the picture's source material or premise (and while I'm a Soderbergh fan, I haven't thought much of any movie with even a peripheral baseball theme since 1950's Kill The Umpire, and that's only on account of my lifelong worship of star William Bendix), one has to admit that this sort of thing doesn't bode at all well for the mid-budgeted mainstream Hollywood drama. Over at The Hot Blog, David "Yes You Did, You Invaded" Poland examines the tea leaves, or the chicken entrails, or whatever they are, then invokes a group of sources too awesome to even consider naming, assures his readers that nothing is Brad Pitt's fault, and begs off to attend a screening he can't even talk about, it's so teh awesome, kthxbye. As someone said of Tim The Enchanter in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, "What a strange person."

My personal advice to Soderbergh is that he now go do something easy, like an art movie set in a winery in the South of France. Where a character named The Erotic Connoisseur has decamped, after being forced to flee the United States. It will work.

Ten: So next year there are gonna be ten Best Picture Oscar nominees instead of five. According to AMPAS President Sid Ganis, this "may make it more interesting and less cloistered." I wonder just what "it" he's talking about. Also, I like that "may"—way to hedge your bets there, Sid. The whole exercise has a whiff of perfunctory faux desperation to it—as in, the whole thing's falling apart, our own state of entropy is so thoroughly advanced that we don't really care, but we've gotta look like we're doing something,

Finally: Boy, they weren't kidding about everything in the new Transformers film being bigger than it—they?—were in the first one, were they?

Love the Kill The Umpire reference. Great Movie.
Hey, as much as I hate Bay and Transformers (which by the way is a lot as you can see but for some reason if they made a third one, Megan Fox would reach out to me and still sucker me in for the fee for a netflix rental (I’ll never make the mistake of seeing a Michael bay film in a theater again.)
you should give baseball movies another chance.
I think Spielberg has something on Armond. Only explanation, because this is getting scary!
Armond White. I’m done with him.
Your attack on Bay and Transformer films is no less venomous than a FOX news employee’s attack on a liberal. A bit overheated, and silly, and of absolutely zero import. If Bay’s to be attacked for making billions on shitty films, well, you’re treading well-walked ground, sir. I expect something better from my Auteur authors. And sure, let’s agree that Transformers is bad. Too long, too loud, too senseless. When you look at just the CGI scenes, which I will also agree are too much/too many, you have to see that they are at least done in a very seamless fashion. On a technical level, the film does achieve something, even if it’s something you disdain. But beyond this, you come across as the kind of elitist snob that makes The Auteurs decidely less fun. There has to be a place for mindless films, because they can’t all be about wineries and expat film critics.
Wow. Mr. Norwood agrees with an estimation of the film that I don’t even actually articulate in this post, and simultaneously sticks his nose in the air and says he “expects better” of Auteurs contributors. I expect to be fired any minute, and for Mr. Norwood to get tenure somewhere prestigious shortly thereafter. Well played, sir!
teve Norwood said “There has to be a place for mindless films, because they can’t all be about wineries and expat film critics.” There is a place – it’s called the megaplex down at the mall. They write about all of these “films” in USA Today, Newsweek, Entertain me Weakly, syndicated columns (because there’s what, 10 paid film critics left in print journalism?) in every Friday newspapers art section and they get all kinds free PR on tv. Just where in the hell can you cultivate a taste which so easily gets labeled “elitist” when God forbid you criticize some mainstream movie for being a piece of shit? This line of logic is absurd. If you can’t come to a place like this to discuss film freely – where do you suggest people go for this? Your “tolerance” is oppressive yet I notice you claimed Tropa de Elite was a “brilliant film” if you don’t think about the politics. Huh? Is that what you meant by mindless? Watching things without thinking? Maybe you can clear up what you were trying to express.
Personally, as a lover of all movies, big or small, i’m getting sick and tired of people excusing vacuous, moronic film-making as ‘mindless fun’. I’ve complained all summer about the intelligence level of Hollywood screenplays being at an all time low – be it Kurtzman and Orci (Star Trek and Transformers 2 – good work boys :/) or whoever scrawled the Terminator Salvation screenplay in crayons, and been told that they’re just ‘mindless fun’. They’re not! They’re glorified toy ads aimed at (and written by?) 14 year old boys. Transformers 2 may just have hit the bottom of the barrel Hollywood’s been digging at for for the last decade.
“..mere days before its principal photography was to begin.” I think you mean “principal.” This brings you down to the level of Michael Bay. —Skids
Oops, I corrected you in the quote. Never mind. Oh, and Armond White’s defense of Michael Bay works for the first Transformers, fragments (tiny fragments) of Pearl Harbor and The Island, but not this new shit. Even the amazing low angle swoops and high angle pivots disappear from memory, and all that remains are the Niggabots, the Dorm Whorebot and that Steve Buscemi-sounding Batteries Not Included-bot.

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