Michael Bay

Rob Mills has been egging me on to share my thoughts about Michael Bay. I got this email this morning:

" and I'm shocked - shocked! - you have yet to vomit your rage for this man upon your blog :)"

Lately I've come to the conclusion that if I was a 12 year old boy I would love Michael Bay and his 'blow the shit out of everything' style. It's visceral and kinetic. It is also void of good film grammar and basic visual geography. 'Shoot for the edit' is his mantra and you can't help but wonder if that is because he doesn't have a clear idea of what he wants. Shoot 12 cameras and a million feet of film and cut it to 20,000 feet. Then again, Coppola shot a ton of film for the Flight of the Valkyries sequence in 'Apocalypse Now'. Maybe the films are exactly what he intends them to be.

I did find this quote on his blog which put his filmmaking approach into a proper perspective:

What kind of story were you trying to tell in the first “Transformers” film?

Literally, I wanted to see if this movie could even work. Early on we did this Scorponok sequence, to make it more real and vicious and dangerous, and to make these things more lethal. All my friends, when I’m doing movies, my buddies are like, “Are you kidding me? You’re doing that movie? What is that?” Everyone was saying that and I felt like such a jerk. I’m like, “Oh, my God, this is so risky.” I kept thinking: I can make this real. I can make you believe that they are actually here. I remember showing people a few images, we finally rendered them, with the Scorponok’s images and people instantly go, “I get it now.”

What was the question again? Kind of story??

I do like his Verizon commercial.

Michael Jackson

I have to admit that I've never been much of a fan of Michael Jackson. It's no offense to his talent but more about my taste in music.

For my little tribute I'll give you 'Fan Letter to Michael Jackson' by the brilliant but now defunct Rheostatics.

RIP Rheos and Michael...

It feels good to be alive.


For all you George Lucas Fans

Here is an hour long interview with Lucas after he finished his poorly received first film THX-1138. Lucas complains heavily about the studios inability to sell films, a problem that many people still agree with today.

I was just thinking about 'The English Patient' the other day. It was a film that I didn't initially go and see as the ads painted the film as a schmaltzy love story. It wasn't until I saw a new set of trailers that presented the film as much more complex that I went and saw it. Miramax was excellent at promoting their films and creating a buzz around their new releases. On the radio today a film critic was lamenting GI Joe, Transformers 2 and the upcoming releases of Fame and Footloose. Not that Hollywood has been terribly original from the beginning. One must remember that 'The Godfather' was based on a bestselling novel as was 'The Maltese Falcon' and 'Gone with the Wind'. John Huston's 'The Maltese Falcon' was the second film based on the book - the first was in 1931. The business people like betting on the sure thing.

Thanks for the link Rob.


More Toobs

Rob's finished the new installment of 'In teh Toobs' and I can see why he fell behind schedule. Ambitious would be a fitting description.

Riley Hepburn and Cary Grant! Together at last.

Keep them coming Mr. Mills!

The Sweet Smell of Success

Last year my friend Annie put me on to Alexander Mackendrick's must-own book 'On Filmmaking'. It's as good a book as you're likely to find regarding the art and craft of making movies.

I had known of Mackendrick through his Ealing comedies with Alec Guinness - 'The Man in the White Suit' and 'The Lady Killers'. The one film I didn't see or even know about was 'The Sweet Smell of Success'. When Ealing went under, Mackendrick traveled across the Atlantic looking for work in America. He had been working with Burt Lancaster's production company on a different project when they asked him to direct 'Sweet Smell' from a script by Ernest Lehman based on the writers own horrible experiences as a New York press agent. Lehman eventually quit due to stress and Clifford Odets picked up where he left off, polishing the story and writing great bits of dialogue.

The film is about a young and upcoming press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) who is in the service of the most infamous and powerful gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Lancaster). The plot is simple, Hunsecker wants Falco to break up a relationship between Hunsecker's little sister and her jazz musician boyfriend. Hunsecker is a huge ego with no scruples and he controls everything around him and his sister is no exception. Falco is equally without morals and will stop at nothing to get a seat at the table.

The film features a blaring jazz score by Elmer Bernstein and unforgettable location cinematography by James Wong Howe. The vibrant nineteen fifties New York jumps off the screen at you. Odets addition to dialogue is equal to the task with great lines like 'the cat's in the bag and the bag's in the river' and 'I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic." The performances are dead on and Mackendrick's direction is confident and fresh.

The film belongs with Orson Welles 'Touch of Evil' as a remnant of the 1940's film noir save for the missing femme fatale (at one point Lancaster wanted Welles for the role of Hunsecker). Both films feature protagonists that are morally corrupt. It's no surprise that 'Sweet Smell' wasn't a box office hit as Sidney Falco is a loser trying to get ahead by any means and Hunsecker is a snake with no regard at all for his fellow man. To call it cynical is an understatement. In a lot of ways Oliver Stone's Gordon Gekko (Wall Street) seems to be a descendant of J.J. Hunsecker. They are certainly cut from the same cloth.

I love moments like these when you discover a gem that was sitting there all along waiting for a few hours of attention. I also love films that stand out as so original and daring despite the fact that they caused nothing but pain for the men who made them. Mackendrick didn't fare well after the film and eventually took the position of Dean of film at California Institute of the Arts.

Ernest Lehman who left the film due to stress went on to a spectacular career with such classics as 'North by Northwest', 'West Side Story' and 'The Sound of Music'. Lancaster did well as an actor but his role as producer went down with the film as he and his associates abandoned their production company.

I'll leave you with a few more quotes to whet your appetite...

"You're dead, son. Get yourself buried. "

"Don't remove the gangplank, Sidney - you may wanna get back onboard."

A corny trailer to be sure... And yes, that is Marilyn Monroe being pimped out by Falco.