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June 27, 2011 11:36 AM   Subscribe

An Oral History of Michael Bay
posted by bittermensch (61 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Best quote:
Bay: I was into these very advanced trains sets, with towns and cities and whatever, the detail of it. I remember my parents came to me: "Michael, we think you need to get outside more." And I'm thinking, "Am I fucked up?"
There are many other good ones, do read the article.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:45 AM on June 27, 2011


Michael Bay: I'm, like, a true American.

This is uncomfortably close to the truth.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:46 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


"George Lucas (director): Michael's films are immediately identifiable."

That is Tremendous.
posted by boo_radley at 11:47 AM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jeanine Basinger (Bay's film professor, Wesleyan University): I always tell my husband, "My tombstone is going to say, 'She taught Michael Bay.' "

With the addendum, "but it's ok, she also taught Joss Whedon."
posted by kmz at 11:53 AM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, Michael Bay rocks. You know why he rocks? Because he makes these big, loud, gorgeous looking films that are brain dead on several levels. This makes me go watch an independent film or two.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:54 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bay may be Satan, but he's no hack. He's distilled cinema down to pure kinetic spectacle. Sure, the dialogue is witless, but anyone who loves cinema has to appreciate his work on at least the level of sheer epic action. He really ought to dispense with dialogue altogether in his films.
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:58 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: You're eating that popcorn and drinking your Diet Coke, and after two and a half hours you're gonna have to get up and pee.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:01 PM on June 27, 2011


I actually think there's a lot to like about Michael Bay, ignoring his many, many bad attributes, not the least of which is the ongoing use of gay stereotypes as comic devices, often coupled with threats of violence, in his films -- which I suppose shouldn't be surprising, as he trades in racial stereotypes as well.

But he gives character actors big paychecks, and lets them be as weird as they want to be in his films, which was also true of, and one of the pleasures of, Kubrick. And Bay's films are so far removed from reality that just the places where he's orthogonal to the real world is fun. And it's not just stuff like the fact that in his world Petra is a short car ride to the pyramids (251 miles, and, of course, you have to pass through Israel, so you can't really just drive there in 15 minutes).

No, it's stuff like the fact that when Sean Connery and Nick Cage break into Alcatraz in "The Rock," the come to a strange vent that shoots fire at various intervals. And Sean Connery tells us that to escape, he had to memorize the intervals, so that he could get through the vent without burning to death. He then leaps into the vent and rolls through it. A moment later he opens a door near the vent and says "Welcome to The Rock."

But, wait. They're breaking INTO Alcatraz. Apparently, inside Alcatraz, there is a door that anybody can open and just leads to the outside. And instead of just using that to get out, Connery instead memorized the blasting sequence of a murder vent and rolled through it.

The more I think about it, the less sense it makes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 PM on June 27, 2011 [33 favorites]


He really ought to dispense with dialogue altogether in his films.

Clan of the Cave Bear, a Michael Bay film.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:03 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


You have to imagine each of these quotes being shouted by the discussants while astride motorcycles jumping from the top of one skyscraper into a crowded conference room in another, via an opening in an exploding helicopter.

This mental exercise just made my whole afternoon brighter.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:05 PM on June 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm fond of this fan-trailer for Dark of the Moon, since it does a pretty good job of why I still enjoy watching Bay's films, even though they pretty much suck by any standard of plot and character development.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:09 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bay -- "I took a geology course with this tectonic expert at Wesleyan. He said, "Calamities happen; it's the plumbers who will fix the world." So Armageddon—that's what it is, it's everyday Joes saving the world."

And this, college students, is why you take courses outside of your major...
posted by bizzyb at 12:12 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, they didn't even quote the best part of Ebert's Pearl Harbor review, the very first sentence:
"Pearl Harbor" is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle.
But he gives character actors big paychecks, and lets them be as weird as they want to be in his films, which was also true of, and one of the pleasures of, Kubrick.

I've seen the first Transformers. Pleasure is not the word that comes to mind when thinking about John Turturro's WTFery in that movie.
posted by kmz at 12:14 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I may never see a Michael Bay film, but I'll forever cut him some slack for making the "Aaaarah Buhhh" commercial.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:15 PM on June 27, 2011


Bay: The offer to do Got Milk? came to me and ... I was like, "This is a terrible commercial. I don't get it."

OK, I take that back. No more slack.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:17 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


The thing about Bay is, whatever that "Awww YEAH!!" rush is that a really great movie action scene gives you, Bay makes movies out of that feeling. Not what produces that feeling - the feeling itself. That's why his films make no sense but can still rock your socks. That rush is not the effect of his films, but their actual subject. Bay is to AWWWYEAAAHHH what David Lynch is to dream logic.
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:18 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, the dialogue is witless, but anyone who loves cinema has to appreciate his work on at least the level of sheer epic action.

This at least used to be true, and I imagine it's the reason that both The Rock and Armageddon are part of the Criterion Collection. But the first Transformers movie (I didn't see the second) was visually confusing-- there were lots of shots of giant grey robots fighting and smashing each other and buildings and somehow between the they-all-look-the-same-in-CG and the hyperkinetic editing, I couldn't follow what was going on in the giant robot fight. I mean, I wanted to take in something shiny and shallow, but it was poorly made shiny and shallow. I think Cameron is much more aces when it comes to this sort of thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:22 PM on June 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


Bay: Some nights I sleep like a baby. Other nights it's, Oh God, I just came up with a bomb shot.
posted by jnrussell at 12:24 PM on June 27, 2011


Previously: Michael Bay Has Finally Made an Art Film.
posted by schmod at 12:27 PM on June 27, 2011


Pants McCracky: "Bay may be Satan, but he's no hack. He's distilled cinema down to pure kinetic spectacle. Sure, the dialogue is witless, but anyone who loves cinema has to appreciate his work on at least the level of sheer epic action. He really ought to dispense with dialogue altogether in his films."

So, more Victoria's Secret commercials.
posted by mkb at 12:30 PM on June 27, 2011


In which we learn that Shia LaBeouf is also an idiot.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:31 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Agreeing with what shakespeherian said about Transformers. I couldn't believe how poorly executed the action sequences were. Someone, I don't recall who, described it as if they had welded a bunch of Transformers parts into a ball and then filmed it in close-up as it rolled down a hill. It was just a total mess.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:36 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bruckheimer, talking about Armageddon in the article: We really tried to ground it in some form of reality—even though it's a fantasy. So we did a lot of research and asked scientists to work with our writers to get as much reality into the movie as possible.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the point at which it is acknowledged that, while they can make fun movies, Bay and the people around him are completely deluded when it comes to science. Ask any astronomer which movie casually violates the most laws of physics - hell, of reality itself - and Armageddon will come first, every time.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:37 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait... Aaron Sorkin wrote The Rock?
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really don't know what to make of Bay and his brand of cinematic spectacle.

His brand (loud, fast, brash) is pretty much instantly recognizable and I think ultimately his movies won't age particularly well. That being said it seems custom designed to get asses into seats every summer in a very reliable way.

It's almost like he realizes that a good story and good dialogue would get in the way of the visuals that he's trying to tie together (however loosely). So he relentlessly pares down everything in order to focus exclusively on the big set piece scenes. Rather than try to get better about including subjects he's less comfortable covering (like romance and believable dialogue) he's limited them to the maximum extent possible.

For example the character played by Megan Fox in the first 2 Transformer picks is essentially nothing more than a prize to be won by the audience identification character played by Shia LaBeouf. She adds nothing other than eye candy to the picture and as a result is completely replaceable when the Actress thought she was bigger than the system.
posted by vuron at 12:42 PM on June 27, 2011


But the first Transformers movie (I didn't see the second) was visually confusing-- there were lots of shots of giant grey robots fighting and smashing each other and buildings and somehow between the they-all-look-the-same-in-CG and the hyperkinetic editing, I couldn't follow what was going on in the giant robot fight. I mean, I wanted to take in something shiny and shallow, but it was poorly made shiny and shallow. I think Cameron is much more aces when it comes to this sort of thing.

I agree with this, as someone who actually fell asleep through most of Transformers because the endless shots of jagged metal shapes crashing into other jagged metal shapes sort of blurred into a soothing kaleidoscope.

I think the problem with Bay's recent work is that it's stopped being grounded in a recognizable reality. The Rock is probably his best film because it was about people who, for the most part, were interacting with other people. Same with Armageddon and Bad Boys 2. Even if nothing they were actually saying to each other made a lot of sense, it still resembled a relatable human experience.

The Transformers movies, though, are mostly about giant machines relating to other giant machines, so perhaps they go too far into the realm of abstraction, and are more like 2+ hours of an experimental film than a conventional entertainment. Which is a lot to sit through. I mean, I acknowledge the greatness of Stan Brakhage, but I also fell asleep 10 minutes into Dog Star Man.
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


kmz: ""Pearl Harbor" is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle."

That is my favorite line from any review ever. I'm happy whenever that film or Michael Bay come up in conversation, since I get to pull it out.
posted by brundlefly at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, I was kind of surprised when I read all the way to the bottom of that article and nothing exploded.
posted by mhoye at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


John Turturro (actor, Transformers): He likes blowing things up.

Well, yeah.
posted by brundlefly at 12:57 PM on June 27, 2011


Bruckheimer, talking about Armageddon in the article: We really tried to ground it in some form of reality—even though it's a fantasy. So we did a lot of research and asked scientists to work with our writers to get as much reality into the movie as possible.

I imagine the reality of it went more like, "So we did a lot of research and asked scientists to work with our writers to get as much reality into the movie as possible...and cheerfully jettisoned that reality any time it got in the way of a badass action scene."
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:59 PM on June 27, 2011


"So we did a lot of research and asked scientists to work with our writers to get as much reality into the movie as possible...and cheerfully jettisoned that reality any time it got in the way of a badass action scene."

No kidding. The orbital mechanics in Armageddon were atrocious.
posted by The Tensor at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2011


Nice quote on directing Sean Connery:
Bay: He kept calling me "boy." And one time he called me a "cock." [In Connery accent] "You cocksucker!" It was his last day of the shoot, and he didn't like holding his breath underwater. I had United States SEALs holding him down because there was a fireball going over the water, and if he came up, he would burn his face off. So whatever, he called me names.
posted by HLD at 1:07 PM on June 27, 2011


No kidding. The orbital mechanics in Armageddon were atrocious.

Hell, that's part of the point of movies, books, etc, you don't have to slavishly follow reality!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:09 PM on June 27, 2011


Bay undeniably operates on Rule of Cool physics. If it looks cool it doesn't matter how unbelievable it is he's going to use it.

I think he goes with the hyper-kinetic edits and overabundance of visual effects to keep you from looking at any one thing long enough for your suspension of disbelief to fade.

So you get a big hit of adrenaline and instead of allowing you to come down from that hit, presumably to advance the plot or save money like many other directors do, he moves from set piece to set piece as quickly as possible.

I think he tries to overload you with so much visual stuff so you don't have time to really analyze the movie and come up with deficiencies. Because you are spending so much of your brain just following the rapid movement and flashy effects you are lulled into a sense of complacency.

2 hours later you emerge from the movie theater battered and tired and for many people all you can really say as commentary is that the effects were really cool. Which, for many people is basically enough.

I think budgets still restrict his 'vision' but I think he'd like to do a movie that is completely nonstop action scenes for 2+ hours with absolutely no plot exposition.
posted by vuron at 1:14 PM on June 27, 2011


Is this something I would have to have seen at least one Michael Bay movie to understand?
posted by philip-random at 1:14 PM on June 27, 2011


I couldn't believe how poorly executed the action sequences were... It was just a total mess.

I always compare those sequences (large metal-bots battling it out) with Iron Man's mech-vs-mech scenes and marveled at how clearly Favreau showed each bit of combat so you understood the intention, implications and score-keeping.
posted by ao4047 at 1:15 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Astro Zombie, believe it or not, I think there is an explanation for the murder vent. When Connery was originally breaking out there would have been guards to evade. You'd naturally have a guard or two posted in front of the door. Now that the guards are gone you can just use the door, but back in the day you'd have to sneak past via the murder vent.
Still doesn't explain what the mine carts from Temple of Doom are doing there though.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:18 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


He really ought to dispense with dialogue altogether in his films.

You know, I would go watch that. A 120-minute, $150 million Michael Bay music video, soundtrack by Steve Jablonsky, or better yet Hans Zimmer, effects by ILM ... I'd go see that. In IMAX. 3D. If possible, on drugs.

There's a whole new genre here.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:24 PM on June 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


The rocket-dodging-screaming-woman-scene in Transformers was pretty cool, not that it makes up for the rest of the movie, but still pretty cool.
Now that I think about it, Bay is probably just hoping to make at least one or two good looking scenes out of an hour and a half. After all, you only need two minutes for a commercial.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:34 PM on June 27, 2011


BAY: I was 15. The first thing I ever said to Steven [Spielberg] was, "I really thought Raiders of the Lost Ark was going to suck."

Well, there you go. Even at 15, he had that unique, visionary quality.
posted by absalom at 1:42 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Michael Clarke Duncan (actor, Armageddon): He's like one of those Chihuahuas that's always barking.

I hear that quote in my head in MCD's "John Coffey" voice and it's hilarious.
posted by brand-gnu at 1:43 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I read the article, and it still didn't explain why Bay likes to have long sequences of goofy hijinks after a character has accidentally ingested drugs. In Bad Boys 2, it was Martin Lawrence and ecstasy. In Transformers 2, it was the mom and a pot brownie.

What's up with that? Is Bay like, how can I fuckin' amp this sequel up? I know, accidental drug trip! Laff riot!!!
posted by fryman at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2011


I've seen the first Transformers. Pleasure is not the word that comes to mind when thinking about John Turturro's WTFery in that movie.

I saw all of that movie (with the help of a RiffTrax). The second one, however, we couldn't get further than a third into. I think it was the inclusion of the dog "dominating" the other dog, multiple times, for no reason at all, that finally broke us. How our hero's parents seemed to have no concern for each other at all to explain why they had been together for so long. The antics(?) of those jive-talking robots. How we were unable to care about any character.

It was just images and sounds to me, like looking through a kaleidoscope while listening to radio static.
posted by JHarris at 2:41 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was actually kind of happy that Transformers 2 was one of the options on a trans-atlantic flight I was on, due to lingering nostalgia for the toys, and I couldn't make it through. It was somewhere around one of the dog scenes and the university lecture scene that I realized that I would rather be trapped in that seat doing nothing than watching that film.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:56 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


like looking through a kaleidoscope while listening to radio static.

That is a beautiful comparison.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:59 PM on June 27, 2011


The first Transformers was awesome and I kind of love Armageddon. I'm glad Michael Bay's around.
posted by callmejay at 3:04 PM on June 27, 2011


I enjoy The Rock and the first Transformers. Transformers 2 was the worst film-going experience I've ever had. I think it took several years off of my life.
posted by brundlefly at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2011


"He really ought to dispense with dialogue altogether in his films."
posted by Pants McCracky at 5:58 AM on June 28

It looks like he tried that once (with Transformers 2) and we all know how that turned out.

"Shia Labeouf has revealed large chunks of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen was improvised, because the stars didn’t have a script. He tells E! Online, “We didn’t have a script the second time! It was like a two-hour SNL (Saturday Night Live) skit with explosions. We were sort of riffing.”
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:15 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just remember that one bit in the Pearl Harbor trailers where a bunch of Zeros drop bombs on the ships and the bombs fall straight down. Did none of the fifty-eight thousand people - including, I would imagine, military advisors and people with a background in physics - involved in the film look at that sequence and go "Wait..."?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:45 PM on June 27, 2011


I enjoy The Rock and the first Transformers. Transformers 2 was the worst film-going experience I've ever had. I think it took several years off of my life.

Same, but I fucking hate myself and am going to see Transformers 3 as soon as it comes out.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:47 PM on June 27, 2011


I'm actually intrigued by Transformers 3. Apparently the shakeycam and rapid-fire editing have been reined in quite a bit because of shooting in 3D. Michael Bay may the unique case of a filmmaker who is made better by 3D.
posted by brundlefly at 4:54 PM on June 27, 2011


I liked "The Rock," though I think the material would have better in the hands of, say, Tony Scott.

I thought "The Island" was his best film, though it was probably mostly due to the fact that as I watched it, I slowly became aware that it was basically just an updated rip-off of Parts: The Clunus Horror, which had been a favorite MST3K episode.

(well, that and Scarlett Johansen fills out a spandex jogging suit rather nicely. Shame on me.)
posted by ShutterBun at 9:01 PM on June 27, 2011


And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the point at which it is acknowledged that, while they can make fun movies, Bay and the people around him are completely deluded when it comes to science. Ask any astronomer which movie casually violates the most laws of physics - hell, of reality itself - and Armageddon will come first, every time.

I'm reasonably sure that I can speak for all holders of history degrees everywhere when I say that for us, Pearl Harbor is truly our Armageddon.

United we stand, shoulder to shoulder with FDR, striding purposefully with Michael Bay into a murky past.
posted by gompa at 9:41 PM on June 27, 2011


That long of an article all on Michael Bay? What a waste... just like his movies.
posted by rdhogan7713 at 10:20 PM on June 27, 2011


What's up with that? Is Bay like, how can I fuckin' amp this sequel up? I know, accidental drug trip! Laff riot!!!

It's got to be accidental, or they'll get a harder rating due to drug use. Got to keep it in that PG-13 zone.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 1:58 AM on June 28, 2011


Shutterbun I think you could take the Michael Bay trademark screen fucking out of The Island and make a better film. I really don't think his hyper-kinetic action sequences added anything to the content and I found it stylistically jarring in the middle of an otherwise fairly thoughtful sci-fi. (I think it was originally based on a radio play, but I've forgotten the name.)
posted by pmcp at 3:45 AM on June 28, 2011


Just re-read my comment and it sounds really angsty, it wasn't meant like that. It was just that I found that film really odd.
posted by pmcp at 4:24 AM on June 28, 2011


a strange vent that shoots fire at various intervals.

When I see scenes like these, I just assume they were put in to make the video game adaptation easier to create.

Although actually, it could be the other way around. Maybe Michael Bay makes movies that actually are video games.
posted by DU at 5:32 AM on June 28, 2011


Maybe Michael Bay makes movies that actually are video games.

Now we're getting somewhere. His films should be reviewed as games. "Michael Bay makes games with the worst gameplay ever, but really pretty decent cut-scenes."
posted by neuromodulator at 8:07 AM on June 28, 2011


Michael Bay makes Final Fantasy games?

why do i own so many of you, final fantasy games?
posted by Errant at 10:15 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Belatedly, my review of the thing:

And I must confess to respecting Bay’s commitment to telling the story of these Hasbro toys, and to his structure, despite the fact that neither make any sense at all. Think about it: There have now been three "Transformers" movies, clocking in at a total of 452 minutes and costing a grand total of $545 million. Let us compare that to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Bay’s trilogy is not quite as long — about 100 minutes shorter. But Michael Bay has spent about $260 million more on his "Transformers" movies than was spent on what is undeniably the most epic and significant fantasy trilogy in film history. That’s one hell of a commitment to telling a tale of a war between Hasbro toys.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:26 PM on July 3, 2011


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