In Defense of Michael Bay


Michael Bay is awful. He is awful for the churlish, machismo-fueled self-aggrandizement that can only blossom from supremely ungifted individuals. This predicament of being a proud braggart sans true talent can only curtail the fall of civilization.

On another note, this blog just crossed over 10,000 pageviews. In your face, bitches! (Imagine my churlish touchdown dance… BITCHES!) What, WHAT? You ain’t got this! Boo to the yah to the CHIZZHOUS! Yeah… bitches…

And with that unpleasantness behind us, let’s actually talk about Michael Bay. So, from unpleasant to unpleasant… we’re off to a great start.

Awww... but how could sometin' so adoraboll be unpweseant?

Awww… but how could sometin’ so adoraboll be unpweseant?

Okay, so let’s address the problem. My opening paragraph may have been completely exaggerated, but every joke has kernels of truth. So let’s examine what’s correct. Hmmmm… awful, churlish, machismo-fueled self-aggrandizement… okay, it’s easier to go backward. What isn’t correct?

Here it is, and I won’t say it twice. Michael Bay is supremely gifted. This’ll take some explaining.

I love movies, but one thing I’m not greatly experienced with is Mr. Michael Bay. I’ve seen the first two Transformers movies, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. So in order to analyze the likes of Bad Boys II, The Rock or The Island, I turn to other cinephiles. Mostly, bloggers. Bloggers who love Michael Bay.

Breathe… here we go.

Awww, look at that face! He's like an 8-year-old!

Awww, look at that face! He’s like an 8-year-old!

The curiously named Bilge Ebiri has some good points about Bay. He writes, “No, I don’t think Bay can direct actors. No, I don’t think he can tell a story with any kind of nuance. But on some distant planet in an alternate universe, Bay is the greatest director of straight-to-video junk ever, raising lowbrow, seemingly unredeemable and utterly anonymous thrillers… to the status of art.”

Ooh, a highbrow Bay defense. This should be good.

“Unfortunately, we live (in this universe), where all action movies have to aspire towards grandiosity and gravity. And on this planet, Michael Bay creates bloated, overbaked monsters.”

I think that’s a compliment…

Okay, so here’s Ebiri’s point. I think. In another universe, Bay is fantastic. He’s like Woo or Tarantino, someone who creates pulpy art that’s enjoyable on a visceral level, forgoing the intellectual in lieu of explosives and boobs. I originally ended that sentence with, “or some combination of the two.” Decided against.

In some ways, Bay could be an auteur (The Rock is apparently quite good), but he’s relegated to cheap commercialism. And there’s nothing more hated than a rich commercial artist. Nothing. There’s no Tarantino style or Woo visuals at work here. Bay’s about money and popularity, both of which inspire hatred from snobs.

But Ebiri is wrong. At least, about one thing.

See, he directs actors!

See, he directs actors!

Chris Ryan of wrote about Bay thusly.

“Bay takes an actor’s inherent qualities — Will Smith’s undeniable likeability, Nic Cage’s idiosyncratic unpredictability, and Shia LaBeouf’s bumbling self-effacement — gives them guns… and turns his well-honed, commercial- and music video-trained eye on them, lovingly filming them in any number of iconic poses and acts.”

See? He’s great at directing actors. Need another picture?

I've got plenty of these two pointing at stuff.

I’ve got plenty of these two pointing at stuff.

In his movies, Bay makes these guys heroes. Actresses… well, that’s another story. Bay isn’t about realistic female characters (or male, for that matter). He wants to make guys look cool. He wants to connect to blue-collar working types, so he allows “ordinary guys” to save the world and get the girl. And that’s precisely what makes Bay talented. Blah, there’s that word again…

A Bay film is all about male bravado, so he entertains and banks on people who enjoy explosives and boobs, or some… no, I won’t do it. To achieve this, he cobbles together the blockbuster pieces he likes best. This results in popular film pastiches, or what I call bloated, shambling Frankenstein cinema. Don’t believe me? Refer to these equations, curtesy Ryan.

Lethal Weapon + Trading Places = Bad Boys II

Titanic + Apollo 13 = Armageddon

Jurassic Park (sub dinos for brobots) + E.T. = Transformers

Also, all those pieces made a ton of money. So there’s that.

My money is THIIIIISSSS big.

My money is THIIIIISSSS big.

So what’s wrong with garnering a ton of cash while making critics hammer their heads in frustration? What’s wrong with blockbuster Frankenstein cinema? Just as people flocked to the fictional monster, so do people to The Revenge of Bad Harbor Island II: the Armageddorock. The presence of torches and pitchforks only makes my comparison more acute. In any case, it’s about fulfilling a need and Bay does it well. That requires supreme talent. I said it again, ew ew ew.

If you don’t understand the Bay “skill” I’m talking about, let me ask you: can you helm an army of techno-wizards? ‘Cause if you can, I wanna be your friend. We can LARP, it’ll be great.

People who say Michael Bay is a talentless hack are completely off-base. It requires real skill to take so many visual pieces and make a huge movie on deadline, even if people look down on it. I take that back, especially when people look down on it. And all he has to show for it is a pile of money to swim in. Poor guy.

In the end, he gives us big, action-packed experiences. He lets the people who connect with his movies have pulpy fun. It’s male fantasy at it’s finest, and Michael Bay does it really, really well. After all, it takes a special type of talent to effectively film explosions and boobs.

And he does both.

And he does both.

Since I began this entry with annoying braggadocio, let’s have that segue into next week. I’m pretty sure he’s still alive, and a death scare is the perfect time to defend. I’ll be writing about Lil’ Wayne, bitches!

So more unpleasantness...

So more unpleasantness…


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