Friday, October 26, 2007

It's official: I freaking hate Michael Bay.

So I had the unfortunate experience of watching The Island the other night. This makes for the third pile of garbage I've seen from Michael Bay; the other two being Transformers and Armageddon.

The thing that really pisses me off about Bay's movies is that everything happens so fast, there's so much spectacle of chases and fights and explosions and sfx, that people watch this tripe and think it's gold, never realizing that they just ate a huge plate of steaming fuck. Second to that is Bay's complete neglect to take his movies into any area where the situations or issues posed could get into any deep contemplation. Of course, who can talk about issues when there's a helicopter/car chase to be had?

Let's take The Island, for example. A huge population of people cloned and grown ultimately for perfect organ replacements for their DNA-original masters. They've no idea about their purpose. They're told a lie about a worldwide contamination and if they're lucky, they win a lottery to go to "the island": the only contamination-free zone on Earth to help repopulate the world. In reality winning the lottery means certain death as they're to be carved up for transplantation.

Yes, farming clones as organ replacements is wrong since the clones have a consciousness and sentience, but that's not an argument that many would counter. It's easy to be on the side of the happy little clones and their cutesy innocence. We can all agree on this and pat ourselves on the back for being humanitarians.

The thing that Bay brings up and skirts around is with Scarlett Johansson's character. Her original has recently suffered a horrible car wreck and has 48 hours to live unless she gets the transplants from her clone. Although she knows that her original is dying, she does nothing and doesn't even seem to care about the fact. Even after speaking via videophone with her original's very young child, she never contemplates her purpose for being: keeping her original alive.

I'm not saying that Scarlett's character should've sacrificed herself or not. I'm saying that you had a delicious ethical issue here and instead of ever devoting any time to it, we get another helicopter chase, some running from mercenaries, and a campy scene where the lead mercenary judges the owner of the cloning company as an unethical man. (A mercenary who saw nothing wrong with firing automatic weapons and bombs in crowded civilian areas, mind you.) Bay dropped the ball.

Add to that all of Bay's awkward expositions, needless secondary characters bloating the runtime to more than 2 hours, and an almost fetishistic love for all things military, and you have a celluloid shit sandwich. You get the equivalent of the teenager who thinks he's all grown up: able to recognize the complexities of adult life, but unable to deal or address any of them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

There is no spotlight in collaboration.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the benefit of seeing Electric Six in concert with opening bands We Are the Fury and The Gore Gore Girls. It was a great show and Electric Six were absolutely amazing (one of the best acts I've seen all year!).

However, the Gore Gore Girls didn't put on that great a show and it was for one simple reason: The failure to share the limelight. During the performance, in most of the songs, the singer also played lead guitar. The other guitarist was also more than capable of playing lead, but for some reason, only played lead on two songs.

The singer was wearing herself out trying to do everything and in the end, it just got embarrassing to watch. On the one instrumental where the 2nd guitarist actually played lead, the singer actually got up on one of the monitor speakers and danced around, stealing the spotlight from the lead performer. It became a boring ordeal of "Look at me! Look at me!" The indulgence grew tiresome and I was glad when it was over.

The thing is that when you're taking part in any kind of collaborative artform, you cannot ever assume full credit for the work produced. You also cannot try to garner all the attention that the work gets.

In film, there's all this worry about who's the author of the piece. Oh, it's the screenwriter. Oh, it's the director. Oh, it's the producer. The truth is that the author is the group of people who made the piece. Change any member of that key crew and you're going to end up with a different film. Ingmar Bergman's films wouldn't be the same without Sven Nykvyst. The Coen Brothers make different movies if the script is from someone else.

Film is the most collaborative art. It is completely unfair for one person to ignore the hard work of everyone else and proclaim themselves the author of the film.

I've had the unfortunate experience of working in the past with people who come from this mindset of sole authorship. There were many creative disagreements and a constant struggle to keep the ideas flowing freely back and forth. Unfortunately, the project devolved into a horrible power struggle, the flow of ideas stopped and turned into either outright dictation or passive-aggressive mind-reading. In the end, the project was absolutely awful and an outright heartbreak for me, who was hoping for turning out a great product.

If you're going to work collaboratively, then you need to remember that the key idea is teamwork. You cannot do everything yourself, nor should you.