Positive Cynicism – Michael Bay vs. acting

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

Frankly, I despise Megan Fox. She’s not hot, she’s not talented, she’s not anything more than a block of wood and sweat and I can’t believe anyone sees anything worthwhile in her.

That’s why it almost pains me to defend her here. In a recent interview, Miss Fox put forth the argument that there’s basically no such thing as acting in a Michael Bay movie. Now, this seems like a pretty honest appraisal to me.

“…Working with Michael Bay is not about an acting experience,” she said. “I don’t want to blow smoke up people’s ass. People are well aware that this is not a movie about acting. And once you realize that, it almost becomes fun because you can be in the moment and go, ‘All right, I know that when he calls Action! I’m either going to be running or screaming, or both.” It was probably the smartest, most honest thing she’s ever said – and too much of what she’s said, which is often idiotic, gets reported these days.

(Aside: I remember seeing her in FHM or Stuff or something a few years before Transformers came out, and she was actually bragging that she had David-from-90210’s name “tattooed next to my pie.” I knew right then that if she were to ever achieve any level of fame we were in for an endless cavalcade of idiotic statements. And it turns out I was right. She makes Lindsay Lohan, her Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen co-star, look like a genius. In the interview where she said the above about Michael Bay, she also said she didn’t understand Transformers 2 at all. I guess because it’s a movie for the intellectual elite. Although, if the reviews are remotely accurate about what a mess it is, I’d be surprised if anyone of even her pedestrian intellect could follow it.)

Anyway, Megan Fox is dead on about acting in Michael Bay’s movies. You’ve all seen one or more of these monstrosities, but you’d probably be hard-pressed to remember any of the, erm, fine performances they contain. I don’t care how popular his films apparently are with audiences, Michael Bay is an artisan who makes shiny, exploding shit for subliterates easily dazzled/confused by his 100-edits-per-minute … well, let’s be charitable and say it’s a “style.”

The thing about Michael Bay, though, is that you can’t ever criticize the guy. He always manages to swoop in with a condescending response designed to make the naysayer look like an asshole for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. And, as he does whenever his feelings are hurt, he took to the press and gave a response that was simultaneously dismissive – “Well, that’s Megan Fox for you” – and withering. “Nobody in the world knew about Megan Fox until I found her and put her in Transformers.” Which isn’t exactly true – I already knew who she was and already found her pointless by the time she was in Transformers – but I get his point. He may have turned Megan Fox, god damn him, into a movie star.

But it was the rest of his comment that made me laugh my ass off. And this is the problem with Michael Bay. When he makes these dismissive-yet-withering defense/attacks, he can’t help but self-aggrandize. Filmmakers are usually egomaniacs – I think Steven Spielberg’s response to not being nominated for Best Director in 1985 (“I can’t believe they went for Kurosawa over me”) is a great example of the self-importance of popular film craftsmen – but Michael Bay clearly thinks he’s the most powerful pharaoh of them all.

So, confronted with the assessment that Michael Bay’s movie aren’t about acting, he counters with the idea that his movies have helped build the careers of others, making the classic populist mistake of confusing talent with success. My favorite part was this:

“Nick Cage wasn’t a big actor when I cast him, nor was Ben Affleck before I put him in Armageddon […] not to mention Will Smith and Martin Lawrence from Bad Boys.”

Where to begin dissecting for maximum hilarity?

Let’s start at the end and work our way back.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were both coming off of very successful sitcoms when they starred in Bad Boys in 1995. Lawrence’s Martin ran from 1992 to 1997, and he was already well-known as a successful stand-up comic whose 1994 concert film You Say Crazy came under attack for being vulgar and racist. Smith’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran from 1990 to 1996, a surprise smash hit which still plays far too often on Nick at Nite marathons. He’d already had a number of hit records as half of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, including the ubiquitous 1988 hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” which won a Grammy. I remember when Bad Boys came out and it seemed like a stretch that Smith could be an action star; it was Independence Day and Men in Black that cemented him as a movie star, but he was already doing really well for himself.

As for Ben Affleck, dude had already won an Oscar by the time he was cast in Armageddon, and he was building a reputation as an actor in independent films (including two Kevin Smith movies, one of which – Chasing Amy – he was the lead in). Honestly, being in Armageddon was probably the worst thing that ever happened to his career, since we had to deal with half a decade afterward of Hollywood trying to convince us that he was some kind of modern version of Spencer Tracy.

And Nicolas Cage wasn’t a big actor when he made The Rock? Nicolas Cage is a Coppola, for crying out loud. He was the male lead in Moonstruck, a giant hit which won Oscars, eight years prior. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for that one. He’d been acting for 14 years before The Rock, working with directors like Alan Parker, Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch and the Coen Brothers. He was known as a quirky actor who was a somewhat bankable romantic comedy lead. True, The Rock led to Cage’s reign as the star of incredibly shitty action movies for morons, but he won a damn Oscar the year before for a movie he had to actually act in, Leaving Las Vegas.

You give Michael Bay a few more minutes and he’ll tell you how he invented motion pictures, special effects, storytelling and the wheel.

Sorry, Michael Bay, but you didn’t make anyone’s career. You didn’t. These people had careers before you, and some of them might have had better careers without your films. I understand you being sour because someone you had a good working relationship with dissed your interest in actors playing human beings, and you had your little dig at her – the same way you blamed the failure of The Island on Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson instead of on it being crappy nonsense. But stop there. Don’t try to tell us how great you are and how great you are at spotting talent when really you’ve only just – inexplicably – made some movies that a lot of people went to see.

It doesn’t mean they’re good. It just means a lot of people went to see them. There’s a difference.

Well, maybe with the next film, Michael Bay will show a little interest in people and how they behave when not being menaced by imaginary, overly-rendered disasters. He claims that he wants to do “something that is totally different. A small dark comedy, a true story, with actors just acting, no effects. I’m done with effects movies for now.”

Of course, the last time he said he wanted to make a small movie that was just a love story and not a big action movie, we got Pearl Harbor. I guess the thing to really remember about Michael Bay is that no matter what he says, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

Comments (1)
  1. FupDuckTV July 7, 2009

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