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Criticwire Survey: A Michael Bay-ferendum

Criticwire By Sam Adams | Criticwire June 30, 2014 at 1:58PM

Is Michael Bay an artist or a threat to cinema? And what, if any, purpose do critics have with regard to a movie like "Transformers: Age of Extinction"?
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"Transformers: Age of Extinction"
"Transformers: Age of Extinction"

Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, "What is the best film in theaters right now?" can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.

Q: In his review, the New York Times' A.O. Scott argued that "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is essentially "a very long art film... albeit one that was made with unlimited resources." Conversely Indiewire's Eric Kohn made the case that movies like Michael Bay's "actively fight against the prospects of a more varied film culture." What's your take on Michael Bay? And what role, if any, do critics have with regard to a movie like "Transformers: Age of Extinction"?

Nell Minow, Beliefnet

The only people who have to do any thinking whatsoever about the meaning or quality of Michael Bay movies are the critics who struggle to think of something to say about them. It seems unfair that we have to say something new every time when he keeps making the same movie. Or perhaps movie is too strong a word as it implies narrative arcs and dialog prepared by actual writers. There are theme park rides with more of those qualities than the "Transformers" films. And yet, while illuminating the human experience and expanding our souls' reach is one of the primary purposes of cinema, it is not the only one. Sometimes you just want to see cars turn into robots and robots turn into cars, and if it's in IMAX 3D, all the better. Pass the popcorn.

Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly

I'll start with the last question, because it seems to be the most often misunderstood. The role critics have with regard to a "Transformers" movie *should be* the role critics have with regard to *any* movie: Offering thoughtful analysis, providing context, and not worrying one solitary shit about serving some nebulous "consumer guide" function. If you operate from the assumption that a critic's value is telling an audience what and what not to go see, a "Transformers" movie is only one example of a case where you might as well type "blah blah blah" sufficient times to fill your word count.

As for Bay himself, there is no question that he is pretty singular as an auteur; however anonymously other big-budget films may be corporately constructed, you know damn good and well when you're watching a Michael Bay movie. That doesn't mean I think his movies are generally good or interesting in any constructive way, and I'd be happier if they didn't suck up as much of the oxygen in the movie-talk room and as much money at the box office. But as long as they're around, we can in the critical community can take a good hard look at what's there on the screen, and try to write about it in an interesting way.

Peter Howell, Toronto Star

All due respect to Tony Scott, but I must say that calling "Transformers: Age of Extinction" an art film is like calling a jar of Cheez Whiz an exotic fromage. The only art that Bay pursues is seeing how loudly he can make the cash register ring. It's a career-long pursuit that with the new "Transformers" has metastasized into something far more alarming: his conscienceless kowtowing to Chinese authorities through self-censorship, gratuitous content and government shout-outs so as to guarantee access to China. Heaven help Hollywood and film if others follow Bay's lead.

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

Because I'm used to defending horror movies (and some truly despicable ones), I have a hard time dismissing Michael Bay out of hand. He's his own animal, a genre of one, and nowhere near the most homophobic or jingoistic director I can think of. He's a director whose style is instantly recognizable -- a popular auteur for people who don't use the word auteur. Meanwhile, Bay's actually improved as an artist: His cutting is a lot clearer, and "Pain & Gain" was, to me, a big leap forward. Our duty as critics is to assess him fairly, as we would any director, regardless of the money and muscle behind him. That's not easy, especially since hating on Michael Bay can be cathartic. But truly: Is there another filmmaker on the planet who is as well-funded while being so strictly interested in the visual? That doesn't necessarily equal good, but it does equal significant.


Danny Bowes, RogerEbert.com, Indiewire

I've spent a lot of time, probably more than I should, thinking about Michael Bay, and have arrived at a take that more resembles Mr. Scott's assessment than Mr. Kohn's, but that differs slightly. I do think that Bay enjoys vast resources and creative control (and "enjoys" can be read at least two ways there), and that his movies reflect a distinct and personal vision. I do hesitate before calling it an artistic vision in the way we commonly think of artists' creative process as working; a Michael Bay movie is not something that can be easily summed up in words, and almost pointless to assess rationally. His motivating energy behind making the movie and the desired audience reaction seem to be identical: an extremely heightened, post-rational state not unlike if testosterone were a psychedelic drug. This is all a very intricate way of saying he thinks blowing shit up is awesome, that giant robots are awesome, that American flags are awesome, that Victoria's Secret models with long legs are awesome, that dollying the camera around movie stars in slow motion is awesome, and that his ability to convey the excitement his preoccupations stir in him and nothing else whatsoever is unique among practitioners of blow-shit-up popular cinema. The only director right now who even comes close is Peter Berg, who has the macho swagger stuff and the American flags and the giant robots and leggy model types down pat, but Peter Berg's films make far too much rational or even linear sense to come near Michael Bay. Some of his movies are better than others, but no one simply smashes the "do not break glass in case of emergency" endorphin switch in the brain like Michael Bay. He is one of a kind, and whether to praise or damn the gods for this is a matter of personal choice. Oh, and any role critics have with regards to new "Transformers" movies is about proportionate to the role of dialogue and plot in "Transformers" movies: There's something there, and it might even be entertaining in places, but it's really kind of beside the point. It's not that we should give up trying to wrap our minds around these things, it's more that logical assessment is a little futile here. Why is an explosion?

Kevin Lee twitter.com/alsolikelife, Fandor, Sight & Sound

The contrast between Scott's and Kohn's articles in regards to the question "What's your take on Michael Bay?" gets at the age-old quandary of whether the industry helps or hurts the flourishing of film art and culture. One critic nobly applies redemptive auteurist strategies to detect Bay's creative personality within a studio product, while another sees Bay as a high-profile cog in the studio machine that sucks resources and attention from more modest but worthy creative endeavors. Both perspectives can be valid and purposeful, and it's important for critics to see the two in tandem, as a way to map out one's own perspective on film as both industry and art. 

I've made a short documentary on "Transformers: Age of Extinction" that (literally) maps out my own relationship with its production. In the course of making it, I became more concerned with understanding Michael Bay as a trans-cultural industrial operator driving a global production, rather than as a director making a work of cinema. Now that I've seen the finished product, there's one moment in the film that has me pondering the possibility of Bay's critical voice in the film. A crusty theater owner walks through the ruins of his run-down palace, bemoaning the glory days of Hollywood before the current landscape of remakes and sequels. It seems to be a moment of directorial self-deprecation, but then the camera cuts to a close-up of a poster of Howard Hawks' "El Dorado," itself a remake of Hawks' immortal "Rio Bravo." Is this Bay pointing out a contradiction in the standard clichés of nostalgic cinephilia? Is he saying that Hollywood has always been eating its own tail, which puts Bay in the same company as Hawks? Can we even allow ourselves to imagine Bay as possessing the critical intelligence to make a visual reference as sly as something you'd find in a Godard film? And how would that affect our relationship to him and his work? These days we can pretty much read any movie or any person however we want, through any number of ideological frameworks, filters and supporting data. So it really becomes a matter of owning up to our personal choices of how we wish to see, and to what end.

Richard Brody, the New Yorker

The role of critics in relation to "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is the same as it is in relation to any other film -- to see the future and to see the movie in its light. Michael Bay's brassy showbiz cynicism and narrow moral clarity stand out because they'll soon look as classical, and then as retro, as they are. He applies the most sophisticated and up-to-date techniques to work that has the vestigial aroma of martinis and cigar smoke, and sooner or later, even children will catch on -- the gap between his world and theirs will grow detectibly large; if he's lucky, that will be the moment when he passes from cinematic fatherhood to cinematic grandfatherhood and his foibles will seem instantly lovable -- and appear immediately in quotation marks. Which is a long way of saying that the necessity and the pleasure of criticism is to watch movies and to think about movies -- all sorts of movies. Remove "Transformers" from its 4,000 screens; how many of the viewers thereby deprived of that weekend entertainment would go see "The Immigrant"? I wish that the answer were "Many," for the sake of James Gray's clout, but I suspect that the intersection of viewership between, say, the masterworks playing at BAMcinemaFest and "Transformers" is critics and critics only. And some of those movies -- if we critics do our job discerningly and vigorously -- will be recognized as the artistic landmarks that they are (as well as being recognized as evidence that our movie culture is more varied than ever), while "Transformers: Age of Extinction" will end up a mere footnote of cultural history.


Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter, Tribune

Michael Bay has directed eleven feature films; I've seen six of them and have written at some advocatory length on both "The Island"and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." I was less enthusiastic, though still broadly positive regarding "Pearl Harbor" and "Transformers" -- my reviews of all four are online, so I can't suddenly pose as any kind of Bay-basher (fashionable as that may be). "Armageddon," while vastly preferable to the inept, inert "Deep Impact," fell short of par; "Pain & Gain" I found almost unbearable -- "Wolf of Wall" Street bad -- but I'd place most blame at the feet of scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Upshot: On current "form" I'd rather watch a new Michael Bay film than one by Lukas Moodysson, Ron Howard, Nicolas Winding Refn, David O. Russell, Carlos Reygadas, Kelly Reichardt, Amir Naderi, Mike Figgis, Sofia Coppola or Lav Diaz. I can understand those who regard Bay as an Enemy of True Cinema and I can nod along when reading a critique which plausibly positions him as some maverick, visionary-experimental auteur, though personally I couldn't espouse either of these sentiments.

The problem is not Michael Bay. Bay makes his films primarily for teenage, male, North American audiences -- and if other demographics turn out, at home and farther afield so much the better for his employers and for his ultimate principal paymasters (in the present instance, Viacom). The problem isn't hard to identify: current commercial cinema -- in terms of production, distribution and exhibition -- is catastrophically skewed towards the teenage, male, North American audience. "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is currently playing on 4,233 screens in North America; another new release this week, "Snowpiercer," is on eight; Richie Mehta's fine, small-scale Canadian/Indian drama "Siddharth" even fewer. A parallel problem: Bay and his ilk receive a catastrophically excessive amount of attention and exposure in all kinds of media, at the obvious expense of more worthwhile cinema. Bay inspires entertaining, illuminating reactions from critics -- reactions which often shed valuable light on wider cultural and social issues (that's perhaps their main "role" when it comes to mega-budget, mega-publicized megaplex fare). But the crux lies elsewhere: editors stand in stark dereliction of their duty if, every two or three years, they elect to routinely devote so many excessive inches and/or bandwidth to Michael bloody Bay. Other, better stories exist. Find them.

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

I reckon that every time Michael Bay has made a movie, it's lowered the intelligence of Americans an average of 5 IQ points.

The critic's role re: such entertainment? To report what he or she saw, how it affected him/her and what it all means.

Ali Arikan, RogerEbert.com

Comic book movies are destroying film culture. Young Adult adaptations are destroying film culture. Michael Bay is destroying film culture.


Transformers

Ben Travers, Indiewire

I'm always eager to come to Michael Bay's defense given he made one of the best summer blockbusters of all time when he launched "Armageddon" in 1998. But like most action auteurs, it appears his best days are behind him. The spectacle remains, but it's overridden originality. When he pumped out "Pain & Gain" last year, it marked as much of a career renaissance as we could hope for, and it's still a far less appealing piece than "The Rock" or "Bad Boys." I love Michael Bay when he's creating original action blockbusters -- it's hard to find someone who's not a fan of the aforementioned '90s films -- but like Simon Baker who went from the exquisite all-star quote-a-palooza "Con Air" to the embarrassing sequel "The Expendables 2," Renny Harlin ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger" to "The Legend of Hercules"), or even James Cameron, who's falling into the sequelitis syndrome with "Avatar" (You can say everything that needs to be said with "Avatar," Jimmy? Read a book. There's more.), Michael Bay seems to have become stuck in a flat circle of creativity. It's his special effects teams that are making the art these days.

With that being said, our job as critics remains the same. We stimulate discussion around the film with an analytical bent. That's what both Mr. Scott and Mr. Kohn have done, and their nearly opposite views illustrate the many ways we can absorb and discuss any film. People who treat "Transformers" movies like the films are beneath their precious time as a professional writer paid to watch movies are missing the point. There are thousands of people working incredibly hard to produce these films, many more than your typical art house film. The VFX teams and sound squads are creating art, and whether it's enough to make up for negligible character development is your job as a critic to discuss. It's easy to pass off gorgeous special effects as just that, but everyone needs to remember that's exactly what some people pay to see. Film is popular art, and "Transformers" has been one of the most popular forms of it for nearly a decade. It's time we all accept that.

Andrew Welch, To Be (Cont'd)

If memory serves, I once watched "The Rock" three times in a single day. I would have been about 13 then, home from school with some kind of bug. I don't think I've seen it since, but it was the perfect movie for that day. And, if I'm honest, I have to confess that it broadened by sense of what a director could do with the tools of filmmaking. I had never seen anything that looked like "The Rock." Here was a distinctly creative mind at work. All those carefully calibrated shots and set pieces added up to a pure adrenaline rush -- it all just looked so cool.

Looks aren't everything, though, and it is possible to have too much of a good thing. I recognize Michael Bay as a unique filmmaker with an advanced mastery of craft -- an artist who knows how to work a crowd on a global scale. But lets get real here: As cool as Bay's images can be, his movies themselves are overbearing and ostentatious. They trip over their own self-seriousness like an Autobot with two left feet. To put it simply, you won't catch me arguing for his addition to the pantheon of great directors.

Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine

It's clear that critics have no role with regards to movies like "Transformers: Age of Extinction," as it is with a lot of epic-length, epic-budgeted blockbusters: people will see movies like this no matter what. (Anecdotally, I've seen a number of folks online note that many of their non-reviewer friends have gone to see the fourth "Transformers," knowing how poorly it was received by critics, and they ended up hating it just as much. So maybe pay attention to critics more?) With one exception, I'm firmly anti-Michael Bay; "Pearl Harbor" is one of the few movies I've nodded off during, and "Bad Boys II" is, to this day, the only movie I've ever walked out of in the theaters, which is on me because I don't know why I expected "Bad Boys II" to be anything other than… well, "Bad Boys II."

Bay's art is the action-film equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting: It's almost entirely aimed at people who hate art and art critics, and who believe the profit derived is the ultimate judge of quality.

The exception is "Pain & Gain," which I've seen twice and enjoyed, though slightly less on the second viewing. It's a nasty film, but to me, it's a film that is aware of its nastiness and that its characters are awful people not worth aspiring to. The difference, I suppose, is that so many of Bay's characters are terrible, and all the others are meant to be heroic of a sort. The dumbbells in "Pain & Gain," thankfully, don't come off that way. But after sitting through "Trans4mers" (I might still be watching it, the thing feels so damn long), it seems like Bay is more comfortable with being pointlessly excessive instead of grasping for some kind of point amidst his visual aesthetic.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

I've seen every film Michael Bay has directed, and the only one I've liked was the original "Transformers." The rest fall somewhere on the spectrum between mediocre and atrocious. I find him dull as a director. While stylish, his movies have no real substance, and they're so bombastic that they rarely even work on the level of fun. Non-stop explosions, crashes, and CGI don't automatically equal entertainment, despite what Bay apparently believes. There's also a nasty antisocial (and anti-woman) streak in much of his work. It's weird, for example, that "Transformers: Age of Extinction" has a subplot in which Mark Walhberg is overly protective of his teenage daughter's innocence, while Bay photographs the actress playing her in a sexual manner as frequently as possible.

Having said all this, the guy's movies obviously make a lot of money, and many folks seem to love him. Far be it from me to criticize what others enjoy. I do think it's worth noting that the vehement Bay-bashing found online, some of it from film critics, feels overdone. Yes, a knowledgeable critic or film buff can accurately argue that his movies are generally terrible and empty. There are, however, even worse filmmakers out there who don't get nearly the same amount of scorn, Uwe Boll, Jonathan Liebesman, Dennis Dugan, and Courtney Solomon among them. Something about Bay seems to invite sniping. At the end of the day, like any filmmaker, Bay puts his work out there and critics have an obligation to (professionally) analyze it. Whether general audiences agree with the critical assessment is irrelevant. All art deserves discussion.


Mark Young Sound on Sight, The New York Movie Klub

It's wrong to say that Michael Bay isn't an artist. He has a specific visual style, and that style is associated with him so closely that there was no question who "Hot Fuzz" was making fun of when they parodied it. It's also wrong to say that his art is only aimed at 13-year-old boys, since "The Island," "Pain & Gain," and even "Armageddon" all aim at a higher level of maturity (if only slightly higher). The problem is that his art is the action-film equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting: It's almost entirely aimed at people who hate art and art critics, and who believe the profit derived is the ultimate judge of quality. In Bay's world, the critics only exist to tell you which films should win Oscars, and that his pictures should be exempt from judgment; in reality, critics should have the right to call BS on Bay's style while pointing out the action films which do their job correctly (I'm partial to the David Koepp joint "Premium Rush" as a Bay antidote).


Ethan Alter, Film Journal International, NYCFilmCritic.com

I'm not sure there's any significant role critics could hope to have when it comes to a series like "Transformers." It's an established brand name that will continue to thrive until the audience gets bored and moves on; we can keep insisting that the movies could and should try harder to be smarter, swifter and, in general, better, but there's little incentive for anyone on the production side to heed those complaints. And after Michael Bay's attempt to venture into new territory with "Pain & Gain" met with a muted critical response and even more muted box office, it's no great surprise that he's back to making movies he knows a mass audience will see. I was on board with what Bay was trying to do with "Pain & Gain" -- despite the fact that, like all of his movies, it went on way too long -- but I also can take pleasure in more traditional Bayhem like "The Rock" and the first "Bad Boys." Even the first "Transformers" had its moments, but the other entries in the series have been a chore -- it's fairly obvious that Bay has little to no interest in the material beyond the opportunity to shoot in (and blow up) exotic locales. Steven Soderbergh often spoke about his interest in filmmaking as stemming from his interest in problem solving; I get the sense that's the same with Bay in regards to "Transformers" as well, but the problems he's out to solve are "How many transforming robots can I cram into this frame?" as opposed to "What's the best way to tell this story?" 


Edwin Arnaudin, Asheville Citizen-Times, Ashvegas

As a teenager when Bay was in his "The Rock"/"Armageddon""Pearl Harbor" prime, I obediently looked forward to each bloated summer action spectacular and was thusly rewarded. I heard the naysayers loud and clear, but it wasn't until he started his "Transformers" downward spiral that I agreed with them. Six long years later, "Pain & Gain" came along, and while it was my biggest moviegoing surprise of last year, I had a feeling that it was a fluke. Unless Bay has another film of that quality in the works (and this whole "Bad Boys 3" business suggests that he does not), "Age of Extinction" is a sign of where his cinematic interests truly lie.

Based on the overwhelming willingness of viewers to pay for a film that's been recycled three times, critics are all but powerless against a movie like "Age of Extinction." If the same old robot CGI and urban destruction that's been occurring since 2007 can gross $100 million in a weekend with a 17 percent RT approval and a score of 31 on Metacritic, that's a pretty clear sign to me that folks buying the tickets don't care what critics say.

Josh Larsen, Filmspotting

I put Michael Bay's "Pain & Gain" on my 2013 Top Ten list, with the caveat that Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's subversive screenplay could only have reached its full, self-satirical potential if Bay applied his particular vision to it. How much Bay was aware of this was a bit of an open question for me, but "Transformers: Age of Extinction" provides an answer. As far as Bay is concerned, "Pain & Gain" was a subliminal achievement.


Dan Schindel, Film School Rejects, Movie Mezzanine

I think both reactions are kind of silly, the latter moreso than the former. Performing mental pretzeling to qualify "Trans4mers" as an "art film" strikes me as something you do in the theater to distract yourself from the overwhelming tedium of endless metal-gnashing (which I totally understand wanting to do, to be clear -- anything to feel like you aren't wasting your time). But then, I'm of the opinion that all movies are art, so I've always looked at the term "art film" cockeyed, even though I get what people are generally getting at when they use it. But remember when it was just a joke when someone called a Transformers movie an "art film"?

As for Bay being a danger to cinema... I'm sorry, but I don't think any universe where "Trans4mers" doesn't exist is one where more people are likely to care about Lisandro Alonso, or to go see "Jauja." And if there's a battle in the cinematic landscape emblemized in the choice between "Trans4mers" and "Snowpiercer," well, that battle was won a while back. I'm pretty cool with that, since I and anyone else who cares still gets to see all the good movies.

Bay? We are insects to him, and if he ever sees this survey, he will likely chuckle and then do a Scrooge McDuck money dive. If we have a role in regards to movies like this, it's to act as a source of brief amusement for fans of snark with our creatively negative reviews. As for him as a filmmaker? I dislike some of his work, and am pretty cool with other parts of it. I feel the same about many other filmmakers. A lot of critics or movie fans have made him the target of passionate, burning hate, but I refuse to give any artist that level of power over me.

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing

My take on Michael Bay is that he's incredibly boring. Maybe I've outgrown "blowing stuff up real good," but I want a little more from my movies than he usually gives me. I like certain big, loud, and dumb flicks, but Bay's work hasn't done a thing for me since maybe "The Rock" (emphasis on maybe). He's hardly an artist, but he seems to give the people what they want. In regards to the role we as critics have with a movie like "Transformers: Age of Extinction," it's hard to say anymore. These days, if we praise a blockbuster heavily, we're under the influence of the studios, but if we slam one, we only like German Expressionist films and are out of touch with modern audiences. I suppose something like this is critic-proof, though I hope not. Sadly though, these keep making tons of money despite my efforts to warn people away. Alas.


Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second

I can't stand his movies, and yet I find the whole Bay circus endless fascinating. I've returned to his oeuvre twice in my life now for full re-evaluation and I still can't quite figure it out: I find the films deathly dull when sitting through them, but the accompanying discourse always enlightening. As for what kind of role critics play with a filmmaker like Bay, well I'm not quite sure. "Transformers 3" earned me my first (and to date, only) death threat, which, while worrying at the time, I now find myself wearing like some kind of perverse badge of honor, but I learnt from that experience (I published an unembargoed review of the film 12 hours before others were able to) that the hardcore Bay-ists don't really engage with the text (of a review) so much as attack any negativity from the off. 


Zac Oldenburg, Having Said That

I enjoy watching most of Bay's films, no matter how successful, and I think that the amount of energy in to bringing him down is a waste of a critic's breath. Instead of wasting words on the pain of another "Transformers," why not instead focus on talking about films that you do support people seeing this weekend?

There are four of these movies for a reason: Some people like them, and they are going to make more of them after a 300 million global opening weekend. I would love to see Bay hand off the franchise and try something different, even if I was mild on "Pain & Gain," and pleading for that is a better use of my words rather than proving I don't like a "Transformers" movie. Hell, I really liked the first third of "Age of Extinction" before it got too broad for its own good.

I say, take a chill pill, people, "Transformers" aren't going away, might as well stop trying to make them. 

Jason Shawhan, The Nashville Scene, Interface 2037

I generally can't stand Bay's films. His aesthetic is a little too sleek surface/breast implant/explosion/product placement-oriented for me, but he's thematically and tonally consistent with what he wants to do. He knows what he's doing, and people still go see his films, which makes me a little sad inside, because he's a brutal sadist who has spent four films turning a group of benevolent aliens into a bickering bunch of frat dudes and making an icon of altruistic decency into a psychopathic executioner. Reagan's Star Wars fantasies are the honest precursor to the "Transformers films": Sci-fi stripped of ideas, war as "entertainment," and militarized playthings to keep the gears turning. Truthfully, the most interesting thing about Bay is how he shifted his median shot length after the studios told him to switch to 3D-friendly durations, which made the second two "Transformers" films much less visually assaultive.

John Keefer, 51 Deep

I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here since I haven't seen Mr. Bay's latest series of explosions and don't plan on seeing it anytime soon, though I am intrigued by the Mark Wahlberg line, "I think we just found a Transformer" because it has the exact same cadence as Andy Samberg's "Say hi to your mother for me" impression. Did he deliver the line like that on purpose? Is the Hollywood marketing machine now so adept at sucking up all related pop culture ephemera that seeing a popular star or film series on the screen would be the same experience as googling that star or property? I'm guessing that the assertion of "Transformers" as art film has something to do with the incomprehensibility of the whirlygigs, explosions, and sweaty sexy bodies on screen? I'll stick to assuming since that is the watermark of all Internet interaction: assumption and outrage. Hollywood has finally hit on the movies-as-widgets model it was always searching for, these giant spectacles being a Mad Lib or paint-by-number version of a movie that you can plug anyone into and get the same result from. Any argument in the positive for such a thing must be disregarded on principle and instead of saying 'it's like an art film' it is now the duty of any film critic worth their salt to instead tell the people about actual art films, classics of world cinema, movies that may have an actual impact on people's lives rather than defend or lionize billion dollar garbage. If this is not possible in "print" than direct your readers to a blog, just list titles if you lack time for in-depth analysis, and refuse to be the lowest rung on their marketing blitz. Get angry, you sons of bitches. Get angry.


Tilda Swinton in Bong Joon-ho's 'Snowpiercer'
Tilda Swinton in Bong Joon-ho's 'Snowpiercer'
Q: What is the best movie in theaters?

A: "Snowpiercer."

Other movies receiving multiple votes: "Obvious Child," "They Came Together."

This article is related to: Criticwire Survey, Michael Bay


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