Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday Filmmaker Finds -- 4th of July Edition!

By Levin Menekse
Hello everyone, glad to have you back. If you are new, feel free to check out last week's edition.

So, this being the 4th of July, let's talk about America. And, well, what's more American than Michael Bay?

Michael Bay takes the center stage in this fascinating video essay by Tony Zhou. I know Michael Bay is a polarizing figure among the cinephiles; he's probably a symbol of everything that's... wrong. But no one can deny his box office report card. He's probably the most reliable moneymaker in Hollywood, second to James Cameron. So, I believe, for this reason alone he probably deserves some critical attention.

The most interesting thing Zhou does in his analysis of Bay's style is to contrast it with his inferior copycats, in this case Battleship, and explain why they fail. It's interesting to note that the director of Battleship, Peter Berg, is a much more acclaimed director compared to Bay. Berg directed the pilot of Friday Night Lights, which is considered one of the best TV pilots ever, and yet it's interesting to see him get contrasted with Bay and fall somehow short.

I also read this reddit comment the other day that made me curious:

" Michael Bay made the Got Milk? ads. He made the iconic Red Cross commercials and won a Clio award for them. Say whatever you want about him, but this guy is off the charts brilliant when it comes to understanding what people want. He's probably the closest thing to the omniscient Don Draper and probably possess an uncanny insight into the human psyche. You just don't get to be this successful to this extent this fast without brilliance. Look at his career. Smash hit after smash hit. He knows what his audience wants and delivers it."

Perhaps, at some level, this is true. Michael Bay is an expert at delivering what his audience wants, but, maybe, that's why most cinephiles hate him: Because he merely gives people what they want and that's not necessarily a good thing. What is your opinion on Bay? Do you like him or hate him? Or do you think he doesn't even deserve this discussion?

Our second link of the week is much more simpler, much more poetic. It's basically the cinematographer's reel of the best cinematographer alive: Roger Deakins. Let your eyes feast, my friends. The song that plays over the video is from the soundtrack of Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford, which is a beautiful and criminally underrated movie. It's the opposite of a Bay Film: It doesn't give the audience what it wants at all and subverts everything you would expect from a Western starring Brad Pitt as a gunslinger. Perhaps because of this, it literally made no money.

And, lastly, here is a filmmaker who have walked the middle-road throughout his career: Rian Johnson. He's going to be helming the next Star Wars movies, but he began his career by writing/directing this little movie called Brick. Which, for my money, is the best movie he's made so far. He also directed the most famous Breaking Bad episode Ozymandias, where, well... Shit happens. In this interview, Rian is extremely open about his artistic process -- he even allows us to take a look at the earliest iteration of the movie, a "novella/long treatment thingy".

As for the Short Film of the Week, here is a horror short that got its director his first high-profile feature. Mama is the name and it's a very simple movie, hell, it's just one scene. But it freaked out Guillermo Del Toro and he basically allowed the filmmakers behind the project to make the feature version.

I can't quite put my finger on why this short scene is so effective. There are so many horror movies made each year and I wonder why this one rises above the rest. It is genuinely scary, to me at least, but why? Maybe Sean the horror maestro can answer this.

Hope you enjoyed this edition of Friday Filmmaker Finds! If you have any thoughts on the Michael Bay situation or why Mama is scary... That's why the comments are for! See you there!

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