29 Jun

First, two points:

1. I have not been writing anything about human rights, international development or entry-level job search frustrations in quite a while. Sorry. The job search has been less than successful and human rights and ID are a tad depressing (See this, this, this, this or this). I need a break.

2. I have been posting about film more than usual. Sorry, but the trend continues…

TRANSFORMERS 3: DARK OF THE MOON is being released today (on a shitload of screens)!

I have not yet seen the movie, though I was able to catch a 15 minute sneak peek of Chicago getting the shit blown out of it when Michael Bay visited Wesleyan a month back. Needless to say those 15 minutes were the best fifteen minutes of my life noisy.

There is a lot to be said about the (loud/incoherent/racist/stupid/sexist/fun/REALLYFUCKINGLOUD/imperialist) Transformers franchise and M. Bay, the fourteen year old with a billion in a bank behind the helm.There is something blissful about the inanity of the movies, the offensiveness and the sheer kinetic energy that exudes from every mind-numbing and emotionless shot. For this reason, the Transformers franchise seems to bring out the best in film criticism. When a good critic sees a great film, they can only attempt to describe its triumph. When it comes to the bad films, they can bemoan the debasement of pop-culture and take some cruel jabs at the folks/Wall St. Marketing Execs involved in the production. BUT, when a pristine piece of pop-action cinema comes along that reeks of mind-boggling excess and which everyone on the planet will see, there is a lot to be said:

So, I’ve compiled some clips, reviews and selected quotes from my 15 page final paper, “Classical Narrative Architecture and Stylistic Innovation in Transformers” (film majors live the life!):

Best of Reviews:

1. A.O Scott

“There are filmmakers whose work is characterized by thrift, efficiency and devotion to the subtleties of cinematic expression. And then there is Michael Bay, whose films are symphonies of excess and redundancy, taking place in a universe full of fire and metal and purged of nuance…

The second of Mr. Bay’s “Transformers” movies, “Revenge of the Fallen,” released in 2009, struck me as not only the worst movie of that year — measured in raw box office dollars, it was certainly among the most popular — but also as irrefutable evidence that our once proud civilization was in a state of precipitous decline. Perhaps my own enjoyment of “Dark of the Moon” is further evidence. I can’t decide if this movie is so spectacularly, breathtakingly dumb as to induce stupidity in anyone who watches, or so brutally brilliant that it disarms all reason. What’s the difference?”

2.  Andrew O’Hehir

“(Transformers: Dark of the Moon) is the Wagnerian fulfillment of the American summer-movie tradition…It’s so massively and excessively vulgar that it doesn’t just flirt with self-parody, but chews it up and spits it out, and I’m not even sure that’s unintentional. In food terms, “Dark of the Moon” is like going to TGI Friday’s and ordering everything on the menu and then going to Krispy Kreme and doing it again. It’s not worth doing, it’ll definitely make you sick and a lot of it will taste bad, but as a performance-art act of juvenile Id-fulfillment, it’s magnificent.”

3. Dan Kois (this was my favorite review)

“(DOTM) is a reminder of how ballsy Michael Bay’s Transformers series is—exploiting America’s iconic tragedies for maximum impact. This time around, we have bodies falling through the air over a wrecked city declared “Ground Zero”; heroes intoning, “Let’s roll” before strapping up and heading into battle; even a gorgeous re-creation of the 1986 Challenger disaster, right down to that lopsided fireball blooming over the ocean…”

The plot? Come on, are you really going to do this to me? I didn’t even bother to see Transformers: The Second One, although it is possible I watched a great deal of it, without sound, on the airplane screen of a passenger sitting a row ahead of me that one time…

The people who you think might be evil turn out to be evil. Humanity triumphs. Optimus Prime gives a speech. Chicago burns. Your brain cells perish by the thousands, their howls of agony lost to the cacophony inside your skull. Vast quantities of money, roughly equal to the GDP of Tonga, travel from America’s wallets into the coffers of Paramount. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s ass returns to its home planet to report that Earth is ripe for the plucking. Enjoy it while you can!”

4. Some choice quotes from Peter Travers:

  • “All three films are the cinematic equivalent of a street mugging, only the mugging is over faster.”
  • “If a director could be jailed for using a camera to have carnal knowledge of an actress, he’d be doing life.”
  • “Watching it makes you die a little inside. Is this the future of movies? God help us! Michael Bay, you’ve done it again.”

My own absurd analysis of the first Transformers, from a final paper written for my Action film class (Feel free to mock):

The result is what Lichtenfeld defines as disorientating and claustrophobic, though not necessarily in a negative way. The disorientation that the temporal and spatial disregard shown by Bay in his fast and chaotic cutting provides the audience with an entirely unfamiliar experience. Legibility is replaced by raw movements, loud noise, and stunning special effects…

The result is suspense reflective of the kind created by similar dramatic situations in Griffith one-reel melodramas. Much like the last thirty seconds of A Lonely Villa when the criminals finally break though to the children and mother, the confrontation in Transformers does not appear to offer a satisfying moment. When Sam plummets in a slow motion tracking shot through the air, ‘all is lost’, ‘it is too late.’ Yet, much like the end of A Lonely Villa, the subway confrontation in Speed, and the ellipsis in Michael Bay’s The Rock, a solution presents itself.[1] Optimus, without the viewer being aware, is perfectly situated to catch Sam as he plummets to his death. The situation remains successful because of its insistence on classical melodramatic form. Sam makes the heroic sacrifice and Optimus is there in the nick of time to catch him, allowing the audience to enjoy a spectacular situation without losing track of the narrative. The bond between Optimus and Sam is fully forged through their shared heroic actions.


  1. Goodbye Chicago:
  3. THIS ACTUALLY IS RELATED TO THE USUAL CONTENT OF THIS BLOG! (skip to 2:48 for the Transformers part of the video, though the first part is fantastic)




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