September 9, 2011
I have recently finished reading Simon Reynolds’ latest tome, Retromania, which largely deals with pop culture –and specifically, music’s – cyclical nature; it constantly looks back to repeat itself and revel in past glories. The book deals mostly in music, though fashion is thrown in as a comparison, and films are very rarely mentioned at all. The only major instance I can recall is in regards to the early 70s boom in 50s nostalgia, when American Graffiti became a massive hit, capturing the cultural zeitgeist along with Sha Na Na and eventually the TV series Happy Days. He attributes that particular revival to the fallout of the 60s that so deeply split America that everyone wanted to think back upon the simpler times of their collective youth, when they listened to rock n’ roll and everyone gathered at school dances. This was largely an imagined past, of course, as socio-economic variations meant a lot of different experiences for a lot of different people, and times were just as rough for some then as they were at their present. Still, nostalgia has a powerful effect, and though it is generally an instinct of conservativism and all of the negative connatations with ignoring both the present and the future that entails, it has produced some great art. American Graffiti, for instance, is a brilliant example of inter-weaving narrative strands that also captures some universal truths in a specific moment.
I know the comparison seems a bit arbitrary (the directors have the same first name and they have new movies out around the same time), but having seen Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Public Enemies within a few days of each other, I can’t help but contrast the two works and their creators. For those unaware, Michael Bay is responsible for TROTF, as well as such doozies as Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, Pearl Harbor, The Island, and who could forget, Armageddon. Michael Mann’s Public Enemies is the latest work from the man who has given us Thief, Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Ali, Collateral, and Miami Vice. Both directors specialize in glossy style (indeed, they both have backgrounds in advertising), and both have a notorious reputation for being nearly impossible to work with on set. Bay tends to get a significantly higher amount of financing from the studios, but Mann has recently commanded budgets that hover around the $100 million range, and according to some reports, that number is significantly higher in actuality. As you can tell from the films listed, one has churned out some of the worst blockbusters seen in the modern era, and the other boasts a CV of some of the finest films Hollywood has produced in the last three decades.
June 6, 2009
Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a war against the machines, and for my sins, they gave me one. Ever since that metal foot crushed the human skull back in T2, and the flying Skynet ships fired lasers from overhead, the dream was to see this amazing future post-apocalyptic battle stretched to full length. I wanted massive campaigns in hollowed out cities to metal machine music. The previous Terminator films always hinted at this, but wound up comfortably settling into the more relatable (and cost-effective) present day, which to their credit worked, and I’m including Rise of the Machines in that statement. They were effective action spectacles that wowed us with proper set pieces and, on occasion, provided the kind of two dimensional character moment that lifts such a venture that much higher. But as the end of Rise confirmed, we’re done with the present. Judgment Day has happened, and there’s no turning back.