9x9x9, day 1: Transformers–both genius and bullshit

9x9x9 is simple. A nine day series in which I review 9 movies I’ve seen at least 9 times.

I don’t know if 9 is the magic number for viewings, but it sounds cool, so we’re gonna run with it. I figure this’ll allow me to re-review some movies I did awhile ago, too. Kind of redeem my shitty writing of years past with currently-good-but-soon-to-be-shitty-writing.

Plus, nine is the amount of players in a baseball lineup, so expect those analogies.

There’s a lot of good movies I need to see again in spite of their emotional torment–Requiem for a Dream, Apocalypse Now, etc. –and so I would write about them if I had seen them nine times.

And, for shits and giggles, movies that didn’t make the cut: Observe and Report, Knocked Up, Breathless, Brazil (mostly because I just reviewed it), Young Frankenstein, and Observe and Report.

First up in the lineup is Transformers, the speedy Center Fielder who plays fast and loose and pisses you off on defense, but redeems himself with bombs to deep left center. I’ve been wanting to write about this movie and I also figured that I’d get the absolute (hypothetical) schlock out of the way.

This is the first and only movie I’ve seen in the Cinerama Dome–that 800 seat, 35-speaker giant-ass theater at the Arclight in Hollywood. It was 11 o’clock, I was with my friend Jasmine,  and I think I had to be up early the next morning for school or something far less important than seeing Transformers on a giant-ass screen.

And, needless to say, I was unimpressed with the movie the first time around. It just didn’t deliver in a way that I had expected it to. The visuals were cool and everything, but I was on such a cinematic high horse at the time that the story and the lack thereof totally brought the movie down for me. I couldn’t appreciate the pure, empty, spectacle of it.

However, a little over a year later, I was living with my good friend Nate and we had basic cable plus HBO.

And throughout that time, it seemed like there were two constants that were always on television: Full House reruns on ABC Family and Transformers on one of the five HBO channels.

So I wound up watching both quite a bit. And Transformers, I don’t know what it is, but it grew on me as I started to let my guard down and stop trying to be such a goddamned elitist about cinema.

Between then and now, I’ve fallen in love with the batshit story, with John Turturro’s character and Sector 7 (I even named my next WiFi network that) and Shia and Megan Fox’s love story and the fact that everyone looks like they sweat Vaseline. How the tires in the film squeal in such a completely different way (there’s kind of a bounce to the sound effect, more akin to tires on airplane touching down), all of that. I absolutely love it.

This movie sparked in me a weird kind of affectation for the films of Michael Bay–of which I own all except for Armageddon Pearl Harbor, and the Island. Pearl Harbor and the Island are terrible.

Let me tell you why: see, Michael Bay is good at one thing, and I think he got sick of people saying he was a one trick pony and couldn’t make a real film. So he went out and tried to make a real film. Y’know, criticizing the critics by making a response film, very French New Wave.

But the problem is this: Michael Bay is a one trick pony. His one trick is blowing shit up and showing off kickass CGI, sweet looking cars, and hot women. Okay, that’s four, but you get the drift.

So Transformers was the perfect film for him. He got to use all of the cards in his hand to their highest potential. He launched Megan Fox’s ass to the top of Google search bars everywhere (as well as her weird-ass thumb) because he just gets how to photograph women (much like David Lynch and Michael Mann, both of whom seem to really like sex scenes). It comes as no surprise that he started out directing videos for Playboy.

But, so, this may very well have been his return to form, coming back from being Michael Bay to being Michael Motherfucking Bay.

Nobody does it better, and there’s no better proof than the Transformers films.

He removes all morality and sensibility and just simply sees what happens when the rules get broken/bent/thrown out the window.

His movies are exciting because they’re blatantly nihilistic–there’s nothing, nothing at all, so let’s fuck shit up.

I love this movie in spite of how terrible it is. I can put it on and watch it front to back and enjoy the insanity and the bad jokes and watching Optimus fight the Decepticons.

It’s because of this I can forgive the fact that the first film existed in a secondary universe when LA streets were used for the metropolis known as Nevada City (hell, the theater where I saw Iron and Wine is featured in most of the final battle scene) and then the second movie (and probably the third) exists in the real world.

I love that the cinematography is so shaky and confusing that it makes you want to throw up. A lot of folks hate this because it’s disorienting and, well, makes you want to lose your Spaghetti-Os. But, I dunno, it works for me in a weird, faux-cinema-verité kind of way. Like, if this were a documentary, and CamOps were running through a giant robot battle zone capturing everything in the moment. It’s like Don’t Look Back on high doses of amphetamines. This, I guess, has been dubbed “BayCam,” and I like that.

The term “BayCam” kind of also speaks to his impact as a director: he’s redefined the genre of action. He’s added to its vernacular. He’s made it his own. And this was the film that added back his middle name of Motherfucking.

But really, if you’re looking for high art, Sundance/IFC/Oscar bait films, don’t look to this film. Don’t look to the genre in general. But really, don’t look at this film. Because to about 97% of the smart-movie-goers, this movie is absolute bullshit and a travesty.

But I remain staunchly in the 3%. All because of it being on over and over and over again on HBO. Then I bought it so I could watch it front to back whenever I wanted. And it turns out that, on the single disc, zero-special-features versions, if you watch all the way through the credits you get a special feature/GM commercial on the cars used in the film.

Tomorrow, it’s what we laugh about when we laugh about racism.

2 thoughts on “9x9x9, day 1: Transformers–both genius and bullshit

  1. Time for another trip down Memory Lane…

    It was the middle of the afternoon. The weather was pleasant. The birds were chirping. I was coming home from school, humming to myself happily.

    I opened our apartment door to find you drunk on the futon, “Transformers” on the telly.

    “Evan! This is the fourth time this week you watched this fucking movie! What the hell is the matter with you?”

    You looked up at me and started laughing even harder.

    “I can’t help myself! This movie is amazing! Michael Bay keeps blowing shit up! I love it!”

    We must have watched that goddamn movie a dozen times while we were living together. Thank you for that.


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