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Michael Bay, maker of movie white noise.

Michael Bay, maker of movie white noise. (photo)

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Because of his combination of critical hatred and outlandish commercial success, Michael Bay has become a default punchline stand-in for the worst thing ever. But who doesn’t enjoy the absurdities of “The Rock,” or the first hour of “Armageddon” (before they take of)?

Defending Bay requires making elaborate arguments, claiming he’s an unsung genius (see Armond White’s claim that he “has created the best canted angles — ever” and is a “real visionary”) or Bay’s own trick of smirking “I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime.”

The truth is, he’s neither the cinematic antichrist (a position reserved for your true cynics and regular producers of garbage) nor a man without the ambitions he likes to disclaim. You don’t make all that work for yourself for no reason.

But yesterday we learned two things about Michael Bay. The first came from a USA Today report from the “Transformers 3” set, where life without Megan Fox continues apace and grandiose talk of artistic ambition hangs in the air. Bay suggest that the plot (which will go into the US-USSR space race) “ties in what we know as history growing up as kids with what really happened.” “Transformers,” Cold War project? They’re going to pump the subtext from 25 years ago back in. Who would you trust to play with historical mythology more than Michael Bay?

06112010_owen.jpgThe good people at Filmdrunk have collated reports of a “Transformers 2” screening in Atlanta that ended in rioting and madness, as the combination of a free public event and free Chick-Fil-A ended in disorder. It’s edited in a very clever way to make the movie look at fault rather than what was obviously poor planning, but at the bottom comes the kicker, courtesy of writer Vince Mancini:

I had to see ‘Transformers 2’ in theaters for a radio interview I did, and the scene was a lot like this, minus the hate crimes and chicken fights. The three teenagers in front of me were texting and talking on their phones the entire movie, two guys behind me shouted at the screen the whole time, and a Guatemalan woman to my right translated every word of dialog to her husband sitting next to her at a normal, non-whisper speaking voice… This is not an isolated incident. These are Michael Bay’s people.

Personally, I don’t think Bay is evil, nor do I think his movies exclusively attract the uncivil. But his movies are loud, and they’re designed to play out at exactly the same level throughout; there isn’t any one moment that’s more important than any other. Given this, it’s important to assert yourself throughout.

When you hear him talking about “history,” it’s hard to know who he’s kidding; his movies really are designed to be so loud you can do whatever you want through them. They can be the cinematic equivalent of white noise, but there has to be a middle ground for evaluating them. They’re neither despicable nor visionary; they’re just…there, on screen, whether you take notice of them or not.

[Photos: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” Paramount, 2009; “Armaggedon,” Touchstone, 1998]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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