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Posted by Ian Carsia at 11:12AM   |  1 comment
Screenshot from Michael Bay's "Bad Boys II" (2003)

Blog posting written by Ian Carsia, Cinema & Photography '14, FLEFF Intern, Hamilton, NJ

 Part II: How Osama Bin Laden Changed American Cinema

Obviously, these sterile, emotionless CGI spectacles predate the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks.

I still remember as a child in 1997 watching with complete awe as Roland Emmerich's extraterrestrial behemoths incinerated New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle, and the rest of the U.S.'s major urban centers in one swift blow.

Don DeLillo wrote White Noise in the '80s, and yet even he sensed the correlation between advancing technology and the desperation to capture on film all the detail of hyperreal death.

Footage of the Pearl Harbor assault are fine, but in grainy black-and-white it lacks permanence in the imagination. It feels like the outdated tragedy of a bygone generation.

With September 11th, the morbid fantasies of '80s and '90s action movies exploded into reality. And what we realized was that it wasn't very cool.

Roland Emmerich? Michael Bay? Neither of them had anything on Osama bin Laden. 

In his book Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century, John F. Kasson notes that one of Luna Park's earliest attractions was the public execution of an elephant named "Topsy" (71).
 

Michael Bay's Bad Boys II is like The Dark Knight of dumb action movies. It is a sequel that expands brilliantly on the internal contradictions of its predecessor and presents a more thoroughly engaging piece of art.

During the film's climax, as Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, and their bevy of beefy SWAT buddies defy direct orders and travel to Cuba both to rescue their damsel in distress and avenge the death of their fallen friends.

After destroying the villain's mansion, a chase ensues. In their big, black cars, the heroes barrel through what appears to be a shanty town. Living people in jeopardy due to the recklessness of our 'heroes'.

Fear not, say out protagonists. These are not real homes. In fact, they are actually fronts for drug manufacturers.

"Death?" asks Michael Bay, "What death?"

This same film features another chase sequence in which embalmed cadavers litter the highways, their heads popping off and rolling along to the chagrin of our heroes.

Another scene takes place in a morgue, and Martin Lawrence is forced to hide under a sheet next to the corpse of a young women with comically large implants.

The film was released in 2003.

It ends with a Mexican stand-off at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.

It is an action-comedy.

"Death? What death?"

Were New Yorkers genuinely offended by the subway advertisements for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close?
 

Were they not offended by the trailers for Transformers: Dark of the Moon?

Michael Bay is the king of the post-9/11 action movie. He is the king of death.

He offers us the key to unlock our morbid fantasies of our own rape.

And in the Transformers films he combines our obsession with burning buildings with our psychosexual attraction to cars and cars crashing.

How much more American can you get than cars that get up and punch other cars?

Anyone who considers these films empty and devoid of meaning does not understand film. They are the perfect filmic summary of post-9/11 American consciousness.

Osama bin Laden was an artist, but he was no auteur.

"A plane into a building?" scoffs Michael Bay. "Big deal! How about a giant metal alien snake that eats buildings? A veritable Jormungandr that strangles symbols of American economic and moral supremacy like a baby in a crib!"

 


1 Comment

As a film student, the name Michael Bay is thrown around with many connotations and contexts, however I found your insight and opinions on him and the content of his films incredibly fascinating.

Thought provoking post!



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