98. The Birdcage (1996)

When I was doing the essays on the Top 100 Songs of My Lifetime, one of my arbitrary “rules” was that I didn’t want to pick a song that was a cover, meaning an artist covering another artist’s song.  Two songs, however, were so good that even with that rule; they made it on my list.  With movies, it wasn’t really a consideration for me, because most remakes are pretty different from the movies that inspired them.  For #98 on my list, The Birdcage, that’s not really true.

The Birdcage is based on the 1978 French film, La Cage Aux Folles, and is very faithful to the original.  For me, that makes it much more like a cover than a normal Hollywood remake, like The Departed or Ocean’s Eleven.  And much like Van Halen’s cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” is far superior to the original, so The Birdcage is superior to La Cage Aux Folles.  I know the arty folk out there will throw hot espresso at me for blaspheming La Cage Aux Folles, and think that I’m just some dumb American who would rather have chicken fried steak than bœuf bourguignon.  But don’t worry, I’ll tell you why they’re wrong, all the while munching on a chocolate chip cookie dough pop tart.

Don’t get me wrong – La Cage Aux Folles is a good movie.  It’s quite funny and over the top and it was groundbreaking in 1978.  The first time I saw it, I was fifteen years old and it was 1985.  I was trying to broaden my horizons and see movies that were outside of the Hollywood blockbuster box.  I felt so cultured watching it. It was French! It had subtitles! So when I heard that they were remaking it, I was terrified that this would be a sucky Americanization of it. The Birdcage is definitely an Americanization of the original, but it’s not sucky.  It turned out to be even better.

The Birdcage was directed by Mike Nichols, a man who started out his career as a comedian best known  for his improv work with Elaine May.  You say the word improv today and everyone knows what you’re talking about.  But May & Nichols were doing this in the late fifties and early sixties, when comedic improvisation was something brand new.  They were at the forefront of the movement that would give us Second City, SCTV and The Groundlings.  To show that comedy teams are no different than musicians, there eventually came a split.  Elaine wanted to improvise more – that’s where she had the most fun and thought they could have the most influence.  Mike wanted to craft things they had already done, honing them to a final perfect performance that could be replicated.  That desire to craft performances led to his becoming a very popular Broadway theater director. 

Nichols then made the natural transition to film director.  He’s been very successful, with five Academy Award nominations and one win (1967’s The Graduate).  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate were his first two movies. He took what could’ve been the distraction of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and turned it into a fiery pair of performances in Woolf (which won Liz an Oscar).  The Graduate is a movie that can still speak to audiences today. The themes- uncertainty about the future, willingness to take risks and the distrust (bordering on disdain) of authority, will ring as true to a twenty-three year-old today, just as much as they did to that 23 year-old’s father in 1967.  She had a hit & mostly miss career as a film director herself (her biggest miss would probably that she wrote and directed Ishtar*).  In between her directorial efforts, she was a script doctor back in the days when that was seen as a bad thing.  She honed the screenplays to, among others, Reds, Tootsie, and Scrooged.  The pair hadn’t worked together for thirty years until they finally reunited for The Birdcage.

While it’s a faithful remake of the French original, Elaine May goes all Muhammad Ali with her script, assaulting us with powerful combinations of punch lines.  I see the humor of the original as a sparring match; many of the jokes are telegraphed or rushed into.  In The Birdcage, it’s a heavyweight bout of laughs.  She wants you to laugh so hard it hurts, and she succeeds.  Case in point:  in the original, the Albert character is taught how to be more manly by mimicking the walk of the ultimate man’s man, John Wayne.  That’s funny in its own right, but Lane and Williams add even more humor when  Albert comes back after his John Wayne walk and says,  “No good?”  To which Armand replies, “Actually, it’s perfect.  I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.”

There are a few moments in the original where for some reason Nichols and May left comedic gold in the mine.  When Senator Keeley is talking about his colleague dying after visiting with a prostitute, he blurts it out.  In the original, it’s far funnier when Simon Charrier delivers the lines in an almost deadpan.  “She was a prostitute……  and a minor……  and black.”  You see him visibly deflate as he utters each couplet.  It’s a far funnier delivery.  Then again, if Hackman had delivered it the same way, Nichols would’ve been slammed for his blatant copying of the original.  I guess you can’t win for losing.

What brought it all together, though, and what makes The Birdcage one of the Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime, is the cast.  May crafted a brilliant script, but somebody had to say all of those brilliant words – and say them just right.  It’s not coincidence that the Sister Sledge song “We Are Family” is the defacto theme song for The Birdcage.  The themes of the song are echoed in the themes of the film, and even the production.  Ensemble, the French word for together, is apt for the gathering of actors that Mike Nichols gathered for the film.  Here’s what he had to say:
It's the only time in my life that I haven't thought, 'Well, this one character, I should have gotten so-and-so.' It was exactly the actors who should have been these characters. Every single one, right down to the non-speaking parts.
It’s rare in movies nowadays to have a true ensemble.  With a stage play, it’s pretty much the nature of the medium.  With television, they have entire seasons to build a strong connection to multiple cast members.  With a movie, however, you only have two hours of film to get the story across.  Getting people to also care (and be entertained by) a variety of characters somewhat equally is a much harder challenge.  With The Birdcage, Nichols succeeded on every front.  The ensemble ended up winning the inaugural Screen Actor’s Guild award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture. So let’s take a look at the actors and characters who made The Birdcage such a success.

Robin Williams (Armand)
When the script for The Birdcage was done, it was sent to Robin Williams with a name highlighted – Albert.  The producers wanted him to play the over-the-top “wife” to Armand’s “husband.”  There’s no actor better for over-the-top than Robin Williams.  He was perfect for the part.  And he said, “No.”
I thought:  I want to try something different, something more elegant.  People expect me to be the more flamboyant one. I wanted something new.  It's a dry, restrained comedy, versus being so outrageous, and that's what was interesting for me. It's like learning a whole set of different muscles.
Since Williams decided not to take the role of Albert, it appears that he wanted to stay as far away from gay stereotypes as possible in his performance as ArmandDoing his most restrained work since 1990’s Awakenings, his performance is a joy, especially considering the subject matter and the performance that Nathan Lane gives.  Normally, Robin is Mr. “Look At Me!”, with his manic persona taking over.  In The Birdcage, that beast shows its head for just a moment (when he hilariously shows one of his dancers what he’s looking for) before sticking its head back into its shell for the rest of the movie.

One of Williams’ shining moments is the scene where Armand changes his mind and decides to do what his son asked of him, no matter how difficult it was.  He would lie to the Keeleys and send Albert away for a few days.  The camera stays on him for a full forty seconds.  That was a real ballsy move by Nichols, especially in a comedy.  Clint Eastwood once said, “My old drama coach used to say, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there!’ Gary Cooper wasn’t afraid to do nothing.”  And neither is Robin Williams.  But he’s not really doing nothing.  Although he’s not moving – he’s moving, if you get my drift.  You can see his brain working and that’s the true feat of brilliant acting.

One complaint leveled at the movie is that Armand and Albert don’t act like lovers.  And in that regard, that’s right.  They’re not lovers - they’re married.  Until gay marriage becomes legal and acceptable, everyone tries to play the label game with gay couples.  It’s lovers, boyfriend, life companion.  But in The Birdcage, it’s husband and wife, just the way it’s supposed to be. It's just that the wife happens to also be a man.  Albert and Armand are, for all intents and purposes, a married couple.  They’ve been together for twenty years and it comes across on the screen.

That’s not to say that Williams isn’t funny.  Robin knew he needed to be the straight man (pun intended) of the duo, but he also wanted a chance to be funny, too.  “The challenge for me was to play the more subtle Armand and see if I could still get my share of laughs,” he said.  And he does.  Although not as flashy as Albert’s role, when he delivers lines like, “I made you short?” or “I’ve never seen so much go so wrong so quickly,” they’re some of my heartiest laughs.  But all of this would’ve been for naught if they’d got the casting of Albert wrong.  Luckily for us, they didn’t.

Nathan Lane (Albert)
With the star power of Robin Williams well established, Nichols had more freedom to find the right actor for the role of Albert, rather than the right movie star for Albert.  Nathan Lane was the perfect choice.  Having starred on Broadway in Guys and Dolls and a Tony winning turn in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Nichols knew the stage presence that Nathan had would work well with the ensemble cast and the story.

When The Birdcage came out, many people thought the character of Albert was too over-the-top.  But in reality, I’ve known people just like him- men with more estrogen than most women.  If you think I’m kidding, just look at the new season of Survivor.  A member of the One World castaways is a guy (pun intended) named Colton. Let me have him introduce himself:

And if you need further proof, check out the Albi/Zara character in the ’78 original.   He makes Albert look like Harrison Ford.  Albi/Zara is exponentially more over the top than Albert.  And compare the two apartments that the couples live in.  I find it interesting that The Birdcage is often criticized for perpetuating negative stereotypes about gays, while the original, which is even more stereotypical, gets a free pass.  It must be because it’s French.  Both Lane’s Albert and Michel Serrault’s Albin are drama queens to be sure, but both actors weave full, well-rounded performances in what could’ve been very much a one note character.

There are some great, tender moments with Albert in The Birdcage where you see another side to himThere’s one scene, in particular, that sticks out in my mind.  Val is asleep in his room after a difficult conversation with his father.  Albert walks into his room, in full makeup from his performance as Judy Garland’s hobo from Easter Parade’s song, “A Couple of Swells.”  After a full night on stage, and without showing an ounce of the exhaustion he must be feeling, Albert looks lovingly at his son and picks up Val's dirty clothes.  Almost as an afterthought, like any parent would do, he covers Val up with a blanket.  They’re not paternal or maternal looks, they’re parental. It’s his son and the love is palpable.

Williams had never met Lane before the first rehearsal for The Birdcage but recalls it was "love at first laugh. In just minutes Nathan and I were like an old vaudeville act.”  Nathan had some trepidation about playing Albert next to Robin:
Everyone is surprised when they find out he's not playing my part. He did tell me that the first few weeks, it was hard for him to watch me go off. But then he said he found the comedy in his character.
Both Lane and Williams did a stunning job.  Sure they both pulled off the comedy (I had no doubt that they would), but what makes The Birdcage a truly great film are the quieter, relationship moments between the two.  The scene where Armand gives Albert the palimony agreement, basically giving everything he has to Albert, touches me deeply.  “I’m fifty years old.  There’s only one place in the world that I call home, and it’s because you’re there.”  It’s lines like this that give The Birdcage the emotional soul that transforms it from good movie to great movie.

Gene Hackman (Senator Kevin Keeley)
Gene Hackman doesn’t get to flex his comic chops all that often.  Normally, his characters are the “furrowed browed serious” type or the “so tough he chews on nails” type.  But he does do comedy well when he does it (see:  Get Shorty, Superman and The Royal Tennenbaums).  In The Birdcage, Hackman mostly plays Senator Keeley in much the same way Leslie Nielsen played Dr. Rumack in Airplane.  Nielsen said that he approached Rumack as a dramatic character who didn’t know he was in a comedy.

It’ was a smart choice for Hackman. He’s funny – sometimes startlingly so. The scene where Albert is revealed immediately comes to mind. When he’s shaking his head, looking bewildered and saying, “I don’t understand” is golden. But he doesn’t go too outside the box, calling attention to himself, and that’s a refreshing trait in an actor. They’re supposed to call attention to themselves, that's what acting is. But like a great sixth man in the NBA, he knows he’s not going to get as many shots. Making the best of those shots is what makes a great supporting player, and Hackman is at his best here. 

Hackman gives Keeley that out of touch vibe that often accompanies the mildly addle-minded (kind of like former senator Ted Stevens of Alaska).  Often in this movie, Hackman reminds me of my father, in that “a little too close to home” way that makes you feel uncomfortable.  But it’s a performance that’s grounded in realism, even as he delivers ridiculous lines like, “Louise, I'm the Vice President of the Coalition for Moral Order! My co-founder has just died in the bed of an underage black whore!”

Hank Azaria (Agador)
The performance of Hank Azaria as Agador could’ve been a distraction in the movie. In a movie with many over the top characters, Hank Azaria’s Agador could’ve been a distraction. His acting would’ve almost certainly come off as a caricature if he weren’t so gosh darn funny and lovable. There’s a tenderness to the character that goes beyond his antics. Agador truly cares for Armand and Albert.  In just a few scenes, you can tell that Agador is family to Armand and Albert. And although I can make it around with shoes on without tripping every five feet, being shoeless is me in my natural state, so Agador had me at “I don’t wear shoes.”

When we meet Agador, he’s clothed in a white mesh tank top and jean cut-offs.  It’s absolutely brilliant.  He wouldn’t need to say a word for the entire film and it would still be some of the greatest costuming in film history.  In the original, Benny Luke gives a great performance as Jacob (also with wonderful costuming), but he’s there exclusively as a comedic force.  Don’t get me wrong – Benny’s a powerful comedic foil, but Agador adds a layer of tenderness and familial love for Armand and Albert that’s just missing from La Cage

Dianne Weist (Louise Keeley)
In a role that could’ve been merely a parrot role to her husband, Elaine May writes Louise with a feisty spirit.  Dianne Weist gives those words extra punch in the way she stands up for, and to, her husband.  She’s supportive, sure, but she’s fiercely protective of her family.  Like any mother, mess with her family and there’s hell to pay.

There’s also a naiveté to Louise.  When she’s looking at the dinner bowl (which portrays a bunch of men in, shall we say, an amorous pose) and says, “What interesting china.  Why it looks like young men playing leapfrog,” you believe it.  She’s been sheltered her entire life and all of these things are so foreign to her that she just doesn’t know what to make of it.  Much like Hackman’s Kevin Keeley reminded me of my dad, Weist’s Louise Keeley reminds me of my mom.  I could picture her looking at a bowl like that and saying something very similar.  And while I was uncomfortable with Kevin Keeley being a little too much like my dad (and not in the conservative Republican way, more in the oblivious way), having Diane Weist remind me of my mom brings a little smile to my face.

Dan Futterman (Val)
For the majority of the movie, Val is an asshole.  He’s a kid who thinks he’s a grown up.  When he asks his parents to pretend to be something they’re not, he’s so self-centered that he doesn’t realize what a betrayal it is.  And Armand, being the loving father he is, moves on from the betrayal and does his best to help his son when he’s in need.  Val bosses people around, snapping at the people who are trying to help him – everything a narcissistic young adult does when they’re trying to act “adult.”  I should know.  I used to be one.

Futerman’s performance shines when he asks his father to send Albert away.  You can see the humiliation in his face as he presents it.  As misguided as Val is, he does love his father and mother.  He just doesn’t know another way out of it and doesn’t have the maturity to find one. Futterman also does a good job of making Val, if not likable, at least relatable.  We may not agree why he asks so much of his parents, but we understand his motivation for doing so.

In an interesting side note, Dan Futterman later moonlighted from his normal acting and transitioned his Hollywood career into that of an actor/screenwriter.  He won acclaim (and an Oscar nod) for his screenplay for Capote in 2005+.

Christine Baranski (Katherine Archer)
Another character that could’ve come across in a very negative light, since she gave up her son, is Val’s birth mother, Katherine.  Christine Baranski gives Katherine a complexity that’s absolutely amazing, considering that she has maybe twenty lines in the whole movie.  Katherine is a strong, professional woman and doesn’t have time for other people’s needs and is pretty unapologetic about that.  That being said, what comes across in Katherine is that she gave up Val because it was best for Val.  Sure, it happened to be best for what she wanted in her life as well, but Baranski shows that slight tinge of humiliation that Katherine must feel to even admit that. 

Christine has played grand comedy all over the place; on Broadway, TV and film.  Much like Gene Hackman, she plays Katherine very straight, giving up her penchant for laughs to be an emotional supporting beam to the rest of the cast.  Katherine gave up Val because it was the right thing to do, and mirroring that, Christine gave up the laughs to make a better movie.

Calista Flockhart (Barbara Keeley)
Before she was Ally McBeal, she was the eighteen year-old Barbara.  In one of her first motion picture rolls, Calista unfortunately gets overshadowed by the veteran cast that surrounds her.  It’s not entirely her fault, though.  I think Robert DeNiro would’ve had a hard time keeping up with the whirlwind of the rest of this all-star cast.  While Barbara has a few funny lines, her presence in The Birdcage is mostly as “the girl that Val wants to marry.”  There’s only so much time for character development (and running time) in a film, and Nichols rightfully sacrifices a well-rounded Barbara to make room for the other characters.  Even the Screen Actor’s Guild agreed.  The cast members they nominated for the Best Cast award were Williams/Lane/Hackman/Weist/Azaria/Baranski/Futterman.  Ouch.  Sorry, Calista.  Don’t feel too bad for her, though, she’s Harrison Ford’s wife now.  Indiana Jones, Han Solo and Jack Ryan?  Yeah, I’d be okay with being Harrison Ford’s wife, too.

The Birdcage doesn’t break any ground in the worldview of homosexuality.  Both sides of the controversy have criticized it for that.  But what they don’t get – and what is the ultimate sign of how we’ve progressed as a society – is that it wasn’t supposed toThe Birdcage isn’t trying to change anyone’s preconceived notions one way or the other on the matter of being LGBT, because it’s too busy just being a damn funny movie.  Sure, The Birdcage is filled with gay stereotypes, but so are other great “straight” comedies, like Ghostbusters and Office Space.  When asked about the reaction to the movie’s gay themes, Robin Williams said:
God knows! The one thing that will help is the tenderness of it. We may have sacrificed something, but we tried to get across a couple who were just as loving as any heterosexual couple. It's a love story. But you have to brace yourself, though, because there's gonna be people pissed off.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which you might have thought would have a problem with The Birdcage, instead praised the film for "going beyond the stereotypes to see the character's depth and humanity. The film celebrates differences and points out the outrageousness of hiding those differences."

Nichols, May and the entire cast ended up making a great movie about people – not gay people or straight people, just people.  It’s a movie that may challenge the conventional notion of what family might be, but you cannot deny that these people are a family.  Albert absolutely IS Val’s mother.  He’s nourished Val and supported Val, as any parent would.  There’s no thought in Albert’s mind that although this isn’t biologically his son, Val’s not his son.  It doesn’t matter, because Val is, in every way that matters, his son, just as much as Armand’s. 

The Birdcage takes everything that was great about La Cage Aux Folles and just fills it out.  It takes what was more of a two dimensional comedy and given it a depth that the best comedies have.  You laugh, for sure, but there’s a soul to the film that makes you think about your own preconceived ideas in life.  And that’s what all artistically successful movies do – make you think.

* To read a great article about the spectacular failure of Ishtar, I found a New York magazine story that goes in depth into its production and the resulting artistic and commercial epic fail.

+Dan Futterman isn’t the only actor to do some serious screenwriting.  Grant Heslov, who appears in The Birdcage as the assistant to the National Enquirer reporter, is a great friend and collaborator of George Clooney’s.  Heslov and Clooney were nominated for their writing on 2006’s Good Night and Good Luck, as well as 2012’s The Ides of March.

(Fun Fact #254:  Mike Nichols is one of only twelve people in history who’ve won the entertainment grand slam, meaning he’s won all four of the major entertainment awards (Academy Award, Tony, Grammy, Emmy).  The other eleven?  Of course, there’s a Wikipedia page.  Check it out.)

(Fun Fact #425:  The score of the movie was done by two guys, Jonathan Tunick and Mark Mothersbaugh.  You might know Mark a little bit better from his day job – lead singer of the new wave pioneering band, Devo.  Are we not men?)

For those who want to do your homework for our next assignment, #97 of the Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime is the hilarious sci-fi spoof, Galaxy Quest.

Are We Going to Die at Disneyland?

I don't normally do two posts on the same day, so if you haven't checked the blog lately (and you are inclined to do so), check out the post below about my late night / early morning at Disneyland on Leap Day 2012.

So today was just supposed to be another day at Disneyland for our little vacation.  We are staying at Paradise Pier, which is one of Disney's hotels here at the Disneyland Resort.  It's a very cool, beach themed hotel.  One of the perks of staying at a Disney hotel is something they call "Magic Morning Hours."  On certain days of the week, people staying at Disney hotels can go into Disneyland an hour early and get to enjoy the park with other resort hotel guests.  Since there are only three Disney hotels here at Disneyland, it ends up not being a ton of people, so for that hour, the lines are short and you can experience more rides in a short period of time.

We've done these Magic Mornings before and have really enjoyed them.  But today, something strange happened.  Normally, after the hour is up, they drop the ropes on Main Street and let the general public in.  Then things start to get much more crowed - and quick.  But that didn't happen this morning.  My wife, Jennifer, was going to go over and get fast passes for Star Tours so we could go on it later in the morning and not have to wait as long.  While she did that, I took Ty & Ethan on to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Fun was had by all and we were waiting in line when Jennifer met up with us a Dumbo.  She was a bit frustrated because you couldn't get fast passes until Disneyland officially opened and so we'd have to go back after the rope drop.  That's when things started to get weird.  After the scheduled rope drop time, there was no huge infusion of people into the park.  We didn't see the expected throngs of people heading over to Star Tours and the Finding Nemo ride trying to beat the crowds.  Instead, we sat down and had some breakfast at the Jolly Holiday Bakery.

It was there that Jennifer got a text from a friend and co-worker who was also visiting Disneyland with her family.  They were outside of the gates waiting to get in, but they weren't letting anyone in.  Turns out they weren't letting anyone out, either (although we didn't know that at the time).  There were lots of rumors flying around:
  • There was a suspicious package somewhere
  • Some guy with a backpack rushed past security and got into the park.  Now they're looking for him.
  • There are bomb sniffing dogs trying to find something.
  • Disneyland's on lockdown!
  • All the guests inside the park are sequestered in Frontierland!
After all the hulabaloo, it turns out some idiot left a bag in a tree in the esplenade between Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.  Inside the bag wasn't a bomb, but apparently some kind of "goodwill message."  I don't know if I entirely believe that, but I'll tell you what was going on inside the park.  [UPDATE:  After thinking about it for a while, a thought occurred to me.  One report said that the message was "rolled up."  If it had been rolled up and placed in a metal container of some sort, it could've appeared to be a pipe bomb.  If that was the case, the delay makes a lot more sense to me.  You don't mess around with a pipe bomb.  Of course, I'm only speculating after the fact.]

We decided that we'd try and get a family picture taken because there wouldn't be three hundred people in the background.  Here's the picture:

                                  There's not three hundred people in the background.  There's five.

Everywhere we went, people were acting like nothing was wrong, probably because most didn't know anything WAS wrong.  We were encouraged by any cast member we chatted up to explore the park as we normally would, but we couldn't all the way back to the front entrance. Jennifer and I were a little scared, to be honest.  We didn't split up, because we didn't want to be separated in case something bad happened.  If it was going to be a dirty bomb or something, at least we were all going to be together in this place that we love with the people we love most.  We didn't really dwell on those thoughts, but we both had them, for sure.

We kept all of our fears from the boys, who ended up thinking it was the best thing ever. Here's a panoramic picture of Frontierland / New Orleans Square at 9:30, a full hour and a half AFTER Disneyland should've opened.

Five minutes after I took this picture, Ethan and I went on Pirates of the Caribbean.  He and I were the ONLY people on our boat.  The boat in front of us was completely empty, while the one behind us had a grand total of three people in it.  While E and I were on Pirates, Jennifer and Ty went on Haunted Mansion.  Their elevator ride down to the ride had a total of nine people on it.  This was so strange.

Just to show how deserted Disneyland was, I took a couple more panoramic pictures, one looking south down Main Street - the other one looking north towards Sleeping Beauty's castle.  These were taken at just before 11am.

The entire time we were in the park, we were never approached by a cast member requiring us to do something.  They told us what little they knew, but again encouraged us to enjoy ourselves.  One cast member put it perfectly.  "If there was a serious danger to us or the park, they would have evacuated all of us through the safest location."  And they didn't do that.  They also didn't sequester us in Frontierland or anywhere else, for that matter.  Although if they'd have wanted to sequester me at Rancho del Zocalo with an endless supply of those awesome chile lime tortilla chips and Arnold Palmers, I'd have been cool with that.

For almost three hours, we had the run of the park.  We could go on whatever ride we wanted, virtually as often as we wanted.  We ran into some girls who rode Space Mountain four times in a row without having to get out of their vehicle.  Even though lots of people outside the park were freaking out (and with hour long waits just to get into the parking structure, I can understand why), nobody inside the park was.  It was one of the most surreal experiences I think I'll ever have at Disneyland.

All of the cast members handled the event professionally and with grace.  They helped us to still have a great time under stressful and strange circumstances.  We apologize to all of you who waited outside Disneyland for three hours while we were able to have the run of the place.  Although we had a lot of fun, we did so at your expense and that's just not fair.  So sorry about that.

Disney decided to keep both Disneyland and California Adventure open for an additional hour today to try and make up for the delay.  Sure it was only an hour, but it was a nice gesture on Disney's part.  Some people were really angry and took it out on whatever cast member was closest to them.  To those inconsiderate people, shame on you.  You're the ones who get mad at the TSA people at the airport for wanting you to take your shoes off, or who yell at the person at Macy's who has the gall to ask you for your ID when you give them your credit card.

For me, I'd rather these security people overreact to something that turns out to be nothing than to underreact to something that could end up killing people.  Maybe I'm just some naive idiot,

But then again, I'm still here, typing this all up.  So I like my chances, thank you.  And yes, tomorrow we're going to Disneyland.  Hope to see you all there.

Leap Day at Disneyland

What a strange trip to Disneyland this has been.  Our first day at the park was for their "One More Disney Day" promotion, where they opened the park at 6am on Wednesday, February 29th and proceeded to stay open for twenty-four straight hours.  It's something they've never done before and we wanted to check it out.  Even though they might have argued otherwise, we weren't about to subject our sons Ty (5) and Ethan (3) to a sleepless night at Disneyland, so after we were done as a family, Jennifer went for a bit while I stayed with the boys, and then she tagged me in so I could finish the "night."  Here's the official welcome banner.

First off, it was PACKED.  I don't mean, "Man, there's a lot of people here, considering it's 2am on a Thursday morning" packed.  I mean it was just plain packed.  Like Disneyland on New Year's Eve packed.  I figured I would be able to walk around the park with the few hundred or so who dared to brave the late/early hour.  Not so.  There were tens of thousands of us demented night-dwellers.  We were all defacto extras in a Vampire Diaries episode.

Don't believe me?  Here was the line TO GET IN!

The people in this picture were going to wait forty-five minutes to get into Disneyland - to wait another forty-five minutes for practically anything else?  You still doubt me?  Okay...

You see, I didn't mean that they'd spend forty-five minutes waiting for the Indiana Jones ride (which, by the way, had an eighty-five minute plus wait time).  These people are waiting in line at the Jolly Holiday bakery to get a scone, cupcake or cafe mocha!  And it wasn't just in Main Street.  In Frontierland, the line at the Stage Coach Cafe, which sells chicken tenders and funnel cakes was twenty five people deep at every line.

Don't get me wrong.  Those funnel cakes are pretty tasty, but come on.  The weirdest thing, however, in this bizarro Disneyland night, was that there wasn't a tremendous wait at the table service restaurant in New Orleans Square, Cafe Orleans.  So if you wanted to get something "fast," you had to wait in line for forty-five minutes.  If you wanted the "slow" food you get at a table service restaurant, the wait was only fifteen minutes.  AND you get to order from the cool "one night only" menu they had for the restaurant.

After I got it out of my head that I would get anything productive done, though, the night became more enjoyable for me.  All told, I went on a total of ZERO rides.  I stood in ZERO lines because it just wasn't worth it for me.  I was going to come again the next day with my family and wait in lines a tenth as long.  So what I did do, and did enjoy, was taking cool night pictures of the happiest place on earth, and people watch.  Here are some of the cool pics I got:

                                                  King Arthur's Carousel (extended exposure)
                                                   Sleeping Beauty's Castle (and reflection)
This cool shot of the Matterhorn and the little pond by Pixie Hollow looks just too cool.  It looks almost like a more abstract oil painting, but I swear this is what came out of the camera.  I haven't retouched it at all.

At about three, I headed over to Tomorrowland and heard the thumping bass of the Tomorrowland Terrace from a few hundred yards away.  The crowd was really into it and I have to admit that I stayed and danced for a song (thankfully, there are no pictures of this - trust me on that).  It reminded me of my old high school days and the nights I spent dancing the night away at Videopolis.

In fact, the whole night gave me a very "Grad Night" kind of vibe.  For those of you who've never been, Grad Night is a series of nights in late spring / early summer where Disneyland closes a little early and lets busloads of graduating high school seniors descend on the park from around 10pm till around 6am.  This Leap Day promotion was a first, because Disneyland had never been opened to the entire general public for twenty-four straight hours before.  FYI, they also had this same promotion at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  Anyway, people were handling the overcrowded thing pretty well.  I saw lots of groups just hanging out and having fun talking and people watch the people who were people watching them.  I didn't see anyone get out of hand or see any security people laying down the Disney hammer.  Even at 4am, things were still packed.

I saw a few funny things, like a bunch of guys who actually brought their breakfast with them, complete with bowls of Sugar Corn Pops and Toaster Strudels, which they toasted themselves with a nice white toaster they had brought with them to the park.  They would serenade passersby with a pretty good rendition of "It's a Beautiful Morning."  But probably the funniest thing was a guy who was giving high fives to everyone he could.  I'd seen him earlier in the night, smacking one hand -"421!"  Then another "422!"  I didn't quite know what he was doing until almost six.  I heard him coming from behind me.  Slap "996!"  A few more.  Then, slap!  "999!  Dude, go over there, you're going to be 1,000."  His friend ran about twenty feet away and then they both ran towards each other.  While leaping in midair, they slapped hands with an almost thunderous roar.  "1,000!"  One of his other friends turned to all of us watching, "Dude!  This guy has just high fived 1,000 people!  1,000 DIFFERENT people!"  As far as they knew, he slapped no hand twice on his quest.  And they weren't even drunk!  It just goes to show you what lack of sleep can do to make anything seem fun.

Okay, I lied.  I did wait in one line.  It wasn't for a ride, though.  It was for a picture of me with Chip and Dale.  My brother, Todd and I used to call ourselves Chip & Dale, so I've got a soft spot in my heart for those dorky chipmunks.  And to give myself some credit, the line was only three minutes long.  It was cool, though, that they had characters available for pictures all over the park.  And they were all wearing their PJs.  Pretty cool.

So as 6am approached, the sky began to get lighter.  People were still getting along well, especially considering how tight things were.  As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a cast member named Jon with a lanyard full of pins that you could trade for if you had a pin of your own to exchange.  If you don't know what Disney pin trading is, you can google it.  Anyway, Jon had a cool Mickey Mouse pin that I liked and I'd brought a few pins to trade, so as we made the trade, he asked me if I was a serious pin trader.  "Nope.  Not really," I said.  "I just like the ones I like and don't worry about much more than that."  "Well, you're in luck, then," Jon said.  "That pin there is what's called an Artist's Proof.  That's why it has AP stamped on it.  This pin is a limited edition pin, and it's an artist's proof of that limited edition.  So it's very valuable.  Congratulations."  I thanked him for the pin and for the explanation.  Turns out that Jon was Jon Storbeck, who is the VP of the entire Disneyland Park.  So it was pretty cool to spend a little bit of time with the guy who's in charge of this happiest place on earth.  Good job, Jon.  We all had a great time.

                           That's Jon to the right of the guy waving with the Mickey hand (in the khakis)

It was very surreal watching the sun COME UP while at Disneyland.

I have been at Disneyland many times as the sun set, but never when the sun came up.  At Grad Nights, the sun doesn't come up until later in the morning, so I didn't get to see it when I was in high school.  When 6am hit, the PAs across main street started playing the end theme to the Mickey Mouse Club:  "Now it's time to say goodbye to all our company.  MIC - see you real soon.  KEY - Why?  Because we like you.  MOUSE."  It was a very fitting tribute to the end of the day.  Or the beginning of the day.  Or whatever this was.  Boy, was I tired.

Anyway, as I left the park, I turned around for one last picture.  6am on the railroad station clock.  My time here is done.

See you guys in a few hours.

99. Transformers (2007)

  • Michael Bay was born to make Transformers.” - Stephen Spielberg
  • “I’m not doing that stupid, silly toy movie.”  -Michael Bay, late summer 2005
  • “Wow.  They’re making a Transformers movie.  They’re going to mess that up completely.”  -Shia LaBeouf, Spring 2006

It was March, 2007, and a storm was brewing.  You knew it was coming.  Something this controversial – there had to be an outcry, both for and against.  Once the news was posted, the fierce debate began.  People on both sides of the issue weighed in, with 648 comments*, all within 72 hours.  No, we weren’t talking about abortion, gun control or Peyton Manning finally winning his Super Bowl.  We were, of course, talking about the new Transformers one-sheet posters.  Not the movie itself, mind you, just a couple of posters advertising the movie.   Eventually, there would be ten Transformers posters released.  Imagine the bandwidth wasted discussing the other eight.

What did the fanboys do before the internet?  Going back and doing some research on Ain’t It Cool News, Harry Knowles’ ubergeek fanboy site, I saw literally thousands of posts dissecting every aspect of Transformers, and they were all months before the movie even came out.  “New Transformers Cut Sheet – Is Optimus Taking Up Too Much of the Page?”  Stuff like that.  Sure, it didn’t start with Transformers (the Harry Potter and Star Wars fan kingdoms probably take the cake), but it’s emblematic of the new culture of overanalyzing EVERYTHING.  If only we spent this much time discussing the genocide in Bosnia.

Of course, I’m part of the problem, too.  I’m not writing an essay about the Darfur crisis or the Occupy Wall Street folks, I’m wasting a few thousand words (and a few minutes of your time) on a movie that came out four years ago.  And a crappy movie at that, many of you would argue.  So as vapid as I might be, at least I’m not a hypocrite.  Maybe after this, we should all go read some George Will or Thomas Friedman.   Perhaps I’ll do a book review of The World Is Flat to clear my conscience.

“Yeah, great,” I hear you say.  “But what about the robots?”  I’ll get to them in a second. 

As the quote up top said, Michael Bay didn’t want to make Transformers.  He’d been offered lots of superhero movies and the like, but he just wasn’t interested in those kinds of movies.  If he was going to invest two plus years of his life into a movie, it was going to be a movie he just had to make.  And Transformers wasn’t it.  I’ll let Michael explain how his mind got changed:

I was not a Transformers fan before I signed on to this movie. I think I was two years older when the toys came out, so I just discovered girls then instead of Optimus Prime.  But I met with the CEO [at Hasbro] and I went through the whole Transformer lore.  I’ve been such a fan of Japanese Anime it just hit me that if I make this really real it could be something very new and different. So I quickly became probably one of the bigger Transformer fans in the world, and I tried to make this movie for non-Transformer fans.  I wanted it to be a little bit more adult, so I’m sure I’m going to get flack for [it].

And flack he got.  An early script was leaked to the internet in early 2006 and, of course, the fanboys went apeshit.  They didn’t trust Bay with their precious cartoon.  So as soon as he could, he wanted to get a teaser trailer out there so the public could know this was serious and not some rehash of the cartoon.  He said it was going to be more adult, and he needed to show us.  Now I, like Bay, was never into the Transformers cartoon, so I didn’t have a huge chunk of my childhood invested in its lore.  But by the reaction he was getting, you’d think it was like Sofia Coppola directing the next Star Wars movie.  I hate to break it to you, guys, but the 80’s Transformers cartoons have not aged well.  As a kid, I loved Tang because the astronauts drank it.  But now, I realize it tastes more like chemicals than orange.  Looking at the cartoons now, it’s become that kind of unintentionally funny thing that the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 love.  But what Bay doesn’t get much credit for is that he listened to the fanboys.  Screenwriters (and Transformer fans themselves) Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci actually went to conventions and talked to fans while they were working on the script.  And the normally implacable Bay listened to criticism about the design of the evil Decepticon leader, Megatron, and actually changed it based on feedback from the fans. 

But this was Michael Bay.  He once famously said that his movie Armageddon would “make The Rock look like My Dinner With Andre+.”  What were these kids worrying about?  Michael Bay was going to make the most badass giant robot movie ever.  He loves action.  He loves to blow things up.  Nobody blows up and flips cars/tanks/trucks/planes/walls/trees/Trapper Keepers better than Bay and his stunt coordinator, Kenny Bates.  When other directors are going full CGI, Bay still shoots as much as he can in real life, and then lets the wizards at ILM or Digital Domain do their magic.  He knows story’s important, but that he’s not making Schindler’s List here.  Harry Knowles, king übergeek at Aint It Cool News, talked about the lack of character development, specifically mentioning the movie Iron Giant and its boy and robot story.  He yearned for more of that in Transformers.  Harry actually writes the line, “Cuz what is necessary isn’t that she get back in the car… but that Shia and that car spend some time together.”  What?!!!!  Dude, it’s Megan Freakin’ Fox!  Quality time with Bumblebee can wait.  Love ya, Harry, but what?!  Were you really expecting a character development piece in a Michael Bay film?  I loved Iron Giant, too, but this ain’t no Iron Giant movie.

Here’s what makes Transformers great and why guys like Harry Knowles just didn’t get it.  Transformers is a close to perfect popcorn movie.   By that I mean that it won’t change your sensibilities or make you contemplate the world we live in.  What it will do, however, is take you on the “rollercoaster ride of the summer” and “never let you go.”  And while those phrases have become cliché, making the perfect summer blockbuster isn’t as easy as it looks.  Bay started in commercials, with one of his iconic ones being the Aaron Burr Got Milk? commercial.  He had thirty seconds to get you attention, get his message across, and most importantly, get you to remember it.  Imagine that thirty second freneticism spread out over a two hour movie.  That’s why you’re physically tired after a Michael Bay movie, but in a good way.  Sure, you’ve got to put your smartypants hat away for a few hours and just go with the flow, but if you see Transformers with the right attitude, you will enjoy yourself.

Okay, that’s enough talk about everything but the actual movie, but what about the robots?

“Before time began, there was the cube.”

These are the words that open Transformers.  Delivered in a rich baritone by Peter Cullen, who voiced the original Optimus Prime (which I didn’t know, but the fanboys were so excited about), Michael Bay throws his pile of chips in the middle of the table, confidently leaning back with a grin as if to say, “All in.”  By that, I mean that if you can get past that cheeseball line spoken with such gravitas, you’re going to be just fine.  If you can’t, then you might as well stop the DVD player right now and go watch The Pianist.

Michael Bay doesn’t get enough credit for his casting, and this is why.  There isn’t much time for character development in his movies, so he needs you to care about these people quickly.  For some characters, they’ve got five lines to impress you or get you to care about them.  Let’s take Josh Duhamel’s Captain Lenox as an example.  Within minutes of seeing him onscreen, you care about him.  First he shows that he’s just one of the guys, talking trash with his fellow Army Rangers.  Then, you see him as a loving father and husband, video chatting with his wife and newborn daughter that he’s never met.  Within another minute, he’s treating a local Qatar boy with respect, showing he’s not some mindless, racist grunt.  So in just one minute and nine seconds of screen time, Bay (and Duhamel, and the writers) have established a well-rounded character that you will care about for the rest of the film.  Again, it goes back to his commercial roots – Bay got your attention with Captain Lennox, got you to care about him, and gave you things to remember.  All in a minute and nine seconds.

And the movie is littered with great character and comedic actors who make the most of their screen time. Bay cast the brilliant Bernie Mac as car salesman Bobby Bolivia, and actors Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Sam’s parents.  In much the way Jack Black was instantly memorable in High Fidelity, White and Dunn endear themselves to you within seconds.  Anthony Anderson is hilarious as a computer hacker and John Voight is the John Wayne of Defense Secretaries (and I mean that in a good way).  Say what you want about the stunt casting of Megan Fox’s stomach, but she gives Mikaela a charm and toughness that go beyond her 8 minute abs.  The only real misfire, in my opinion, is JohnTurturro as Agent Simmons of Sector 7.  He’s one of his generation’s most talented actors, but he just is a bit over the top and out of place in Transformers.

But the biggest casting coup was Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky.  Before Transformers, Shia had only had a few bit parts in big movies – the funny kid/sidekick.  Shia is quick on his feet (I haven’t seen someone run this good on screen since Tom Cruise) both physically and mentally.  Bay likes actors who can improvise and go with the flow, and Shia is a natural.  Sure, the real stars of Transformers are the robots, but if the actual people had acted as robotic as, say Jake Lloyd in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, then Transformers would’ve gone pear shaped real fast.

Much like one of his mentors, Jim Cameron, Bay runs a film crew much like a military operation, and it shows in virtually every frame.  He’s got all the actors running all over the place, getting smacked around and having various sizes of debris rained on them.  He’s tough on his cast and crew, and doesn’t really care if you have a problem with it.  At least Cameron feels a little remorse for the hell he puts his actors through.  Bay – not so much.  Unlike Cameron, Bay shoots fast.  While most directors will do about twenty setups a day, Michael will do about sixty, on average.  He’s going to go fast, and if you can’t keep up, well then you’re just asking for aan ass chewing – and he won’t hesitate, because you deserved it.

He’s been called all sorts of unprintable names, often to his face, but he doesn’t care.  What he does care about is working hard and making the best looking, most exciting, fun movies he can.  So sue him.  He figures that he’s been around for a while now and if you don’t know what you’re getting into when you sign on to do a Michael Bay movie, then it’s your own damn fault.  While fighting the big fight scene at the end of the movie, they put bulletproof safety material around the camera.  Even Bay, who’s standing fifty feet away, is wearing protective goggles.  Shia LaBeouf, the lead of the movie?  He gets to run through it all holding a prop cube.  His protection?  A brown sweatshirt, I guess.  But if you’re an actor willing to work hard and take your lumps (literally, it seems), then Bay’s your guy.  Shia summed it up well in an interview with GQ magazine:

He is the sickest action director on the planet.  He’s not Elia Kazan [brilliant director of On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire].  And he knows it. He's precise and he's specific and he's determined; he's outrageously committed. He never flinches in a firefight. He's always there for you; when the going gets tough, he never flinches. He's helpful; he's confident; he's a risk-taker. But he's also completely unreasonable and irrational sometimes and emotional and aggressive and demanding. He's my coach; I love him; he's my captain.  When we’re at work, there’s no huggy, kissy shit.  You know what he is?  New York.  If you can make it on a Bay set, you can make it on any set.


Okay, I did that on purpose.  I specifically waited this long to talk about the robots to show that Transformers is more than just those amazing looking robots.  Without a strong foundation of a film surrounding them, the Autobots and Decepticons would’ve been mere eye candy.  Sure, Michael Jordan is the best player of all time, but he didn’t start winning championships until he had a solid supporting cast around him.  The robots in Transformers shine even more because they’re in a great movie, rather than them being the movie.  I so desperately want to make a “more than meets the eye joke” here, but you get my point.

From the first moment when that rogue helicopter’s blades stop on a dime, then fold back as the whole thing disassembles and turns into Starscream at the beginning of the movie, your mind spends the rest of the movie trying to catch up.  Even when they run things in slow motion, you still can’t really comprehend the intricacy and work that went into each transformation.  And that’s exactly the way Michael Bay wanted it.  He wanted the fanboys to get the movie on Bluray and slow the speed waaaaay down, analyzing every frame.  Bay wasn’t going to waste all of that amazing work by ILM by simplifying things for the audience.  He wanted you to shake your head in disbelief, because that’s exactly how it’d be in real life.

Bay wanted Transformers to be real.  And think about it, in real life, when a Camaro goes speeding past you at eighty miles an hour, everything’s a blur and you can barely get the color, much less a license plate.  Now imagine that car’s 750 individual pieces transforming it, at an alarming rate and with a complexity that is assuredly alien, into a thirty foot tall yellow robot that’s shooting huge projectiles at another thirty foot tall robot.  Screw the license plate, where’d that hubcap go?  Your mind would be spinning and your mouth would undoubtedly be open, followed by a vigorous shaking of your head.  What the hell just happened here?  It’s that feeling that Bay wanted you to have, because he wanted you to feel like you were IN the movie, not just watching it.

The task was enormous.  In a story in PopularMechanics titled “Transformers:  The Best Special Effects Ever?”, Jeff White, the digital production supervisor asked the $100,000 question.  “How are we gonna get this thing from a car into the robot and back in a believable way?”  Bumblebee’s 750 parts, if laid end to end, would stretch a half-mile long.  Someone had to get them to make a car, and then get them to make a robot – and every single frame in between!  According to the story, for just a section of a Bumblebee transformation, visual effects art director Alex Jager had to “break apart a fender close to the ground to unleash Bumblebee’s arm, then disassemble a brake disc attached to the arm before shifting it out of the way, [with it] eventually end[ing] up on his shoulder.”  My brain hurts just thinking about it.

Now imagine instead of 750 hand-modeled parts, you had to deal with 10,000.  That’s what the ILM crew had to take into account for Transformers.  Oh, and that was just for Optimus Prime!  Not only that, but they had to give Optimus real character that you could see and feel.  So yes, hating fanboys, they gave Optimus lips.  Because if his voice just looked like a blinking light emanating from a hole in his face, it would’ve looked inane given the complexity of the bots they were creating.  But cheer, fanboys, because the voice that came from those lips was the voice of actor Peter Cullen, who did the voice of the Autobot leader in the cartoon series.  To add a suitable menacing gravitas to the head of the Decepticons, Bay decided to shake things up and use Hugo Weaving (Mr. Smith from the Matrix movies) as the voice of Megatron.  Once they saw the movie, even the most ardent opponent of change had to admit that Weaving did a stellar job as Megatron.  The result for all of this hard work garnered the ILM gang an Oscar nomination for Visual Effects.  That they lost to The Golden Compass is the Oscar version of Milli Vanilli winning the Grammy for Best New Artist.  It’s just a crime.

But it wasn’t just the visual side of cars changing into robots (and vice versa).  They didn’t transform silently.  Just as important as these transformations looking real, they needed to sound real.  That task went to veteran sound designer Ethan Van der Ryn and his partner, Mike Hopkins.  Wired magazine interviewed Van der Ryn, about those great transforming sounds.  They used brakes, scissor lifts, clashing swords, a faulty car window, a garden hose and even his dog to make them.  The resulting sounds meshed so well with the visual effects that you thought to yourself, “Of course that’s how it would sound.”  The sound team was also nominated for an Oscar, losing out to worthy opponent, The Bourne Ultimatum.  But don’t feel too bad for Ethan – he’d already won two Oscars by the time he did Transformers: for King Kong and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

The last piece of the puzzle in any big movie is the music score.  You need something that sounds as majestic and exciting as the images that appear on the screen.  Longtime Bay collaborator Steve Jablonsky’s music adds a richness to the soundtrack, giving the music cues a strong foundation.  He learned under the tutelage of his mentor, Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Inception, The Lion King) – start slow but forceful.  Then the music builds and adds layers and intensity.  The trick with any score is to make it memorable, but not to distract from the visuals on the screen.  Jablonsky succeeds in Transformers.  He’s written a score that works perfectly in the movie, but is also music that you’d go out and buy the soundtrack just to listen to it on its own.

From start to finish, Transformers is an unapologetic action movie blockbuster.  That’s what Michael Bay wanted to make, and he succeeded at almost every turn.  You might never get a Schindler’s List out of Bay, but it’s okay, because he doesn’t want to make a Schindler’s List
So after all of this trying to convince you doubters out there that Transformers is indeed a great movie, you still may not like it.  Do you really think Michael Bay cares?  Of course not.  And that’s what I love about him.

* God help me.  Yes, I counted them.  All in all, I probably spent an hour and a half researching, just for a joke.  So am I any better?  Probably not, but at least I don’t write something like: “LAME unless they showed that girls tits from the trailer my god she is hot.”  Yes, that’s one of the 648 comments.

+ If you don’t get the reference, look it up on Wikipedia.  You’ll get why that’s a really funny line.


I tried and tried to find a copy of the script for this movie so I could pay tribute to Roberto & Alex’s work, but the lawyers at Paramount and Dreamworks have done a very good job scrubbing the internet clean of all traces of that originally leaked copy of the screenplay (as well as all others).  So without that, I’ll pay tribute to another writer.  Yep, it’s Vern from Ain’t It Cool News’ fanboy collective. 

While I see Transformers as a perfectly crafted summer blockbuster, Vern disagrees.  Vehemently.  You can read the whole post here, but I’ve picked out some of my favorite gems that made me LOL.
·         I definitely wanted to see [Transformers] out of morbid curiosity, but felt it would be morally wrong to pay for it. I paid to see GHOST RIDER because I thought it would be funny, and I still feel guilty about it.

  • I definitely wanted to see [Transformers] out of morbid curiosity, but felt it would be morally wrong to pay for it. I paid to see GHOST RIDER because I thought it would be funny, and I still feel guilty about it.
  • It’s like God made up The Transformers just to get some use out of Michael Bay.  But Bay told God to fuck off and went and made a movie about people [instead]. 
  • But I think the Lord would agree with me when I say, Jesus Christ, if this is what you guys consider exciting action sequences, I don’t even know how to relate to you anymore.
  • I know it’s not fair to drop the B&R bomb – it’s like comparing people to Hitler in political discussion.  But Transformers is honestly approaching Batman and Robin proportions of horribleness.
  • So in a way, that does explain to me why some people might enjoy this.  Some people like to be whipped and peed on.
  • I can't remember the last time I saw a movie that left me this befuddled that it actually existed.  Now I now how your parents felt when they took you to see [the Transformers cartoon movie].  "Well, I guess this is what kids like now.  Huh..."

Vern, my man, you are quite funny.  A bit full of vitriol (and a potty mouth – hey, I got kids here), but very, very funny.

Here's my video for Transformers, with the scenes that best depict why it's a great movie.

 And next up on my list, #98 - The Birdcage....