The Bigger Picture: Brought to You by Gillette

Written by Film, The Bigger Picture

lipstick-pig-original1I was shaving this evening. I like to shave at night, because the last thing I want to do when my eyes are still half-closed is rake a piece of sharp metal near my jugular.

During this evening ritual, I contemplated the razor blade industry. For years now, it has continuously sold us on newer blade technologies. Generally, this means stacking more blades. I assume in 10 years, we’ll just stick our heads into giant pencil sharpeners.

In reality, we still only get a few decent shaves out of each razor before having to purchase a replacement, which of course costs more money with every “technological advance.” This means that the Gillettes and the Schicks are taking more of our money for a product whose advantages are debatable.

The film industry is, in many ways, run the same. Technological advancements have become the norm, as have increased ticket prices. In reality, what benefits do we gain from the newer technologies if they are not used to advance the spirit of cinema?

Werner Herzog speaks harshly of the “flashy tricks” of modern filmmakers. “This kind of filmmaking . . . gives you a phony impression that something interesting might be going on. But for me it is a clear sign that I am watching an empty film,” he says.

In general, the overuse of CGI and vapid style in today’s cinema tends to be like the “lipstick on a pig” colloquialism that was popularized in our recent presidential campaign. It is used as a distraction from a lack of substance, by filmmakers who don’t have enough confidence in the emotional depth of their story.

The reality is that anyone with a camera can make a film that resonates strongly. Perhaps this realization is what nags in the back of Michael Bay’s head, and exits through his mouth as a sharply barked on set command: “Blow everything up!”

There is a perception that movies should be mere escapism and that people want mindless entertainment. I like to be entertained as well. The problem with this thought is that it’s been dictated by the creators of the content, and not by the viewers. Do you think that the audiences of early cinema were bored because the special effects of the time weren’t up to today’s standards?

This is not to say that explosions and special effects are inherently bad. Everyone likes a good explosion, because they are exciting and catch one’s attention. The problem is that they often become used as a distraction from what a film is lacking, and too many explosions can become redundant.

Explosions can also display a lack of confidence by the director, not only in his audience’s attention span, but also in his own abilities. It reminds me of the guy who talks incessantly about his apparent exploits with women to mask his own lack of self-confidence.

Michael Bay reminds me of a cartoon character. Every sentence he speaks is probably laced, not with actual profanity, but with “#*$&!!!” I think he probably likes this caricature version of himself. Werner Herzog is another larger than life personality. The difference between the two is that Michael Bay thinks he’s a really interesting guy, but Herzog actually lives an interesting life. Case in point:

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It might seem silly to compare such vastly different filmmakers. However, a filmmaker’s ability to create something interesting on screen often comes from his observational skills. The director’s personality often creeps into a film. Herzog’s films are mysterious and interesting. Bay’s films seem, well…phony.

None of this is to say that these technological advances are to be spurned. You could reject shaving altogether and grow a bushy beard, but it might not suit you and could itch very badly. The other option is to use this technology, but maintain an awareness of how little it does without the control of a steady hand.

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