An Ode to George W.

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bumblebee-1If when you were a child--either with Mr. Wizard or alone--you had passed a magnet over a pile of iron filings, you would have unknowingly created the action scenes of Michael Bay’s latest blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Yes, for what seems like the first half hour of this exploration of the psychotic lives of former Hasbro toys, the screen is filled with the pounding of metal upon metal accompanied by very loud kabooms on the soundtrack. Now children -- especially young lads, tomboys, and rednecks -- are supposedly fascinated by trucks and a cacophony of booms, bangs, and bleeps. No doubt aware of this factoid and also having observed that few Americans ever outgrow this stage of development, Mr. Bays has created the ultimate celluloid babysitter, which is currently breaking almost every box office record in Hollywood history. What does it say about our culture that we as a country are embracing a film where it is often visually impossible to tell the heroes from the villains? Where the human actors are often less expressive than their metallic counterparts, and where the plot never even reaches the level of inanity? Storyline: A mean creature named the Fallen wants to destroy the Sun because he doesn’t like Earthlings. To accomplish said feat, he has to get into the brain of Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf). Sam doesn’t like that idea, so with the help of hugely bosomed girlfriend (Megan Fox), a too-cute computer nerd (Ramon Rodriguez), an overacting John Turturro (who will do anything for cash nowadays), and the U.S. military, the freshman restores to life a nice Transformer named Optimus who will save the day. Now, there is nothing that wrong with on-screen idiocy and lousy actors making a living (for example, Julie White as Sam’s mother). But Bay and his witless screenwriters (Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman) have used the film to attack Obama and diplomacy, too. Yes, Obama is mentioned by name, and his buffoon of a representative (a horrid John Benjamin Hickey) actually states, when confronted with the death of the world, “What we need is to come up with a suitable diplomatic solution.” His reward for a peaceful sensibility: he is thrown off a plane. In Bays’ vision of life, let’s have more Iraqs. Never waste time chattering about alternatives to full-scale slaughter. Let’s turn our kids into shoot-now/ask-later automatons. And where are George W. and Dick Cheney when you need them? To get a handle on all of this, I read Gore Vidal’s Screening History, a book-length essay on cinema’s effects on our daily lives and our understanding of our past and present. I did get some insights, but instead of sharing them with you, I rather quote one of America’s greatest minds quoting his own mom, Nina Gore Auchincloss Olds: “When my mother was asked why, after three famous marriages, she did not try for a fourth, she observed, ‘My first husband had three balls. My second, two. My third, one. Even I know enough not to press my luck.’” Which brings us back to Mr. Bays and his moneymaking epic: a ball-less director and his dick-less enterprise. - Brandon Judell brandon.jpgMr. Judell is currently starring in Rosa von Praunheim's New York Memories, which is still in production. In the fall, he'll be teaching "The Arts in New York City" at City College. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, The Advocate, and dozens of other publications.