Sunday, July 1, 2018

Armageddon: Criterion Commentary Breakdown

Believe it or not, Michael Bay’s Armageddon came out 20 years ago today. And to mark this milestone, I thought it’d be fun to dive into the film’s hilarious Criterion Collection commentary track.

Armageddon is not the type of film typically chosen to receive the Criterion treatment, which makes this commentary that much more fun. Commentaries are usually recorded with every participant in the same room, so that they can all riff off the movie together. But this track combines the opinions of Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, who all recorded their tracks separately.

Bay is equally pragmatic and arrogant. He calls out massive plot holes, but then talks about how cool the plot hole is. Bruckheimer and Willis are in good spirits, but somewhat reserved. It’s Affleck who is the real highlight. Although he says he had a good time making the film, he clearly wasn’t a fan of the movie when he recorded his commentary. He makes fun of bad dialogue, nonsensical plot elements, and, most of all, Michael Bay himself, who Affleck likes to mock with a whiny, sarcastic impression.

If you’re new to commentaries, there are about 1,000 other tracks I’d recommend before Armageddon. But if you want to laugh your ass off while watching a silly popcorn flick, then look no further. Here are excerpts from the commentary, presented without comment from me. After all, I think the comments are enough to speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Michael Bay: “Why is there a Criterion edition of Armageddon? Well, this movie took me a year and a half of my life. And, I’d like to show you some of the pains that I went through, as well as the pains that 2,700 other people – some of the finest craftsmen in Hollywood – went through to try to bring this movie to the screen.”

Michael Bay: “Now this shot here – narrated by Charlton Heston, why Charlton Heston, well, because he’s got a very cool voice.”

Michael Bay: “There was a writer working on this sequence. He actually begged me to rewrite the script, and he rewrote 53 pages in two days. And I read the script and it was pure shit.”

Michael Bay: “NASA’s not slick in any way. I mean, basically, it smells like the tubes from your mom’s old TV set she had in the ‘50s. I’m dead serious.”

Michael Bay: “This was a dog trained specifically to kill Godzilla dolls. He was shipped in from New York City at the price of $20,000, and he really did rip the shit outta those dolls.”

Michael Bay: “I’m the type of director who doesn’t like effects, and that’s why I was on these effects guys from day 1 to try and make this as believable and as real as possible. I think, sometimes bad effects really take you out of the movie.”

Michael Bay: “The crew wanted me to do this shot. I practiced that chair move 10 times.”

Michael Bay: “Presidents in movies are bad. I mean, you look at Contact, and they had Clinton. That actually took you out of the movie, because you were amazed at how they got Clinton in the movie. You try to lessen the President. You try to see him on monitors, and try to make him a presence. I don’t like Presidents in movies. The only President I’ve liked is Harrison Ford.”

Michael Bay: “I actually did see Deep Impact. I was invited, believe it or not, to the premiere. I went out of the movie feeling that this is a way way way way different movie. I felt the core of Armageddon would appeal more to the masses than Deep Impact.”

Michael Bay: “The only reason why Greenpeace was there is because they’re protesting drilling in the sea when in fact, they actually need that gas to get out and protest this oil rig.”

Ben Affleck: “Michael always liked that, ‘I’m a little edgy.’ It’s so brief, and it goes to show you that Bay pays attention to the littlest things. I don’t think anyone who saw the movie noticed the ‘I’m a little edgy’ line, but every time I see Michael, he’s like, [sarcastic Michael Bay impression] ‘Hey how ya doin’ are you edgy?’”

Michael Bay: “We paid for a set of $20,000 pearly white teeth [for Ben Affleck]. Ben’s gonna hate that story. I like low shots that come right under your chin, and make you a little but heroic. But Ben kind of had these baby teeth. So my dentist had Ben sitting in a dentist chair for a week, eight hours a day.”

Ben Affleck: “This is where you have a random helicopter in the background for no real reason, just because you’re a big movie and you’re expensive and you can.”

Ben Affleck: “You ever notice how everyone in all these movies always has to be the best? Bruce Willis is the best deep core driller. I didn’t know they rated deep core drillers. How do you know? Who’s keeping track of these things?”

Ben Affleck: “Stunt acting is always fun to watch. [Makes repeated, exaggerated noises that sound like a child going down a slide.]”

Bruce Willis: “My stuntman, Terry Jackson, was almost killed on this film. He was hit in the head with a big piece of pipe. The only thing that saved is life was the fact that he had a hard hat on.”

Michael Bay: “We tried to sexy [NASA] up. This is not a NASA building. This building actually sells herbal products. If you saw the real NASA, you wouldn’t trust it as far as you could throw it.”

Michael Bay: “Let’s face it, this isn’t brain surgery, this movie. This is pure entertainment.”

Ben Affleck: “I asked Michael, ‘Why is it easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts, than it is to train astronauts to become oil drillers?’ and he told me to ‘Shut the fuck up.’ So that was the end of that talk.”

Ben Affleck: “I mean, this is a little bit of a logic stretch, let’s face it. ‘They don’t know jack about drilling’? How hard can it be?! Aim the drill at the ground and turn it on.”

Ben Affleck: “Bruce is a big No Taxes kinda guy. So that was close to his heart. [Whispering] You know he’s Republican?”

Ben Affleck: “My mother always wanted me to have a real job. I sent her a still of me doing some welding there. She was very proud.”

Ben Affleck: “All this was shot the summer before the movie shot. Kind of looks like a Miller Genuine Draft commercial. But I really like those commercials.”

Michael Bay: “Now, I know there’s no fire in space. But it is a movie, and most people don’t know that.”

Michael Bay: “We were making a movie about an enemy that was inanimate. It’s very hard, making a movie about something that’s not living. So we tried to make this a living, breathing, piece of rock that was vicious.”

Jerry Bruckheimer: “This movie has 250 special effects shots. The most I’ve ever done is about 80, for Crimson Tide. This, for me, was a great learning process in what you can do and what can’t do. There’s very little you can’t do. All you need is a checkbook.”

Michael Bay: “In terms of crowd pleasing, Steve Buscemi is worth every single penny of his fee. Actually, after he saw the movie, he told me he needed to get some dental work. [Laughs]. I said, ‘Steve, don’t get some dental work, that’s part of your charm. You got a million dollar mouth.’”

Michael Bay: “Okay, don’t get mad at me, but the reason we had a gun in the movie is because they had toys attached to this. Mattel told me that guns with trucks sell more toys.”

Michael Bay: “William Fichtner here. When we were doing this scene, he was too calm. He’s such a calm, New York actor. I kept getting mad at him. ‘William, we need more! You gotta give me more! You gotta get mad! You gotta get angry! You got the beep of the bomb going!’ I really had to rile him up.”

Jerry Bruckheimer: “I enjoy Armageddon. I didn’t make Armageddon because there was a paycheck at the end – which is nice, and we get that, and we love it, and nobody’s gonna turn it down – but because I wanna go see the movie.”

Michael Bay: “You know, this movie was criticized by the critics quite a bit. I was watching an esteemed L.A. Times critic sitting in a theater full of 800 people. He didn’t know I was there, but I was watching him. And he literally looked like he had a scowl on his face, and I’m telling you, the audience cheered 12 times. And I don’t think he liked that. I think the audience nowadays is not listening to what critics are saying, especially for these types of movies. These are entertaining movies. This is a movie where you’re supposed to lose yourself and be entertained. We’re not doing anything more than that. There’s nothing wrong with movies that just go for entertaining an audience.”

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26 comments:

  1. Ben Affleck: “I asked Michael, ‘Why is it easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts, than it is to train astronauts to become oil drillers?’ and he told me to ‘Shut the fuck up.’ So that was the end of that talk.”

    Solid Gold!

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    1. Priceless, right? That could be the highlight of the entire commentary. in all honesty, Affleck is witty as hell on this thing.

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  2. What a fucking cunt Michael Bay is. Man, he's full of himself. He's probably one of these guys who thinks his shit doesn't stink and doesn't really give a shit about the art of storytelling. No wonder I hated this film and everything else he's done since. The smugness in that commentary is laughable for how delusional he is. I'm surprised no one's outed him for his treatment of women on a film set and how he presents them in his films. I'm sure he's even worse to women off the set.

    Ben Affleck's commentaries are pretty funny as I'm sure he learned a lot from Bay in.... what not to do. I can forgive Jerry Bruckheimer for his reasons to work with Bay but I'm sure he had reasons to not work with him.

    I hope I'm not in the same room with Bay because I'll tell you this. Only one person in that room will come out alive and that will be me.

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    1. Daaaaaaamn. Bay's commentaries really are something else. His track for Bad Boys is priceless. He keeps making fun of all the plot holes in the movie, and the amount of fog they used indoors, for no reason. I can't possibly imagine having as much confidence as he does.

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    2. I don't think it's confidence. I think it's just it's the falsity of confidence disguised as douchiness. I wonder if he's been in consideration for Biggest Douche in the Universe like that guy John Edwards some years ago for his bullshit claims he can contact the dead.

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    3. Yeah, I agree with that. Did you ever see that video of Bay trying to give a presentation about curved screens (or something), and he forgot his lines and just walked off stage? It's hilarious.

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    4. I don't know if I saw it. If I did, I don't remember it at all. I rarely watch anything involving him though I remember seeing him in a special devoted to directors that also included David Lynch, Ron Howard, and other people. I just remember coming across as an asshole saying all sorts of stupid shit as if he think he's the greatest filmmaker ever.

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  3. “I asked Michael, ‘Why is it easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts, than it is to train astronauts to become oil drillers?’ and he told me to ‘Shut the fuck up.’ So that was the end of that talk.” - omg I just choked. I think I might enjoy the commentary track more than the entire film.

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    1. Oh, I certainly did. I don't think the context comes through in print, but when Affleck is making fun of the stunt guys, and then Willis follows that up with how his stunt man almost died in the scene, I was like, "Ohh, some wise ass Criterion sound mixer had a blast cutting this track together." It's a real gem.

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  4. I love this commentary track. It's hilarious. Another great one is Arnold Schwarzenegger's commentary of Total Recall where he is literally just explaining what is happening on screen.

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    1. Ohhhh great call on Arnie's track. That thing is hilarious. There really is something to be said for the so-bad-it's-good commentary track. Hunter S. Thompson's track on Fear and Loathing is nearly indecipherable, but it is so so good.

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  5. Affleck loves that line about training astronauts to be drillers, as I've heard him bring that up in interviews and at least one Kevin Smith commentary track.
    I used to be a huge fan of commentary tracks, back when I had the time to watch the same film, its commentary track, and the same movie again. Whatever happen to those days? Now I'm lucky if I can watch a single film in the span of three days. Life gets way too busy but I should make the time to listen to more, I know some of the latest films we've bought have tracks that I'll love to listen too. They were like podcasts but with a specific purpose, in hindsight.
    I'm not a fan of "scene specific" commentary tracks, as it just feels so broken up but that's the only way to get someone like Bruce Willis or Jennifer Aniston (for Good Girl) to sit for their films and provide commentary. Which I always thought was weird, like, just wait until she had a two hour block and get her then.

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    1. I'm so with you here. When I was younger, I heard Spike Lee say that if you have an interest in making films, you have to listen to director's commentaries, because they are essentially free film school lessons. So from then on, I was hooked. I've honestly learned more about filmmaking from commentaries than any other source. But, yeah, making time for them is hard, and actor commentaries are typically the weakest.

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  6. Not a big fan of Michael Bay, but this commentary is gold. That Ben Affleck line of the oil drillers and astronauts is hysterical.

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    1. Totally agree. Bay's arrogance is astounding. But then he'll make fun on himself and the movie as well. A very odd man.

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  7. "Michael Bay: “I’m the type of director who doesn’t like effects" - I about fell out of my chair reading this.

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    1. I almost did a spit take when I heard that for the first time. From the guy who has literally re-used FX shots in his movies. Whatta line.

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    2. I'm seriously amazed he could even fix his mouth to say something like that.

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    3. I'm telling you man, check out one of his commentaries if you can. They're a riot.

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  8. Michael Bay takes me back to what Sean Penn infamously said once at a taping of the Actor's Studio. When the conversation with James Lipton turns to the endless debate about the purpose of movie making Penn claimed he made and watched films to be moved, to feel something, to be creative and to tell compelling stories. He said that if all he wanted was entertainment, he'd get two hookers and an eight ball and call it a day.

    Michael Bay aims to please audiences by aiming to their most basic and brainless impulses. He doesn't challenge. He doesn't provoke. He doesn't try anything new that is worth talking about. He simply goes with the flow, making millions in the process while contributing very little to the continuing evolution of cinema.

    Though I appreciate the honesty with which Michael Bay takes on these projects and comments on the results of his own work, I think Hollywood would be a better place without most of his film output.

    PS. I loved Ben Affleck's comments.

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    1. I'm with you here. Totally agree. And I love when Penn says that on Inside the Actors Studio. He says it so nonchalantly, it makes you wonder how many times he's sought out that kind of entertainment haha.

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  9. That Affleck comment about training these guys instead of astronauts is legendary. Bay sounds...Like he is stuck in his own little special world :)

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    1. That is a PERFECT way to describe Bay. He's clued into his own world, and takes nothing else in. I cannot imagine living with that level or arrogance. But I suppose he isn't even fazed by it.

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