He is the absolute best filmmaker ever. Hands down.
My favorite film of all time is Last of the Mohicans. It is probably no coincidence that this is also the first film of his I ever saw, and it might be the first rated R film I ever watched. I know for sure that at the time I didn’t even know his name or, for that matter, that movies were made by different people. While most people I run into shy away from ever choosing their favorite, my training prevents me from fearing and so after much deliberation, to repeat, I proudly pick Last of the Mohicans.
I say all of that to introduce the fact that any movie buffs can imagine my shock when upon completing Heat in college I discovered that in that crime tale–the first time Pacino and De Niro gloriously face-off on film–again, it was Mann at the helm.
My memory is a bit fuzzy at this point, but I think my next it’s-a-small-world-after-all shock was discovering that he created one of my mom’s favorite early-80’s television shows–meaning I’m pretty sure she watched it while I was in the womb–Miami Vice. It shouldn’t take much convincing then that when I heard he was making a stand alone film of Vice, I lost my breath. (“Do you dance?” “I dance.”)
After heading to the local video rental store to get caught up with Thief, Manhunter, and The Insider, Ali marked the first time I saw one of his films in the theater. And you can bet I was first in line for when he teamed up with my raision d’etre, TC, in Collateral.
Naturally, my younger brother is also a big fan. Not as big, but big. So to cap off his bachelor party ski extravaganza he and I went to see Mann’s latest release Blackhat. It has been a long time since I left the theater believing that someone knows how to tell a story to adults. I had hoped Interstellar would end the streak of disappointment, but I have to agree with the masses that while very, very good, it was also a little silly. Not Blackhat.
What makes Mann stand head and shoulders above the competition? Pacing. His pacing. No one else comes close.
Now, we’re all adults here, right? You know how there is a standard line during sex where when in passion’s throes one partner sensually requests that the other develop the bliss a little more competently? When, in a voice that quiets to little more than air rushing by your ear, you hear the plea, “Don’t rush”? Well Mann’s grasp prevents his lover from ever contemplating such a petition. Unlike most other film makers, he is in complete control. There is no doubt that every particularity of every moment is exactly as he wants it. There is no “film by committee” with him. It’s his way or the highway. And Blackhat reminded me of this once again.
Need one more example of how I know he’s the best filmmaker? I know because the previews for his movies are horrible. They are horrible because he doesn’t make previews. He makes movies. He makes motion pictures. He makes art. Could a single measure of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony do that song justice? Or one star in Van Gogh’s Starry Night? No, the answer is no.
In a word, compared to Michael Mann, all other filmmakers are simply salesmen.
There’s got to be a word for it. You know what I’m talking about. You’re talking to a friend, and then they pull out their phone. They peek at it, and then something on the screen captures their attention. You keep talking, hoping they aren’t actually more involved with their phone than with you. Then something in your voice triggers something in their brain to command their head to turn your direction. The look they give next is what I’m thinking has to have a word. The look which says, “Uh huh. Yep, I’m listening. I know you think I was looking at my phone instead of you, but you’re mistaken. I was listening and can still listen even as I return to looking at my phone. Promise.”
Oh. I know. The word is disrespect.
We all do it. Let’s all stop doing it.
The only way to get there is together.