I Love Filmmaker Michael Mann
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.
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“Aunt Jess, why is my mom crying?”
“Just go back to the living room, RJ. Watch some tv or something.” Jess said, pushing the boy out of sight.
“Mary, don’t get so upset. He’s not going to be in trouble. Didn’t he just call to say that they’re finally releasing him after all these weeks?”
Just then the two women heard the garage door motor hum. Mary started bawling again. RJ slunk deeper into the couch. A car door slammed and the door to the laundry room opened cautiously.
“HOW COULD YOU!” Mary screamed, running up to Rick. “How could you?”
Rick put up no defense to the slap that shocked him with its violence. Eyes closed and head unmoving, he left his cheek exposed as he waited with uncertainty for her next move.
After what seemed like an eternity without noise, he first peeked out of his left eye before opening them both. He watched her run off in tears back to the kitchen with Jess. As he entered the kitchen, he saw Jess pull back from her embrace with the crying Mary and join RJ in the living room.
Mary turned to the cabinets and began to open them as if searching for something. She balked and then straightened up. Next she pulled a stack of plates out and dropped them to the ground. And another. Then she just reached her entire left arm in and swept the bowls out. And the salad plates. Another cabinet open, another set of dishes dashed against the tile. Rick pursed his lips as he tried not to cry.
Finally, he said, “Mary. Oh Mary.” Emotion overcame him and he looked away.
Unable to speak, he bent down and began to pick up the pieces.
“Not a hatchet–an actual ax.”
“Oh. I had heard he used a hatchet. Picturing Mark swinging an ax is even more difficult.”
“Yeah, well he loved Rebecca.”
“Really? You’re saying it’s okay to do what he did because he loved her? I’m not saying the killer should be walking around, but there is a little thing called rule of law. He should’ve had his day in court.”
“Please. You know as well as I do that the system is broken, especially in this case. They gave up.”
“Fine. Either way, I can’t believe it.”
“I know. Apparently when the police told him the trail went cold, Mark just quit his job, sold a bunch of stuff, and secretly tracked down that mother fucker. Search and destroy.”
“I meant that I can’t believe he turned himself in.”
“Really. Now he’s probably going to prison. He had essentially gotten away with murder. And then he turns himself in. It doesn’t make sense.”
“No, it doesn’t. Have you talked to Rick much?”
“Yeah, me neither.”
“Mark called me that morning to ask if I’d help him.”
“I guess he learned pretty quickly who his real friend was.”
“I just have the wife and kids, you know? I can’t get involved in something like unearthing a dead body.”
“You’re right. You are right.”
“Everyone’s saying Rick is something special for risking everything to help Mark though.”
“I’ve heard the same talk.”
“Well, what can you do?”
“Not much anyone can do at this point.”
“Not at this point.”
“Are you sure you want to do this,” Rick began, anxiously. “No one even knows he’s gone.”
Mark just stood there, his hand outstretched and holding a shovel.
“Okay,” Rick said, taking the shovel. “Okay. I said I’d help. So I’m helping,” he said, still talking himself into his decision.
Mark reached into the trunk for a second shovel. He slammed the trunk shut and the men began to walk into the woods.
“How far is it?” asked Rick, turning back to see the car fade from view.
“At least I have my comfortable boots on,” Rick said, trying to make the best of it. “Aw shit,” he said, stepping calf deep into an unexpected puddle.
Mark just rolled his eyes.
Shaking his leg, Rick hurriedly returned to Mark’s side, more worried about the setting sun than a wet boot. He looked around them and noticed the trees were thinning out. About to comment on this, he bumped into Mark who had stopped.
Unaffected, Mark said, “It’s here.”
“Here? Right here? How do you know?”
“Whelp, I guess it’s time to dig,” Rick said as his shovel slid into the earth.
“I guess it is.”
Sweating and feeling like they were making no progress, Rick said, “Jesus, Mark. How deep did you bury him? Are you sure we’re in the right spot?”
Just then Mark struck an object.
“Finally,” said Rick. Without Mark’s cool exterior, Rick would have been terrified to be this deep into the woods at night. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” he asked.
It took everything the two men had to lift the box from the hole, but they did.
As Mark pulled up on his handle, Rick asked, “Aren’t we going to fill in the hole?”
“Nope. They’re going to want to see where he was for themselves.”
Mark began, “Rick-”
“Thanks again for doing this. All the others refused. You’re the only one who understood.”
“You’re welcome. But really, it’s nothing. Everyone can see that you’re a different man since Rebecca was-” Rick stopped himself.
“Sorry. I won’t. But yes, you’re welcome.”
Rick struggled to square the box alongside the car as Mark called the police.
Billionaire playboy, philanthropist, media mogul, and three-time Olympic gold medalist Maxwell Rudolfson was being heralded as the most benevolent creative genius America has ever produced. The streets felt safer, violent crime statistics were at an all-time low, and for the first time ever maximum security prisons had vacancies.
“As you know, I spent a lot of time contemplating the problem of violent crime in this country. One day it hit me. Certainty is security. And as awful as the idea sounded at first, I realized that it was the best solution to the rampant and ever-increasing violence that kept people locked inside their homes, living in fear. It is no lie that it took a little convincing,” Maxwell continued to a chuckling crowd, “but, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.” Cheers arose all along the mall.
Sure, life in the city had improved since the new legal code allowed each adult to murder one person so long as they filled out the proper application paperwork and notified their requested victim. Most people couldn’t believe how the general public responded so many years ago. Rather than rush into a murderous feeding frenzy, the whole of the country took a deliberate approach. Many people decided to save their kill for truly the right person. Then something astonishing happened. As the society waited to commit the unspeakable act, people lost interest. Looking back, it should have been no surprise that as we got older, we calmed down and wisened up. But still, no one, not even Maxwell Rudolfson himself, could have predicted the immensity and totality of the new-found peace and security that blanketed the country.
Meanwhile, in a nearly empty government building a department of justice official couldn’t believe his eyes. He asked the young man standing before him to wait at the counter for minute.
“Sir. You’re not going to believe this. Maxwell Rudolfson’s son just filled out an application for murder,” the official reported to his supervisor.
“Yeah. Ol’ Max figured this day would come. Who does Jr. want to kill?”