Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Brand On The Run

film_pomCheeky Spurlock doc not quite 'Greatest Movie Ever Sold'

Morgan Spurlock had an interesting concept for the movie that has become POM Wonderful Presents; The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. The documentary filmmaker whose popular Super Size Me established both Spurlock himself and his particular genre of stunt-activist films as a brand unto itself decided this time to explore the shadow world of what was once called "product placement"—the system by which corporations pay to have their products displayed onscreen in films and TV shows.

Spurlock set out to see if he could finance an entire film through what is now called "co-promotion" with a variety of brand-name sponsors, filming as he went along, delving into just how far an artist is willing to prostitute his morals, credibility, and his art in order to secure financing.

In Spurlock's case, the answer to this last question is: all the way. As we can see from the film's moniker, the pomegranate juice company bought the, er, plummy name-above-the-title sponsorship slot; Spurlock and his crew also shot full-on commercials for sponsors Hyatt Hotels and Jet Blue that appear in the film. Other corporate entities, like Sheetz diner/gas stations and Mini Cooper cars are similarly promoted throughout the movie. It's all part of the joke, the same cheerful shamelessness with which Spurlock parades onto his first promotional late-night talk show in a special suit festooned with logos for Old Navy, Amy's frozen pizza, and all of the above.

The problem with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is that it's a great concept in search of a payoff. Spurlock touches on a lot of intriguing ideas about consumerist culture, marketing, corporate clout, and artistic integrity, and gathers lots of fascinating folks to talk about them. (In particular, there are some marvelous bits of conversation with the very witty and savvy über consumer watchdog Ralph Nader.) But this film lacks the focus of Super Size Me. (All McDonald's meals, three times a day, for one month—that's a hook you can hang a movie on.) Most of the meandering action in the new film is Spurlock schlepping between corporate boardrooms, and while the tagalong camera occasionally picks up a truly fascinating nugget of information or insight, there are many other moments where nothing much is going on.

Spurlock is an easygoing pied piper leading us into the topsy-turvy world of corporate advertising. Marketers tell him he has to sell himself to potential advertisers, and conduct tests to discover his "brand personality." (Spurlock scores in the "mindful/playful" category, making him a good match for similar brands like Apple and Jet Blue.) Directors like Quentin Tarantino talk about using brands in their movies, therapists weigh in on the psychology of marketing (including something freakish called "Neuro-marketing"), and we visit São Paolo, Brazil, which has banned all outdoor advertising from the city. (Residents report feeling "less confused," with more "focus.") Where else can one go to get away from advertising? "To sleep," suggests Nader.

But while Spurlock clucks at TV advertisers who influence subtle changes in the content of the shows they sponsor, he doesn't mind skewing the content of his own film for dramatic effect. In one early scene, he's laughing hysterically over a product called Mane & Tail, a shampoo suitable for human and equine use. Later, we see him on the phone, trying to curry Mane & Tail as a sponsor, promising to submit every mention of the product in the film for their approval. (Since the end credits tell us the company didn't sign on as a sponsor, evidently Spurlock felt free to use the earlier, derogatory footage, but the entire episode makes him seem like a shyster.)

At a board meeting at POM Wonderful, all three of Spurlock's storyboarded proposals for commercials-within-the-film are rejected. "At what point do I become a foil to do everybody else's bidding?" he pouts. (Well, duh! You don't get to be a kept man for nothing.) But his three promo ideas are so idiotic, one suspects they're intentionally film_gmesoldbad in order to set up this faux dilemma about creative control and artistic integrity. Less of these spurious shenanigans and a more purposeful narrative would have given Spurlock, his sponsors and the audience more bang for the buck.

POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS:
THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD

★★1/2 (out of three) Watch film trailer >>>

A film by Morgan Spurlock.

A Sony Classics release. (PG-13) 90 minutes.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Pop Life

The pop-up dining trend is freeing culinary imaginations and creating a guerilla version of event dining around Santa Cruz

 

Over Hills and Plains, Riding a White Horse, Bow and Arrows in Hand

Saturday, early morning, the sun enters and radiates the light of Sagittarius. Three hours later, the Sagittarius new moon (0.07 degrees) occurs. “Let food be sought,” is the personality-building keynote. “Food” means experiences; all kinds, levels and types. It also means real food. Sag’s secret is their love of food. Many, if not musicians, are chefs. Some are both. The energies shift from Scorpio’s deep and transformative waters to the “hills and plains of Sagittarius.” Sag is the rider on a white horse, eyes focused on the mountain peaks of Capricorn (Initiation) ahead. Like Scorpio, Sagittarius is also the “disciple.” Adventure, luck, optimism, joy and the beginnings of gratitude are the hallmarks of Sagittarius. Sag is also one of the signs of silence. The battle lines were drawn in Libra and we were asked to choose where we stood. The Nine Tests were given in Scorpio and we emerged “warriors triumphant.” Now in Sag, we are to be the One-Pointed Disciple, riding over the plains on a white horse, bow and arrows in hand, eyes focused on the Path of Return ahead. Sagittarians are one-pointed (symbol of the arrow). Sag asks, “What is my life’s purpose?” This is their quest, from valleys, plains, meadows and hills, eyes aimed always at the mountaintop. Sag emerges from Scorpio’s deep waters, conflict and tests into the open air. Sag’s quest is humanity’s quest. Sag’s quest, however, is always accompanied by music and good food.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 21

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pie Fidelity

A little Thanksgiving help, plus sip and shop locally at the Art, Wine and Gift Bazaar

 

What should be on everyone’s bucket list?

Hang gliding, because you're free as a bird. Jenni, Santa Cruz, Student/Administrative Assistant

 

Soquel Vineyards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

 

The Kitchen

Chef Santos Majano talks beer-friendly food at Discretion Brewery