Sunday, April 3, 2011


Directed and Written by Morgan Spurlock

As Ralph Nader puts it, the only time we, the American people, are not being advertised to is in our sleep.  Everywhere we look there are advertisements for the next latest and greatest phone, food, vacation, clothing, make up, toy, car, name it.  Director Morgan Spurlock takes a look at the inside of world of advertising, or product placement, in movies.  Most of the time we probably don't notice it, but any name brand we see in a movie has paid millions to be there.  It's a multi-billion dollar business with so many ins and outs it's hard to even wrap your mind around if you're an outsider.  Spurlock takes on that challenge to show us that world.

The basis of his documentary is to make a documentary about getting advertisers to finance the documentary he's making.  Very cyclical and very Inception-like.  He's filming the movie while getting the money from companies to film the movie.  Nothing is off-limits to him.  When he eventually meets with potential advertisers, which in the Q&A after he said they called over 600 companies and only 15 called back (by the way, those are all in the movie), he's completely honest and open about what he's trying to do.  He's very tongue and cheek to his potential advertisers, but what's wonderful about the people he meets with is they totally get it.  They're not offended as long as they're not portrayed in a bad light, which if they sponsor the movie, of course, he assures them, they won't be. 

After he gets his 15 sponsors, the internal struggle begins within Spurlock.  He receives all of his contracts which have very specific stipulations: can't be seen wearing anything but our shoe/clothing, must be drinking this drink, and he can't ever bad mouth Germany (true statement).  He wonders how can he make the movie and stay true to himself without essentially pissing off his financiers.  If he follows everything they say and compromises what his original intention was, does that make him a sell-out?  And if he becomes a sell-out, doesn't that negate his whole purpose of making the documentary in the first place?  How do you make a movie like this without selling-out yourself?

At one point, Spurlock explores the world of just advertising outside the realm of movies.  He takes a trip to San Paulo where advertising has been outlawed (can you imagine New York City with no advertising?) and explores how shop owners get business.  He travels to a school district who is using banners on their sports fields and buses to help finance their district in the ever troubling world of education.  And, which is the most interesting aspect to me, he gets insight into a new way of making commercials.  Companies now have test subjects in MRI machines and flash different commercials for them to view, then records their sub-conscious brain activity, and uses that information for future spots.  So, if a majority of the test subjects sub-consciously really enjoyed sexual images, guess what the next wave of commercials feature?

Overall, GREATEST MOVIE is laugh out loud funny, smart, and engaging.  I don't think Spurlock means for us to think of advertising as evil; however, he means for us to become more aware of how much of it we see everyday everywhere we go.  However, there is a new trend he creates within the movie of showing commercials from his sponsers, which works with what his goal is, but if this trend starts with mainstream movies, and it's bad enough we suffer through commercials beforehand, I blame him. 

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