Wednesday, 5 March 2014
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Title: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Starring: Morgan Spurlock, Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, J.J Abrams, Brett Ratner, Big Boi, OK Go
Plot: A Morgan Spurlock documentary looking at product placement, branding and advertising and the effect it has on our daily lives, while at the same time attempting to fund the film from these sources of income alone.
Review: Overlooked by most folks on its release who were no doubt handing over their hard earned cash to go and see “Rock em’ Sock em’ Robots: The Movie” (also known in some parts as “Real Steel”) it has as a result ended up lurking under the radar for most movie goers, which is something of a surprise considering the status of director Spurlock who is no doubt still best remembered for taking on McDonalds with his award winning documentary “Super Size Me” and showing us all just why it’s not advisable to eat nothing but McDonalds for thirty days. A film its also worth noting for killing off “Super Sized” meals as well as causing a knee jerk reaction from Congress, which lead to the passing “The Hamburger Bill” which meant that people couldn’t sue McDonalds and fast food franchises for making them fat. Sadly his output since then has been more hit and miss with his around the world goose chase “Where In The World is Osama Bin Laden” dividing opinion, especially seeing how the point Spurlock seemed to be wanting to make was “Hey they are just like us”, while his attempt to transfer his “Super Size Me” format into TV with “30 Days” were members of the public were challenged to live another persons life for 30 days, would end up being axed after three seasons, no thanks to largely hit and miss episodes due to their subject content.
Still realizing there are evils in the world still worth fighting, Spurlock once again launches himself into the fray, as this time he sets his sites on product placement, branding and advertising, looking at how it has seemingly worked its way into every aspect of our daily lives. To help examine the points in question he sets out to fund the movie completely through the use of product placement.
Unsurprisingly the big brands who are usually so keen to use movies and TV shows to help shift more of their product with shamless product placement, are not willing to have any form of involvement with the film, with Spurlock’s plan looking like it might not be going anywhere as he receives rejection after rejection, before finally getting his first big sponsor from “Pom Wonderful” who put up the majority of the films budget after putting in one million dollars for the Above-the-title willing which officially makes the film title the lengthy
“Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”
With “Pom Wonderful” on-board as the films main sponsor, they are soon joined by several other big brands such as “Mini” and “Old Navy”, as well as numerous smaller brands who unlike their big brand counterparts are able to see the point of the movie. Each sponsor however brings their own list of terms and conditions for them sponsoring the film, from the usual product placement, to the more impactfull such as the fact that Spurlock can only drive a Mini Journeyman and only fill it up at American petrol chain “Stripes” while more bizarrely one sponsor insists that at least one interview is conducted at their new airport terminal.
Approaching the subject matter with his usual brand of humor, which makes him so reminiscentof Michael Moore’s earlier work such as “TV Nation” before he became more focused on harassing the Bush Administration, while keeping a more serious focus on the subjects of his documentaries, so it’s nice to see Spurlock still having fun, as he attempts to pitch the film to prospective sponsors through the use of storyboards and unbridled enthusiasm, which would not make him seem out of place on “Mad Men” and no doubt played a large part in the film actually making it out of these early stages. Still once he has his sponsors he is soon creating adverts for some these brands including “Mane N’ Tail” for whom Spurlock takes an early shine to, with this advert in particular seeing Spurlock with his son taking a bath with a pony for which the product is intended.
Having found his sponsors who are clearly unaware that they are actually part of the film, Spurlock is soon out on the road examining how advertising has seemingly ingrained itself in every aspect of our daily lives, visiting a South American town which has banned any form of advertising while on the opposite side of things, Spurlock visits a school in Florida which counter-balances crippling cuts in their budget with shameless use of advertising throughout the school. He also sets out to get a deeper understanding of how advertising by undergoing a “Clockwork Orange” style bombardment of advertising while in a CAT scan to examine the effects of advertising on the brain.
To further investigate all side of the argument Spurlock takes in variety of interviews with the likes of consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky and even Donald Trump weighing in with his own thoughts, which was another big surprise especially with so many of the big brands wanting to distance themselves far as possible from the film, it was interesting to see such an industry titan openly putting across his view points without cutting the interview short and walking off as those kinds of interviews usually end. One of the most interesting parts of the film however was the interviews which Spurlock conducts with an assortment of movie directors including J.J Abrams (Creator of “Lost” aswell as the mighty “Alias”) and Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) who both agree that they can’t see the trend for gratuitous product placement in the movies, with both sharing stories of how “the suits” had interfered in their films because products weren’t being shown how they wanted, while on the other side of things Quentin Tarantino makes another his surprise appearances to share his own thoughts on the subject as well as highlighting the fact that both the opening of “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” were to take place in a “Dennys” and only became unnamed diners after they “Dennys” refused to provide sponsorship, which really makes me wondering how much they are kicking themselves over that decision. I was however surprised to see Spurlock not pick up on Tarantino’s own satire of product placement, which has continued throughout his films with the continual reappearances of his fake brands such as “Red Apple Cigarettes”. Meanwhile musicians like OutKast’s Big Boi and “OK Go” are on hand to give their side of the advertising story and the allure of the big bucks for the right to use their songs, meanwhile “Moby” remains surprisingly absent especially having sold the rights to the majority of his songs off his album “Play” to be used in advertising, so that he could get his music out there, which only makes his absence from the documentary all the more confusing.
While ultimately Spurlock is not destined to make the same kind of impact he made with his debut, especially with the recent introduction of the Product Placement P, which not only warns viewers that product placement is present through the program, but also allowing brands to advertise even more shamelessly than before, so it’s doubtfully that we going to see the brands toning things down anytime soon, but what he has done instead is given us all a slighter better insight of the extent of advertising in modern media.