The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)
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Let's not forget Spurlock's masochistic endeavor to eat McDonalds 3x daily for a month. Is that not genuine? This time he lays his reputation on the line instead of his health, and to those who are offended by it: are you less offended by movies that use product placement shamelessly without informing the audience? Spurlock had to walk a thin line to make this movie, and I think he walked it beautifully.
Spurlock is a master story-teller to be sure, and this was readily apparent in one of the funniest, rollicking Q&As I've had the pleasure to sit through. Story after story rolled off his lips in all manner of imitation and animation – and had pretty much all in attendance slapping knees and grabbing sides in fits of laughter. His 2004 doc-buster hit Super Size Me told the story of one man's experiment to eat only McDonald's food while suffering the consequences. His 30 Days television series was a masterpiece jewel in the cheap tin crown of reality television fare. With all these storytelling accomplishments and talent under his belt his most recent work, a 90 minute celebration of advertising, marketing and commercialization bereft of any engaging narrative, comes as a whopping disappointment.
Don't get me wrong – if you want funny, entertaining, inquisitive Spurlock you'll get your dose in this documentary about sponsorship in film. But if you're looking for critical analysis or an investigative lens you'll be very disappointed. Spurlock's film is the ultimate postmodern documentary – a film paid for by corporate sponsors about the business of financing films through corporate sponsorship. On the surface it's a great idea, but Spurlock doesn't scratch that surface to reveal the real "inner workings" of the business or the consequences of a social reality dominated by advertising and marketing. As one audience member said to him, the film is all joy – where are the questions? Spurlock, predictably upbeat responded that if the audience is uneasy about these things after watching The Greatest Movie Ever Sold than the film has done its job. Right.
As a postmodern self-reflexive work there is surprisingly little self-reflection in PWPTGMES. Spurlock is in almost every frame of the film – flogging his film idea to ad execs, flogging products, and making light of critical voices like Ralph Nader. Between getting free stuff, zipping around the country meeting rich people (why Donald Trump's opinion was sought in this film remains a mystery), and drinking litres and litres of POM juice, Spurlock apparently has little time to really critically explore the nature of what he's doing and what the whole thing is about. Sure he has his moments of wondering aloud if he's going too far down the rabbit hole, but they feel as forced and staged as his meetings with CEOs and marketing gurus (all shot with atrocious camera work it has to be said). One senses that he went into this much like he went into Super Size Me: as a personal challenge and experiment, just to see if he could do it. And, lo and behold, of course he can – he's Morgan Spurlock after all.
The first half of the film had me in stitches as he set up the gag. But by mid-way I was bored of watching Spurlock in predictable scenarios flogging everything from shoes to under-arm deodorant to airlines. I kept waiting for him to go deeper, to really provoke some critical thought on the issue of advertising and marketing. By the end of the film, this craving went unabated, much like my new craving to drink POM juice – thanks to what has to be the best marketing coup for a juice company since Dole colonized Carmen Miranda.
So if you're looking for a funny, intelligent, provocative and critical documentary on advertising and marketing I highly recommend seeking out the wonderful 2004 Czech film Czech Dream. If you want to laugh with and at Morgan Spurlock as he makes a mint from celebrating crass commercialism, check out POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, that is, if you have the stomach for it.
Morgan Spurlock hit the big time in 2004 with his Oscar-nominated "Super Size Me", in which he filmed himself eating only McDonalds food for a full month. The difference in that movie and this one is that previously, he did much research and explained to the viewer the significance of cause and effect. In this most recent film, he promises insight into the abundance of product placement in the entertainment world, but really we get only a mish-mash of images and scenes.
The segments can be divided into these categories: conference room presentations, celebrity talking heads, industry experts, and Mr. Spurlock's own ruminations. Each of these segments are entertaining ... heck some are laugh outloud funny ... but in the end, we are left holding an empty bag. We have no more understanding of product placement than when we started. What we do have is a better feel for how desperate companies are to find new ways to advertise their products.
Some of the products featured in the film are: Hyatt, Jet Blue, Mini Cooper, Merrill shoes, Sheetz (gas and convenience) and of course, Pom Wonderful - the 100% pomegranate juice whose President and Owner ends up spending $1 million for above the title sponsorship. Some of the talking heads include Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Paul Brennan and Donald Trump. We get brief chats with film directors Peter Berg, Brett Ratner and Quentin Tarantino. Throw in a couple of lawyers, musicians and some industry experts and you get the impression that Spurlock did his homework.
I have spent some time thinking about this and I will stick to my conclusion. What the movie doesn't do is provide any insight or detail into what drives product placement in entertainment. However, the movie does a decent job showing us how presentations are made to advertising managers at companies, and it leans heavily on Mr. Spurlock's often-hilarious viewpoint of situations (Mane & Tail shampoo). When you get right down to it, isn't this just a glimpse at one segment of capitalism? When you have a product to sell, you are constantly looking for the most effective way to advertise that product to potential customers. Sorry, that's not insight, that's just Marketing 101.
The film begins with Spurlock discussing just how ubiquitous commercials have become in our lives--particularly the phenomenon of product placement in films. His contention in this film is that even tiny independent documentaries COULD pay for themselves if they, too, jumped on the endorsement bandwagon. And so the film chronicles his pursuit of just about any company willing to finance his film. And, in the process he learns about the loss of control and other problems with this. But, throughout, he maintains a wonderfully wicked sense of humor--and many times I found myself laughing--especially at the miniature horse. I don't want to spoil the film, so I won't say any more about the content. But I loved how this film could appeal to anyone on the right, left or in the middle--clever, very well-written and fun. It also had a gentle sense of humor and never took advantage of the products or companies--so instead of laughing at them, he laughed with them....and the audience. See this one.
By the way, the film featured some great graphics and I loved its style. I sure can't wait to see Spurlock's next film. Also, I stayed at one of the hotels that Spurlock approached for an endorsement deal--and they put him and an ad for the movie on each room key card!
He's very gleeful in giving the film a quirky, humorous tone (Especially commercials for his sponsors that randomly interject every now and then), but I think he was so focused on the humor of his film, he didn't properly tune his information.
The facts come fast and furious, and are very dense in explanation. Spurlock adds a seemingly endless trail of self references and humor, when he should be drawing more focus on his points within the film. And on top of that, none of it is really all that enlightening.
Hopefully I find better documentaries this year, because after an unusual high from last year, this year starts off not with a bang, but more of a whimper.
**1/2 out of ****
This film only really appeals to people who are interested in how the media is able to have control over consumers, as we are pretty much witnessing a prolonged documentary on how Morgan Spurlock can find a million dollars to make a pretend movie.
A cleverly put together gem that manages to patronise an audience in to realising just how we can be manipulated by the big name brands.
There are certain limitations inherent in such a project. Make a film against product placement, and the worst offenders will not want to help it. In the end he mostly finds businesses I've never heard of (Ban, Sheetz). So we don't see how the bigger corporations go about product placement. That said, we see a bit of how it works, as Spurlock's sponsors send him contracts making various demands.
At times it seems this movie is more about itself than product placement generally, but we do have some good discussions spread throughout the film. It is true blatant advertising is insulting, yet the film poses the question of whether subtle advertising is more dangerous. The presentation is funny, including with the Mane 'n Tail material. (Why didn't that company pay for the publicity? They even got a Wikipedia page because of this movie). The film has some good music and I can testify that it looks great on Blu-ray. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold may not be the greatest documentary, but it's worth a look.
Since a lot of the documentary features talking heads -- among them Noam Chomsky and Quentin Tarantino -- it's a little repetitive at times, but it's mostly a good look at the extent to which commercialism saturates our lives. And very funny every step of the way! And remember: always drink POM!
I had hoped that, like most documentaries where the star is the producer/director, there would be two concurrent story lines running throughout - one with the contrived plot of finding sponsors, the other with a great inner-workings of the beast sort of thing where we learn something about product placement. Instead we are shown a dozen 3-second product placement clips and told that it's everpresent. This is not new information to anyone with a working brain stem. We are not educated on the topic. It's a real shame. I'll give an example of this done correctly - most any Michael Moore film. There's the "plot" of Moore going here, doing that. But there's also an entire portion of the film where you learn a lot about the topic of the film. Be it gun control, or health care, you come away with more knowledge and certainly at least a rudimentary understanding of the broad system at work. This movie, you know nothing more than you went in with, other than you can monitor someone's brain with an fMRI machine whilst they watch movie trailers.
A serious miss, and a serious missed opportunity for Spurlock. This could have been fantastic, but his personal role in the movie took over and destroyed the entire concept. Pass.
Despite his vigorous pursuit of companies to sponsor his film totally in product placement, I knew it all from the beginning. Much revenue is derived from an actor holding a Coke or a Pepsi. But then I knew that the minute I heard of the idea decades ago, and Spurlock adds zero insight, such as what marketing agencies or manufacturers really think about the idea other than their fear of Spurlock trashing them.
I did learn that Morgan Spurlock is as much the center of attention as Michael Moore. Spurlock seeks it out, guaranteeing his premier place by doing the film himself and showcasing his highly-developed sales skills.
OK, maybe I learned something else: In Sao Paulo outdoor advertising is banned. Although I thought I would be pleased, the city looked strangely vacant, something out of a horror flick. Maybe it's not the advertising I dislike—maybe it's just Morgan Spurlock's advertising himself that turns me off.
I feel like asking the director for my money back that I just spent to see this movie. I suggest you stay away from this movie. It was just frustrating and not really enjoyable at all. Maybe when it comes to rental.. but not worth going to the theater that's for sure!
Morgan Spurlock (writer/director of the 2004 breakout hit documentary 'SUPER SIZE ME') brings us another satirical critique on one of society's most influential evils, advertising. He financed the entire film with product placement while turning the camera (and judgment) on the very companies that support him in the project. He co-wrote the film (as well as co-produced it) with his usual film partner Jeremey Chilnick and interviews such notable and well known filmmakers and celebrities as Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, Peter Berg, Brett Ratner, Jimmy Kimmel, Donald Trump and Ralph Nader (as well as many others). The film is interesting and very humorous for the most part but it does get bogged down a little in repetitiveness and lack of direction.
Spurlock sets out with a goal of finding enough major businesses to fund the budget of his 1.5 million dollar movie by offering them various product placement deals (according to the size of their investment) in the film while he examines the power of such marketing. The company which invests a million dollars (the 'Pom Wonderful' pomegranate juice company) gets above the title product placement plus heavy advertising in the film (including Spurlock's agreement to only drink their juice while on film for the movie's entirety). The first half of the film he interviews various businesses and pitches them his idea (This part of the film is the most humorous and informative). Many major companies turn him down but several lesser known and striving corporations except his offer. The second half of the movie consists mostly of how the finished product (the film itself) comes together, with all it's marketing tie-ins, and whether the film (and Spurlock himself) can avoid 'selling out'. This portion of the film gets a little slow and uninteresting (in my opinion) and loses some of it's zest.
The movie is not nearly as compelling or educational as 'SUPER SIZE ME', or many other well known documentaries of it's style, but it is pretty entertaining. Although we don't learn a lot of information we didn't already know (or much of anything that's useful) it's still pretty interesting and enjoyable watching Spurlock on his venture (at least for the majority of the film). We don't really have any idea where the film is headed and neither does it, which is probably it's biggest problem. As it sets into it's third act the film begins to feel a bit long and somewhat dull. How the film all comes together might be interesting to some but it's nothing most viewers haven't seen on many behind the scene DVD special features before. The information on the power of advertising becomes pretty repetitive by this point. It does kind of pick up a little at the end though and comes to a somewhat satisfying conclusion. There's also a pretty cool theme song (during the film's climax) titled 'The Greatest Song I Ever Heard' by alternative rock band OK Go, who are also interviewed in the film (proclaiming themselves 'the greatest band to ever write a theme song'). For the most part the film works. Nothing too mind blowing or enlightening but it is very amusing and humorous (for the most part). Another pretty impressive achievement from Morgan Spurlock.
Watch our review show 'MOVIE TALK' at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aotBOLCP-Yg
Despite his normal modus operandi, POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold in Association with Jet Blue, Ban, and Hyatt really surprised me on watchability. He sets out to sell product placement throughout a movie about product placement – good idea. The execution? Not bad, really. There were some very funny segments, like his Mane & Tale Shampoo commercial, to break up all the deadly serious talk about advertising and how it's rotting our brains. I know some people wanted Spurlock to be on a "kickin' butt through the advertising world" tear, but he really didn't have any mysteries to uncover. When someone on TV or in a movie uses a product, no viewer thinks that it was coincidence. We all know, to a certain extent, how advertising works.
What did I learn? You've got to sell out a bit to get money. Spurlock got to make his movie, the products got decent exposure. I had never heard of Ban or Sheetz until I saw this movie. I learned a bit about pitching your story, terms of the sponsorship, and how much legwork you have to go through to get your funding. I think I'll stick to calling up doctors and dentists, thank you very much.
I have two main complaints about the film. First, the camera work was intensely annoying. I started getting furious every time I saw one of the "reality" scenes. Every time someone new spoke it was "zoom, zoom, focus". EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! That's crap. If it happens accidentally as you're trying to quickly get the camera on someone new, so be it, but it's not a shooting style. "Yeah, bra, I shoot soft it's my style." That's not a style, that's just bad camera work. AUUUGHH!! Second, I don't know why Brett Ratner's bloated corpse has to be on- screen for any interviews about how Hollywood works. That's just something personal – he once struck my mother, and I will never forgive him. He also ruined X-Men. Also unforgivable.
Greatest Movie Ever Sold? Not really. Entertaining? Sure. I wouldn't bother watching again since I know I'll just be screaming mad after remembering the dreadful camera action I'll have to endure.
The novelty fades quickly because this film is a bitter pill bereft of ethics and accountability. Wearing the unctuous smirk of a charming snake oil salesman, Mr. Spurlock sucks at the teat he condemns.
The contract giving access to $1 million funding from the lead sponsor, Pom, stipulates the film must gross $10 million at the box office, sell 500,000 DVDs and downloads, and generate 600 million media impressions.
This means Mr. Spurlock needs asses in seats. At your expense, he's made a paean to commercialism whose sole financial purpose is to reimburse Pom and other sponsors. Therefore, should the public fall for it, you are paying the corporations, not a sincere filmmaker.
Mr. Spurlock's ethics are already in question:
In this film he wears a suit identical to ones worn in the 1990s by The Art Guys. Ultimately, Spurlock said he hadn't heard of the duo before and the accusations that he'd stolen the idea were baseless.
And the famous "Super Size Me" lawsuits where Spurlock was sued for $40 million by Cast Iron Partners who claimed failure to share the film's profits with them, despite signing a contract promising a 25 percent share.
Deny this charlatan his due. Above and beyond the financing, this is not an entertaining film.
Perhaps that was the intent, but the film's unsteady follows and quick-cuts intensified the effect and left my head whirling.
Fewer scenes, cut 20 minutes from the length and it might be in a class with Supersize Me. I'm disappointed that he trotted out Ralph Nader (or maybe Ralph is a "partner" and paid to be in the film) as some counterweight to what is right before our eyes. The 2 professors got what? 13 seconds? Where are the concrete steps viewers can take?
Others have summarized the plot, so I will focus on how it made me feel: let down. I had expectations that Morgan Spurlock was going to take an in-depth look at product placement in media and how it affects the viewers. I thought the most interesting segment of the film was where he was hooked up to the MRI and shown trailers and commercials...but he didn't go anywhere with it! He wanted a Coke? That was it? Did the advertising only work because he DOES drink Coke? How would that ad have affected someone who doesn't want to buy pop? What DOES Shrek have to do with selling cruises? That ad would make me want to run away from that particular cruise line, so how does it influence anyone to choose them? Does Will Smith ostentatiously putting on a pair of Chucks *really* sell more Chucks? THOSE are the questions I was hoping would be answered.
The only positive? I now want to visit Sao Paolo like you wouldn't believe. Cuba is also surprising for its lack of advertising. Really refreshing.
Fun and interesting with this doc, is seeing how Spurlock goes inside company boardrooms to see how far that a corporate agency will go to sponsor a film that he wants to make(that's the "Greatest Movie Ever Sold")that's the pitch and catch phrase put the advertising of my product in your movie if you will buy and do advertising for my brand also. Note worthy is the interviews with Hollywood directors saying how true it is that Hollywood entertainment and product placement advertising go hand in hand it makes the business go around. Overall interesting film that proves that business and company and corporate tie ins make the world go around in our media culture advertised driven world it's all about money and entertainment baby!
The problem i have is that this is not a film at all. It's not even a documentary really. It compromises itself from the start and therefore it has absolutely no cutting edge. Sure , it gives you some insight into what goes on with companies and how much they are willing to pay to get their products on screen but that is not enough to keep an audience engaged.
Spurlock has a likable air about him but I'm not convinced he is movie maker at all. The title should be reported to the trade descriptions people as it's not great and it's not a movie and i certainly never bought into it.
Mostly it works well s an idea but the problems start coming in when you look for the film to be as informative and as engaging as Super Size Me was. The contrast between the impact of the two movies actually means it is easier for me to describe if I contrast the two. So with Super Size, Spurlock went on a journey (the gimmick) and this made up that part of his film, but all around this journey was input on the specific journey (the doctors) as well as plenty of facts and discussion about the wider topic (obesity and diet); the combination was good and effective. With Greatest Movie though, this combination doesn't really come off and we have far too much "journey" without enough documentary. It is an understandable failing perhaps because the film literally IS the journey so it is kind of achieving the documentary part while it goes on.
Problem for me was that by the end I felt I had just watched an amusing film about how Spurlock made the film by getting others to pay for it. Along the way it had told me little snippets about the process but it never has the impact that Super Size had in regards its subject – at times it feels like the film is so tied up with the process that it forgot it also needs to step back and look at it from the outside at the same time. This is the film's failing but it is not a killer because what remains is still an entertaining film. It is funny and knowing throughout even if opinion and commentary is not present. I laughed regularly and there is a certain absurdity to it, with Spurlock mocking the process while also engaging in it. The biggest irony (and perhaps part of the filing) is that Spurlock is actually really good at this – indeed the section with Ban Deodorant is painful to watch because he is so much better than that company's trio of marketing reps; he asks them to describe their product in terms of qualities and they stutter and stumble with nothing! Likewise his natural air within the ads is really good.
This is the joke then, and it is a joke that is mostly pretty amusing and interesting. It is a shame that the journey gets so much time and that the documentary aspect and message is rather lost in the delivery, but it does still work. The idea is better than the delivery here, but it still manages to be entertaining and quite engaging.