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Have you heard of something called Product Placement? If you haven’t then you obviously don’t go to the movies much. Product placement is all the rage nowadays now that the studio system is run by bean-counters rather than the Sam Goldwyns and Oscar Mayers of the past [who also apparently made wieners]. Movies have always been made to make money – obviously. The movie tycoons were legendary, as were their larger than life stars. Once upon a time the success of the studios and the blockbuster movie was inextricably entwined. Auteurs like Mike Todd could engage in spectacle, chariot races, Charlton Hestons abs, the downfall of Rome and Panavision. David Lean could set up cameras actually on location in the desert with real, not stuffed, camels, plus a million extras, and Kubrick had HAL. Now we’ve just got Industrial Light and Magic and a blue screen. In these days of quick market success and huge potential revenues and turnover the studio system is largely controlled not by creative genius but by corporation. Big movies are big business, what with spin offs, lateral and vertical marketing, after markets and memorabilia.

 

Next time you go to the movies take a look around the scene before the heroine is hacked to death by the guy in the mask with the chain-saw. You will probably find that she’s got a Coke in her hand and a is wearing a T-Shirt that says GAP while the clock radio behind her is flashing Emerson on and off and her Sony cell-phone is beeping in her ear. As she lays there in a spreading pool of blood the camera pans on her Levi jeans then the killers’ Timberlands and his bloody gloves by Body-Glove until he takes off in his Ford Mondeo and boards a flight to Swaziland courtesy of Virgin Airlines. James Bond downs a glass of Absolut while he cunningly outwits Le Chivre using cards fresh from Caesers Palace, a secret service agent scans the skies with binoculars by Bushnel and the waitress plunks down a bowl of Planters. And of course while Bond is chasing villains up construction cranes and across bridges hair-raisingly suspended by one frayed rope over raging chasms you’ll note that he stops now and then to take a sip of his Starbucks Mocha Frappachino.

 

Dialogue is now often inserted into movies with a similar purpose in mind. Villain “Unless you hand over the plans, jewels, secret code, girl, I am going to [stops to take big swig of Red-Bull] glue your testicles to your knees with Crazy Glue. What do you say to that! I bet you wish you had a can of Bud Light right now don’t you?” Hero “You’ll never get away with this McCabre [lights up a Benson and Hedges Filter tip with a shaking hand and a Zippo lighter] because I am going to kill you first with my handy-dandy ice-pick tool that comes free with the Swiss Army knife that you didn’t know I had taped to my buttocks”

 

So next time you’re at the pics take note that the movie you are about to watch is only an acclaimed and commercial success because you are willing to sit through what is really a thinly-veiled two hour commercial with characters and story as annoyingly expensive incidentals. Boy, it’s enough to make you want to go out and buy a Happy Meal with action figures from Star Wars and a Ford, Coke, Pepsi, Starbucks and toga by Gucci isn’t it?

 

 

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