Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary (brought to you by POM Wonderful…) is an uproarious look at product placement and advertising in the entertainment industries, itself funded by product placement and sponsorships!
Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary (brought to
you by POM Wonderful…) is an uproarious look at product placement and
advertising in the entertainment industries, itself funded by product placement
and sponsorships! After a whirlwind introduction to its
themes, we see Spurlock pitching the
film’s concept to potential sponsors and branding partners. At this point he doesn’t know whether
his ingenious idea will work: to reveal the inner workings of film advertising
and co-promotion, whilst simultaneously pitching for funds to get the film
made! As the poster declared,
‘He’s not selling out, he’s buying in.’
Spurlock’s aim was to
raise awareness of the pervasiveness of advertising in the entertainment
industries, and to unpack how the world’s biggest blockbusters (cough Avatar cough…) make their billions
with the help of sponsors and branding.
He more than succeeds, with unexpected facts and revelations galore
about marketing. Candid interviews
with big name directors from J.J. Abrams
to Quentin Tarantino give the film
added weight (Avatar producer Jon Landau
probably declined to comment).
Anyone who has seen
Spurlock’s acclaimed (and infamous) documentary Super Size Me, will be familiar with his breezy and engrossing
style of filmmaking. This film
builds on that style with even more polish and watchability. In his 2011 television series 50
Documentaries to See Before You Die, Spurlock coined the term ‘gateway
documentary’, meaning a documentary so accessible and universal that it serves
well as an introduction to the genre.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is so packed with infectious charm and
ironic laughs, that it might just be the greatest gateway doc ever.
As Spurlock signs deal
after deal with various sponsors, he soon faces a real conflict between
maintaining artistic control (it’s made all too plain that sponsors couldn’t
care less about art) and losing that control to the sponsors and branding
partners, who use endless contracts to protect themselves against libel. Even though it’s obvious before
watching that Spurlock succeeded in getting the film made, it remains
fascinating to watch how he explores the line between selling out and buying
Particularly eye opening
is the Clockwork Orange-esque method
used to vet and refine many Hollywood trailers and T.V. adverts, in order to
provoke the most positive audience response possible. Test audiences are monitored by CAT scan machines whilst
being shown various edits of unfinished trailers and adverts, with activity in
the parts of their brain that elicit emotional responses recorded.
The Greatest Movie Ever
Sold is mind tinglingly insightful, from facts on the deliberately stupefying
effects of advertising (because it can’t work on the sceptical or questioning!)
to the strange beauty of São Paulo in Brazil, where all outdoor advertising has
been banned. If there’s a
conclusion, it is that advertising is so pervasive in today’s world that to
avoid it you either have to go to sleep, or to São Paolo.