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POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

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POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Directed by Morgan Spurlock

Opens May 13 at Landmark Harbor East

Read an interview with Morgan Spurlock

Part marketing dissection, part marketing lesson, Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary takes an inspired idea—make a movie about product placement funded entirely by product placement advertising—and spins it into an entertaining adventure in filmmaking compromise. Spurlock turns himself into brand, pitchman, and de facto spokesperson for the movie’s very idea as he talks with advertising agencies, corporations, marketers, brand managers, and all stripes of creative minds in the disturbingly proficient world of people who encourage people to buy things. In America, that industry has successfully turned nearly every available inch, real or virtual, of the visual world into a potential advertising space, and Spurlock’s adventures in trying to tap into that culture to understand it results in an intelligent, comical, and at times eerie plunge into how omnipresent the business of selling is.

The stunt works because of the transparent hyperbole of Spurlock’s idea—spoiler alert: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold isn’t the greatest movie ever made—and because you get to watch Spurlock go from irreverent independent documentary filmmaker to spurned pitchman to savvy ad man to total shill for his creation in 88 brisk minutes. (His promotional spot pitch to his biggest client, POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, regarding the fruit juice company’s contentious claims to improve erectile dysfunction, is a riot of an idea that sadly never happens.) En route, he talks to an array of filmmakers/entertainers (J.J. Abrams, Peter Berg, Outkast’s Big Boi, Brett Ratner, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Quentin Tarantino) and public intellectuals (Noam Chomsky, Mark Crispin Miller, Ralph Nader) about the pros/cons of product placement being a player in the entertainment industry, but they’re much less fascinating than the string of behind-the-scenes advertising/marketers with whom Spurlock works and consults. Prepared to be more than a little horrified by Martin Lindstrom, the chairman of Buyology, who apparently knows how to make advertising affect your brain on a cellular level.

More affecting are two extremes of economic life that this pervasive culture of selling has wrought. Spurlock visits a school district in Florida that has taken to selling ad space inside school buses, banners around the sports stadiums, etc., in an effort to raise money to make up for budget cuts. And in a sequence of shocking simplicity, Spurlock visits Sao Paolo, Brazil, which in September 2006 passed a “Clean City” law that banned outdoor advertising of all kinds. No billboards, no signs on the sides of buildings, no ads on public transportation, no fliers, no nothing. At first, seeing an entire modern city void of such common things feels a bit out of time: ghosts of ads haunt building facades and other flat surfaces. After Spurlock’s cameras roam the city a bit, though, you start to realize just how crazy fucking beautiful a city can actually be.

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