New arrivals on DVD and Blu-ray this week include: Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, director Morgan Spurlock’s tongue-in-cheek heavily self-referential documentary about advertising in movies; plus a look at Jodie Foster’s The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson.
Morgan Spurlock directs and stars in his latest “documentary” about the world of product placement, marketing, and advertising in the movie industry. Looking behind the scenes, the film follows Spurlock’s quest to turn his entire documentary into one giant advertisement for any sponsors who are willing to pay for the available space, and he has a plan for how to market each one of them.
Featuring Spurlock’s amusing wit, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold pits the filmmaker against the marketing world as he tries to make money while retaining some kind of integrity in his dialogue about marketing. His goal is to not only explore what happens when marketing meets filmmaking, but to also fund his film without spoiling the message.
Premiering at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival, Spurlock’s film covers the filmmaker’s perspective with behind-the-scenes discussions with all manner of marketing executives who are either completely terrified by what the film represents, or overjoyed to be part of it. That unique view of the marketing world is of course what makes The Greatest Movie Ever Sold worth watching, because where else will you see an advertiser saying, in front of a camera no less, how much they’re willing to pay for an ad spot in a film? In what other film could you see exactly what each ad placement is worth, and understand the fight Spurlock has to go through to fill those ad spaces?
The only problem I had with the film is that it feels like it meanders through the wasteland of the marketing process. Because the film has no story, and is in fact primarily focused on finding advertisers, so it can tell the story about how films find advertisers–a concept that is so meta it’s almost hilariously painful–the film feels flimsy and moderately surreal.
While a true documentary might dig into the process, and find a nugget of truth that one might consider a revelation, Spurlock’s film merely orbits the reality of Spurlock himself and laughs knowingly as it runs amuck with free goodies and playthings from any company that will make nice with the concept. That is in fact why Spurlock’s films are usually amusing, however, and that is basically the only reason I liked the film. Since he’s so short on digging deeper into topics, what other reason would you watch a film by Spulock, other than to be amused by his antics and odd filmmaking process?
Otherwise, the DVD includes a couple of extras, which quite frankly strain the boundaries of self-referential storytelling. These extras include a making-of featurette on making the Pom Wonderful ad, all the commercials Spurlock filmed, a whopping 32 minutes of deleted scenes, and the most meta thing of all, a commentary track for the film.
The concept may sound like a loopy comedy, but in actor and director Jodie Foster’s The Beaver, Mel Gibson plays Walter Black, an emotionally scarred man who is trying to deal with his demons and come out of a terrible depression. While nothing seems to work for Walter, it takes the appearance of a beaver hand puppet to suddenly give Walter a way to deal with his emotions and reach out to his wife Meredith, played by Foster, and their two children.
Featuring a script by newcomer Kyle Killen, the film may be a hard sell to most audiences, especially since Gibson has hardly endeared himself to filmmakers or filmgoers. With Foster on screen and behind the camera though, The Beaver has a strange credibility that may earn it some viewers, and it’s also received positive reviews, for the most part.
“I don’t know whether Gibson is Method-acting out of his own psychology or is just a brilliant mimic,” wrote Andrew O’Hehir for Salon.com “but it’s tough to resist the conclusion that this guy knows what it’s like to look in the mirror and not quite recognize the person he sees there.”
While David Denby of the New Yorker commented, “As director, Foster, working with Kyle Killen’s screenplay, treats the goofy premise with a literal earnestness — as a family drama about separation and reunion–that seems all wrong. A little wit would have helped.”
Other new releases this week…
Bambi II: Special Edition, the original direct-to-DVD title from 2006, is available now on Blu-ray and tells of Bambi’s adventures with his father, the Great Prince, as he is taught how to survive in the forest.
Plus, for television on DVD, the fifth season of Brothers And Sisters is now out, and you can pick up the complete, short-lived series, Off The Map.