Grae's currently on vacation in an exotic land until the end of April. Subbing for her is fellow MDC writer Alonso Duralde. Follow him on Twitter at @ADuralde.
Who's In It: Morgan Spurlock
The Basics: Having gorged himself on fast food (Super Size Me) and searched for America's most dangerous enemy (Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?), documentarian Morgan Spurlock casts an eye on the way that Americans are marketed to nearly 24/7 -- whether we're watching TV, standing at a urinal, or riding public transportation, advertising is constantly being aimed at us. And since the movies are part of the problem, with ubiquitous product placements putting brand names and logos into feature films, Spurlock sets out to make the first movie that's entirely paid for by corporate sponsorship. After a few false starts, he winds up getting everything from deodorants and frozen food to airlines, automobiles, and hotel chains to pony up the cash to appear in this documentary. (Juice-maker Pom Wonderful forked over the dough to be included in the title, so they're mentioned here, but since I, unlike Spurlock, am not being paid to mention his other sponsors, I'm not plugging them in this review.)
What's The Deal: Watching The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is like popping in a DVD that has a making-of documentary but no feature presentation. We're seeing Spurlock make Greatest Movie, but there's no story except the director going from company to company getting them to pay for the movie that we're watching. When Spurlock made himself eat McDonald's for a month in Super Size Me, it was a catchy hook for a documentary, yes, but the film also delved into issues of childhood obesity and general nutrition. All Greatest Movie has to say is that wow, there sure is a lot of advertising, and movies and TV shows sure are willing to push products in exchange for some cash. Spurlock throws in some interviews with Ralph Nader and other media watchdogs -- and gets them to play along in shilling for his underwriters -- but they don't tell us much we don't already know.
Better Movie About Product Placement: A lot of critics at the time missed the fact that the underrated 2001 satire Josie and the Pussycats was mocking product placement and not just indulging in it. But it's obviously meant to be a joke -- the gals wind up in branded hotel suites (Revlon logos in the window, McDonald's-themed shower sponges in the bathroom) while another band travels in a plane that's not only festooned with the Target logo but also features strategically-placed boxes of detergent that appear over their shoulders. And unlike Spurlock, the filmmakers didn't get paid by anyone to put those products there.
Well-Played, Morgan Spurlock (and Sony Pictures Classics): Knowing that film critics are generally underpaid and often amenable to swag, members of the press leaving the L.A. screenings of Greatest Movie received Pom-imprinted reusable grocery bags filled with juice, socks, coupons for frozen pizza and blue jeans, and other goodies from the movie's corporate patrons.