It’s principles that drive The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Morgan Spulock’s latest documentary created to expose the full process of entertainment product placement. Spurlock takes his camera to the streets, into schools, boardrooms, and even into the office of politicians for a lowdown on how our world works with advertising.
Those first few meetings are interesting, the makers of Pom so full of themselves and overly righteous as to be disgusting in their methods. They’re the ones that paid for the title, and damn it, you’re supposed to know that, as if the cool million they forked over makes their product better. Then Greatest Movie becomes a little repetitive, a few too many meetings, presentations, and familiar back-and-forths about the sponsorships. They don’t offer anything to differentiate each other, at least not on the level of the Pom group.
It’s when Spurlock sits down to discuss how it affects people, whether it works, and what ads do to your brain that things become focused. The desperation of a school board giddy that he’ll be advertising on their fence just so they can stay afloat, and the irritation that they can’t cover the school buses with ads is fascinating. It’s a statement too, a small jib at public education and its failings, squarely pinpointed on the things out of their control.
There’s a drinking game that will come of this too, finding those subtle product placements throughout. Spurlock’s apartment is littered with a certain pizza brand and he can only drink a single product. There’s deodorant sitting on a table as he interviews people, he only drives one type of car, and is only allowed to partake in the finest of hotels… as long as they’re Hyatt.
It’s carefully constructed to somehow make it a subtle in-your-face piece, enthusiastic about the concept yet rarely demeaning. A trip to Brazil where all outdoor advertising was banned displays a sense of creativity amongst business owners in getting the word out, not TV spots. It’s a varied look at adver-culture and the sometimes desperate means a company will go to just to sell something, like a Blu-ray. Which is what this is doing. And you’re reading it. Oh sweet irony.
Selling you on the video quality of a straightforward documentary isn’t easy, the digital purity of these images clean if not impressive. Aside from a few close-ups, Greatest Movie Ever will do little to shock hi-def hounds. The digital source never carries a rampant, unnatural look; colors are maintained without exaggeration and skin looks like skin, not plastic.
Black levels hit a handful of weak points, darker shots typically exhibiting noise that is unpleasant if not screen swarming. Only a handful of shots will see their quality dip that low anyway. Contrast will prove healthy, scenes chatting with people on the street vivid without going overboard.
There are three ads scattered around the film, these shot with different equipment and offering up some differentiating palettes to help them stand out. One for Hyatt runs hot and a little foggy to bring out the relaxation aspect. Another for Jet Blue has sort of a ’70s quality for a vintage look, while the final for Pom is overloaded with vivid primaries.
It’s worth noting some of the material is pulled from broadcasts or maybe even YouTube, those shots revealing extensive compression artifacts that are certainly not from this Sony AVC encode.
Sonically, there’s not much going on here either, although that’s to be expected. Dialogue is situated firmly in the center with clear, crisp fidelity. It has a few moments where it can break free, a voice swirling through the soundfield at 9:25 and some ads doing the same at 55:38.
Music will carry some pep, the closing credits blaring a hip-hop track that will offer the subwoofer some work. An OK Go song will become the featured bit of the piece, that also sharing in the fidelity this DTS-HD track has to offer.
Commentary time, Spurlock bringing in producer Jeremy Chilnick, cinematographer Daniel Marracino, and editor Thomas M. Vogt. That’s followed by a trip through Sundance with Spurlock as he discusses what the festival has meant to him. Workin’ 9 to 5(am) details the shoot of the Pom ad, while Shooting for Perfection details the other two. The commercials in their entirety and some alternates are included, followed by a stocky selection of deleted scenes that run nearly 50-minutes. You check out trailers and gain access to the usual round of Sony BD-Live features afterward.