Combining two of life's greatest pleasures, horror movies and candy, Cadbury has come out with a funny series of ads for its exciting new candy: Screme Eggs. These have been available in the UK since last Halloween, but it looks like we're just getting them for the first time.
Here's my favorite ad, a riff on werewolf/mummy movies, complete with egg gore:
And a good zombie-attack/"Thriller" video one:
And an apocalyptic news cast:
The ads are all on Cadbury's Creme Egg Canada YouTube channel, so I doubt they'll be aired in the US. (Too scary?) Since they were made for Canada, there are both French and English versions, but conveniently, the only line of dialogue in either language is "goo". The international language of candy snot.
Here in New York, they're priced at a borderline outrageous $1.00 per egg, and the only real difference from the regular Creme Eggs is that the cream/snot on the inside is green instead of yellow. And they're still so ridiculously, brain-meltingly sweet that they produce the all-too-familiar sequence of symptoms:
In the unpredictable world of movie release dates and awards season, it sometimes happens that an actor gives a great performance, dominating awards shows with triumph after triumph, then follows up their Oscar victory with an appearance in a very different kind of movie. Last year, at the same time Natalie Portman was hefting her pregnant belly up onto a succession of stages to accept endless awards for Black Swan, there she was lasciviously buttoning a dress shirt at Ashton Kutcher on the posters for No Strings Attached. I can still hear her perky, nasal voice chirping "I think monogamy goes against our basic biology!" in the trailer, which perhaps didn't project the image of an accomplished thespian she may have wanted to cultivate while campaigning for her Oscar.
But then she continued the downward trajectory with the wretched Your Highness and Thor, so maybe she's less interested in cultivating thespian status than I thought.
This year, immediately after winning the Oscar and pretty much every single other major award for The Artist, Jean Dujardin appeared in ads for his next movie, which is called Les Infideles in French, cutely translated to "The Players". Dujardin wasn't exactly marketed as a serious dramatic actor here in the US, but there's still a sizable gap between the image of the charming, dapper Valentino-esque silent film star and a dude about to nail some faceless woman who, in keeping with the movie's title, is not his wife. Dujardin created the movie, and co-wrote and co-directed--the guy can do anything.
Check out the next poster in the ad series, representing another emphatic step down from the gravitas of "Academy Award™ Winner" (though I just realized this is actually his co-star, Gilles Lellouche):
(Would a poster this vulgarly funny fly in America? Probably not.)
The Times has a funny story about a recent ad campaigns that use elements of horror and action movies to sell laundry detergent--a nice departure from the usual earnest white-bread Mom vexed by dingy whites.
The best one is a new TV ad for Woolite, featuring a Leatherface-like maniac hauling a load of laundry through a barren, muddy field to the yard outside a ramshackle old house. Surrounded by classic horror movie props (abandoned dressmaking mannequin, scarecrow) he proceeds to "torture" some preppy women's garments, including an argyle sweater and a pink t-shirt (featured in my favorite shot, above.) He stretches, fades, and shrinks the clothes with rusted hooks and a scary looking medieval rack.
Here's the video:
The reason it's so simultaneously classic and campy is that it's directed by prolific musician, horror director, and vegetarianRob Zombie. The best quote in the article is from Zombie about his relatively tame ad: "It's not like it's scary." The central character is "like Uncle Fester, not like some child killer out in the woods."
Like everyone else, I grew up watching the Vidal Sassoon ads of the 80's, like the one above, dreaming of swishing around my long, lustrous, shiny hair. Unfortunately, I had curly hair that never did anything like swishing or swinging, and would just explode into a frizzed-out disaster if I brushed it too much. Products like mousse and volumizing shampoo, which were really desirable in the ads, were clearly made for those who weren't embroiled in a never-ending battle against volume.
So when I went to a Vidal Sassoon salon while living in London as a student in 1994, I was ready to see if the famous "If you don't look good, we don't look good" slogan held up. I volunteered to have one of the stylists cut my hair as part of a demonstration for Japanese hairdressing students. They could do whatever they wanted to my hair, and I got a free Vidal Sassoon cut.
That 1994 haircut was transformative. My stylist was a man named Henrich. He had a shaved head and wore a skirt. He cut my hair dry, which was immediately obviously the best way to cut curly hair, yet no one had ever done it before. He gave me a really cool haircut that made my curls look fantastic -- like they were meant to be there, instead of a genetic accident that I had failed to correct. The Japanese hairdressing students all took pictures of my head.
Though I didn't realize it in 1994, Vidal Sassoon essentially liberated women from the weekly beauty parlor visits that were the norm in the mid-20th century. By focusing on the cut as the primary means of styling hair, he made the weekly ritual of curling/straightening, setting, processing, and ironing your hair or sleeping in curlers unnecessary. As described in a Time Out interview with Sassoon, his goal was to "create looks that were tailor-made to a person's features, beautiful shapes that were as eye-catching as they were unique--and, most of all, easy to maintain."
Sassoon's own transformation from a poor Jewish boy raised in a London orphanage to the world's most famous hairdresser is pretty compelling, too. He's still alive, and in his 80's. Here's the trailer.
There's one giant asterisk, here: the Vidal Sassoon architectural method mostly applied to white women, or women with non-kinky hair. Almost all the women swinging their glossy hair around in those 80's ads (or hair products ads today) have swishy white-lady hair.
Which brings us to Chris Rock's 2009 documentary, Good Hair, which is without a doubt the most eye-opening documentary I have ever seen. Post-Sassoon, many black women follow the same kind of weekly hair regimen that white women abandoned in the 60's. Chris Rock made this movie out of concern for the future of processing, straightening, and weaving that probably awaits his own daughters. He interviews dozens of black women who have straightened hair, weaves, and a few with natural hair, and the men who love them (and Al Sharpton!) There's lots of interesting stuff about cultural expectations, economics, racism, and the realities of what women go through when natural hair doesn't fit within the social mainstream.
Once Vidal Sassoon is out on video, that movie and Good Hair would make a great double feature.
You can tell this year's Election Day is going to be weird. Voter enthusiasm is a lot lower than it was two years ago. With the notable exception of old white guys, that is, who could end up dancing in the streets tonight while the rest of us sit there wistfully remembering where we were that magical far-away night in 2008, then suddenly feeling very tired.
But most important: hardly any celebrities have urged me to vote this election. Without Christina Aguilera and Jonah Hill telling me to make my voice heard, why should I give a shit about politics?
At least we've still got good old Matt Damon, who is such a incredibly politically engaged celebrity that not only will he do a Get Out the Vote video in a midterm year, but he made a video on behalf of one of New York State's third parties, the Working Families Party. You could almost forgive him for the turgid-looking Hereafter and his psychic glowing right eye in the trailer.
Actually, he made two videos: one where he explains how voting for candidates on the Working Families line shows that you support the kinds of things that Democrats have historically stood for, like living-wage jobs and education and health care, and not so much the things that a lot of Democrats stand for now, like starting wars and selling out.
And another video about how to actually fill out the paper ballot, telling us to only fill in the dots in Row E, the Working Families party line, and not to fill in both the Democrat dots and the WFP dots. Would someone actually do that? I guess we need to assume that voters are complete morons.
Clearly these videos were produced by a tiny underfunded third-party that only exists in one state, and not Rock the Vote or Funny or Die, because Matt Damon is really poorly lit and looks all puffy-faced and tired and possibly stoned (see above).
Is that a fleece vest he's wearing? Yeah! We're not about slick Washington lobbyists and marketing firms! We're the REAL America!
Sometimes, Martin Scorsese makes cinematic masterpieces that will be watched and remembered forever. And sometimes he makes overly long meandering movies that have their good points and look great, but run out of steam by the end. In the first category you've got Goodfellas and Raging Bull and, probably, The Departed. In the second category you've got movies like Casino, where the best thing about the movie might be Robert DeNiro's suits.
I forget sometimes that not every Scorsese movie is a winner, but watching Shutter Island last night served as a great reminder. "Oh, right," I thought. "I'd almost forgotten about the 15 years I spent watching Gangs of New York."
If you think about Shutter Island as a pulpy, melodramatic B-movie, it actually comes out OK. The first third of the movie is tense and atmospheric, and the dark mysteries about the mental institution "foh the criminally in-SANE," as we've all heard Leo stress over and over in the trailer, are creepy and interesting. The movie loses steam in the last 45 minutes, and the payoff at the end is really unsatisfying, but there sure are some beautiful shots and gorgeous, color-drenched sets, and all kinds of lurid images of horror-movie carnage. When the blood flows it's a rich cherry red, and Ben Kingsley's sitting room is all velvet upholstery you could do the breaststroke in and sparkling crystal whisky decanters. And I'm gonna be honest: there are worse ways you could spend your time than watching Mark Ruffalo in a 50's suit and fedora, raising those eyebrows and looking gorgeously Ruffalicious.
Actually, considering his competition, you could argue that Shutter Island is the best of the movies adapted from Dennis Lehane novels. The other ones are Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, which was drab and flat except when it was shrill and hysterical, and Gone Baby Gone by Ben Affleck (I know!), which was pretty good but dragged in the third act. Actually, all of his adapted movies seem to start strong and then sputter to a ending that I stopped caring about half an hour ago.
At least Scorsese knows how to do style when the substance is lacking. For an excellent example of this that's a lot more fun than Shutter Island, there's the long-form commercial he did for Freixenet a couple of years ago. It's set up like a documentary about Scorsese filming some newly discovered pages from a Hitchcock script, and he's really hilarious in it.
Yeah, he sure does lots of ads, but at least they're funny. The AmEx ads (especially the one hour photo one) and the AT&T ad that runs in movie theaters about shutting off your cellphone ("You don't even call him daddy. To you, he's Frank. That's how detached you are") are my favorites. Scorsese sells out better than anyone.
I noticed a theme in some of last night's Super Bowl ads: in addition to the usual inscrutably unfunny Doritos ads and unoriginal but instantly recognizable Go Daddy ads (those people really understand brand consistency) there was an undercurrent of male misery. It's standard for ads to make the viewer feel uncomfortable or insecure, then offer the product as a solution to your self-esteem problem, but a couple of these ads suggested that the problem in your life is not really your athlete's foot--it's your girlfriend.
The Dodge ad was an especially bitter girl-hating ad, which is odd, considering that it's basically one long whiny bitch fest (with a few pissy little jokes thrown in.) It features lots of guys looking directly into the camera, with a voiceover listing all the indignities they suffer as part of living with a woman, such as being forced to separate the recycling. Life for a man, according to this ad, is an endless series of irritations piled on by that bitch you married (or who's pressuring you for a ring, probably) and the only recourse is to drive a Dodge, the one thing in this world she can't take away from you.
Geez, guys, if it's really that horrific to pick up your underwear, you could find a lady with less stringent household tidiness expectations. Or support Chrysler by suffering in silence and driving a shitbox car.
Then there's the poor doofus who let his girlfriend drag him along underwear shopping (above) instead of letting him watch basketball. Another hapless fellow whose simple yearning for happiness has been denied by his selfish cow girlfriend who needs a new bra. Poor, poor widdle man!
The long-suffering man ad that I did like was the one for Dove Men, which is admittedly an absurdly tough product to try to sell during the Super Bowl. Anyway, the Dove Men approach is to depict one man's life, from fetus to adulthood, and the many challenges he has faced and overcome along the way. Living with a lady in this ad can also be a trial, but these difficulties are shown as small victories to be proud of rather than opportunities to complain about how much women suck. And it's funny. A decent ad.
Actually, the Dove Men ad is probably targeted exclusively to women. How many guys out there are going to purchase Dove Men bodywash at the supermarket? They could at least rebrand this line to something like Falcon or, to continue the political metaphor, Hawk. This ad probably presents a less toxically bitter attitude toward women because they're the buyers. (Though I see that Dove got last night's MVP Drew Brees to appear on the website, lathering up a very masculine and non-drying foam in the shower.)
My favorites were the Kia ad about toys going out on the town (particularly the shot of the robot and a human in a Vegas club, both doing the robot) and the Audi ad using Cheap Trick's "Dream Police" as a soundtrack for scenes of an army of draconian eco-fascists handcuffing people for using styrofoam cups. I love it.
You can watch all the ads on Hulu, though you have to watch a few seconds of a Coke ad before you watch each of the other ads, which seems unjustifiably cheap.
In the Styles section, the NY Times ran an article about tween boys and their devotion to Axe body spray that's basically the exact same piece that the Washington Post ran almost 4 years earlier. Both articles are great reads and very funny, but the story has hardly changed over the past few years: boys are becoming self-conscious at younger ages, and 11 year-olds are dousing themselves in $6 bottles of spray perfume in an attempt to copy the older kids and get girls.
A few interesting things both articles point out:
The companies that produce these popular products insist that their target markets are 18 to 24 year-old men, despite the evidence that a lot of their customers haven't reached puberty yet. The Post suggests that this is because their marketing is so direct in its claims that using Axe (or whatever) will make you irresistible to women, and no one wants to think about a 12 year-old boy getting busy. The Times says Axe marketers are reluctant to talk about their younger fan base publicly because "nothing would make older teenager run from a product faster than for its manufacturers to acknowledge that it's a must-have among the sixth-grade set."
Young boys appear to interpret Axe's obviously jokey ads, in which guys wearing body spray are swarmed with lust-crazed girls, pretty much literally. A 12 year-old at a suburban Maryland middle school said, "I was watching the commercial, and there was this guy and he was mobbed by a bunch of girls, and I thought, 'Wow, that's tight! ' So I went to CVS and bought it."
Everybody apart from middle school boys seems to hate it, because boys tend to use it too liberally or as a substitute for bathing: "It's not necessarily a hygiene thing," said Paul Begley, a physical education teacher at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland, ME. "If they've been sweating, they'll use it as a mask instead of a shower."
And my favorite quote of these articles, from 14 year-old Allison Testamark: "Someone by my locker uses it, but he uses so much that you can taste it in your mouth," she said, scrunching up her nose in disgust.