Saturday, March 31, 2018

THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD

Morgan Spurlock is fascinating and has brought attention to a number of issues that require more attention.   My attention was drawn to the concept of product placement in movies.  Barely acquainted with the notion it seems it was of greater import than I had assumed.  Money is a driver of activity.

This post was almost stopped at one point for some personal knowledge of Morgan, but in the end I decided this was too interesting and perhaps even important and should continue.  In fact I decided to check out two more of his documentaries.  More about the obstacle at the end

Morgan was trying to make the point that commercials pay for much of what we think is free.  He developed the idea of doing a movie and having it paid entirely by sponsors.  Easier said than done.  They approached ad agencies and even placement agencies and received total rejecttion.  There is a snippet showing one agency that accepted a pitch.  After these initial failures they decided to approach companies directly.  They developed customized pitches for each company demonstrating how they would use their product in the movie.  It took over 500 cold calls before they found their first sponsor  After that it was easier as no body wants to be the first to buy a new concept, but there is always somebody ready to join a bandwagon.

In the movie itself there was a lot of points about how movies are dependent on money.  Lots of movie ideas are killed because not enough money can be raised.  Iron Man2 held a record of over 30 product placements in a movie.

Morgan's crew traveled to one of their co-promoters, Hyatt Regency Hotels in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  He noted there were no ads on taxis, buses or buildings. Talking to Brazilians they were told merchants relied on word of mouth (and good products).

Ralph Nader (who promoted his books when filmed) and Noam Chomsky, among many others made comments and gave some advice.  Donald Trump said a few words about the importance of promoting yourself.  The film showed examples of how some movies did placements.

Schools have been beaten down by budgets and some find themselves looking to advertising to help support some educational efforts.   Demonstrates that tax payers do not value education as much as they claim.  More and more schools are co-operating with commercial interests to have enough money for a wide variety of tools.  Nothing is too sacred.

One of the commercials brought back some memories.  Mane N Tail is a well known horse product and at a trade show I met the inventor who created it at home  The company I worked for at the time Orange aPEEL developed a shampoo that at first was for dogs, but as the owners had horse connections it got tested among horse owners they knew.  It was added to my list of products and I remember going into one small town (Perth) and talking it up when I was interrupted by a manager who said she only sold horse shampoos that she would recommend for people as well.  I gave her a sample.  Phoning her back she was very enthused about it, but said she was closing up shop.  I told her where else in town she could buy it.  Then I lost contact, but another store in that same town reported an increase in sales.  The other store was aiming it at dog owners.  I and my wife got to trying it and loved it.  Unfortunately I no longer have access to it or I would recommend it for you.

While filming they had a goal of being ready for TIFF, but unfortunately they were delayed.  Ended up debuting at Sundance

"Super Size Me" was an earlier effort that attracted a lot of attention.   An experiment under some medical guidance.  He was to eat all meals provided by McDonald's with nothing else.  The movie got into other issues, notably obesity.  Schools were being forced to adopt fast food, but some rebelled.  One good example came from Appleton, Wisconsin where they demonstrated that diet and exercise can have a positive impact on academic studies.  Schools were finding their budgets cut and demands made for subject coverage that limited or even eliminated physical education.

All through Morgan was being measured for his medical response.  It was pointed out that few if any ate all their meals at McDonald's, but many ate several times a week.  Morgan was several times told to stop this experiment as it was having a very detrimental effect on his health.  He stuck it out and had a plan to get back to his normal health.

Eric Schloss, author of Fast Food Nation appeared in bonus features--consumers sucked in by flavour (chemistry/testing), industrial agriculture.  He pointed out that with industrial farms, manure is concentrated .  One of the forces behind fast food is tv which gets a lot of revenue from fast food ads.   In a previous blog I discussed mindless eating and mindful eating:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/09/mindless-eating-cf-mindful-eating.html  A nephew worked at McDonald's and will not eat there.

"Where in the World is Osama bin Laden"  concept originates as his wife becomes pregnant and is concerned about safety.  Osama bin Laden was portrayed as a great menace and was used as a tool to demonstrate fear.  He interviewed Muslims in different countries (Morocco, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan).  Many commented on how foreign money sent is wasted through corruption  

He was realistic in his coverage.  Americans had supported dictators around the world.  Americans had displaced an elected Iranian Prime Minister and replaced with a dictator.  After the Iranian Revolution that replaced the Shah, Americans befriended Sadam Hussain, dictator of Iraq.  It was also pointed that much of the American financial aid was sidelined by corruption.   Read an earlier blog on that issue:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/07/thieves-of-state.html

In his travels he found Saudi Arabians and Israeli Orthodox Jews the most difficult to reason with. Morgan did agree that the problem wasn't just Osama Bin Laden as he would be replaced with others who felt the same antagonism against America.  Unfortunately when the movie came out there were few Americans willing to consider the humanity of the "other," especially Muslims.  This is perhaps another example of IMDB ratings being affected by political concerns.

Morgan Spurlock confessed in 2017 to being  a sex predator including being accused of rape, settling a sexual harassment lawsuit and cheating on his two wives.  I don't want to associate myself with Harvey Weinstein, but it wasn't so much a degree of difference as a degree of self awareness.  I am reminded of Jimmy Carter confessing lusting in his heart.  I confess that I read it in the original Playboy format as a young person.  It hurt him with some of his supporters but struck me as being honest.  Jimmy and Morgan recognized a human failing that has caused a lot of harm, much of which is not even consciously appreciated.  The three documentary films I have seen and I suspect many of his others are real mind openers.  Apparently Morgan may be another victim of his own indiscretions.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 Winter Paralympics a triumph for all people

Stephen Hawking died during the Paralympics (March 14, 2018), but left us with some inspiring words he spoke during the 2012 Parlympics Opening Ceremony held in London.   "We are all different there is no such thing as a standard or run of the mill human being, but we share the same human spirit.  Look up at the stars and not down at your feet."  Another quote, "However difficult life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed at"

Hawking was given a devastating diagnosis, as a young man, but he persisted and with modern adaptations was able to give greater understanding to our universe.  Given a chance and modern technology many people have adapted to a wide variety of disabilities.

I watched the Paramerican games when held in Ontario.   Snow and ice  add an increment of difficulty that those who live in northern climates have to make adjustments to (and enjoy).  Maintaining balance under slippery conditions requires skill and initially courage.

The sight of amputated limbs makes one uncomfortable, but one can get used to it.  Prosthetic limbs are becoming more normal.  Mankind has gradually and unevenly accepted  different races, both sexes and even sexual orientation.  The disabled are also humans with untapped potential waiting to make a greater contribution.

To make for a competitive contest requires classifications.   There can be endless discussions about how one amputation is more of a handicap than another, but international authorities have settled on criteria.  Even a sleight disability needs to be given an opportunity.  In some activities the visually impaired are given an opportunity to compete with the aid of guides.  They have categories for standing and sitting skiing.  In the future there are apt to be more classifications and opportunities for everyone to compete.

The American flag bearer, for the Opening Ceremony, Mike Schultz was a champion snowmobile racer until an accident took off one of his legs above the knee.  On a radio interview he recalled walking without a prosthetic device with his daughter and tripping.  He was forced to throw her to a nearby couch, but realized he needed to do more.  He ended up engineering his own prosthetic leg and set up a business.  One of his customers suggested he try snowboarding which he did, becoming a major champion.  He not only made a difficult adjustment for himself, but also for other people making them not only more independent, but also more productive.

The American flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony, Oksana Mastters also has an interesting story. She was born in Ukraine after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and suffered several birth defects that resulted in amputation on both legs and surgery on one of her hands to give her a thumb.  She had been abandoned in an orphanage and was adopted by an American woman who bought her to States.  Oksana got involved in rowing, cycling and later skiing.  She won medals in all sports, but finally got her gold in skiing.

Canadian ambitions always come back to hockey.  The final gold medal game was as exciting as any with the Canadians on top for most of the game, but banging the goal post on an empty net as the Americans desperately tried to tie up the game.  In the losing seconds of regulation time they did tie the game and won in overtime.  It has been hard for Canadians to accept that we aren't always the best in our chosen sport, but it shows our gift to the world

Wondering where the women were scheduled for sledge hockey I learned that there was no program for women, but that the organizing committee had decided to eliminate women and change to a mixed, but apparently no women took part.  Likely this boils down to numbers in that there weren't enough women who were qualified and desired to participate.  Maybe that is not altogether a bad thing, but likely the problem was not that there were enough disabled women, but that there wasn't enough interest.  The Paralympic movement has encouraged many disabled people to get more physically (and socially) active and will undoubtedly with the increasing success of their events the situation will improve for the disabled including more opportunities for women.

The original Olympics were also about the arts.   The Koreans have used their economic success to help spread their culture and have their culture contribute to their success.  For a few years i have enjoyed a few Korean cultural gifts--food, music and movies.   (see http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/04/a-slice-of-korean-cinema.html ). The Paralympics brought us all some music and dance.  The deaf have their own interaction games, but the Paralympics gave a platform for some hearing impaired to demonstrate a dance.   Highlighted a performance of Bae Hui Gwan Band which included several members with different forms of disability.  Their leader was invited by major Korean pop star Ailee to take a spotlight and perform a duet.

Adam Hall from New Zealand and Sini Pyy from Finland were celebrated for best exemplifying the Paralympic value and spirit.

The Paralympics isn't just about the athletes, it is for all of us.  You can find old fashioned competitive fun, but you can also find inspiration that you too can overcome difficulties.  I remember a boss who sometimes steered me to view someone severely handicapped and asked me if I had any problems.  It made my problems seem pretty petty.  The Olympic movement for all its critics offers the world a platform to express international goodwill, the pursuit of excellence and a chance to display the humanity of us all.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Evaluating negative movie reviews

A lot of us like to check out a few reviews before we actually buy a movie ticket or a DVD and a negative review can cause us to move to another option.  The negative review can come from a media source, a rating site such as IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes or an acquaintance.  Ironically I have found negative reviews sometimes motivate me to watch a movie that mostly turned out satisfying.  Why?

We all have expectations and all too often they are not met.  But the key is our expectations are not all the same.  Some crave happy endings and will be disappointed obviously with a sad ending, or even one that is ambiguous.  Some crave adrenaline pumping action and become bored without it.  Other groups crave explicit sex or romance and will begrudge being teased.  Of course there are increments for these issues and sometimes your comfort level might be stretched a bit.

Mood effects everyone.   Maybe they had a bad day or maybe they were overly exuberant.  Of course movies are supposed to take your mind off of reality and often it does work that way.

Political overtures can of course include actual election political issues, but can tie into whatever group an individual identifies with.  For instance, a union worker, a health care worker, older/younger, different heritages, biker,  church member, etc.  Al Gore's movies attract a lot of opposition that is usually something to be dismissed.

"An Inconvenient Sequel" has suffered from a politically tinged populace who want to minimize its message.  Out of ten stars many IMDB voters chose one.  Much of what was predicted in the first one has become more obvious.

"Miss Sloane" had good reviews, but probably was boycotted by a lot of people reducing its distribution.  Not so much a part of its plot but essential was a gun control theme as a sort of tool of the plot.  It required something controversial, but if you thought they took the wrong side you wouldn't want others to watch it (and be contaminated).  I took the script side, but have occasionally seen movies that didn't agree with my political philosophy, but if well done could be appreciated.  For more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/09/miss-sloan-under-rated-movie.html


"A Ghost Story" created a wide range of views.   One viewer's boring is another's profoundness.  Critics as aggregated at Rotten Tomatoes loved it, but much of the audience had less enthusiasm.  Many complained it was slow moving or pretentious.  IMDB voters were overwhelming negative.  This may make many viewers side against the critics, but may have been tempered by their viewing more movies than the average person sees and reading more about them.  Read what they have to say as it might hit a nerve or might reinforce your opinion of critics. This movie can mainly be enjoyed for its philosophy and psychology, but you do not have to accept the path the director has pushed; you can veer off in another direction.  The phrase I would choose is thought provoking.  If you are looking for action or a satisfying traditional romance this is not it.

"Thanks for your Service" got an ok rating, but seemed downgraded by too many viewers with expectations of more battle scenes and disappointed with the human drama of PTSD.  The trailer helped set up expectations, a common enough effort.  But the movie had a message and it also had a plot.  Sitting comfortably in our chairs we may pay obeisance to the flag, but mostly unaware of the feelings of returning combat soldiers.

Many people are sticklers for historical authenticity.  This can be a tricky one as the true facts (and dialogue) are often not really known.  On the other hand historical facts are often distorted for dramatic effect.  Do you demand it, or looking for a feeling.  Several years ago I heard a lot of positive hype for a movie about Rubin Carter who had overcome injustices to become a boxing champion.   It interested me and friends were recommending it,  however I heard a radio commentator saying there were a lot of inaccuracies in it and that he was not such an admirable character as portrayed by Denzel Washington.  At the time I felt the historical inaccuracies were offensive and refused to see it. Now I feel I might have enjoyed it.

Subtitles turn too many people off.  They might be poorly written or executed which can impede enjoyment of movie or cause you to miss a subtlety.  On the other hand don't let subtitles be a barrier   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/09/do-subtitles-scare-you-who-knows-what.html  There is a literally a much bigger world out there.

"Ki and Ka"  also had discouraging low ratings.  From Bollywood I have come to expect a traditional male dominant culture.  This movie had a very strong (but humorous) feminist theme.  Not an award winning movie, but worth watching and enjoyable if you don't have any hangups.

"Crooked Arrows" had a personal interest angle for me.  I was interested in lacrosse and native cultures.   I reserved it and then changed my mind after seeing bad reviews.  Later, looking for a time filler I gave it another opportunity.  It was a low budget sports plot--but had an appreciation of native American culture.  Check my blog:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/04/crooked-arrows-brings-back-memories-of.html   Bottom line don't deny yourself a similar experience but allow that maybe some movies can spoil your memories.

Movies have so many different aspects that most of us most of the time focus on only a few.  I have found otherwise inferior movies a great source of music or sometimes cinematography or even costumes.  Develop an appreciation of different factors involved in a film and you will get more out of good and bad movies.


Many watch a favorite movie star  and can be disappointed if their favorite has only a cameo or a role out of character.  Producers can predict profits if a big draw actor makes an appearance.  Actors are often looking to demonstrate versatility so they can obtain more roles.

Of course it is not only the opinions of the experts, but also of your friends.  Over a period of time one gets a feeling for the attitude of a reviewer.  With a personal acquaintance whether a close personal friend or someone at work or a neighbor you have a good idea of how they value things.  Of course in all instances if you haven't seen the movie you can only guess how suitable the movie is for your disposition.

I am no different.  Like all other movie viewers I bring my expectations and my understanding to each movie.  Maybe I should add that like others my attention is not always constant.  In other words I don't see things quite the same as you.  Hopefully my insights and reactions will overlap a bit with you and you can judge whether or not you want to pursue any further using my words as a guide.

If you can steer these sorts of factors into your evaluation you might benefit from reading more reviews.  What you are looking for and what you can appreciate are unique.  You can usually find a review to rationalize what you want to do or not do.

Monday, March 5, 2018

GET YOUR SH*T TOGETHER

Self improvement advice is easy to buy and some of it has set readers on a better path.  "get your SH*T" together" is perhaps written for a younger generation, but might be the nudge that an older reader might need.  The advice is not incompatible with much of what is available,  just the presentation is different.   This might be what you need, or it might just reinforce your other efforts.

What will get your attention on the cover is the use of profanity. There is a lot more swearing  (without astericks) on most pages.  In some ways it is colloquial and used by a wide range of classes and ages.  More educated people expect advice to be more refined, however those who understand the street language might be more responsive.  For the rest of us snobs the important goal might be to get our attention, but really we understand the language.

Profanity has been a part of my life from early days.  I suspect to some degree most people indulge in it, but don't feel comfortable in many situations.  Of course that is changing on all fronts.  I have a a nephew with his own business who talks in a similar manner to the author.  For several years I have worked in an ad agency and have been struck how their creativity is often expressed.  Profanity lends itself to creativity and much of their best ideas don't reach the drawing board.  My attitude in an earlier blog:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/10/swearing-over-years.html

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we can consider the advice.  Sarah sees that people, her readers, need to identify what they want and then uses three actions to obtain it: strategize, focus and commit , symbolized by key, phone and wallet.  A key is to prioritize and she boils the list of things you want to do down to the list of things you must do involving clarification of what is really important to you.  Then you strategize the best method forward, in small manageable chunks.  Focus refers to the necessity of setting aside enough time to accomplish.  Commitment means the determination to overcome all obstacles.

Her metaphors of key, phone and wallet are easily understood by today's generations, including a good chunk of baby boomers

Often negative thinking can be useful.  Sometimes it is easier to decide what you don't want than on what you do want.  An example might be you don't want to be fat.

She tackles such problems as saving money, managing time, clearing out emails, developing or discarding relationships and deciding on your priorities.

A few of her suggestions struck me as common sense, but ones we might need reminding on.

Ask what you have to do to get what you want.  Avoiding uncomfortable conversations delays resolution.  She gives a personal example of trying to deal with bulimia and finally asking her mom for help.  Maybe not surprisingly,  her mother provided sympathy and also the necessary hard support.

Happiness is a goal in and of itself.   Happiness is different for each person  after you do what you must do then work towards what you want--after all that is what motivates you  Don't be self-righteous regarding recovered drug addicts, born agains, health food fanatics who love to tell everyone how much better they are now.  And they are better off.  You can be too and choose what you want in the end.

"Brevity is the soul of wit" borrowed from Shakespeare.

Perfectionism can prevent you from doing something else instead.

One of the superficial difference Sarah has with a favorite mentor of mine, Stephen Covey is to do with urgency.  With Sarah urgent matters are put on her must do list.  Stephen spends a lot of time emphasizing how important it is to do important things so that you can over time minimize urgent but unimportant matters.  Nonetheless both advisors realize really urgent matters must be attended to.  If you don't take care of urgent matters the problems will get worse.  To learn more about Stephen Covey check: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/07/stephen-r-covey-pointed-way.html

Acknowledgements are sometimes interesting and give their own insights.  While writing this book she and her husband had temporarily moved from their Caribbean home back to New York to finish up business.  Sarah acknowledges many friends and relatives helped provide accommodation and other support.  I should acknowledge that I became aware of this book by a Facebook posting of my sister Jennifer.  Of course there are lots of people who contribute to any book and she is gracious and humorous in her appreciation.

To get more provocative creative insights you can visit her website:  http://sarahknightbooks.com