Offbeat filmmakers selling mainstream products in recent commercials
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 17:04
Filmmakers lending their cinematic sensibilities to ad campaigns are nothing new. “Alien” and “Black Hawk Down” director Ridley Scott created a frenzy with his “1984” ad for Apple Computers, which aired just after halftime of Super Bowl XVIII on Jan. 22, 1984.
Infusing the sort of dystopian landscape found in his sci-fi masterpiece “Blade Runner” with George’s Orwell’s landmark novel, the commercial showed a group of humanoid beings obeying Big Brother, just as athlete Anya Major comes to set them free with her large sledgehammer and the power of Apple Computers at her side.
For his American Express commercial, filmmaker Wes Anderson made a commercial that matched his movies such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Darjeeling Limited,” from actors Jason Schwartzman and Waris Ahluwalia, to quirky humor and costuming, to even the font used.
Yet these are far from the only feature-length filmmakers helming commercials. The Oracle notes directors who have turned their lenses on brief commercials that are funny, superfluous, insightful and even empowering.
Rob Zombie, “Death Note”
Perhaps still better known as the multi-platinum rocker behind hits like “Superbeast” and “Dragula,” Rob Zombie has also kicked off quite a filmmaking career for himself with the pairing of cult horror films “The House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects,” along with his popular reimagining of the “Halloween” series.
Zombie attacks a recent commercial for Amdro Ant Bait with a maniacal glee that would typically be reserved for actor Bill Moseley’s maniac hillbilly character Otis in “Rejects,” but instead presented here by none other than “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” actor Clint Howard.
In the commercial, Howard acts as a meticulous serial killer-type character, painstakingly carving out a handmade letter with the text “You Will Die Ants” on it. Through quick cuts to his oddball appearance, and sporadic disembodied voices filling the air, Zombie makes effective case for avoiding insanity through use of Amdro.
Roman Coppola, “Suit Up”
While Roman Coppola has only directed the 2001 comedy “CQ,” he has co-written several of Anderson’s films, including “The Darjeeling Limited” and the upcoming “Moonrise Kingdom.” While he wraps up post-production on his second directorial effort, “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” starring Charlie Sheen, he’s taken some time out to help sell the upcoming superhero blockbuster “The Avengers” and Farmers Insurance.
In a commercial featuring “Avengers” heroes like we’ve never seen them before, which is a bevy of insurance agents in hand-made superhero costumes, only actor and Farmers Insurance spokesman J.K. Simmons proves they know far more about insurance than fighting evil.
Outside of the eccentric charm found throughout most of his body of work, the commercial doesn’t carry much by way of Coppola signifiers. Yet for someone who comes from a family containing more serious-minded filmmakers like his father, “The Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola and his sister “Lost In Translation” helmer Sofia Coppola, it could have been an opportunity to work his more absurd tendencies out of his system.
Jake Scott, “Prohibition”
While Jake Scott’s Budweiser advertisement didn’t exactly catch the eye of the public the way his father Ridley Scott did with “1984,” it was cited by many as one of the standout moments of the 2012 Super Bowl commercials. Even though he’s only directed two feature films, “Welcome to the Rileys” and the upcoming Jeff Buckley biopic “Mystery White Boy,” Scott proves his years of work on features, commercials and music videos has paid off.
Much like his father, Scott shows a real eye for period detail in “Prohibition” as he gives a brief history lesson in how Budweiser was denied from customers for more than 13 years during the period of prohibition in the United States. The ad starts right as prohibition has been repealed, with a cavalry of Budweiser’s trademark Clydesdales making their way through cities and towns, spreading the news in the name of celebrating with a beloved beverage.
Scott also directed a Hyundai ad that night that played on the theme to “Rocky,” but it failed to insight the genuine nostalgia and jubilant nature of Budweiser’s “Prohibition” ad, which certainly attested to the fact that filmmakers can make feature-level productions even for a television commercial.
David Gordon Green, “Halftime in America”
It may come as a surprise to some that the commercial that earned the most attention at this past year’s Super Bowl came from David Gordon Green, whose last two films were the stoner comedies “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness.” Yet Green has a past of intimate and lyrical films such as “George Washington” and “Snow Angels” — experiences he clearly drew from for “Halftime in America.”