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Offbeat filmmakers selling mainstream products in recent commercials

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 Georges Orwells 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 Devils 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 Moseleys 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 Andersons 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, hes taken some time out to help sell the upcoming superhero blockbuster The Avengers and Farmers Insurance.

In a commercial featuring Avengers heroes like weve 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 doesnt 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 Scotts Budweiser advertisement didnt 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 hes 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 Budweisers 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 Budweisers 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 years 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.

Set against the ongoing Super Bowl game, a grisly voiced narrator compares the halftime of the big game to the current economic crisis in America. In an emotionally stirring ad, the mysterious narrator discusses how Detroits Chrysler has tried to come back after their own defeat in the first half of the economic crisis.

As actor Clint Eastwoods face is finally illuminated in the dimly lit tunnel of a football field, he says, Yeah, its halftime, America, and our second halfs about to begin. Its as if Eastwood was running for some unnamed political position, with Green pushing the actor to be his most poignant and applying his penchant for moving atmospherics to really make this feel like rallying call Eastwood calls for.