A confession: I was/am a major fan of “Flashdance.” Even now, whenever I hear the theme song (“What a feeling”) at the gym, it makes me smile and I push a little harder. Mock if you must.
I feel the same way about “Chicken Fat,” Apple’s new spot for its 5s iPhone. Yes, the song has a history and some may snicker at the corniness. But it’s beautiful storytelling, plugged into the zeitgeist of self-improvement and empowerment (“You’re more powerful than you think.”) and, more importantly for the brand, promotes the benefits of personal health information technology in a very human and organic way.
Would write more but I’m running out to get in my 10,000 steps for the day.
One of the most striking discoveries from last month’s interview with Edward Snowden was how unremarkable he seemed. Blondish, pale, disarming—neither traitor nor hero—he turned out to be just an ordinary man with an extraordinary story to tell. The systems analyst that inspired a thousand conspiracy theories was reduced to the IT guy he actually is/was. As political theatre, it was brilliant. The Koch brothers (as in “coke,” the fuel made from coal, not “Koch,” the late, great mayor of NYC) seem to have taken this lesson to heart with a new commercial called “We are Koch.” Yes, the bête noire of the 99%, bankrollers of the Tea Party and underwriters of such major cultural and educational institutions as the New York City Ballet and MIT are out to show that, like Snowden, they’re both more and less than you think they are. They’re job-creators, idea-generators and supporters of “opportunities for people everywhere.” Who knew? You half expect to hear Kumbaya playing softly in the background. But, alas, it does not and what we see looks like every other industrial in the category. Which is to say, a lot of self-reverential bloviating. But the real story behind the feel-good spot, I suspect, is not a pitch to investors but to get a jump on the upcoming documentary, “Citizen Koch,” that tracks the ruinous effect of the Citizens United decision and the unlimited, anonymous spending by corporations and Koch-like plutocrats on the electoral process. (The eponymous and anonymous citizens never appear in their commercial either.) They say money can’t buy you love. But the Koch bros are sure hoping it can bury the opposition.
Art for art’s sake
The power of art to provoke, transform and redeem is a story that never gets old. Occasionally, however, it can get a little creaky.
“Words and Pictures” is a well-intentioned but clunky film about the eternal conflict between written and visual arts. Directed by Fred Schepisi, it pits the two disciplines–personnified by teachers Jack Marcus (Clive Owen, “words”) and Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche, “pictures”)—against each other and their Beatrice-Benedict-like sparring engages their students and inspires anew each other’s artistic passions. While Marcus spouts John Updike, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King and the etymology of obscure words, Delsanto paints huge canvasses (Binoche’s own real-life work) whose style is reminiscent of the New York School and German Expressionists. Ultimately, secrets are revealed. Vulnerabilities are breached. A job is saved. And, wouldn’t you know it, opposites attract.
In the beginning, there may have been the word. But at the end, it’s not the medium that matters. It’s the message–the big transformative idea that all art brings to messy, creative and enthralling life.