Rhapsody in blue: a symbol for a city still in mourning

19.05.2014
Hand-painted mosaic at the Sept 11 Memorial Museum

“Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning”

Of all the memories from that unforgettable September day, it is the color of the sky that people talk most about. “So blue,” they say. “So crystalline.” It makes sense, after all. The sky was the World Trade Center’s habitat, the ever-changing backdrop to its beauty. And the source of its destruction.

That sky is given pride of place  among the  many artifacts now exhibited in the newly opened Sept. 11 Memorial Museum.  Created by artist Spencer Finch,“Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning” features thousands of hand-painted blue squares, each a different hue and dedicated to each of the 2983 individuals who lost their lives when the towers fell.

Adding yet another shade to the memory of the day and the innocence that disappeared into the clear blue sky.

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Girth of a nation: Fed Up takes on the evils of Big Ag and Fast Food

12.05.2014
Poster from Fed Up

Contemptible commercialism

From the wonderful folks who brought us “An Inconvenient Truth” now comes “Fed Up,” a withering takedown of the food industry and its predatory ways.

The villains this time are not CO2 and the extraction industries but the agricultural special interests and food manufacturers whose output of slickly marketed highly sugary, overly sodium-enriched and chemically processed foods have led to the obesity crisis and all its attendant ills and costs.

Narrated by Katie Couric with talking-head appearances from well-known medical professionals and policy makers (is there anything Bill Clinton can’t or won’t opine on?), the film is veritable smorgasbord of nutrition-science denialism and greedy corporate politics that, like Big Tobacco, put profits and subsidies ahead of public health.

Interspersed between the stomach-turning statistics are the stories of four obese teens, who despite their best efforts (and one bariatric surgery), remain powerless before the amplitude of toxic foods that surround them every day.

But beyond the agit-prop, engaging graphics and content curation, I have to ask: who is intended audience for this film. The worried well like the two self-described foodies sitting behind me in the theatre and debating whether or not the popcorn was genetically modified? Or those truly at risk (or responsible) for obesity-related disease? Who will be most receptive to the message and inspired to act? How do you incentivize the big feeders into changing their ways? How do we reach, support and empower those who most need it to change their behaviors? (Certainly not at $11/ticket with all the snacks and soda you can eat.)

At the very least, the MPAA can change the film’s rating. Fed Up” warrants a PG because it shows cigarette smoking (and a gently “obscene” image in the poster). Seriously. Talk about penny wise and way too many pounds foolish.

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Advertising and the Kentucky Derby: a match made in television heaven

05.05.2014

Horse racing may be called the sport of kings, but our Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Pimlico Stakes, Belmont Stakes) is the quintessentially American blend of plebian commercialism (“Today’s race is brought to you by Yum Brands.”) and Thoroughbred tradition. Three days a year when the 1% and 99% come together in equine fandom and semi-drunken revelry (and not just in the infield.)

And like other destination TV events, it has come to showcase some great creative that, to me, is every bit as thrilling as the races themselves. Here are the spots that earned my call for win-place-show.

Longines, the official timekeeper of the event, celebrates horses and horlogerie (watchmaking) in a beautifully shot montage of cavorting mares and foals, hard-riding jockeys and heart-pounding suspense. Just as “every second counts” in horse racing, so too does every frame in this well-made story. Those tight close-ups of the horses’ faces get me every time.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel continues on its delightfully transgressive path of “just the right amount of wrong” with a hallucinogenic new spot called “Twilite Spedball” (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) that touches on just about every fetish while keeping its sense of humor on full display.

Finally, Chrylser’s Ram Trucks align themselves with the “hard work, determination and guts” that used to be in every American’s bloodline and is still “what brings us great things.”

Which brings us to a truly great thing, the winner of the Derby, California Chrome, owned by the improbably named “Dumb Ass Partnership” (hence the silhouette of the mule on the jockey’s silks).  A Cinderella horse with a fairy tale ending whose owners never lost faith and proved the rich guys wrong.

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