As Seen on TV 

Product placement in movies -- it's worse than you thought.

Everyone talks about product placement, but no one ever does anything about it. Until now. Have you ever listened to a movie audience let out a pleased gasp of recognition when the lead character goes into a McDonald's? Or did your audience hiss and boo? Pacific Film Archive video curator Steve Seid was undoubtedly among the second group, but he managed to actually strike back at the relentless onslaught of paid advertising in Hollywood films. He made a video called Value-Added Cinema.

It's a 46-minute compilation of some of the nakedest commercial appeals you've ever bought a ticket to see. The Reese's Pieces thing in E.T. IKEA in Fight Club. 7 Up in Repo Man, Dr. Pepper in Spider-Man, and Coca-Cola every-damn-where from Dr. Strangelove forward. Coke seems to be the reigning champ of PP, but Budweiser is still in there swinging -- it's in Blade Runner, Blue Velvet, and many other of the 69 films Seid sampled for the compilation. It's amazing to note that Stanley Kubrick, of all filmmakers, was a PP pioneer. Dirty Harry's "Do you feel lucky?" scene is included because it reportedly caused a spike in sales of .44 Magnums -- it was a turning point. So was Cobra, with its fistfight beneath a giant neon Pepsi sign on the wall outside Sylvester Stallone's condominium. Steven Spielberg's Minority Report upped the ante -- Seid claims that the production received $25 million for its Gap holograms and talking Giorgio Armani billboards. I Am Sam was practically owned by Starbucks. And Cast Away was wholly owned by FedEx, which supposedly picked up 85 percent of the tab for what amounted to a two-hour commercial for the perseverance of its fictional employee, Tom Hanks.

The reel ends with the chilling "Consume-Obey" scene from John Carpenter's anticorporate sci-fi pic They Live. "From the beginning, that was where it was going to go," says Seid, who hates it when product labels are always carefully turned toward the camera, even in shots from different angles. So do we. Value Added Cinema plays the Pacific Film Archive tonight (Wednesday, February 26) at 7:30 p.m. 510-642-1412.


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