Film

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

In Honor of Thanksgiving: Let’s Talk Food!

During last year’s Thanksgiving holiday I had the pleasure of stumbling across this delightful article and video essay by Matt Zoller Seitz titled “Feast – A Thanksgiving tribute to images of food on film.” The article itself is both enlightening and insightful while the video essay is certain to bring a smile to your face (Who doesn’t love the Bumpus hound, turkey stealing scene from A Christmas Story?).

I particularly enjoyed Seitz’s stance that images of food on film can be just as alluring as sex and violence. As communication researchers, we spend a vast amount of time studying the media effects of sex and violence and more often than not the effects are dismal. So, how about we study positive effects for a change? What if images of food on film could serve as more than just transitory pleasures? Food has the amazing ability to transcend all cultural boundaries both onscreen and in the real world and I think we would be accurate to say that the effects of food imagery are significant.

Further, as Seitz puts it, “Food is a uniter, not a divider.” No matter the culture or social identity, food has an uncanny way of bringing together the most idiosyncratic individuals and that’s what I love about it. Perhaps my brain has been overcome by the spirt of the holidays, so I pose the question to you, “Is it too far-fetched to think that food on film could elicit powerful media effects in the same way that sex and violence do?” Either way, I for one will continue to enjoy the increasing number of films centered around food, culture, and the culinary world and I hope you will too.

Finally, in honor of Thanksgiving and the topic of food on film in general, here are some of my favorite food moments:

  • Julie & Julia (2009) – The scene where Julie drops her stuffed chicken on the floor and she ends up on the kitchen floor crying. In some way, I think we’ve all been there!
  • Hook (1991) – The scene where Peter finally starts to play pretend and is able to envision a table full of wonderful, albeit strange looking, food. “You’re doing it, Peter. You’re doing it!” Definitely a favorite childhood memory.
  • Ratatouille (2007) – Never has animated food looked so good!
  • Home Alone (1990) – Food and emotion are very closely associated in a lot of scenes in this movie. Kevin shows anger when Buzz eats all of his cheese pizza, happiness while eating a huge ice cream sundae, and we see our first signs of guilt/fear in the macaroni and cheese dinner scene.
  • Spanglish (2004) – Gourmet egg sandwich scene. Mmmmm. Enough said.
  • A Christmas Story (1983) – Whole roasted duck with head attached anyone?

These are just a few food scenes that come to mind and I’m sure there are countless others that deserve attention, but it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I better get going…I have some cooking to do! I welcome you to share your favorite food moments, thoughts, or memories. Happy Turkey Day everyone!


Friday, September 24th, 2010

The New “Product Placement”

I’m watching the season premiere of 30 Rock and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, product placement, my how far you’ve come.”

Undercover product placement and sponsorship have been the norm in television and film for as long as I can remember, but shows like 30 Rock and Arrested Development (*sigh*) are throwing this norm out the window. Product placements, i.e. back-to-back MacBook Pros in last night’s 30 Rock, are being used less as a hindrance to writers and more of a comedy additive. Did they even get paid for the Apple nod? Probably not. But is it still funny? Absolutely.

For anyone who can claim to be an Arrested Development fan, we all remember the ridiculous use of Burger King during their last, groveling season on the air and it was great. At this point, I think we can all agree that product placements aren’t fooling anyone (thank you marketing degree for ruining the way I watch anything!).  So, we might as well have a little fun with them. I’m willing to bet that the domain “funkyvintagewallpaper” has received a ridiculous amount of hits in the last 24-hours just because Liz Lemon called it a “cool site.” Well, the joke’s on you folks, because it isn’t even real!

Traditional product placement strategies will no doubt continue to infiltrate our favorite tv shows and films, and I wouldn’t have it any other way (they pay for things, duh!), but it’s also refreshing to see “product placements” taking a new spin within recent years.

One final note – let’s try to make a point to watch good television this year, so that brilliant shows don’t get canceled. Whether we like it or not, ratings are what make or break TV shows and, unfortunately, most of the good ones have been broken. So, let’s turn off Dancing with the Stars and watch some real TV. Writers can still be artists in this day and age, but not if we don’t give them a chance. Okay, public service announcement over. Thanks for tuning in.



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