Monday, May 17, 2004

Movie: Super Size Me (2004)

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was a horror movie styled like a documentary. Morgan Spurlock’s indictment of America’s fast food culture is a documentary that plays like a horror movie. WATCH the audience recoil as Spurlock loses his lunch – literally! HEAR them gasp when the results of his bloodwork come back!

The straight journalistic aspects of the movie are well done. Spurlock uses McDonald’s own filings in lawsuits against them to damning effect, and he makes an excellent case against the commercialization of school lunch programs. But the essence of the film is its hook: Spurlock goes on a 30-day all-McDonald’s diet with disastrous effects on his health. The experiment brings home his point in way that the facts never could. By week two, you want to ask him why he doesn’t stop when it’s obvious that the food is bad for him. Then you realize that you could put the same question to the “heavy users,” in McDonald’s own parlance, who down Big Macs at least once a week.

Spurlock is being touted as the heir to Michael Moore; A.O. Scott wrote a piece linking the two in Sunday’s New York Times. But there’s a critical difference between them. Moore, the 50-year-old ex-Mother Jones editor, views himself as a crusader against monolithic corporations that prey on an unsuspecting public. Spurlock is 33, which means he came of age in the era of branding and media savvy. He knows that to some degree we’re all complicit in the success of these companies. Spurlock says at the outset that his movie is about finding the point where corporate responsibility ends and personal responsibility begins, an admission of culpability that Moore seems unwilling to make.

Two mistakes: when a map of America’s fattest cities is shown, one in south Florida is clearly labeled “Maimi.” And at no point in the film does Spurlock eat a McRib. I know they’re back. I can see the posters.

TV: The Sopranos

A dream sequence? Didn’t we get one of these a few seasons ago?

It is healthy to dream about celebrities, though. Psychiatrists say that it shows a well-developed sense of self-esteem. I learned that tidbit on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES.

Miscellaneous: Links

Here’s a surprise: some banana republics have better voting systems than AMERICAN IDOL does. And all hail the Eurovision Song Contest.