Connect with us

Lifestyle

Super Bowl ads played it safe, but there were still some winners

Published

on

Super Bowl ads played it safe, but there were still some winners

YouTube

When I spoke with Shayne Millington about the cheeky Super Bowl ad she was planning with Cardi B., the advertising executive was excited about the prospect of tweaking male sports fans in a way Big Game ads often don’t do.

But the NFL threw some cold water on her plans Sunday, preventing makeup brand NYX from airing part of their ad suggesting that men may have mistook the name of their Duck Plump lip gloss and used it in a certain private area. Instead, they aired 30 seconds featuring Cardi B and displayed a QR code viewers could use to access the full ad.

Advertisement

Millington, the Chief Creative Officer at McCann New York, told me before the game that the ad was an attempt to turn the tables on traditional Super Bowl advertising.

“You have to really look at how women have been portrayed in Super Bowl ads and in the past, and it’s not great,” she added. “So, on a platform as big as the Super Bowl where men have [traditionally] had the upper hand with humor…[this time] women will have the last laugh with Cardi B.”

Turns out, Millington’s ad was among the sauciest in a Super Bowl where brands played it safe even more than usual, perhaps due to the mammoth, $7-milion-per-30-seconds fee for airtime.

Political messages were subtle and shaded, including a retro-looking ad for independent presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. that didn’t get near his controversial stands on vaccines and other issues (with a jingle that sounded like it could have been an ad for his dad; talk about a nepo baby). An ad for the website hegetsus.com aimed at boosting Jesus Christ focused on how his teachings might bring people together, not the controversial stands of one funder, the family which owns notably religious craft store chain Hobby Lobby.

Blame the intensely crazy pace of real-life news or the back-breaking price for ads, but this year’s crop of commercials seemed to lean away from controversy and into nostalgia, celebrity and cross promotion — with Super Bowl halftime performer Usher appearing in more spots than the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Advertisement

Here’s a breakdown of what worked and didn’t in the biggest – and most expensive – advertising showcase on American television.

Best use of a celebrity poking fun at something he knows we’re all laughing at anyway: State Farm’s ‘Like a Good Neighbaa’

We all know Arnold Schwarzenegger has somehow won over America’s hearts despite delivering lines in films so drenched with his Austrian accent that it sounds like English put through a Cuisinart. That’s why it’s so delightful to see him willing to send up both his action hero past and his dicey diction, playing a swashbuckling State Farm agent who somehow can’t say “labor,” “concealer” or “neighbor.” Even Jake From State Farm couldn’t help coach him through a speech pattern that, somehow, still makes all those words sound cooler when they come out of Ahnuld’s mouth. (Though his former Twins co-star Danny DeVito untimately had to help him out.)

YouTube

Advertisement

Worst use of a celebrity tolerating something we’re all laughing at anyway: BMW’s ‘Talkin’ Like Walken’

How do you come up with a concept so promising – much-mimicked Hollywood eccentric Christopher Walken walks through a day where everyone is doing their own Walken impressions – and wind up with a spot so, well, odd? Where are the celebrities who do amazing Walken impressions, like Kevin Pollak, Jay Mohr or even Tom Hiddleston? Where’s the moment Walken has fun with people trying to cop his off-kilter patios, (instead of looking like he can’t wait to get off the screen)? And why is the Super Bowl’s halftime headliner Usher showing up at the end and NOT doing a Walken impersonation? Small wonder this over-hyped ad is also in the running for Best Missed Opportunity. Sigh.

YouTube

Best way to get someone else to publicize your new music: Verizon’s ‘Can’t B Broken’

The ad itself is a fun affair, with Beyoncé trying to “break” Verizon’s 5G network through a series of outlandish stunts (assisted by Veep co-star Tony Hale), including creating Beyonc-A.I., the pink-themed Bar-Bey, and a musical performance in space. When none of that succeeds in bringing down Verizon, she says “Okay. They ready. Bring the new music.”

Advertisement

Of course, Beyoncé meant business, dropping two new tunes on her website and announcing the debut of a country-inspired album, Act II, for March 29. Forget about announcing a new album during the Grammys; Bey dropped her announcement on TV’s biggest platform, paid for by Verizon. Respect.

YouTube

Best celebrity save: Uber Eats’s ‘Don’t Forget Uber Eats’

Actually, I want to forget much of this spot, which features wooden moments like David and Victoria Beckham pretending to forget she was in the Spice Girls (will anyone catch that they’re spoofing a scene from his Netflix docuseries?) and another, um, forgettable cameo from Usher (did you know he’s playing the Super Bowl halftime? Feels like he’s popping up in half of the Super Bowl ads to remind you!)

Advertisement

But the conceit – that you have to forget something to make room in your memory for Uber Eats’ awesome services – hit home when Jennifer Aniston appeared, ignoring David Schwimmer even as he reminds her they worked together for 10 years on one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history.

Perhaps it’s because I disliked his character Ross’ romance with Aniston’s character on Friends so much, but when she walked away, convinced she didn’t know him, and he muttered “I hate this town,” I felt like TV justice had somehow been served.

YouTube

Advertisement

Best hope for Marvel fans: The Deadpool movie

That sound you heard at the game’s start wasn’t sports fans settling in for the Big Game. It was Marvel fans screaming in anticipation after realizing that Ryan Reynolds’ new Deadpool movie won’t just feature Hugh Jackman returning as Wolverine, but Reynolds’ disfigured, wisecracking mercenary superhero getting kidnapped by the TVA — an organization from the Loki series. And the TVA’s representative here is none other than Succession’s Tom Wambsgans, or the actor Matthew Macfadyen. If any film can rescue the world from superhero fatigue, this might be the one.

YouTube

Best use of a cat/worst use of a McKinnon: Hellmann’s ‘Mayo Cat’

Fans know Saturday Night Live alum Kate McKinnon has a special bond with cats — she’s even come up with some sidesplitting sketches on the subject — so it was cute to see her alongside a feline who captivates the world by simply saying “mayo.” The ad also has a cool button at the end, where the cat dates and breaks up with fellow SNL alum Pete Davidson (“You lasted longer than most,” McKinnon quips.) But how do you spend millions on a commercial starring the funniest woman on TV and give all the action to her cat? Purrfectly frustrating. (Yes, I went there.)

Advertisement

YouTube

Second best use of a celebrity poking fun at themselves: Skechers ‘Mr. T in Skechers’

I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice there was no “T” in the footwear company’s name until Tony Romo upsets the famous A Team star by pointing it out. Watching a 71-year-old Mr. T walk on hot coals and do CGI-assisted pull ups while insisting “I pity the fool who has to touch his shoes” as he cavorts in Skechers slip on shoes, I saw a mix of nostalgia, absurdity and good-hearted self-parody that I didn’t even knew I needed until it happened. Once again, Mr. T. for the win.

Advertisement

YouTube

Best tribute to a departed legend: FanDuel’s Super Bowl Kick of Destiny Part 2

Reprising the stunt from last year, where the four-time Super Bowl champion tight end tried – and failed – to make a 25-yard field goal, this year’s commercial featured Gronk failing again. In a teaser for the series of ads released early, Rocky co-star Carl Weathers was shown riding up on a motorcycle to encourage Gronkowski. After Weathers died earlier this month at age 76, producers reworked one of those ads to show the actor saying ruefully, “You gave it your all, Gronk.” Then the spot flashed to an image of Weathers with the message “Thank you Carl. 1948 – 2024.” Glad to see the company kept him in the spot; there’s no better, classier tribute to a towering talent than tipping the hat to him on the biggest platform in the world.

Advertisement

YouTube

Best ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’ ad: Google Pixel’s ‘Javier in Frame’

I first gave this award last year for the dog food ad that made everyone emotional. This time, its Google Pixel showcasing its guided frame technology, in which the phone tells users when faces are fully in the picture frame. We see this work from the perspective of Javier, who utilizes the phone despite his problems with blurred vision to capture important moments in his life, including the birth of his child. The spot’s director, Adam Morse, is blind and it’s narrated at the end by Stevie Wonder. Poignant doesn’t begin to describe it.

YouTube

Advertisement

Most confusing movie ad: ‘Twisters’

It’s not apparent from watching the Super Bowl ad whether this film is a reboot or a sequel to the 1996 film that featured Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton and Philip Seymour Hoffman (according to Variety, it’s indeed a sequel). But after watching Glenn Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones jostling around in a 2-minute spot spouting dialogue that referenced the original, I only had one question that really needed answering: Why?

YouTube

Best contest with the worst ad: DoorDash’s ‘All the Ads’

It’s an inspired giveaway: DoorDash will provide all of the items in every Super Bowl commercial to one lucky winner, including a 2024 BMW All-Electric i5, chicken wings from Popeyes for 150-plus people, a $50,000 check for their dream home and much more (you had to watch the commercial during the game and add a promotional code at this URL to enter). But hearing Laurence Fishburne majestically narrate a preview ad that uses DoorDash as a verb while products are bursting from the ground makes me want to DoorDash as far away from it all as possible.

Advertisement

YouTube

Worst use of a celebrity: ‘Sir Patrick Stewart Throws a Hail Arnold’ on Paramount+

Yes, you read the title right. Patrick Stewart, star of Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+, appears in a spot where he argues with Drew Barrymore, then orders Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to throw an animated fourth grader from Hey Arnold! up a mountain, before doing it himself. (The band Creed also shows up to play a song for some reason).

All I want is a sample of whatever the scriptwriters were smoking when they came up with this nonsense – or when they got Stewart to agree to appear in it.

Advertisement

YouTube

Second-worst use of a celebrity: Squarespace’s ‘Hello Down There’

The concept’s not so bad: We’re so distracted by our phones and social media that no one on earth notices a fleet of flying saucers overhead until the aliens build a website with Squarespace.

But it’s a drag seeing Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese direct this bit of fluff without much humor and a punchline that goes over like, well, a badly formatted website: Scorsese in traffic, looks at a sky filled with spaceships and tells his driver, “I told you to take Broadway. This always happens.”

Advertisement

Feels a little like hiring Frank Lloyd Wright to design your kid’s backyard playhouse.

YouTube

Advertisement

Lifestyle

Wendy Williams is diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia

Published

on

Wendy Williams is diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia

Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), her medical care team announced Thursday. Here, Williams attends the world premiere of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show in New York on Oct. 28, 2019.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

Advertisement

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP


Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), her medical care team announced Thursday. Here, Williams attends the world premiere of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show in New York on Oct. 28, 2019.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Wendy Williams, the former TV talk show host and shock jock, has been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia, her medical team announced.

In a news release Thursday, her team said Williams, 59, received her diagnosis last year and that the conditions have already “presented significant hurdles in Wendy’s life.”

Advertisement

“Wendy is still able to do many things for herself,” her team said, noting that she is appreciative of the kind thoughts and wishes being sent to her. “Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed.”

News of her latest medical diagnosis comes days ahead of the Lifetime premiere of Where is Wendy Williams? — a two-part documentary detailing her health battles following the end of her syndicated talk show in 2022.

Williams, the former TV host of The Wendy Williams Show, stepped away from the world of broadcasting following a series of health issues. (Williams also has Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid.)

In 2022, due to her ongoing health battles, it was announced that her syndicated daytime talk show would end after a 13-year run on TV.

Williams’ team says they shared the health update this week to “correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health,” as many fans have been concerned, yet confused over the last few years about her physical health and financial well-being.

Advertisement

In 2022, the 59-year-old was placed under temporary financial guardianship after her bank, Wells Fargo, raised concerns — claiming in a New York court that she is an “incapacitated person,” The Hollywood Reporter reported.

What exactly is aphasia?

Aphasia is defined as a condition that affects the ability to speak, write and understand language, according to the Mayo Clinic. The language disorder can occur after strokes or head injuries — and can even lead, in some cases, to dementia.

Medical experts say the impacts of the disorder can vary, depending on the person’s diagnosis. But mainly, the condition affects a person’s ability to communicate — whether written, spoken or both.

Nearly 180,000 people in the U.S. acquire the condition each year. Most people living with aphasia are middle-aged or older, as the average age of those living with the condition is 70 years old. However, anyone, including young children, can acquire it.

Dr. Jonathon Lebovitz, a neurosurgeon specializing in the surgical treatment of brain and spine conditions at Nuvance Health, told NPR in 2022 following the diagnosis of actor Bruce Willis, that a person’s condition depends on the exact portion of the brain that’s impacted.

Advertisement

“In most patients that have aphasia, it is a symptom of a larger medical issue,” Lebovitz said.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia, commonly known as FTD, is one of several types of dementia that cause nerve damage in the frontal and temporal lobes — which leads to a loss of function in those areas, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

FTD can also disrupt motor function and movement, which could be classified as Lou Gehrig’s disease — otherwise known as ALS.

There are two different types of frontotemporal dementia: Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, which causes nerve loss in the areas of the brain that control empathy, judgment and conduct, and primary progressive aphasia (PPA) — the form Williams has, which affects language skills, speaking, writing and comprehension.

About 30% of people with frontotemporal degeneration inherit the disease. The underlying causes of FTD are unknown.

Advertisement

What are the treatment options for aphasia and FTD?

For those who are diagnosed with aphasia, there are several treatment options available.

Traditionally, most people undergo a form of speech and language therapy to restore their communicative skills. Additionally, there are ongoing clinical trials that use brain stimulation and may help improve one’s ability to regain skills.

So far, no long-term research on aphasia has been conducted yet.

When it comes to FTD, there are medications that can help relieve symptoms but with time, the disease eventually gets worse.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Lifestyle

Buying Too Much Vintage Bourbon Could Soon Lead to Jail Time in Kentucky

Published

on

Buying Too Much Vintage Bourbon Could Soon Lead to Jail Time in Kentucky
On Feb. 8, The Owensboro Times reported that a new bill that will impact vintage bourbon, House Bill 439, received unanimous approval to advance from the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Matthew Koch and Rep. Ruth Palumbo, who claimed the bill was meant to tighten up previous […] The post Buying Too Much Vintage Bourbon Could Soon Lead to Jail Time in Kentucky first appeared on…
Continue Reading

Lifestyle

If you love courtroom dramas, this Oscar-nominated film is not to be missed

Published

on

If you love courtroom dramas, this Oscar-nominated film is not to be missed

Anatomy of a Fall may feel familiar at first but it immerses audiences in a different kind of legal thriller. Above, Sandra Hüller plays a writer accused of murdering her husband.

Les Films Pelléas


hide caption

toggle caption

Advertisement

Les Films Pelléas


Anatomy of a Fall may feel familiar at first but it immerses audiences in a different kind of legal thriller. Above, Sandra Hüller plays a writer accused of murdering her husband.

Les Films Pelléas

The Oscars love a courtroom drama, and part of the appeal of a traditional courtroom drama has always been the restoration of order. There is an open question, there is an investigation, there is a confrontation, and there is a climactic moment when something is revealed and settles the matter. Even where the system fails, the storytelling succeeds in getting to that resolution. The innocent may be convicted or the guilty set free, but the storyteller gets to the bottom of things, and in that sense, there is order again.

Plenty of Best Picture nominees have fallen into this category: Witness for the Prosecution, The Verdict, A Few Good Men. This year’s courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Fall, looks at this question in a different way.

Advertisement

Beyond the fact that it’s set in France and in the French justice system, the film is ultimately much less clear than these other examples about the answers to the central questions it seems to be asking. Because there is no huge revelation that makes everything snap into place, you could read it as a story of frustration or of stubbornly persistent chaos. But in its way, it, too, is about the disruption of order and its restoration. And that starts with the “P.I.M.P” cover.

Enter 50 Cent

At the beginning of the film from writer and director Justine Triet, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) is in her home on a snowy mountain, being interviewed about her writing by a young woman named Zoe. Their discussion is friendly, even flirty. Her kind-hearted son, Daniel, is upstairs bathing his dog. Suddenly, the women are interrupted by a steel drum cover of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” that rattles the walls. Sandra explains that her husband, Samuel, is working upstairs and listening to music, and they try to keep talking. The song finally stops, but then, after a transparently peevish pause, it just starts over, louder. The music continues until the interview cannot go on. Chaos has won. Sandra chuckles and admits defeat, and Zoe leaves. Daniel goes for a walk.

Soon after, Daniel finds Samuel dead on the ground outside the house. Somehow, he has fallen from a height, and his bright red blood on the snow is itself a discombobulating image. Now, chaos has really won.

“We have to live with the monsters we create,” Justine Triet told NPR’s Scott Simon, when he asked whether characters linger with her after a film. “I’ve been living with these people for three years, and I think I’ll probably live with them for at least another year.”

Les Films Pelléas


hide caption

Advertisement

toggle caption

Les Films Pelléas


“We have to live with the monsters we create,” Justine Triet told NPR’s Scott Simon, when he asked whether characters linger with her after a film. “I’ve been living with these people for three years, and I think I’ll probably live with them for at least another year.”

Les Films Pelléas

Advertisement

The rest of the film is spurred by the investigation of how Samuel died. Despite a lack of direct evidence, Sandra is charged with killing him because she was the only person there. As a result, much of her trial is consumed by questions about her marriage. Was it bad enough that she threw her husband out the window, or pushed him off the balcony? Was it bad enough that he jumped? Did he, in fact, just fall?

The anatomy of a courtroom

Triet’s version of a courtroom drama looks different — at least to an American audience familiar with, say, Law & Order — in part because the physical courtroom itself is much more multidimensional and more complex in its use of space.

In most American takes on this genre, you get a courtroom that is laid out in what we might think of as a church formation. The gallery, sitting on benches, faces the judge, who sits on their elevated platform. When a witness testifies, they sit beside the judge, facing the gallery, while they speak. The jury sits perpendicular to both judge and gallery, visually aligned with neither. The attorneys wait with the audience, watching, until it’s time to “go on.” It’s quite flat, with communication running in two directions at most.

American audiences will find the layout of the French courtroom differs from what they are used to seeing in on-screen legal dramas.

Les Films Pelléas

Advertisement


hide caption

toggle caption

Les Films Pelléas


American audiences will find the layout of the French courtroom differs from what they are used to seeing in on-screen legal dramas.

Advertisement

Les Films Pelléas

The layout in Anatomy of a Fall is very different. The courtroom has a square formation. Think of the bench as north and the gallery as south; these still face each other. The defense is arranged along the east side and the prosecution along the west. Jurors are up on the bench with the judges. The advocate general (basically the prosecutor) has an elevated box from which he can descend, and Sandra sits just behind and above her lawyers. When a witness testifies, they stand behind a waist-high barrier facing the judge and jurors, rather than sitting in a box by the judge.

The Anatomy courtroom can be disorienting at first; it’s initially not easy to know where Sandra is exactly, or where she’s looking. Sometimes you can’t tell quite where the hard-nosed (and red-robed) advocate general comes from when he questions her. The process is surprisingly freewheeling — the attorneys freely argue back and forth with each other, and the advocate general asks Sandra questions during testimony from others.

Antoine Reinartz as advocate general in Anatomy of a Fall.

Les Films Pelléas


hide caption

Advertisement

toggle caption

Les Films Pelléas


Antoine Reinartz as advocate general in Anatomy of a Fall.

Les Films Pelléas

Advertisement

The square formation and elevated seating allow for a wide variety of camera angles, and Triet doesn’t offer an establishing shot at the outset to explain the space to the audience.

Instead, the very first time we see the courtroom, we have a bad seat in the gallery, back in a corner where our view is obstructed. Zoe, the woman who conducted the interview in the opening scene, is in the middle of her testimony, and the court is hearing the tape she made of her interview with Sandra. Specifically, the first time we find ourselves in the courtroom, everyone there is listening to the “P.I.M.P.” cover. The shots keep switching their angles and techniques: a steady push in on Sandra, then a wider static shot of just the bench, then a medium shot of Zoe that begins to push in on her, too — but in a shot that’s conspicuously handheld and much shakier. There are big parts of the courtroom at this point, the courtroom that will be the setting of much of the rest of the film, that we haven’t even seen. It’s very (intentionally) disorganized from a sensory perspective.

The son who settles the story

Eleven-year-old Daniel didn’t witness his father’s death yet his arrival brings clarity — if not order — to the courtroom.

Les Films Pelléas


hide caption

Advertisement

toggle caption

Les Films Pelléas


Eleven-year-old Daniel didn’t witness his father’s death yet his arrival brings clarity — if not order — to the courtroom.

Les Films Pelléas

The first long look at the courtroom comes a bit later when 11-year-old Daniel arrives to testify. The scene begins with the camera seemingly nestled against a high ceiling, in the center rear of the room. It looks down, putting the whole courtroom in the frame at once. This shot is neutral, normal, explanatory. The camera holds here for fully 30 seconds, which is an eternity in movie time, and especially in courtroom drama time. The arrival of this very long, very wide shot is jarring, and it changes the tone. It calms the restless camera. It calms the jitters of not fully understanding the space we’re looking at.

Advertisement

In this sense, Daniel’s arrival starts to create order. A couple of minutes later, as he’s being questioned about inconsistencies in his memory, he looks back and forth between the advocate general and Sandra’s defense attorney, who are standing on both sides of him and arguing about his testimony. For almost a minute and a half, Triet stays with an unbroken shot of his face. The camera just swings from side to side as he looks from one of these men to the other and back, so that he is always facing the lens. Even when he looks over at his mother, we don’t cut to her, as would be the traditional move. Instead, we remain with Daniel.

Two different kinds of order from chaos

So if we know that Daniel’s arrival in the courtroom brings order to the form of the film, it makes sense that he’s a source of order in the story. But how can that be? Even he doesn’t actually know what happened to his father; he was out walking the dog. If order comes from getting the facts, it seems impossible that he can be the answer to the messiness of the drama playing out in front of him.

Furthermore, it’s no spoiler to say that it’s not at all clear that Daniel is telling all of the literal truth about what he saw and heard. He is protecting his mother. So again, it might seem unlikely that he can provide any answers.

I think the solution to this tension is simply that Anatomy of a Fall is about a different kind of order. It’s not order that comes from certainty, but from clarity. Nobody here seems to have certainty about what happened — even Sandra might or might not, depending on what you believe about her. But what Daniel manages to achieve by the end of the film is clarity. He knows what he wants to do, he knows what he thinks is right to do, and he knows what he thinks should happen. And he can articulate all those things to people who are hesitant to listen to him. (There is, I suppose, some irony that might be inferred from the fact that Daniel is visually impaired, but I don’t think Triet is going for anything quite so on-the-nose.)

Even when Daniel is not being fully truthful, he is the one entirely trustworthy person in the story. Whatever he is doing, he is doing out of love alone, while his parents both acted at times out of love, but also out of anger and jealousy, resentment and selfishness. Again, he has clarity — in this case, clarity of motive.

Advertisement

So while this might seem like an unconventional courtroom drama Oscar nominee, it shares that theme of a courtroom as a step on the way to restoring order, even if it’s only the order of knowing what you think is right.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending