Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Super Bowl LII: Touchdowns for Movie Fans

So we’ve survived another Super Bowl Sunday, one that was more exciting than most. No, I’m not much of a football fan, though I like to look in on big national sporting events from time to time. Like most people, I generally find myself rooting for the underdog, and so the victory of the Philadelphia Eagles—following lots of twists and turns on the field—of course appealed to my sense of drama. (I especially liked the sleight of hand that had Eagles replacement quarterback Nick Foles sneaking the pigskin into the possession of a teammate, then moving down the field to catch the pass and run it into the end zone for a touchdown.) 

The Eagles’ victory, the team’s first national championship since 1960, also served to remind me of one of my favorite recent movies, David O. Russell’s 2012 domestic comedy, Silver Linings Playbook. If you’ve seen the film you remember the dynamic within the Philadelphia household of a troubled young man, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who has managed to extricate himself from a mental institution and come home in search of his estranged wife. His father, Pat Sr. (played by a predictably intense Robert De Niro) rules the roost, and the focus of his energies is the local football team. This means the entire family unit must wear Eagles jerseys, participate in earnest pre-game rituals, and otherwise ensure good luck for the team. Things come to a head during an outing to Lincoln Financial Field for a home game. The famously rabid Eagles fans are out in force, well-lubricated and slathered in green paint, to cheer on their boys. Inevitably, the younger Pat gets into a fracas with some especially obnoxious (and racist) fans, and is hauled off by the cops. Which leads Pat’s father to make a bet (or “parlay”) he cannot afford to lose. Somehow it all ends on a positive note, having proven that sports fanatics and romance fanatics are not so very different after all. (Especially when there’s a cagey but complicated young woman like Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany around.)

A surprising number of people tune in to the Super Bowl for its commercials, and as always I was struck by the number of elaborate Hollywood-related ads that popped up on my TV screen. A new twist was the Netflix gimmick of surprising viewers with the news that a new sci fi film, The Cloverfield Paradox, would screen immediately after the game. (I didn’t watch it, but commentators seemed to agree that the industry was trying to hustle out this follow-up to the well-received Cloverfield before word got out that the film was pretty bad.) Some lively ads used familiar actors in unexpected ways – like Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman rapping on behalf of a new Doritos flavor, and Rebel Wilson and a Hannibal Lecter-ish Anthony Hopkins (among others) replacing the voice of Alexa. Elsewhere, Jeff Goldblum relived Jurassic Park’s scary T-Rex chase (complete with John Williams music) in a commercial for Jeep. Quite amusing was an apparent movie promo, featuring Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth introducing what seems to be a Son of Crocodile Dundee flick. McBride’s dressed for the part of Dundee’s offspring, and he covers a lot of terrain before realizing the truth: “It’s not a movie. It’s a commercial.” Yes, this spot promoting Australian tourism makes its point about the charms of the land down under, with tongue firmly in cheek. 

 But I can’t say I feel good about the sonorous voice of the Reverend Martin Luther King essentially shilling for Dodge Ram trucks. Does King’s 50-year legacy deserve this?

Here's a compilation of some of the most memorable 2018 Super Bowl commercials:

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