Saturday, May 14, 2011

Documentary Reviews: 'Art and Copy' and 'How Weed Won the West'

Though I have had to sit very still, like the children of Isreal, waiting for the death angel to pass by, I have been able to see some films, thanks to a trip over a week ago to Pic-a-Flic, and the library delivering some book several weeks ago. I got a couple documentaries from a list I had made of highly rated ones.

The documentary, Art & Copyis about the change in advertising between what are shown in Mad Men, the advertising account executives who wore the suits and were about ‘getting away’ with stuff and snowing the client and the move to the Creative department.
The word ‘creative’ used to be a punishment in the Ad world and if you were bad, they moved you from NY, or Chicago, and if you were really bad, you ended up in San Francisco as the ‘Creative Head’ (San Francisco is now one of the centers for the four major companies that make 80% of the ads for the US). Those people in the Creative Department had quite a few women and they were the ones who created ads in the 60’s for many big launches. The film talks to the heads of the Creative Departments: for example, the man who first put the writer and the photo person in the SAME ROOM and told them to make the ad TOGETHER. It had never been done, and what happened was a series of ads for Volkswagen, which was a small car, only 15 years after the war, which went from being a ‘why buy that’ to the status of cool, due to a series of ads.

It was fun watching the creative departments (which are now mostly what the ad agencies are) and see them talk about campaigns like, ‘Where’s the Beef’ (told to pull it a week before due to ‘bad polling’, they ran it anyway), ‘Got Milk’ which was to advertise California Milk because no one knows what brand milk they drink, and milk consumption was going down 4% every single year. So they convinced the client to simply advertise and ask, ‘Do you have enough milk?’ or ‘Got Milk’ (which the co-partner hated, complaining it was not grammatically correct – while he was talking about that, they scrolled through the pages and pictures of hundreds of rip-offs of that phrase).

The heads of agencies showed the environments, and how they have punching bags or basketball courts, but also said, ‘At 3:00 am, the lights are still on, this is a place where people love the work and want to finish the work.’ You get to see some of the I-pod ads being made (which were created by a mistake; they brought in a salsa dance instructor to give them ideas on how to use beats. While they were filming the guy talking, he started dancing with his partner to demonstrate. The ad for i-pod was the footage of the dancer put into a black outline with a vivid colour background). And we get to follow around a guy who changes billboards (13 minutes to change one), a four generation bill-board worker, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were never out of work, even in the great depression. It literally shows the movement from 'what is the Truth of this product' to the creative team, to the ad, to the billboards rolled and stacked for each city to the guy who puts them up and then moves them to different locations around the city. The documentary also briefly showed how the ‘great’ artists, like Mucha, in Paris are now famous artists for the creation of advertising boards. But how originally they were just trying to convince people to come see a show, or buy soap.

One creative dept head said that the environment was relaxed because “To be Creative you need to feel secure in order to take risks.” While another pointed out that it was a brutal business, where a person was rejected over and over, ideas shot down all along the way, and needed people and a place where you could fall flat on your face in failure every day, and still get back up. While I wrote down while watching it, “Lee Clow:apply to work there!” as it seemed like my life was directed to ads. And all talked about how the ads which all are classics, and launched companies to fame are all ones where the company said, “No way!”

One comment was about committees and rang true, this idea where you come in and the person says, “hmmm…interesting.” before handing it to someone and saying, “Lets test this (with groups of people) to see if I like it.” Ha.

So, yes, a high recommendation on the film, and to finish with an ad campaign everyone knows, Nike’s ‘Just Do it!” which everyone knows. Except most don’t know that the phrase came due to the Creative ad guy seeing that phrase in a newspaper about an Arizona execution by firing squad, where there was a delay and the prisoner said, “Just do it!” Interesting because there the phrase is about it being OVER, while people took the phrase as it being an open reminder to do more, to push mental boundaries. There were interviews of people, and what they did from seeing the Nike ad, one guy asked a girl to a dance, another started a hobby, another started a new sport. The creative person for the ad talked about getting letters from dozens of women saying, “You’re right, I left the bum” and she said back then she was thinking, “People are getting divorced over a shoe ad? What have we done!”

In 1995, Nike created an ad, which I remember, which Linda remembers, which I think every woman who saw it remembers, it is the female shared experience. It is our voice.

Nike actually brought IN jogging, as it was so unknown at the time they started, and then early on, did print ads of the two women in the Creative department talking about what it was to be a woman, a mother, and how she didn’t want to be like her mother, but what she wanted for her daughter, printed with a photo of her as a child with her OWN mother. It articulated for women the social pressure, the inner pressure and said, “me too.” It made women trust Nike.

And since then, now more women jog than men, more women do sports or exercise or yoga, or fitness than men do. It made not just a market for Nike but a mental explosion.

Before I review the next DVD, I just wanted to recommend Smile, a graphic novel about braces. Yes, your friends had them, maybe you had them. The book is popular, and won awards but it is about a real girl, who did girl scouts and if you have a girl with braces, or you had braces, or you just want a good 225 page story for about $7 because you don’t ‘get’ graphic novels, then I recommend this. It covers the trips to the dentist (oh, I really want her dentist) and the trip to some specialist I had never heard of after she falls over and knocks out a tooth (remember doing that?). The best part of the book is not just that it is entirely autobiographic, and great writing but because it is 'real' you can flip to the 'author photo' at the back of the book and, in full color, see the picture, smile and teeth of the artist/author. From childhood store to you seeing the end result. The book almost made me wish my parents did what the doctors told them to and got me braces (almost).

The other DVD on my list was the award winning How Weed Won the West. It said it focused on the legalization of medicinal marijuana in 14 states, and how Obama promised not to prosecute medicinal marijuana in 2009. For those who don’t know, Canada, where it is legal all over, currently doesn’t have a functioning distribution network (they original hired a ‘low bid’ company that grew weed in the bottom of mine shafts, but the weed was so bad, those sick with cancer bought off the street anyway, then the company went out of business – so now there are licensed growers). In the US, on the Federal level, marijuana is a Class 1 drug but in 14 states (including California, Oregon, and Nevada), the medicinal use of marijuana is legal, under regulated circumstances (meaning, you need to fill out forms, and get a card). The uses in the US are for 1) Pain, 2) Nausea and 3) Cramps – which is how you get a legal use card. The problem is that under the ‘War on Drugs’ anything seized as a drug asset is sold or becomes property of the agency that confiscates it. It was supposed to be an incentive to focus on drugs for law enforcement but ended up being a steady and regular part of the law enforcement income. This is a problem when a law enforcement agency is told 'don't go after xxxxx' and yet they have been getting 7% or 12% budget revenue a year from raids on that drug.

While in the US, the cards for medicinal marijuana use are for symptoms, so anything from Endo, or CP, (spasms), to Cancer or autonomic failure nausea. In Canada, the legal use if for named and listed diseases or conditions. So, in Canada, the groups that were large enough to lobby are those whom doctors can sign off legally for marijuana usage: for example, MS, arthritis or Cancer. Smaller disease groups, like the one I am in, which sits between ALS and MS, while having symptoms of both, aren’t named in the federal law document and so end up in this grey area where I have the same symptoms as the groups which doctors can prescribe medicinal marijuana for, but am not one of the ‘approved’ groups.

Like all things in Canada, this means PAPERWORK and WAITING. So I can convince a doctor to make a letter, do paperwork and apply for a special compensation authorization (kind of like how I have to apply for disability federally, provincially, but also at the bank, the ferry corporation, each individual movie theather, the Y, etc – each requiring confidential medical information and often a fee also). After which, there is a long and unknown wait and usually a letter saying in a round about way, 'we would if we could but we can't so no'. Doctors who have over the years seen this are frustrated and groups for medicinal marijuana are frustrated so if your disease is rare, not on the list what your doctor does is sign a form of 'intent'. So the intent form says that the doctor would prescribe medicinal marijuana for these reasons IF THEY COULD, and the province (at least B.C.) doesn’t stop the sale or operation of the stores which sell cookies, oils, sprays, mists, and stuff to smoke only after a medical 'intent' note, and documentation of disease. The Canadian stores often have a mixture of people registered with ‘intent’ forms and with ‘prescription’ forms. I recently did a renewal where they came out to the van, to ensure I still had the disease and that I hadn’t died and Linda was buying it for another use (Gee…what would that be?).

So, when the DVD opened talking only about medicinal marijuana I was hoping to see how the system worked in the US, and how different patients and different stores worked. They talked about how in LA there were over 1,000 distribution stores, more than Starbucks. I was trying to figure out how the few people who need medical M. could be MORE than those who got the morning and evening coffee and latte but I decided to go with it.

Ug. Please avoid this DVD unless you like hearing phrases like, “Thus lawmakers bow to the corporate overlords” and feeling that Fox New is perhaps unbiased after all. But since I watched the WHOLE thing (mostly in hopes that something good would appear) lets see what can be salvaged.

First off, President Obama promised to not prosecute legal medicinal marijuana but to CRACK DOWN on people who were using this as a loophole to mass distribute marijuana. In two years there have been 100 raids and 30 prosecutions. The writers and producers of the DVD seemed to think that the law saying ‘medicinal marijuana for cancer is okay’ was a mass approval of growing, selling and smoking weed for everyone, ergo the raids were ‘acts of a traitor’.

In Northern California there is an area known as ‘The Green Triangle’ where like the angle of hill needed to grow grapes for wine in Napa, it is the right temperature, angle and humidity for marijuana and the amount of weed grown there makes the land extremely valuable. Some of the growers do grow only for medicinal usage and have become incorporated, like Pineapple Kush. To get a better strain, Pineapple Kush got marijuana from Afghanistan, and grew and mixed it with other brands from Mexico. This is why the weed today is far more potent than the weed of the 70’s and counterculture.

That’s about it. The first person who ever used medicinal marijuana shows up 1 hour and 10 minutes in and he only used it 15 year ago. The first prescribed patient is shown 14 minutes from the end of the documentary. It is a film about people who like to smoke bowls of really good pot. And now, with California laws, every wack stoner has opened a shop. The law in California is that you cannot get a license for a medicinal marijuana store if you have a felony. We follow three stores/distributors in LA, two of which are raided and arrested by the end of the documentary as none of three stores are legal (but they are ‘rightous!’).

The first place has in the back two shipping containers of plants (grown illegally – a registered card holder can grow 3-6 plants themselves legally in California), with maze set up with steel doors, bars, and counter doors, set up for…the DEA. When the DEA raid, they take the plants, the drugs and over $100,000 in cash. Yes, over $100,000 from a ‘medicinal marijuana’ store.

It turns out that grower had been selling illegally BEFORE the law, then when President Obama said he wouldn't crack down he opened again in the SAME LOCATION but with a new sign with a green ‘health cross’ added. He flashes a license at the camera, as the filmmakers try to put him as the poor victim. I went back and froze the frame. It wasn’t a medicinal marijuana license but a license for selling tobacco. Later, he tells his lawyer that he is going to drop the ‘store’ defense and tell them that he ‘deserves’ to grow and sell as much pot as he wants. Then later on he fires his lawyer.

The second store is a group of three stoners lead by a very wacky ‘doctor’ (not a doctor) who explains that anyone NOT smoking weed is sick. Plus he has different scriptures painted on the wall of the shop, and tells the one woman who they show that it is both a religious center and a shop as the “body is a temple”. The film shows his two assistants hitting heavy bags without gloves or even wraps on their hands and says, “These boys just smoked six bowls (of pot) and are in training”. Later it shows all three smoking bowls of pot and then as the bell rings to mean a customer they run and put on lab coats with the green cross on the back and run out to the front of the stop. The whole ‘completely stoned owner’ makes me wonder about the medical advice from here (he and assistants are later busted as well).

People who toke up in public are encouraged to say they are ‘taking their medicine’. (I am not impressed by these juvenile tactics, either it is medical and used such or not - is this DVD about how to break the law or how to legally use a product which helps a lot of people with various medical conditions?)

The interesting part of the DVD is a chance encounter the film makers have at a stream up in the Green triangle with a Mexican gang who is growing. After several beers and bowl, the gang allow the film makers to the growing area. Every single person in the growers gang has at least two guns, usually an uzi and a pistol, or an AK with a double banana clip, or a shotgun sawed-off. The film maker says in voice over, ‘if you are thinking about the guns, remember that if marijuana was legalized, then the fear would go WAY down.’

In Mexico, the marijuana cartels kidnap and behead officials who don’t give kickbacks to them. The corruption is extreme that from the police officer to judges and governors, all are expected to kick in or be killed. It is described by the FBI as ‘Capone times 50’.

This is the conversation they have with three of the growers from mexico, all of whom are wearing bandana masks, and often point the guns at the film makers. They don’t explain who they grow for, or how they afforded this land as they say they come from a ‘very poor village’ (later we meet a Irish with two uzi’s who does ‘security’). There is one guy who does most of the talking and presents as the boss but keeps looking to a different guy who speaks toward the end.

The film makers ask about the Mexican Cartels, and they guy (with two guns in his belt) says, “no, no…we do this as like…..a hobby.”, “Yes, ‘obby.’ Says his number two, both laugh under bandana masks. They are standing in front of 200 plants, one of several growing pods, he says, and repeats he “does hobby like…jogging as a hobby”. (medicinal m people can grow SIX plants.

Q: “Are your families in mexico doing better?”
“Now, with the little money we make here, we can send our kids (in mexico) to school”

In another growing shed (of several hundred plants) the guy with two guns and the guy with the automatic machine gun say, ‘Oh he ‘nice guy’ he bring strain from mexico.’

“Yes” says the talker, “This, you smoke some of it…and you treat people nice, yes nice.”

The heaviest armed guy who the talker keeps looking at turns as the talker leaves and says, “Everyone go where the money is. If they legalized it. Then (we) go to something that we get more money out of than this.”

That I believe.

The film finishes with ‘Smoke out’, a concert as a finger to ‘the man’, but before that they show the LA council who, after many drug sellers from other states, or who have felonies for selling have come and set up shops in LA, want to put restrictions down. They end up having better checking of licenses and limiting the clinics down to 163 (The whole south of the island, 300,000 people has 3 stores) and that they can’t be within 300 yards of a school (or in some cases a church). This is seen as oppression. I am irritated because I have learned nothing of other people who use medicinal marijuana and how they use it (many workers have never seen the mist spray I use, but have other clients with cookies or who smoke it). I want my hour and money back!

Have a great weekend!


Raccoon said...

Steve Lopez, from the Los Angeles times, wrote a couple of columns about getting his medical marijuana card from a gynecologist...

I'm glad that you have recovered a little energy. Small blogs are good.

wendryn said...

I'm glad you had the energy to write today. I hope it wasn't too much of a push.

These sound interesting - I may look them up soon!


Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth
Just to let you know that the death angels picked up my daughter Amy a couple of days ago.....I guess she wasn't quiet enough to escape their attention. She got a postcard from you a couple of weeks ago, tha k you, about the same time she and I sent one off to you. I don't think she battled, but man, did she work. I have never seen anyone work so hard. She made her last days astonishing, for herself I hope, and certainly for the rest of. I cannot imagine my life withou her.
Much love and care

cheryl g said...

Thank you for the reviews. Art and Copy sounds very interesting and I will be looking for it at my library. I used to catch occasionally catch this TV show that would show ads from around the world and then have commentary from marketers, sociologist and other experts on why the ad campaign was successful or failed. It was an interesting show.

Smile is definitely going on my reading list. I and all my siblings had braces - teeth pulled, headgear, tightened bands, and retainers. Smile sounds fascinating and is a story I will identify with.

How Weed Won the West is a title that sounds like the film has much potential. At first I thought it was a documentary about the struggle on the Wind River reservation. The Lakota have been trying to grow industrial hemp, used to make rope, as a cash crop since it grows well in their semi-arid area unlike just about anything else. As a cash crop it would be a huge economic boon for the community. However, even though industrial hemp doesn't contain enough THC to get you high like its cousin marijuana industrial hemp is also lumped with marijuana in the anti-drug legislation. That means that a cash crop that could help these people is raided and destroyed by the DEA even though it can't be used as a drug.

Knowing that How Weed Won the West is a different documentary I think I will give it a miss. I wish you could get your money and hours back too.

Anonymous said...

I want you to have your hour and your money back, too! The Weed documentary was not as advertised. Sounds like a lot of propaganda to me. I am glad that there is permission to use it medically, as I think it really helps with your pain control. There are people who need it and others who want the buzz - the way the others can abuse the system makes it difficult for those who truly need it. That makes me mad.

The Art & Copy documentary, on the other hand, sounds fascinating. I like hearing stories about how what someone or a group of someones behind an organization can do to change the world. The idea that some woman in the 60s had the brilliant idea of putting the sales and creative staff in the same room is hard to comprehend. Well, hard to comprehend that it wasn’t always done that way. I seem to recall from my marketing business courses I took a few years back that getting the sales and creative staff on the same page is still a huge challenge for many organizations trying to bring a new product to the market.

I remember Where’s the beef’ and Got milk? The last one puzzles me as all I had growing up was Canadian TV and we certainly didn’t have California milk. I think I must have heard about it from my dad, the dairy farmer, when he read farming magazines and newspapers. The Nike commercial about ‘if you let me play’ definitely had an impact. Other memorable commercials were the jeans commercial where the sang bum, bum, bum… all through the commercial and just showed various buts in jeans. That would appeal to the age bracket (teens) I was in. Oh, and the Smarties commercial… when you eat your smarties do you eat the red one last? I can still hear the jingle in my head.

When I was doing my business degree the conversation would often turn to various tv ads and how some were great and some weren’t. It was one of the few periods in my life where I actually wanted a tv but didn’t have one. Over the years, on the occasions where I’ve watched tv, I can’t get over how many commercials there are – almost as if they have equal air time to the actual tv shows.

Billboards – 13 minutes to put one up? That sounds incredibly fast. And as for his grandfather, I was surprised to read that he was busy during the depression. But then, he probably had government billboards to put up, right?

I really enjoyed reading your blog, Beth. You have a real gift in telling stories – even other people’s stories. Now I want to watch Art & Copy.

Kate J said...

Some strange DVDs you've been watching! Always good to read your blog and glad that you've had the energy for a bit of DVD viewing, although I don't reckon you picked the easiest ones in the catalogue...

This is really just a quick 'hi' and thank you for the Visit Wales postcard, which has now made its way all the way back here to Wales! Got to run, as I have my visitors (from Canada!) arrived this afternoon, somewhat jetlagged. I haven't seen either of my cousins for nearly 2 years so we've got a bit of catching up to do.

Love & peace

Elizabeth McClung said...

Racheal: It is purple and pink, sports and action that I think of for Amy. Thank you for telling me, and for allowing me to be part of her life, interacting by mail. Her love, freely given, makes her absence acute in grief. I wish I could be there to sit with you, during this grieving. I am glad she live brightly all the days, until the end, thank you for letting me know that. Love to your and your family. Beth

Neil said...

Rachael: Hugs to you, and my family's condolences. Amy was lucky to have you in her life, I'm sure.

Beth: No gonna watch the Weed, video thanks. And my Beloved really hopes the story about "Just Do It" is apocryphal!

It's nice to see you had the energy to write. You're wonderful.

Love and zen hugs, O Internet Niece,