2003 Milk Plus Droogies

Best Picture
Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Actor (tie)
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Actor (tie)
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Best Actress
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Supporting Actor
David Hyde Pierce, Down With Love

Best Supporting Actress
Miranda Richardson, Spider

Best Screenplay
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Best Foreign Film

Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

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The Blog:
Saturday, February 01, 2003


From time to time we've discussed commercials on here, and while that VW ad seemed to drum up a lot of talk, I thought it was pretty dull and average. But now there's a spot worth analyzing, so I'm going to post this. Nike has been pushing their new Shox line of running shoes, the most high-profile ad so far being the streaking naked man at the soccer game. But more interesting is this new one with a woman on a subway who gets tempted by the sight of a pretzel. She leaves the train, runs for a pretzel cart, and races down to the next station to catch her train again -- even landing on the same seat.

What I like most about it, besides the sheer joy of the concept, is the subtle social commentary going on with nearly every cut and close-up. I've only seen the spot four or five times, so forgive me if I've missed or misinterpreted any of these shots. The ad begins with the woman in her running gear sitting opposite a suited-up businessman on the subway. He has a newspaper and is as sedentary as possible, chewing on the pretzel and relaxing. The runner wants a pretzel but goes on a mission to prove she can have her pretzel and eat it too. First, she darts out of the subway and fights through crowds of black-clad businessmen, and hauls ass up the steps into the sunlight. She dodges more pedestrians and finds the pretzel cart, not even slowing down when she grabs the twisty bread.

An Asian immigrant running the cart is shocked by what just happened, but the director cuts back to a close-up of a buck-fifty that she left on the cart as payment. Cut back to the woman and she's racing down the street towards the next station, treat in hand. The next obstacle she comes across is a high-society Park Avenue wife, unloading 50 shopping bags from a limo as she heads into her chic penthouse apartment. She is kneeling on the carpet of the building's entrance, trying to negotiate her purchases -- easily the most submissive of positions she could be in -- and the runner hurdles the mass of bags, even lightly kicking one of them with her Nike shoe. Bystanders are shocked, and on goes the runner.

She gets to the next station, darts down the stairs, and then hops the turnstyle! When it would have been easy for the sound editors to play an effect of a token being dropped, or even show a cutaway of some form of payment for the subway (even a day pass that she could flash), this is ignored in favor of the motion of our heroine leaping over the turnstyle in an act of brazen disregard. So far she has disregarded rich, sedentary shopper-housewives and The Man (transit system), but taken the time to pay the struggling pretzel-cart merchant. The doors on her subway are just about to close when she stops them with her Nike shoe, then finds her exact same seat opposite the newspaper-reading businessman. By now he has a smear of mustard on his upper lip, and before he even has time to react to the sight of a woman who has just accomplished a phenomenal feat of speed and dexterity, she shows him up once more by offering him a napkin to wipe the condiment away (or wipe the proverbial egg off his face).

The ad makes me want a pretzel about as much as it makes me want to buy Nikes, but what's more interesting is the choice of coverage the director made -- the exchange of money, the transference of justice, and the relationship of rebellion to athleticism: the more by-the-rules and predictable you are, the more you waste away in motionless apathy. It's not a new concept of sales for Nike, but this is one of the more complicated filmings of it that I've seen. It still doesn't hold a candle cinematically to my favorite Nike ad of the last couple years, the montage of the symphony warming up set to shots of athletes in preparation for competition. But man, what other corporation makes as much noise with its marketing as with its product? It reminds me of an Onion article that presupposed Nike ceasing all production of athletic gear, shoes and all, and only staying in business to make commercials.