Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Welcome to February Everyone, the Month Known for Love and the Hope of an Early Spring!
February 8, 2011

I am very excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in a couple of weeks. The winter, so far, has been long, gray, and cold, even if business has been very positive. Since mid-December we have taken on 6 new clients and our team is doing very well in assisting them to build up strong relationships with the right clients.

So what does this have to do with Spring Training?

I was having a conversation with a colleague last week and was asked what I feel is the best trait that I have that allows me to do my job well. My response was my ability to play baseball. Those of you who know me know that I make a lot of parallels between baseball and sales so before thinking that my goal here is to make Randolph Sterling a professional baseball team…hmm Burghgraef Field, what about Sterling Diamond? Has a ring to it…Ok, I’m back. Read on.

I have always found that playing a game where even the best fail 7 out of 10 times has been great preparation for a career in sales. It has allowed me to learn from everything I do as there is always room for improvement in the quest for perfection that the law of averages says simply will not come. It has also given me a short memory so when it is one of the times when I don’t get a hit, I don’t let it linger too long. It also helps me not to rest on my laurels when good things happen. This reminds me of a scene in one of my favorite baseball movies, Bull Durham, right after “Nuke” LaLoosh strikes out the side:

Crash Davis: “Your fastball is up, you are hanging your curveball; in “the show” they would have crushed you.”

Nuke: “What’s wrong with you, man? Can’t you just let me savor the moment?”

Davis: “Moment’s over!”

We only have 28 days this month, so savor every moment but keep on looking forward and keep selling!

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The IAWL Trivia Results Are In!
January 11, 2011

Last month we held our “It’s A Wonderful Life” trivia contest and we cannot thank our participants more for the additional holiday cheer they provided to us, as well their fellow competitors. That said, we feel we should take this opportunity to highlight a few people without whom the game would have not been the same.

First we would like to honor our champion,  Mike Cotton, who earned 17 ½ points, by always waiting patiently at his computer at 10:00am EST whenever he had time. Of course if this was  “Goodfellas” trivia contest, Mike would have scored 100%!

Next there is Shaun K, who came in second with 5 ½ points (6 ½  with the bonus point), followed by Terry Ryan and Gini Dietrich who each had one.

Then there are Greg Kaufman and Terry Ryan (again), who at times seemed to be watching an alternative version of the film, perhaps a bootleg one purchased from a guy with a table set on Fifth Ave. in NYC. In this one in Harry Bailey played women’s lacrosse and the angel Clarence Clemmons wore dry-fit outfits from Victoria’s Secret while hanging out at Hooters and reading copies of Eat Love Pray (apparently another alternative edition of something) and Penthouse Forum. In this version George also apparently has problems with his fly, and beats up Uncle Billy who he believes should have been forced into retirement at age 62. In this version there is also apparently an NC-17 wedding night scene between George and Mary. No one at Randolph Sterling has seen version of the film, but if you could please send a link to where it can be bought, we would appreciate it.

That said, we hope everyone’s New Year is going well, and hope you can all play again next year! Just remember to set your alarm to 9:59am EST so you can beat Mike Cotton to the answer!!!

 

Let the Holiday Season, and Games, Begin!!!
November 30, 2010

The Holiday season seems to come earlier every year.  There was a time when you typically didn’t see Christmas displays at stores, or hear songs about sleigh bells playing at Starbucks, or catch a commercial starring Santa until right around Thanksgiving , but now it seems like the stores are putting up decorated pine trees and garland the same day they take down the spider webs and Jack O’Lanterns.

Yet, regardless of when it starts, the Holiday season always brings with it pleasant memories that are often associated with particular songs or movies or foods. For example, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life always reminds me of being a little kid and staying up late to watch it for the first time with my dad when I couldn’t sleep, or another year when we went to pick up Italian pastries on Christmas Eve and realized that while they were calling B-54, we were E-73, so we played It’s a Wonderful Life trivia for two hours while we waited (here’s an easy one…what was George’s wife’s maiden name?)

And the trip down memory lane is endless when it comes to Christmas songs. Just think, where were you when you first heard songs like Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and, well practically anything by Trans Siberian Orchestra or Manheim Steamroller? How about David Bowie and the late, great Bing Crosby singing “Little Drummer Boy?” Can you find an odder pairing this side of Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper, but they make it work into one of the most beautiful Christmas songs out there. How about the “old time classics” like Gene Autry doing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or Burl Ives crooning about “Holly Jolly Christmas?”

The only Christmas song I really can’t stand is “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (If you clicked on the link, did you see how bad it was?). Now, I wasn’t traumatized as a child by waking up one Christmas morning seeing mommy kissing Santa Claus, but for some reason no matter what artist plays this song, I just have a problem with it. Seriously, who decided it was good to write a song about a little kid seeing his mom kissing Santa? Isn’t life confusing enough for kids already? Back in the day, all we had to worry about was whose house we were going to play at or trying to figure out how our parents somehow walked to and from school uphill in the worst weather climate possible, even worse than last winter’s February Fury. Now we have to add in concerns that our mom might be fooling around with Santa?

“What a laugh it would have been, if daddy had walked on in…” are you kidding me? A laugh, really? Where are our values? If I someday meet Miss Right and she becomes Mrs. Burghgraef, and we have kids, I really hope one day I don’t come home from a long day’s work to have Junior come up to me and say… “Hey dad, you will never guess what happened today. I came downstairs and saw Mom smooching with a guy in a red suit, grey beard, and about 50 lbs. of extra weight.” What are we teaching our kids?

That’s why I stick with the simple songs. Bruce asking “The Big Man,” Clarence Clemons, if Santa is going to bring him a new saxophone; and then later in the song you hear him laugh as he belts out “Santa Claus is Coming to Town!” I hope it is because he is having a great time doing the song and not because he just caught his wife kissing Santa (see, I just can’t get over that!)

Now, before I begin to sound anymore like a 3:00am informercial for a Time Life Classics special, let me get to the point. This year Randolph Sterling will be holding not one, but two Holiday contests, one on the Randolph Sterling Facebook Fan Page, and on my personal Facebook Page. Here’s what you need to know!

Contest 1: Did You See Mommy Kissing Santa Claus?

Hopefully not! As you know, I‘m not a fan. And I will give a $25 restaurant gift card to one lucky winner who can find a better Holiday song and tell me why it’s great. Just post a link and a message on our Randolph Sterling Facebook Fan Page between December 1st and December 24th . Our winner will be announced in early January.

Contest 2:  What Is, “It’s a Wonderful Life?”

Our second contest is a trivia contest to test your knowledge about one of my favorite Christmas movies, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Every business day at 10:00am EST from December 1st through December 24th, I will post a trivia question about It’s a Wonderful Life on my personal Facebook page. Answers will be posted Saturday morning. The person to correctly answer the most questions will be declared the winner and receive a $25 restaurant gift card in January of next year.

So, let the games, and the Holidays, begin!

“The Accidental Billionaires”: The True Story of the Founding of Facebook?
November 8, 2010

Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires: The Founders of Facebook reads like a novel, but allegedly tells the “true story” of Facebook’s early years. It covers much of the same territory as David Fincher’s film, The Social Network, for which it served as source material, but goes into more detail about things like what exactly is a Harvard Final Club, why it was better for Facebook to take money from VCs early on rather than sell advertising space, what made Facebook different from MySpace and Friendster and The Harvard Connection/ConnectU, and what was in the contracts Mark Zuckerberg’s former partner signed that resulted in him losing his share of the company.

With that said, many of the more contentious details from the film, such as Zuckerberg trying to use his invention to impress a former girlfriend, were absent, but, perhaps more importantly, many were still there. In the book Zuckerberg and his partner still picked up a pair of Facebook groupies at a Bill Gates lecture and subsequently hooked up with them in adjacent men’s room stalls, the application process for Facebook’s first summer internship still involved hacking while drunk, and Zuckerberg still came off as a socially awkward jerk, albeit without his dialogue provided by Aaron Sorkin, leaving questions of how true was the “true story” found in the book.  These details, among others have been highly contested and largely denied.

Sorkin and Fincher have responded by admitting to changing some things in the interest of making a better film, and this is acceptable given that they never claimed to have made anything other than a film, a work of fiction. This was actually to be expected on their parts. But Mezrich’s book is different because Mezrich does hold his work up to be a work of non-fiction, a work of narrative non-fiction for which he admits to condensing events and inventing dialogue and some locations, but a work of non-fiction nonetheless. But, if Mezrich invented so much that these more contentious details are false, then Mezrich’s work is simply a work of fiction  − a work of fiction with a rather simple style and without any real literary flare, making it simply an entertaining work of pop fiction but nothing more.

However, before completely discounting Mezrich and The Accidental Billionaires, there are a few other things worth considering. First, Mezrich’s work of narrative non-fiction seems to rely heavily on interviews, seemingly from sources that have unresolved issues with Zuckerberg or were only loosely connected to him. Second, Zuckerberg had denied Mezrich’s interview requests on multiple occasions, and it appears that those currently on more amicable terms with Zuckerberg did not agree to be interviewed either, leaving Mezrich with only more hostile and more distant sources (This is not to say Zuckerberg or his friends were under any obligation to cooperate with Mezrich, but they now do have the misfortune of his book being as popular as it is and having been used as the primary source material for the film). And third, even if those who currently know Zuckerberg have come forward and vouched that neither the book nor the film accurately portray his character, that is not to say that those portrayals are completely incongruent with how he may have been perceived by people from 2003-2005.

“I Want Your Money,” The Capitalist Answer to Michael Moore
October 25, 2010

Last year around this time Michael Moore’s Capitalism, A Love Story, was released.  Generally speaking it was amusing at times, albeit highly biased. But ultimately it lost me as Moore persisted in using extreme examples of capitalism at its worst, usually coupled with some form of highly unethical or illegal activity, to convey the message that capitalism is fundamentally opposed democracy, and some form of soft socialism is an inherent part of true democracy. By no means was it his best work as a filmmaker, nor as a social commentator.

This week Ray Griggs’ conservative response hit theaters. The name of the film is I Want Your Money! The message is that Barack Obama holds certain ideals that are fundamentally opposed to true democracy because they might be slightly socialistic. These ideals are depicted as unrealistic, out of touch, and impractical, requiring the sacrifice of individual liberty and personal responsibility, and resulting in mountains of debt for our nation.

The film may oppose Moore’s politics, yet nonetheless emulates Moore’s style, involving frequent onscreen appearances by Griggs, who also narrates, and has a similar sense of humor and  approach to editing. In addition, I Want Your Money! also contains a series of short cartoons in which Ronald Reagan educates Obama in the error of his ways with the help a ditzy Palin, an idiot George W. Bush, and a Bill Clinton with the libido of high-schooler, among other political charactitures.

However, it’s not at a lot of theaters, and the only reason I am able to report on it was because while I was on a recent vacation to Washington DC a friend of mine was able to get us tickets to a special screening.  But, judging from what I saw, I doubt it will end up getting the expanded release its auteur, to use the term loosely, so desperately wants.

Why? Is this because of Hollywood’s liberal bias that Griggs warned us about? Maybe a little, but the fact that it was pretty dull for long stretches probably doesn’t help, nor does it’s lower than standard production quality.

It would take a considerable amount of time for me to research and analyze every economic claim of the film, but I can confidently say that as a ninety minute movie it simply doesn’t work…which I guess is something else it has in common with the Michael Moore film it is responding too.

“Catfish”…the Other Facebook Movie
October 18, 2010

Most of us when we think of “The Facebook Movie,” likely think of David Fincher’s The Social Network, based on the controversial book, The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich. It spent two weeks at the top of the box office, and has generated a considerable amount of Oscar buzz, and rightfully so.

However, there is another Facebook film  out there as well which has stirred up some controversy of its own. The film I speak of is Catfish, a recent documentary that has left many asking “What did I just see? Was that real?”

For those unacquainted  with it, Catfish follows a young photographer whose two buddies begin documenting his online relationship with an eight year old art prodigy, her mother, and her nineteen year old sister who he may have been beginning to fall in love with. However, after certain point certain details about the lives of the subject’s long distance friends begin to not add up, leading the photographer and his buddies on a road trip to confront his Facebook friends that leads to a series of twists and turns that are first weird, then creepy, and ultimately Hitchcockian, exploitative, or heartbreaking depending on your interpretation.

Initially the general consensus was that this was all a hoax, even leading the likes of David Fincher and Zack Galifinakis to pat its creators on the back for their mass deception. But the filmmakers insist it was true, and emerging evidence seems to concur. Yet, regardless, it is an interesting journey, and reveals a side to Facebook far darker than the legal battles, shattered friendships, and clashing egos found in The Social Network.

The Reluctant Social Media User
October 9, 2010

Having seen The Social Network over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the early days of Facebook, or at least my early days with it. When I first heard of Facebook, it was the spring of 2005. I was about to finish up my first year of college and a friend of mine from high school, who I hadn’t heard from in awhile, was pestering me about how I needed to join this cool new site that would allow me to post a bunch of information about myself to share with the people from college I saw every day, as well as the people from high school and middle school I didn’t bother to stay in touch with, and, in return, I could view the information these people were posting about themselves…and, as added benefits, we could post funny messages on one another’s “walls.”

My reaction was one of disinterest. If I wanted to speak with one of my friends from high school, I had their phone numbers and email addresses. If I didn’t, I probably wasn’t that close to them to begin with. If I wanted to talk to someone from one of my classes, I could talk to them when I got to class.

But, my friend protested, Facebook would allow me gather information about my friends before actually talking to them so I would know what to talk to them about before actually talking to them…and I could “poke” them, and maybe even marry one of them as a joke.

My reaction was still one of disinterest, but my friend was persistent, and one night while I was bored I decided to check it out and after taking the time to set up a profile and give it a chance I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed. What was the point of it, I wondered. I’m a private person. I don’t want to share my every thought with everyone and I don’t want to read theirs. But, because everyone else was doing it, I felt I sort of had to at least set up a very basic profile. I filled out a fair amount of information about myself, my interests, my likes, and contacted the dozen or so people from high school I was friends with in real life and looked up a few people from middle school I sort of regretted falling out of touch with at the time…But then what? I left the account inactive for several months until the Fall semester when I unsuccessfully tried using it for dating purposes, learning the hard way that just because someone is a petite redhead in their profile picture, does not mean they are a petite redhead in real life (perhaps more about this if I see Catfish)…then I let my account sit inactive again, only occasionally updating it every few months when I saw a really good movie or when I wanted to do a little research on one of my classmates.

And that’s the way it was for years until I saw an online posting for a social media internship with Randolph Sterling, Inc. and figured that it was time to really update my account, as well as do copious amounts of research, both in a hands on fashion, and by reading blogs like Mashable and Spin Sucks, ultimately finding that much had changed in the years my account was inactive. To sum up these changes, Facebook had  grown up. Unlike MySpace which could never shake its reputation as a place where people went to promote their failed bands and find semi-anonymous sex, while broadcasting their immaturity, Facebook had become a place for adults. It could now be used as a tool to search for news, similar to what Twitter was, and it allowed pretty much anyone to promote their businesses through pages, ads, and groups.

Anyway, now it’s my job to tell people 15-40 years older than me that they too need to get involved before their business competition does, and do so by trying to sell them on the idea that through Facebook and similar sites they can implement an indirect sales strategy in which they implement the social media to build relationships with prospects and clients they otherwise would have no excuse to stay in contact with, a strategy that, so far, is working pretty well for us at Randolph Sterling, Inc.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
October 6, 2010

After seeing Oliver Stone’s latest film last week, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I chose not to review it, partly because I’m not sure how much my boss really wants to pay me to write about movies, but perhaps more importantly, at least for me, because I wasn’t really sure how to articulate my thoughts on it…that is until I saw The Social Network.

Now doing a review of a film by comparing it to a film it is completely unrelated to may not generally be the best way to review a film…but it seems to work here, so I plan to go with it.  (And those who read my review of The Social Network should have some idea of where I am headed with this.)

(Spoiler Alerts)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps tells the story of Wall Street Wonder boy Jake Moore, played by Shia LaBeouf, who may be a secret environmentalist crusader, or perhaps just an ambitious young man looking to invest in the next big thing…in the case of this film, fusion technologies. His mom, played by Susan Sarandon, is a nurse turned real-estate agent, coping with a changing real-estate market and the bleak possibility that she may have to return to the middle class. His girlfriend, Winnie Gekko, played by Carey Mulligan, is a young blogger trying to change the world through a hipper version of The Huffington Post. Also, Winnie is the daughter of Gordon Gekko, who Jake secretly becomes the protégé of, against Winnie’s wishes, once his long time mentor Louis Zabel, played by Frank Langella, commits suicide after his company is ruined. Through Gordon Gekko, Jake learns that the man responsible for the downfall of Zabel’s company is Josh Brolin’s cartooinshly evil, motorcycle racing, capitalist, Bretton James, who, as the film progresses, is shown as being at least partially responsible for the United State’s recent economic downturn, as well as Gordon Gekko’s incarceration.

In an effort to be relevant, Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps checks practically every liberal box of the last decade: capitalism is bad, the recession, the housing market, environmentalism and alternative energies, oil companies and investors suppressing the growth of such industries, and liberal blogging. But in a formulaic film with practically every character representing one or more of these positions, the film comes off as trying too hard. It feels as if a high school kid was given a prompt from his creative writing teacher to incorporate each of these ideas into a story. Although still entertaining enough, the result isn’t relevance but an amateurish attempt at it.

Now compare that to The Social Network from which relevance seems to effortlessly flow as it subtly captures a unique time and place in recent history.

The Social Network
October 3, 2010

David Fincher’s The Social Network was released this week and was far more interesting and entertaining than most initially would think a movie about Facebook would be. Jesse Eisenberg, who a year or two ago was generally thought of as a second rate Michael Cera, does well as the film’s antihero, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, even if the film’s depiction of him as a socially awkward narcissist and brilliant programmer, who may have stolen the idea of Facebook from three of his fellow Harvard students, and who may have tricked his best friend and Facebook co-founder into blindly signing away his share of the company, remain open to debate.

Stylistically, the film is superb, brilliantly told from the points of view of multiple characters as they relate their accounts of the inception, creation, and evolution of Facebook at two separate depositions for legal proceedings against Zuckerberg.

Where last week’s Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps seemed dated and stilted either because of or in spite of its obvious attempts to tie current events and recent history to its plot, it was The Social Network that seemed relevant and down to earth as opposed designed as a soap box from which to whack people with a political message.

After a summer of mediocre popcorn pictures, save Inception, The Social Network is a welcome relief that also provides some fascinating insights into what it may have been like to be present at the birth of a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

The “Real Classroom” vs. the Real World: Did an “Innovative” Approach to Advertising 101 Prepare Me for the My Job?
September 5, 2010

For those of you who don’t know, my educational background is not in business. No, I double majored in psychology and history. However, while in college I did take a handful of electives in business as something practical in case I didn’t head to grad school immediately after graduation. Most of these courses were like any other class. There were terms to memorize and concepts to understand, as well as the occasional test to study for. However, a couple of these classes, to one degree or another, had professors who prided themselves on implementing what they saw as an innovative approach to teaching: setting up a classroom environment based on what we should expect to encounter once we entered the real world.

More than one of my professors talked about doing this, but only one truly followed through. In other business classes, I found myself working on group projects with my classmates, and these were no different than working on a group project in any other class. Best case scenario, I’m working with friends and the group project is just one extra thing to talk about while hanging out at Starbucks or picking up lunch at Café Baci between classes, or maybe while standing in line at a movie. Worst case scenario, I’m the one conscientious person in a group of underage alcoholics and stoners, during a time of year when one of the local sports teams just made the playoffs. The idea was that, like the real world, you had to learn to work with a group of diverse people, each with their own schedules and their own baggage, and that at the end of the day, if you wanted to succeed, you would have to work together.

However, as I said, only one class, my introduction to advertising course, truly implemented the idea of the classroom-workplace. The class was not a class, but an ad agency. Our professor was not a professor, but a client. We were not students, but admen. And, some of us even got to be group leaders or team mangers. The result though, often made me believe that the ad agency I was working at was one you might see on TV or in a movie.

But what TV show or movie was I stuck in?  Definitely not Mad Men. We weren’t well dressed and charismatic, taking three lunchtime martinis and flirting with attractive secretaries between serious meetings where our Don Draper would have a moment of inspiration that would lead to an ingenious advertising campaign. We weren’t even like Darren Stevens and Larry Tate on Betwitched because at least they still presumably got stuff done, despite the many misadventures caused by Darren’s wife’s twitching nose. No, we were more like that bad comedy you saw last March, but can’t remember the name of. You know the one where the screenwriters needed a stock-white-collar job for the lead character and thought something in medicine or law would require too much back-story. Yes, in this class we sat at oddly shaped tables, looked up brainteasers online, stared at cognitive illusions, and analyzed the deeper meaning of Super Bowl ads, all of which were supposed to get the old creative juices flowing, which, in turn, would help us think outside the box as we tossed the idea ball around. We also used a lot of jargon that didn’t mean anything. For our final exam, we had to describe the people we worked with for our group projects using car analogies: Who was the engine that got us going? Who were the headlights that allowed us to see clearly when things looked their darkest? Who was hood ornament who looked nice, but didn’t do anything useful?

Although I didn’t think to write it at the time, my answer to that last one should have been not a who but a what. And that what should have been the concept upon which the class was based. Why do I say that?

Because the artificial business environment which was supposed to instill a sense of professionalism in us was…well, artificial. At the end of the day we were still students in an introductory advertising class. Our group leaders had no real authority. And, if our client was unpleased, all anyone had to lose was a good grade, as opposed to a salary, a career, or a reputation. And, like any introductory class, there were a number of people without much interest or passion in the subject matter at hand who simply needed an elective and were more than happy to take a “C”.

So, to answer my question, if it is not obvious already, I can’t say the “Real Classroom” really helped prepare me for the real world. (Honestly, I would argue my two years of academic research were better preparation for my current position working in social media, but that’s a topic for another time). But, even worse, I don’t even feel the “Real Classroom” was that real.

Tell me, those of you currently working in advertising and marketing, those of you with several more years of experience than me: what shape is the table or desk you sit at? How much time have you spent this week staring at cognitive illusions for inspiration? And how does knowing how to take a baby, a dog, and a jar of rat poison across a lake in a tiny boat help you discover your next big ad campaign?