Apparently, although it's still young, the summer movie season isn't quit good enough for Hollywood. I mean, the powers who run the movie industry have noted that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" has amassed only $438 million domestically, far short of its predecessor's $623 million.
OH. MY. GOD!
Maybe the problem is that modern movies just that aren't good enough. To generalize, most of them are trivial and yet extremely bloated.
The studios have yet to learn that, sometimes, smaller is better. Case in point: The current breed of television commercials. They might not have the gravitas of something presented on an IMAX screen but they're light and engaging in a way that evades modern movies. And some are compulsively watchable. Three come to mind - the 30-second ads for State Farm Insurance, Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner and Progressive Insurance, the latter repped by the incorrigible Flo, memorably played each time by comedienne Stephanie Courtney (left).
Few current comedies are as well-written, well-directed or well-acted as State Farm's witty "State of Unrest" (aka, "Jake from State Farm") ad, starring Justin Campbell as an innocent husband, Melanie Paxson as his supicious wife and Jake Stone, who actually works for State Farm.
The tightly-plotted ad opens with Campbell, dressed in pajamas and in his living room, on the phone with Jake, talking insurance. It's three in the morning when Paxson barges unexpectedly into the room, thinking her husband is talking to another woman. And she's determined to find out.
Matters do sound fishy. Here it is:
talking on the phone): "Yeah, I’m married. Does it matter? You’d do that for me? Really? Yeah, I’d like that."
Paxson (bargng in): "Who you talking to?!"
Campbell: "Uh, it’s Jake, from State Farm." (getting back to Jake) "Sounds like a really good deal."
Paxson: "Jake from State Farm at 3 in the morning?" (grabs the phone from her husband) "Who is this?!"
Campbell: "It’s Jake ... From State Farm"
Paxson: "What are you wearing (making an air quote with her free hand) 'Jake from State Farm'?"
Jake (sitting in the State Farm customer service call center): "Uh, Khakis."
Paxson (to husband): "She sounds hideous!"
Campbell: "Well, she’s a guy, so..."
The commercial ends with an announcer stating, "Another reason why more people stay with State Farm. Get to a better state."
It's a gem - and an effective one, given that State Farm is mentioned four times in 30 seconds. And the timing of Paxson and Campbell is flawless.
Note in Passing: Melanie Paxson, who trained with Second City and performed with the Steppenwolf Theater troupe, previously acted under the name Melanie Deanne Moore. She is married to Andy Paxson.
The Progressive ads, meanwhile, have turned Flo/Courtney into a minor icon. There's a new one seemingly every week and each one has been singular. Arguably the best is the one modeled after an "After School Special," with Flo comforting an Progressive rep who didn't make a sale and tries to cheer him up by offering to buy him an ice cream cone.
"With sprinkles?," the guy asks.
Without missing a beat, Flo responds, matter-of-factly: "Sprinkles are for winners." Courtney's dry delivery is perfect.
Finally, there's the adorable Scrubbing Bubbles ad, titled "Behind Closed Bathroom Doors," with two little sisters washing a small, filthy stray dog in the family bathtub. "He's so cute!," they squeal about the pathetic little creature which looks remotely like a drenched gremlin.
When their parents hear the commotion in the bathroom and come in, the two girls plead in unison, "Can we keep him? ... Ple-e-e-se?"
A nice touch: the dad lets out a small scream when he sees the dog.
Or the mess.