Is It Just Us Or ... ?

The Academy Award for short animated films went to "Logoland," a French film that imagines Los Angeles, America, the world and the universe as a dystopia of corporate branding.

The 16-minute film depicts L.A. as a road-scape so perfused with brands that even humans themselves are represented merely as corporate mascots, extensions of branding, the ubiquity of which has reduced everything to a flat, cereal-box cartoon of life and death.

The opening shot, an airborne view of Los Angeles, whose every square inch is branded, is funny but also shocking because it is not that far from reality: every logo imaginable is there, with not a brand unrepresented on the streets, on buildings, people, things, animals, and natural phenomena.

Butterflies, for instance, are the animated representation of the poly-chromatic Microsoft/MSN icon; school children are Bic ball-point pen ball-heads; cops are Michelin men in branded cars; and the city zoo is filled with branded animals (like a Lacoste-esque alligator) and guarded by the Jolly Green Giant, with tours run by a flamboyantly gay Mr. Clean.



The story line, such as it is, involves the cops responding to a call that a known psychopath has driven up to a busy intersection in a van full of automatic weapons and begun opening fire on the bystanders. The psycho is Ronald McDonald, depicted as sort of a homicidal surfer.

The violence is abstracted because people aren't real: when one guy, a Planter's peanut mascot, is hit in the head by a bullet from the clown's automatic, his peanut-shell head explodes and a nut rolls out. When, responding to the call, the Michelin men run over bystanders, in this case M&Ms, the victims explode across the car's windshield in a wash of chocolate.

Meanwhile, a side story involves the Pringle's potato-chip guy trying to make it with a diner waitress, the Esso lady. The gunman mows down bystanders and takes the Frisch's Big Boy hostage. The Big Boy escapes into the arms of the Esso lady. Things go from bad to worse as more logo-people are killed, and an earthquake strikes, ripping the earth asunder as geysers of crude oil spew from between newly formed cracks in the earth. The cracks widen (revealing a giant "The North Face" logo) as Ronald McDonald makes his getaway, as does the Esso lady.

Meanwhile, buildings are swallowed and Los Angeles slides into the sea, forming a landmass shaped like the Nike Swoosh. The camera pulls away into space with the finale reprising the famous IBM short, "The Powers of Ten," that shows the Earth's minute position in space. Except as the camera pulls away, the Milky Way is ... the Milky Way candy bar logo, and each further degree of distance reveals that the universe is one giant logo inside another.

Well, my friend who saw the Oscar-nominated short said the film represents the French idea of America as a place where every surface is an advertising opportunity, and morality loses because it has to compete for share of voice with everything else.

I agreed but said the film-maker meant for L.A. to represent the entire world where branding and advertising is so constant and grandiose that the result is a cacophony in which no message in particular stands out, and no one thing -- including people -- is more valuable than another.

What do you think?

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