Saturday, August 16, 2014

Morphicon Convention next weekend!

Okay Power Rangers fans...who am I going to see next weekend in Pasadena at Power Morphicon 4?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Geena Davis's Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist

Always love what Geena Davis is up to at her Institute on Gender in Media. Here's her simple, free and effective plan that could be enacted now and would do a great deal of good.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pantene #WhipIt | Labels Against Women

I'm always leery of corporations adopting rebellions. advertisement was extremely well done, and I 'd thank them for making it if it was a short film. But it's not. And I'm not going to now buy Pantene in solidarity, or whatever, and whip my hair for equality. The problem with counterprogramming commercials like Whip It and the Dove campaigns is, it's still a big corporation trying to get you to buy their products because without them you're smelly, wrinkly, and have listless hair. I'm glad it's not a commercial about women being reduced to their sexuality, or being put down, or abused...but when it's still a COMMERCIAL what good does the content really do?

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Star Trek: TNG christmas song "Make It So"

"That's delightful." - Sheldon Cooper
"Shut up, Wesley!" - the Internet

Pssst!! Hey Kids! Want to know who wins Crash the Super Bowl VIII?!

  • These two are so happy because they already know...
    The Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest is in year eight of its groundbreaking search for the best amateur 30 second Doritos commercial. The winner airs during the Super Bowl to an audience of 110 million people, and receives 1 million dollars, and the chance to work on the set of "Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron"!
    The 24 semi-finalists have been announced, and voting is open. You don't need a time machine to know who is going to win February 2, 2014. My early pick for the winning entry is now in first place with a 4.2 rating from viewers around the world!

    "Time Machine" is a clever short story about a naive man with a bag of Doritos who stumbles upon a cute little kid's time machine and...well here, you've got 30 seconds to be entertained and laugh out loud:  
    Time Machine - Watch, then click the red stars at the bottom left to rate it a 5! 
    This entry is by far my favorite of the 24 semi-finalists, some of which are mediocre, and some of which are hateful (see Dan L.'s terrific article here). I always root for the underdog, but this year the underdog also happens to be the clear, deserving winner.
    I also think this entry is the one that has the spirit of the Marvel brand, and don't forget Stan Lee himself will be one of the judges!
    Filmmaker Ryan Thomas Andersen read my articles analyzing the semifinalists and tracked me down to say hello. Luckily for us all, he graciously agreed to an interview!  
    Ryan is a self-made filmmaker, but a family man first. As you'll see, family is an integral part of this All-American's filmmaking process...
    This year's forerunner is an unstoppable One-Man Production House!
    Lis: Tell us about yourself and your filmmaking beginnings. Where do you live, where did you study?
    Ryan: My name is Ryan Thomas Andersen. I am a single dad, and my filmmaking beginnings started in my 2nd semester (2004) of community college. I was going for architecture then thought..."never-mind I want to make films instead!" I joined a class and ever since have been in love with it! I live in Scottsdale Az, and I am a film student DropOut from Scottsdale Community College.
  • Lis: And now you'll be on the cover of their brochures as their latest success story, haha...You are the CEO of AndersenCrine Productions and have already directed commercials for big names like Netflix, Tide, Dannon, and WalMart. What made you decide to enter Crash the Super Bowl? Who is Crine, and was he/she a part of Time Machine?
    Ryan: I have always entered this contest as something fun to do and a chance to win some serious money to fund my feature film! Of course the exposure would be amazing as well. "Crine" is my mothers maiden name. I took my dad's last name "Andersen". When I created my company I wanted to cary on my moms last name somehow, and also as a child My name "crine" was used to make fun of me daily..."cryin' Ryan" They would say! hahahah So I wanted to wear it proudly!
    Cryin' Ryan Redux is a millionaire...
    Lis: That's so cool. I love that you took back your name, and I'm sure your mom is proud! Plus you know some of those schoolyard bullies are going to send friend requests now. 
    Is this your first year entering Crash the Super Bowl? If not, which other entries have you made?
    Ryan: This is my 4th year entering. here they are: Year 1: "Par For the Crunch" Year 2: "Oh man oh man oh man" Year 3: "There Goes Brutus Again"
    Lis: Wow, those entries are all really strong! I particularly like Year 1's setup, delivery, and punchline with the older woman. It's refreshing to hear that you've entered many times and grown as a contestant. I think people like seeing skill mastery rewarded, and you've clearly worked hard.
    How did you develop the script for Time Machine? Did you spend all year thinking about it, have a brainstorm session and picked this idea? What's your creative process, and how important is the teleplay to you?
    Ryan: I was actually thinking of ideas for another company that had hired me, and I came up with this spot randomly within seconds... I wish I could explain it better but that's how my mind works (VERY RANDOMLY) it all just poured into my head. I held onto the idea for 8 Months and thought I HAVE TO DO THIS FOR DORITOS. I immediately thought "This is the winning idea." Got together with my producer Raj Suri and told him the idea. He loved it, and then we collaborated and made it into what you see now! My creative process is pretty "by the seat of my pants". I'm not proud of that but its true. I have self diagnosed myself with ADHD and I feed myself that excuse daily hahahha! This is a very important script to me because It was the most thought out and most original idea I have ever had. Plus it allowed me to cast my adorable son in it!
    The All-Americans
    Lis: What was the production like? What camera, how many crew members? Did your main character improv, or stick to the script?
    Ryan: The production was very minimal hahahah. There was our sound guy (Tommy shaeffer), me, our 3 actors (Daved Wilkins, Jim Coates, Gavin Andersen), a good friend that acted as a PA (Steve Gresser), and our producer (Raj Suri) and my mom ( Brenda Andersen )....and of course Hogan the dog! I set designed/shot/directed/edited/sound designed/colored. lol I'm kind of a one man Production House. We shot it all in about 7 hours, and it took about 80+ hours in the editing room! I shot on the Black Magic Cinema Camera with some Prime Cinema Lenses. Our main character Daved Wilkins Did a lot of improv but the final cut is almost EXACTLY what the script said!
    Lis: I love that it's a family affair, and a minimalist set. Yours is one of the rare semifinalist entries that doesn't use professional crews. Also, you may have just sold me on the Black Magic camera. I've been thinking of trading in my Canon 5D.
    You have the key ingredients to be the 2014 Doritos Winner (Can we skip past the pretense and just hand you the crown already?). You have an arresting and funny idea, told with precise set up/delivery/punchline, set in a domestic location, starring a white man who is the butt of the joke, co-starring an adorable kid and a dog. That's the very definition of the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl brand. We already know the kid is your now we want to know: is that your dog?
    Gavin and Hogan Andersen
    Ryan: Yes it is my dog...and my parents house hahahaha. I found the refrigerator box on the side of the road...painted it brown with my producer and poked christmas lights into it and decorated it with my sons markers and toys!!! lol I did this all in their front yard while the whole neighborhood drove by and looked at me like I was a nut job. My mom was the "dog wrangler". Haha he's not even a trained dog. My son's first commercial with dialogue, too. I think he did great. I wanted my son to be as natural as possible and he loves his dog "Hogan" so i knew they would have good chemistry on it was a no brainer.

    AndersenCrine Productions!
    Lis: Your son was awesome; methinks he'll start his acting resume with winning Crash the Super Bowl. And way to make your mom earn "Crine" Productions!
    What is the craziest thing that's happened since making the Semi-Finalists out of over 4,000 entires?
    Ryan: The craziest thing isn't really that crazy but My Facebook friend requests SKY ROCKETED... lol. My phone has been non-stop with notifications, and messages, phone calls etc.
    Lis: I'm picturing Malcolm McDowell and James Earl Jones narrating your phone notifications. Actually, I know you're being modest. The coolest thing I've seen happen to you is you've already booked your next commercial directorial gig, and for a major corporation. Congrats!
    You have some terrific award-winning shorts up at, including "The Fall," which won Best Picture at IFP's prestigious Masterpiece Film Challenge. Is directing commercials your goal, or is your endgame making feature films?
    The big check! Okay, maybe not so big. But IFP!!
    Ryan:  I do short films from time to time to stay fresh and to practice my craft. And that is honestly why I did commercials as practice! But then someone said hey you're good at this, you should get paid for it! SOOO now that has pretty much become my full time job! I haven't "clocked in" anywhere in a very long time and have been running my own show since 2008. I am very grateful as well because it allows me to spend enormous amounts of time with my son! But my endgame is feature films.
    I'm making my first feature film at the end of 2014, and it's a visceral drama about second chances in life. We all do things or have things done to us that we cannot take back, and should not be the things that define us. ("Eyes Wide Shut" meets "Love Me If You Dare.") I also have two more feature screenplays I'm currently writing. The first one I acquired life rights to. It is based on a true story and will make for a fantastic story! The other I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO DO. It is an idea that is the most realistic thing that has ever been done in film. I know that is saying a lot, but it is an idea that I have only told three other people! It will change the way people look at films, and will be talked about for years. I have never felt this cray strong about anything creatively I have ever done.
    Lis: Can't wait to see those feature films! Nothing Hollywood loves more than a confident under thirty filmmaker with a ton of ideas and drive! Thanks for the interview Ryan.
    Isn't he cool, folks? Since it's supposed to be an amateur contest, it's so refreshing to see a semi-finalist who doesn't already work in Hollywood, didn't spend thousands of dollars, or have a suspicious advantage
    Considering last year's finalists got CAA agents and select meetings around town, sounds like some lucky Hollywood executives will soon be hearing this top secret idea! Count me on the record as saying someone is going to credit for starting this young filmmaker's Hollywood career! 'Nuff said!
    Don't forget to go to Doritos to watch and rate "Time Machine." Best we can tell, you are allowed to rate it every day! The five finalists will be announced in 27 days, and we're Team Ryan! You can also "like" the official Facebook page here, and Tweet about it: @DoritosTimeMach #VoteTimeMachine '

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Can the Hunger Games ignite a real revolution?

"From now on your job is to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are."
Haymitch, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Eyes bright, chins up, smiles on!

Did you see those freaky CoverGirl ads begging you to become a Capitol clown? 12 Districts. 1 Exquisite Collection. Choose your District. 

The models look exotic and alien as District Tributes, but the message sends a shiver down my spine. Is this not the opposite meaning we were supposed to take away from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Do we really want to be the horribly immoral and clueless yet colorful pawns living in the Capitol?

It's a steal!

I complained to my Best Gay that this type of commercial brainwashing was exactly the mind control Suzanne Collins was trying to wake us all up from in her stellar trilogy The Hunger Games. And then we dissolved again into an impassioned discussion about the epic miscasting of Peeta and how it effects plot points, rewatched Peter K. Rosenthal’s hysterical "hotness" review for The Onion, and I quickly forgot all about the Capitol shilling fail.

"All things considered, not that hot."

Until I read web backlash a proposed theme park ride was generating. 

The second happiest place on Earth!

In the comments section, people argued distractedly over the nuances: it’s just a roller coaster ride silly, not an actual reenactment theme park of the unthinkable Hunger Games depicted in the books and movies; of course there’s a corporate tie-in and what’s wrong with that it’s the Capitalist way? Anonymous posters aimed their flaming arrows at each other, on a website owned by one of the six corporations controlling 90% of American media.

Now my spider sense was tingling. Sure, everyone has a right to make money, blah blah Capitalism is always awesome or you aren't American. But at what point has The Hunger Games sold out? Perhaps Lionsgate, the studio behind everyone’s favorite Girl On Fire, was as duplicitous as President Coin?

Is that CEO Jon Feltheimer at the console?  

So my best gay and I did an internet search to see if we were the only ones hearing the call of the mockingjay. We discovered…we are not alone.

There’s a real life Hunger Games media rebellion happening right now.

Protesting the icky corporate marketing tie-ins to the smash hit The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Harry Potter Alliance has created an easy way for you to take a stand while other citizens volunteer for the real-life district battles known to us as Black Friday.

To join the resistance and hack the Hunger Games advertising, simply take a selfie. Sporting the signature three finger salute of District 11, natch.

Rebels allianced at Odds In Our

The Harry Potter Alliance has a history of using fictional worlds to bring together activist partners who want an empowered world. A video on The HPA website implores “Enough with the distractions; The Hunger Games are real” before taking the real-life comparisons to Panem deeper. Lest you dismiss them as progressive crackpots, the Los Angeles Times found them substantial enough to publish an op ed piece by HPA’s Executive Director Andrew Slack points out the disturbing cracks in the movie tie-ins, and calls for citizens to hack the multimillion dollar ad campaigns by sending salute photos into Odds In Our 

The HPA isn't the only one hoping Catching Fire will light a fire in viewers' bellies. In an article in The Guardian titled "Donald Sutherland: I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution" the veteran actor who portrays evil President Snow states "I hope that they [youths] will take action because it's getting drastic in this country.” The infamous rabble rouser knows that movies are political activism, and made the film hoping the Millennials would wake up from their passive sleep and do something. 

"They might create a third party. They might change the electoral process, they might be able to take over the government, change the tax system."

Author Suzanne Collins has weighed in at Variety on the overall effect of the marketing campaign by Tim Palen, and given the Lionsgate team a surprising thumbs up. “It’s appropriately disturbing and thought-provoking how the campaign promotes ‘Catching Fire’ while simultaneously promoting the Capitol’s punitive forms of entertainment…That dualistic approach is very much in keeping with the books.” 

Santa, can you bring me the ironic Effie Barbie doll for Christmas?

Over at Women in Hollywood, producer Nina Jacobsen dodges Melissa Silverstein's question of whether the target audience actually can grasp this dualistic approach. I think Nina doesn't answer because we all know the answer is a resounding NO. We live in a country where most adults think reality TV is real, but kids whose brains haven't even stopped growing yet should be able to sort through the shiny propaganda without falling for it? You know, the same kids we don't teach media literacy to, which is why Suzanne Collins wrote the novels in the first place?

Actual licensed merchandise. Really, Suzanne? Still fine by you?


These official responses about the offensive marketing disappoint me, as we know advertising  works. That's why corporations spend a half trillion dollars on it annually. 

When commercials prey on our primal needs, our brains switch into primal monkey mode where there is no higher functionality like empathy. Do we really believe that the fourteen-year-old girls who scrimped and saved to pay $60 to attend the Arclight's Capitol Bash in full costume and CoverGirl warpaint were full of compassion and sympathy for the poor Career Tributes? Or is it more likely that there was gleeful cheering akin to the coliseum stadiums of yore? 

Free popcorn, costume contest, and I get to pretend to be a sociopath?  Sold!

In my heart of hearts I can't really believe that Suzanne Collins doesn't see the misuse of her anti-totalitarian tomes against teens to place their focus on frippery. There has to be some corporate concern the little bastards might actually absorb the content of The Hunger Games and start Sutherland's longed-for rebellion. 

Actual licensed merchandise. I just...can't.

Isn't change what Collins wanted? Or has she gone Establishment from diving into her Scrooge McDuck swimming pool of cash? I suppose this should be expected of an anti-estabilishment smash hit. That's what happens to all rebellions...they're absorbed and assimilated into the corporate machine and spit back out as more mind control. The odds are never in our favor.

Unlicensed fan-made merchandise

Luckily, I can think of no better time than during the gluttony and materialism of the Christmas holiday to take stock of our participation in the media machine. Are you going to raise your hand to purchase an officially licensed Capitol Couture lipstick so that you look your best for the Quarter Quell? Or, like defiant Katniss, will you be a hero who raises your hand in protest?


What do you think? Has the The Hunger Games franchise sold out and lost the message through glib marketing tie-ins? Do you think young adults get the irony of the advertisingOr are they getting off on being Capitol Cuties embodying the fashion and fakeness of the richest District? Are you going to post a protest photo? Comment and tell us what’s happening in your District!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Doritos' Top 20 Semi-Finalists - Crash the Super Bowl VIII

The 20 semi-finalist commercials were announced this morning. It must be true that scores and views didn't matter to the judges; many of these semifinalists have dismal ratings (one currently has 1 out of 5 stars!).

I hadn't seen most of these and feel disappointed some of my favorite highly rated choices were left out. Perhaps the style and content choices are different because it's the first time the contest has been open outside of the U.S., or because it's the top 20 and not the top 5. Whatever the reason, there are several weak semi-finalist contenders that break past winners' patterns and don't accurately represent the Doritos brand. The contest results have been so consistent in the past that I can't help but hope the anomalies will wash out in thirty days when the five finalists are chosen.

*UPDATE 1: Holy Doritos! They picked more than 20 Semi-Finalists, a fact I missed in the middle of the night. I have updated to include all 24 entries.

*UPDATE 2: Well now I couldn't love Dan L. more. Over at his terrific Video Contest, he's posted a great article about the weirdly anomalous inclusion of misogynistic and offensive semi-finalists. Since people seem to take these issues more seriously when they are presented by a man,  PLEASE check out his thoughts and picture me standing behind him nodding and mouthing "Preach!". And thanks again to Dan. L for all his terrific Crash the Superbowl coverage over the years.

Also I've had some emails and comments that indicate readers haven't seen my rather thorough analysis of the common elements of the twenty-six finalists since 2007. Please check it out. I'm not talking out of my ass here; I actually looked at the data and analyzed the patterns of what Doritos consistently tells us is their Crash the Super Bowl brand.

My predictions for the finalists (top 5) of Crash the Superbowl VIII:

Solid story that sells the brand, in the office location Doritos judges love to choose. **There was a similar entry this year with an ostrich being framed that was much funnier, but perhaps the ostrich was not enough of an other to avoid insult. Doritos judges prefer the joke victim to be a white male, and this commercial fits the bill. (**Actually the Breakroom Ostrich DID make the cut! He knocks my Office Thief pick out of the top 5 to join the other top 19). Goooo Ostrich!

It's absurdist, domestic, has a cute kid and Doritos magic, with a terrific ending where a white dad is the butt of the joke. Fits the finalist pattern. But you know which one I WISH would be here instead?...

*Sorry Karl
I probably love it too much for it to make the top five, but a feminist can dream.Written by and starring snarky women who finally get their own fantasy instead of being the objects of desire. It would be a huge departure for the brand, which hasn't gone in for big sets and fantasy numbers before, let alone female leads owning their sexuality for their own pleasure. I fear they threw women a bone with this entry so they could bone us below with a bunch of misogynist semi-finalists.  

Utterly original and buzzworthy, with a perfect funny ending that sells the chips.

2. Mants!
Wonderfully odd and arresting domestic humor. But Tori Spelling and the Gay Hoarder filmmakers may have a lawsuit.

I predicted it before and I'll say it again: here's your 2014 winner! Fresh, funny, clean middle American humor at the expense of a white man. That's the Doritos brand.

The remaining 19 entries:

With an abysmal rating of 1 out of 5, this loser has three features that break the Doritos finalist mould: women in bikinis, sexualized women passed over for Doritos, and an exploitation ending straight out of a WWE match. I'm shocked Doritos picked this one, except look at the next loser:

This one makes me feel livid! As you know from my previous analysis, only one finalist has featured a death in the storyline. This is sexual attraction with the joke being instead he murders her, and then displays the female corpse over the fireplace. Shame on you Doritos!!! Completely beneath you, and not funny given three American women a day are killed by their lovers. Not a joking matter, and this ad should be disqualified IMMEDIATELY. If this is what your brand is now, then you deserve to be boycotted!

It looks great, is a well executed story with a beginning, middle, end, and a solid joke at the end. I predicted it for the top 20. But I don't love it. It's not funny or odd enough to be the Doritos brand.

When someone explains to the Doritos Judges what a glory hole is, heads are going to roll. They've never even featured PG-13 humor, let alone this offensive XXX commercial. Enjoy the top 20 and the million hits; you should never have made it this far on a filthy visual joke people can't let their kids see during halftime.

Not an idea we haven't seen before, and the ending drifts off.

Pretty cool. Out of the twenty-six past finalists, there weren't any that felt this cinematic. Content/story is king, and this one relies a lot on cool shots and lenses instead of nailing the third act. The ending burns out without a great joke, but the idea is arresting and well executed until then. If it makes it into the finalists it would become the third finalist to star an older actor.

Hey, I was right about Cowboy Kid getting semi-finalist status! I still think it's a well-executed concept with a weak/weird ending. Why is the mom cheering?

What a shame that the last line trails off to an implied swear word. They had a real shot here if they'd just written a great ending joke.

This one is bizarre. But I don't know if people really want to see a grandma getting kissed during the Super Bowl.

Male nudity as a joke is a frequent American subject, but it's never been finalist-worthy before. I don't think Bold Moves will be the exception.

As much as I would love to see us finally get a second finalist starring no white actors, and the first commercial to star Latinos, this one feels like an underdog. But boy do I root for an underdog...

Every year there are dozens upon dozens of entries where the joke is that men choose Doritos over a beautiful woman who is crushed and hurt by the decision. Doubt the Asian feel and acrobatics is enough to propel this mean one into the top five, though it would finally be our second Asian lead actor.

A little shocked this one made it in, as that sure looks like simulated sex grinding to me. The past twenty-six finalists have never even featured a kiss. Again, the woman is discarded in favor of the Doritos. I don't see this one happening. That joke trope has always been tired and beneath the Doritos brand.

This one is nice and bizarre, with some cool wish fulfillment. But I wish the ending was stronger and had a joke. Also, the editing is more fancy than any past finalist. Doritos likes their storytelling nice and simple, with the illusion any consumer could have made it.

I have no idea how this one made it in. Nothing like any past finalist, and the beeped "fuck" gives it slim to no chance of making the top five. Never had a finalist with even a hint of mouthed swearing, let alone an actual bleep.

Cute but not fresh or funny enough. Always happy to see another non-white lead actor. Is it the only semi-finalist that chose rap music?

*Amish Paradise
There are always dozens of hateful entries every year about trading in your female significant other for a younger hotter model. This is the first time that story trope has been rewarded by Doritos, and it's another huge disappointment. Add on to it they're slagging a noble religion based on values that don't include objectifying women, and the "Amish! They're sexist just like us!" premise becomes even more offensive and unfunny.

The big question:

Is Doritos consciously changing their brand to be like all the other Super Bowl ads? That makes no sense, since they always won the Nielson and Ad Meter ratings, and stood out precisely because they were different?!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

My Doritos Crash The Super Bowl VIII Top Twenty and Finalists Analysis

Much of Doritos' Crash the Super Bowl VIII contest has been confusing and misleading (Do votes and views count? What are the voting rules?) Why did the contest rules say semifinalists would be announced on December 14th, while the website said December 4th at 3 am, and now states "Semifinalists will be revealed shortly?" How does Doritos define "shortly?"

While thousands of contestants drive themselves nuts refreshing their browser waiting for new information, I thought I'd educate nervous contestants on the patterns of past years' finalists to give them an idea of where they stack up, and how to shape their entries for next year. And show you my completely subjective guestimates for the Top 20, while hopefully boosting the visibility of these worthy entries.

Dan L. over at Video Contest News is the go to amateur analyzer of winning trends in the Doritos Crash the Superbowl Contest. Check out his site, which posts helpful articles like "Will press cover help your chances in the Crash the Super Bowl contest?" Keep in mind he is not affiliated with the contest and has no secret insight...he's a self-made expert and one of the only people who has studied and written about the contest over the years. There are definitely patterns to be gleaned. But he isn't knowledgeable about everything Crash the Super Bowl: Dan told me one of my entries would be disqualified for using stock footage. Actually using clips from partner Video Block was encouraged this year, and I followed the rules to the letter including submitting the exact file names of the stock footage. So of course take his feedback with a grain of salt, but remember studying the contest you're entering is always the right idea.

With that preamble out of the way, it's time to disqualify me as an expert as well...I've in no way seen all the entries for Crash the Superbowl VIII (Some guestimate there were 14,000 worldwide entries because of the numbering entries received. Others claim they've counted and there are between 4,500-6,000 entries...many of which will be disqualified for not following simple directions like avoiding visible trademarks, using unauthorized music, and being the wrong length.). I've watched hundreds of entries from this year's highest rated category. There were winning and losing patterns that emerged. In addition, I've entered the contest the last three years, and have done my research going over all the finalists since year 1. The Crash the Super Bowl contest has been in play 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, with five finalists each year except 2010 (there were six finalists that year) for a total of twenty-six commercials to examine.

Dan is spot on in his Twitter advice that Doritos is looking for commercials that are: buzz worthy, outrageous, weird, wacky, with a punchline.

What doesn't get picked by Doritos? Gross. Raunchy. Sexist. Hateful. Bikinis. Wild parties. Zombies. Blood. War. Sad. Parodies of trademarked movies like The Hunger Games and Indiana Jones. Urinal settings. Animals hurt or threatened (unless it's a dog burying a cat). Bodily function humor. Some of those topics may fly for other brands during the Super Bowl, but Doritos keeps their brand middle America's version of clean.

Despite airing winners during the Super Bowl, the finalists almost never have a football or sport theme. Doritos continues to pick finalists that can air year round. 2013 Fashionista Daddy, Hot Wild Girls and 2007 A Chip Lover's Dream are the exceptions. The fashionista is missing out on a manly game of touch football with his friends, while in the last two you only hear audio implying a sport game on TV.

The lead characters are usually straight white males mid twenties to mid forties. If someone is getting a comeuppance, it better be funny and/or physically painful at a white man's expense. (See previous finalists Fetch, Goat 4 Sale, Hot Wild Girls, Duct Tape, Express Checkout, Underdog, Pug Attack, The Smackout, Kids These Days, Mouse Trap, The Chase, Power of the CrunchSnack Attack Samurai, Free Doritos.) Why? White guys are deemed "safe" to pick on because like it or not, white men are top in our culture. Traditionally, humor is based in taking out the piss out of the ruling class. Plus they're in the least amount of actual daily danger, so the threat of comical physical violence isn't offensive to most people. That may change if the contest goes on another decade, but for now it's something to think about while you write your commercials. Most of the finalists are white male leads, and you can capitulate to that to try or win. Or be bold: be the person so funny Doritos has to break their whitewash mould. House Sitting, and House Rules are past years' finalist exceptions to the white man lead, and they are very funny. House Rules is the only Doritos finalist to not feature a white actor at all. Non-white male co-leads appear in The Best PartFree Doritos, and Dog Park with the only prominent Asian (he's male). Kids These Days might have a Latino antagonist, but it's hard to tell and he reads pretty white. That's five out of twenty-six finalists with a non-white male lead/co-lead, or approximately 19%. Only House Rules features a female non-caucasian in a co-starring role.

Unlike most brands, Doritos doesn't do Super Bowl Sexy. Both Hot Wild Girls and Fetch punished horny superficial men hunting for sexy women with impending vicious animal attacks. That's very different from the tone of most Super Bowl ads, which amp up the sexy sexism to unbearable levels. The 2011 Adam and Eve commercial was as close as they got to racy, and that was pretty tame. You didn't see Eve's presumably hot body, and thematically it was still Bible Belt friendly. Birthday Wish makes a tame risqué joke about a stripper pole and ends with the doughy everyman dad swinging on it and yelling whee. Live the Flavor and Checkout Girl are the only flirtation-themed finalists, and their sexual heat is played to cartoonish comic effect. The 2009 Power of the Crunch starts with a woman's dress being ripped off by the male lead, but quickly escalates to larger criminal spree situations and ends in the perpetrator getting hit by a bus. Only Hot Wild Girls co-stars typical Super Bowl bimbos, and they appear for a few seconds in the tag as the punchline. Sex may sell, but Doritos is on to something because their finalists are consistently the most buzzed about Super Bowl commercials.

Doritos judges also don't pick cute, maudlin, low key. Or even sappy like last year's number one Super Bowl ad the Budweiser Clydesdales. Doritos has a wacky over-the-top brand, and so far they've stuck to it every contest (Casket). 

We all know that Doritos loves selecting crotch injuries, cute babies and crafty animals who come out on top. These elements are such tropes, even the 2014 entries making fun of it are now tropes. The only meta commercial about making Doritos commercials to ever crack the finalist ranks was the hysterical New Flavor Pitch back in 2009.

So what are some of the winning elements you haven't figured out yet? 

Settings: Over and over Doritos judges choose relatable setting like home, park, grocery store, gym and work. They are looking for fresh spins on their buyers' every day environments.

Smaller Patterns: Twice they've selected commercials co-starring "men in suits" (the industry term for stuntmen wearing animal costumes): Fetch and 2007's Mouse Trap. Two finalists have featured grandparent-aged co-stars: Sling Shot Baby, and Kids These Days. Four featured bizarre work situations: Too Delicious, Best Part, Birds of PreyFree Doritos, Five commercials take place in a world where Doritos cause magic: Too DeliciousFetchPower of the Crunch, House Sitter, and Hot Wild Girls, The Chase has the only onscreen cat. Only 2012 million dollar winner Man's Best Friend has an actual death (other commercials have cartoonish violence; they all show endings that let us know everyone survived). It's a trope that Doritos ads feature cute kids, but there are actually only five finalists that do: Road Chip, Fashionista Daddy, Sling Shot Baby, House Rules and Birthday Wish. Three finalists have no human female actors at all: Under Dog, Fetch and Goat 4 Sale. (House Sitting has a Voice Over by a female newscaster, Snack Attack Samurai has one female extra, while The Best Part shows the back of a female extra twice). Road Chip is the only commercial to not feature a male actor, though the mom is heard but barely seen. Though gender and sexual preference shaming are normal and widely accepted in American humor, only two fit this style: Fashionista Daddy stars men shamed for dressing up and having fun like women instead of playing manly football, and The Best Part features a man behaving sexually towards other men in the workplace to get to their Doritos crumbs. There has never been a finalist that utilized voice over or an announcer's voice.

Finalists always have a crystal clear story: if you can't pitch your story in a one sentence logline, keep writing before you film it. Your story must be in the traditional format of three acts (Pick up Syd Field's screenwriting book if you don't understand telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end). And you absolutely need a killer joke at the end! Snack Attack Samurai, Goat 4 Sale, and Power of the Crunch are great finalists to examine for story structure. Write a logline for each, as well as its beginning, middle, end, and joke at the end. Once you've don't that for a few of the finalists, look at your entry and be honest with yourself about its weaknesses. Rewrite it so it it's strong and clear.

Later Doritos contests stressed the money prize and chances to break into Hollywood (2013's prize to work on Transformers 4, 2014's prize to work on Avengers 2). But the only finalists who have are the team behind New Flavor Pitch (2009 Crash the Super Bowl teammates get their own TBS Show).

Can anyone win?

Possibly not, if you're not a white male filmmaker in your thirties living in Los Angeles. Despite hyping the chance for any consumer to win, past years' data show the typical Hollywood bro coming out on top. Only three out of 26 finalists have been female (The typical industry 8%. Insert my eyeroll here. As usual this does not represent the number of women directing, but the number of women's work chosen by the content gatekeepers who deem a female perspective abnormal in our society.). A staggering 19 out of 26 (73%) finalists lived in southern California. Only one was from New York, but several of the outliers are working filmindustry professionals in their respective cities.

More disturbingly, there is a very real and outlandishly implausible streak of repeat finalists that suggests a judging bias. Our friend Joe Taranto of the Taranto Brothers made the top five last year with Fetch, got an agent at a top five Hollywood agency, and declined entering this year. I'm dying to take Joe and Vinnie out to lunch ask if this bias is why, but I'm sure I won't be able to publish their answer. Unfortunately, anecdotal real-life help dries up in the Hollywood industry if you rat out your friends. When the dust settles I'll do another analysis to see if this disturbing trend continues with 2014's semi-finalists, and you may infer for yourself. Doritos should be called out on it and change their rules to disqualify these contestants from entering again. It's one thing for a finalist who doesn't win money to get a second shot; it's a completely different thing for WINNERS who hang out and party with Doritos execs every year in their corporate Super Bowl box to keep taking the Top 5 spots. These white male repeat offenders are no longer nameless faceless contestants in this contest; they're Doritos "family" and shouldn't be eligible.

The great news is content is still king: your script trumps everything. TV production quality is necessary, but many flashy expensive entries don't become finalists. You don't need to spend crazy amounts of money to film your commercial. You don't need movie stars, or professional editing that includes digital effects. But as the contest has progressed through the years, the production quality has become more stringent. Now you do need professional sound, a tripod, and a real movie camera. Several finalists have had slow motion, so you might want to use a camera that can do slo-mo like a Canon 5D Mark iii (which can be rented for $114 a day plus shipping). Last year's finalists released their budgets as $300-$5,000 They all clearly used prosumer cameras, most likely RED which costs $1,000 a day to rent, needs professional lighting, and takes a prosumer computer to be able to edit.

As you go into thinking about your entry for year nine (IF they do the contest again), remember that what you need to spend the most time on is writing a relatable, crazy, absurdly funny story!

In keeping with these patterns, here are the top 20 contenders I've seen:


You're So Old
I think this will be a top 5 finalist. We've got a positive portrayal of the chips, a funny and outrageous story with a beginning middle and end with the strongest point being the lol punchline at the end, a cute kid, and the joke is at the expense of a middle aged white man. Winner winner chicken dinner! 

The Doritos Bowl
Unique, outlandish, and memorable. Definitely the Doritos brand. But it's a sports theme so it wouldn't fit the pattern of being a finalist.

The Chiplicator
Great to see a smart little girl, and the ending button is spot on. Reminds me of winner Fashionista Daddy, while still being different.

Stadium Power
Great play on the Super Bowl's bizarre power outage. Very clever, and a solid joke at the ending. Could this one be the second meta finalist ever chosen?

Close Encounter of the Nachos Kind
This one tickles me every time, and it looks great. I'm rooting for it for top 5.

Doritos Dance Tutorial!!!
They always pick outlandish, memorable, buzz worthy, bizarre, safe jokes that aren't offensive...I could definitely see the airing the rest of the year during kids' TV shows. Not sure about the Super Bowl.

Quality Control
I adore this one and have watched it many times. Very clever, and the robot costume is great even though the costume is reminiscent of 2011's Birthday Wish.

Sibling Rivalry
Super bizarre and well executed. It might be hurt by having two female protagonists and no men...Doritos likes its white male leads and might pick Doritos Have Kick V. 2 instead. (Is a fighting fetus the new zombie entry?)

Wishing Well V.2
Crazy, fresh, bold, and weird. Perfect match for Doritos brand.

Mommy Daddy Time
Of all the sexual innuendo entries, I loved this one. I think it walks the line of being about something risque without actually being something parents would be upset about having their kid see. But it might be too sweet.

Doritos Fairy
Very absurd, and they don't usually pick female protagonists. But I love that they invent a new Doritos mythology AND have a burly guy in pastel drag. A nice echo of Fashionista Daddy while still being a new story and joke.

Doritos Truck Heist
Stealing Doritos and running from the police was an idea several did...but none with such a strong punchline. I LOL every time!

Space Monkey
Bunch of Gravity-type entries this year. But this is the only one with monkey puppets!

Promised Hand
Definitely fits Dorito's penchant for outlandish and weird. What do you think; would it get people talking like Goat 4 Sale?

Nacho Dealership
Funny, inventive, great ending. Solid contender!

Doritos Push
Not as gross as some of the other baby birth ones, and the vending machine punchline is spot on.

Cowboy Kid
I think it's a contender for top 20, but not for the finals. It looks great but the end punchline is soft. Not funny enough, and when you think about it would that really be the mom's reaction?

The Care Package
As Dan pointed out on his Twitter account @Dan_VCN this one might be too dark. But the execution is terrific, and man if you've ever hung out with nurses you know this ain't the half of it. ;p Real life hospital humor is pitch black.

I think it's a tad too close to my friends The Taranto Brothers' top five 2013 entry Fetch. Then again, Fetch was a lot like the previous year's Hot Wild Girls. So maybe taking a previous finalist and putting your spin on that joke is a golden strategy? This certainly fits the Doritos mold.

For the Birds Version 2
This one made the competitor in me sad when I first saw it because it's so damn good. Clearly done by a professional, what with the great effects. Looks like a top 5 to me.


Best World Entry:
A Man's Gotta Do V. 1
It's soooo UK. I love their sense of humor.

Best Amateur:
Pre-Game War
No fancy production values or editing, just a funny story about two grandmas playing war and battling for the last Doritos chip. Wish it had a better punchline at the end!

Best Professional:
Personally I think these ads should be disqualified when they're clearly done by industry vets. How about we make a no After Effects software rule? Luckily for true outsiders, Doritos doesn't usually go for high budget flare, but for story execution. This one has both:

Best Disqualified Ad:
(Someone forgot to turn off Youtube's ad generator...oopsie!)
Beware of Doritos Dog!
I will always laugh at Monty Python references. Always. That dog's got big teef!

So Close But Needed a Stronger Ending:
Grandma Loves Doritos


Want to see the two commercials my sister Brenda and I entered? We made them for the cost of the Doritos bags. They demonstrate the two biggest problems: Not going far enough, and needing a punchier ending.

Top Dog Hero
Dan L. said it needed a stronger ending.

Call of the Wild
Wish we could have put a bear in at the end like we wanted, but Video Blocks only had that one shot from far away that we used in the middle.

For more movies by The Fies Sisters, click here.