Grand Prix and Gold Lion trophies are awarded to the best commercials.
It's probably not cool to admit that one enjoys the occasional commercial, but you know, screw it. I do.
Clever, playful storytelling? Glossy imagery? Cutting-edge post-production techniques?
If people are allowed to groove on the films of Michael Bay and Len Wiseman, I can take pleasure in Wes Anderson's American Express spot and that lovely old Maxell ad where people get the lyrics to The Israelites wrong because they're hearing it on a substandard cassette recording.
This is my way of telling you that it's entirely okay to check out The World's Best Commercials: The 2008 Cannes Lions Ad Awards, playing at the Bloor Cinema this week. In fact, it's more than okay; it's downright relevant. The conventional television spot is at a crossroads, and it's fascinating to see creative directors negotiate that crossroads.
Say you're selling ... oh, it doesn't matter anymore. Do you make your spot complex, or simple? Do you shoot in widescreen, or fill the frame? (And is the frame 16:9, or 4:3?) Are you trying to push a product, or a lifestyle associated with a product? Do you even want to mention the product at all, or should you go the Mr. Plow route?
Directors are torn between coming up with a single, vivid image to make people speeding through the ad breaks stop and roll back (I'll unfailingly rewind if I glimpse a dog) or coming up with something defiantly slow and weird, the better to go viral on YouTube. Both extremes are represented, as well as everything in between, in this year's crop of spots.
In the "don't mention the product" category, we have exquisite UK-produced spots from Sony and Carling, and a sweet little Christmas thing from JC Penney in the US - and an hysterical Budweiser spot called "Swear Jar" that demonstrates, once again, how easy it is to score laughs with a few well-placed (and well-bleeped) obscenities.
The obligatory celebrity presence is provided by Martin Scorsese, who turns up directing a lost Hitchcock script - sort of - for Freixenet, and in an AT&T spot that riffs on his American Express commercial from a few years back ... or rips it off, depending on your tolerance for in-jokes about Marty the auteur.
Microsoft's multi-level Halo 3 campaign keeps popping up throughout the program - both its TV spots and internet video clips made the grade - and Skittles make more than one appearance, in a campaign that seeks to inform us of the candy's tragic, surreal qualities. (Sure, why not?)
This year's collection takes the odd choice of foregrounding Canadian-produced spots, rather than letting them pop up in their rightful place among the other winners. Which is kind of weird, since it's always been kind of thrilling, in reels past, to see a familiar homegrown spot turn up amidst the Brazilian or Australian ads, competing on its own terms rather than being separated from the pack. Maybe they're up front so we won't have a chance to skip past them.
Oh, yeah: The Oscars are coming up. (The Bloor's got them, too, in a live screening presented by NOW. It's free to members, and memberships will be available at the door for just three bucks. The doors open at 7 pm.)
I know I'm supposed to offer a bunch of predictions about which way the Academy will go on this prize and that, but honestly, I really have no idea.
Speaking only for myself, I'd really like to see Slumdog Millionaire walk off with everything available to it, but given the aggressive whispering campaign against it - someone's attempt to make The Reader look respectable, evidently - I can't be sure that will happen.
Come back Sunday night to follow the action as we liveblog it for your entertainment. Because that's what we're here for, really.