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Originally published August 20, 2009 at 3:35 PM | Page modified August 20, 2009 at 3:50 PM

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Movie review

'Art & Copy': documentary on advertising as part of our culture

Occasionally "Art & Copy" becomes an advertisement for advertising, but it offers plenty of food for thought.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review3 stars

"Art & Copy," a documentary directed by Doug Pray. 89 minutes. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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"Great advertising makes food taste better," says one of many experts in Doug Pray's snappy documentary "Art & Copy," a film about advertising, creativity and the way a catchphrase becomes part of our culture.

Starting right around the "Mad Men" era of the early '60s, Pray ("Surfwise," "Hype!") takes us on an addictive tour of 50 years of adspeak, with some crackerjack stories along the way.

Nike's "Just do it," we learn, came from convicted murderer Gary Gilmore's words to the executioner. The song "We've Only Just Begun" was commissioned for an ad for a bank that wanted to attract young customers — but the ad was dropped when those young customers just wanted to borrow money without collateral. "Got milk?" was originally rejected for being too simple.

Along the way, a few giants from the advertising world reveal some truths about themselves and their creative processes. (Hal Riney, for example, muses on how, in the famous "Morning in America" ads for Ronald Reagan, he was channeling his own wishes for a happier childhood.)

Occasionally "Art & Copy" becomes an advertisement for advertising — some of the talking heads are a little self-congratulatory — but it offers plenty of food for thought. And makes it taste good, too.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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