A look at subliminal advertising, helmer Jeff Warrick’s “Programming the Nation?” is a conspiracy theorist’s dream, worrying about naked women hidden in beer ads and “s-e-x” amid the soap suds. Confronting the media’s alleged manipulation of images and meanings in an effort to keep consumers hungry, libidinal, frightened and buying, the docu finds a cabal behind every bush. But being pissed off isn’t enough to convince in a film that reveals very little that’s new; the pic’s personalized approach and kitchen-sink structure don’t help, either. Brief theatrical could be followed by TV play, in a shortened version.
Corralling everyone from Noam Chomsky to the lead singer of Queensryche — and addressing everything from commercial brainwashing to Hitchcock’s use of sound in cinema — Warrick simply bites off more than he, or we, can chew. If it were a focused primer on subliminal advertising, “Programming the Nation?” might have worked, even though the subject is half urban myth, and most of Warrick’s references are 30 years old. But the film follows too many tangents, including film editing, sound and the purportedly evil effects of rock lyrics, to adequately consider any of them.