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No Coffee for Old Men in Black
November 23, 2008 3:59 PM   Subscribe

In a series of sixteen advertisements screened in Japan, Tommy Lee Jones plays extraterrestrial 'Alien Jones', who has taken the form of a man to check on the world of humans, all the while drinking a Japanese brand of coffee named BOSS. I have no idea how Tommy Lee Jones got talked into doing these advertisements, or why. And after watching them for yourself (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16), you probably won't either.
posted by Effigy2000 (85 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have no idea how Tommy Lee Jones got talked into doing these advertisements, or why.

Perhaps you've heard of money.
posted by billysumday at 4:03 PM on November 23, 2008 [33 favorites]


And lots of it.
posted by Brockles at 4:05 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
TOMMY?
posted by Mikey-San at 4:06 PM on November 23, 2008


I love these. The bemused-calm alien just seems like a really good metaphor for what Jones the actor is doing in these videos.
posted by grobstein at 4:13 PM on November 23, 2008


. . . the host club (?) one is a little disturbing
posted by grobstein at 4:14 PM on November 23, 2008


I'm reminded of this. Lots of surprisingly famous hollywood celebs seem to get paid enough to do these kinds of ads in japan - perhaps assuming they won't get seen over here. Of course, there's the internet...
posted by 6am at 4:15 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hehe. He couldn't even be bothered to learn the slightest bit of nihongo.

Shine on you crazy diamond.
posted by bardic at 4:19 PM on November 23, 2008


I live in Tokyo, and I've seen print ads for this campaign on trains, but had no idea he was supposed to be an alien. Devoid of their TV context, they just seem to be posters about a US actor who loves canned coffee and rainbows.
posted by GoingToShopping at 4:23 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, while watching all of these, the "gulp" at the end just got more and more disturbing. And I don't know why.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:28 PM on November 23, 2008


He made them turn the spaceship around so he could buy himself a can of coffee. It's pure Tommy Lee Jones.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:31 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Al least better than any of the other American celebrity ads I've seen in Japan recently. And I like the ongoing narrative of the ads. Like the Softbank ads with the family where the dad is a dog, the son is a black American, and the daughter is a Japanese girl.
posted by p3t3 at 4:33 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh my God. As if I needed further reason to buy cans of HELLO BOSS (which is delicious).
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:34 PM on November 23, 2008


Here in Japan, it's a never-ending stream of US celebs hawking everything from postage-stamp-sized TVs to chocolate-coated antidepressants. Couple months back Sean Lennon was everywhere, shilling for some automobile or other. Right now George Clooney's enormous face follows me around from subway station to subway station. He's hawking some automobile as well. I reckon most any of us would do it too, though, for the truckload of money they drive up to your doorstep.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:35 PM on November 23, 2008


Is that meant to be Stalin's face on the BOSS logo?
posted by Iridic at 4:36 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Japander.
posted by gwint at 4:40 PM on November 23, 2008


billysumday; I know money was the reason. That sentence was just a reference to this well known Metafilter post.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:44 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not a new phenomenon - Hollywood actors shilling for advertisements in Japan on the condition the ads are to be shown nowhere outside of Japan - kind of worked before the internet, but now, I mean really? So you are a celebrity who does advertising for money - if you are so concerned about your 'integrity' you just wouldn't do it in the first place would you.

When I was in Japan in 1997-98 it seemd to be mainly Madonna and Brad Pitt that were everywhere.
posted by Megami at 4:45 PM on November 23, 2008


A blew a snot bubble when that rice farmer asked Tommy Lee Jones if he'd take over his family.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:48 PM on November 23, 2008


He's all over coffee vending machines in Japan. I got used to seeing his wrinkly mug just about everywhere I went. But like GTS, I had no idea he was supposed to be an alien.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:50 PM on November 23, 2008


It's not limited to Japan.
Here in Austria, George Clooney's shilling for Nespresso while one of the women from 'Desperate Housewives' is hawking laundry detergent -- 'the choice of desperate housewives everywhere!'.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:52 PM on November 23, 2008


In this economy, do you blame him?
posted by cazoo at 4:55 PM on November 23, 2008


A blew a snot bubble when that rice farmer asked Tommy Lee Jones if he'd take over his family.

Snot bubble is a coffee drink flavour in japan. I have no evidence of this. I have not seen it or heard it. I just know it.
posted by srboisvert at 4:56 PM on November 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


George Clooney is shilling for Nespresso everywhere. Unlike many others, he is not trying to hide the fact he does paid advertising.


srboisvert - considering there is/was a softdrink called 'Pocari Sweat' that is not too bad of an assumption.
posted by Megami at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2008


Snot bubble? Yeah, they have that, too.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:01 PM on November 23, 2008


I think BOSS coffee is the brand I saw in Tokyo where they have cans stacked in a WARMER instead of a cooler. Yes, that's right, you can buy a can of hot coffee in Japan in convenience stores.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:07 PM on November 23, 2008


I have no idea how Tommy Lee Jones got talked into doing these advertisements, or why.

I don't think money explains this, unless Jones has had a lot of big bills to pay recently. Or is particularly greedy.

But that's a really side issue. I think the real question is the "why". Presumably they have to throw 10x the cash at him and all he really does is stand there. Can't some no-name or look-alike do this for a lot cheaper?
posted by DU at 5:10 PM on November 23, 2008


I think BOSS coffee is the brand I saw in Tokyo where they have cans stacked in a WARMER instead of a cooler. Yes, that's right, you can buy a can of hot coffee in Japan in convenience stores.

From vending machines too in winter (they're already stocking in most of Japan now for this winter). Usually there's a red sticker/label for hot, and blue for cold.
posted by p3t3 at 5:16 PM on November 23, 2008


I think BOSS coffee is the brand I saw in Tokyo where they have cans stacked in a WARMER instead of a cooler. Yes, that's right, you can buy a can of hot coffee in Japan in convenience stores.

Some of the vending machines have a hot side and a cold side, also... very nice on cold mornings. And BOSS is indeed "the boss of them all", IMHO.

For those who don't speak Japanese, there are English-subbed versions of the ads.
posted by vorfeed at 5:19 PM on November 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


"I have no idea how Tommy Lee Jones got talked into doing these advertisements, or why." nthing the MONEY answer..

before my kid and snyder started making movies, they did a ton of ads with big names that never showed in the US... it is ALL about the money....
posted by HuronBob at 5:29 PM on November 23, 2008


I don't want to know what is in the pot at the end of the coffee rainbow.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 5:30 PM on November 23, 2008


I really like them, Tommy Lee Jones is the rarest of actors -- Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, Eli Wallach come to mind as others in this small fraternity-- who can make anything look cool, by the power of his simple presence. He stares reality into submission.
posted by matteo at 5:41 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is this the same canned coffee company that had that wonderfully silly series of ads with the cast of Twin Peaks? If so, they're my favorite Japanese coffee company.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:41 PM on November 23, 2008


I wish American comercials were 15 seconds.
posted by the jam at 5:42 PM on November 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Huge Trucks Of Money + Being On T.V + Not Really Going To Be Seen Outside Japan + Free Trip to Japan! = this!


Oh, Japan. Shine on you crazy diamond.
posted by The Whelk at 5:42 PM on November 23, 2008


Hard times for Tommy Lee Jones.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:53 PM on November 23, 2008


Jeez, is this who discussion on integrity and money based on a way too obscure reference by Effigy2000?

Anyway, they are hilarious.

Now I want to drink this BOSS stuff.
posted by eye of newt at 5:53 PM on November 23, 2008


I like 12 - Tommy Lee Jones being spoon fed omurice in a maid cafe and blushing at the maid's moe-ness. Why yes, the first thing I think about TLJ is him being a closet otaku working multiple jobs in Akihabara to feed his anime & manga addiction and his penchant for catgirls.

Who would've thought that role in Men in Black would lead him doing coffee ads in situations he has no idea of (at least I don't think TLJ is a closet otaku or thinking about marrying into a farmer's family).
posted by tksh at 5:55 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It appears that the makers of BOSS are Suntory, which should bring to mind another well known American actor making commercials for them.
posted by kalessin at 5:58 PM on November 23, 2008


Ahhh.

Santori Boss.

Boss of them all since 1984!

( Does anyone have a good image of the logo, it's t-shirt worthy)
posted by sien at 6:04 PM on November 23, 2008


Because he's more awesome than you, that's why.
posted by Sir Mildred Pierce at 6:09 PM on November 23, 2008


Lost In No Coffee For Old Men In Black In Translation.
posted by so_necessary at 6:21 PM on November 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


I was just in Tokyo a few weeks ago. I noticed that Tommy Lee Jones was on all the vending machines. It was just another detail of a very interesting and wonderful place.

Gee, they like Tommy Lee Jones here, I thought.
posted by john.c.herman at 6:43 PM on November 23, 2008


And did you see the one where Tom Cruise jumped up and down on a sofa, and then ... oh, wait.
posted by bwg at 6:53 PM on November 23, 2008


I can't understand a word (and am probably missing why this is so outrageous to others) but they seem surreal and distanced to me, not shocking.

it's relatively easy to work with celebrities. money does talk and a decent-size marketer has a pretty big wallet. add to that bonuses like 'we will only show this in foreign markets' or 'we are doing something cool on the web' and your producer will practically slap a phonebook-thick binder with headshots of very famous people onto your desk who are very willing to work for you. that phonebook situation actually happened to me recently. you can get people like seymour-hoffman for less than SAG rate at present if it's a cool web project. they all want to do it.
posted by krautland at 7:00 PM on November 23, 2008


These ads are awesome. That's why he did them. Okay, money and that.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:09 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here in Austria, George Clooney's shilling for Nespresso while one of the women from 'Desperate Housewives' is hawking laundry detergent -- 'the choice of desperate housewives everywhere!'.

He was also shilling for it in France last year, apparently.
posted by vanadium at 7:20 PM on November 23, 2008


Uncle George has done some as well... there's an Acura commercial with him as well, not on Youtube.
posted by dbiedny at 7:24 PM on November 23, 2008


According to the versions with the English subtitles, their logo is, "For this worthless, wonderful world."

Awesome.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:28 PM on November 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I love BOSS, though the pipe smoking gentleman always entranced me more than Tommy Lee Jones. I couldn't really detect a difference of taste between most of the different flavors, but I enjoyed them all.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:05 PM on November 23, 2008


The english subs translate their tagline as "For this worthless wonderful world." How accurate is that?

Because it's...awesome.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:16 PM on November 23, 2008


For relaxing times...
make it Suntory time.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:17 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a good a place as any to tell this story.

When my dad was living in Texas, his bass was Tommy Lee Jone's recent father-in-law. My dad tells me about how his boss constantly referred to Tommy Lee Jones only as, with a slight condescending smirk on his face, "The Actor." There was a tone in his voice where you just KNEW the idea that his daughter was marrying an actor, no matter what caliber or reputation, had been the spark of many serious arguments.

I'm sure Tommy Lee Jone's father-in-law has since passed, but I can just imagine him looking down and screaming, "I goddamn TOLD you! Serious artist, my ass!"
posted by piratebowling at 9:19 PM on November 23, 2008


I don't think money explains this, unless Jones has had a lot of big bills to pay recently. Or is particularly greedy.

He probably enjoys acting, enjoys financing his pet projects, enjoys money he gets from doing a fun job for which he is famous, and, I would bet, he probably also enjoys Japan. Also: free coffee. Seems no stranger than anyone doing any other job...except, of course, for the fact that Tommy Lee Jones has added fame and baggage by dint of being an awesome and perhaps iconic actor.

It would only raise a question of integrity if it was an ad for something despicable, like Hitler.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:27 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh! Tommy Lee Jones is seriously adorable!
posted by Surfurrus at 9:47 PM on November 23, 2008


For the long time folks, the English school Aeon was king of foreign "talent" in ads. Mariah Carey was big for awhile, then of course, Cameron Diaz (You can't spell Aeon without Cameron, so the line went) who is currently doing ads for cell phones with Brad Pitt. George does the car commericals, as does Jean Reno. Of course, nearly every Japanese celebrity with name value does them, too.

On the other hand, in reference to the hot/cold vending machine, in some ways, you know you've been here too long when friends come to visit and are stunned at things you take for granted. I started teasing them, saying "welcome to the future!" in a movie newsreel voice everytime they were surprised by something.

Hot coffee from a vending machine! "Welcome to the future!"

Giant robots piloted by teenagers saving the world from interstellar menace! "Welcome to the future!"
posted by Ghidorah at 9:47 PM on November 23, 2008


"Gee, they like Tommy Lee Jones here, I thought."

Actually it's anyone foreign and famous...especially if they're Caucasian, it seems. You should see the ads for English schools - its like brown people don't speak English.

Everybody has stereotypes, I suppose...
posted by tbonicus at 10:00 PM on November 23, 2008


I don't think money explains this, unless Jones has had a lot of big bills to pay recently. Or is particularly greedy.

I'm reliably informed that when TLJ cuts you a check, he's good for it. Friends of my father-in-law have done some odd jobs for him on one of his ranch properties, and there's never been an issue regarding payment, even though he's the Actor and all.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:57 PM on November 23, 2008


Oh man is that end-of-the-commercial GUUUULLP! fucking loathesome.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:10 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


*shrug* if I was an actor, and I was given the opportunity to work in a bunch of commercials where I play an alien doing a bunch of jobs in Japan, I'd jump at the chance. It seems like a fun, weird project to do.
posted by happyroach at 11:12 PM on November 23, 2008


These are amazing, made only better by the fact I can't understand even a bit of it.
posted by potch at 11:22 PM on November 23, 2008


Why yes, the first thing I think about TLJ is him being a closet otaku working multiple jobs in Akihabara to feed his anime & manga addiction and his penchant for catgirls.

You, apparently, didn't see that VH1 special where Tommy Lee Jones talked at length about his love for Chobits. It was pretty weird. The interview started about Men In Black, and then he just kind of veered into manga territory. He took the interviewer into his figurine room, showed off his entry cards from previous Comikets, and got kind of choked up when he talked about Sailor Moon. It was pretty touching, really.

Also, seconding the notion that these commercials are about money.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:16 AM on November 24, 2008


Can Coffee Fun Facts:

☺ Vending machines often say sold out of a particular drink - but often there is still one in the machine. There seems to be some logic that it's ok to be sold out - but not to offer a non-hot or non-cold beverage - so the restocked cans can catch up in temperature. Of course if you are the 2nd buyer too soon you're buggered.

☺ In a conbini (convenience store) the cold canned drinks are usually the furthest from the counter. But the hot cans are usually as close to the register as possible. This is because it takes longer for cold canned drinks to warm up in a store, than for warmed can drinks to cool.

☺ While there are many quirky things in Japan this CM for Coca Cola is not real.
posted by gomichild at 1:26 AM on November 24, 2008


I live in Japan, and I've done extra work for TV and movies a couple of times. Here's a story.

An agency called me up for extra work one day, as they usually do--out of the blue after months and months of silence. "Are you free on such-and-such date?" I check my calendar and say yes, probably.

"This job" the agent says, "is a TV commercial for BOSS coffee. You'll be working with Tommy Lee Jones. Your job is to be a dummy/stand-in/young TLJ." That last part is still confusing, because it was never clear exactly what I was to do, but I would be in the commercial...somehow. As a young Tommy Lee Jones. Or a stand-in. Or something. Part of the confusion was a language problem in her explaining it, and part of it was she probably had no real idea what the part was.

They were to film it in L.A., and they'd fly me there for several days, and then I'd come back to Tokyo. The pay was amazing, too. "But I don't look like a young Tommy Lee Jones." I said. "Not in the least. Is that a problem?"

The agent paused. "Ehhhtooooh..... (Japanese for hmmmmm), maybe it's no problem." She didn't sound too sure about that. So she sent my pic off to the production company, and said I'd hear back in a few days if I got it or not.

Turned out to be a "not". "They picked someone else," she said, which I guess is the norm for actors to hear. And that was that. Too bad, though; I could've said "Hey, that's me in #10!". Alas, no.  

But I am in this movie as a Navy seaman for approximately 0.75 seconds.
posted by zardoz at 2:12 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty good BOSS campaign. BOSS has always been for the calm and collected bemused watcher type. Tommy is a good fit for the alien watcher.
posted by dabitch at 2:19 AM on November 24, 2008


and zardoz, that movie look hilarious. :))
posted by dabitch at 2:25 AM on November 24, 2008


zardoz where in the movie are you? (time)

I've seen a ton of American celebrities in ads here in Greece... I can't remember them all but, yes, - George Clooney, Madonna, Harrison Ford, Harvey Keitel. I wish Tommy Lee Jones would show up in an ad for Nescafe frappé.
posted by taz at 2:54 AM on November 24, 2008


A lot of celebrities do advertisements in Asia because they don't get broadcast here in the US, so they get to keep their street cred.
posted by chunking express at 6:40 AM on November 24, 2008


I seem to dimly recall, from another discussion on this phenomenon, that the US and Japan make very different cultural connections between celebrity and artistic integrity. What a cynical public considers "selling out" in the US -- a Hollywood A-Lister becoming an advertising pitchman -- is considered an indicator of one's true superstardom in Japan. That it's a sign of honor to be featured in commercials. And it's a sign of power on the company's part to show that they can shell out the cash to get big celebrities in their ads.

Celebs have been doing voice work in American ads for a long time now (remember Patrick Stewart's Dr. Seuss turn for that cholestorol medicine?) because it pays well yet there's no face time to deal with. They're free to extol the virtues of luxury vehicles without implying that they themselves endorse said vehicles.

And that's the thing of it. The tried-and-true American attitude in advertising involves the Celebrity As Spokesman. "Hello, I'm Famous Movie Star and I drink Pepsi Blue, so you should too." Our culture (speaking here as an American) has gone and tied the quality of the product to the celebrity's good name and likeness. We are compelled to purchase the product not because it is good, but because a celebrity we like and admire claims to enjoy it. Sometimes the product connection is plausible: Michael Jordan plays basketball very well, and he wears these sneakers, so logically the sneakers are good. But other times, it's horribly transparent: Be Like Mike. Drink Gatorade.

Consequently, when a celeb starts advertising crappy, shoddy goods (Richard Simmons for the Bluth Cornballer?), we look down on them. How could they stoop so low? Why would they think we would want to buy this piece of junk on their say-so?

Judging from the ads in Japan and in other countries, the celebrity connection is different. The brand enhances the celebrity, not the other way around. It's all kinda hard for me to wrap my head around at this point, and I'd love to know if there's more to this (or an alternative theory or what have you) but maybe I just need another cup of coffee. If only someone respectable could provide me with a suggestion I could trust.
posted by Spatch at 6:43 AM on November 24, 2008


But I am in this movie

That movie looks awesome.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:48 AM on November 24, 2008


Around 1995, Dennis Hopper in a penguin suit in the bathtub (bath salt commercial) is the gold standard humiliating american celebrity endorsement for me. And, it seems to have not been captured for posterity on the Internet.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:48 AM on November 24, 2008


No discussion about canned coffee in Japan is finished without a link to Cannedcoffee.com - "It became a sort of metaphor for us. Americans tend to focus on the samurai ethic, geisha, blue-suited salarymen, green tea, Zen, etc., and so we wanted ... to focus on the equally prominent things that often get overlooked. Canned coffee is the most glaring example of that, I suppose."
posted by gen at 8:15 AM on November 24, 2008


then of course, Cameron Diaz (You can't spell Aeon without Cameron, so the line went) who is currently doing ads for cell phones with Brad Pitt.

That was it. I was trying to remember who was doing Softbank ads by the time I was leaving. Cameron Diaz. I don't recall Brad, though.

The thing to remember about Japan is that everything is about brand. There is no "no-logo" movement in Japan, and it's hard to imagine one taking shape.

That's a good (almost great) story, zardoz. I would have loved to have done that kind of work but if there was any to be had outside Tokyo, I didn't see it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:16 AM on November 24, 2008


planetkyoto -- are you sure? I can't view youtube from work, but I seem to be getting search hits for the Dennis Hopper commercial you mention.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:18 AM on November 24, 2008


"For relaxing times, make it Santori time..."
posted by daHIFI at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2008


(Suntory time.)

Because they gave him $2m.
posted by Zambrano at 9:32 AM on November 24, 2008


Yeah, I figured I was way to late to the party to be the first one in on the Suntory time snark.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:08 PM on November 24, 2008


This reminds me of a similar set of ads starring Agent Cooper & co. around the time Twin Peaks was on the air. They're on the new-ish Twin Peaks boxed set, and they're pretty strange...
posted by vernondalhart at 1:27 PM on November 24, 2008


Celebs have been doing voice work in American ads for a long time now

I recently just noticed Kiefer Sutherland in the Bank of America commercials. Often with celeb voiceovers I get that "Why do I know this voice?" feeling and it takes me a second before I can pinpoint it. I could also swear but I'm not positive yet, that John Krasinski is doing Blackberry Storm ads. I've heard that Will Arnett has done tons of voiceovers, not as a celebrity but for his deep announcer voice. He said on Conan O'brien he does truck ads for one of the American companies, I always listen when I hear them but I've yet to go "HOLY SHIT IT'S GOB BLUTH TELLING ME IT'S 'SOLID LIKE A ROCK!'"
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:44 PM on November 24, 2008


Durn Bronzefist: You may not be familiar with Muji, which is technically a no-logo, no-brand which in typical Japanese style has managed to become a brand with a logo (the no-brand name).
posted by nightchrome at 7:45 PM on November 24, 2008



Why WOULDN'T you do a Japanese ad? They are awesome and funny, it is something to be proud of. More so than an Emmy!

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the gulp at the end!
posted by lundman at 9:27 PM on November 24, 2008


They were funny
posted by A189Nut at 2:00 AM on November 25, 2008


I find it odd that they say "Rainbow Mountain" in English. I can understand when they are talking about an American/English person or product.
posted by nomisxid at 5:36 AM on November 25, 2008


English is prestigious in Japan, nomisxid. It gets used sporadically in a lot of advertising. This is in addition to the huge proportion of Japanese which is made of loan words from English. What is this advertising? Ko-hi. ("co-he" -- coffee)

on preview: nightchrome -- no! I am genuinely shocked. I will have to try to wrap my head around the non-brand-fashion statement this must represent.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:04 AM on November 25, 2008


I like both BOSS coffee and Pocari Sweat.

Hell, I live on them when in Japan.
posted by rokusan at 2:37 PM on November 25, 2008


For some reason I always thought the BOSS logo was based on William Faulkner. This is what happens when your dad is an English prof and you spend a lot of time in his office, I guess.
posted by oats at 3:15 PM on November 25, 2008


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