By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 08, 2016 at 11:36 AM

On Sunday, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in what could only be technically described as "a competitive football game." But who actually won the great American unofficial tribute to commercialism? Here are the real winners and losers of Super Bowl 50. 


Beyonce and Bruno Mars at the Halftime Show

Well, that was predictable. With the help of every part of the refracted light spectrum, Coldplay did a fine job keeping the stage warm, but as soon as Mark Ronson started scratching out one of the best pop songs in recent memory, they might as well have been dudes strumming acoustic guitars in the parking lot for loose change.

Bruno Mars and his posse rocked out his funktastic hit with all of the James Brown pizzazz and attitude that he brought to his own Super Bowl halftime show two years ago. And then Beyonce showed up – the real main act ever since she was announced and certainly after she dropped "Formation" over the weekend. She proved why that was the case, marching and dancing and singing with unapologetic ferociousness and showmanship. Even when she almost biffed it mid-dance, she saved it – in heels, no less – without missing much of a step. Coldplay was happy to be on the stage; but between their songs and their dance off, Bruno and Beyonce owned it.

Peyton Manning

Minus the HGH stuff … and minus the fact that he bombed so hard early in the year that he had to be benched … and minus the fact that he played so poorly Sunday night that even the NFL couldn’t in good conscience give him the Super Bowl MVP title it most certainly wanted to, it was a storybook ending for Peyton. I’ve never been his biggest fan, but he’s undoubtedly one of the game’s great quarterbacks and seemingly a decent guy. Good for him for ending on the highest of notes before his body implodes … unless he pulls a Favre and doesn’t end up retiring this year.


How pumped was Roger Goodell about handing off the Lombardi Trophy to Not The New England Patriots? The commissioner must’ve slept like a baby ever since the AFC championship. Not only that, but the game handed the league two perfect storylines: either Peyton wins in his certain-to-be final season, or Cam wins, officially ascending him to the new face and star of the NFL – one, like Lebron in the NBA, just divisive enough to make things even more interesting.

Lady Gaga

Can we stop it with the "Wow, who knew Lady Gaga could sing/dress normal/etc." statements? You sound like those fanboys griping about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman five years after he proved himself to be a better actor and a great director.

Lady Gaga’s always been a strong musician whose voice was never a liability, and even if you had a problem with her outrageous personality, she’s always known how and when to class it up. And all of that was on display during her anthem, which she crushed. To pay it the ultimate sporting-event compliment: It went long, and no one minded for a second.

"Jason Bourne"

One of the few somewhat-surprise ads during the Super Bowl, "Jason Bourne" certainly won the Super Bowl movie-trailer battle. The brief glimpse of footage looked like the intense and exciting Bourne we once loved, pre-"Legacy" and pre-chems. And, after taking a look at the IMDB page – Matt Damon returns, Paul Greengrass returns, Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones added – there’s reason to be excited.

Only problem: In a series filled with dumb titles, somehow "Jason Bourne" has managed to be the worst of the bunch. At least it's consistent.


You can throw all sorts of crazy stuff at the screen, but every year, the Super Bowl ad winner is always animals. This year was no different. The Doritos dogs at the grocery store bit certainly played better than their creepy Doritos-induced turbo labor ad, while the Heinz little wiener dogs spot scored the highest ratings, at least with immediate social media reaction. They even had singing sheep, effectively selling me on a truckbed audio system I have no idea why I would need. Even if you chuck a cat out of a tree like "Deadpool" did in that Esurance ad, you can’t lose with animals.

Jeff Goldblum

So much Goldblum! A Goldblum goldmine! The golden age of Goldblum. No, the Apartments spot wasn’t great – it lost a lot of luster (HA! ANOTHER GOLD PUN!) being revealed earlier in the week – and I’m still not sure if we need a Will Smith-less "Independence Day" sequel, but a world with lots of Jeff Goldblum is a world I want to live in. Move on up, indeed, you champion.

Budweiser and Papa John’s

The star of the game was Peyton Manning, and he put both Budweiser and Papa John’s – or more like Papa John put himself – in front of America at the biggest, most triumphant moment. Don Draper would certainly be smiling while meditating on a beach at that.

As for their ads, Papa John’s had no primetime slots, and Budweiser’s ads, themselves, were pretty OK. The Helen Mirren anti-drunk driving spot scored well – mainly thanks to Mirren – while the sequel to last year’s "WE MAKE COMMERCIALIZED BEER! DEAL WITH IT!" ad seemed better. Still, the idea of the world’s most popular beer not being for everyone was good for an unintentional laugh. But in the end, they were the brands people were talking about most after the game, and that marks a marketing win indeed.

Oscar-winning aged Brits

Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren should definitely have better things to do than peddle TurboTax and Budweiser. But if they’re going to have to steep to this, you might as well do it as charmingly as they did Sunday night. Sub-question though: Is there any doubt that was the first time Mirren has ever held a Budweiser bottle?


I know their spot has been running for a while now, but let’s hear it for Axe for finally growing up. 

It’s a smart, inclusive and sharp ad that, in a first for the body spray company, doesn’t make me feel ashamed to be in their target demographic. Not that I’m planning on using the arm pit pepper spray anytime soon, but props to them for growing out of the "Score hot chicks, brah!" mindset and standing proud next to their drug-addict older brother Old Spice.

It's a whole lot better than that chocolate man horror movie from years back.

"10 Cloverfield Lane"

Yes, there’s a good chance this has nothing but a glancing connection to the original, quite-solid monster movie, but even if that connection is just the characters flipping "Cloverfield" on TV for two seconds, it still looks good. The confined "Twilight Zone"-esque sci-fi concept looks tense and intriguing, and the cast – including the invaluable John Goodman, the under-appreciated Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. of "Short Term 12" – is really strong for a tiny genre flick. Also, the writer-director of "Whiplash" has a screenplay credit, and after "Whiplash," I will follow that man anywhere – which means apparently into an underground bunker.

Ryan Reynolds

He might actually do it! Ryan Reynolds might actually become the movie star he was supposed to be by now! "Deadpool" comes out next weekend, and the buzz – aided by two Super Bowl spots yesterday – seems to be strong, and he had that Hyundai commercial that had everyone swooning. It was certainly a better ad than the car company’s Kevin Hart-led commercial, selling a creepy car-finder device for that smartwatch you’ll never buy. 



Poor Coldplay. As soon as the NFL announced that Beyonce and Bruno Mars would join for the halftime show the same way a flailing QVC host would awkwardly say, "Uh, but wait, there’s more!" they were doomed to be guests at their own party. (For a brand as desperate to go global as the NFL, though, the internationally beloved Coldplay was still a smart pick.)

The thing is, as much fun as it is to bag on Coldplay, they’re not bad. I actually like a good amount of their music unironically, and I would bet a bunch of you do, too. But Coldplay made the critical mistake of becoming more famous than Radiohead and taking up U2’s well-intentioned but kind-of-pompous global rock star mantle right when it became deeply unhip to like U2. They’ve committed the horrific crime of seemingly wanting to be beloved, and like with Anne Hathaway, we hate that.

Beneath their reputation, however, lies a pretty decent rock band, and Sunday night, that pretty decent rock band played a bunch of their pretty decent hits pretty decently. The image I’ll probably remember most from their halftime, though, is lead singer Chris Martin barely seen crouching in the background while Beyonce and Bruno Mars blissfully invaded the stage, as though he was afraid he’d interrupt the show that he, in his heart, knows everyone actually came to see.

Eli Manning

Imagine you’ve always been the little brother. Imagine that you’ve had just one thing to hold over his head, the ultimate trump card to win every family dinner-table debate. Imagine you’re suddenly watching that trump card flutter away in the wind, gone forever.

And imagine a camera caught the exact moment of that realization.

Or maybe Eli just realized he left his car running in the parking lot. Either way, Eli faces are the GIFs that keep on giving, and this video should be nominated for Best Picture. 

Anyone watching the game for the game

This side of the millennium has provided mostly terrific Super Bowl games, perfect and compelling finales to America’s ultimate sporting entertainment.

This was not one of those games. This was, to put it kindly, a sh*tfight.

The game was always close, but only technically, as it insisted on never becoming interesting. The Panthers were too tight to get much momentum, while the Broncos were too weak on offense to put the thing away. You rarely felt like you were watching the two best teams. Instead, it was a sloppy, unengaging game between half of a good team and a good team playing puckered as hell. And, speaking of unpleasant rectums!

That cartoon rectum and medicine ads in general

I mean, what the hell, Xifaxan? I know you’re selling diarrhea medication with a name that looks like a cat walked across a keyboard, but making a cute cartoon intestine roam around on screen is not pleasant. I know poop comes out of that thing, and giving it adorable googly eyes will not help me forget that it is full of feces. Considering what we eat watching football, I don’t want to think about my guts – much less look them in the eyes.

And don’t think you got off the hook, Jublia. Foot fungus medication: another tough sell, I get it. But why give your hero cartoon foot fungus? It’s just unsettling … which is the perfect transition to …

Anyone who saw Thomas Davis’ arm after the game

Prepare yourself.

Are you ready? 


My lord. Thomas Davis should’ve been the MVP for playing with that Frankenarm.

Cam Newton

The man that launched a thousand thinkpieces and #hottakes finally came crashing down to earth on Sunday. The Panthers’ loss Sunday was by no means entirely his fault. He spent the whole game with no time in the pocket, running from a Broncos defense that never stopped being the reason for the team’s success, and he never had great weapons around him (Kelvin Benjamin went down at the beginning of the season). The fact that they got this far – and in such dominating fashion – with Ted Ginn as a primary target is a tribute to Newton’s growth as an NFL quarterback.

But woof, he made sure to leave his critics plenty of ammo Sunday night. Between his generally tight performance, not diving for a key late fumble and one-word harrumphing through his brief post-game media interviews before walking out, Newton’s going to have a long offseason responding to questions this season had supposedly answered.


You had a good run, dabbing. But after every broadcaster awkwardly went ahead and did it – and now Betty White – the shark has officially been defanged and jumped. RIP dabbing.

Those weird "Batman v Superman" ads

I hate to continue to beat on "Batman v Superman," but their advertising campaign took yet another turn to the baffling. The film’s major Super Bowl spots ended up being ads for Turkish Airlines, a product placement already previewed in an earlier trailer with Wonder Woman boarding one of their airlines. (Doesn’t she have an invisible jet?)

I know this movie will make a ton of money no matter what the sales approach – combining the two most famous heroes is $500 million worldwide, pretty much guaranteed – but I have no idea who would be particularly excited to actually watch the damn thing after seeing rich dudes casually fly in airplanes and two rain-soaked heroes glower at one another for three seconds. Maybe grumbly transportation enthusiasts?

The NFL’s Super Bowl babies ads

There’s a hint of something cute about these ads – and the Seal-aided punchline was pretty nice. But there’s something also just bizarre about the NFL selling itself with, "Football: It makes people want to have sex." It was a selling point quickly deflated by Twitter when everyone realized, hey, isn’t there a big romantic holiday also around Super Bowl time, too? And I just can’t stop thinking about how awkward those shoots must have been for the people gathered together, solely because their parents probably drunkenly boned at the same general time.

"Hey …"

"Hello …"

"So…how are the parents doing?"




CBS broadcast

Between their generally stodgy presentation, Phil Simms Phil Simms-ing all over the place and having to watch ads for the network’s terrible lineup of programming (they could turn an Old Spice ad into a boring, generic crime-of-the-week procedural, couldn’t they?), no one was looking forward to CBS’ broadcast of the game.

But even with the bar set on the ground, CBS couldn’t get over it without tripping. Audio issues plagued several viewers in the early going, and even after that glitch was ironed out, Nantz still always sounded like he was in a phone booth. Throw in some just odd moments – the cutaway from the trophy walk-up to a random silent crowd shot – and an overall struggle to make a blah game feel any less blah, and CBS fumbled the NFL’s 50th.

Anyone watching the game for the ads

It’s been a realization creeping in over the past several years: Super Bowl commercials suck now. The buzz and anticipation for watching Super Bowl ads easily outweighs the actual experience of watching the ads.

And it’s not entirely the ads fault, you wannabe Don Drapers out there. More and more, we already know what the commercials are well before Sunday rolls around. That Key and Peele spot, for instance, would’ve been a must-watch if I didn’t already see it and know it was coming. Instead, it just became noise, something I could easily ignore.

At least that one had the excuse of wanting to set up their alternate Super Bowl announcing, however. In the case of the Willem Dafoe Snickers ad, the avocados spot and even the puppymonkeybaby commercial, all of those would have been fun surprises and jolts – if they hadn’t been revealed days earlier. Why spend millions of dollars on a prime Super Bowl ad slot if you’re just going to ruin the surprise days earlier? Why summon all of the bizarre creatures from your mind and celebrity cameos in your rolodex to just plop the ad down early?

There’s rarely ever a sense of surprise during the Super Bowl ad breaks anymore, one of the rare times the entire nation sits down to experience something at the same time. Maybe it was always this way – and I’m sure ad geniuses have charts and surveys and all sorts of things to explain why it’s better to get the brand out early than wait for the big game – and this was certainly an improvement over past years, where every ad was an ad for a longer, better ad somewhere online. But now, they’re ruining the best tribute to shameless American commercialism next to "Supermarket Sweep." If I'm going to turn off my brain for five hours for ads, I better be entertained.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.