Posts Tagged ‘poster art’

A Few Wednesday Morning Links

September 23rd, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

As I catch up with the new shows, some links:

  • Ken Levine’s wonderful account of the Emmys, including his nice snark about Jeff Probst winning: “Hugh Laurie can’t win an Emmy but this guy now has two for saying “Wanna know what you’re playing for?” every friggin’ episode.” (for the record, though, I think he’s the deserving winner – jg)
  • Cable U’s Reess Kennedy on why he doesn’t think he should like Mad Men for the show, yet loves it for its branding
  • With all the other things going on here, I don’t have time to write about them, but the Where the Wild Things Are posters have intrigued me. Go here for a collection of them
  • Issue 3 of Transformative Works and Cultures is out, with, as before, a sizeable and wonderful collection of stuff
  • Fox has picked up Glee
  • The Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) has come up with its Statement on best practices regarding Fair Use for academic teaching and publishing. Read, circulate, and make sure your press sees it too
  • In an article called “Nadir Of Western Civilization To Be Reached This Friday At 3:32 P.M,” The Onion attacks one of ABC’s new sitcom (though, personally, I think Cougar Town seems like the sign of the beast itself), writing “At 9 p.m. Wednesday the ABC sitcom Modern Family will premiere, marking the least-inspired creative endeavor ever attempted by modern man.”
  • Finally, though I’ve been happy to see the Jay Leno Show draw some meh ratings, TV By the Numbers notes that the numbers could look good for NBC, even at this low level
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How to Sell a Guilty Pleasure: The CW and Its Posters

September 20th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

As I wait for more new shows this week to review, and as I find myself with little to say about the Emmy winners, largely because I agree with or can accept almost all victories (especially Michael Emerson. yay! About bloody time), let’s take a time out to look at some of the extratextuals surrounding the new shows:

I’ve been intrigued by the degree to which, in the wake of Gossip Girl’s past success, The CW has pounced upon the guilty pleasure label as being a great one with which to sell (and, of course, design) a show. Consider the following posters, for GG, Melrose Place, and The Beautiful Life, starting with GG. Analysis after the fold…
gg Read more…

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Sarah Marshall

April 6th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Sarah Marshall poster Every time I set foot in the city, I tend to walk into another film or television show. By which I don’t mean that I see a lot of filming: I mean that the storyworlds of multiple films and shows are forever poaching on New York.

Recently, it’s the cool viral campaign for Forgetting Sarah Marshall that’s everywhere. Taxis announce “You DO look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall,” “My mom never liked you, Sarah Marshall,” and “I am SO over you, Sarah Marshall,” as do the sides of buses. Bus stands, meanwhile, add to the mix, large posters stating simply, “You suck, Sarah Marshall.”

It’s a really effective ad campaign, since it seems to capture the central mood of the film. The dire need to perform one’s dislike post-breakup, and to announce it to the world, so clearly labels itself as protesting too much, as a sad ploy of the broken heart. Moreover, while Sarah Marshall’s name needs to get into all the ads so that people will know what the ads are referring to, the repetition of her name has the side effect of sounding like an incantation from a guy who just can’t stop thinking about Sarah. It’s a cringe-worthy campaign, since it shows us Jason Segel’s character as hopelessly still in love and unable to deal with it maturely, yet we’ve all probably been there, right? All that’s different here is the scale, which invokes the other salient aspect of the film: that Sarah Marshall is a star. Telling all your friends that your ex sucks is one thing, but if she’s a star, so goes the rationale, you need to use taxis, bus stands, and so forth to get the message across. Meanwhile, that scale just blows up the emotion ten-fold for us, promising us a very identifiable emotional base to the film, but also a level of exaggeration and excess that will allow comfortable comic distance and cathartic pleasure.

My lone complaint, though, is that I sort of wish they would up the ante a bit and start tagging Sarah Marshall slogans in public places. In some sense, after all, it would all be more in-frame if the Segel character’s messages were scrawled in public washrooms, on building sides, etched into subway car windows, etc., than on expensive ads. Mind you, if Time Warner can get done for being would-be terrorists, I guess Universal might want to avoid being labeled as vandals.

I’m also intrigued that the film has a restricted trailer (in addition to a general one), thereby being one of the first films I’ve heard of to realize this loophole in the MPAA censorship of trailers.

Finally, too, it should be noted, the film has a strong blog entourage, with one supposedly from the Jason Segel character, another from a supposed fan defending Sarah Marshall, and – quite amusingly – it seems as though a real-life Sarah Marshall out there has tired of the site traffic to her, and has thus dropped whatever else was there, replacing it with a photocopy of her (?) ass, and a counter acknowledging that I was the 18468th person to hate Sarah Marshall.

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A Week of Movie Posters, VI: King Kong

February 16th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Sorry — missed two days there. Business was calling. Anyways, a short one:

King Kong Poster

Another great spoiler poster, since it actually shows us Kong. Spoiler posters too often just give us logos (Superman Returns), or even when excellent, as with the Dark Knight teaser-poster shown here, still play possum in not giving us a good look at whatever it is that we want to see. But this poster boldly and confidently suggests that the film has way more to it than simply the joy of seeing Kong, and thus it offers a huge close-up. In doing so, it plays a neat game of convincing you that whereas you may’ve been interested to see how Kong looked, the movie itself contains way more of visual note (alluded to in the big cut he has: how’d he get this? we’re meant to ask).

And this week of posters ends here. Feel free to nominate a deserving poster for your own Day Seven

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A Week of Movie Posters, V: The Phantom Menace

February 13th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Star Wars: Phantom Menace poster

This is a fantastic teaser poster. First off, though, let’s realize the odd context surrounding its release. The world had many Star Wars fans, who had been living without Star Wars on film since 1983. We’d grown older and watched the originals again and again, often raising them to the status of religious texts. So, running with that analogy, a new trilogy evoked mixed feelings, as if you were told a new book of a religious text was about to be written—on one hand, there was the excitement and anticipation, and on the other the fear of blasphemy and sacrilege. So the poster needed to appeal to the former impulse while also giving some evidence that the sacred text had not been profaned. And succeed this one did. It’s remarkably simple, not too busy (as are most Star Wars posters, by contrast), and uses the icon that is Darth Vader wonderfully. Return of the Jedi’s ewoks had already concerned some of the faithful about the degree to which Lucas had gone all kiddy (and boy would Jar-Jar later prove them right!), but the idea of the Vader within the boy is dark and interesting, not at all kiddy. And, as an added bonus, we’ve clearly returned to Tatooine, and what Star Wars fan didn’t imagine themselves fighting stormtroopers, Jaba, Boba Fett, and others in the sands of Tatooine? Young Anakin’s home also looks somewhat moon-like (“that’s no moon, it’s a space station”), nicely merging Anakin’s first and last homes.

For this poster simply not to suck was an achievement, but to be this good was, as Vader might say, impressive, most impressive.

Tomorrow: King Kong

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A Week of Movie Posters, IV: Pearl Harbor

February 12th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Pearl Harbor poster

Okay, so the movie is awful. In so many ways. All hail Trey Parker and Matt Stone for immortalizing how bad the movie is in Team America: World Police. Join with me and sing:

I miss you more than Michael Bay missed the mark,
When he made Pearl Harbor.
I miss you more than that movie missed the point,
And that’s an awful lot girl.

But this poster is gripping. A beautiful image to begin with, it’s also, of course, ominous, and it effectively transports me to Pearl Harbor as the planes came in. It’s also quite smart, in that it captures a moment before the attack when the lone figure in the shot was powerless to do anything but watch, and this is the position that the movie-goer will find him or herself in: knowing what the film is building up to, powerless to react, unable to look away. I’m very uncomfortable with the patriotic drumbeating that this image engages in, especially when the film and its re-release post-9/11 would be recontextualized to justify a War on Others, oops, I mean a War on Terror; but it’s effective nonetheless, playing with anticipation (of the spectacle of destruction, and of the horror of that destruction).

Pity the film ended up a true horror to watch. Sing with me once more:

Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies.
I guess Pearl Harbor sucked,
Just a little bit more than I miss you.

Tomorrow, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

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A Week of Movie Posters, III: Home Alone

February 11th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Home Alone poster

Few movie poster images have proven as iconic as this one. I’d pose that a large part of its success comes from it navigating quite delicate terrain (as does ET): the poster shows a couple of predators looking in on a kid, who, the title tells us, is all alone. This is the stuff that horror films could be made of, or horrifying dramas about abuse. michael jackson home aloneSee, for instance, this parody of the poster for a road not taken but close enough. And yet the poster manages successfully to sell the film as a comedy, and does so because the expression on Macaulay Culkin’s face is playful. It’s not saying “Oh my god, I have one minute to live,” in other words, and the text tries its best to assure us that Kevin’s in charge. When the picture suggests the very opposite – a child at the mercy of two thugs – the poster introduces a significant amount of suspense and mystery: how will Kevin reverse the situation, and how will he “kick some butt”? Finally, while Daniel Stern looks psychotic, Joe Pesci (the more familiar face on the poster) is careful to wear a comic grumpy face, not his Goodfellas one, thus taking the sting out of the predators. Ultimately, then, the poster signals to parents that it’s all alright. To kids, meanwhile, it alludes to a horrifying situation and one of seeming powerlessness, yet promises a flip in those power dynamics, hence also promising the child viewer a vicarious experience of child power, with “I don’t need you, mommy” sentiment.

Tomorrow: Pearl Harbor

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A Week of Movie Posters, II: E.T

February 10th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

ET poster

A vast expanse of space can often draw one to wonder what else exists out there (though it’s rare to see such a sight in New York, so I’m going on memory here!), and thus the backdrop for the poster already casts one’s mind to distant stars, planets, and lifeforms. But the foreground image is the truly bold one, with its visual referencing of Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and the finger touch between God and Man. Quite bold to invoke Michaelangelo and God, but just as Michaelangelo’s image literally and figuratively connects God and Man, so too then are extra-terrestrial and human connected here, their lives, fate, existence, and being connected. Important, though, is that it’s not Man here, as much as Child, suggesting that if humankind’s first great experience with a higher, other being was with Man and Adam, its next great step forward will be with Child. Several of Spielberg’s films take up the mantle of Twain and Rousseau, positing the child at the center of all that’s important in the world, and here the act is crystallized in a visually evocative image.

Subtly, too, since we’re looking at Earth in this picture, the poster places us in the extra-terrestrial’s spot, and seemingly gives us its eyes – an initial move towards taking away the threat of ET. The child’s hand is open, not clenched or withdrawing in fear, and thus the moment of first contact is portrayed as gentle. And the text likens him to a kid lost at the bus depot, not a green goblin come to probe and destroy. Neither kids nor their parents need be scared of alien nightmares, setting the stage for one of Hollywood’s all-time best children’s movies.

Tomorrow: Home Alone

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A Week of Movie Posters, I: Jaws

February 9th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

After having discovered the Internet Movie Poster Awards site, I’m on a movie poster kick. I went browsing through their archives for some particularly spectacular and memorable posters, and intend to discuss one a day for the next week.

However, it’s perhaps worth starting by noting how taken aback I was by how dull and derivative most posters are. Scrolling through hundreds of pages of the IMPA galleries showed me endless posters that simply showed a star’s head, or some disembodied part of a young woman’s anatomy. The former style basically says, “Look, we have a star!” and thus relies more on the star to sell the film than actually getting off its creative ass and telling us something more about the film, its characters, themes, world, etc. The latter is just sexist and regressive, saying, “Look: T&A” (though legs figure heavily too, it must be stated, usually splayed open in some configuration or another). So, stars and sex sell: nothing new learned there.

But the posters I stopped on are those that set up the film in a more satisfying way. Really good posters don’t just appeal to a frustrated libido or let star image do all the work: they do what a good trailer does and invite you into the film’s world, they give you a tantalizing sense of what to expect, and then they leave you thinking about the poster and the movie afterwards. All of the posters I’ll discuss this week did this for me.

And now, I start with the best, and by best I mean the poster that bar none has had the most effect on me.

Jaws poster

I have a bone to pick with this poster. A big, 4 layers of teeth jaw bone. For most of my life, it’s been single-handedly responsible for limiting my joy in swimming in the sea. In truth, it’s not the film that got to me – I grew up with a lot of horror films and novels, and while they all scar(r)ed me in their own way, I basically knew not to worry about creatures in the dark. But the poster scared the crap out of me. And I spent two years of my childhood living next to a beach, the famous Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Australia (famous for great surfing amongst surfers, for John Fiske’s [pretty accurate] reading of a beach in Reading the Popular, and for big ass great white sharks). The idea that I could be swimming, oblivious to the fact that a massive shark was rushing to gobble me up has never really gone away. So while many blame Spielberg or Benchley for being scared of the water, I blame whoever designed this poster. Jaws was a good film, but when the real horror lies in the poster, that’s some excellent work.

Tomorrow, another Spielberg film: ET.

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Extratextuals’ 2007 Awards Extraordinaire, Pt. 4??

January 25th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

I had intended to post another installment of the awards, this one on movie posters, but in researching, I found a wonderful site, The Internet Movie Poster Awards. Not only does this site have awards dating back ten years, but they also boast a staggering 17,000+ movie posters in their galleries. I’ll wait till later to post more thoughts arrived at from browsing their galleries, and on some all-time favs, but first a taste of their 2008 award winners:

sweeney todd poster

Best Poster went to Sweeney Todd, with the explanation that “A menacing looking barber, razor at the ready, sitting in his blood-red barber chair, waiting for his next victim. The poster for Sweeney Todd is dark, disturbing, and surprisingly beautiful. A very rare combination. Little details like the family portrait in the background, the red coming from the floorboards, and the splash of blood across the title makes for a very memorable design.” It certainly has an alluring quality that makes me want to look at it multiple times. And though it announces itself as a Tim Burton film, it does so in a neat way.

charlie wilson’s war poster

Meanwhile, bringing up the rear is Charlie Wilson’s War: “Perhaps the worst thing about this poster is simply that it is bland. Three Oscar winning actors looking very awkward, especially Hoffman, who appears to have accidentally walked into the wrong photo shoot. People are more likely to see the movie in spite of the poster than because of it.” All the intrigue, excitement, comedy, and glamor of a stucco wall. If the critique errs anywhere, though, it’s in being kind enough to suggest this is the product of a photo shoot: looks more like a crappy frame-grab to me.

I Am Legend PosterBest Blockbuster Poster Award goes to I Am Legend: “A powerful image that conveys the plot of the film. The last man on earth set against the disturbing sight of a destroyed city in the background.” I still remember seeing a scene from this movie being filmed, and it was the oddest site: I walked into Washington Square at night and there was a bright white light. Moving closer, I saw about 300 people in silver green-screen suits running around. Think Cirque du Soleil meets Mean Streets. Luckily, this poster captures the gravity of the situation a little better.

Revenge of the Nerds posterOther categories (without winners listed. I don’t want to spoil them all, especially since each of the main categories has 5 nominees) include Best Teaser Poster, Worst Teaser Poster, Funniest, Bravest Poster (for posters with no faces of actors with big names), Creepiest, Best Character Set, Best Funny Tag Line, Best Serious Tag Line, and a spate of Not So Serious Awards, including Best Poster Ruined by Floating Heads, and this image from a Revenge of the Nerds remake teaser poster, winner of Best Poster for a Movie That Ceased to Exist. A poster without a movie? A true extratextual.

Neat site. Good picks. Spared me the work, too, so I’m happy.

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