When the first posters were released for Benjamin Button I struggled with what to say about them. That was months ago, but I’m still struggling.
I’m basically mesmerized by what are, on the surface, very simple posters. Just the actors faces against a pitch black background.
And yet, there is something more in there. The expression isn’t quite right. It’s neither happy, nor sad, nor anything easily comprehensible. There is a weird hint of timelessness in them. And there is something else, something I can’t quite put my finger on, but that makes looking at them endlessly fascinating for me.
And if the above paragraph didn’t make much sense for you, all I can say is that it didn’t make much sense for me either. Like I said, struggling.
There were a series of other posters released later which hinted at the larger story of the movie and its somewhat epic scope. It was nice to have posters that actually told us something about the film instead of just showing the stars faces. And yet, I found then almost completely forgetful. Meanwhile Pitt’s face haunts me.
If I had to choose one poster to add to that big list of posters of Oscar winners, one of the early posters for Ben Button would be my choice. This has, of course, a lot to do with the fact that the other options are rather weak this year. Not bad exactly, just uninspired.
And just to reiterate what I said last year: I’m very glad the academy isn’t basing its choices on the posters.
The Reader has had quite a few different posters, but most focus on some variation of Ralph and Kate sharing something. The above variation is my favorite because of the way it combines the most interesting elements of the other posters into one nice package.
It is basically a classic “very serious movie” poster. The white background, the polished photos of the stars, the carefully crafted borders and lines, they all scream serious grown up drama. Which is what the marketing campaign was ultimately trying to sell, both to the public in general and to the Academy, or at least that is what it seems.
There is also, it’s true, a soft touch in there, a hint of romance. But that is very compatible with the serious drama sell, or at least with this particular iteration of it. After all true love, and that means not the adolescent type, is one of the weightier, more essential subjects grown-ups have to deal with.
It’s not a bold poster. It’s not a widely creative poster. But I appreciate its solid execution.
When I first saw this poster for Slumdog I knew close to nothing about the film, and my reaction was basically “this is very ugly”. I hated the shining, colorful lights, the floating semi-transparent head, and, worst of all, the cheesy “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” inspired substitute for a tagline.
As I learned more about the movie I started to understand the choices in the poster. How the millionaire thing was actually directly related to the story. How the style fit with some of the movie, and so on. No longer I was flabbergasted by the the elements of the poster. It all made sense.
And it still looked very ugly.
But at least it’s sort of an unique design.
The first time I saw the above poster I thought the background was a photo of actual milk being poured. Seemed like a lovely literal interpretation of something one wouldn’t expect to be interpreted literally.
Well, it’s not milk. But I imagine the designer was conscious of the resemblance and got a kick out of it.
Outside of that the poster is all about Sean Penn as Milk. It’s a safe sell, since this is probably the main appeal of the film to the broader audience and is not likely to turn anybody off. It works because Penn is great, even in this still image. But it’s too safe to really be an outstanding poster.
The other poster is basically the same, but loses the lovely white background and substitutes it for some blue and photos of the rest of the cast. I like the white better myself.
Frost/Nixon is basically an intimate, almost claustrophobic story. The poster takes a cue from that and shows us the the people at the center of this story. Nixon, swollen by shadows, and Frost in the light and looking decisive, almost angry.
Honestly, its a little too claustrophobic for my own tastes. And yet, I can’t deny that after just looking at a small version of it a few months ago the poster immediately stuck to my mind and I had no problem recalling it since them. The way the actors are positioned, their expressions and the lighting end up creating an image that might not be instantly appealing, but is unique enough to cause an impression.
This other version is a little more “open”. This kind of design is, of course, very usual. But this is good execution of it, and it generally fits the film. So it works, but is utterly forgettable. The, in my opinion, more flawed main version ends up being much more interesting, at least for me.
But no home run here.
So, the Key Art Awards winners were announced this weekend in such categories as best campaign, best action/adventure/horror trailer and a bunch of others that no one here cares about. Now, about the posters…
I was initially a little bothered that my very favorite category, horror posters, had been put together with Action and Adventure this year. Then I noticed all the posters were Horror posters. The adventure and action poster selection must have been pretty bad, because this isn’t a particularly strong selection of horror posters.
Looking at my horrors of 2007 post I can’t say I see any domestic poster from 2007 that really belonged here instead of the nominees, so I’m not complaining about the choices. And Grindhouse also seems like the obvious winner, so no problem with that either.
Continue reading Because Second Guessing is Fun: The Key Art Awards