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Posterized July 2019: ‘Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood,’ ‘Midsommar,’ ‘The Farewell,’ and More

Written by on July 5, 2019 

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.


Disney (again) and Tarantino takeover this month and it’s not the best thing for creative diversity when theaters only have four Fridays at their disposal. Add the re-release of Avengers: Endgame to try and squeeze past Avatar for box office supremacy and real estate will be hard to come by. So it’s crucial that the little guys get the word out to steal some attention their way. And a few of the campaigns below do exactly that—if your market is brave enough to bring them to town. Sadly fewer and fewer places outside of the big metropolises have that ability anymore.


Face-to-face

Nothing turns a head faster than a white man’s face covered in Nazi tattoos, so InSync Plus (who I do believe designed every A24 poster this month to set themselves apart as the studio’s go-to firm) does exactly that with Skin (limited July 26). Despite being directed by the same man who won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film in February, this is not a feature expansion on that piece. Instead it concerns the true-life reversal of Bryon Widner from violent skinhead to activist in search of redemption—a journey set to the painful sessions he underwent to remove those “patches” covering his body.

It’s therefore a no-brainer to put Jamie Bell (a dark horse in the Best Actor conversation) front and center with full regalia intact. The first critics quote becomes crucial towards understanding “redemption” is coming for this man, but the imagery is provocative enough to pique interest regardless. That sense of hope definitely helps to sell a ticket when audience members may not want to just watch a brutal drama of racism, but the latter’s power is what grabs you first.

F Ron Miller delivers a different face for David Crosby: Remember My Name (limited July 19). This one has a comedic flavor with the singer shirtless and smoking while precariously holding an American flag wrapped gun to his temple. It’s an absurd bit of imagery that promises to go beyond the music into his personality and politics. So why not have some fun and use a photo less interested in regal portraiture than candid freedom?

And where it lets the frame breathe with white space, B O N D refuses to follow suit with their tease of Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 2). This thing is a strange-hold of oppression with the superhero pressed against the lens so we can see every single tourist sticker affixed to his mask. Will he actually end up hitting all these places during the course of the film (Prague, London, Venice, Swiss Alps, and Berlin? Who knows? It depends on what Nick Fury orders.

It’s not the best poster, but it does standout if only because it doesn’t look like BLT Communications, LLC’s Photoshop project with floating torsos on a metallic spider logo that looks like a design of tuning forks. The tease may be generic, but at least it’s not boring. Thankfully BLT increases the fun quotient with their IMAX sheet by adding some illustrative flair, but the cardboard cutout adults remain stiffly stood-up at the bottom.

Leave it to Akiko Stehrenberger to therefore bring some electricity to this section with A Faithful Man (limited July 19). It’s not her best work in that it’s really just portraiture squeezed into a frame, but it’s playful and colorful with a vintage look. Putting the title in cursive lipstick is a perfect touch too to complement the bright pink smooches left atop Louis Garrel’s cheeks.

Put it against RYSK’s French version of masked-out actors walking with artificial shadows and it’s even better. I do love the font choice here, though. The lowercase thick to thin from verticals to horizontals is attractive and almost distracts us enough to ignore how the actors are just slapped on and left to fend for themselves.


The gang’s all here

Is it still a floating head collage? Yes. But there’s personality to the poster for Sword of Trust (limited July 12) anyway due to its slapdash, off-the-edge composition. The whole thing is a little wonky with director Lynn Shelton’s credit tilted one way and the title tilted in about five different contrasting directions. Those heads therefore become an enclosure that points us inwards to read the vertical construction of text—an arrow pointing upwards so we can read down. And you can’t tell me Marc Maron starring straight into your soul isn’t off-putting since the rest look off-screen. Unsettling is still memorable.

So too is funny, the thing that Concept Arts puts front and center with their tease for Stuber (July 12). From Kumail Nanjiani’s look of wide-eyed discomfort to Dave Bautista’s tough guy squint to a dog that neither seems phased by between them, it’s a wild scene of claustrophobic proportions. The comedy of the scenario is there even if you don’t get the full details until watching the trailer.

BLT’s final poster loses that spontaneity with a busy mash-up of every single actor in weird positions that say nothing. By making Bautista unnaturally 50% larger than Kumail so that he can look down upon him with a disparaging teacher to student gaze, you lose the situational rapport. The line-up of supporting players melds together since none are given the room to standout; the tagline just shoe-horned in at center makes it difficult to read let alone spot; and the doubling of the stars at bottom is more “We have to put something here” then “This is where they go.” The old school 70s drop shadow flair on the title is nice, though.

If you have to Photoshop a bunch of people in a line, at least make it purposeful like with InSync Plus’ The Farewell (limited July 12). Why they had to when they could have theoretically gotten the actors to pose together is the problem here. My eyes see more shadows than people because the hope of faking a common light source to remove its fabrication failed.

As a composition it is serviceable, though. The quotes and tag aren’t too big to distract from the characters and the image is allowed room to exist without fighting against the title. If they got them all in the same room to snap a photo, it would have been great. And if you tell that’s what this is? I say it’s time to hire a new re-toucher.

This is why the only way to really succeed with composite imagery is to stick to illustration like BLT did by having Steven Chorney draw their Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (July 26) key-art. There’s a line of folks at middle, but they form a triangle to mimic the one created by the trio of large heads at top—driving our vision instead of stagnating it. The title is in the middle now and it’s on a background that allows it to pop without getting bogged down by its surroundings unlike Stuber. Add some scenes at the bottom to break the frame early and not keep things enclosed and you create visual excitement.

WORKS ADV’s teasers did nothing of the sort with their cutout actors on blurred backdrops of Hollywood. These things were so poorly received that they became memes on social media and inspired Alphaville Design (Midnight Marauder & Studio Stella) to draw up a concept that should have been completed from the start. Looks pretty close to what BLT did, doesn’t it? Coincidence? Probably. But also evidence that there’s a correct way to do this stuff.

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