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

Written by on July 5, 2019 

Off-kilter sensibility

It’s simple yet effective: Gravillis Inc.’s Mike Wallace is Here (limited July 26) going with a lined halftone to mimic old tube televisions and provide context as well as content. This could have easily been a full-color photo a la David Crosby above, so the decision to hew closer to how he’d look to America during his heyday rather than portraiture is worth mentioning. I’m not so hot on the title treatment (the “is here” isn’t a subtitle and thus isn’t in need of being smaller), but its bright yellow coloring works nicely against the grays to earn attention from across the room.

B O N D goes a bit off-the-beaten path with this Real D 3D sheet for The Lion King (July 19) too. Rather than showcase the computer animation (yes, this is an animated film regardless of what Jon Favreau would like us to think), they take a painterly approach with ample white space to create a quarter of “life’s circle” in the jungle. They throw out the main plot to deal directly with Simba’s formative years in exile. There’s his best friends Timon and Pumbaa, their food of choice (grubs), and their “Hakuna Matata” strut.

It’s a cool departure since most theaters are going to just plaster their walls with the full-frame character sheets anyway (see Simba putting paw into paw-print). Place it alongside LA’s lion eye with a comparable style for Dolby Cinema and you receive true artistry removed from what’s on-screen. It’s like Rafiki’s drawing: hand-made rather than computerized for that sense of love the hyper-real aesthetic risks losing.

Like Mike Wallace, HBO’s poster for Share (limited July 26) eschews convention for intrigue as their glimpse of Rhianne Barreto is put under a motion blur that can’t help but create a tense feeling of uncertainty. It’s very well composed with the fuzzy edges countered by a sharp sans serif font and the stillness of an eyeball remaining in focus to the right of center. Your own eye becomes drawn to hers to know her fear and worry about her safety. It reminds me of the sheet for Margaret, but with a more visceral sense of foreboding energy.

And while it doesn’t possess as much weight, Canyon Design Group’s The Art of Self-Defense (limited July 12) takes off-kilter to another level by rendering the whole just as effective in portrait as in landscape. All it takes is one quote block and one scene of characters at a ninety-degree angle to ensure a counter-clockwise turn won’t ruin the style. Someone will still be upside-down in both directions, the text stays legible, and the comedic nature of such stoic faces continues to shine.

This latter aspect is a key factor to the poster’s success because the simple act of having Jesse Eisenberg look constipated in karate effort conjures laughter despite its dramatic trappings. That line dark comedies toe is on full display to turn what should be a generic marketing idea of characters on flat color backgrounds into an unforgettable one.


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There’s a rough draft quality to Rojo (limited July 12) that really works for me. Just look at the central image of Dario Grandinetti and how the designer applied a “multiply” filter on him so the red circles beneath come through his pants despite retaining opacity on his head and hands. His clothes therefore become penetrated while his body does not—his part in the death of the man at his feet unavoidable no matter how hard he tries to distance himself from it.

As for the design itself: what’s up with those circles? Are they the middle of the “Os” enlarged and placed above or merely an artistic element to give the actors something to complement besides a plain cream background? They could also construct a Venn diagram in that their overlap creates a new color. We’re filtering one version of what happens through another to attempt a stab at finding the truth.

Along the same line of design for design sake is I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (limited July 19) and its stark black text on white imagery. It’s not enough to simply put a title on the page without photography or graphics, though. How the cast and crew is segmented at bottom is meticulously done with an interesting breakdown that highlights cinematography and editing away from jobs such as costume design and sound. In the end it’s just a block of white above a block of black (housing logos) to ground things and let the title float alone, but it could have been much messier with no one batting an eye. Its purpose intrigues.

If you want something that really stands out, however, look no further than Sam Smith’s The Mountain (limited July 26). This is a gorgeously minimalistic piece with two chairs facing each other in a beautifully colored room above an eccentrically composed high-style stencil font. Your initial desire is to give the photo meaning via the title—to create mountaintops with icecaps out of the folding chairs’ deliberate wire-framed cushioning. But maybe that’s not what’s happening at all. Maybe it truly is just two chairs actors will eventually sit upon. This mystery of the unknown that lets us conjure meaning out of nothing therefore becomes its greatest strength.

His second poster doesn’t work nearly enough with its repetitive faces fading away. There’s a triangle giving “the mountain” literal form as the characters simultaneously move closer and farther from us. It’s going for an almost psychedelic aesthetic devoid of color to get at the surgical precision of the tagline and yet proves too sterile in its emptiness of motive when compared to how its predecessor creates tense anticipation in its physical emptiness for whoever is about to arrive.

The unbalanced intrigue that second sheet tries to build is exactly what Midnight Marauder accomplishes with this tease for Midsommar (July 3). It’s a disturbing image masked by beauty much like the film itself. Why? Because the child is covering its face with the flower—hiding potential ugliness (physical, emotional, or psychological) with an objective form of rebirth, joy, and promise. Truth is thus contained until the last possible moment with us as viewers left uncertain of whether we’re coming or going considering this could be the child’s back or front with each arm facing the opposite direction for a fifty-fifty chance of life or death.

That sense of dread is absent from InSync Plus’ more polished photo-based work. The one of Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor walking towards an odd looking May pole is only weird because of the (demonic?) symbol we believe it’s doubling as. And the other with Pugh in tears is more laughable than suspenseful (my thoughts on the film itself) because it comes across as a Greek pledge distraught about a bad grade more than someone in mortal danger.

What is your favorite July release poster? What could have used a rework?

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