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Posterized June 2019: ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco,’ ‘Our Time,’ ‘The Chambermaid,’ and More

Written by on June 7, 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.

This June’s box office is pretty much all about four sequels: Toy Story 4, Dark Phoenix, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and Men in Black: International (June 14th). I’d do everything I could to avoid that quartet if I was a Hollywood competitor too. So besides a couple other studio selections sprinkled in as hopeful counter programming, the list of releases is lower than usual to compensate for how many screens will be locked up. (Next month is looking even sparer.)

That means upping your indie release’s game to turn heads in the theater because people will be showing up in droves to see the above. It’s your job now to keep them coming back if not cajoling them into a double-header they didn’t even know they wanted until seeing your poster. Kudos to a few of the titles listed below as they’ve definitely capitalized on that opportunity.

A childhood enriched and hijacked

MGM has no qualms about playing with Disney/Pixar’s intellectual property as their design firm for Child’s Play (June 21) has taken what Legion Creative Group did on Toy Story 4 (June 21) and used it to their advantage. It’s a smart play considering both films open on the same day. While the latter targets children, the former seeks to coax a slighter older crowd embracing the desire to leave “baby stuff” by the wayside. Parents can therefore take their toddlers to rejoin Woody and the gang while their tweens excitedly sit one theater over to watch Chucky wreak havoc upon sentimentality.

Since Toy Story‘s campaign dropped first, we do have to look at their character sheets against high school photo backdrops alone. They hit the right note where nostalgia and aging go with a nice mix of subjects spanning old favorites and new. The animation quality is enough to know the latter are part of the former’s world so information beyond a generic “June 2019” is inconsequential.

If anything, the Child’s Play riffs help bolster this family film’s exposure simply because people want to move back and forth between the two and bask in the juxtaposition. They remind us of one to introduce another and the connection is nothing but a viral scheme to everyone’s benefit—viewers too.

There’s enough to like about these films’ respective posters removed from each other too.

The Toy Story 4 teaser from Proof uses heavily saturated colors to lend it an intriguing mood steeped in more dramatic weight than we’re perhaps used to with this band of toys. And the illustrated IMAX sheet from Disney/Marvel staple Tom Whalen follows suit with determined faces instead of joyous ones. With such an iconic logo and cast of characters, there’s little you can do to reinvent the wheel than add atmosphere.

Child’s Play, on-the-other-hand, possesses the room to be different if only because it’s a remake of a film whose original franchise is still running. They need to standout as both something to see above the other selections at the theater and as a totally new vision of terror removed from its predecessor (this doll is ruled by artificial intelligence and thus firmly entrenched in science-fiction rather than the more supernatural notion of a killer’s spirit taking control). That doesn’t mean Blood & Chocolate is willing to use the latest Chuckie’s face in its teaser, though. They rely on mood too, shrouding the box in shadow so fans can’t complain about the doll itself.

The final sheet keeps their monstrous toy out of frame too, letting the knife as weapon speak for itself when placed above the bed of a sleeping child. I like the texture and old school vibe of the aesthetic as well as the menacingly sharp corners of the title. The whole is hardly unique, but it does its job.

On white

When your film is shot in black and white, it’s only fitting that your poster would be too. I would have liked something a bit more stylish when it comes to Leto (limited June 7), though, since the movie itself can be quite bold visually. Instead we get a simple cast shot masked from its background so it may sit atop white while its title screams out in thin lines on black. I always find it interesting when foreign films don’t translate their titles for American audiences. Does “Leto” have more allure than “Summer”? Maybe.

I don’t necessarily love Le Cercle Noir’s rendition either, but it’s definitely more exciting and true to the source. The film has brief splashes of color (albeit never this neon bright) and a ton of rotoscoped line work throughout to augment the action during some glorious musical numbers. Despite being black and white, Leto is far from stagnant or dour. So the energy this poster owns helps to portray the perhaps surprising sense of fun and optimism it does exude.

Anna (June 21) also has a stark black and white sheet with silhouettes merging into shadows to create awkward anatomy. (Is Sasha Luss looking over her shoulder? Is she facing us? Is her gun hand seen through her legs or in front of it? This bad optical illusion is messing with my brain.)

Rather than go too in-depth with that one, I’d rather look at the French sheet from the same design firm of mattverny / vanilla core. It’s nothing special on the surface being that we get a film still and text, but the way it’s cropped provides mystery nonetheless. Because her fur coat and hat are brighter than the background, they create a windowed “V” with which to showcase Luss’ powerful stare. It also lets the dark crevice of a cut pop off her cheek and complement the red title above some Matryoshka dolls bottom right. It’s cool, cold, and simple.

By contrast, Wild Rose (limited June 21) lets the white of Jessie Buckley’s jacket bleed into the background. She becomes the focal point not through contrast, but color. The poster itself becomes the window and the yellow of her skin and hair provides the pop with its saturated shadows holding the vacuous emptiness around her in check.

I’m not on-board with the italicized “Rose”, though, since it inherently separates the titles’ two words further than kerning should allow. I get why they did it—the right side angle now matches that of the left side “W”—but it’s more distracting than appealing.

The best use of white this month is The Chambermaid (limited June 26). It’s off-white like Anna so we see every fold and crease of the fabric piled behind the woman sitting below. By refusing to let us see context with a wider look at the room, the poster creates its own sort of optical illusion by simultaneously seeming as though she is inside a cave and outside a wall. We want to enter the frame and figure out which is true, risking a reality wherein the mounds will fall down upon us.

Credit its use of typography too as the sans serif font is more playful with its curves than stoic with rigidity. The “Hs” line-up perfectly so the whole remains on a faux grid and therefore proves easier on our eyes even if the “A” is pushed farther right than the “E” above it should allow. There’s as much care towards its legibility as its attractiveness.

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