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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 

Center stage

Sometimes a good photo is all you need to sell your product. That’s the philosophy Late Night (June 7) took with P+A’s use of Mark Seliger’s photography. It’s very to the point with Emma Thompson looking uncomfortable about someone encroaching on her space as Mindy Kaling moves right in with warmth and love. It’s old versus new, white versus brown, and experience versus enthusiasm. Those are the contrasts the film is showcasing and thus what more do you truly need to express them?

I like that the camera is pushed in to really put their faces front and center, but doing so has left the text in a literal tight spot. The title gets its fun late-night TV flourish on the “I” while the black/red mix works to highlight last names alongside a thickness disparity despite doing nothing for the title. There’s so little buffer space around it all due to those words needing to be as big as possible that the tagline is shoehorned in at an almost illegible point size. I honestly think the whole would be better off with no tag since it being there makes us squint and manufactures frustration.

Empire Design’s Yesterday (June 28) goes all-in on its photo too, but they’re keen on running some filters to better explain its intentions. Think The Beatles’ Beatles for Sale album cover mixed with Yellow Submarine so the yellowish hues can be spun with contemporary manipulation techniques in order to lend a psychedelic swirl of washed out blues and greens. The finished product is almost metallic in nature with our eyes wondering if different parts will become clearer upon changing our perspective.

It’s a nice improvement on ICONARTS CREATIVE’s literal play on Abbey Road with boringly large text atop a poor gradient transition. That yellow title is actually lost against the trees whereas its white counterpart blinds us against the colorful clothing of the above. Sometimes a shift in surface appeal is all you need to flip the script. Like the film’s world is slightly different than ours (The Beatles not existing), one tiny aesthetic change can make the ordinary anything but.

If it’s color you seek, however, look no further than InSync Plus and BLT Communications, LLC’s stunning Dark Phoenix (June 7). This thing gorgeously does what First Man tried to do with light glare to manifest a giant ethereal “X” at the back of a drama silhouette which itself is placed against the rainbow celestial sheen of space. Who cares that they changed the font to a delicate serif when it so perfectly complements the poster’s look above franchise recognition? This thing is a work of art.

And that’s why the others are so underwhelming by comparison. Whether the familiar division between good and evil (light and dark) with Jean Grey separated in the middle or the darkly sinister glow of an eye that does nothing to excite, the posters eventually caught-up to the poor word of mouth the thrice-delayed project has been receiving on the cusp of its release. A pretty illustration from the Pacific is a wonderful change of pace, but it’s so-removed from the film itself that I’m not sure how effective it is as marketing.

While it’s not better than the above Dark Phoenix teaser, The Refinery’s Ophelia (limited June 28) definitely seeks to garner attention through minimalism. Its focused light source helps this by covering almost half the page in black so Daisy Ridley’s face and neck can scream for attention via its escape from that darkness. By letting the gold of the regal type exist on the same visual level as her hair and the curved motif of the title match that of the wallpaper beneath, everything marries together with symphonic clarity. It draws us in to take note of the particulars even if it never steals our attention for longer than that particular process demands.

Arts & crafts

With a subtitle like the one Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (limited June 21) possesses, I can’t think of a better avenue to travel for a poster than what Magnolia got from their agency. It’s a scrapbook page of sorts with cutout fabrics, patterns, and a photograph made up of partial B&W and color swatches. There’s a sense of personality and intimacy in its construction as though Morrison is telling us about her life through those indelible markers of her memory. You therefore assume this goes much deeper than just her novels.

LA takes that concept further with one of their many The Secret Life of Pets 2 (June 7) series by literally recreating the subject itself out of disparate materials. This is less a scrapbook or collage than mixed media mosaic. And none is better than the simplicity of the Gidget homage formed by a precisely shaped doily outlined with a gold glitter background. It’s a perfect depiction of the character’s persona.

The others wielding this aesthetic are fun if busier and less creative. While Snowball leans heavily on his newfound superhero identity with Pop Art moiré pattern sensibilities and comic strip flair, Chloe awkwardly uses three-dimensional objects in a two-dimensional way as though it’s composed of magazine images of yarn rather than yarn itself.

The latter’s issues are compounded with the more vintage wallpaper chic designs wherein concept appears to always trump execution. The Chloe one deconstructs her body with a fantastically stylish hand and yet places her on a boringly ugly backdrop devoid of imagination. By contrast, the Snowball one has a wonderful 70s fashion vibe with ho-hum portraiture stamped on top.

A24 decides against montage and instead lets Akiko Stehrenberger simply paint another of her brilliant works for The Last Black Man in San Francisco (limited June 7). I’m partial to the one above with Jimmie Fails standing on a hill wherein he and the buildings look crooked when the frame straightens the road out instead. There’s an existential beauty to it as though he’s walking into a wall of wind and struggling to remain upright. The typography is a bit awkward with the tiny “The” jammed in and the “in” left out, but how could it not with a title that long?

Stehrenberger’s second sheet is nicely rendered too, but it trades intrigue for content—the unfortunate reality when working for studios that want as many familiar faces as possible (“We need to see Jonathan Majors and Danny Glover!”). They can’t all be a pretty sunrise like P+A’s teaser. But even then the worst typography of all ruins things anyway. Why is the “The” not in line with the “Last”, “in”, and “San”? It makes my heart weep.

The best poster of June, however, is without question Our Time (limited June 14) by Sam Smith (Sam’s Myth). You know it’s good when the festival sheet plastered around Toronto last September remained the final key art for its US release. That kind of consistency is rare.

There’s just so much to take in from the hazy night-scene of urban skyscrapers at its back to the hand-scrawled all-caps of the title and director’s name. Add the bull looking as though it was made of paper spiraling around itself like some ornately complex single-sheet paper doll experiment and you would be satisfied without the inclusion of faces and naked bodies caught inside the contours. You can look at this thing for hours and still discover hidden treats weeks later.

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

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