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Posterized March 2018: ‘Gemini,’ ‘Isle of Dogs,’ ‘Foxtrot,’ and More

Written by on March 2, 2018 

“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.

In a five Friday month, March 2018 doesn’t disappoint with way too many releases to even begin to touch upon the artwork of all. The fact that every wide release from Death Wish (March 2) to Gringo (March 9), Pacific Rim: Uprising (March 23), Sherlock Gnomes (March 23) and Ready Player One (March 29) has multiple, uninspired character sheets doesn’t help. (Sorry, this means I won’t be bringing up the poor perspective-induced stilt leg on the latter—link.)

I can thankfully afford to ignore them all because the indie and foreign slate is both expansive and (mostly) attractive in print. What’s truly surprising among them, however, is my ability to make three distinct groups based around a single aesthetic/aspect within. The design hive mind is in full effect with certain poster tropes proving effective in the past and therefore highly mimicked for better or worse.

The Outliers

This is not one of those sections as these four have very little in common.

The first for The Leisure Seeker (limited March 9) isn’t even a poster I particularly like. Its image is nice with a dynamic crop of actors in character, but what’s with the lined frame as route for the tiny RV? Why was it deemed more important than keeping the leading between “The” and “Leisure” manageable as two parts of a three-part whole? I don’t even want to hear the reasoning.

I’ve included it hear as a placeholder for the weirdly captivating illustrative posters from the Pacific. Why this film about an aging (and tragically ailing) couple traveling the United States caught the attention of Spin Destiny to release these two pairs of colorful artwork is beyond me, but here we are.

I’m a fan of the first coupling with their imperfect portraiture that look nothing like Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren while also looking exactly like them. A bit of soft focus collage enters to give some insight on their roles with pills, booze, books, and ice cream and the result is nothing if not worth a turn of the head.

The second is more Photoshop filter chic with ornate framing than true illustration, but they still have style. I guess 72 and 82 are the new 22 and 32 out west. I’d definitely rather see character sheets of these two with actual history on their faces than the airbrushed smoothness of those A-listers who are just beginning.

This next one proves I didn’t ignore all the behemoth releases this month. I just couldn’t leave this spirograph collage for A Wrinkle in Time (March 9) off the docket. BLT Communications, LLC could have just done the usual heads upon heads or that popular irregular grid of boxed heads, but they instead came up with this colorfully layered work at the convergence of art and commerce.

The line that cuts the page in half diagonally doesn’t seem to break-up the content in any meaningful way (I haven’t seen the film or read the book) because the designers decided on a visually radial transition rather than linear. Our eyes go to the center title and spiral out through the warm oranges to cool blue-greens. I like that Reese Witherspoon’s hair becomes part of the palette and how color itself is stripped away as we move closer to the edges (save Michael Peña’s glowing eye). There’s a lot happening here formally than you would initially assume.

InSync Plus’ curtain teaser is another effective part of the film’s campaign and if I’m being honest the other collage sheet is too (it uses prism fracturing to isolate different heads instead of the aforementioned irregular boxes). And you have to like the character sheets in close-up with magic and glitter. LA doesn’t feel pressured to put names on them because they know the images speak for themselves. That isn’t Reese, Oprah, and Mindy. It’s Mrs. Whatsit, Which, and Who.

For The China Hustle (limited March 30), faces aren’t even necessary. P+A takes a page out of Headhunters‘ book with a suited man adjusting his tie. Rather than rubber gloves sparking interest, however, this one is all about the pins: an American flag on the lapel and a Chinese flag on the cuff. It smells like corruption to me, the visual helped along by a tagline about “No good guys in this story” and mention of the Enron documentary.

The whole is a nice piece with symmetry broken by those parts that tell its story. The title is simple sans augmented by color and “$,” the text almost too small to read everywhere else. Those pins really are the draw. And let’s face it: anything with those two countries together under the umbrella of “hustle” will raise eyebrows.

I finish this mishmash of styles with Claire’s Camera (limited March 9). This is a poster that should by all accounts make me look away real quick, but something about it works. The color is bold, the circles arbitrary, the cutout dog staring at us as though hit wrote the pull quote is beyond quirky, and that cursive font above the circular window of actors makes me think of a diner sign. Yet here I am thinking, “Yeah, but it’s kind of cool.” C’est la vie.

Double Vision

There are many ways to do the double exposure trick in design. They don’t all work.

I Can Only Imagine (March 16) goes the safe route with a close-up and long shot. The former is to provide a focal point: the star of the film. The latter is the give us an established setting: in this case the relationship between the star and another. There’s nothing exciting about what’s going on here, though. If anything its staid aesthetic walks into what appears to be a spiritual direction as the actor looks towards God while the two of them walk towards a light of hope in faith. It’s therefore very generic and yet probably extremely successful in beckoning its target demographic closer.

Outside In (limited March 30) goes the bad route. I really don’t think any explanation can make this poster better. It takes its two leads and gives them equal weight with medium shots from their torsos up. It then plays with translucency until they have no choice but to compete for our attention. Where this could be a good thing where our gaze moves back and forth, the act of placing them on top of each other only means frustration. We are forced look at both simultaneously and neither in the confusion.

Gemini (limited March 30) shows us the “good way.” Its actors are on even footing, but merged in a way that allows them to be seen together and separately. Their dark hair becomes a convergence point, the two forming what might be a mirror, depiction of multiple personalities, or just two friends. The third image of trees adds another layer of reflection, it being upside alluding to a car window passing by. There is friction in their looking away, mystery in the dramatic purple, and intrigue in the tiny gun easily forgotten at bottom.

Ismael’s Ghosts (limited March 23) proves a beautiful hybrid of everything that works in the previous three. It deals in a close-up and medium shot with one solid and the over almost transparent. Marion Cotillard becomes a complement to Charlotte Gainsbourg rather than competition or even equal. Their imagery works in tandem to build a relationship between hemispheres and color—both of which become intentionally divided by the designer. Cotillard is the same subdued color as the critics’ quotes, fading into the background. Gainsbourg is the same high contrast white as the title and cast list, popping them above the darker wall below. The sheet provides two disparate halves deftly made into one cohesive whole.

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