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Posterized October 2017: ‘The Florida Project,’ ‘Wonderstruck,’ ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer,’ and More

Written by on October 7, 2017 

“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.

Despite only having four Fridays, October 2017 is jam-packed with films. And so many of their studios apparently like boxes. Tiny boxes, big boxes, boxes forming shapes, and boxes in frames. Whether it’s the uninspired Marshall (open October 13) grid (link) overshadowing its predecessor’s starkly bold frame (link) or The Meyerowitz Stories (limited October 13) cribbing off the lo-fi aesthetic of old album covers with film still boxes (link), the boredom is mind-numbingly intense. Add Suburbicon‘s (open October 27) not so cute irregular grid (link) and these things start to make Blade Runner 2049‘s (open October 6) blue and orange palette over totem portraiture look interesting by comparison (link).

Sadly so few selections actually intrigue. At least eight of the ones below deserve mention, so not all hope is lost. But when Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (open October 13) rejects its comic birthright for JC Penney studio backdrops (link), it’s tough to remain wholly optimistic.

The Allspark strikes again

Hasbro is reinvigorating another of its toy lines into a potential film franchise this month with My Little Pony: The Movie (open October 6)—not to be confused with the 1986 edition that utilized the same title. Did you know it was coming out? I sure didn’t. Not one trailer passed my eyes via TV or internet despite the traffic of like-minded fare such as Trolls blanketing media everywhere last year. By the looks of the posters, maybe the studio put all their eggs in the print media basket instead.

I’ve collected four character sheets from seven different styles here. Seven. Another popped up after I began writing and there’s surely more besides that. LA did most if not all of the disparate aesthetics spanning kaleidoscope, neon lights, watery drip graffiti, anime, geometric cutouts, and comic book. There’s something for everyone.

The question: why? You would assume this property is targeting young children and yet they have no use for infinite styles that may or may not look like the actual movie animation or the dolls they own. I have to therefore believe the studio is targeting the nostalgia factor of its first generation of fans from the 80s as well as the contemporary subculture known as “bronies.” These series obviously appeal to an older crowd who may want to see what the film is all about more than their kids. Bravo if it works.

Personally I would have just stuck to the main sheets with their sparkling Lucky Charms marshmallow of a title icon and their literal representations of the characters. I’m not sure why one has the ponies looking like mermaids, but what do I know? They may be busy as far as sheer content, but each is much simpler in context than the psychedelic onslaught of hypnotic color above.

A nostalgic filter

Who doesn’t love an ugly sweater come Christmas time? The Refinery certainly doesn’t as evidenced by their creating one especially for Better Watch Out‘s (limited October 6) teaser. It’s a fun trope to utilize (see Sightseers) with room to add relevant motifs (Where’s the paint can?) and a whole lot of charm. A few blood spots here and there show we’re in for a horror-tinged and comedic experience—so do what the title says.

Unfortunately you can’t really do much with it beyond calling card. There’s enough here to put the title in your mind (it’s original name was Safe Neighborhood), but nothing to truly grab you. I’m not certain its successors do either, though.

The first is cookie-cutter with any old headless model wearing the sweater with a festive “Lucille” in his hands. While a slight lilt remains, the tone is definitely shifting to more serious territory. The proof comes in the final poster putting fear front and center. All humor is excised in order to showcase the two leads poised to fight back against whomever seeks to scare. Considering I found the film a bit unsure of itself as far as handling the tonal shifts with precision, I’m not surprised the marketing follows suit. It’s a shame that choosing one or the other can never do the film justice.

While Better Watch Out used a generic motif with its sweater, you can’t call it a copycat. No, that label is reserved for Iconisus L&Y – Visual Communication Systems’ Thank You For Your Service (open October 27). Not only is the film still with solid color at top and bottom for text a tired choice, the flag overlay can’t help but conjure Born on the Fourth of July. They are quite literally the same poster.

Does that mean it’s a flat out failure? No. If anything it improves upon the Oliver Stone advert by scaling back the gaudy text patterns and minimizing the words. You have your celebrity star spotlight, your stark white title, and your flourish of red to catch the eye while also soaking into the background’s black. And who knows? Maybe the comparison will actually sell a few extra tickets.

For P+A’s Breathe (limited October 13), the similarities to other sheets is less overt but no less prevalent. You can come up with tons of examples utilizing a sweet embrace washed out by a blaring sun, but you don’t have to go too far to find one that shares a color palette and a tree. Look no further than MIDNIGHT OIL’s A United Kingdom from earlier this year to see a sunset wash of exotic desert, the romance working overtime.

With that said, however, I do think this iteration is better than its others. It could be that I’m just done with the whole translucent text over faces trope, but this next one is extra annoying due to the alternating of line length. I felt seasick reading through it, like my body was swaying out to read the big words and in to read the small. It’ll make you dizzy.

Luckily the final rendition on this image does away with the vertigo. Sadly it throws the kitchen sink in with long critic blurbs, accolade-ready cast highlights, and a collage of stills with no purpose beyond unnecessary distraction. At least that first one had style in its composition and focus on its subject. This one is all over the place.

And that brings us to The Secret Scripture (limited October 13) and its washed out antique of a sepia-toned memory trapped as photo. I like this one because of its unique visual texture that actually muffles what we see instead of making it “pop.” And I really love the austere title block with its expansively kerned all-caps serif forming a pyramid to house a squeezed tight point of stylish lowercase script. It’s a perfect complement of sharp lines and vintage feel to accompany the aged beauty of love.

My affinity may be a result of its mirroring the atmospheric choices of another Rooney Mara picture in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and that’s okay. If you’re going to crib off of something, make it good. But my fondness could also stem from nothing more than the fact that its sibling is so disappointing. Its collage of faces is out of proportion, the shadows are made darker by its use of deeply saturated greens, and the title is all business without a shred of nuance. Love is destroyed for the potential of espionage-based thrills. Its utter lack of character makes me weep.

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