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Posterized September 2015: ‘Everest,’ ‘Sicario,’ ‘The Walk,’ and More

Written by on September 2, 2015 

“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.

I admittedly expect more out of September than the requisite Adam Sandler brood (Hotel Transylvania 2 opens September 25 – poster), sloppy attempts at merging photography with thematic iconography (Pawn Sacrifice opens limited September 16 – poster), Martin Short impersonators (Mississippi Grind opens limited September 25 – poster), and boobs (The Perfect Guy opens September 11 – poster)—yes, I’m disappointed in the selection fall has thus far brought. This is the start of festival season. We should be getting iconic designs advertising the critical darlings we’ve waited twelve months to see in our hometowns. Not the same old mediocrity summer thrives on.

There are thankfully a handful of winners, don’t get me wrong. Sadly, even they don’t truly standout as meriting much attention past fleeting admiration. Hopefully October delivers its A-game to make up the difference.


2013’s Toronto International Film Festival brought with it at least two doppelgänger movies in Enemy and The Double around now. Marketing agencies appear to have taken their lead by supplying us a healthy dose of homage, rip-off, or perhaps coincidence? The worst part is that I wouldn’t be surprised in the studio requested, “Something similar, well, exactly like that other poster I really loved five years ago.”

This brings us to The Challenger (limited September 11). What say you? The Fighter meets Unbroken? I thought as much.

The rub is that I actually think it’s a pretty good poster. I hate the title smashing “The” into “Challenger”—it’s beyond awkward. Other than that, though, the piece provides the same impactful simplicity of those it mimics. I like the boxing ring rope placed between the fighter and us. I like the dramatic feeling of melancholy on his face. Add a succinct tag in the center that isn’t overpowering in size and you have a solid advert.

I’m just into condoning my remembering a film because it reminds me of something else—especially an Oscar nominee like The Fighter.

The Transporter Refueled (September 4) is never going to be mistaken for an Academy Award-caliber film. So no worries there. It may conjure thoughts of the thin but highly entertaining trilogy that made Jason Statham a household name, though. Actually, going that route might have been the way to go. Why isn’t this new guy firing two guns whilst jumping through the air?

Instead, Art Machine, A Trailer Park Company decides to utilize a tried and true trope of unoriginality like we’ve seen with Easy Money, Need for Speed, and countless other fare. Stick the lead on a solid background, put a scene inside his silhouette, and reap the rewards only laziness can procure.

Breaking up the title into The Trans Porter Refueled is just one more detail to confuse audiences. And that’s saying something when you’re the fourth installment in a popular box office franchise.

Gravillis Inc. is the next culprit with their poster for Goodnight Mommy (limited September 11). Does its deep red-filtered image, boxed in a frame of white with added space at the bottom for title and credits ring a bell? How about after looking at Simon Killer‘s memorable one-sheet from a few years back?

It’s an on the nose aesthetic for the subject matter, but the execution pales in comparison to its predecessor. The photography is way too over-saturated to the point of these boys looking like they’ve been printed on heavy translucent latex or Jello. The hue is oppressive, the result almost cartoonish rather than scary. I do enjoy the font selection, though—the smooth scrawl, not the weirdly angular knife points sticking out of every descender in the title.

My last example of repetition is with Listening (limited September 11). This one is a stretch considering there not being any direct correlation the artist could have made. But the first thing I thought of when peering upon it was Hostel 2. The tone is drastically different, but sometimes imagery becomes so ubiquitous that you need to know if steering clear from similarities behooves you in the long run.

The imagery is arresting with its wires as hair running off the page and into our space. I’ll give them that. Unfortunately the font selection is poor—a boring choice made worse by an odd drop shadow in the middle of the letters. Why is that there?

The four Bs

This section is brought to you by the letter “B” as well as memorable artistry. Let’s just say that after seeing these after only reaching the second of twenty-six letters, I had certain optimism for what would follow. That’s where the disappointment spoken about in the introduction was born.

It’s not necessarily fresh with one or two posters a month delivering an excess of white space to take hold of our eyes and guide them through their work, but InSync + BemisBalkind‘s Break Point (limited September 4) is effective nonetheless.

The photo is goofy with its two leads posing for the camera as the child at their side is flopped on a bleacher in what looks like a very uncomfortable position. Its environment allows for sky to take up the top two-thirds and yet the designers refuse to just populate it with large and obnoxious text. Instead the title sits small and in its place—bolder despite its thin width to pop above everything else.

And the placement of the cloud is fantastic. Not only does it counter the title block compositionally, but it also gives the two men a sort of foreboding sense of bad luck like in a cartoon when a storm follows one character to infer upon his/her emotional state.

The firm’s graphic entry of a racket as line drawing works too, but it’s possibly too sparse to really make an impact. As for cold open‘s attempt—let’s try and forget it exists. Not only is it forgettable with its Photoshopped family and large, perfect sans serif letters, it’s also frightening. The faces don’t belong on their necks, Jeremy Sisto looks like Mark Pellegrino, and Amy Smart looks like the work of a middle schooler who hasn’t mastered mouths or drawing in general.

Mélanie Laurent‘s Breathe (limited September 11) earns a rather attractive bit of portraiture in comparison. Carefully cropped to be both interesting and content-driven, the frame houses its actresses in a display of natural symmetry. The washed out light at top gives it realism studio photography never could and the orange tint a fiery base shining through to the surface. Make the playful title font rougher and more distressed (like its French-language counterpart) to match the aesthetic and this becomes a pristine piece.

The French one is beautiful in its own right with the darkening sky of white space and the kinetic action of the two women frozen in time, but it doesn’t quite have the staying power as the domestic. I’ll take the latter’s emotional connection above the former’s promise of adventure any day.

With The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (limited September 2), there’s a lot to like. The illustration style’s geometry, textured colors, fading clarity, animated title—it all adds up to something unlike anything the rest the month delivers. You could say that it gives a serious subject the wrong tone, but I’m okay with softening severity to make something more palatable to the audience while not failing the underlying message.

This toes that line with ease, turning truth into propaganda painted in an era-specific aesthetic. Whereas the 60s and 70s needed to show real people with real guns to drive home their party’s goals, getting people to buy tickets asks for a bit more approachability. The graphic illustration also carries with it a sense of austerity and honor rather than journalistic exposé meant to frighten and exploit.

The “B” I find to be the best, though, is HANDVERK‘s Blind (limited September 4). Its photo of a naked woman from behind is alluring and mysterious; the censoring title in solid block letters simultaneously forcing us to spy on her as they cover her up.

Using the festival laurels as counters of the “B” is less than appealing, but it doesn’t distract too much from the otherwise formal success. Even the eccentricity of the smaller title is pleasing in its ugliness. The kerning is off so that there is more space between each letter as they progress, the “B” has no counters while the “D” does (contradicting the larger example), and the serif is a stark contrast to everything else. But it fits in its off-putting nature.

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