Monday, March 10, 2014
Riske Business: Let's Talk About Posters!
I can't even imagine being a moviegoer who didn't know what Jaws would become seeing the movie for the first time based on that poster image. They must have been terrified just entering the theater with that level of threat hanging over their heads. I love the juxtaposition that the movie may be too intense for younger children even though the PG rating is just to the left. Imagine how INTENSE an R-rated movie would be under that logic. The poster also follows a trope I love of "Who's the biggest star?" You would think it's Roy Scheider because he comes first when reading left to right, but then Robert Shaw gets that middle bump as if he's the alpha. I love pissing matches.
What’s your first pick, Patrick?
Adam: Great choice! I love that poster. Some posters are just, if nothing else, great artwork you would want to hang on your wall. The Thing is one of those pieces of art. If I'm picking a favorite Drew Struzan, I have to go with the one he did for Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade. I just think it's as exciting as an action movie poster gets.
Patrick: Great call on Rocky Horror; I, too, like the poster better than the movie. It drove me crazy as a kid because the title meant nothing to me but it had the word "Horror" in it so I wanted to see it, yet could glean nothing about the movie's plot from the poster -- and this was at a time when the film wasn't available on home video, so I just had to keep wondering. Susan Sarandon in her underpants was totally worth the wait; the rest of the movie not as much.
Adam: Always Susan Sarandon in her underpants. What’s your next pick?
Adam: I had a bet with Saul Bass back in 1958 that Kim Novak would hold up better than his Vertigo poster. I win! #ThanksOscars
Batman. This poster is so simple, yet so perfect. It's basically “Fuck you, it's Batman!" What the poster tells you is that on June 23rd you will be watching Batman because Batman is the most important thing that will ever happen to movies. Don't even think about going to school, or work, or celebrating your anniversary -- June 23rd is for Batman. The Dark Knight will likely forever be the best Batman movie, but no Batman movie poster will ever sniff this one in terms of awe and power.
Patrick: Holy shit! I can't tell you how many times I drew that logo on every flat surface I could find in the summer of 1989 (sorry about your back, Grandma). It might be the best marketed movie of all time, and it all starts with that poster. That poster changed the way movies were sold. A bunch of movies tried to create the same kind of identifiable single image (like Dick Tracy the following summer, or Jurassic Park a few years later with greater success), but none of them could come close to Batman. Though it did always bother me that they changed the symbol on his suit and it didn't match the poster. Pick one, dicks.
Adam: If I were drinking something, I would have spit it out when I read about you drawing the Batman logo on your Grandma's back. So funny. What’s next on your list?
Adam: The Phantom of the Paradise poster is great. Are you a fan of the "official" poster?
Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Many of my favorite posters call back to childhood moments where I was instinctively grabbed by the design of a poster. Gremlins 2 is one of those, because it embraces the crassness and commercialization of the movie more than it hides behind it. It's as if it says, "Yes, this is a sequel and being excited about it is going to be more fun than being superior to it." I love the tagline and how authoritative and disappointed it feels; I can easily imagine it being read to me by Christopher Lee. The painting quality of the images fits right in with the movie, which is essentially a live-action cartoon. It piques my interest right away because I'm wondering how a gremlin got to be behind the desk of a white-collar NY office. The finishing touch is Gizmo coming out of the drawer. It might be unfashionable to be Gizmo fan (I know Joe Dante sees him as a sort of red-headed stepchild), but I've always loved Gizmo. He's cute like a Muppet Baby and if that makes me less hard-core and sentimental, I can live with it. Plus, those drawers and handles bear a resemblance to every drawer and handle I saw in my home growing up.
Patrick: Interesting that you choose Gremlins 2 over the first one. I totally get your reasons and don't disagree with any of them (every single thing about that movie was a comment on sequels, down to the marketing), but for me it's hard to top that first teaser poster with opening box.
What’s next on your list?
Grindhouse and Kill Bill Vol. 1 come to mind), but the granddaddy is always Pulp Fiction for me. The poster feels tactile with its worn edges resembling the beat up paper of a book or a magazine, and also evocative of heavily-handled film stock which is in the spirit of the genre movie roots Pulp Fiction so lovingly recreates and enhances. Everything about this poster is cool: the yellow on red of the backgrounds and fonts, the touch of putting a 10 cent price on the "cover" and the cursive used for Tarantino's name. I also appreciate the loving care put into listing the cast, as if the poster knows you're going to read it and get more and more excited as it goes along. It's funny to me how little I noticed the background lamp and window shade until just now. That foreground image of Uma Thurman dolled up to resemble Anna Karina is so striking that you almost forget to look anywhere else.
Adam: Four Rooms has a good poster too! It’s much better than the movie at least.
Patrick: I think it's interesting that several (but not all) of your picks are for movies you love. One of my favorite posters for a movie I don't love is that original teaser poster for The Phantom Menace. It's just such a clever idea and such a promising and haunting image (the movie would fail to live up to those qualities; eeesa not that good). It also delivers more important exposition than the entirety of The Phantom Menace's 136 minutes.
Adam: Good question. I think fondness for the movie has much to do with it but when I was narrowing down my list it included many movies I don't enjoy all that much (The Addams Family, Alien [been established, moving on], Escape from New York [sorry, sorry] and American Beauty). Hell, I even like the teaser poster for Freddy's Dead, which confusingly states he died at 7 years old??? There are also posters I love that are for movies I've never seen, such as The Last Emperor and Amadeus. Those are the last two left. Then I will have seen every movie.
Patrick: No, no, I get it. The world is a rainbow. They can't all be Hocus Pocus.
1. Top Gun's poster is pretty unexciting the tagline seems to have asthma (Up There.....With The Best......................Of The Best).
Masters of the Universe poster. My parents knew I loved He-Man, otherwise they might have just wondered if I liked guys that work out. There was some kind of cookie giveaway (I think it was for Oreos) where you could mail in Proof of Purchases and $5 and the cookie people would mail you that poster. My neighbor did that and he had the MOTU poster in his room. I was SO JEALOUS but my family didn't eat the insane amount of cookies needed for the quantity proof of purchases necessary, so I asked my neighbor to keep eating cookies and give me the POP so I could get the poster myself. He did (this kid ate ALL THE COOKIES) and I eventually got my poster. It's an American success story.
I did have posters up on my wall. For a while it was really just Flatliners and the first two Naked Gun movies, which I got through a Paramount giveaway. I don't know remember how I got the Flatliners poster, but I'm pretty sure it was given to me by a kid named Billy Mahoney while I was in the spirit world. He was all "Tell my story" and I was all "Cool hoodie, bro."
Point Break and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. And then my high school girlfriend started working at that theater, so I got hooked up with True Romance and Army of Darkness. My room was pretty much just movie posters and a poster of a girl in a swimsuit that Heather Wixson gave me by accident in junior high.
Adam: I feel so left out. I need to watch Flatliners. I guess there are three movies I haven't seen.
Patrick: Some lines shouldn't be crossed, dude. Some lines shouldn't be crossed.
Adam: Dude, your references are out of control. Everyone knows that.
What are your favorite posters, F-Heads? Is there a poster you love for a movie you don’t enjoy?