Monday, 28 February 2011

The Oscar for best poster goes to…

Well after all the fuss and faff of the past ten days I can announce that the Low Yo-Yo Stuff poll has awarded the best poster design for the 2011 Oscars to… Black Swan!

Speech! Speech! Well Natalie Portman was other wise occupied but I can accept the accolade on her behalf and suffice to say I think this was down to the beautiful teaser campaign created by La Bocca. Well now you have seen the poster you can buy the mouse mat, hooded tops, coffee mug etc at the Black Swan shop.
Thanks to all of those who took the time to vote (all 4 of you!) and to all of you who enjoyed the posts. Normal service will now resume.

A final recap…

OK, just to refresh your memory here are all 10 of the contenders created in Lego! It just goes to show you anything can be done in Lego and Photoshop! Get voting!

Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone. Directed by Debra Granik.

An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

Design: Five33

OK the last one up is Winter's Bone I don't know much about this film as it's only getting it's release here in France at the moment. The poster on first look doesn't really tell me much, a photoshopped collage of elements, tell me it has a female lead, takes place in the wild and looks like it's not going to be Toy Story 3! The typeface looks like Helvetica with a stenciled effect treatment to the film's title giving it a cold icy look, this is echoed in the over all colour palette making it feel cold.

The general layout differs from the standard  'everything centered' approach of the majority of posters we have seen. The right ranged text balances with the girl's image, the negative space created by the trees creates a perfect place to place the text while the tree line leads the eye to the movies title. All in all a well constructed poster, if a little cliched in it's content.

It's only when you look at other posters in the series that you notice a distinct lack of consistency, certain elements are the same such as the girl and the trees but typographically, structurally and colour wise each have their own take. I don't think that one studio was responsible for all of these, if they were then their consistency checker was  at lunch the day these went out the door.

The title typefaces range from Kabel to Helvetica Neue and while trawling the net I came across a hand written version for the French release. With the placement, the film title sits at the top, middle or the bottom depending on which images are used. Even if this was down to regional taste and preferences, the same title font could have been used, all in all it feels a bit disjointed.

True Grit

True Grit. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.

A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.

Design: BLT Associates
Yep, them again!

WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE! This is what this poster is all about. It roots its self firmly in the venacular of the Wild West and in all the film incarnations that we have seen before that live in the popular imagination. I see tumble weed, smell spur whiskey, hear creaky saloon doors swinging and in the distance see dusty riders approaching when I look at this poster and all through the simple power of a font. The font used here is Rockwell, created around 1910 so it wasn't even around when the West was wild, so why use it. The western has been a long running story, and with that a lot of cliches and misnomers and the designers by simply avoiding all the wood type and associated 'cowboy' fonts have side stepped a whole 'Rawhide' take on cowboy movies and created something that hints at a 'fresh' look at the subject.

The original poster for the John Wayne version of the film again not an Egyptian slab in sight

The text is beautifully crafted, clear and shows that good typography is enough to grab the attention of the audience. The structure that is created by the text is carried through beautifully on the character posters, none of the feel of the original is lost.

This is an excellent series and one that strikes a good midpoint between what a modern big studio production demands while retaining the character of the film and and giving it some integrity to boot all through well thought out and sympathetic design.

While researching this poster I also came across the work of Aaron Horkey who created his this version of the true Grit poster as a limited edition for Mondo. All the lettering and illustration are hand drawn, with no computer aid and then screen printed.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3. Directed by Lee Unkrich.

The toys are mistakenly delivered to a day-care center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college, and it's up to Woody to convince the other toys that they weren't abandoned and to return home.

Design: BLT Associates
Yes for the second time!

Pixar movies are event movies, just like the old style Disney movies used to be. Your parents would take you to the cinemas as a Christmas treat to see the latest animated adventures and as soon as you have just finished watching one you find your self hankering for the next one, (well at least I do!). It is for this reason the the posters promoting their films don't have work too hard. With the Toy Story franchise there has already been two previous movie which have set up the style, that and the fact that every child under 12 has been indoctrinated into the cult of Buzz and Woody at sometime either through, toys, pyjamas, schoolbags t-shirts or any of the other endless merchandising avenues, I know I have a Buzz and Woody tucked away and I'm way over 12!

The brand is so recognisable now that simply using the number 3 in conjunction with the word 'toy' is enough to let you know what's coming. The typeface used for the Toy Story logo is Gill Sans Std-Ultra Bold and is probably uniquely associated with this film now. As this is an event movie there are lot's of varations, teasers, character posters, release posters, post release posters, you name it they have it, it would be pretty impossible for me to place them all here so here are a few of the character ones and one of the whole gang old and new together for one last time. One thing I will say and that is that I love what  Pixar do. The thought, care and attention that they put into all their productions, from the tiniest detail of how a character moves to pleasure they take in the craft of storytelling is evident in every frame and it wouldn't really matter to me what their posters show I'm always looking forward to the next one.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Social Network

The Social Network. Directed by David Fincher

A chronicle of the founding of Facebook, the social-networking Web site.

Design by: Kellerhouse 
Responsible for some beautiful work, like the "I'm Still Here" poster.

This just does not fit into the Hollywood poster mode, it has ignored the trends that usually popped up. Having said that it is eerily similar to the I'm Still Here Poster using a similar approach of bold type over an intense portrait seems to work better on "I'm still here" but that is another poster altogether!

The emphasis is firmly on the text here, with Futura used again to convey a bold modernism unlike it's use in The King's Speech to convey a 1920's sense of Englishness. The text is very well written and plays with the subject matter on so many levels that talk to it's audience. The layout also plays with a certain sense of the person behind the phenomenon, we have all heard of Facebook but less about it's founder. Another nice touch is the blue sidebar that holds all the info like the films' title etc, this works not only as subtle nod to the application but as a great containment device  that keeps the focus on the interplay between the words and image. Another plus about this campaign is the fact that there are very few variations. In my searches I could only come across one other.

This one uses elements from the Kellerhouse design but transplants them into a standard Hollywood format, it uses a serif font for the film title which for some reason appears in a box instead of sticking with the custom typeface created for Facebook by Joe Kral. Personally my eye is still on the previous one!

Friday Photo

Spider-man tattoo, Northern Ireland, 2008

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Kings Speech

The King's Speech. Directed by Tom Hooper.

The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.

I can't find a credit for the poster above but other posters that have been created for this have been done by:
All City,
Momentum Pictures

This poster is clear clean and effective. It touches on all the governmental information posters of the 1930's especially the little crown over the 'I' it brings to mind the Keep Calm and Carry On poster while remaining in the present. The layouts use of space with the image of Colin Firths' mouth poised to speak to the Nation enforces the film's title and communicate a sense of anticipation.

Another thing that I like about this poster is the fact that you can see Colin Firths' pores! No smoothing over in Photoshop here a la Miss Portman. This little design decsion adds an authenticity and realism to it which echos the fact that it is based on a true story. I have read so many comments on film sites where people are aghast at the fact you can see real skin! God we have become sensitive flowers!

The one thing that does jar with me is the typeface used. If I was thinking of an English typeface from the 1930s, there would be only one choice and that is good old Gill Sans but for some unknown reason the designers have opted to go for Futura, I wonder if this has anything to do with Mr. Gill's questionable past?!

Where this film falls down is the plethora of other posters that have accompanied it's release, some follow suit perfectly, a change of colour from the mustard to red or orange, while others look like a bad paperback edition of the film released by Mills & Boon. Some use Gill while others use some sort of embossed effect serif as if alluding to an official seal and they all use the little crown to some extent. In general they all rotate around the same premise but fail to be as effective and direct as the main poster, this is probably due to studio pressure to feature shots of the main actors. Here are a few of the other posters I'll let you decide for yourself.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Desmond Paul Henry

Serpent by Desmond Paul Henry, V&A collection
Just heard about the Desmond Paul Henry exhibition which is opening at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester this week.
I hadn't heard of him or his work before so when I googled his name I was confronted a bit surprised as to why I hadn't, here is a bit of a biog on the man taken from the V&A site to give you a bit of background:

Following service in the Second World War as a technical clerk in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Desmond Paul Henry took a degree in Philosophy at the University of Leeds. He went on to teach at the University of Manchester, where he remained until his retirement in 1982.
Henry had attended evening art classes prior to the war, and remained fascinated by both art and technology. In the early 1950s he purchased a remaindered Analogue Bombsight, a machine previously used by fighter pilots for accurate bombing of targets. Henry adapted this device to create a drawing machine. His first exhibition of machine-made drawings was at the Reid Gallery in London, in 1962, and it brought Henry and his machines considerable publicity.
Henry continued to create and experiment with new drawing machines throughout his life, and in 2002 Henry developed his fifth drawing machine, based around a pendulum design.
The drawings created by Henry's drawing machine are beautiful frail veils of lines that bring to mind old bank notes and x-rays. He first used biros then added colour by adding different inks to tubular pens. What I love the more I read about him and his work is the way that these drawings were born out of two passions which are rarely twinned; engineering and art! Looking at a machine and noticing it's mechanical, ticks and turns, it's swings and shudders and then thinking about capturing this as a physical line is jump of genius that is explored more in art (see Yves Klein – Cosmogonie series) and that is being carried on by designers like Jon Maeda today.

Here are a few more of Henry's images you can find his website here and the exhibition at MOSI runs from now until the 7 May.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Kids are Alright

The Kids are Alright. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

Two children conceived by artificial insemination bring their birth father into their family life. 

Design by:?

OK if you were expecting The Who living it up before Keith Moon went to the 'big gig in the sky' then your going to be a bit disappointed. This Kids are Alright is a film about a lesbian couple who have had kids by the same sperm donor and now as the kids come of age they want to find out who their Father is. Just as Inception screamed 'special effects Blockbuster!' this poster screams 'Family based Drama!' The colours are bright and fresh, almost summery which is complimented by the image nestled at the bottom of poster enjoying a nice meal outdoors, you just know that there will be highs and lows but essentially it will be all fine by the time the credits roll and you shuffle out into the cold.

The typeface used is Avant Garde Gothic a firm design favourite but one that is more often seen gracing record covers than movie posters. The text is nicely contained in a well defined block with well proportioned sizing of the various typographical elements. All floating it a blue sky. It breaks away from the standard Hollywood formula and as a result feels less heavy. I do find the yellow text a little 'buzzy' and hard to read, especially at smaller point sizes, but who reads all the text on a movie poster anyway!

As we have seen so far there are inevitably variations on the main poster wither it's more actor focused or gives the viewer an expanded view of the film. With this release there s only one other poster that looks like it was only constructed to hold all the nomination credits and gongs. it falls way of the mark set by the original and is the kind of poster that has me looking for the door! 
The large blocks of colour interspersed with head shots and over sized quotes  just makes me shiver. This poster holds more stars than most constellations while that lovely constructed block of text is squeezed mercilessly into one corner. When I look at it, it makes me think I've just lost at a game of celebrity Tetris which is never a good thing. 

The French version isn't much better either, it falls well into the usual approach for 'domestic blockbusters such as L.O.L., again lost is the nice fresh construction of the original.