I pit the originals against the remakes
April 5, 2015 4:17 AM   Subscribe

 
Neat post.

It seems to me that the reviewer often docks the original posters if they look dated without similarly docking the posters of the remakes that look like products of their time. Sure, the old Day of the Jackal poster looks like an Atari game, but it also looks really cool... why doesn't the modern version get voted down for looking like every other action movie poster from the 90s and 2000s? If the criteria are based on the aesthetic sensibilities of contemporary designers, then of course the modern posters will dominate, and it makes the list seem faddish.
posted by painquale at 5:18 AM on April 5, 2015 [27 favorites]


Not only is the presence of Eddie Murphy wrecking films these days, but it’s also wrecking posters that look like they were designed in Word.

Eddie Murphy movie posters designed with WordArt in Word: Norbit, Imagine That, Dreamgirls, I Spy Showtime, Bowfinger, Metro
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:21 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


IMO, the original Nikita poster is, far and away, the best of the bunch. Both King Kong posters are awesome, too.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:24 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Neat idea but I seem to disagree with him about 90% of the time. He keeps putting down the older posters for looking old.
posted by octothorpe at 5:28 AM on April 5, 2015 [29 favorites]


Huh. I guess I've never noticed it before now, but I really hate movie poster taglines. And they are more prominent in most of the older ones. If not for the taglines, I'd mostly prefer the older posters.
posted by gaspode at 5:34 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


From the Dawn of the Dead comparison: "Either way, the 2004 is clearly far better than it’s man-with-a-rash older brother."

Could not disagree more. That original Dawn of the Dead poster freaked me out as a kid and continues to do so.
posted by Librarypt at 5:40 AM on April 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


IMO, the original Nikita poster is, far and away, the best of the bunch

The Solaris poster is also great, if you like that sort of thing. Although I don't the think the reviewer understands either the poster or the movie.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:42 AM on April 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


If the criteria are based on the aesthetic sensibilities of contemporary designers, then of course the modern posters will dominate, and it makes the list seem faddish.

This. So many of their preferences seemed based off how much a given modern poster followed certain rules, such as how easy to read the poster is, without regard for the overall visual effect of the poster, or how much the designer did something unique. I think the 2002 poster for Shaft is cleanly done but boring and a generic example of 2000s posters, whereas the 1971 version looks badass and has its own goddamn font, and the taglines look like they belong. The 1971 one doesn't even get mentioned in his write-up.

It's ok to evaluate posters on their sheer effectiveness in conveying title and billed stars, but you should say that up-front.
posted by JauntyFedora at 5:45 AM on April 5, 2015 [17 favorites]


Like movies themselves the posters have benefitted from advancing technology, but they are also more prone to be shoehorned into cookie-cutter stereotypes. The reviewer doesn't seem to have any awareness at all that 1970's posters were laid out with razor knives, tac-it, and airbrushes and no Photoshop.
posted by localroger at 5:53 AM on April 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the whole thing just seemed to be one lengthy statement that the author doesn't like classic movie posters. They lost me at Dawn of the Dead and finished it off with Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The idea that horror movie posters are "clearly" better today means a total buy-in to the contemporary movie poster aesthetic, and no love at all for the classics, in a way that is totally not merited. The worst offender is probably the Day of the Dead remake, where the poster is plain awful but given praise over a deeply '80s predecessor.
posted by graymouser at 5:58 AM on April 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


It seems to me that the reviewer often docks the original posters if they look dated without similarly docking the posters of the remakes that look like products of their time.

Yeah, I have to agree with this. The guy is looking at the old posters through his contemporary design goggles and, of course, coming to the conclusion that the new posters are better. Posters are works of and about their time.

Design and advertising styles change. And so does the actual process in which these posters are created. Contemporary posters have the great advantage of today's digital design and art-production techniques. The posters he judges as being so much better simply could not have been produced very easily (if at all) before digital tools became the norm.

He's also judging these posters out-of-their intended context...On a wall with lots of other posters. Try this...Take all the horror movie remake poster that he seems to love, and line them up next to each other on a wall, and see which, if any, stand out and catch your eye. My guess is that most of them simply blend together in a sort-of contemporary-horror-art-style sameness.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 AM on April 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


Somehow you can tell that this guy thinks that the original films are boring and slow moving and don't have enough shaky-cam.
posted by octothorpe at 6:08 AM on April 5, 2015 [18 favorites]


Something the reviewer overlooked is how much the remakes trade on the reputations of the originals. It's easy to sketch in "girl covered with blood" for CARRIE, if you've seen CARRIE already.
posted by SPrintF at 6:11 AM on April 5, 2015 [25 favorites]


They lost me on the third item.

Sorry, kids, you fail History of Illustration.

I've never seen that Bad News Bears poster before yet even reduced on the web page I recognize the art of Jack Davis. Seems like you'd mention that even if you somehow preferred the more generic looking remake poster.

That'd be like saying you prefer a remake of a Fantastic Four ish, without acknowledging that the original was done by Jack Kirby.
 
 
posted by Herodios at 6:14 AM on April 5, 2015 [26 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks the main conclusion to be drawn is "almost all film posters are crap".
posted by fullerine at 6:19 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


When designing a movie poster for a client, you definitely don't want the poster to look dated. Certain designs will look fresh and trendy, and others won't. So, there's market pressure on working designers to overly value fresh design and treat it as objectively good design. I think these reviews muddle between timeless design and trendy design. In justifying his or her choices, the reviewer values things like textured backgrounds (e.g. Day of the Dead and The Hitcher). But those are just fads that will eventually look as dated as color gradients.

The verdicts on Day of the Dead, Night of the Jackal, and Manhunter are the most egregious, I think. And I'm baffled by the praise for the remakes of The Hitcher and The Italian Job.
posted by painquale at 7:09 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


That it favors slickly bland art over rougher art with character seems oddly symbolic.

And yes, as wrong as can possibly be over Dawn of the Dead.
posted by Artw at 7:15 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah I was put off by the constant slamming of posters that ....look like the ducts of thier time? Lots of text and quotes? Yep! Ever seen full page magazine ads from the 60s-70s? Lotta words.

Also, some remakes allow you to compare exact same scenes! Manhunter vs. Red Dragon (self link)
posted by The Whelk at 7:24 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Through most of this I was feeling vaguely distressed that I kept picking the 'wrong' one as my favorite, but then I got to this line: "... the logo makes me smirk in it’s originality when compared to the 2007 version." And now I feel completely absolved. Anybody who smirks at a logo needs to pause a little longer before they say words.

(still, this was a fun piece! I didn't realize about a third of these movies were remakes in the first place, and in many cases I liked both posters equally, so it was interesting to see the kinds of things other people are noticing when they look at a poster. I stand by my statement that nobody should go around smirking at logos in broad daylight, though)
posted by DingoMutt at 7:36 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm with everybody who says this is more into current styles of "big movie name" and "subordinate names of stars" as a yardstick for all movie posters. But I'm also confused because it seems like a lot of the "old" posters are taken from, like, DVD covers of the late 90s-early 2000s.

This is the actual 1973 poster for Day of the Jackal, for example, which I think wins even by the goofy name-size metrics.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 7:38 AM on April 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


I disagree with the commentary in just about every single instance. No, generic Trajan does not win. Fuck you. (Is this an April Fool's gag or something?)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:48 AM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much of modern poster design is driven by contractual details of the talent?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 8:15 AM on April 5, 2015


If anything when I look at comparisons like this, I often find myself choosing the older ones because of a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for older art forms.
posted by Fizz at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2015


I think the Sabrina poster is from a re-release -- why would they refer to an Audrey Hepburn film that was a few years in her future? I think this is the actual poster.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 8:34 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anybody who smirks at a logo needs to pause a little longer before they say words.

He also smirked at a quote from The Amityville Horror. I imagine a man sitting by himself in a room, periodically smirking at a computer screen.

However, I enjoyed looking at the posters. I noticed handful of the older ones seem to tell a little story or depict characters interacting with each other, while in the updated version the characters have stopped what they're doing and turned to look at the camera. And I find the 1985 Day of the Dead poster exceptionally creepy.
posted by frobozz at 8:42 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ha, this is, judging by the Amityville Horror entry, kind of crap! He says the new one's "logotype" "does direct the eye better, especially with the far more interesting imagery", but the new one makes it seem as if the horror is a creepy-looking dude who happens to be outside a house that, sure, can be construed as having a face, whereas the older one makes it clear that it's the house, and also gives the house a much stronger facial feel. (I'm not sure I'd've noticed the new one's house if not primed by the old one.)
posted by kenko at 8:45 AM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's like he isn't really thinking about the context of the movie posters, or the content of the films they're posters for, or what they were/are used for, at all.
posted by kenko at 8:47 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think a point being missed is that the remake posters are intended for an audience that already knows what the movie is about. It's an audience that lives in a world where the original exists. Like, The Amityville Horror. You just have to show the image of the house with the windows that look like eyes and boom, most of your job is done.

These posters are supposed to signal that if you see this movie, you will feel nostalgia, even the horror movie posters. That's a very different task than the original.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:50 AM on April 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


I really hope this guy isn't a graphic design instructor somewhere. If so, his students will have a lot of un-learning to do, once they get out to the real world.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:51 AM on April 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


My takeaway from this is that there really needs to be a remake of Zardoz, so he can compare the posters.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:56 AM on April 5, 2015 [16 favorites]


The original looks far too much like the cover for an Atari game than a movie poster

If this is true, it means that Atari cartridge covers from 1977 look too much like movie posters from 1973, not the other way around.

And he notes that he's using a DVD cover, not a poster. Which is weird because you can find actual posters for Day of the Jackal (1973). I like the 1975 Polish one.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:01 AM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


The King Kong ones really clinches it for me. The original is great example of art deco that stands on its own while the new one is just an annoyed looking Naomi Watts standing in front of a CGI gorilla.
posted by octothorpe at 9:08 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm baffled at how often the write-ups skip any real analysis and just tell us that one of the posters (frequently the modern one) is 'clearly' or 'obviously' better.

I mean, i disagree strongly, but if you're writing: 'Do we even have to ask?' Don't include it as an example. Otherwise, save the lazy self-evident schtick and talk about them!
posted by AAALASTAIR at 9:15 AM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Anyone who dismisses a seventies artifact because it features Burt Reynolds' chest hair isn't suited to offer any analysis of anything from the seventies, ever.
posted by bendybendy at 9:16 AM on April 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


Author misspells the word "its" so often that I ran out of "sics" to quote him.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:16 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's OK for this guy to have his opinions. But he seems not to understand that the reason for a poster is to tell people what kind of movie it is. In "The Bad News Bears", all you have to do is see the Jack Davis artwork and you know that this is a movie for smart-alecky kids who read Mad Magazine. The smart-alecky kids are not considering the type-face. For almost all the older posters, he is not aware of context that I, a person around back then, can instantly translate. It has less to do with good or bad and more to do with "effective" or "not effective".
posted by acrasis at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's like he isn't really thinking about the context of the movie posters, or the content of the films they're posters for, or what they were/are used for, at all.

Case in point: for House On Haunted Hill, Vincent Price = "some guy with unexplainable hair".

And for La Femme Nikita / Point of No Return -- they missed the great tagline (which doesn't appear in this poster, and may actually have been from a review):
Little black dress.
Big black gun.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:21 AM on April 5, 2015


The King Kong ones really clinches it for me. The original is great example of art deco that stands on its own while the new one is just an annoyed looking Naomi Watts standing in front of a CGI gorilla.

King Kong (1976) had a sweet poster.
posted by cazoo at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


My takeaway from this is that there really needs to be a remake of Zardoz, so he can compare the posters.

The problem with remaking Zardoz and a lot of other 70s films is finding the actors willing and able to do the swimming pools full of cocaine required to get into character. Maybe you could try it with bath salts or something... I don't know.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shia LaBeouf would probably be up for it.
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I agree that it's important to consider that the original film is part of the context for the remake. For several of these - Carrie, Ocean's 11, Manhunter/Red Dragon - the latter only works so well because the former exists. Showing a girl covered in a dress wasn't iconic until the 1976 film. Same with the Hopkins/Lecter face (though in this case it is because of Silence).

What I found most interesting than the comparisons was the talk of design they brought out. Which is one reason I'm glad for the comments here critiquing the design standards used.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:30 AM on April 5, 2015


This guy has very different taste than me. He also seems to be cherry picking poster variants and promo images (maybe whatever google offered up?) but it's often difficult to discern what is the "singular" poster design for a film.

I think I disagree with him on almost every single thing (on the first page at least). Even the ones where he likes the older poster design better. While I am not crazy about the title treatment on the modern THE FOG poster, the graphic itself is eye catching and interesting - especially for 2005. I REMEMBER it being eye catching in 2005!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:32 AM on April 5, 2015


Also, why does he feel the need to "smirk" or "giggle" at (what I would consider) very good, classic, hand drawn title treatments?
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Solaris poster is also great, if you like that sort of thing. Although I don't the think the reviewer understands either the poster or the movie.

I had the same reaction. About the Solaris remake poster:

"The remake works because it skips past the sci-fi."

What?
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


That "Last Kiss" poster amuses me in that it's basically just Trainspotting but with blue instead of orange.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:46 AM on April 5, 2015


He also seems to be cherry picking poster variants and promo images (maybe whatever google offered up?) but it's often difficult to discern what is the "singular" poster design for a film.

. . . is timing, 'cuz I was just going to say that the 1960s Alfie poster shown does have problems, but a poster filled with press quotes can't be the original design (at least not in the 1960s -- they didn't start buying and selling reviews until much later).

Here are some alternative posters for the original Alfie. There is a recurring theme of Michael Caine's floating head being used to dot the 'i'; perhaps the designers thought his head resembled a stylized heart. Anyway, you can see some more representative layouts, and some interesting variations on a theme in that link without the blocks of text.

Here's one that's all pink for some reason.

Meanwhile: Can anyone spot the ligature that the author refers to in the Alfie remake poster? I'm not seeing a ligature there, as I understand the term.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:47 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


This reviewer is the worst of the internet. No sense of history, context, aesthetics, or style.
posted by barnacles at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I suddenly realized that I really, really need a Zardoz poster hanging on my wall, pronto.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


To the writer's credit (at least somewhat), someone in the comments does point out the drastic technological differences between the modern computerized design process and the older by-hand design process, and the writer acknowledges that and speculates that the modern posters he likes will look just as dated twenty years from now. Which does kinda raise the question of, "If you're willing to recognize that all posters are artifacts of a certain time and style, why even make value judgements? You can point out differences and similarities and trends without naming one better than the other."

(Yeah, I know, I violated Internet Rule #1 and read the comments. I'm an Internet Tough Guy.)
posted by soundguy99 at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The hook of the f serving as the dot of the i is the ligature.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:51 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I now want to see Peter Jackson's Zardoz.
posted by SPrintF at 9:51 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


smirk

I think the author isn't aware of the negative connotations of "smirk". Both uses (Hitcher and Amityville Horror) only make sense in context as approving statements about the design element being smirked at.
posted by stebulus at 9:52 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I join in the chorus of the "why did he chose that weird poster variant". Here's a page with all the Alfie variants. The original poster does not have all the quotes the reviewer complains about.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:52 AM on April 5, 2015


I wonder how much of modern poster design is driven by contractual details of the talent?


SWITCH JIMMY SMITS

 
posted by Herodios at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Island of Dr. Moreau feels like both posters are slightly marred by cramming the actor's faces in there. Yes, the remake has them 5x larger, but the original surrounds them with yellow outlines and has them intrude on the silhouette of the island.
posted by RobotHero at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2015


Oh wow, the entry on Willy Wonka just jogged my memory: when I was a little kid, and I first saw that old Willy Wonka poster as a VHS cover or something in the rental store, I literally thought the movie's title was "Scrumdidilyumptious".

One thing I agree about is that I prefer the movie's title to be more prominent than the actors, or especially the tagline. That said, I disagree about virtually everything else this reviewer says. They are out of their damn mind.
posted by branduno at 9:57 AM on April 5, 2015


Neat idea but I seem to disagree with him about 90% of the time. He keeps putting down the older posters for looking old.

Worse still, he doesn't understand how the older posters addressed the needs of the films.

Let’s start with getting one thing straight – Michael Caine is awesome. This poster however, is not. The huge amount of quotes thrown all over the poster where ever they can fit just makes Mr. Caine’s floating head suffocate


Michael Caine was unknown when this film came out. He'd had a few substantial roles in the previous year, some of which had not made it to the US yet, but was not an above-the-title star yet. "Alfie" is an exceptionally English film, written in a lot of slang that would be unfamiliar to many Americans and detailing a callow young man. The film could not rely on its star or title, it needed to be sold, which is what the quotes do.

There's a similar element to Bad News Bears. It's main selling point wasn't its title, but the fact that it had a headline star. Son Walter Matthau's name comes first (and Tatum O'Neill was an Oscar winner), along with a terrific Jack David illustration of the two stars.

And he prefers the new Hills Have Eyes poster? Michael Berryman is such an iconic presence in the original film, and such a magnificent visual, that he had to be in the poster.

His complaint about the original Longest Yard seems to be that there is too much chest hair and too much text, the former being one of Burt Reynold's signatures, the latter being an ad design decision that no less than David Oglivy championed, but ads have, for some reason, completely abandoned. I used to love to read great, long ad copy, any maybe nobody knows how to write it anymore, or maybe there's just a bunch of ill-educated designers who mistake their personal preferences for being the best thing for the client.
posted by maxsparber at 10:01 AM on April 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


Man, this guy just seems like a complete asshole.
posted by Flashman at 10:03 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile: Can anyone spot the ligature that the author refers to in the Alfie remake poster?

The f and i. The top bend in the f takes the position of the dot on the i.
Pretty common ligature, actually. Nice to see it used, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:09 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


*I* would have docked points for every superfluous use of Trajan. Like, in a zombie movie.
posted by sukeban at 10:10 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I join in the chorus of the "why did he chose that weird poster variant".

He mentions in the introduction (and in the Ocean's Eleven review) that he's using whatever poster Wikipedia offers as the theatrical poster. It's an arbitrary rule, but any rule would likely be arbitrary, and there has to be some rule-based method. Otherwise he'd be cherry-picking.
posted by painquale at 10:12 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It would make more sense to me, painquale, if he chose the original release poster against the remake poster. Otherwise it doesn't seem quite fair.
posted by Omon Ra at 10:15 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's an arbitrary rule, but any rule would likely be arbitrary, and there has to be some rule-based method. Otherwise he'd be cherry-picking.

I dunno. He seems smart enough to know that a re-release poster usually isn't the same as the first-release design. Any graphic artist would know this. If he's going to strike the pose of a design critic, he damned well better be critiquing apples-to-apples.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2015


It would make more sense to me, painquale, if he chose the original release poster against the remake poster. Otherwise it doesn't seem quite fair.

Is there always just a single original release poster? He mentions that Ocean's Eleven had a whole bunch of posters. He might have done this to avoid having to make decisions about what counts as "the original release poster". (But that's charitable... I actually think he went with Wikipedia out of ease and laziness.)

I used to love to read great, long ad copy, any maybe nobody knows how to write it anymore, or maybe there's just a bunch of ill-educated designers who mistake their personal preferences for being the best thing for the client.

Ads are now used in different venues, which likely accounts for a lot of the changes. Movie ads are now typically seen on billboards as people zip by, on websites as people quickly click through, on small thumbnail images next to movie showtimes, etc. Text made sense when people read magazines, strolled in front of cinemas, could pick up and investigate boxes at Blockbuster, couldn't look up movie plots on their phones, etc.
posted by painquale at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


This might be my favorite King Kong (1933) poster. (possibly NSFW)
posted by octothorpe at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm finding myself disagreeing with the choices in the articles. And, come on, there's no way the bland Remakes of the Dead posters are better than the originals!
posted by Redfield at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2015


I like that one of the quotes on the Michael Caine Alfie poster is "Often wildly funny." Sure, they could have cut it down to just "wildly funny" and not seemed to be so hesitant, but this is about accuracy, here.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:30 AM on April 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Day of the Jackel" ?!? When there are two images with the name spelled correctly right below? Gaahhhh! Gwynyth Paltro? Ffs.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:31 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


tl;dr - future roolz past sux get over it yeah
posted by not_on_display at 10:33 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


r/lerightgeneration
posted by redsparkler at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a subreddit called lewronggeneration, which highlights younger folks actively scorning the tastes of their peers and bemoaning the fact that they weren't born in earlier days, when movies were good and musicians were talented. I would suggest that this reviewer is, in many ways, the opposite of that.
posted by redsparkler at 10:50 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The poster for the original The Italian Job was fine in itself, but rather infamously wrong for its subject and has been widely blamed since for the film not doing as well as it deserved, as it brought in filmgoers expecting a serious crime film and not the ones expecting a comedy.

(The new one is the usual crap where they simply photoshop all the actors into a single shot, but it's unusually competently done.)

It's weird to live in an era where the trailers show you every single lively moment in the entire film and the posters tell you nothing at all.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I agree with the general feeling of this thread, especially with the horror films. Practically every modern horror film poster looks exactly the same (black background with a monochromey image of something slightly scary) while the older ones were often wittier, inventive, and more eye catching.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's also interesting that both posters for Carrie spoil the film. Goddamn it movie poster makers!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:29 AM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


"What do you mean the original had a really cool illustration of a human turning into a darkened wolf? Who cares about that, no one goes to the movies to see stories, they go to see actors."

This is probably the dumbest statement in the whole article.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


The text of a typical movie poster might as well just read :
Here is Nicolas Cage's face. We are presenting you with Nicolas Cage's face, because Nicolas Cage is in this film, including his face, and if you go to see this film it will have many shots of Nicolas Cage in which his face is visible.
Repeat for Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:39 AM on April 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Re: Burt Reynolds chest hair for The Longest Yard

Burt Reynolds was a sex symbol, and at the time, a hairy chest was manly and virile.

The movie is sports- and prison-themed. In fact, there's only one significant female character in the movie at all, and she's hardly there, really.

So, how would you sell this movie to a mixed audience? Meaning, how do you help a guy sell the movie to his female date?

Burt. Reynolds. Chest. Hair.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


I came in here to grump about the author not getting the differences in function between older and newer movie posters and also their apparent belief that current design is timeless, but it's been more than adequately covered.

Also, yeah, Burt Reynolds' chest hair. I was a little young for that to ring my chimes personally, but guess what, what people think is sexy changes too, just like taste in movie posters.
posted by immlass at 12:13 PM on April 5, 2015


Burt Reynolds was voted favorite actor in my high school yearbook quite a few years running. He was a big deal back then.
posted by octothorpe at 12:30 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would love to see this done competently, with actual movie posters, not DVD covers. And I would really love to see it done round-table style, with three or four conversant people who could bring different perspectives to the gig: "As a designer, I like...but as a woman, this is..." or "As a designer, this is bad...but as an actor, I appreciate..."

Would love to see a summary box, too, if done right:
[ Original Poster ]         [  Remake Poster  ]

                     Grade
         B                          D-

                Clues from Art
 Big Stars, Comedy            "Caper", Comedy

                Design Budget
   "Do it right"        "My nephew is a designer"

         Tagline Needed to Sell Movie?
        No                         God yes

              Comprehension Time
    Walking by                 Glacial Epoch
posted by maxwelton at 1:12 PM on April 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is probably the dumbest statement in the whole article.

That statement was meant to be sarcastic! The Doctor Moreau review was not done in the reviewer's voice: he was writing in the character of a dumb movie exec responsible for the terrible remake poster.

Or did you recognize the sarcasm and still think it's a dumb statement? It's one of the reviews I agreed with.
posted by painquale at 1:30 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of the original posters for the b-movies are extremely low budget, when getting a decent illustration wasn't just a matter of whipping up something in Photoshop and the quality shows. Comparing them to the new ones is apples and oranges. Also, his taste in posters is so mainstream I can usually guess his answer by picking the more boring one.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:34 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


The clothes Burt Reynolds is wearing there remind me of Elfquest. (Though the elves had no body hair, if memory serves.)
posted by stebulus at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2015


Aside from reminding me of a number of great older movie posters (I love the visual allusions to Night of and Dawn of the Dead posters, which I'd never seen) I suppose this also serves to answer the question "who is the audience for this dreck?" that I have when I see most modern movie posters.
posted by Schismatic at 3:22 PM on April 5, 2015


I was wrong: this must be the original Sabrina poster.

Also, all those Polish posters are awesome!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:44 PM on April 5, 2015


IMO, the original Nikita poster is, far and away, the best of the bunch

The version I remember is this one, which is better than both of the ones used here.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:49 PM on April 5, 2015


Don't think I've ever seen a list like this where I've disagreed more often with the author.

And I don't think I've ever read anyone who seems to like horror movies dis such iconic imagery from the drive-in / midnight movie era of the genre...I mean, "when there's no more room in hell the dead will walk the earth" is one of the great taglines of all time for chrissake!

Soderbergh's Solaris is....good lord....not a love story.
posted by the bricabrac man at 4:02 PM on April 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


What this thread desperately needs is a hundred more people commenting about how they don't like the commentary at the link.
posted by dgaicun at 4:09 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just liked seeing the comparisons.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:21 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


We can disagree about the quality of the remake posters vs. the originals all we want, but seems to me the original movies are better across the board.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:22 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I seems like the author is older than 24, which surprises me. Also, his comment on the 1933 King Kong:
The 1933 version shows Kong as the kick-ass bad guy who is going to be able to tear the city a new one.
"Kick-ass bad guy"? I can feel myself moving away from the section of the bar where the author is loudly sharing his opinions.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:52 PM on April 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


The version I remember is this one, which is better than both of the ones used here.

Going to have to disagree. The original, as shown here, is very strong visually and is quite mysterious. It is actually memorable, in that it's likely to stick with you for a longer period of time and is less likely to be confused with another movie in your mind.

The one you link to is more readable and more mainstream, but less intriguing because it's so easy to read. Plus it's distracting because the woman is dressed for a club, and I can almost guarantee the kind of purse carried with an outfit like that is about the size of a cigarette pack. Where did she get the (large) gun? I know we're supposed to smirk when a woman wearing almost nothing produces a weapon ("hur hur vagina-gun hur hur") and while I know a baby can (painfully!) make it through a vagina, I doubt carrying a .45 there would be comfortable or practical. Or allow walking...?

Moving on, it's interesting is how much the original poster suffers on this blue ray disc cover. Here, the title typography completely alters the mood of the street scene, shouting "sci-fi dystopia" while diluting the power of the woman and her shadow. The white title is telling us the woman is Nikita, and obviously the center of this story, one which looks to take place in our world, or an understandable variant. The weird, hard-to-read, title-as-building of the blue-ray disc doesn't say that at all, it suggests that, blade-runner style, that Nikita is part of a future world where the world itself will be as important as she is to the story. That's not nearly as interesting.

The zooming-in removes important elements, as well:

* Evidence of how alone the character is

* Removing her from dead-center in the poster makes her secondary to the weird title

* The super-saturation suggests a complete suspension from the "real world" as opposed to the original's artistically-licensed sunrise (which in turn suggests she's running from a night she'd rather forget)

* The original poster is beautifully balanced, with a strong diagonal leading you from top-left to bottom right, encountering the character along the way (running in the opposite direction of the triangle-shaped sign's shadow-arrow, a lovely touch), and with great use of negative space. The blue-ray cover is a complete mess, with no visual queues for your eye, and no hierarchy.

* The original poster encourages you to look around as well, and after a bit of study you become intrigued by the street-scape. The zoomed-in version does not reward a peek around, as there is nothing to peek at except the lame Dystopia Title.

Blah blah blah.
posted by maxwelton at 11:50 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


maxwelton, though he does it in other instances, comparing the original poster in its home country of an import seems to create a whole new set of issues. French poster design is undoubtedly different from American poster design, eras notwithstanding. The stuff you don't seem to like about the American poster, like the cocktail dress and the large gun, are actual elements of the real film -- in which she brandishes a .50 (even bigger!) cal Desert Eagle. Here's how the gun is concealed -- not in a purse. The shot in the poster is directly from the film (possibly a publicity shot), and clearly wraps up the key themes of the film (perhaps even the way the comics-influenced Besson initially envisioned the high concept, as mentioned above: little black dress, big black gun). So you're criticizing the film here (which is naturalistic in key ways but not realistic in many ways) and not the poster, really. I think the streetscape poster is interesting in a film noir way, but not the way to sell a film like this to American audiences, even 25 years ago. And that's even if it's an objectively better design on artistic grounds.

Anyway, I agree with many above that this design guy doesn't seem to understand much about the original movies, or even necessarily how movie posters are (or at least were) displayed. To this day my mind leaps to the lower quadrant for the title, thanks to decades of training, even if that's the wrong place for it on a DVD case. I wouldn't dream that a tagline (as with the Wonka poster) is actually the title, because it just wouldn't normally be there. There's a way in which a poster's main imagery draws you closer until you're nearly in front of it, where details like the title are visible. Also, in the 1970s certainly, movie titles and posters crucially did not have to compete with every movie ever made ever. In many parts of the US there might be only ONE movie playing in the ONE theater; even in cities the movie-houses had not yet been duplexed, quad-plexed, or 12 or 16-plexed, so selection was quite limited by comparison with today, and other media easily served to help get movie titles into the public mind. Also, while there were clearly things like G-rated, PG-rated, and R-rated films (or their analogues before or since), movies were still aimed at mass audiences for the most part, rather than trying to reach a particular niche, like the horror slush today. I guess I'm going to classify this guy's critiques as Not Even Wrong.
posted by dhartung at 1:11 AM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that the reviewer often docks the original posters if they look dated without similarly docking the posters of the remakes that look like products of their time.

Yeah, how do you not call out that Manchurian remake for the ubiquitous high-contrast big-face with fade-out off to the sides? Oh, is Denzel in this? Do tell.

While I am not crazy about the title treatment on the modern THE FOG poster, the graphic itself is eye catching and interesting - especially for 2005. I REMEMBER it being eye catching in 2005!

I remember it looking like someone thought the poster for The Frighteners was cool and let's do that again, nobody will remember that far back into ancient history. This was one of the few where I agreed with him.

Mind you, mostly I thought "wow these both suck" but that's all about my personal reaction absent the poster trying to do its job and get interest from the people of its time.
posted by phearlez at 10:07 AM on April 6, 2015


graymouser: "They lost me at Dawn of the Dead and finished it off with Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Oh my goodness. I got all the way through the list, now and I did a double-take at Texas Chainsaw Massacre when he says "by now you can’t tell me that modern horror movie posters aren’t leaps and bounds ahead of the originals."

The new Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster is bland bland bland. You can make a case for the new Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead posters. The new Day of the Dead poster is visceral at least, with the blood dripping from the mouth, and the Dawn of the Dead poster shows you the shambling hordes of zombies in a reasonably artful way. But that Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster looks like a direct-to-video cover it's so bland.

The one nice thing I have to say is the type treatment is nice. I get the sense that he values that very highly. Same again for, "Does the hierarchy of the poster follow the rules that he's been taught? Then it must be a good poster."

Also annoying: when he compliments the new Time Machine for having "that feeling of an illustration" when the old one was a literal illustration.

He also calls the Time Machine poster "another one of those “well I guess it’s better” posters," and I wonder if that goes with what I was saying about the new one more closely follows the rules he was taught so he feels he has to say it's better, even if it's also blander.
posted by RobotHero at 6:41 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess add me to the chorus of people who mostly disagree with the author's choices. He lost me completely at "...the illustrations of the original are slightly better because of the strong shading..." Nope. The illustration on the original poster is massively better in every respect that I can see. Composition, readability, the quirky style, accuracy, Mad Magazine look... Then he goes on to talk about how the font on the new poster is better. The illustration *is* the poster. If it doesn't work, you'd have to be Saul Bass to save it with typography (if you were Saul Bass, you probably would try)

He does this again and again, talking about how the original is fantastic, but the modern one is better because of the typography, even when the typography isn't as interesting as it was in the original. (See Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster. In the 70s you couldn't just tell a computer to flow text around an image... Also the chainsaw is breaking out of the borders of the image... I think it's doing cool things.) Perfect computer typography is great, but it isn't going to save your crappy photoshop-the-actors-faces-on and make-it-all-blue-and-orange poster.
posted by surlyben at 8:52 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Something else he gets wrong about Alfie is this reference to the "tag line" in the new poster: the “what’s it all about?” with it’s sinking question mark reeks of the marketing department.

Anyone who conducted more than ten seconds of research would discover that "What's it all about?" is in fact the first line of the theme song of the original movie ("What's it all about, Alfie?"), written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and performed by Dionne Warwick.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:44 PM on April 7, 2015


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