I love me some movie posters. Especially when they’re either a) beautiful enough to stand as art in their own right or b) depict the film they advertise in a particularly apt or innovative way. Thanks to the Internet Movie Poster Awards site (which is a wonderful resource for posters, award-worthy or no), I’ve been able to look closely at last year’s posters (and previous years, but let’s not push this Year’s Best thing too far–we’re already three months into a new year) and chosen several that I think ought to be recognized.
While narrowing down the choices, I did discover several biases I have–things that generally make me like or dislike a poster. Floating heads of the stars = bad. Selling the film based only on the stars = bad. Lots of negative space = good. Characters depicted facing away from us or in long shot = good. Hand-drawn, cartoony, or stylized quality = usually good. Anyway, here are my favorite posters from last year. (And regarding the order, I’ve changed it many many times even since I started writing this post, so I don’t even know if it’s at all accurate to my thoughts anymore.)
#10: Eastern Promises
Eastern Promises is about people who make their living with their hands – fighting and killing, surviving in the Russian mafia. Highlighting the hands — and the numerous tattoos that identify relationships with specific underworld factions — is perfect, because ultimately what matters in the film is what the characters choose to do with the information they gain. Plus, focusing on body parts other than the face makes for a much more interesting poster than most. The only thing that would’ve improved the poster is to have left off the strip of faces on the bottom, which really adds nothing.
#9: 3:10 to Yuma
Biases alert: character facing away from us, stylized look, focus on story (gunslinger waiting for train, seen between his legs). This was one of my very favorite posters when it came out last year, but I’ve started to cool on it a little bit because I think ultimately, it’s a little too busy. The grunge styling is cool, but there’s too much of it in too many places, too many flourishes, and the director blurb on the right side is indulgent. Still, the monochrome coloring and unusual layout make it heaps better than most posters.
#8: Spider-Man 3
Another tendency I have: a strong preference for teaser posters over the final one-sheets. Regardless of how good Spider-Man 3 turned to be (or not be), this teaser is near perfection. It’s simple, it’s iconic, and he’s wearing a black suit. Which I know, I know, is evil, but it’s SO HOT. The later posters made the conflict between good/red Spider-Man and bad/black Spider-Man more clear, but for pure visual impact, none of them match this one.
The rest after the jump.
#7: Gone Baby Gone
Casey Affleck is small on this poster. He turns away from us. He’s defeated. He’s looking at Boston, the city he knows so well — but his intimacy with the city may be failing him. The downside to this poster is it may actually tell too much about the movie; but that could only be because I have seen the movie and know how well the poster evokes it. In addition to lots of negative space (the sky bears down darkly on Affleck) and a character’s back, I also love the type here. Simple but powerful font, getting progressively less bold, mirroring the kidnapping that gets further and further away from our detectives.
#6: 28 Weeks Later
In 28 Days Later, a contagion that turns people into zombies gets loose, and only a few people make it to the end of the film intact. In the sequel, there’s a military-enforced quarantine to try to keep it contained. I haven’t seen the film, but my guess is it isn’t too successful. What I love about it is that it looks like an actual warning poster rather than an ad. The garish red and white added to the worn-out look of the font is perfect. The title is done fairly inobtrusively, though of course my perfect version wouldn’t have it at all. But that would probably be too cryptic.
#5: I’m Not There
I sort of had a hard time choosing between this poster and the main I’m Not There poster (here), because I like both, but ultimately this one is more evocative, I think. The silhouette surrounded by pure white, with only the barest shades of grey on face and hands is both beautiful on its own and indicative of the type of biopic that I’m Not There is–one which approaches its subject obliquely, through shadows and negative space, rather than directly. I say having not seen the film yet.
#2: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
My favorite thing about Sweeney Todd was the art decoration, and that shows up in the poster as well. It’s nearly monochrome, all deep greys except for the chair and the swashes of blood. It’s evocative, iconic, dark, and fits the movie perfectly. And, like the movie, it’s designed with a lot of depth – note the portrait of Barker’s wife on the wall, and Big Ben out the window.
#3: There Will Be Blood
Just because I dislike the film doesn’t mean I don’t love this poster, another teaser which is way better than the final versions. It’s very simple, but also very rich. I didn’t even notice the first several times I saw it, but it’s actually a Bible, worn and scuffed, presaging the religious themes and conflicts that underscore the film. The font still makes me think more of vampire stories than anything else, but that’s my bad — vampires don’t have a monopoly on gothic fonts, and of course, many editions of the Bible use them. A pity the movie couldn’t be as subtle as the poster.
#2: The Savages
I’m not sure I can describe what I like so much about this poster. It’s got the handdrawn/cartoony aspect which pleases me aesthetically, and I also like the white border around it, which makes it look like an old-time photograph or something. I also like the mix of colors, with the bright red popping out of the white and baby blue.
#1: Margot at the Wedding
I still have yet to see this film, which has gotten disappointingly bad reviews, but this poster is wonderful. The font I love (anyone who knows fonts and can tell me what it is is welcome to do so), and the way the box around the title falls off the right side. The huge amount of negative space. The color connection between "MARGOT" and Nicole Kidman’s hat (she’s Margot, of course). Actually, the fact that this poster is so good is probably at least part of the reason that I continue to be inordinately excited about seeing the film, despite the negative press it’s gotten. That’s something, right?