Monday, January 17, 2011

The Death of the Movie Poster

Excerpt from Frank Darabont’s forward for “The Art of Drew Struzan”:  “There’s no sugar coating this. Movie posters suck these days. They’re going to suck even more tomorrow.”  “Almost without exception, present day movie posters are merely computer-manipulated composite photographs of actors that fall into two mind-numbingly predictable categories: a) the “big head” approach, wherein the actors stare at you from above the title; or b) the dull witted “police lineup” approach where a hip young cast stands in a line striking saucy poses and staring like a troop of lobotomy victims.”

“These posters are slapped together in-house by marketing gerbils who’ve fooled themselves into thinking they’re artists because the can operate a Mac.”

Reading that, this is what immediately came to mind.

The question really isn’t about studio execs working their greasy pork chop hands into the creative process of movie posters. Frankly that has been going on since the birth of movie posters.  Photoshop and the digital age has maybe given the illusion of speeding up the process but movie posters have used a variety of media from illustration, photographic compositing , and a combination of the two.
Frankly Photoshop-ing movie poster art is nothing new in my opinion. In the old days it was called “airbrushing”.

However, I feel where Frank Darabont is coming from on the seeming death of “illustrative movie art”.

Films from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, or even the first Harry Potter film created a feeling of timeless classics that are not just entertainment fare but works of art. Note, I am referring to the films having the capacity to be seen as as works as art. Not just the posters.  

Not a fan of Harry Potter at all, but every time I see that poster for that first film. I just can’t help feeling there is something “special” about it.   Harry Potter is not my thing, but that poster makes me look at that first film as something that should be respected. Enough to even make me revisit that film someday. Maybe I missed something…

Come on, which movie would you rather see?

Dave Hickey in his essay on Norman Rockwell, impled that around 1962 (one of his last paintings for the Saturday Evening Post), “Lunch Break With a Knight” perhaps reflected a change in though in culture. A waning interest in the traditional. The direction of future thought. If this is true, then perhaps it’s also reflected in Rockwell’s previous 1962 cover, “The Connosseur”.

Peter Rockwell noted in an interview it was also around this time, that the Saturday Evening Post in competition with television, decided not to print the traditional American images of Rockwell on the covers anymore.  Is this all about the death of illustration?
I took a quick look at the Apple Trailers page. Not one illustration. Even the animated films like 'Rango' or 'Tangled' looks like they just posed the CG models onto a background. Hardly an illustration.

This was a great deal of my case for hand-drawn animation. Like it or not, illustration invokes a sense of care, craft and yes, dammit, humanity in what is being communicated.
Where are today’s Frank Frazettas? Today’s Norman Rockwells? Our Howard Pyles?
Comic book artists like Jim Lee or Frank Miller as well as other comic book artists may be some of the last bastions of illustrative art appreciated by a mass audience. People want to see their art because of their unique touch and expression.  That is until someone comes up with the idea to do CG 3D comic books and companies can do away with artists all together.

Darabont in his preface summed it up, fifty years from now, nobody is going to have a poster of “Mean Girls” or “Knocked Up” on their walls. “But people will have Drew Struzan’s masterpieces proudly displayed. They are works of art that, like all great art, will last.”

In the meantime here's an interesting thread worth looking at:   The Death of the Movie Poster.

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