February 20, 2015

POSTED BY

Rafael Esquer

CATEGORY

Do Film Posters Deserve an Academy Award?

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This coming Sunday, the film industry will be giving one of the highest awards anyone working in the movies can receive, the Oscars. As we all know, there are many categories including acting, directing, sound, editing, music and so on. It’ll be interesting if the Academy throws design into the …

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This coming Sunday, the film industry will be giving one of the highest awards anyone working in the movies can receive, the Oscars. As we all know, there are many categories including acting, directing, sound, editing, music and so on. It’ll be interesting if the Academy throws design into the mix and gives, for instance, an Oscar for the best designed movie poster. The Grammy gives an award for best packaging design so why not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science recognizes the art of image-making. I’m sure such award will dramatically improve the current state of film posters.

Until that happens, I’d like to acknowledge achievements in poster design. The ‘qualified’ posters are those representing the best picture nomination. Being a keen observer of film posters, I’m happy to say this year—compared to previous years—there is an overall improvement in the designs as it was not so easy to select the winner. But, like in every competition there must be winners and losers. I’m curious to see if you agree with my verdict.

#7. BOYHOOD & SELMA
The last place is a tie between Boyhood and Selma. None of these two posters have anything interesting. Selma is very forgettable and Boyhood—one of my favorite movies this year that most likely will win the Oscar—looks like an every-day stock photo. By the way, did you notice how the kid’s arm looks kind of short? Bad choice, right?

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#6. BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
I really enjoyed this film: It’s fresh, energetic and surprising. The poster has a lot of potential; strong color-palette and enigmatic illustration. The problem is that it doesn’t make up its mind by showing everything at once. That is, lots of distracting type, big illustration yet in the background, a title fighting for attention, and, of course, a photo of every actor in film. There is no visual hierarchy. I get it, with such a great cast, you are forced to show them all…unfortunately, it’s not working. On a side note, did you notice the director’s name? His last name, Gonzalez, has been reduced to G. going from Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu to Alejandro G. Iñarritu.

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#5. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
I enjoyed the color palette and the single idea in the imagery. They could have gone for a more sensationalist image like showing the face of an Stephen Hawking suffering from ALS, but instead the poster sends a more uplifting message.

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#4 WHIPLASH
This is a good example of successful integration of the reviews into the poster. Instead of clashing with the design, the typography enhances it. A controlled color palette not only sets the mood, but also makes the single image standout in subtle ways. The entire composition has a musical rhythm, which seems quite appropriate for a film focused on a promising young drummer.

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#3 THE IMITATION GAME
This film is about the life of Alan Turing, who helped solve the Enigma Code during World War II. The poster presents a close up of the leading actor overlapped with a pattern of circles and text. In a modern way, it expresses the central theme of the film. I only wish the portrait was not so retouched. My advise to the designers? Easy on the photoshop next time, as actors appear more approachable when they look like a real person and not like a plastic mannequin.

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#2 AMERICAN SNIPER
I went into this movie without reading much about its controversy. And, I’m glad I did, as it didn’t set up expectations. Whatever my point of view about the subject matter, I cannot deny the mastery of the film. Likewise, the poster captures the suspense of the film in one single striking image. The unobtrusive old style font used to set the title is tasteful and classic. I really appreciate that the poster gives priority to the content of the film than to the popularity of Bradley Cooper, the main actor. It’s a beautifully crafted poster for an impeccably crafted film. Kudos!

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#1 THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
The eighth feature from director Wes Anderson follows the visual style that makes his film very distinctive. This poster seamlessly integrates typography, visuals, reviews, and credits and that is not easy in a movie poster. In a film crowded with big name Hollywood stars, I applaud the decision to make the actual Budapest Hotel the star of the poster. Congratulations to all designers and art directors. Go get that award…

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