I love designs. So naturally movie posters are something i found very intriguing as the successful ones can tickle your curiosity. There’s a lot of faux pas in film posters this year, from the over used backside against vast landscape (from The Hobbit to Oblivion), the floating heads, all-stars ensemble collage (which Movie 43 manage to made even worse), etc. I wished marvel films would stop looking like a cheap knock-offs of Drew Struzan‘s work like, because Thor: The Dark World poster should be made like this fangirl-approve poster or following the footsteps of X-Men: Days of Future Past simple yet strong aesthetic. I love the simple posters featuring characters (usually a duo) against a white background, like what happen on the posters of The Internship, Despicable Me 2, and Monsters University. Some horror films posters are quite catchy too, giving the intended scare by a little play of creativity (take a look: The ABC’s of Death, V/H/S 2, and In Fear). Meanwhile the French seemed to be quite taken with artistic pastels and crayons style drawing approach for their poster’s aesthetic.
One of the most disgusting scandal of the year is Spike Lee’s notorious remake of Park Chan-wok Old Boy. I have not seen the film yet, but the accusations of stealing idea from Juan Luis Garcia (a freelance graphic designer) for their teaser poster was quite appalling. Just compare the two version if you will. It is sad to see a production of such magnitude have the guts to shamelessly plagiarize another person idea, i’m sure they can give a proper fee to the designer, don’t be a Shia Le Bouf! And talking about disgusting, just how absurdly ridiculous the Italian poster for 12 Years a Slave? If i’m in Ejiofor shoes, i’d be throwing a hissy fit!
But aside from that we do have some decent posters this year, something that draws me in and wish i can put them up in my room (or at least become my desktop wallpaper :D). Without further ado, here’s my Top 25 (beware: long post, graphic overload).
25. MADEMOISELLE C / OF BY FOUR
I can not make my decision, after expanding from 12, to 20, to 25 posters designs i decided to cheat and put these two as a tie in the 25th Spot. I love Mademoiselle C for the simple typography against a black and white image. Although did not say a lot about the subject matter (about Carine Roitfeld, former editor-in-chief for Vogue Paris) the imagery is still very strong, it’s my personal style really. Almost the polar opposite, Of By For is an independent documentary of politics in america. I personally think the overall poster have a very fashion-esque look, probably because of the white on white styling. The only clue available is the old glory mask and, well, beautifully superimposed tagline.
24. SPRING BREAKERS
Harmony Korine / US / –
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers posters have a certain look, colorful neons and mixes of imagery of innocence infused with debauchery.
I love this one that look like a magazine feature, some sort of ‘what’s in a spring breakers bag’ kinda deal. Only aside from bikinis and multicolored wayfarers and lipglosses tubes, you also got guns, drugs, and brass knuckles :D. Definitely not a typical must-haves for your vacations with friends! Playing with the same conceptual juxtaposition as the film, this promotional sheet is definitely eye catching.
23. THE HUNGER GAMES
Francis Lawrence / US / Ignition Print
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster which featured Katnis against strategically placed clouds seemed to be in everyone’s favorite list. But for me, the IMAX poster featuring an intricate and detailed fantastical work of visual artist Kris Kuksi is my definite favorite. In fact i would have to have it (wouldn’t say no to an actual sculpture either) and mount it on my wall.
The poster is fairly simple just images against the black background. These images, however, is Kuksi’s signature work of art. Part industrial, part romanesque beauty, with the phrase “We Burn to Believe” embedded right in the middle between Katniss, standing tall against a large wing, and President Snow face, wearing a blindfold. Various figures that representing the essence of the films are assembled in symmetrical balance.
22. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Jean-Marc Vallée / US / Bemis Balkind
Matthew McConaughey’s moustached face is blurred at the background in favor of the hand ‘holding’ the tagline “Dare To Live” like it would showcase a pill as the focus in the foreground.
I love the composition, mid-aligned text against an asymmetrical yet balanced image. The entire Dallas Buyers Club poster looked clean because of the coloring.
Focusing on the hand that hold the tagline is pure genius. There’s only a couple of things that we hold in our hands like so, naturally the thought that the film is somehow about drugs entered my mind. Only instead of showing the drug in question the designer choose to replace it with a 3D typographic art. The effect is kept subtle with the same coloring as the out of focus stetson hat. So the red-colored title in the middle is still pop up more.
21. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Joss Whedon / US / Ignition Print
Joss Whedon’s adaptation of shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, is one of the most fascinating thing i saw this year. It came with this playful poster that i sort of adapted for my review’s title card.
I am glad that even with its limited, personally funded budget, as it was Whedon’s personal project, the film still receive a good poster. An image of a guy in scuba mask probably don’t immediately connect as scene from the film. But what made it smart is how the picture is kept black and white, like how the movie was shot, but the cocktail that the man hold in his hand still has its burst of color. Not only the burst of color made the text pop, it also something that clue us in the film style. It’s a contemporary black and white film! But perhaps it is also a fitting reference to the tagline: “Shakspeare Know How To Throw A Party”
Simple white backdrop with two characters are one of the not-so-new trend this year, but Saving Mr Banks add shadows to the characters (much like What About Bob or Star Wars: The Phantom Menace). But this one has a very strong impact.
For one the image projected as the shadows is 2 very iconic imagery (the one is significantly more than the other): Mickey Mouse and Mary Poppins. The fact that the shadows are bigger convey the importance of the images they projected. Both images would draw us in and perfectly translated what the film has to offer, which is the story behind the film adaptation of Mary Poppins by Walt Disney. Mickey Mouse is synonymous with Walt himself, a perfect iconic representation of the man and his company. While i was not aware that Mary Poppins is an adaptation, the tagline give a clue that the woman represented by the Mary Poppins shadow must be the writer!
19. THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Ben Stiller / US / Arsonal
Much like its trailer, Ben Stiller’s adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty posters flirts with idea of leaping to the dreamy fantasy.
These series of posters created by Arsonal use the images of Walter Mitty still in work attire against various backdrop, from a top of a mountain, the wing of a plane, the back of a shark, to the surface of the moon.
While some might look badly photoshopped than others the idea is very witty! Using Mitty images that still looked work-appropriate (not to mention out of place) against the bizarre environment and locations become an absurdly fascinating and fantastical posters.
It’s definitely attention-grabbing.
This particular poster stood out the most, it felt clean and the image is very strong. We do not need to know the face of the man, because this is all about him showing his superpower with that signature pose. Capturing the superman doing one of his particular super power: flying. He left blurry trails, sure, a residue of his acceleration and convey the flight in high velocity among clouds and the sun.
The title of the film are kept to the bottom of the screen, keeping all the focus on the image. I could do without the light rays though, they made it look a little Star Trek for me (I blame J. J. Abrahms, obviously) or someone just learn photoshop and discover the flare filter.
17. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW
Randy Moore / US / –
Randy Moore’s Escape from Tomorrow debuted in Sundance Film Festival and generated quite a buzz. Not about the film itself, but more about the guerilla filmmaking in the world’s most iconic theme park as well as the shocking poster.
I applaud whoever come up with this brilliant poster. It only showed the iconic Mickey Mouse’s gloved hand (not a perfect proportion, but that’s beside the point) as well as the film title in the Studio’s iconic font. The blood in the hand of Mickey is what made it so controversial.
That simple imagery allows us to gain a little insight of the film, it’s definitely horror and it has some relation to Disney. Or at the very least it would tickle your curiosity!
It’s a wonder that Disney hasn’t sued the filmmaker for this poster alone. XD
16. THE KINGS OF SUMMER
Jordan Vogt-Roberts / US / Midnight Oil Creative
Amongst the many, many coming-of-age films coming out this year there’s this little charming film The Kings of Summer. It’s about a trio of boys trying to escape from the suffocating environment of their homes and tried living independently in the wood. Building a cabin to called homes and living away from the parents. It’s not only about friendship between the boys but about families, and of course about growing up. The boys spend most of the film in the woods, surrounded by lushes greeneries, and playing at the streams of the river. A photography showing these three boys about to jump on the river is just a perfect image to capture their exuberance youth! I love how it is a frozen movement, like a candid shots of stolen moments. The handwritten scrawl is the title, looking like a charming teenage writings. But the huge text represent the tagline, simple editing showing the letters loop around their waist or their arms, giving a subtle effect of dimension like they’re jumping through hoops. Just perfect for the film.
15. NOW YOU SEE ME
Louis Leterrier / US / BLT Communications
The tagline reads “The closer you look, the less you see”. But you should look at this poster closely! I like simple things that made me do a double take and this Now You See Me poster definitely had me looking. Deceptively simple at the first sight, showing the stars of the caper film’s band of magician, with a strong title typography on what resembles a large, dull, grey plane.
But lo and behold! The designer seemed to be as cunning as the characters, a masterful yet subtle visual trickery transform the type into a multi-level plains where the characters stood on, under, or in between them (i especially love to see what happen on Isla Fisher and Woody Harelson). The entire poster is an optical illusion!
It’s quite amusing for me. I feel like i’ve been inception’d! XD
Danny Boyle / UK / Mark W. Carroll
Mark W Carroll has the gift to summarize a film into one singular strong image. The man is the creator of Terence Malick’s Tree of Life baby foot poster as well as the rumpled sheets of Steve McQueen’s Shame.
His treatment with Trance film is a bit different, but just as powerful nevertheless. The singular image of grainy, high-contrast James McAvoy screaming face is overlay with high saturated bars of the same image in different hues and level of saturation, and later overlay with multiple cuts of a shot of the ocean (just because they’re blue).
The final image is skewed head shot of McAvoy. Giving the viewers a sense of discomfort and disturbance. Pretty much dead on to the film style as well as the premise, really.
13. BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO
Peter Strickland / UK / –
In a nutshell Berberian Sound Studio is a horror film of ‘life imitates art’. The gorgeous art of the poster elegantly conveys the horror.
There’s no mistaking that this poster is damn good. Whoever the designer is have an aptitude in mixing and collaging images to deliver the intended message. Found in other poster films such as A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlie Swan III and The Brass Teapot, but nowhere manage to achieve the same effect as this one. In a glimpse its basically a decapitated head. The blood spurting from the severed neck is created from tapes of audio/video cassettes, part of the head was cut of, replaced with a roll of tape as well, with the center subtly replaced with an image that reminds me of an eyeball. Isn’t it just chilling?
Even the japanese version is so good!
Dennis Villeneuve / CA / –
Villenueve’s Prisoners is one of the awesomely good, intense thrillers i’ve seen this year. Gyllenhaal definitely is the highlight of the film. And it seemed that Villenueve thinks so too. He brought Gyllenhaal into his successor thriller flick, Enemy, debuted this year’s TIFF.
The idea of buildings protruding from heads has been done before. One of the recent poster that show this exact effect is The Iron Lady, where the parlieament building is fused onto Meryl Streep’s face. But this one felt a little stronger. The image of a giant spider crawling among a city skyscrapper in place of a brain is discomforting, but the beauty of this piece is in the troubled expression of Jake Gyllenhaal, strongly evident even in profile.
I heard the film itself is about a men who went looking for his look-alike after spotting him at random. I wonder if it’s another Doppelgänger film?
Park Chan-wook / UK US / Empire Design
The first international work of South Korean director, Park Chan-wook is a thriller with visuals to die for. I am not disappointed by the poster that came along with it too.
I love the Stoker poster showing the face of Mia Wasikowska with the black illustration drawn across her neck like a gothic lace. But this one takes the cake. Gorgeous hand-drawn illustration framed the title and small headshots of the troubled mother-daughter. Iconic imagery from the film is embedded in the gothic illustration: shoes coffins, pianos, among skulls and birds, looking like a dark children story book. Which works well in translating the premise, if you think about it.
You should find the extra large resolution of the poster and then marvel at the artwork of it. Just gorgeous!
Kimberly Pierce / US / Arsonal
Types over face is one of the most frequent movie poster trend. Some does work gorgeously (like Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here), but most does not work just as well. The thing that make or break this type of poster is to choose the right typography over an iconic images. And believe me, it’s hard to do.
While Carrie remake might not be glorious but is a winner! An extremely tight close up on Chloe Grace Moretz’s bloodied face, with the tag line written across the entire mug. For those who watch the classic would remember the iconic scene rightaway. For those who are not familiar definitely would do a double take and probably stop to its effect.
Hauntingly, mesmerizingly creepy. I wish the film could be half as good as this teaser poster.
09. WORLD WAR Z
Marc Forster / US / BLT Communications
For such a strong film, World War Z were given a poster with Brad Pitt with his family amongst chaos with a bunch of photoshopped fire on the building (getting old really, please stop using them people!). Or worse, we got Brad Pitt’s back, looking out of a helicopter at what seemed like a view burning ruins of city. Why? Those two might’ve seen like it explains the world war, but not necessarily the ‘Z’ part. (to be fair the firs poster i mentioned showed zombies but way too unfocussed in the background and unclear what are they doing there).
I wonder why they did not use this image instead. This is a stronger, showing the zombies crawling on top of each other upon a bus trying to grasp the choppers and send it crushing it down. We saw the Zs in this one, it’s our sole focus. It just work 10 times better, don’t you think?
08. ONLY GOD FORGIVES
Nicholas Winding Refn / DK FR US TH / Gravillis Inc.
Probably the polarizing film of the year (well it is according to Letterboxd 2013 in Review). But people should unanimously agree that the film has one kick ass poster!
Only God Forgives poster seemed to be made out of neon lights, which is prominently featured in the film heavily-styled visual as well. The red and blue neon lights formed the head of a dragon looking menacing, surrounding the tagline “Time to Meet The Evil”, surrounded by the film title in white neon lights.
These lights instantly recognizable as something you see in a place of a night life, referring to the prominently featured location of the film, the bleak, neon-drenched environment, of the ominous Thailand night life.
Jon S. Raid / UK / All City
God I need to watch this film! A second McAvoy Poster , this time it’s for Jon S. Baird’s Filth (watch the trailer). Taking the dark theme of the film (dirty corrupted cop) yet delivering it in a humorous and daring way. The cocaine strip (ladder? pedestrian crossing strip?) is quite funny (similar ideas shown in White Reindeer poster). But my favorite is the one with McAvoy on a piggybacking a pig like a bull :D
06. YOU’RE NEXT
Adam Wingard / US / Ignition Print
Although i love the illustration art of the middle poster, the genious that is You’re Next poster that come in the form of teaser by simply adding signature silhouette of masked killers against another film poster: The Big Wedding (which to be honest deserve to be rip to pieces) and Peeples. Both are about families which went well with You’re Next own premise of an attack to a family on a wedding getaway. FYI, the Peeples poster also came from the same design firm. Other than these two marketing genius posters, the film also have an individual teasers that would spelled out the film title.
…And The Top 5 a.k.a things-i-really-really-want-to-put-on-my-walls a.k.a prove-that-bigger-is-not-always-better are:
05. LA VIE D’ADÉLE: CHAPITRES 1 & 2 / BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Abdellatif Kechiche / France / BLT Communications
While I adore all poster variations of Blue is the Warmest Color: the blue, the white, even the one of Léa. But BLT Communications’ online poster for IFC films is my absolute favorite. Using negative space to put an emphasis on the blue hair and signature orange-red lip of Emma. The clean and minimalistic look is accentuated by using simple sans-serifs type with a play in the font thickness as well as the spacing and the placement of the text itself. I think the caption from Vanity Fair is appropriate enough for this poster as well, it is stunning :)
04. FRANCES HA
Noam Baumbach / US / BLT Communications
Another great one from BLT, is one of my personal favorite film Frances Ha for IFC films (i’m starting to think that it is IFC that has this great taste). The simple image of Frances stopped in motion as she dance shows some dynamic movement that felt exuberant. Simple typographic title using serif fonts is a creative way of using white fonts. Which made it pop out even more against the fuchsia overlay on Frances’ image.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite / US / Gravillis Inc.
This documentary about a notorious killer whale is one of the buzzworthy film of the year. I love how grainy quality of the image, the dynamic of the movement, and the emotion that goes with it. I felt the frame is keeping the object as captive, the monochromatic color also giving it an air of poignancy. Add the tagline to the mix, the message it delivered got even more powerful.
Alexander Payne / US / BLT Communications
Another winner from BLT Communications is the simple, classic looking poster for Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. I’m a firm believer in iconic images are made out of simple things, and this brilliant poster is a perfect example. A single head shots of Bruce Dern’s profile, dark silhouette with rays of lights hitting the planes of his features including the wispy white hair. Using a thick, capital font to write the title right across the head, adding more strength to the image. Everything in black and white, modern yet evoke something nostalgic and strive for timelessness.
Alfonso Cuarón / US / The Refinery
Definitely one of the biggest revolution in cinema this year is coming from Cuarón’s space drama Gravity. An experience like no other the film were never hiding what the film is about by using the perfect images to intrigue the viewers by showing what the premise of the film really is. While the film has inspired a lot of mondo artworks both complex (like this one by Kevin Tong) as well as the simple ones (like my personal favorite by Tom Muller). But i personally nothing beat the strength of the simple image bellow. Stark. Dark. Gorgeously stood-out among the pack of this year movie posters.
So those are my takes for 2013. I know i already have my eye on a couple of 2014 posters. I’m particularly fond of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac teasers, which is just sheer genius, IMHO. I’m looking forward for more great posters so i can create similar list to this one next year!
I know this is a very long post~ (roughly 3,600 words in length!) and it took me 3 days to create this post, not including the time for me contemplating my choices since last november, haha! I hope you guys enjoy it!
Now tell me, what’s your favorite of 2013? :D
A part of KaramelKinema 2013 Retrospective