Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekly Top Tens: The Best Movie Posters of 2009

The art of making movie posters is tricky. You have to find a way to sell the movie with only one real image, and that can be incredibly difficult. But when poster designers get it right, they can create powerful, memorable images – images that stick in your head even if the movie does not. In my mind, these are the best posters of the year, even if the movies themselves are not all masterpieces (or in one case even seen by me yet).

10. Jennifer’s Body
As my wife pointed out me, this is similar to the image used to promote True Blood. Similar yes, the same no, but I did knock it down a few places for lack of originality. Having said that, this is a truly memorable poster. Megan Fox’s gorgeous mouth, painted with bright red lipstick and that trickle of blood coming down the side of her mouth are wonderful. What makes the poster for me though is the tongue, just sort of half out of her mouth going to lick the blood. How this image did not convince every teenage boy on the planet that they needed to see this movie is beyond me.

9. Nine
I have not seen this movie yet, but I absolutely love this image. Yes, the posters with the women are sexier, but this one of Daniel Day-Lewis walking by himself on top of a couch in desaturated colors is one of the most striking images of the year, and completely captures the contemplative aloneness of the character. The light shining through in the background works because of the color scheme of the rest of the poster. One problem – why did they have to put Rob Marshall’s name up top (not to mention Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella and Marshall’s name again at the bottom) is red? It’s distracting. Still this is a striking poster.

8. A Serious Man
This is a deceptively simple, brilliant poster. Michael Stuhlbarg on the roof of his house, looking down on the world below. The troubled look on his face tells you he is in trouble. The TV antenna in the background is just one of his many problems. The subtle hint of clouds over his shoulders and nowhere else implies God is punishing him – and him alone. The font is simple, yet effective, and although they do mention the Coen brothers as directors, they resist the urge to name drop other movies (another pet peeve of mine). This is a poster that gets better every time I look at it.

7. In the Loop
This poster brilliantly plays on the now iconic Barack Obama poster used during his campaign last year. The color scheme of the poster is just right, and the dopey look on Tom Hollander’s face tells you that although this is a movie about politics, it isn’t going to be inspiring. The quote at the bottom, “I’m on the verge of taking a stand” is bloody brilliant. Here’s an example of a poster where the title is not the most important thing. It immediately catches your eye and attention. A brilliant poster for a brilliant movie.

6. 500 Days of Summer
This is poster that screams indie movie, because no big studio would ever approve this one. I love the photo mosaic of one of the most beautiful women on the planet – Zooey Deschanel – and Joseph Gordon Levitt in the corner writing away on an animated cliff, lets us know what exactly to expect from this movie. She is going to break his heart. The tagline is fine, but is really unnecessary. This is a poster you can get lost in.

5. The Hurt Locker
If you don’t have any big movie stars to sell, you have to find another way. This brilliant, yet simple, poster for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker tells you everything you need to know about the film. It will be about a bomb squad, and because of the brilliant tag line “Cut the Red One”, and the red wires running all over the place, you know it will be chaotic. I love the digital font used on this poster. Simple, yet extremely effective.

4. An Education
Sometimes a poster tells you a lot more than you initially see. This is a simple poster, with the two stars of the movie simply lying next to each looking into the sky, her arm reaching around him and caressing his face. But what makes this image, and this poster, so brilliant in my mind is the distinct look on each characters face. Peter Sarsgaard has a dreamy, almost childlike look in his eyes. He is happy and content. But Carey Mulligan’s look is somewhat more mature, and troubled. Her gorgeous, expressive face tells an entire story right in this one shot. It is a brilliant poster that fits the movie perfectly.

3. Where the Wild Things Are
This post, just one of many great ones for this movie, is one of my favorites because it is so simple, yet perfect for the movie. Carol, the most animated of the Wild Things, is both the films heart, and its scary center. He is really all alone, and adrift in the world and the shy look he gives around the tree is brilliant. The claw marks on the tree itself are a wonderful touch, as if we caught Carol raging against the tree, and now he’s hiding in embarrassment. It perfectly captures the sad, lonely feel of this movie.

2. Inglorious Basterds
I think that pretty much all the many posters for Inglorious Basterds are brilliant. But this one is my favorite. The bloody knife that Pitt uses to carve swastikas into the scalps of the Nazis he lets live, ripping a hole in a Nazi arm band. It tells you all you need to know about the movie – it will be bloody, it will be about killing Nazis, and it will be 100% Tarantino. The tagline let you know not to take it too seriously, and the use of the Nazi eagle for the O in Inglorious is brilliant. This is already an iconic poster in my mind.

1. Antichrist
Like the movie itself, this is a one of kind poster that people are either going to love or hate. Of course I love it, despite the fact that it breaks one of my cardinal poster rules about there being too much white. The faces of Gainsbourg and Dafoe on the scissor handles are brilliant. I believe they come from the film’s opening sex scene, but they also show a similar face full of pain as well. When the handles come together, they will smash into each other, much like the movie itself. The font is simple, yet effective, telling you all you need to know. But let’s face facts; what makes this the best poster of the year in my opinion is the brilliance of the blood running out of the scissors. If you’ve seen the movie, then you know that Gainsbourg cuts off her clitoris with a pair of scissors, and this invokes that brilliantly. Disgusting yes. Amazing, you bet.

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