Thursday, December 23, 2010

Year in Review: The 15 Best Posters of the Year

I love poster art. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its art, but I do anyway. A great poster will want to make me see a movie more, and a bad one will want to make me see it less. I want to make it clear however that not all of the movies whose posters I highlight here are actually good movies – at the point of this writing, I haven’t actually even seen all of them. But the art itself is great.

15. Tron: Legacy
I love the original Tron in all its cheesy 1980s glory. This poster though was the first image from the movie – and they have had a lot of posters out there – that I actually quite loved. It’s not just Olivia Wilde (I swear not all the poster on this list have a gorgeous woman in them, but quite a few do), but the whole package. The background, the grid pattern, the ring, which all play off the iconic images from the original film, but done in a way that lets you know this one is going to be different. Is it a little cheesy? Yes. But I love it anyway.

14. Machete
My wife was offended by this poster, and at my insistence that it stay on this list. But I can’t help it – I love it to pieces. Machete is a throwback to the exploitation films of the 1970s – pretty much all Robert Rodriguez seemingly knows how to do anymore – and they needed posters that reflected that. While I was largely unimpressed by most of the posters for this film, this one stands out – maybe it’s the nun costume, the HUGE gun that Lindsay is licking so sensually, but this poster works perfect for the movie it is selling. If you don’t like the poster, stay away from the movie.

13. The Wolf Man
I know it shouldn’t have, but this poster actually made me think that The Wolf Man may turn out to be a good movie (God good was it not a good movie). But I can’t hold that against the poster designer for this brilliantly constructed poster. I love how they keep the main attraction in the background, and focus on the gorgeous Emily Blunt in the foreground. It’s a daring choice that pays off. Now if only they put this much effort into the actual movie.

12. I Am Love
The image itself on this poster is lush and romantic – setting you right away to get ready to seeing an opulent, Italian epic in the vein of Luchino Visconti. But I think the writing takes it one step beyond into truly great territory – the letters block out the faces of everyone on the poster except for Tilda Swinton – she is the heart, the soul, the center of the poster and the film itself. It is simply a gorgeous poster.

11. Inside Job
It’s rare for a documentary to have a great poster – but I think that Inside Job truly does have a great one. The tag line – “The Film that Cost Over $20,000,000,000,000 to Produce” is perhaps the best of the year, but I also love the big pile of money in the foreground, and the man with his fingers crossed behind his back. Even using critic’s quotes, which I usually don’t like, works here because they are background, and adds to the marvelous clutter of it all. Doc posters are usually boring and straight forward – not this one.

10. True Grit
I liked the teaser poster as well – the giant wanted poster, but really, that was just a lot of words and rather obvious. The character banners – of which this is my favorite – were much better. Seriously, is there anything else you need to know about this movie after looking at this poster – it is about a one eyed man with a gun looking for retribution and punishment. Simple, yet brilliantly effective.

9. Megamind
This poster was actually used in the movie as well, and it was a stroke of genius. That Barack Obama poster “Yes We Can” has become so iconic and instantly recognizable, that it kind of has to be made fun of at this point – like the posters for In the Loop did last year. But this one is even better – with Megamind’s giant head, and evil glare staring directly at you it’s a great image. And of course, they picked the perfect tag line. I love it.

8. Greenberg
It didn’t surprise me when the DVD of Greenberg came out, and they replaced this stroke of genius poster with a smiling, happy Ben Stiller. I guess they want to draw in the rubes. But this poster truly is great – a perfect representation of the movie itself, where Stiller spends so much time obsessing about absolutely nothing. Normally, I find poster that are largely white boring, but this is that rare case where they made absolutely the right decision. Simple genius.

7. The American
I love the old posters from the 1950s and 1960s – especially old posters for Hitchcock films, of which I have quite a few decorating my walls (Vertigo, Spellbound, Rear Window). This poster for The American makes me think of those old posters – particularly I think because of the orange, which is a color you don’t see much anymore. On the surface, this looks like a regular poster for a thriller – you have the star, George Clooney, running with a gun in his hand, so you know what to expect. But I love the orange background with the close up of the woman’s face. This poster is definitely retro – and I absolutely love it.

6. Inception
I could have picked practically any poster from Inception, as they were all pretty much brilliant. And perhaps I only fixated on this one because I think Marion Cotillard is one of the most beautiful women in the world, with eyes that are absolutely transfixing and mysterious, which we get a good look at here. I love the detail work that fades into the background here – of all those buildings, which makes the poster fixation on Cotillard’s face pop even more. This film had brilliant art work, but this is the poster I fixated on the most.

5. Black Swan
The artwork for Black Swan has been all been fantastic – I could have easily included any of those gorgeous drawn posters on this list, but I decided to limit it to one poster per movie, and this one, is my favorite. It’s not just because Natalie Portman is one of the most beautiful women on the planet – of course that helps – but it’s the whole design. I love the feathers, I love Portman’s stance, her red arm and her mysterious, sexual look in her eyes. This is a poster that makes you wonder what the hell you’re in for when you see the movie – and that’s why it is so effective.

4. Blue Valentine
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that a movie that initally got an NC-17 rating for the prudes at the MPAA should have such a sexual poster. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both extremely good looking people, and this image certainly sends an erotic charge through you when you see it. But it also seems like an intensely private moment between these two people – a moment that are not expecting to share with anyone else, and that I think is what makes it a great poster. Just eliminate the quote at the top which is unnecessary.

3. The Social Network
This is a fairly daring poster when you think about it – the name of the film is off to the side much smaller than the rest of the font, it focuses on a single person – Jessie Eisenberg, hardly a movie star by any means. And yet, has there been a poster that has instantly become more iconic this year than this one? It brilliantly sets up the movie, puts the focus on the words and Eisenberg more than anything else, and for some reason I can hardly explain, just works perfectly.

2. Buried
I have mentioned the old Alfred Hitchcock posters already in this write up, and this brilliant poster for Buried is the best homage to those poster I can think of. It is a dizzying poster, but one that works brilliantly, trapping the barely seen Ryan Reynolds in layer after layer so he cannot get out – just like the movie itself. It is a simple poster, but often those are the most effective – and that is certainly the case here.

1. Let Me In
Such a simple image – but one that is devastatingly effective on every level. An innocent looking young girl, curled up in the fetal position, looking sad. It is the most haunting image on any poster this year by far – one that once you see, you will never forget. They also picked the perfect color scheme for the poster – dark crimson to set off her white skin. The great tagline – “Innocence Dies. Abby Doesn’t” is also great, but it is truly the haunting image of Chloe Grace Mortez that makes this far and away my favorite poster of the year. Simple genius.

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