Friday, March 09, 2007

Poster Pet Peeves

A while back I wrote a post entitled Is There Nothing New Under the Sun? in which I drew attention to the fact that the one-sheet for the soon-to-be released Becoming Jane was shamelessly imitating the same design from the posters for Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Lack of originality is just one of my many "poster pet peeves." Today, when I saw the one-sheet for an upcoming comedy called The Nanny Diaries, I was reminded of yet another one.

Look at the image below and see if something doesn't jump out at you.

Do you see it?

That's clearly Scarlett Johansson sitting there on top of the film's title (I know because I not only recognize her pouty expression but I see her name conspicuously placed beside her). So who is that sitting next to her? Well, I can tell you who it's not. It is most decidely NOT Laura Linney! So, why on earth have they placed Linney's name on the opposite side of the boy in exactly the same corresponsing spot as Johannson's? That just makes no sense whatsoever! I wish this gross miscalculation in "name placement" were an isolated incident but, unfortunately, I have observed the phenomenon on many a movie poster.

I understand, of course, that the graphic elements on a movie's one-sheet are usually designed independently from the copy, which can often end up creating some sense of incongruency in the final product. This is why I greatly respect movie posters that have the images and the words interacting in a creative way (in the case of Stranger Than Fiction, for example, it actually emphasizes one of the major themes in the film, which any good movie poster should do; it ends up being not only very funny but somewhat profound).

I also realize that actor's agents probably fight "tooth and nail" to ensure their client's names get displayed in a certain manner when it comes to all publicity surrounding a film. I can just hear the telephone conversation now: "Oh, and I want my boy's name to be centered above the title and on it's own line. I don't want any other names next to it. I also want it to be in the biggest type on the page. Everyone else has to be smaller. (pause) So what if he directed the movie? He's not getting his name larger than my client's. (pause) I DON'T CARE WHETHER HE FINALLY WON HIS OSCAR OR NOT! LARGEST LETTERS ON THE PAGE! GOT THAT? AT LEAST TWICE AS LARGE AS EVERYTHING ELSE! (pause) Well, okay. If it absolutely, positively must be smaller than the title... but we have to get another 20 million for that!"

Still, for all that, one would think that the artists (and I use that word deliberately) who are ultimately responsible or the poster wouldn't want to compromise the unity of the entire piece. Even if it meant little more than a simple flip of the photo (which would actually solve the problem more often than not), surely it would create a better impression for the movie than having one of your star's names placed next to the likeness of a small boy. As it stands, it looks like a case of "the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing" (which is what happens when these things are done by committee). Whether it's ignorance, laziness, stubbornness, apathy or just plain stupidity, mis-attributed names on movie posters is a major annoyance and I just don't see any excuse for it.

The ONE time that I saw it occurr and it didn't bother me was for the remake of Freaky Friday. Given the body-switching gimmick of the story, this particular mis-placement turned out to be a rather clever aspect of the film's one-sheet.

In fact, since the movie itself to Freaky Friday was suprisingly good, I wonder if I'm not giving the "poster people" enough credit here. Is it perhaps possible that they engineered the name-switch on purpose? Could it be that creativity has not completely disappeared from the "art" of movie publicity?

You decide.


cineboy said...

great post. I have the same peeve. I always think there has got to be a better way they could have made the posters, etc. It's just lazy graphic design beholding to short-sighted interests. I remember as a kid struggling to make sense of such posters, trying to figure out why the names didn't match up with the images and what they were trying to say.

J.D. Judge said...

Nicolas Cage is an incredibly ugly woman.

Yeah, with Freaky Friday, it's pretty clever. But I never knew Laura Linney was really an eight year-old boy. Hmm.

Squish said...

I'd very much appreciate if you could take a moment to rant about my aftertaste portion in this piece

I hope you're up for the challenge!

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