Windows to another dimension: What happened to the movie poster?
Film has had me in its firm but velvety grasp since I was a child. I'm old enough to have seen movies at a drive-in, when it wasn't a retro novelty. Because of this, I take the movie going experience to be almost religious in nature. There is something about a room of people, from all walks of life, participating in the shared human experience portrayed on the screen. There we all sit, bathed in silver light and for the briefest of moments, we are one.
It is this view of the cinema that propels me to absorb not just the film itself, but the sphere of art that surrounds it. From the first appearance of a teaser to the closing credits, every bit of this ballyhoo adds to my view of the filmic experience.
I realize that this viewpoint isn't shared by everyone, and that's fine. I also admit, that this viewpoint is really only applicable for films viewed at a cinema and is difficult to apply when I'm at home in my jammies, watching Netflix with goldfish crackers in my crotch. Nevertheless, I've found myself writing a series of blogs having to do with where movies are going in terms of artistic integrity and craftsmanship. Last time I talked about the "art of the movie trailer" this time I want to talk about posters.
There was a time, when posters were crafted in detail by the loving hands of artists. These days it seems like anyone with photoshop could cobble together a "movie quality" one-sheet.I will admit that a grandiose poster far from guarantees a brilliant film. One can point out that B-movies and 80s home video companies latched onto the publicity that a beautiful poster can bring. How many of us were all too willingly deceived by the slick and lurid promise of sex, violence or the fantastic as rendered in acrylic or oils? And isn't that a kind of fun experience in and of itself?
Because I have fond memories of movie posters as a kid, and view it as an extension of the movie going experience, I have to wonder why Hollywood has gotten so lazy. The answer, I'm sure is the bottom line. I can only assume this new quality of work has more to do with dollars than anything else. Why pay an accomplished artist a great deal of money to paint an advertisement that may take weeks to finish, when the producer's nephew can cut and paste one up in an afternoon?
But it wasn't always this way. Was it? As I look back on my love of these artistic advertisements, one name continuously pops up in my mind. Drew Struzan.
You may not know his name, but you sure as hell know his work. He's responsible for our childhood visions of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. He also gave us our first peak of Doc Brown's Delorian. These day's he's more or less retired (he does do occasional work for Frank Darabont). While many view Struzan's retirement from his work the death rattle of an under-appreciated art form, there are others continuing in his stead.
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Texas often commissions artists to contribute new poster designs for classic, cult and new films they screen. These posters range from minimalistic "Saul Bass-like" interpretations, to detail filled compositions. These artists occasionally do limited runs of their prints, so when you get your hands on one, it's a collectors item. These fresh interpretations of well remembered films add to the Drafthouses reputation as a champion of cinema, screening films both popular and little known.
It warms my heart that other artists are carrying the torch in this facet of film entertainment. I may be a curmudgeon when it comes to this stuff, but I think everyone knows a good poster when they see it. At the very least, I think we can do better than this...