Like all years of cinema, 2011 has seen its fair share of posters. However, a large portion of them are, let’s face it, lazy. The increased marketability of actors and actresses, as well as some misuses of Photoshop, have made what was once a grand medium into just bland advertisement. Just take a look at the regression of the “Harry Potter” posters. What once was a hand-drawn, composed piece is now just an actor or actress looking off-screen with a bluish-green light tinting them. Rocket science isn’t needed for that.
However, 2011 has also seen some great posters that remind us what it is to look at an actual movie poster. Here are 10 of the best posters from 2011. These posters were picked solely on their artistic merit, not on how popular the movie it’s promoting is at the moment. Don’t be surprised if most of these posters are from movies you’ve never seen before.
1. “Eight Murders a Day”: This documentary about one of the biggest human rights disasters–the killing of thousands of Mexicans due to drug cartels–wants to get a big message across about the atrocity, however most critics think it fails to bring hard facts and is, instead, underdeveloped storytelling. What probably gets the film’s message across the best is the dark, bleak, and haunting poster, done in stark black and white with a gun that blends into the silhouette of Mexico.
2. “Earthwork”: This film based on a real story of crop artist Stan Herd creating environmental artwork on Donald Trump’s land has a brilliant poster that sums up the main character and his life’s work by creating a portrait of Herd (portrayed by John Hawkes) in rocks, grass, bushes and rows of crops.
3. “Shame”: The poster for the Steve McQueen film starring Michael Fassbender is of an unmade bed, which seems less than stellar for a poster at first glance. However, as you learn more about Fassbender’s character Brandon and his sex addiction, you start seeing the bed as more of a character, something that weighs Brandon down. The emptiness of the bed also represents the emptiness Brandon feels before, during, and after the act.
4. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”: This documentary about 85-year old sushi maker Jiro Ono and his obsession with his craft comes with a delightful poster, with a picture of Jiro surrounded by his delicious creations. The poster’s composition, along with Jiro’s sweet expression, instantly shows you a man who adores the art of sushi-making as much as Willy Wonka adored making chocolate.
5. “J. Edgar”: The alternate poster for Clint Eastwood’s biopic about J. Edgar Hoover is much better than the standard version, I think. Putting the poster in faded patriotic colors and giving Hoover’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) angry face an old photographic look brings the viewer into the time period when Hoover ruled America with an iron fist.
6.”Madison County”: This poster is a homage to the early blockbusters of the late 1970s and 1980s due to the usage of a hand-drawn and painted composition (if it’s not hand-painted, then it’s a very masterful usage of Photoshop painting techniques). A hand-drawn poster will make you want to see the film, no matter what it’s about (i.e. “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”).
7. “Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol”: This minimalist poster by Max Owen and Gallery 1988 was made exclusively for the IMAX theater showing of this film. The poster gives tension, excitement and danger just with one red line.
8. “Eames: The Architect and the Painter”: This documentary narrated by James Franco sheds light on two of America’s most influential designers, husband and wife Charles and Ray Eames. The poster reflects their architectural and artistic sensibilities by having an off-kilter composition, photos of their work, and mid-century fonts.
9. “Passione”: This film directed by John Turturro takes a look at the vibrant musical roots of Naples Italy and how its musical traditions have had their effects on other types of world music. The poster captures the energy and street-dance excitement the movie wants to offer the viewer with its stenciled words, paint and ink splatters, and a blurred out picture of an exuberant dancer in serious motion.
10.”Dylan Dog: Dead of Night”: I’m not sure how often this alternate poster has been seen in America, but I think it’s much better than what was being used as the “official” poster. This poster for the Italian audience markets the movie in a much sexier way than the American posters did (America upped the fanboy quality of it). Perhaps this poster is tailored to more European tastes, but I wish this one was used for America as well.
There’s a lesson embedded in this list, I think. The big studios can have great posters, and there are a few of the big movies that do have good posters, but is it that the studios are so big and inflated that they don’t care about the medium anymore? Is it that small films can show more artistic integrity because of how small their operations are? And what posters that weren’t mentioned were your favorites of the year? Give your opinions in the comments section below.
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