By Jeremy G. Butler (Author Page, Twitter Page, Facebook Page)
What I’m Thankful For:
The New Wave of Minimalist Film Posters
The movie poster is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) components of film’s fan culture. We buy them, sell them, trade them and frame them (or keep them rolled in tubes until we can afford to frame them). For a lot of us, it’s our preferred way to show support for the films we love and to tell our various friends, family and assorted other houseguests where our loyalties lie in terms of entertainment.
When we were kids our tastes and choices were limited – whatever we could find at Walmart or Spencer’s or being given away at the local rental store (well, those places are where I got my posters, anyway). Practically all of our bedroom walls were identically plastered with the same mass-marketed images and floating heads. The idea of art prints or alternate versions or international (read: Polish) versions was relatively foreign to us – although I DO remember thinking my 27×40 print of Jack Nicholson’s Joker peddling a bottle of Smilex was one of the coolest things I had ever seen (and I won it at the State Fair of all places!).
But, as we got older our tastes matured and the posters we hung on our walls reflected it. We traded in our thumbtacks for the aforementioned frames, we started recognizing and appreciating the artwork of people like Drew Struzan and Basil Gogos and we started to turn a critical eye to posters for newer films – celebrating unique and innovative designs while decrying easy, lazy or just plain boring ones.
And now there seems to be a new trend on the rise. I say “seems to be,” because this may be something that’s been going on behind the scenes for a long, long time and I’d just never had it pointed out to me before. I first noticed it once I became familiar with the Alamo Drafthouse and their special screenings – the Terror Tuesdays and the like.
And that’s when I discovered Mondo.
It’s the mustache that sets it off. Amazing.
Not to leave a great artist out, that’s also when I discovered Tyler Stout (his The Thing variant will, come Hell or high water, find a home on one of my walls in the future), but while he was doing more in the lines of elevating the type of work done by the likes of Struzan and Gogos, I also discovered Mitch Ansara and his amazingly brilliant Blacula variant for Alamo. I did a little digging on the dude and found his 60’s-era inspired “I Can Read…” movie novelization series and thus began my love affair with the minimalist movie poster.
“You’ve got r…er, purple on you.”
What makes these posters so special is that they’re not made at the behest of studio heads and marketing departments whose primary motivation is to sell a film (which isn’t to say that all one-sheets born in this manner are bad – Buried is a recent example of an impressive mainstream campaign). Because of this, they don’t have to rely on a lot of broad, LCD-type of imagery and familiar text treatments. They can focus on single, sometimes spoilery elements of these films because they’re not making them for those who need to be convinced to see these movies, they’re making them for those of us who have and who can appreciate the imagery and how it represents the films that we (and they) love. And it’s that last word that sets these posters apart – they’re born from love. And not only love for the films for which they’re designed, but for art itself. These posters aren’t exercises in technical proficiency – honestly, in terms of the button-pushing involved, practically anybody with a working knowledge of Photoshop could make this stuff. No, what sets them apart is the conceptual aspects – the pure artistry and imagination on display. “Simplicity,” as they say, “isn’t so simple.”
FUN FACT: The more minimalist a poster is, the easier it’s turned into a desktop wallpaper.
You have guys like Ibraheem Youssef (who may be my favorite of the current crop of these dudes). In terms of films, he seems preoccupied with Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson (though he also did a couple of others – including an amazing variant for Inception, which you’ll see in the link above), but you can feel the absolute joy he finds in those films and filmmakers because it’s put into the work. The main one-sheet for Pulp Fiction is still an image I love, but the iconography he chooses for his version is inspired. And his Kill Bill variant? I don’t know how to say anything about that without it being an exercise in gushing masturbation. Simply put, I love it. And considering the rest of his portfolio, that’s a strong, strong emotion.
Another artist I was exposed to recently was Olly Moss. He’s the dude Alamo commissioned to do the one-sheets for their Rolling Roadshow. His grungy two-color palette and subtle imagery do an amazing job of not only selling the well-worn, well-traveled aesthetic of the festival, but perfectly encapsulates the films themselves. His There Will Be Blood should have been the theatrical one-sheet and his Evil Dead is the only other variant poster for that film that I’ve seen come anywhere close to the badassery of the original.
Hey, I’ll just give you my milkshake if you can get me one of these.
There’s also Nick Tassone. He’s taking the Youssef route and focusing on a single filmmaker (in this case Stephen King) and some of his are hit or miss. But his Shining variant is very, very much a hit. It’s sublime and will be purchased by me in the very near future. It may be just because he’s the guy to which I was most recently exposed, but I kinda want to call him The New Guy in this group. But his eye for iconography and stark, monochromatic visuals is stellar and he’s a dude I’m certainly gonna keep my eye on.
The picture is small (a bigger one in the link), but that’s the Overlook’s hedge maze with teency little footprints leading into it. Splendid.
And these aren’t the only guys doing this – a quick Google search will turn up hundreds of different artists and images (Exergian Art Directors is another noteworthy name – though they only focus on television, their sleek, corporate aesthetic is expertly conceptualized and executed). It’s a new wave of artistry and it’s for these guys that I’m extremely thankful.
My bank account, however, feels differently.