The fall movie season is upon us and the posters for many of them are harbingers of good things to come. So often these days, movie posters tend to be Photoshopped hodgepodges crammed with too many stars, too much airbrushing, and too little of a concept. There’s an old adage in advertising that instructs marketers to “say one thing, and say it well.” A movie poster is an ad after all, and the more single-minded the better. Here are seven this season that caught my eye and certainly deliver on such criteria.
My favorite poster this autumn is for CAROL, the new Todd Haynes movie that made such a splash at Cannes this past spring. Cate Blanchett plays the title character, a well-to-do wife in the 1950’s, who starts an affair with a younger department store clerk (Cannes Best Actress winner Rooney Mara). Such an affair during that time period, under such conditions, would be fraught with strife. The poster promises just that. The unusually cropped photos of the two leads, facing away from each other, yet of the same lighting, creates a tension and romanticism that already aches. The audience is sure to as well during what looks to be a heartbreaking story.
How does this poster justify its title written in such large, red letters? Let me count the ways. First, the story of the 60’s Kray twins is one amazing true crime tale. Second, Tom Hardy plays both roles, and his two very different performances in the film are already gathering strong Oscar buzz. And three, the film will seamlessly put two Tom Hardy's into scene after scene. From the previews, such special effects already appear legendary.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
It’s only the teaser poster, but Quentin Tarantino’s latest promises to have a throwback classic western vibe to it, and the art brilliantly captures that feel. And the wonderfully morbid image of the stagecoach leaving a trail of blood in its wake promises all the sorts of nasty fun we'd expect from the singular filmmaker. The movie may be studded with stars like Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell, but those responsible for the poster know that the biggest star at play here is the writer/director himself.
From the accounts of those who who knew him, Apple founder Jobs was a forward-thinking genius, a man driven by wild ambition, and a guy, who more often than not, was a world class a-hole. Could this poster capture all of that any better? Jobs (Michael Fassbender) stands close to the edge, lost in thought, and yet so utterly alone. The wonderfully sparse poster even plays off the clean white vibe of the Apple brand and all its marketing.
Here’s another genius loner, this one with so many thoughts and demons, they're tumbling out of him. 1970’s chess champ Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maquire) was a brilliant competitor, but one whose greatest battles were with those demons inside his head. This poster brilliantly captures all of that in a single, yet complex image. There's a horror movie feeling to it all too with its dark shadows and desaturation of color. Indeed, Fischer’s story is a rather scary saga about one's mind becoming a beast of burden. His story on film promises to be tense and challenging, just like this disturbing poster.
THE DANISH GIRL
Most movie posters sell the stars. But this one proves you can use the trope of big faces but do so with a POV that trumps most of the bland and basic Photoshopped one-sheets. In this movie, Eddie Redmayne plays Lili Elbe, one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery. The story took place back in the 1920's, but it couldn't be more timely with our LGBT-aware world today. Thus, the poster suggests the flapper period, but it's cropped in a way to appear modern too. Interestingly, the image also obscures a great deal of costar Alicia Vikander's gorgeous face. A metaphor for how Lili's personal needs taking precedent over those of their marriage? You bet.
Bold and daring is the studio that puts the biggest star in the planet on the poster, then all but disguises her face. That is what Fox 2000 has done by hiding Jennifer Lawrence behind sunglasses and showcasing her looking up at the sky so we're looking up her nostrils. Granted, her name is unavoidable at the top, but this poster tells you that her latest starring vehicle is different. The image suggests melancholy, which is a wonderful contradiction for a movie called JOY. Granted, that's the name of her character in the film, but still, the poster hardly conveys something ebullient.
The buzz on all of these movies is incredibly strong and it would appear that the remainder of the 2015 film year will be very special. These posters reinforce such hopes. And they prove that the best movie ads carry on the idea of saying something singular and saying it very well.