Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ranking The Alternative Best Picture Oscar Posters (Worst to First)

Well, this was a surprise. In what might be the coolest, hippest thing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have done in years (admittedly not saying much I know), they've teamed up with Gallery 1988 and commissioned some of today's most talented pop-culture artists to design limited addition screen prints for each of this year's nine Best Picture nominees. And it figures they're about ten times better than any of the official posters released for these films, not to mention far superior to much of what I singled out in my annual Best Posters list. While the artists achieve varying degrees of success with these prints, it's indisputable all them do a fine job capturing the spirit of these films as stylishly and simplistically as possible. If looking at these doesn't at least get you mildly interested in checking out this Sunday's nominees, it's likely nothing will. It's just a shame that none of them are for sale, unless you happened to show up at their L.A. gallery earlier in the month and grabbed one. Of course, this could change, and if it does, I know exactly which print I'm picking up. Remember, I'm ranking the posters, not the nominees (though you couldn't be blamed for being slightly suspicious when I get to a certain selection). So, here they are, along with my comments on each.

9.  Lincoln by Jeff Boyes
To be totally honest, there's not much you can do with Lincoln. That said, Boyes does about as good a job as could have been expected given the circumstances. Does it look nice? Yes. Would I hang it on my wall? Probably not. In fact, this might be the only case where I slightly prefer the original theatrical one-sheet (albeit slightly). The two-faced red and blue is a nice touch though, giving the image of our 16th President a complexity many still claim the film lacks.

8. Les Miserables by Phantom City Creative
Another tough one. The possibilities aren't exactly endless when you're handed the task of designing a poster for Les Mis. Or maybe they' are since there's so much going on and so many characters it's a chore deciding what exactly to represent. Taking the path of extreme minimalism was the right choice. The blood, eyes and flag is a cool design for sure. It grows on me the more I look at it.

7.  Amour by Matt Owen
I have a feeling that when I eventually see Amour my appreciation for this will probably grow considerably. Hardly knowing much about the film, I still kind of really like what Owen did here. It looks like a cross between a Wes Anderson DVD cover and a painting you'd find hanging in someone's study. There's something that's just beautifully simplistic about it. And don't underestimate the difficulty of having to design a poster for an over 2-hour foreign film centering around an elderly woman's death. 

6. Argo by Anthony Petrie
If nothing else, this addresses all those pesky complaints about Argo downplaying Canada's involvement in the rescue mission. Between the three flags, the shredded paper and the really neat shadowy silhouettes of the escapees running through Iran (on a film strip no less!), it's definitely an eye catcher. While I still have a nagging feeling something bigger could have been done (perhaps working in the sci-fi angle), I'm perfectly fine with this classy, relatively simple image representing the year's likely Best Picture winner.

5. Django Unchained by Mark Englert
Yeah, I know. This doesn't exactly capture the "spirit" or bloodshed of Quentin Tarantino, but don't we have enough of those kinds of posters anyway? I'm actually glad they didn't take the grindhouse exploitation route and instead picked an artist whose very style is the antithesis of what Tarantino's work represents. That contrast makes for an unforgettable print. This could be an alternate poster for a classic western like The Searchers or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and while it's kind of a misrepresentation of the movie, you can't tell me it isn't an incredible piece of landscape art that would look good on any wall.

4. Life of Pi by Tom Whalen
Upon first laying eyes on this I really didn't care for it at all, but upon closer inspection it starts to become clear what Whalen was going for. And once you're on board (no pun intended) with that, then it's hard to stop staring at it. Here's another one where my appreciation for the details in the print would probably increase dramatically once I've actually seen the film. But I can say with absolute certainty it would look great hanging up with its interesting color scheme and the stain-glass style design. 

3. Zero Dark Thirty by Godmachine
Boy is this unusual. It almost looks like two entirely different prints combined as one. Zero Dark Thirty was always going to be a difficult movie to visually conceptualize in poster form so a lot of credit should go to the designers who found a way out by creating something that doesn't even slightly resemble a movie poster in any way, shape or form. It looks more like a splashy desktop background or wallpaper that's cut right down the middle. We even get a cloaked Maya and Bin Laden in nightglow green on the right and a re-creation of the movie's most memorable sequence on the left. I'm still not sure how it would look on a wall, but as a representation of Kathryn Bigelow's film, it's incredible.

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild by Rich Kelly
Here's another print that while not necessarily the most accurate depiction of the actual film from an marketing perspective (kind of making the movie look like a Gothic horror tale about the dangers of alcoholism), it's just too impressive a piece of abstract art to deny. So in that way it kind of does capture the film's spirit, which in a way defies description itself. I love the cluttered representation of the "Bathtub" in the middle, the barely visible Auroch behind Wink and of course that awesome reflection in the lake of he and Hushpuppy in the water. Wouldn't mind seeing this released in a variety of different colors just of curiosity, even though the green works really well.

1. Silver Linings Playbook by Joshua Budich
I've decided when and if Silver Linings Playbook loses Best Picture, I'm blaming its awful official theatrical poster, which was one of the many missteps made in unfairly marketing the best movie of the year as rom-com fluff. Luckily, those misconceptions have since been squashed as audiences are just recently discovering how powerful it really is, with its chances of a shocking upset on Sunday at least better than decent. Mental illness, running, romance, football, gambling, ballroom dancing. It's woven into an unforgettable tapestry in writer/director David O. Russell's comic masterpiece. And it's all captured in Joshua Budich's magnificent print which, as far as I'm concerned, stands as the film's true OFFICIAL poster.

Aside from the absolutely astounding comic-style artwork, just look at the details! The expressions on Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver's faces. The Eagle wings. The book thrown out the window. And Budich deserves major kudos for knowing just the right line to scribble at the bottom, quoting DeNiro's chill-inducing speech at the end of the film. Who ever thought we'd be this happy to see Chris Tucker?  I'll cop to some bias since it's my favorite film of the year designed by my favorite poster artist, but the work here really does speak for itself. If I could envision the quintessential SLP print, it would still fall short of this, as the most inventive Best Picture nominee is now deservedly rewarded with a poster worthy of it.

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