Editor’s Note 01.19.12: The Best and Worst Movie Posters of 2011
Anyone who has met me knows that I love everything about the movie experience. The trailers are a part of that, as well as the posters hanging around a city or inside a theater. Strolling through the crowded lobby getting a peek at a future film you have been waiting for is an irreplaceable feeling. Furthermore, I love hanging posters in frames around my house. The thing is, some of my favorite movies have some of the worst posters, and vice versa. Every year, I like to salute the highs and lows of movie artwork. Keep in mind, the rating of the film itself means nothing. Also, I elected to eliminate Mondo posters from the running. If you haven’t’ heard of that line of movie artwork, designed by various talented artists, I urge you to peruse their gallery by clicking here. If I included them, they would occupy almost every spot on the “Best” list. Anyway, on we go…
THE TOP 10 BEST MOVIE POSTERS OF 2011
10. YOUNG ADULT – If Pixar’s streak of masterpieces met with a bump in the road in 2011, the same could be said for Jason Reitman, whose Young Adult can be described with a phrase I’ve all too often lately: Good, but not great. I so hated the ending of this film, but that’s another column. I was psyched for the re-teaming of Reitman with Oscar winning Juno scribe Diablo Cody and had little doubt they the duo would work their magic again. The poster heightened my confidence with an image that is both amusing and alluring at the same time. The fact that it resembles a book also alludes to the profession of the central character. When I saw this, I was instantly on board and couldn’t wait to see the film. The other poster, which just shows Charlize Theron sporting a disgusted look is a complete 180 from the genius of this primo piece of art.
9. THE IDES OF MARCH – Like Young Adult, I gave a favorable rating to this film, but was really disappointed with it in the long run. Having said that, what made that disappointment hard to take was that the trailer and poster were so outstanding. I love this poster image and think that it alludes to the battle of wits in the story with nice subtlety. At the same time, the hybrid character meshing the heads of Ryan Gosling and George Clooney is both strange, suitable, and better looking than I could ever hope to be. And the Time magazine cover is key because it tells you what type of figures we’re dealing with. Time did something earlier in 2008 when they merged the faces of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, so perhaps that is where the sinpiration for this originated? Either way it is visually arresting.
8. BURNING MAN – I don’t know anything about this movie, and to be truthful, I will put off researching it until I see a trailer float my way. All I know is that this post is extremely powerful and brilliantly conceived. The actor you see is Matthew Goode (Watchmen). I sincerely hope that the film is half as exciting as this image. Images like this are why movie posters should be given more relevance in Hollwyood. They can certainly help or hurt a respective title, and for me, I will seek this out when it’s available, all because of a poster.
7. DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK – I have not seen this yet because I have not had time to see the 1973 original movie. It’s a thing I have before seeing any remake, but I digress. The posters for this really are exceptional, even if the film itself did not impress anyone. This shot perfectly sums up the plot, which calls upon a fear most children have. Most of the posters for this incorporate the shadowy hands along the wall, which is sufficiently creepy as you observe the young girl, but what makes this one the winner of the lot is the super cool font for the title. I guess I have a weird affection for nifty fonts on posters, but it can add a lot in my opinion.
6. HESHER – Aside from an inspired performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I loathed Hesher, and wondered how a movie with a terrific marketing campaign could be such a gargantuan mess. Nevertheless, this poster is magnificent. How could someone not be enticed to seek this title out after glancing at a crazy image like this? First of all, I love the logo, taking the iconic Metallica font and using it for the title. That alone had me curious about Hesher. But then you have the titular character’s fist holding the tail of an innocent little unsuspecting mouse. Add to that the tattoo on his fingers and the absence of color and you have a poster that not only suits the character, but successfully grabs a hold of you. You’ll either be disgusted or mesmerized, but one way or the other you will want to see what this is about.
5. SHAME – I would not have wanted the task of assembling a marketing campaign for a drama about sex addiction. How does one communicate the message in a meaningful way, but also one that urges people to seek out and buy a ticket for the film? Well, I thought this simple poster did a fabulous job. Gray bed sheets that have obviously just been used, disheveled just enough that the observer notices. And the title “Shame” in bright white font right across the middle. Had the title been put somewhere else the effect might have been lost, but the basic shot of a bed and that piercing title gets under our skin. We know exactly what this film is about even if we’re a little apprehensive to admit so. I found it to be powerful in an easy, yet intelligent manner.
4. THE RUM DIARY – And here we have yet another example of a bad movie that at least carried a superb poster with it. To be truthful I did not enjoy the sluggish, schizophrenic Rum Diary, but this poster pointed the way towards a brighter conclusion. When people saw this, they were probably interested. Hell, this is something you might have seen at Spencer’s Gifts at one time, or maybe it reminded you of Fear and Loathing. The title of the movie, spelled out with bottles of booze. And when Johnny Depp is your star, an actor who has starred in his fair share of movies about drugs and alcohol, it doesn’t get much more awesome than that. With this poster, you can flaunt liquor on your wall, but just say you have an affinity for film artwork. It is sad that the film did not reflect the brains or edge of this poster, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
3. 13 ASSASSINS – God, how I wish more movie posters embraced the actual artwork angle. Looking at all the Mondo posters, I would buy them all if I had the money because they’re just that damn cool. This one is a rarity in that it is an official poster that is both artsy and completely enthrallingly tubular (yes, tubular). What better way to promote a samurai flick from Takashi Miike then to slap on angry looking Japanese warrior with a sword and a fiery background? This particular poster more resembles a page out of a graphic novel, but more foreign action films should use this style, or something similar to lock on the attention of as many viewers as possible. I have no doubts than anyone who hasn’t seen this and has now seen this poster is at least somewhat intrigued.
2. THE TREE OF LIFE – I know I know, I have an unnatural hard-on for this movie and should be thrown into the lowest pit of hell. Too bad. The Tree of Life might have been my #1 film of 2011, but it was also perfectly marketed. Whether or not you liked it is beside the point. I challenge anyone to tell me the poster and trailers weren’t targeted as they should have been. If people went in to it expecting a typical Brad Pitt flick, that’s on them. The fact is, both posters got me enticed and the trailer only amplified that. In a movie that is saturated with gorgeous shots, this poster displays a collage of them, creating something you can’t help but peer at and analyze. The one with the baby’s foot was also incredibly poignant, but this one is so eye-catching and fantastic it has to win.
1. DRIVE -Another 411 movie-zone staffer will tell you about the piss poor DVD artwork for this film, but the original teaser poster got everyone’s attention. This is not just a picture of a handsome celebrity. Ryan Gosling might be just that, but this has him looking like an appropriate hero that doesn’t mess around. Upon perusing other poster sites, I agree that for this image it’s the little details that spruce up the final product. Take the toothpick in the mouth, the worn-out shirt, and wonderful pink 80’s style font. If only the jacket were incorporated. This is a great poster that conveyed the proper message with just a simple approach. It is exactly the sort of movie poster to have on your wall. It might show off Mr. Gosling, but this is not some pose for girls. It is the definition of bad a$$. People will bow down if you own this one.
THE TOP 10 WORST MOVIE POSTERS OF 2011
10. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – I fully expect this one to receive a mixed reaction, but I’ll always write what I feel. On one hand, if David Fincher and the studio had the goal of grabbing people’s attention, perhaps they thought this was a perfect way to accomplish that. In my opinion, this poster reeked of desperation. I highly enjoyed the film, but I still think this particular poster was the wrong way to go. I understand the motive, but hate it anyway. The topless Rooney Mara was merely a tactic to stir controversy, that’s it. Otherwise, it was totally out of character for Lisbeth Salander, looked dumb, and made little sense no matter how they tried to spin their intentions. It’s not a love story after all. The other poster in circulation is actually quite good, but I thought they reached too far here.
9. JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT SO BUMMER SUMMER – If I were a 10 year-old girl, this poster might be the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I’m not, so this huge eye-sore gets on my nerves everytime I see it. Was the objective to insert every bright/neon color they could find? No offense to the cast and crew, but am I the only one who has the maniacal urge to tear this up with a furious rage? By the way, just uttering the “phrase” at the top, Supermegatotallythrilladelic, makes me want to vomit. Let’s move on, shall we?
8. J. EDGAR – As if the list of average films that should have been better was not long enough, J. Edgar had a lot of hurdles in front of it. For starters, the film had to cover a figure who experience more than 60 years of important events in US history. On top of that, how do you attract viewers to a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover? Well, I don’t know off the top of my head, but my first choice would not be this odd angle of his face. It certainly doesn’t capture the energy or emotion of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. Instead, he looks silly, which cannot be what anyone wanted. This is also the DVD cover artwork. Yay. Biopic posters fail so often it’s hard to rant about this excessively. The marketing department is so lazy with them they always just tack on a facial shot of the lead actor and call it a day. Try something different from now on, please.
7. MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY – After Scorsese’s The Departed was released, I read an interview with Tyler Perry where he said he could make a film like that. His films were already terrible, but that really soured me on him, especially since he has made no effort to improve. This series of posters just made me angry. Shame on Perry for using the success of other films to ludicrously promote his own. I don’t want to hear about how creative or funny it is either. He did this to try and enlarge his audience, nothing more. Just writing about it makes me increasingly aggravated. I need a beer…
6. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE – Ok we get it; the QR code is sneakily covering the image of Elizabeth Olsen. Is this a good time to bring up another pet peeve from 2011? How about QR codes? I think they are stupid, and I escaped the phase of wanting to use a decoder ring from my Cracker Jack box to unlock secret messages. I’ll bet the marketing team thought this was genius and promptly did the dance of joy from Perfect Strangers. Most others shook their head in disappointment, especially considering the other posters were pretty exquisite. Chad’s advice to all marketing teams: Combining QR codes and movie posters is a bad idea.
5. JACK AND JILL – Now, this is a Spanish movie poster, but if you’re a passerby, and you spot this monstrosity, what could you possibly discern from this ghastly image? Could it be Adam Sandler and Katie Holmes judging a waverunner contest? Why they all creepily standing around watching her in apparent approval? And I’m not sure I can explain just how much I hate comic actors who use the shrug of the shoulders, arms up pose to convey their confusion at the dilemma from the storyline. You know who else was famous for that? Rob Schneider. I understand why Eugenio Derbez was given top billing for this area, but his insertion on the poster is incredibly out of left field. It’s no wonder that Jack and Jill was one of Sandler’s lowest grossing film’s in years. Look at how they marketed it towards us. Why would anyone pay to see that?
4. NEW YEAR’S EVE – If there is anything as bad as the floating heads approach to posters and DVD artwork, it is the yearbook style method, which New Year’s Eve confirms as uncreative, hideous, and irritating to think about for more than a couple seconds. I understand the need to flaunt the all-star cast, but why not just settle for the main names involved and pick a universal image for the holiday than everyone could connect with? That would have been better, but instead we are forced to stare at bland pictures of the actors’ faces. Hooray for the studio for saying, “We could care less about the storyline, but don’t you see all these popular names. Come see our movie for attractiveness!” No offense to Garry Marshall, but could this please be the last of these holiday anthology movies? I’m tired of the three-minute long trailers just to announce the cast.
3. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – On the flip side of the coin, here we have an example of a terrific film with some truly awful posters. The grossly photo-shopped one of the entire group is not much better, but I think most will agree that the “Crotch Silhouette” approach is a little bit frightening. You might think that simply leaving the shadow by itself would be ok, but even the shadow looks cheap and clumsily thrown on. I could say this for most of the posters on my worst list, but when I look at this, it makes me wonder who, if anyone, actually checks what is being made. Did someone actually analyze this and say “Yeah, it looks good.” If so, what medication are they on? Thankfully positive word of mouth about the film was enough to sweep this under the rug during its initial theatrical release, but obviously it needs to creep back to the surface for this list. The James McAvoy one edges out Michael Fassbender’s because they cut poor James’ face off. What the hell!?
2. BUCKY LARSON: BORN TO BE A STAR – Picking the poster for what most people believe is the worst movie of 2011 as one of the worst posters of 2011 almost seems too obvious. Nonetheless, how fitting that a crude poster is selected for a crude movie. Now, unless you’re a movie buff that sees everything, what about a pants-less Nick Swardson could entice you to rent this turd of a film? Couldn’t some schmuck over at Happy Madison copy one of the tastefully done posters for Boogie Nights? If Nick Swardson wanted this to be a vehicle that catapulted his career as a comic actor, he has to know that every aspect of it was a failure. Anyone who saw this instantly would be turned off because they will know that the character is extremely annoying and stupid. That’s what a poster can do folks; make or break a movie. Bucky Larson was doomed before it left the gates.
1. BIG MOMMA: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON – If this isn’t one of the ugliest movie posters in human history, I don’t know what is. No horror image could compare to the chills one receives after glancing at this? Where do I begin? What kind of drugged out moron decided that a dress of faux police badges would be at all humorous or even remotely look sufficient for the artwork? Secondly, why is Martin Lawrence wearing that wig? Third, I haven’t bothered to translate the teaser line, but is that reference to Lady Gaga? WHY?! Is Brandon T. Jackson Big Momma’s personal assistant? Does he help her change? The incestual implications of why he is watching her dawdle around in a kinky cop dress is too revolting to imagine. I doubt Lawrence even knows this poster exists. That can’t actually be him posing. No doubt the entire conglomeration was photo-shopped, probably by a 2-year old. This one gave me nightmares.
I was in the mood to separate my lists this year, which is why you have the Best and Worst Posters as its own article. Stay tuned for my annual list that looks ahead at my most anticipated film of 2012, as well as looking back at my Oscar predictions from the beginning of 2011. I hope you enjoyed this article. In case you were in the mood for more Chad Webb writing, you can check out any of the following:
Check out my Top 10 Pet Peeves articles as well:
“The plural of Chad is Chad?”
–From the movie Recount