Poster Boys

A Dirty Shame, feat. Waters (lower right)…Jersey Girl, feat. Smith (upper left)
Designing movie posters isn’t easy.
Believe me, we’ve done enough parody movie posters around here to know. Trying to sum up a two hour film in one image while tapping into various mutually exclusive market forces—Teenage boys! Adult Women! Down-Low Homosexuals!—is hard work. And even though it’s essentially a marketing medium, there are enough iconic examples of the form to make designers want to aim for the rafters.
But listen up movie poster designers, there are some things that are beyond lame. Like squeezing the movie’s past-his-prime director into the poster like an apparition: These eerie, out-of-context photos are like Banquo’s ghost crashing an otherwise fine party.
Take the poster for John Waters’ latest, A Dirty Shame. What does Waters‘ creepy visage (the director himself is fond of pointing out how closely he resembles a child molester) add to the poster that Selma Blair‘s pneumatic prostheses or Johnny Knoxville‘s Gene Simmons-esque fake tongue don’t? If anything, most young filmgoers have no idea who John Waters is and probably assume he’s just another cartoon pervert in a cartoonishly perverted movie.
And then we have Jersey Girl, the DVD and video box for which shows Kevin Smith looking as surprised as we are that he’d be involved in this sub-PAX daddy-daughter cutie-patootie ‘comedy.’ (The masked bandit over at Defamer already deconstructed this box to great effect in two recent entries.)
It’s only natural to make some connection between the quality of these films (“crammed with wince-inducing contrivances, false notes and fizzled jokes,” The Times Stephen Holden wrote with noble restraint) and the desperate attempt to remind potential filmgoers of the directors’ alleged marks of quality. Does the movie suck?, goes this line of thinking. Then let’s slot in the creator and hope that at least the hardcore fans come out to see it. (And hardcore fans don’t come much harder core than those of Mr. Smith’s: someone somewhere bought this. He—certainly he—may have even watched part of it.)
But what about the early example of Wong Kar Wai‘s excellent Chungking Express, the box for which is marked by the stubbled face of Quentin Tarantino who served as the film’s “executive producer”? (Read: the cool director who convinced Harvey to distribute the film in America.) me2.jpgAdding QT to the design was bad, but hardly a red flag for the film, which ten years after its release is still enjoyable. (Faye Wong dancing around to her own cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” and Tony Leung talking to his forlorn bar of soap are still great.)
I just hope we’ve seen the last of this trend. God forbid this chump‘s carb face starts popping up on the posters for his next couple affronts to cinema.

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