Tag Archives: Movies

My Golden Age of Movie Posters

Note: Click on all the images to see them full size.

If you love movies as much as I do, there’s a good chance that you love movie posters too. You probably have them on your walls, use one as your desktop wallpaper, and perhaps even collect movie posters like some people collect Picassos. I have a few myself, and why not? Some movie posters truly are works of art. Or at least, they used to be. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps I’ve got another case of that rose-tinted nostalgia-vision, but it seems that the hand-crafted movie poster has become an endangered species.

Growing up in the eighties, I spent my childhood in awe of the great movie poster illustrators, the artists whose work embellished the films I worshipped. I was a budding artist as well as a movie fanatic, and the eighties may have been the heyday of the movie poster artisan. It was, I see now, the perfect time for me to grow up in. Part of the excitement of any new movie, particularly those by the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, was that first glimpse of the new artwork by Drew Struzan or Richard Amsel. These were artists who created posters upon which their signature was redundant. You knew who had created it simply by the style of the illustrations. They were in a league of their own, and in my opinion will remain so.

Star Wars reinvigorated the movie poster, accentuating the concept of the one sheet as a collectible piece of artwork. That’s not to say movie posters weren’t collectibles before then but, as it did with so many other things, Star Wars set the bar a little higher. The movie poster was suddenly romantic and energetic again, and the best designs for Star Wars ably captured the film’s wonder, sweep and spectacle. The posters were not just promotional tools, but important artistic creations in their own right. Perhaps, the most famous is the image of heroic Luke Skywalker, complete with accentuated physique, holding his lightsaber aloft, with the giant head of Darth Vader in the stars behind him. Known as Style A, this was a poster design interpreted first by Tom Jung (who would create posters for all three of the original Star Wars trilogy) and then by The Brothers Hildebrandt, with dramatically differing styles.

Drew Struzan’s poster for the film, in collaboration with airbrush artist Charles White III, was a nostalgic piece harkening back to the Saturday morning serials upon which the movie was based. It has a torn poster on plywood effect that only came about because the original design had no room for the movie credits. The romantic design ethic continued with The Empire Strikes Back. Roger Kastel illustrated the classic poster for the Star Wars sequel (see below), having previously created the iconic image for Jaws. Again, it is an evocative illustration encompassing a montage of scenes and characters. The fantasy and romance pours from the poster and the colours beautifully reflect those of the movie. Tom Jung also created his own poster for the movie, featuring a striding Darth Vader holding out his hand, a pose reflecting the movie’s famous and oft-quoted line, ‘I am your father’.

…….………….

Richard Amstel produced two wonderful illustrations for Raiders of the Lost Ark, having earlier worked on the poster for Flash Gordon (above). The Indiana Jones series, a natural successor to the romantic nostalgia of Star Wars, followed suit in utilising great artists to render promotional materials. Amsel’s work on Raiders still ranks among my favourites of all time (see his alternative version at the top of this page). The beautifully realised image of Harrison Ford lifting out of the sandstone (a mix of watercolour, acrylic, airbrush and coloured pencils) is not only iconic, but sets the tone and setting of the film perfectly. Again, Drew Struzan was given the chance to create his own design for the film, for its 10th anniversary re-release. Sadly, Richard Amsel died in 1985, only 38 old. Struzan then became the go-to guy for the Indiana Jones movies, as well as many others connected with Spielberg and Lucas, such as the Back to the Future trilogy and the Star Wars prequels.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that there were many great artists working during this period. John Alvin created the famous poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which portrays the fingers of the alien and Elliot touching. The idea paid homage to Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam (suggested by Spielberg). Alvin was also responsible for the paws emerging from a box for Gremlins and the original poster for Blade Runner. Bob Peak created the art for each Star Trek movie poster, throughout the eighties. They, and many more like them, are the reason why movie memorabilia from that period is among the most sought after.

These days things are different. The ease and speed at which a poster can be knocked together using Photoshop means beautifully hand-rendered movie posters are a far rarer beast. To the men signing the cheques, it’s far cheaper to hire someone to sew together a couple of head shots or do a photo montage on the computer. I understand it, this is a business after all, but there was something about those old posters that fired the imagination and stoked the sense of wonder as you awaited your first screening of the next celluloid dream. They produced the kind of artwork that cannot be achieved with a mouse and keyboard, any more than an Impressionist masterpiece can be. The industry no longer seems to need the artists the way it once did, and it is always sad when an art form becomes surplus to requirements.

Struzan is still working, however rarely, and still producing immaculately hand-drawn posters. Hellboy was graced with his work along with, naturally, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, the golden age of he and his peers is long gone. At forty, I may grumble about my age, but I will always be grateful to have spent my formative years during the heyday of these unsung artistic giants. And I will always remember how I was just as influenced and inspired by the artistry they used to promote the movies as I was by the movies themselves. Thank you, guys.

.

Drew Struzan’s website

A wonderful site dedicated to the work of Richard Amsel

Tom Jung’s page at IMP Awards

John Alvin’s website

 


The 2010 Celluloid Zombie Awards

And you thought the award season was over. Not so. On the last day of 2010, I’ve decided to hand out a small series of prestige awards to some of the most notable people, events and movies of the industry year. Trust me, the Oscars will be cleared from the shelves to make room for these babies. Probably.

Welcome to the Celluloid Zombie Awards 2010!

_________________________________________

The Tina Turner Award for Sticking It To Your Ex

Kathryn Bigelow

After years of being ignored by Oscar, watching ex-husband James Cameron win enough of them to form a small army with Titanic, Kathryn Bigelow finally enjoyed some sweet times when The Hurt Locker beat Cameron’s Avatar to both the Best Picture and Best Director awards, at the Oscars and the BAFTAS. Both Academies enjoyed a rare moment of sense and sagacity in choosing  Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the Best Director action figure in the Oscar’s history. Well done, Kathryn. Have another golden paper-weight for the shelf.

No doubt the Oscars will resume normal service in 2011 and hand Best Picture to Transformers 3. Meanwhile, James Cameron is lobbying the Academy for the introduction of a Best Expensive Cartoon With Blue People In It category, in the hopes of a sure-fire win with Avatar 2.

_________________________________________

The Keanu Reeves Award for Disastrous Casting

The Beaver

Poor Jodie Foster. For her third movie as director, Foster turned to wacky Mel Gibson to play the depressed Toy Company CEO who begins communicating through a hand-puppet. With shooting completed and a 2010 release date set, Gibson promptly, and very publicly, imploded. He decided to start communicating through an answer machine and single-handedly made himself the most unpopular actor since Fatty Arbuckle. Since this could spell death for the project, Summit Entertainment promptly pulled The Beaver’s release date, putting the movie ‘in a holding pattern’ in the hopes that the smell around Mel would waft away. At the time of writing, Summit Entertainment have tentatively announced a release date of Spring 2011 for The Beaver, no doubt hoping that Gibson can keep his mouth shut for the next three or four months. Foster must be wishing she’d dialled Harrison Ford.

_________________________________________

The Stephen Sommers Award for Screwing Up a Good Idea

The Expendables

Bring together all the biggest names of action cinema from the last thirty years for a single movie and you have a sure thing, right? Wrong. Stallone’s attempt to create the ultimate action movie merely proved to be a successful exercise in exhuming the decomposing careers of several stars only to shoot them in the head and re-bury them. Just making sure they were really dead, I guess. Unintentionally the worst zombie movie ever made. I’m tempted to change this site’s name to Celluloid Expendable.

The script was apparently written by a child and several action stars all wanting to get their fair bite of the cherry. The dialogue is head-in-hands dreadful, with such cracking lines as, “We are the shadow, the smoke in your eyes, the ghosts that hide in the night”. Stallone says this just before running around shouting and blowing shit up. Because that’s what shadows do.

_________________________________________

The J.J. Abrams Award for Making Television Watchable

The Walking Dead

Zombie movies have long been a genre all their own, with the undead lurching around the cinemas of the world for decades (and in my town that’s just the audience). This year, however, the disease spread beyond the multiplexes and those wacky walking corpses finally got their own TV show, care of Frank Darabont and TV channel AMC.

Based on a comic book (let’s face it, what isn’t based on a comic book these days), The Walking Dead’s tale of survivors in a post-zombified America aired to record numbers despite being the shortest season for a TV show since Joss Whedon last announced a project. However, the success of The Walking Dead guaranteed a second season, scheduled to air October 2011, which is an eternity for those of us ravenous for more than the taster offered by a paltry six episodes.

_________________________________________

The Darth Vader Award for Making a Memorable Entrance

Chloe Moretz

Forget the Chinese Tiger, 2010 was The Year of the Chloe Moretz. The young actress has been around for a little while, but this was the year when Moretz truly entered the radars of movie-goers everywhere. With engaging turns in no less than three acclaimed movies in 2010 (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kick-Ass and Let Me In) I was almost considering her for The Award for Attempting to Appear in Every Movie Made.

However, it’s for Moretz’s first appearance in costume as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass that Chloe wins her Celluloid Zombie Award. Let’s face it, a 10-year-old girl with purple hair acrobatically carving up a roomful of drug-dealers makes for a memorable enough scene. But give her the line, “Okay, you c**ts, let’s see what you can do now”, and you have a jaw-dropping moment of gleefully irresponsible cinema fun.

_________________________________________

The Dante Alighieri Award for Burning in Development Hell

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson’s prequel to Lord of the Rings started 2010 with Jackson as Producer and Guillermo Del Toro as Director. Ian McKellen (Gandalf) had indicated that shooting would start in July, which was put on hold when MGM’s financial troubles hit the project. Del Toro then quit and rumours began circulating about who would replace him. Jackson began casting in July but this hit a snag when several actors unions urged clients to boycott the film due to contract issues. The movie was officially green-lit in October, the union troubles were resolved but ill-feeling from negotiations with the New Zealand Government left The Hobbit looking to relocate. This was solved, leaving the project back where it started, except with Jackson now down to direct. Casting has continued through the rest of the year and it’s starting to look like The Hobbit might have survived its year in Hell. There and back again, indeed.

_________________________________________

Honourary Award for Being My Son’s Favourite Movie of 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Edgar Wright’s third feature under-performed at the box office, but was still one of the most energetic and imaginative movies of the year. It’s here, however, because it’s at the top of my son’s list. And in the slim hope that he’ll let me off for putting it 6th in my own list.

.

.

.

.

.

.

_________________________________________

.

.


My Golden Age of Movie Posters

Note: Click on all the images to see them full size.

If you love movies as much as I do, there’s a good chance that you love movie posters too. You probably have them on your walls, use one as your desktop wallpaper, and perhaps even collect movie posters like some people collect Picassos. I have a few myself, and why not? Some movie posters truly are works of art. Or at least, they used to be. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps I’ve got another case of that rose-tinted nostalgia-vision, but it seems that the hand-crafted movie poster has become an endangered species.

Growing up in the eighties, I spent my childhood in awe of the great movie poster illustrators, the artists whose work embellished the films I worshipped. I was a budding artist as well as a movie fanatic, and the eighties may have been the heyday of the movie poster artisan. It was, I see now, the perfect time for me to grow up in. Part of the excitement of any new movie, particularly those by the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, was that first glimpse of the new artwork by Drew Struzan or Richard Amsel. These were artists who created posters upon which their signature was redundant. You knew who had created it simply by the style of the illustrations. They were in a league of their own, and in my opinion will remain so.

Star Wars reinvigorated the movie poster, accentuating the concept of the one sheet as a collectible piece of artwork. That’s not to say movie posters weren’t collectibles before then but, as it did with so many other things, Star Wars set the bar a little higher. The movie poster was suddenly romantic and energetic again, and the best designs for Star Wars ably captured the film’s wonder, sweep and spectacle. The posters were not just promotional tools, but important artistic creations in their own right. Perhaps, the most famous is the image of heroic Luke Skywalker, complete with accentuated physique, holding his lightsaber aloft, with the giant head of Darth Vader in the stars behind him. Known as Style A, this was a poster design interpreted first by Tom Jung (who would create posters for all three of the original Star Wars trilogy) and then by The Brothers Hildebrandt, with dramatically differing styles.

Drew Struzan’s poster for the film, in collaboration with airbrush artist Charles White III, was a nostalgic piece harkening back to the Saturday morning serials upon which the movie was based. It has a torn poster on plywood effect that only came about because the original design had no room for the movie credits. The romantic design ethic continued with The Empire Strikes Back. Roger Kastel illustrated the classic poster for the Star Wars sequel (see below), having previously created the iconic image for Jaws. Again, it is an evocative illustration encompassing a montage of scenes and characters. The fantasy and romance pours from the poster and the colours beautifully reflect those of the movie. Tom Jung also created his own poster for the movie, featuring a striding Darth Vader holding out his hand, a pose reflecting the movie’s famous and oft-quoted line, ‘I am your father’.

…….………….

Richard Amstel produced two wonderful illustrations for Raiders of the Lost Ark, having earlier worked on the poster for Flash Gordon (above). The Indiana Jones series, a natural successor to the romantic nostalgia of Star Wars, followed suit in utilising great artists to render promotional materials. Amsel’s work on Raiders still ranks among my favourites of all time (see his alternative version at the top of this page). The beautifully realised image of Harrison Ford lifting out of the sandstone (a mix of watercolour, acrylic, airbrush and coloured pencils) is not only iconic, but sets the tone and setting of the film perfectly. Again, Drew Struzan was given the chance to create his own design for the film, for its 10th anniversary re-release. Sadly, Richard Amsel died in 1985, only 38 old. Struzan then became the go-to guy for the Indiana Jones movies, as well as many others connected with Spielberg and Lucas, such as the Back to the Future trilogy and the Star Wars prequels.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that there were many great artists working during this period. John Alvin created the famous poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which portrays the fingers of the alien and Elliot touching. The idea paid homage to Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam (suggested by Spielberg). Alvin was also responsible for the paws emerging from a box for Gremlins and the original poster for Blade Runner. Bob Peak created the art for each Star Trek movie poster, throughout the eighties. They, and many more like them, are the reason why movie memorabilia from that period is among the most sought after.

These days things are different. The ease and speed at which a poster can be knocked together using Photoshop means beautifully hand-rendered movie posters are a far rarer beast. To the men signing the cheques, it’s far cheaper to hire someone to sew together a couple of head shots or do a photo montage on the computer. I understand it, this is a business after all, but there was something about those old posters that fired the imagination and stoked the sense of wonder as you awaited your first screening of the next celluloid dream. They produced the kind of artwork that cannot be achieved with a mouse and keyboard, any more than an Impressionist masterpiece can be. The industry no longer seems to need the artists the way it once did, and it is always sad when an art form becomes surplus to requirements.

Struzan is still working, however rarely, and still producing immaculately hand-drawn posters. Hellboy was graced with his work along with, naturally, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, the golden age of he and his peers is long gone. At forty, I may grumble about my age, but I will always be grateful to have spent my formative years during the heyday of these unsung artistic giants. And I will always remember how I was just as influenced and inspired by the artistry they used to promote the movies as I was by the movies themselves. Thank you, guys.

.

Drew Struzan’s website

A wonderful site dedicated to the work of Richard Amsel

Tom Jung’s page at IMP Awards

John Alvin’s website