Archive for the ‘Posters’ Category


July 10, 2012

By coincidence I just stumbled across a post that my crazy-ass liberal friend Leonard Pierce wrote for his blog that also mentions the WPA posters, and he fully fleshes out one of the truest (and most touching) points one can make about them:

I recently came across an archive of posters created by and for the Works Progress Administration under FDR, the man I will never stop thinking of as the greatest president America has ever had. I highly recommend it for its incredible aesthetic beauty, but there is more to it than that. Looking through each one, seeing what programs it was intended to support and what goals it was designed to achieve, is like glimpsing an alternate universe where the government actually cares for its people — and does something about it. Each poster reflects the values of a political class who believes that everyone in its sphere of influence — nursing mothers, workers who might want to learn more about current events, unemployed people who have a skill or a trade that might be worthwhile to someone who doesn’t know them, retired people who have mastered a craft in their old age, girls who want to learn magic tricks, musicians whose careers have been shipwrecked by economic turmoil, farmers who need to find about about advancements in agriculture, kids who are interested in science but don’t have proper books, local artists trying to make a living, tourists, writers, tenement dwellers — is valuable. It is this recognition that everyone has potential, worth, and value, and that by supporting a system that valorizes the privileged and ignores the poor, the nation is cheating itself on every level, that helped lift the nation out of a murderous depression. It was this conviction that created the best-educated working class America has ever seen, quelled a century of labor strife, and laid the foundation for the liberal consensus of the post-war world that led to the longest single period of economic prosperity the country had ever seen.

The WPA Does Tom Blog

July 10, 2012

At one point of Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, Crumb (the man, not the movie) riffles through a handful of Polaroids which he uses as drawing aids. The pictures show a series of street scenes, but instead of people or architecture they’re focused on utility poles, dumpsters, transformers, parking meters, newspaper racks and all the other bits of urban detritus which, as Crumb points out, we unconsciously block from our minds as we move around in the world. Simply swiveling your head from side to side while standing on any city street corner reveals just how much of this suppressed junk there is surrounding us—junk which, along with the acres of ugly advertising signage, does nothing but pollute our view of the places we live in. So it’s nice to imagine walking down the street and finding a well-funded effort to spruce the place up with a little whimsy and positive social feeling, and if it takes up space that would otherwise be filled by ads for Buick and Electrolux (or Lexapro and Apple), so much the better. And if that effort springs from a government agency whose only mission is to promote the health and happiness of its citizenry while incidentally throwing a few bucks at some talented artists on the side—why, then, yes, I can get behind that, too. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

just one more…

March 5, 2012

…I promise. But a cache of old posters turned up in an attic in Berwick, PA, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let that Public Enemy poster pass by without noticing it.

still posting about posters

February 29, 2012

One of the wonderful things about getting old (plus not being all that bright to begin with) is that sometimes you can’t explain what happened just a few minutes ago. I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon this poster, and I almost clicked on past it before it caught my eye. Y’know, a couple or three weeks ago I was going on about Polish film posters, and why can’t we have good ones, too, and Waahhh! and all that jive. I understand it’s too late in the game for the entire film industry to switch gears and start publicizing Michael Bay movies with blotches of color resembling only the most suggestive of shapes, but this can at least serve as a pointer.

You may or may not remember Last of the Mobile Hot-Shots, which is not to be confused with the Daniel Day-Lewis sitcom Last of the Mohican Hot-Shots. No, this was a dreary adaptation of a weak Tennessee Williams play directed by Sidney Lumet, who used to be the main man people would go to when they wanted to know more about gothic interracial sex games. Hot-Shots came out in 1970, and as such it was one of those X-rated movies I had to sneak into, which I’m sure is the only reason I remember it today. Well, that, plus my disappointment, for Last of the Mobile Hot-Shots was nothing but a tease: there was no real nudity, and certainly no intercoursing, though I was too young at the time to know that I didn’t want to see Lynn Redgrave naked under any circumstances. What there was, was a lot of James Coburn reeling around and heehawing in a broad Southern accent that seemed designed to drive the dogs under the porch, and at the end a Biblical flood that I’m sure, knowing Williams, was really a symbol for Sex.

But it did yield this poster. It’s still a lot more literal than those Polish jobs, but it’s authentically eye-catching, and I especially like the way that fan evokes both the MPAA rating board and the Crucifixion. God knows I usually associate the two things with each other.

The Incredible Lightness of Polish Film Art

January 11, 2012

When it comes to movie posters, it’s hard to beat the Poles. They see posters as more than a publicity tool; to them it’s the chance to create an auxiliary piece of art. Regularly cranking out the kind of conceptual work associated here almost exclusively with Saul Bass (who is dead, I might add), they’re not afraid to lead off with a humorous uppercut, even if it’s tonally incongruous with the movie being advertised.

(And let me interject just one quick aside here: that crutch just slays me.)

Some of the most effective ones splurge on symbolism with the abbreviative powers of a good political cartoonist. In fact some of the posters resemble nothing more than coded comments about a certain style of government.

It’s also interesting which qualities of a movie its posters will choose to emphasize. Where the American poster for The Great Escape pushes its stars and an action scene that doesn’t really exist in the movie,

the Polish poster picks up on that oddly serene interlude just after the mass escape, when the movie’s energy, after being cooped up in the Stalag for two full hours, suddenly breaks free, radiating outward across the countryside as the escapees employ everything from a rowboat to a stolen Luftwaffe plane in their dash for freedom.

Mostly I like these posters because they have something bigger on their minds than making me hie my ass to the nearest movie theater. More gaudy than truly colorful, most Western posters are nothing more than visual P.A. systems with an ever-diminishing sense of playfulness. But the Poles, sometimes needing only a very few lines and a little color, can express a movie’s essence—and often something more.


February 22, 2011

Movie posters don’t really aspire to art—they’re just signage, something to flash on the monitor behind whoever it is that anchors Access Hollywood these days—but romantic comedy posters remain particularly uninspired. Even the classy productions get eyesores that work on the level of hog-calls:

Feel better, single ladies. Your time will come!

Then there’s the teeth. The big…white…flesh-tearing…teeth. Please don’t drink my blood, Kate Hudson!

Do you know that boyfriends make good mules?

Wacks Factor!

Then there’s the inane and the inexplicable. Did they really make a movie about Sandra Bullock pooing in her miniskirt?

And every so often the posters just come out and admit that their movies are suicide-hotlines for the romantically forlorn. “Don’t open your veins! Come see me instead!”

Anyway, what brought all this on was this poster, which jumped out at me the very first time I saw it:

That was at least two months ago, and even now I find it pulling my eyes to one side as I come slogging out of the subway every night. I have to admire its craft even as I hate, well, pretty much everything else about it. There’s Portman’s carefully calibrated freshly-fucked tousledness, it confirms that Ashton Kutcher becomes less objectionable if he just points his face away from the camera, and without the text it could pass for a Van Heusen shirt ad. I’ll probably never see the movie, but I appreciate the difference between two-bit fantasy-flogging and actual advertising.

“Les orgueilleux” (1953)

January 13, 2011

(thanks for reminding me of this one, Porter…)

Feeling It

October 23, 2009

(With thanks to “italiangerry”…)

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