Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hollywood Posters: the good and very bad

The film that I am most looking forward to seeing this year is The Tree of Life by Terence Malick. It is being released in America on the same weekend as Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover Part II, so no, it is not going to set the box office on fire.

What is it about? Well like a lot of Malick’s work the plot will probably be a fairly fragile thing onto which life, the universe and everything will be attached. IMDB describes the plot as this:

Follow Jack O'Brien (Sean Penn) from his upbringing in the 1950's Midwest, through his complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt), to his adult life in the modern world, as he seeks answers to the origins and meaning of life

Like a lot of Malick’s work it also has the distinct possibility of swerving into wankery. I love The Thin Red Line, but more because I love the parts more than the whole (unlike Saving Private Ryan which I hate because I hate the whole more than the parts). Malick’s skill at finding beauty in the world and getting it on camera is a joy for film lovers, but his loose narrative structure can frustrate (and for those who have read Jones’s The Thin Red Line, they would know it was an adaptation in only the very loosest sense of the word). This film looks likely to be much in that vein.

The trailer for the film however, has me drooling. It is one of those trailers that people who love that sort of thing will love. Others will think.. hmmm Kung Fu Panda 2 sounds good (and I know I’ll be seeing that one as well!)

The teaser poster for the film was a cracker


It is just beautiful and lets you know that this film is aiming big.

But the poster released this week gives an even lager hint that Malick is going all out on this one:


It’s a poster that tells you this ain’t your average Ocean’s 11 type Brad Pitt movie. Like a film poster version of The Rolling Stone “Exile on Main Street” is gets across that there is a lot of life packed into this film. Pitt and Penn get as little attention as every other image. I have stared at this poster for quite a few minutes, just loving the cacophony of life within its bounds.

It’s the type of poster that has me aching to revert to my English Lit PhD days and start quoting Derrida or Foucault, so it’s best I move on… (it gets released in Australia on 7 July)

On the other end of the spectrum, if The Tree of Life is a poster to warm your soul, here’s one that takes your soul out back slaps it around then takes it down into the basement and has fun Pulp Fiction style, before leaving some money on the table just to make you feel completely cheap and used.

I’m talking (of course) of the new poster for the new PG-13 version of The King’s Speech.

Not content with making oodles of money from the film, the Weinsteins wanted to go for even more money. The problem is, The King’s Speech in America was rated R (which means “Under 17s are required to be accompanied by an adult”). PG-13 on the other hand means anyone can see it with or without adults.

Now I know what you’re thinking – what the fuck???

And that last word is the reason why it got an R rating. If you have seen the film, you will know that a key scene has Colin Firth saying “Fuck” over and over in an attempt to overcome his stutter. Well there were just too many “fucks” for the idiotic Motion Picture Association of America (I think 2 is the limit for PG13). And so what has happened? Well “fuck” has been replaced with “shit”. Which means now all those 13 year olds who had been hanging out to see the film now can go and see it without their parents – because yeah it really is their type of film. I’d suggest one other reason they have done it is to try and get it OK to show in schools, which I can sort of see having merit. But geez, let’s not get too laudatory, this is really about money.

One of the things I liked about The King’s Speech was that it was obviously made for grown ups, and I don’t give a fig about it not being completely true to the facts – it’s a movie, only pedants and those who have never before seen a film worry about the accuracy of historical dramas (not sure if you know this – but everything that happened in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, “Henry V”, and “Richard III”, didn’t actually happen exactly the way he said…).

But here’s the poster:


Firstly… What the hell???

Oh my God. What is Colin Firth doing smiling?? What in God’s name is Helena Bonham Carter doing or looking at, because she sure as hell has been cut and pasted into that scene?  And the little girl? You mean the girl that is in the film for about 3 minutes?, but now seems to be integral to this story of a man who I guess is trying to connect with his family or something…it_s-a-wonderful-life-7

As someone on the IMP Awards site said the tag line should be “Teachers says every time a bell rings and angel gets its wings”, because the thing reeks of an “It’s a Wonderful Life” poster vibe.

You get the feeling based on the poster that Harvey Weinstein would’ve liked to have recut the film to make Princess Elizabeth into an all-knowing wise cracking girl ala the kid in Remember the Titans.

The poster is such a flagrant miss-representation of what the film is about that it verges on false advertising. (Verges? Oh be buggered is crossed that line the moment it says that it is the film that won Best Picture)

Hollywood at its worst.


Demi said...

Did you see the original King's Speech poster? An absolute shocker.

Pip said...

There is one good thing about the cut and pasted Ms Bonham Carter....her bird's nest hair style has been tamed.

Red Bakersen said...

You gotta take the bad if you want the good...

I've been wondering if the Weinsteins wanted the PG-13 rating so the movie can be shown in schools.

Have you managed to get your hands on "American: The Bill Hicks Story?"

Greg Jericho said...

Haven't yet Red - will get around to it when I find the time. And yep Demi - The King's Speech has had some shocking posters - ones with Rush pulling the most absurd face.

James said...

Only 7 years since Malick's last effort, he's picking up the pace!
Hope Malick still likes voiceover, no-one does it like he does.

Bushfire Bill said...

If you'd read The Thin Red Line you'd realise that the film was a terrible adaptation. Not even really in tune with the book.

Sure there were some vague resemblances, but the lynchpin character of "Witt" was diametrically opposed to the "Witt" off the book.

The Film "Witt" was a semi Christ-like figure, full of goodness and humanity who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The one in the book was nasty, small, brutish and a natural killer: in the case of Guadalcanal, a killer of Japanese, without mercy.

James Jones wrote a much better book than Malick made a film. Awful movie, in my opinion. I nearly walked out.

Won't be seeing Malick's next one either. Once bitten...

Alistair Baillieu-McEwan said...

I for one would be glad if you would deconstruct the poster in the mode of Foucoult and Derrida.
In fact it's lamentable that there is little freely available deep analysis of film, apart from it's box office potential.