Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Minnie the Minutiae (amended)

[It's my Blog and I'll Obsess If I Want To.]

So, WHY....I wondered yesterday, watching a repeat of the pilot episode of the Gilmore Girls, did the very recognizable title credit sequence/type choice undergo a subtle but strange change?

The title page of the credit sequence has always bothered me for one (seemingly) unrelated reason, the incorrect capitalization. Here is the first image of the pilot; it opens with (what you might call in book design) a half-title or bastard title, just black background and white type: which, strangely, they don't capitalize "girls." The show never capitalized Girls, anywhere. It never looks anything but sloppy to me! Maybe they're trying to emphasize the proper noun-ness of the word "Gilmore" in contrast, but I ain't buyin it. Especially in contrast with the very formal type (more on that in a sec) it doesn't work.

[Another thing to note about that half-title page is how reminiscent it is of a Woody Allen title page, especially as both the capital and small-case G are very similar to the Gs in his famous Windsor Elongated that he uses in almost all his films. Notice the small G in this title, although this also allows you to see how different the other lowercase letters are:

Allen, btw, apparently chose Windsor at the casual suggestion of typographer Ed Benguiat, at least according to this blog entry. I always wondered!]

So there's that problem, but I noticed something odd in the actual opening credit title sequence in the pilot, which is that the lettering is really tracked out. Here is the normal--later--opening title page:

And here's the pilot page:

Look at how much more loosey-goosey it is. Very odd. Totally tracked out (not kerned, I don't think). I can't quite figure out what the point of it is. Or was, since they fixed it. It's just not the usual kind of thing that gets fixed after the fact. Usually things are overhauled wholesale, not....tweaked. Here it looks like somebody took a second look and hit command-shift-[ a few times (as it were).

The only reason I can see that they did this is to use the ligature of the "gi" in girls in the tightened up version. Maybe that was it. But that just emphasizes the incorrect capitalization! Gah. Not to mention the tightening up wasn't very well done, period.

It is a fairly effective type choice, regardless. I sometimes think of it as a Metropolitan font, since a slightly more shaded version was used so effectively for the Whit Stillman movie (here's the title page from that trailer):

Since the font -- type -- has its origins in engraved type, especially those used on invitations (I guess Mrs. John L. Strong or Crane probably'd call it shaded Roman), it makes a huge amount of sense for that movie's titles. It suggests the round of invitations and social events the characters are all living in, the cage of adult formality they are playing with/growing into, the film's wordy, literary qualities, the pretty but old-fashioned and conformist world it depicts, the sort of bleak--b&w--sad, wintry undertones, everything. They even switch types to emphasize it in the promo for Barcelona, Stillman's next film:

And the Criterion release takes it even farther, using hand-drawn lettering and engraved-looking illustrative style:

(If you look at the IMDB photo page for the movie, which shows a series of VHS/DVD covers, you'll see a little lesson in what people have found "classy" in the last 28 years....the range of typefaces is interesting. Much bigger, horsier 90s choices at the beginning.)

Anyhow, ponder, ponder.

Reference source: I've recommended this site before, but I'm going to again because I love it so: this site has title pages from over five thousand movies to look at, all lined up next to each other. Hands down one of my favorite sites, ever. If you love letters/lettering/design/layout/text/type/fonts, it's endlessly entertaining. Here's a snapshot of their recent additions page...delish.

The black and white pages are always, always the most delicious...all the creamy grays and shadows. Another random fact that emerges: how tiny titles are now becoming. (Maybe that's another reason why the GG title got tracked in.) Look at how absurdly sub-fusc the title page for Michael Clayton is:

The only way you could read that title page is on a big screen... ADDENDUM: Just look at this not-quite accurate (it's from the trailer; I think the title sequence one is slightly diff, but I changed my mind and couldn't resist adding this) but fairly representative shot of the title from Wall Street! Beyond horsy.

OKAY, enough wambling around letters for now. Fonty fun.


doug said...

If you like black and white title design check out this site ---doug

Anonymous said...

It's entries such as this that make me feel very very lucky to know you! xoSkip