Tuesday, March 16, 2010

hollywood code

If you're ever not sure if the movie you're about to watch is (for instance) an engaging bit of torture porn or (oh, say) an CGI-created action sequel or (just perhaps) a female consumer-focused character-driven romanto-comedy, one major hint these days for identifying that last type is to look for the following visual marketing code on the key art/DVD box:
• white background
• strong layered horizontal layout
• lots of type
• photos of (only) faces/people
These types of covers are notable for their lack of any illustrative or concept art and--mercifully, in many ways--their lack of the wacky little interactions often used to sell romantic comedies. Like these:

They also have the virtue of departing from the usual, very vertical design of the 3:4 standard DVD cover.

But they sure are monotonous. The movie which seemed to spark this current cycle as I remember it was Something's Gotta Give (Love, Actually is another possible ancestor) and I remember noticing it again right away on the cover of the Michelle Pfieffer cougary comedy. And then the deluge.

There seems to be an intended whiff of urban sophistication in the way these titles are marketed. Sort of. You can tell when they are kind of an artsy variation, when there are those little bracketed nods to festival wins, and maybe more gradient and less sharply graphic design might indicate a somewhat shittier movie lies inside, and I don't know what the design for remake of The Heartbreak Kid was supposed to convey except god I can't believe we created another shitty remake vehicle and maybe we can sell it to chicks, but overall the impression these covers/posters seem to want to give us is: adult movie! For ladies! Emotions! People. Talking!

They also, in a funny way, harken back to old-fashioned movie posters with the illustrated profiles of actors lined up to tell you right away who was in the movie, but not very much else. Just faces, star power. Not a lot of topicality (and all set in New York unless otherwise indicated hinted at?).

I'm guessing these covers are also much less work for studio graphic designers. Grab a still, polish it up, throw it in a grid--bing bang boom. Don't have to photoshop anybody into wacky heels pulling on a guy's tie.

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