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Weekend Reel Reads: Exploring the Design of Ads and Scores

Features
by Steve Greene
May 13, 2012 12:39 PM
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Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at critic@indiewire.com.

Ignition Print Balances Commerce, Creativity In Cutthroat Movie Poster Graphic Design World

As with many other aspects of a film’s production and advertising, the creation of a movie poster is often handled by firms outside of a main studio’s reach. Sometimes, winning the right to be at the center of a marketing campaign means outlasting a bevy of competitors. The Huffington Post’s Joe Satran looked at the firm who handled the poster for "Dark Shadows" as a case study in the Hollywood process. (One of the people Satran spoke with is Jared Mobarak, whose Posterized Propaganda column at The Film Stage is a fascinating monthly read.)

"It took Warner Bros. weeks to look through all 200 designs, but studio representatives liked what they saw. They asked for some revisions, and after a months-long winnowing process, told Ignition that one design stood out: a high-contrast, black-and-white photo of Depp's face on a white background, the brainchild of a designer named Ravi Rochanayon. Warner Bros. asked Ignition to make a version for each of the main characters. Instead of a white background, though, they wanted a neon rainbow."

'Avengers' Composer Alan Silvestri: Bringing Heroes Together with Music

Alan Silvestri has been a working film composer for decades, scoring a few films with themes that have reached the rank of “recognizable” (the "feather music" from "Forrest Gump" chief among them). Now, with “The Avengers,” Silvestri can add one of the biggest films of all time to his resume. Matt Patches of Hollywood.com spoke with Silvestri about how his previous work on “Captain America: The First Avenger” influenced the work on his newest blockbuster.

We knew the Avengers would need [a sensibility]. And Marvel very much wanted that. As did Joss. And so, I remember the first time I saw a screening, early, early on. I was already on board. I had been hired. But I hadn’t seen the movie yet. And when we get to the point in the film when the Avengers all assemble in the middle of the street, it’s a very unique spot, because they’re actually not moving. They’re not doing anything. They’re standing there.

The anti-action.

Yeah, it’s the anti-action moment! But I’ll never forget — in the screening, we get to that moment in the film, and all of a sudden, I turned around and all the heads were looking at me. It’s like, ‘This is the spot, pal!’"

Designed for Impact

The ripples of designer Saul Bass' work extend far beyond his famed work of the 1950s and 1960s. His title sequences, trailer innovations and iconic storyboarding are the basis for a new book, begun by Bass and completed with the help of his daughter. The book charts the genesis and progression of Bass' career through his lesser-known efforts as a more outright filmmaker. Lyra Kilston’s review gives a brief, but effective overview of Bass' professional life, leaving the man himself to elaborate in the book’s pages:

"Bass (1920-1996) was born into a Yiddish-speaking family in the Bronx and showed an early interest in art, studying at the Art Students League. From the beginning, Bass straddled a clear-eyed embrace of a career as a commercial artist and an interest in the avant-garde. During the Depression he worked for a Manhattan company that designed trade ads for film, describing their limited scope as the "See, See, See" approach, i.e., 'See the missionaries boiled alive! See the virgins dance in the Temple of Doom!' He wanted to raise film ads to a higher plane, later recalling, 'I was sufficiently young enough, cocky enough, and naïve enough to believe I could elevate movie advertising to the standards set by Man Ray's Rayographs and Jean Cocteau's films and illustrations.'"

The Rapture of the Silents

Ostensibly a triptych of reviews centered around films that are a part of (or deal directly with) cinema history, Geoffrey O’Brien’s piece is also a mini-treatise on the nature of silent films and how modern audiences interact with them. Covering familiar territory when discussing last year’s “The Artist” and “Hugo,” he also delves into less prominent works, like Victor Sjöström’s 1921film “The Phantom Carriage.” By highlighting classics of the early silent period, O’Brien gives hope that audiences of the future will be able to afford the black-and-white masterworks of decades past the rapt attention they command.

"It is a property that will only get stranger. People have had millennia to get used to the idea of the ancientness of written texts; we have not yet seen truly ancient films, having got just a little beyond the century mark. A passenger—a babe in arms—who got off the train at La Ciotat station as the Lumières were filming it in 1895 may well have lived on into the age of television and 3-D. In time everything prior to that may come to seem prehistoric, dating from the era before people could see the vanished generations moving in something like real time through a world also in movement."

PG-13: Some material may be appropriate for box-office success

A month removed from the fever pitch of the "Bully" ratings controversy, the MPAA persists as a vital, if misunderstood part of the success of many of the biggest films of this era. As this collaborative piece in the LA Times explains, the six highest-grossing films of all time have been rated PG-13 in the states. Shooting for that particular designation has become a business unto itself, as selected stories from the past 24 months can help explain. Most of the stories may be familiar to those who have followed recent ratings-related developments, but it's a helpful primer for the uninitiated.

"More than a decade ago, [Steven] Soderbergh was a member of a Directors Guild of America committee that tried to get the MPAA to split the R into two ratings; the idea was to create one R category for language only (for films like "The King's Speech") and another, more restrictive R category for films with lots of sex or violence (such as "Saw"). "The last time they made any real adjustment [to the system] was the PG-13 rating in 1984, and a lot has changed since then," Soderbergh said."

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