Sunday, May 21, 2017

Color Poster Triptych 05: Warriors

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It has become a bit of a cliché to stage nonhierarchical groups flatly walking towards the viewer. As can be seen above, the lack of a strong focal point is often compensated for by a washed out, receding or even non-existent white background. Considering the equality concept, this staging makes perfect sense in the case of the two 1970s stories DIE GÖTTLICHE ORDNUNG ("the divine order" about the fight for women's vote in Switzerland) and KOLLEKTIVET ("the commune" about a married couple inviting their "friends" to live with them). That also dictates the muddy costume colors.

In contrast to the Swiss poster, the others two look much more color coordinated and restricted to two or three basic colors (this is even more obvious in the original Danish version of the poster in the middle). In my opinion, the blandest one also primes us for the blandest concept which seems to be GOING IN STYLE. Like seemingly 40% of all movie poster (even beyond Hollywood), it entirely draws on the old blue v yellow contrast.

When I see a poster like this, especially the one about fighting for equality, I am usually reminded of THE WARRIORS. As you can see below, this has a lot more going for, in fact: a more interesting angle, the blue background, the reflections and a less in your face attitude. Besides the typeface is much more interesting.
Click on the image for a larger version.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Color Poster Triptychs 04: Sunset

The release of the latest BLADE RUNNER 2049 teaser artwork reminded me that I have to dig deeper into the "giant broken statue head alludes to ancient culture" trope one of these days. That aside, it also triggered the following three sunset themed poster triptychs, one with lone women, one with lone men and one with couples:

click on the image for a larger version.
All of these posters are mainly conveying a certain mood. In THE LADY and WONDER WOMAN, the radiant orange associate these women with warmth but also power. On the other hand, the desaturated colors in the SUNSET SONG poster feel much more receding (the contrast on the character is definitely lower than in the one on the right), although the camera angle is much lower (compare the horizons). Needless to say, this is a low-budget realistically filmed literary adaptation rather than a catchpenny mainstream film. Stylistically, both the left and the middle poster capture the tone of the respective films quite well, even though the colors are more unified and stylized than in the actual films. Regarding the WONDER WOMAN poster, however, I have my doubts if DC is really going to give us a film that does not revel in the desaturated bluish gray dreary look with occasional red spots.

click on the image for a larger version.
In contrast to the inert women above, all three posters depict determined men that are actively walking towards us. I assume that a poster like the one from WHAT DREAMS MAY COME would probably look quite different if it were remade today. Probably, Robin Williams' color would reflect more of the orange surroundings. Since the middle and left one are staged against the sun/reflection, we only see them as dark and mysterious silhouettes. Again, the one in the middle is from a British arthouse film. In the case MR. TURNER about the later years of atmospheric landscape painter William Turner, the choice of a late-in-the-day mood poster is obvious. The sparse LOGAN poster, on the other hand, implicates  a tired old western outlaw coming back from the sunset without his horse, which is basically what happens in the film.

click on the image for a larger version.
Finally, here we have three unexpected pairings in more or less fantastical settings. Granted, WAR HORSE takes place during the Great War and A UNITED KINGDOM is based on the true-life romance of the royal couple of Botswana, but the films themselves feel more like fairy tales (if not as openly fantastical as THE SHACK) which is picked up by the soft background clouds and sky stylings. All of these characters are looking at something outside of the frame while their heads visually overlap. What I especially like about these three posters is the clearly stereotyped serif typeface for these kinds of stories. Just compare them to the simpler, plainer fonts used for the comic adaptations LOGAN and WONDER WOMAN above.

Monday, May 8, 2017

THE LEGO MOVIE: Creative Imitation of a Brickfilm (Video Essay)

There are many reasons why you should watch THE LEGO MOVIE (Lord/Miller, 2014) at least once (and I am certainly not talking about the worn-out "special one" fantasy formulas). 
Some things that I keep being fascinated by are A) the film makers' total commitment to make their computer generated blockbuster look like a real brickfilm, and B) how they adapt techniques and stylistic devices of hand drawn cartoons into three dimensions in order to compensate for a conceptual lack of motion blur. And C) there is an annoyingly jolly unicorn-kitten called, well, Unikitty.

So without further ado, my latest animation analysis video essay:
(works best in full screen)
Note: All the video, images and sounds in this animation analysis are the property of their respective copyright holders. They are displayed for educational purposes only with no commercial intent.
This video essay was first published (and is also available) with German voice-over narration for "film bulletin" here: filmbulletin.ch/full/artikel/2017-5-2_brickfilm-meets-tex-avery/

Introducing the Animation Rules

THE LEGO MOVIE does a really great job in establishing not only its setting but also its basic animation style and premise. After a classic pre-credits scene introducing the main villain, the super weapon and the prophesy about an average Joe becoming the great saviour, we enter the main story on an extreme close-up on Emmet's eyes. Emmet is said average Joe, of course.

Here, we clearly see that Emmet's face is two-dimensionally animated and basically flat on the yellow surface of a typical minifigure head piece. In the next shot, we see a close-up of Emmet's rigid hand that tries to turn off the alarm clock which shows us right away how in this film the materiality of plastic LEGO pieces will not be digitally bent. After that, most of us will - subconsciously, at least - assume that this is a concept the film adheres to. Especially after we see that Emmet's flexibility is restricted by the available joints in his body parts...
...which work exactly like the trademark LEGO instruction manual demonstrates.
During Emmet's morning exercises, he jumps a few times:
And now we come to an observation that did not make it into the video analysis: the interesting thing here is how the briskness of the jumping motion is achieved by abstaining from inbetweens during the up and down movements. As you can see from the timecode of the GIF below, the character just goes from anticipation to the up-position and after a few cushion frames back to the down position with a "falling" inbetween.
You can also see that despite this being a computer animated film the film makers tried to animate the characters on twos whenever possible like in a real stop motion film. Most often, the characters are even animated on twos during camera movements which are naturally animated on ones:

2 poses held for 2 frames each.