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July 31 2012

Team GB poster: keep calm and carry on – we've still got Bradley Wiggins

Team GB officials are urging us not to panic. So, let's take them at their word: print out our poster and place it in your window

June 29 2012

Impressionism, Degas and Shepard Fairey – the week in art

The French avant garde storm London's Royal Academy, plus shows from Peter Blake and Mark Wallinger, Olympic posters and Britain's biggest mural – all in your weekly art dispatch

Exhibition of the week: From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism – Paintings from the Clark

The art of the French avant garde in the 19th century always has the power to startle because it is always underestimated. Newspapers tend to see it as safe; art historians analyse its bourgeois ideology. But the public knows better. The reason Monet, Renoir, Manet and their contemporaries remain so popular is not because people want "safe" art. It is because we can recognise true inspiration when we see it. The impressionists captured the feel of modern life in a way that was unprecedented. There's a lightness and reality to their paintings that is the taste of the world we inhabit. In these paintings, as their contemporary Karl Marx said of modernity, all that is solid melts into air.
Royal Academy, London W1, from 7 July until 23 September

Other exhibitions this week

Richard Wilson
The artist who filled Saatchi's tank with oil offers a sculptural take on a British pop icon, as he recreates the tottering bus from the final moments of the film The Italian Job.
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, from 7 July until 1 October

Peter Blake
A hero of pop art revisits the music that has inspired him.
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 7 October

Mark Wallinger
This quirky conceptualist always goes his own way – and it's worth following along.
Baltic, Gateshead, until 14 October

Olympic Posters
Chris Ofili's is the best and Tracey Emin's is the silliest, but whose will capture imaginations this summer?
Tate Britain, London SW1, until 23 September

Masterpiece of the week

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Young Spartans Exercising

The strange erotic intensity of this history painting by Degas is a clue to the passions that pulse within his later impressionist and post-impressionist works. Near-naked young men and women face each other in tense competition, a fantasy of some athletic sex war. Degas shows a similarly charged sexual obsessiveness in later paintings in the same gallery: through his eyes, even hair-brushing becomes a sadomasochist ritual, and as for an acrobat suspending herself by her teeth ...
National Gallery, London WC2

Image of the week

What we learned this week

That it's possible to redo Van Gogh in dominoes

What a jumbo jet nose, a ginormous megaphone and a bus spray-painted with bubbles have in common

That a contemporary collection of Middle Eastern photography has been acquired for the UK – and about time, too

How beautiful the new Turner, Monet and Twombly show is

What the wild men of Germany, Romania and Croatia look like

And finally

Have you uploaded anything to the Guardian Art and design Flickr page yet?

Or shared any of your art with us?

Have you seen our Tumblr?

Do you follow us on Twitter?

Or on Facebook?

Have you signed up for the Art Weekly newsletter? © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 23 2012

Renowned street artist Shepard Fairey commissioned for north London mural

Work by artist who rose to prominence with Obama 'Hope' poster is located on wall of Turnpike Lane shop

The natural territory of the street artist Shepard Fairey would seem to be as all-American as it gets. Emerging from the country's skateboarding scene he achieved global prominence with his much copied, much parodied Hope poster displaying a stylised Barack Obama in shades of blue and red.

He spent much of Friday assembling his latest street mural in a seemingly less likely locale – a suburban street in Turnpike Lane, one of north London's more economically mixed neighbourhoods.

Hoisted aloft by a rented cherry picker, the 42-year-old artist used stencils and paint to create Envision, an image of a giant, stylised eyeball design, set in the frame of a disused Victorian placard site on the wall of a local shop.

The unlikely public commission, carried out with any charge by the artist, was the almost accidental result of a wider community regeneration programme carried out by the local council, Haringey, and the green travel charity Sustrans.

In getting together to decide options for more pedestrian-friendly street layouts, locals pondered what to do with the crumbling and slightly tatty shop wall, and decided the existing frame left by the long-disappeared Victorian placard would be best filled by a mural.

James Straffon, a local who helped organise the project, went to a London art gallery specialising in graffiti artists to seek help.

He said: "The woman from the gallery asked: 'Ideally, who would you like?' I said: 'I know it would never happen, but Shepard Fairy.' She said: 'Shall I get in touch with him, then?' I stuck my neck out and said yes and sent them a diagram with the sizes, thinking nothing would happen. Literally a week later they said, he's interested and he's coming over."

Straffon says he remains unsure why such a celebrated artist would be interested in a relatively out-of-the-way location. He said: "I think what sold it was that it's an old Victorian billboard. I think they like the fact it's the old London thing."

Before Fairey arrived, Straffon and some neighbours spent a day preparing the wall, painting it in a specified shade of red for a background to the stencilled design.

The US artist and his team spent several hours in decidedly mixed weather putting the design in place. Straffon said: "He's come from west coast America to dreary, sodden London. He must be thinking: 'Great, I've got to do this.' It's quite windy, too."

Another oddity is that this is Turnpike Lane's second work by a globally-known street artist in a matter of months. Last month, a mural believed to be by Banksy, a rough UK equivalent to Fairey, appeared on the wall of the area's local Poundland shop, showing a child sweatshop worker sewing jubilee bunting. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 13 2012

National Archives publish wartime propaganda in online gallery

Hundreds of images of war art including posters and a portrait of the future queen are released online

Winston Churchill with a jowl or two flatteringly removed, a fierce group of women in pinnies marching out under the banner "Up housewives and at 'em!" to recycle their domestic waste into "planes, guns, tanks, ships & ammunition", and a startling image of the assassination in 1942 of a Nazi officer are among hundreds of images of propaganda and war art from the National Archives in a free Wikimedia online gallery launched this week.

Some were the work of famous artists recruited to help the war effort, including Terence Cuneo, who in 1942 painted the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the Holocaust, by a British-trained Czech and Slovak team. Cuneo would go on to become the more tranquil official artist for the 1953 coronation, and coveted by collectors as a painter of railway scenes.

Alongside images of tank warfare and bombers picked out by flames or search lights, and stern-faced military commanders in uniform, there are scores of more domestic scenes, including many connected with the desperate need to increase food production at a time of dire scarcity: a poster offers free transport and accommodation to anyone willing to come and help dig potatoes. Dame Laura Knight, famous as a member of the Newlyn School and as a painter of theatre and ballet scenes, contributed many works, including a lyrical image of a land girl stooping over a plough in a wintry field.

However many of the artists are now barely remembered, and some completely forgotten. A pastel image from 1944, showing the then Princess Elizabeth in uniform but as glamorous as any pin-up, is signed only "Tim".

The archive includes the original artwork for famous propaganda campaigns including Dig For Victory, represented by a heroically patriotic toddler with hoe and shovel, painted by Mary Tunbridge, and an airman being vamped by a sexy blonde over the slogan "Keep mum – she's not so dumb", an image by an unknown artist for the Careless Talk Costs Lives campaign.

The first 330 works launched this week are only the start of a project which will eventually place several thousand images online. Some were drafts or never used, and many of these have pencilled comments by the artists or the War Office: a vivid scene by James Gardner of British bombers attacking a German industrial complex has the withering and heavily underlined note in pencil "bomb racks open from centre and not from side as in your sketch".

Jo Pugh, the education technical officer at the archives, said they wanted to open the extraordinary work of sometimes obscure artists to the widest possible audience. "They are an often overlooked part of Britain's war effort but their themes resonate down the decades," he said. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 11 2012

Horror film poster forger sentenced in US

Kerry Haggard sentenced to six years in prison for forging vintage posters for films including 1931 Frankenstein

A Georgia man has been sentenced to more than six years in prison and ordered to repay more than $1.3m in the US after being found guilty of forging vintage horror movie posters

Kerry Haggard, 47, sold the posters and lobby cards on eBay and similar sites to fellow collectors at prices ranging from $500 to $5,000 between January 2006 and August 2009, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. Victims thought they were getting genuine original promotional material for films such as 1931's Frankenstein and 1939 sequel Son of Frankenstein.

In reality, Haggard had used a New York printing company to make high-quality copies from prints and digital scans he provided. He then worked with a restoration company to attach the forged posters to old-fashioned lobby card stock to make them look more genuine. Some of the two dozen plus collectors swapped their own high-value posters in exchange for the fake ones offered by Haggard. Other counterfeit items offered by the forger included posters for 1932's The Mummy, 1940's The Mummy's Hand, 1932's Murders in the Rue Morgue, and 1935's Werewolf of London.

Buyers were duped upon purchase, but many later discovered their mistake when they tried to sell the posters on or had them examined by a restoration expert. Haggard was jailed for a total of six and a half years by US district judge Colleen McMahon at Manhattan federal court. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced under US mail fraud laws, in place because he sent his forged items to their new owners through the post.

"The fakes were very clever and difficult to detect in this instance," said Grey Smith, director of movie posters at Heritage Auctions, which spotted several of the forgeries. "The obvious marks of a fake? Paper stocks, ie, quality of paper, was an obvious sign that tipped us off," he told Business Week. "Clarity of the reproduced image was also a factor in denoting the fakes."

Haggard, of Commerce near Atlanta, Georgia, was ordered to pay $1.38m in restitution to his victims. As well as his prison term, McMahon sentenced him to three years of supervised release.

With the market in movie collectibles booming, Haggard's sentencing is just the latest instance of poster-related criminal activity to hit the US. Last month Christian Eric Stevens, 36, of Reseda, California, was put on trial accused of stealing some 3,000 posters, including advertisements for the current blockbuster The Hunger Games, from US bus shelters in the last 10 months. The stolen items, worth nearly $500,000 (£313,000), were swiped from shelters in the San Fernando Valley and hawked on the internet. Stevens faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.

Vintage movie posters are worth huge sums to collectors. The world record payment is $690,000 for a poster for the 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis which sold in 2005. Second place goes to a poster for The Mummy, which went for $452,000 in 1997. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 27 2012

Power to the people's placards: Save Our Placards project – in pictures

On 26 March 2011, thousands marched through London in protest against government spending cuts. At the end of the March for the Alternative, hundreds of placards and banners were given to the Save Our Placards team, who took some of them on A Placard Parade on 24 March 2012, a year on from the original march

November 09 2011

Reality check: Student protest posters and placards

Student protests have been notable for their distinctive placards. Jessica Shepherd examines what messages the demonstrators have chosen and why


We are going to draw the blog to a close now. Thanks for all your comments and to all those who sent me pictures of their banners and placards.


'Even Thatcher didn't privatise universities'

The government's white paper is unlikely to turn state-funded universities into private ones.

Our state-funded universities are not like our hospitals; they are not part of a government department. They are separate incorporated bodies.

And while they receive less than they used to in public funds - their budget for teaching, research and buildings has been cut by 12.6% for the current academic year - they are still in receipt of £6.5bn from the government this year. Even the money universities receive from tuition fees is under-written by government.

It's true to say that the government is asking universities to act more like private businesses. It wants them to compete with each other more and it is encouraging for-profits to offer degrees. But most of our state-funded institutions are a long way off rejecting public funding.

3.19pm: Support from the US for those protesting today thanks to @ennikukka

3.07pm: Some of the banners are not really reality-checkable, but definitely worth showing... Check out this one

Channel 4 News reporting that one banner reads: "Nick Clegg broke my heart"


'Fight for free education'

Perhaps in an ideal world, education would be free. But wouldn't that mean making those who never graduate pay through their taxes for those who do? Those taxes would be pretty high too - 40% of young women from all backgrounds now go to university, compared with 32% of young men.

The Green Party is the only mainstream party that still campaigns for a university education to be free. It argues that higher education could be funded through a business education tax levied on the top 4% of UK companies, an idea suggested by the University and College Union, the lecturers' trade union.

Tuition fees were first introduced in the UK in 1998. They have steadily risen and, next autumn, universities will be allowed to charge up to £9,000 per year. It seems at best unlikely that they'll go down anytime soon.

1.42pm: HeardinLondon has tweeted this picture.

Let's hope all protesters are like this one ...


For those who want a bit of light relief from the more serious banners and placards ...

1.23pm: We're getting some good images of posters, placards and stickers to our Flickr group.

Here's a slideshow of the submissions so far:


'Education not business, stop the white paper'

One of the most controversial parts of the government's university reforms, published in a white paper this summer, was the opening up of higher education to private colleges. The students of for-profit colleges and universities will be entitled to the grants and loans that their peers at state-funded institutions are. The worry is that these colleges will just cherry-pick cheaper courses, such as law and business, and ignore the high-cost ones, such as science and technology. The for-profits are, in many cases, "no frills" with few student facilities apart from a canteen and their lecturers often do not conduct research. The US has come a cropper over for-profit universities with some institutions under investigation for false accounting, fraud and high drop-out rates. The feeling among many is that these institutions are far less accountable than publicly-funded ones. It's bums on seats, not quality education that matters, some fear. However, it's too early to say whether the business interests of these organisations will override their mission to offer a good education.

The white paper goes before the Commons in May next year. It's probably too late to stop everything that is in it, but academics, students, MPs and others are certainly not too late to suggest improvements.


'No cuts, defend public services'

Michael Chessum, who has helped organise today's demonstration on behalf of the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts, has told me some of his friends will be holding banners with the message above.

Are our public services under attack? The answer is most certainly yes. The coalition has told councils, hospitals and schools that they need to make cuts, but that should be to so-called back office staff, not the frontline. If organisations made themselves more efficient, by sharing services with a neighbouring council for example, they would make the savings they need, ministers imply.

The NHS is meant to have been protected. But the cuts are so deep, hospitals are having to make lose doctors and nurses.

My colleague, Denis Campbell, reported last month that among the hospitals bearing the brunt of the NHS's £20bn efficiency drive is Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals trust in Berkshire. It is considering closing or reducing services at Heatherwood hospital in Ascot to reduce its £10m debt. That could see services such as surgery, orthopaedics, scanning and children's services cut or closed. It has already closed its birth centre owing to financial problems and staff absence. The trust, which has 3,500 staff and a £220m turnover, needed an £18m government loan last year to stay afloat.

Cuts may need to be made, but the sacrifice to cut the fiscal debt is, as Polly Toynbee has written "a permanent human deficit".

11.36am: We've just created a Flickr group to help you show us your pictures of placards and posters here. Click on the link to find out more about how the group works and how to submit photos to the pool - hopefully we'll also be able to feature a selection on the blog.

10.41am: Alex Peters-Day, general secretary of the London School of Economics Student Union, has been in touch with me to say he is going to be holding a banner that says "Condoms protect students, ConDems neglect students".

There's little doubt that condoms do indeed protect students - and everyone else. But have the coalition neglected students?

Last year, as part of the spending review, ministers announced they would be getting rid of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), a weekly payment of between £10 and £30 for 16- to 18-year-olds whose household income was under £30,800. The allowance was ineffective at encouraging the poorest students to stay in education, ministers said. A replacement scheme of bursaries for the poorest students administered by colleges was unveiled in March, but the abolition of the EMA was seen by many as an act of neglect towards poorer students.

Under the new system of higher tuition fees, future students will owe money for longer and at a higher rate of interest than they have done in the past, but whether this can be called "neglect" is up for debate. Many graduates will actually pay a lot less per year and per month under the new system. Martin Lewis' helpful calculations show that if a graduate earns £40,000 under the current system, they pay back £2,250 per year and £187.50 per month out of their pay packet. Under the new system, they'll pay £1,710 per year and £142.50 per month.

The coalition is, in many ways, giving students more power. Universities that are successful in attracting students will be allowed to expand. This will mean universities do everything in their power to give students a good experience thereby improving their reputations. Ministers have promised students more information, such as how many contact hours universities offer.

The previous government was much more generous in its funding of universities, but it also squeezed the number of students so that many of those who wanted to go to university couldn't.

10.27am: At least 10,000 protesters will attend today's demonstration in central London against education cuts, the near-trebling of tuition fees and the government's university reforms.

As with all protests, those taking part will be carrying placards for a variety of causes. I'll be analysing what the banners and posters say. Join in below the line or contact me at or on Twitter @jessshepherd1 or feel free to send me your own photos of posters and placards.

'Tax the banks not the students'

Banks already pay tax - it's called corporation tax and is levied on the profits they make. Disappointingly for some, there is no appetite from the three main political parties to raise corporation tax.

Is the implicit meaning in this banner perhaps "tax the bankers' bonuses"? Ed Miliband has called for a tax on bankers' bonuses, but Nick Clegg has urged for the bosses of our banks to instead "show extra sensitivity and transparency" when awarding those bonuses. It doesn't seem as if there is going to be a tax on bankers' bonuses anytime soon.

One of the other inherent messages in this placard is that students are going to be taxed under the new tuition fees system that comes into place in 2012. The government has been careful not to call it a tax, but the demonstrators holding this placard are right: it is in all but name. It is repaid through the income tax system, the amount you repay increases with earnings and you only repay it over a certain amount. However, it does end once you have repaid what you borrowed plus the interest. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Reposted by99percent 99percent

November 04 2011

August 17 2011

Toulouse-Lautrec and the real story of the Moulin Rouge

Nowhere is the sad, strange seediness of 1890s Montmartre more sharply portrayed than in Toulouse-Lautrec's supercharged paintings – as an exhibition at the Courtauld shows

The Moulin Rouge, a dance hall in late 19th-century Paris, has been depicted in more than one film. I feel compelled to add "and sensationalised". But looking at the way the nightclub's famous habitué Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec portrayed the fin-de-siècle denizens of nocturnal Montmartre, it's clear that film-makers have been sanitising the story. Neither Baz Luhrmann nor John Huston came anywhere near the true wildness and strangeness of the real Moulin Rouge.

You can see the original, raw reality of Toulouse-Lautrec's Moulin Rouge in an exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, which closes on 18 September 2011. Summer visitors to London should put it on their itinerary, especially as the £6 admission also gets you into this gallery's small-but-exquisite collection of artistic masterpieces, which includes Manet's highly relevant A Bar at the Folies-Bergere.

The exhibition concentrates on the sickly southern-aristocrat painter's friendship with a thin, nervous dancer called Jane Avril. Hospitalised for mental illness as a teenager, Avril was mocked by some as a crazy dancer whose legs spun all over the stage while her face remained a mask of misery. But in Toulouse-Lautrec's portraits and posters, she is at once intensely lonely, mysterious and – blatantly – his object of desire. The bony beauty of Avril blazes eerily in his supercharged vision. The power of Toulouse-Lautrec is that the more seedy and unglamorous he makes places and people look (for he is a savage realist, and faces in his pictures are waxen with pain) … the sexier it all is.

Truth is far stranger than fiction in this exhibition. Toulouse-Lautrec's 1892-5 painting At the Moulin Rouge has been loaned from the Art Institute of Chicago. It's a masterpiece. In the foreground, a huge green face, caught in the spooky lights, menaces you. At a table beyond, a gathering of bohemians and dancers whiles away the night. In the background is the dancer La Goulue, while the room itself melts into a curtain of abstract colour. The scene is somehow more exotic and more exciting than any recreation in popular culture. In his portraits of Avril inside or outside this and other Montmartre haunts, her bleak beauty seems impossible for any actor to recreate.

The explanation is twofold. First, Montmartre was a dangerous place in the 1890s and yet the memory of it, preserved as it is today as a tourist attraction, is soft and nostalgic. This was a world pitched between the brothel and the hospital – there was nothing coy or cosy going on. Second, the way Toulouse-Lautrec depicts his chosen milieu is modernist. His portraits teeter towards abstraction, even as they record violent reality in acid colours. His posters, certainly, are truly abstract.

Toulouse-Lautrec's Montmartre was an intense place, but his art adds another dimension of fantasy and feeling. The cocktail is a delicious artistic poison. See this, and lose your innocence. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 02 2011

Amnesty International posters – in pictures

Amnesty has produced powerful posters over the past 50 years. Here are some of the best

March 23 2011

From Tennis Girl to Twilight: the posters that have defined the decades

A photograph of a woman scratching her bum is one of the bestselling posters of all time. But what have been the other popular images to adorn our walls over the years?

Tennis Girl was the photograph of the moment a beautiful young woman gracefully raised the flap of her pristine tennis whites, and scratched her bum. Thirty five years on, it remains one of the biggest-selling posters of all time, and news this week that the now 52-year-old model has been reunited with the image for an exhibition celebrating tennis-related art will surely send many men of a certain vintage scurrying down memory lane and knocking urgently on the doors of their teenage bedrooms. The image, printed in 1976 by now-defunct poster retailers Athena, was for much of the 70s and 80s a staple feature in the digs of many a lustful young undergraduate, and has since sold more than two million copies.

But Tennis Girl was not the only pinup in town for long. Just over 10 years later, a curvaceous Canadian fitness instructor called Pamela Anderson was photographed at an American Football game, and a new cultural icon was born. Images of Pammy, says Charlie Chester, managing director of GB Posters, are some of his most popular posters from the late 80s, along with the musical icons of the time: Guns N' Roses, the Smiths and the Cure.

The era's more discerning poster-buyers, however, might have plumped for cult French film Betty Blue, which featured a sultry Béatrice Dalle, head in hands, gazing at the sky. "It was the poster that got me into poster design," says designer Stephen Burdge. "An iconic image of the 80s that went out of fashion for a bit but I think is coming back."

Though pictures of dead icons Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain and Audrey Hepburn have always sold big, says Chester, poster popularity tends to follow cultural memes. So, as Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction became required watching for the country's youth, the 90s saw the faces of Ewan McGregor and Uma Thurman loom large over desks everywhere. For those in their early teens, Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar was the wallpaper of choice.

The highest-sellers of the noughties were Pokémon and Lord of the Rings, though anecdotal evidence suggests Banksy prints were the rage for buyers of allegedly more sophisticated tastes. The current bestsellers involve Justin Bieber, JLS and the Twilight films. Will they still send hearts racing in three decades time? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 14 2011

Is The Adjustment Bureau film poster the stupidest ever?

That Emily Blunt's going to get a scraped knee

I'm very taken with The Adjustment Bureau, I must say. No, not the film: I'll steer clear of that. I can't get enough of the poster, which I just saw sail past on the side of a bus and which made my day. It immediately put me in mind of Matt Damon, as envisioned by the makers of Team America: World Police – a wooden puppet only capable of saying "Matt Damon".

The poster in question depicts said Matt Damon looking intense and running off towards the left, while holding hands with a pretty girl (Emily Blunt) who's looking gormless and not really running so much as standing on one leg and facing off at 45 degrees from him. "They stole his future," the strapline tells us. "Now he's taking it back."

The immediate future, at least for Damon's foxy friend, seems to hold a twisted ankle and a nasty scrape on the knee. Have you ever tried to run away from a shadowy government agency while holding the hand of a woman in a satin dress and impractical shoes? Experience tells us all that it's next to bloody impossible. The shadowy government agency is usually on you like green on Kermit.

Holding hands is good for skipping, like a great big flower-collecting girl. It's not good for shadowy-government-agency fleeing. Yet here it is – and in posters like this, the composition of the shot demands that the girl be facing in a slightly different direction, which is as much as to say it demands that she be about to topple over.

The poster's deliberate subtext is that Matt Damon's current movie is basically another Bourne movie – ie, another film in which Matt Damon or someone like him spends an hour and a half fleeing a shadowy government agency with a gormless girl attached to his hand.

Is it the most generic movie poster ever? Certainly, it is a solid-gold classic of the determined-man-about-to-yank-a-hot-chick-over genre, itself a subset of the determined-man-looking-in-one-direction-while-hot-chick-looks-in-another genre.

Those poster genres are no more than heterosexual cousins of the two-determined-men-looking-in-opposite-directions posters, or the two-determined-men-with-guns posters. (The two-wacky-men-jumping-in-the-air posters are a different kettle of fish altogether.) Single men on posters are normally looking determined directly at you, unless they're Tom Cruise, who is looking off to one side and standing on a box. Occasionally, if they're bald, you get the back of a head and a strong sense that the face on the other side is looking determined.

If there's one thing more gloriously dim and formulaic than blockbuster movies, it's the posters for them. Private Eye runs a feature pointing out lookalike book jackets, but it wouldn't even be worth doing with film posters. Everything in them comes pre-chewed. "This summer . . . " "They did X. Now he's doing Y." "He was an X. She was a Y. Together they Z." "It was a time of X. It was a time of Y." "One man . . . "

Women on posters get a worse deal even than they do in the films. Have you ever seen a woman on a film poster dragging a man about by his hand? No you have not. Women are there to wear bikinis or fall over. If they have a gun, it's either because they are a super-cool bikini-wearing Femme Nikita-type girl assassin, or because the man in the poster (see Knight and Day) is helping her hold it so the dear thing doesn't get knocked over by the recoil like Britt Ekland in that Bond movie where she falls off an oil rig wearing, y'know, a bikini.

Women don't do too well in posters for horror films, either. There are really two types here: the Terrified Hot Chick with one half of her face obscured by red splodge/knife blade/spooky-looking forest; and the Terrified Hot Chick squished half-naked against a glass window/bit of wire mesh/plastic sheeting.

Then there's the kids' stuff. Thanks to the stigma surrounding people who used to play Dungeons and Dragons, the words "adventure", "magical", "epic" and "journey" are only ever used, humiliatingly, to refer to computer-generated squirrels who get lost and form unlikely friendships with computer-generated polar bears. You're forever being invited to "prepare yourself" for "the ultimate adventure" or "the ride of a lifetime" – though the latter boast, I can tell you, does nothing to impress those of us who remember Space Station Zero at Thorpe Park in Surrey.

But back to the poster in hand: could there be more going on after all? The girl is pointing in one direction; she is being dragged by her hand in another; she may fall over. Could this be, like, a metaphor?

I think it could. On The Adjustment Bureau's website, as well as being offered the opportunity to "like" the film on Facebook, visitors are encouraged to pitch in on the question of whether we exercise true free will or are helpless victims of determinism.

"Fate or free will?" it asks. Join the debate! The greatest minds in the history of western philosophy have grappled with the question unsuccessfully. Now it is the turn of Matt Damon fans. Who knows? Perhaps we'll have a breakthrough. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

February 01 2011

The Mechanic's poster: garage wall or Turbine Hall?

The flyer for Jason Statham's hitman thriller is fittingly terse and drenched in gun oil. But what does it mean?

The humble film poster is not just an ad, it is an A1-sized opportunity for LA's Photoshop wizards to dazzle us with their magic. Monet had his waterlilies, Van Gogh had his sunflowers. But neither had a muse to rival gruff British bruiser Jason Statham and his new movie The Mechanic. The result is a work of genius: daubed in pure testosterone, it deserves far better than to hang in a darkened corner of your local Cineplex. So join me as I crank up the Vision On music and put it in the spotlight it deserves.

What's going on 'ere, then?

Gun oil is invariably the lubricant of choice for marketeers attempting to prise cash from the palms of violence-keen teens. In fact, the only way they could possibly make this poster more appealing to The Mechanic's target audience is by chucking in a free guide to removing bras, a bottle of cider and the answers to this year's GCSE trigonometry paper. You'd be forgiven for thinking The Mechanic was a film in which many firearms and a handful of knives team up to make a giant supergun. It sounds dumb, but ignore the supergun bit and it's an unerringly accurate reflection of the actual plot.

Lay off the Stath will ya?

Criticising the content of Statham's films as implausibly rufty-tufty is like tutting at Super Mario Bros for its failure to accurately represent the lives of Italian-American plumbers. So perhaps a spot of praise is in order. There are few more bankable British faces than Statham, after all, star of more than 25 films over the last decade alone; putting him up there with coal, pharmaceuticals and reality TV formats on the list of Britain's biggest exports.

"Someone has to fix the problems"

Let's take a moment to slow clap the poster's strapline, which sounds like the type of boast you'd expect to hear on an episode of The Apprentice. What are these problems exactly? Electoral reform? Global warming? The seagulls on my roof? It's left unspecified. And it's worth remembering not all problems can be "fixed" by firearms (my seagulls excepted). Minimalism is all very well, but a few more hard facts wouldn't go amiss. It's taken as read we know "mechanic" is slang for "hitman" and that these mysterious "problems" might well be "people" and that "fixing" could be "offing". I'm not asking for a plot synopsis, but for those of us not versed in the lingo of contract killing, a few clues would help.

Are there any redeeming features?

This at least deserves a pat on the back for attempting something different in an effort to stand out from the crowd. And apparently if you snap a picture of it with your smartphone there's a QR code that automatically takes you to the movie's website. A trick that's about 10 times smarter than the movie it's promoting.

The verdict

More garage calendar than Tate Modern. But what do you think? And could you do any better? Let us know in the comments below, or break open your Photoshop toolbox and send us your own efforts. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

January 22 2011

War of the future: Brian Moore's WWIII propaganda posters

Inspired by the 2009 Iran election protest, these third world war propaganda posters are a playful statement on wartime, censorship, and the advent of the internet

November 03 2010

The Last Exorcism poster banned

ASA says it received complaints that the promotional images showed a girl who appeared to have suffered a sexual assault

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a graphic poster for the Eli Roth-produced horror film The Last Exorcism following complaints that it was distressing and unsuitable for public display.

One promotional display for the film featured a young woman doubled over backwards with her dress covered in blood, while another showed her dishevelled and filthy in the top corner of a room. The movie, which is directed by Daniel Stamm and stars Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell, depicts a faithless evangelical minister who agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed by a documentary crew, only to discover that this time, the subject may be genuinely possessed. It was released here in September.

The ASA said most complainants found the images promoting the 15-rated film offensive, distressing and unsuitable for public display because the girl appeared to have suffered a sexual assault. The images appeared on buses and in the Cineworld's cinema chain's Unlimited film magazine. There was concern that the posters were likely to upset children because some posters were placed near schools and because the magazine was freely available.

The film's distributor, Optimum Releasing, said it did not intend the posters to cause distress and had instructed its media agency to remove any ads displayed near schools once it learned of the complaints. The ASA ruled that the first ad was likely to cause offence and distress and agreed that the image of the young girl covered in blood was unsuitable to be seen by children.

However, it said that because young children visiting the cinema were likely to be accompanied by an adult to see a 15-rated film, they were unlikely to see and be distressed by the ad in that context. The ASA ruled that the first ad must not appear again in its current form. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

August 28 2010

The art of punk posters

From the Sex Pistols to the Clash, how poster design helped spread the rebellious reputation of punk

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