Thanks for Sharing is coming out in limited release this weekend. The film tackles the highly timely topic of sex addiction, that not many movies have discussed so far. So instead of having five favorite movies about sex addiction I would like to take this opportunity to discuss addictions in movies in general. Sex is not the only addiction a person can have, there are lots of others, like gambling, alcohol, rage and so on and so forth. I selected five films that deal with five different addictions. There are a lot of movies dealing with the idea of being addicted or obsessed with something and of course five movies will hardly cover any ground, but it’s a starting point to inspire you to notice how many films deal with the same concept that can take on endless forms.
As we’ll see none of these addictions are a good thing, not even the ones that sound fun. Some addictions are out and out bad, like say a vampire being addicted to human blood and killing. Some addiction may even come off as noble like “your job”, but too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Professor Humbert Humbert’s love for Lolita eventually became an obsession, though it’s fair to question if the pedophile relationship wasn’t doomed from the start, but I digress. Let’s explore some of these addictions and see how they ruin people and how they almost always end badly. No happy endings, because that’s life and how else can life end if not in death? Sorry, I’m being a bit over-dramatic here, never mind. Carry on!
5. Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim)
Money. The root of all evil? Of course not. It’s the human soul that’s corrupted to its core. I exaggerate of course, but maybe not (then again I’m fairly misanthropic). Eric von Stroheim’s masterpiece. One of my favorite, if not my favorite silent films of all time. This picture shows how greed can bring a person to do horrible things and horrible things will happen to them of course, because karma is a bitch! I don’t remember exactly all that happens in this film (it’s been a while), but I remember the climax being very powerful and telling of the human soul. It’s a film that boarders cheesy, nevertheless at over three hours there’s not a dull moment in it.
4. Sunset Blvd. (1950, Billy Wilder)
Easily one of my favorite films of all time. Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. shows how fame wanting to be the center of attention can become an addiction. Norma Desmond is an actress from the silent era that would kill for a comeback. She is addicted to the limelight and that’s ultimately her demise. This is a beautiful film noir, one of Wilder’s best, romantic and witty as always. It’s about Hollywood and success and art and life and love and so many other things I couldn’t possibly sum it up in a couple sentences.
3. Drugstore Cowboy (1989, Gus Van Sant)
Drugs are possibly the most used addiction in movies. It’s easy to show and many people can relate to it. Also many artists have problems with substance abuse and so art often reflects life. I put Drugstore Cowboy on this list, because I feel it’s an overlooked film by a great, sensitive director, Gus Van Sant, who deals with the issue in a thoughtful way. While some movies seem to glorify drug use (especially weed), this film shows how it can ruin a person’s life and even when they want to get out, it’s the hardest thing to do.
2. Death Proof (2007, Quentin Tarantino)
This might seem like an odd pick, but if you think about it stuntman Mike McCain is an adrenaline junkie. He clearly gets off (sexually) by crashing his death proof vehicle into other people’s not-so-safe cars. Generally considered Tarantino’s worst film (even by himself), it is one of my favorite of his and I feel it’s often unjustly maligned. Why? Probably because people have short attention spans and are bored easily unless shit is exploding on the screen. Anyways, what I like about this film is the dialogues and the great exploitation ending, which totally kicks ass.
1. Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)
As I’ve mentioned your job can also become an addiction. Today many people face burnouts because they’ve become workaholics. In Black Swan Nina (Natalie Portman) is obsessed with perfection and getting the lead in the Swan Lake ballet. She eventually goes nuts, but she does so in a poetic and awe-inspiring way so it’s totally cool. In real life however people can get depressions and such, but as we’ve come to know depression is about the least sexy thing you can depict in a movie (unless you want it to bomb). According to Darren Aronofsky Black Swan is a companion film to The Wrestler, and as a matter of fact both protagonists seem to share a similar “work ethic”.
That’s it for this week’s recommendations. If I may add something of a personal advice: Try to kick your bad habits or addictions (if you have any). Don’t become a slave to them, because as these stories show it never ends well. Okay, I’m done being corny and now go and watch some movies or tell me about your favorite films about addictions!
Cultures don’t differ only for their cuisine, spiritual beliefs or social norms, but in their marketing as well.
Just the other day, I casually stumbled upon a Japanese promo video for a then new video game. It was pretty outlandish. Today, coincidentally, a Facebook Friend of mine posted the Japanese poster art for one of his favorite films (The Lords of Salem). The layout was insane, the picture was overloaded with content, cramming as much text and images as possible into the rectangle. Aside from the layout, the neon color palette (which is present in the film) was sensibly played up, compared to say the American poster.
This got me thinking. If we respond and perceive advertising differently it must be a cultural thing. What works in Europe or America, maybe is too minimalist for a Japanese audience. We respond to films, and art in general, differently because of where and how we were brought up. All this to say that it doesn’t make sense to try and define beauty objectively. However, scientists have proven that our brains do respond similarly (all over the world) to certain types of images: Whether we are ready to socially admit this or not is the real question.
To return to the posters: After seeing the crazy poster on Facebook, I instinctively googled some more posters to see if my suspicions were correct. My hypothesis was that marketing execs try to sell a film to Japanese audiences by throwing everything they can on the poster and see what sticks. This type of sensory overload is not only annoying, but doesn’t look good in my opinion. My “theories” were initially confirmed when I searched for Japanese film posters in general, but that seemed too easy and generic, so I searched for the posters of my favorite films instead. What I found was that most Japanese poster art is similar to the original, but with more text or an added still from the movie.
Examples of Japanese Posters
Much to my surprise I found that some posters were more creative and visually stimulating. My favorite is the one-sheet for Young Adult, even if it’s too cheerfully colorful and doesn’t capture the film’s depression: Why not? If it gets audiences to see the movie, I’m all for it. An argument could be made for the fact that it’s trying to comment on the worlds Mavis is creating as a writer of young adult fiction. It’s excellent. I also like the creative poster for eXistenZ: The American one pales in comparison. The simple drawing of Showgirls‘ Nomi Malone, the film’s protagonist, may have nothing to do with the movie’s over-the-top cheesiness and campiness, it is indicative of the character’s fragile nature and how she is “on the inside”.
The poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey, is more or less identical to the American poster, to show you that sometimes art can be universal, and the film truly is a masterpiece. Another classic poster is Citizen Kane, it’s not the same as the original, but rather two images taken directly from the film itself. What both posters have in common is the reference to its quality: Here (the Japanese example) by putting an Oscar statue next to the title, in the original poster by displaying a quote praising Orson Welles’ genius.
I also picked two Quentin Tarantino films Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Death Proof. The ‘Kill Bill’ poster is an example of what I would say is a bad poster, but seems to be the norm for Japanese marketing. It’s just a pastiche of everything they could find and features stuff that I’m pretty sure I don’t remember from the movie (even if it’s been a while since I’ve seen it). The Death Proof poster (much like the Inglourious Basterds one), is interesting, because it’s yellow to echo the film that put Tarantino on a map and to this day remains one of his most famous (Kill Bill).
Looking at the posters for art house releases, the most striking one is the one for L’Avventura: It’s in color (the film is in black & white) and is framed by text, literally. Big fan of the Red Desert (Il Deserto Rosso) poster: It looks more like a painting than a pictures and it portrays Monica Vitti staring right back at us. I like that they picked a poisonous looking green for the title, but I am a bit confused by the black & white still, especially considering that it was Michelangelo Antonioni’s first color film. Another poster using the “still-thing” (only better) is the Leon: The Professional poster. Very intimate, visually stunning picture capturing the film’s romantic angle, which would have been probably too risqué for Western audiences and a film already bordering pedophilia. To top it off, the poster for Melancholia, which displays how the Japanese exploit star power. Kiefer Sutherland surely has an important role in von Trier’s film, but surely Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg are the two leads, so he has no business being there.
As bad as some Japanese posters might seem, keep in mind that not all American posters are good as well and while most of the times I’d say that less is more, sometimes less is also less. Also, jumbling all those elements on a limited space of paper is a more difficult, objectively. Japanese posters might seem more creative, and sometimes they are, and we could learn from them. Marketing researchers has also proven that ads that are aesthetically appealing don’t necessarily translate in sales. The Japanese posters might seem manipulative, but in time we may discover that, once more, they were ahead of us all along.