Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) just lost everything. Her husband. Her son. Her possessions. So after a nervous breakdown she packs the last of her Chanel, Dior and Hermès pieces in her vintage Louis Vuitton luggage and flies all the way from New York to San Francisco. Her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) lives there. She is nice enough to take her in, even though Jasmine’s husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) gambled away all of her money on a dubious investment. Jasmine has hit rock bottom. When she married Hal she left school for him. Now she doesn’t have a degree or job experience. She is forced to take the first job that comes her way, in order to pay for go to computer school so that she can then study interior design online. Drowning her sorrows in cheap alcohol and prescription drugs only makes things worse. Nothing seems to be going right for her, until she meets a dashing and promising young fellow named Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). To appear more desirable she lies to him about her past, but what if he found out what kind of person she really was? Continue reading
Lamb Mannerhelm (Julianne Hough) is a beautiful 21-year-old Christian woman living in a sheltered, conservative small town in Montana with her parents. After a horrible plane crash she miraculously survives her faith is shaken. She has to come to terms with the fact that her body will be forever disfigured, due to severe burn injuries. Lamb decides to leave her hometown and go to Las Vegas to do all the things her church and family forbade her. On her mission to Sin City she meets William (Russell Brand), a charming British bartender and Loray (Octavia Spencer) an aspiring filmmaker slash nightclub singer who become her unofficial guides. Soon however Lamb realizes that an excessive lifestyle, the polar opposite from what she was used to, is no fun either. Maybe not everything her parents taught her was as bad as she thought. Maybe she belongs more to Montana than Nevada. And maybe she’s not as perfect as she saw herself. Continue reading
Leigh (Kristen Bell) is an almost thirty years old reporter working in the City. When the man she’s dating is getting engaged and she feels that her article about a man living with a tiger isn’t taken seriously she decides to move back to her hometown in Connecticut. Once there, she doesn’t have much to do. She reconnects with a couple friends, she reprises her high-school job as a lifeguard and hangs out with a couple local punks. Meanwhile her parents are uncomfortable with her moving back in (at least her mother is), her friends think she’s an arrogant selfish bitch (rightfully so) and the sixteen year old guy (David Lambert) she’s sleeping around with doesn’t think twice about leaving her to her miserable existence and move on with his life. Continue reading
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.
This weekend Adam Sandler’s follow-up to the horrible and painfully unfunny Grown Ups will be released in theaters. Based on how terrible the first film was and judging by the trailer for this sequel I can, in good conscience, advice you to stay away from it. I’m not sure if
Transformers Pacific Rim is any better, but it got a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s officially socially acceptable to like that movie (unlike Transformers). Anyway, we’re not here to talk new releases, although you should absolutely check out Thomas Vinterberg’s Jagten (English title: The Hunt) starring the amazing Mads Mikkelsen.
Any-who! This is a short list of five films is about young adults still stuck in the adolescent phase, not wanting to grow up. I personally feel like that sometimes, so this is a subject close to home and certainly one of the movie topics that fascinates me most currently. I even started watching the aptly named television show Arrested Development and it’s the only thing on TV I watch right now, and I can certainly recommend it if you’re into all that.
So in (dis)honor of Grown Ups 2 here’s a list of my Five Favorite ‘Arrested Development’ Films. This week I don’t feel like ranking them, so I’ll present them in chronological release date order.
5. I Vitelloni (1953, Federico Fellini)
If you thought this whole “arrested development” discourse was something new, think again. Federico Fellini was already sensing it in the fifties, I guess he was way ahead of its time in a lot of ways, but like most of his films they’re still very topical even today. I Vitelloni is about a group of young adults in a small town in Italy trying to figure out what to do with their lives. In typical Fellini fashion there are happy party scenes and then sad and melancholy moments of reflection at the beach. Besides being a funny, yet deep film, I Vitelloni went on to inspire contemporary filmmakers from Martin Scorsese to Sofia Coppola, so if you like any of their films at all you owe it to yourself to check out I Vitelloni.
4. Being There (1979, Hal Ashby)
This one might be a bit of a stretch. One could say that Chance (Peter Sellers) is a big kid, afraid to go in the real world, but he also might be suffering from psychological problems. Then again one might say that adults stuck in adolescence almost certainly have issues in their past they need to resolve. Anyway, aside from the very ending (the “gag reel”) I love this film. It’s Peter Sellers, it’s funny, charming, quirky and deeply moving. This film is about so many issues our society is currently still trying to resolve. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it and it’s definitely due for a re-watch, but if memory serves me correctly it’s also gorgeous to look at.
3. The Darjeeling Limited (2007, Wes Anderson)
Considered by many Wes’ worst film, I actually think this one is underrated and not even half as bad as most people say. In a lot of ways almost every Wes Anderson film has characters “trying to grow up”, but this one especially is about these three brothers trying to figure out their lives and how their family fell apart, while on a train trip in India. It has Wes’ signature humor, cinematography and cast. Co-written by Roman Coppola, this small gem of a movie is actually my third favorite of his, behind The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom.
2. Somewhere (2010, Sofia Coppola)
I’ve already mentioned her, I always do, but Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere is about a young actor who is bored out of his mind after the shooting of a film. Looking at the larger implications of it, he is also very dissatisfied with his life. Why? Because he is very detached from everyone. He has alienated the people who love him and people can’t love him, because he doesn’t love himself. Also, who do you trust in the film business? This film is about loneliness and trying to connect, oh and while there’s no Wong Kar-wai and Michelangelo Antonioni on this list, they’re certainly worth mentioning because they inspired Sofia and discuss some of the same themes. If you haven’t read my review of Somewhere yet and you want to, by all means please do.
1. Young Adult (2011, Jason Reitman)
Directed by one of the most interesting American indie filmmakers and written by one of the most talented and exciting screenwriters Diablo Cody, Young Adult is one of my favorite films in recent years. Charlize Theron gives an Academy Award worthy performance, and that was a great year between her and Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia: Who won the Oscar again that year? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure these ladies were robbed. Oh, I bet the Weinsteins were involved! #mafiosi! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Returning to Young Adult it’s a fairly depressing, yet darkly funny film. The cinematography might seem unspectacular on a first viewing, but it’s so subtle, I caught it’s genius only on a second viewing. Hats off: Eric Steelberg did a career best job on this picture. Who won ‘best cinematography’? Just kidding (kind of). But no, this is a great film and it’s tough to summarize it in a couple of sentences, but expect a full review as soon as I re-watch it.
To round-up the discussion.
These are all ‘dramedies’, that is dramas with comedic elements to them. Far from Grown Ups, and this is the last time I’ll mention that abyssal film, I promise. What do they have in common besides that? Well, since I’ve picked those out, they all look great and they deal with their characters in a respectful, non-judgemental way. They have a sense of irony and wit, but they never make fun of the characters or look down on them. That’s precisely why I like them: They don’t offer ready-made solutions to life’s problems, but they also don’t shy away from discussing some topics that most filmmakers would be uneasy discussing, and thus would either trivialize or treat superficially.