If my shortlist for this piece is any indication, Hollywood has adapted perfectly to COVID. I put aside an average of 60-70 posters every year from doing posterized until I barely hit 40 in 2020. It wasn’t a lack of quality work, but the fact that ‘there were so many fewer versions to choose from. And because I’m basing these columns on America’s races in the current year rather than when the Single Sheets start touring, my pool of applicants has been drastically reduced.
So either the 2021 work was off the charts or the hybrid theatrical release program ended up whole, as I was back to about 65. It also helps when you get new players on the scene, alternative posters that are too good to be dismissed, and the social media controversy is due to the collision of nudity and art that has put more international designs into the picture. our American conscience.
There are a few below where the national marketing team decided to stick with what has worked overseas in addition to minimal text edits. Some show how far daring clients are willing to go to tease new, non-IP movies. And others reveal a wonderful urge to play with typography as more than an overlay on top of the pretty faces contractually bound to be there. Together, they remind us that the single leaf is more than just a brand image. It is a complementary brother that enhances the cinematic experience without giving up its existence as a work of art.
# 25 – All the streets are silent: the convergence of hip-hop and skateboarding (1987-1997) (Dan Forkin); # 24 – Little fish (MOCEAN); # 23 – baby shiva (High Council); # 22 – John and the hole (Unknown); # 21 – Moxie (Marc McGillivray for Imperial design); # 20 – The amusement park (Alexander Walijewski); # 19 – Scenes from an empty church (Sister Hyde Design); # 18 – In the darkness (Have a communication); # 17 – Witches of the East (Unknown); # 16 – Last night in Soho (Eileen Steinbach); # 15 – River (Pablo Iranzo Duque); # 14 – Slalom (Gallien Guibert); # 13 – Hitler’s meaning (Intermission film); # 12 – Ailey (Neon); # 11 – Wolf (Desi moore)
#ten – Raiders of the night (Ghost town creation)
Despite the full credit block, this first poster for Raiders of the night by Phantom City Creative never became its main leaf. Not for its Canadian release. Not for its American release. Which is a real shame – it distills the film to its core, a government oppressor manifested by science fiction tearing apart a native mother and daughter. I like the choice of using the tilt of the robot’s beam as the main axis and the trompe l’oeil tear of the page that peels upwards to reveal the white below as both empty and light – reality and metaphor coexisting together. The artists show that having a ready-made still doesn’t mean you always have to use it as supplied. There is always an inventive way to breathe new life into it if you’re willing (and allowed) to find it.
# 09 – Benedetta (Intermission film)
Intermission Film goes above and beyond with its poster for Benedetta. Rather than finding a way to crop or move the portrait of Virginie Efira and free up enough space for credits and critical quotes, they decide to go the route of the opposite text with a twist. Enter the crucifix described as a barrier, expertly placed to enhance the actor’s features with eyes serving as a horizontal beam opposite the straight vertical from forehead to mouth. It is elegantly drawn with its thin and provocative serif typeface with its reddish internal glow on Efira’s distant gaze. Add buzzwords like “Violence”, “Sex” and “Wild” to the mix and the juxtaposition needed to anticipate what’s to come is implied with no nipple needed. Is this Sister a vision of piety marked by the cross? Or has he been positioned as our protection from his sins?
# 08 – Funny head (Caspar Newbolt / (version_industries))
Caspar Newbolt and (version_industries) travel an inspired path to give the film by Tim Sutton, frequent contributor Funny head a printed counterpart. The subject is a man in search of revenge who accidentally discovers a plastic mask, dressed more as a talisman of confidence than a means of anonymity. Was her appearance a fate? Has this surreal shield served others before it? Newbolt seeks to amplify this potential by diving back into history to discover another work of art with powerful characters perfectly suited to become that character’s ancestors. His selection of Caravaggio Salome with the head of John the Baptist proves to be a magnificent partner both thematically and tonally. You feel like laughing, but it’s too sinister to risk the anger that follows. For all you know this face might just find you next… already affixed to the head of another.
# 07 – Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Unknown)
Devoid of context, it’s just a black triangle. A geometric shape with a Romanian title pressed at the top. Maybe we see a hole in the ground from above. Or a stemless martini glass. Or as an English translation Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn turns out, one wonders if we’re not watching something a little more NSFW. And that’s the beauty of what has been done here. The textured flesh tone. The point of the triangle alluding to the fusion of the legs. The Berlinale bear serving as a navel. Less becomes so much more once the minimalist brilliance of the composition is brought out to provide the best embarrassed double take your prudish friends will ever muster as they innocently walk around the theater with popcorn in hand.
# 06 – I care a lot (Mark McGillivray for Empire Design)
I described the single sheet of Mark McGillivray and Empire Design for I care a lot like “Andy Warhol meets Barbara Kruger” in February and I stand by it. This daring, ultra-saturated portrait screams its title with the kind of sarcasm you can imagine the words would drip as they left Rosamund Pike’s dazzling smile. Each is punctuated with measured care, none leaving its fully justified framing as our eyes move one by one up and down as if to say: “Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain. It’s cool and simple. Insolent in its thoroughness. And it takes no bulk thanks to its teaser sensitivity – an underrated feature when it comes to many Netflix products (see Mark’s work on Moxie above).
# 05 – Parallel mothers (Javier Jaén)
This is the most talked about 2021 poster: Javier Jaén’s eyeball / nipple surrounded by blinding red. Twitter banned it for a little while. An apology has been offered. Conversations about art took place. It was a big deal. And I think the ingenuity of this piece got lost in the hubbub as a result. It’s an undeniably fantastic image, both as a way of describing the film and as the kind of clean, precise, and bold message you see plastered with wallpaper on every street corner in a major city. The image and title appear in your brain at a glance.
Following it with another exceptional leaf just as iconic in its optical illusion of movement is not to be underestimated. Here we finally see the two mothers connected by parallel lines in another graphic / symbolic representation of the title. Image and color merge, three-dimensional photography and flat geometry dance to simultaneously destroy and increase its schizophrenic depth of field. Jaén works on a level of his own with what appears to be full creative license to provoke, attract, and ensure that no one forgets his subject’s name.
# 04 – The velvet metro (THE)
As someone whose first graphic design job out of college was a print shop, I can’t look at LA’s niche design for The velvet metro without smiling. Not only do they remove the polish Adobe provides for a vintage-style concert ad, but they also adopt the screen printing process itself to deliver one of the year’s singular posters via an inverted plaque. The mirrored tease ultimately doesn’t create the end result of black ink on the pink stock, but the pair are close enough to appreciate the effort of sticking to the theme. Like the film, this duo provides the kind of nostalgic bomb torn from the annals of rock history that makes people who “know” time travel drool. Technical art meets lo-fi vibes as Reed and Cale provide the music, Warhol the silkscreen.
# 03 – Pork (Imperial design)
His name is the only word beyond the Neon logo at the bottom, but Nicolas Cage is nowhere to be found. It’s the draw when you consider Pork is directed by a novice director with a plot about a truffle hunter confronted with his mysterious past. Not putting your face in the center of the teaser therefore seems outrageous. I wouldn’t be surprised if Empire Design sent this to the studio with no ambition to see the light of day. But Neon understood his enigmatic presence: high-res hair and skin with a visible rib cage adorned with a metallic icon to represent the title. And they knew that their own brand was enough to sell their product on their own. Confidently give the audience that semi-grotesque, alluring image and make them demand more. It is a job well done.
# 02 – Monday (MOCEAN)
MOCEAN’s unique sheet for Monday has stayed with me since its release. The easiest would have been to place the title at the top of the page to let the image of Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough speak. And he could have, with his dramatic shadows created by a blazing sun lighting up half of their satisfied faces amid this unexpected swirling romance. So to integrate the word in photography is not a simple feat. You need to understand the visual language you hope to create by seeing the zigzagging of space and lines that a quirky and seemingly arbitrary layout can provide. Each piece must be in harmony with the rest, each isolated detail artfully balancing the other. The resulting road is twisty and bumpy, but also beautifully alive.
# 01 – Spencer (Tomorrow’s time for Empire Design)
No 2021 poster, however, comes close to the deep emotional effect of Time Tomorrow and Empire Design’s. Spencer. It took the internet by storm for totally different reasons than Parallel mothers, his subtlety speaking to the masses who understand his palpable pain. The delicately embellished gown becomes a whirlwind of terror and anxiety that gives Kristen Stewart’s Diana zero respite from the black void of fear and depression above. Is she crying? Cower ? Advocacy for escape? The joke is to reveal the truth of the scene this image is taken from, but that only lessens the impact of how the artist turned this moment into something so intensely distinct from it. They expressed the struggle captured on screen with the same empathy and grace as the filmmakers. A marvel to see.
What’s your favorite poster of the year?
Check out the best of 2021 coverage.