Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Imposters #43: Bad Words

Much like so many who have seen Arrested Development - and the indie documentary about it that I reviewed last year - I have a great appreciation of and respect for Jason Bateman. I wasn't especially a fan before, but I certainly was after I watched the series. Without him, AD would be such a hard sell. What I'm trying to say is that I hope his career is successful and rewarding.

But I was in the subway system and I saw a poster for a film that he is directing. And, I have to say, I was... quite discouraged by the very look of it. Gaze upon the horror that is the Bad Words promo shown to mass transit commuters:

Seriously, I don't care if it's a poster for Bad Santa or Letters to Sarajevo or Die Untergang, that is one hideous graphic. Although I can imagine that some displeasing images could still get me excited or intrigued to see a film, this one just puts me off.

I will maintain neutrality when I sit down to watch a picture, but before then, you can be damn sure that I will be snide when I see words like "Michael Bay," "Zack Snyder," or "Rob Schneider." This poster, however, comes from someone I like - and yet it's the used tissue of movie posters. I don't want to touch it, much less look at it; I just want it gone, in the trash and out of sight... It's so ugly, all of my coworkers recall it, so I guess it is effective.

But, as repulsive and lackluster as the overall image is, I noticed one exceptional and brilliant element in it. You can only notice this effect, which is a lot like pointillism (tiny dots making up an image), when you see a shot taken from a couple of feet away, as seen to the left.

In effect and execution, the small-scale work here is exceptional. It's vivid, different, and it looks really cool. I am quite simply stunned that someone managed to work such beauty and technical skill into the design for an overall graphic that I find repellent and unengaging. It's like seeing the biggest roach ever, but with a lovely multi-hued butterfly pattern etched onto its nasty little shell.

Seeing such unattractive design married to so much cleverness and beauty is, in its own way, a miracle. And whoever created really deserves a raise, a hug, and a free bottle of something - even if the totality of the work pushes me away.

And, yet, that's not all: the effect is even repeated in the film's title itself, as you can see on the right. If you stand just a few extra feet away, or you walk by very quickly - or you don't have great vision - it is so easy to fail to notice this detail.

The tagline is decent... at least it should give you an idea of what you can expect - a black comedy is my own guess. And I can say that the 60% black section plays nicely off the 40% that is a photo, in addition to the solid fonts used for much of the smaller text. Not to mention the significantly-larger title font, and its sweet pointillism design.

I just wish that the work as a whole looked better. He looks like he either has gas or has smelled someone else having gas! It is, in part, a shame - and a triumph.


  1. Wow. I'm kinda torn here. It's ugly as sin, but purposefully so. If I'm not mistaken, that's Bateman's mouth working over the "f" in the f-word, which is appropriate given the movie's title. So, bad, ugly word, matched with ugly (but perfectly-captured) image, and a fairly witty tagline, gives a decent idea of what you're getting in what seems to be a Bad Santa-type "adults behaving badly" comedy.

    Still, while I appreciate the truth in advertising aspect of this, it doesn't make me want to see the movie. It's just too repulsive.

    Then again I (and I suspect you) am probably not the target audience for this ad or film. I've skipped a lot of the films in this genre although some of them, like Bad Santa, have come with heartfelt recommendations. It reminds me a bit of the first poster I saw for Dumb and Dumber (I think, I can't seem to find this image online) which was dominated by Jim Carrey doing his "I'm stupid" face while snot dangled from his nostril. If I hadn't been pretty much dragged to see it by friends, I would've missed D&D, as well (and regretted it).

    1. WOW, I cannot believe it didn't occur to me that his mouth is making the fricative motion to start the f-word.

      I agree - seeing a long snot poster would probably have me actively trashing a movie, as well as avoiding it overall.

  2. Yep - gotta disagree here. No, it's not a pretty image, but it's absolutely memorable and ties in with the film its selling wonderfully. Moreover, I'll take a repellant, effective poster over a cookie-cutter, overused and cliched poster any day.

    1. Yeah, it was pretty impressive how every one of my frienda and coworkers knew exactly which poster I was talking about. And, even aside from the pointillist technique, this IS a million times better than the Elysium and After Earth posters...


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