Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Armies, up sleevies...

Good Dog raises some very good points here about the often atrocious quality of DVD sleeve artwork, often those for classic films that would originally have had superbly-executed promotional posters. Most of said poster artwork would have been portrait format, and therefore quite likely to be able to be “re-purposed” (as my lovely business-degree-type friends say) for the sleeve.

Why is this so often not the case? Are there copyright issues over the original poster artworks? In so many cases? Are there legions of drooling idiots who think they know what Photoshop is for (and might even pay for a legit copy of it one day...) who might starve if not given ‘work’ mangling screengrabs in order to produce shouty, hideous imagery for the benefit of, erm, their mates?

It has been suggested by the svelte and effervescent Lucy that Good Dog, I and several of his correspondents may be frankly too long in the tooth to appreciate what is now being offered and harking back to a ‘golden age’ where every scribble on a napkin was a Rembrandt (not exactly her words, by about a billion miles...). She may well have a point. I’m sure that, as always, many of what are now considered design classics in the film poster field were regarded with horror and opprobrium when they first saw the light of day, just as Fred Astaire’s famous (and probably apocryphal) assessment at the hands of an RKO screen-tester described him thus “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.”

Art is obviously subjective and a slippery fucker to pin down, especially in terms of defining whether it is ‘good’ or not. Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko and Henry Moore still divide people and provoke strong discourse on whether anything they produced at all is worthy of the term “art”. I’m sure that several thousand years ago there were druids passing through the Salisbury area that caught a glimpse of Stonehenge and cried “What the holy living fuck is that monstrosity?!”

Sadly, as with war, US chocolate and The Darkness, there is no equation that will definitively prove that something is unutterably crap. If there were, life would be more easily defined, yet almost definitely less colourful. The Eurovision Song Contest is a monument to cheesy awfulness, yet I’m almost OCD about watching it - quite possibly more for Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce’s delightfully bonkers commentary that never quite descends into abuse than for a tiny post-Soviet country’s attempt at a ‘pop’ tune. Strictly Come Dancing is eerily lacking in ‘art’, yet is a must-see for the Sluice household. Its awful North American spin-off, which just oozes far too much saccharine and is laden with too high a quota of “I’d like to thank God for this great opportunity”, makes most UK-residents distinctly uneasy and want to hit the contestants and dancers in the face with a tea-tray (let alone the presenters - where do they get these freaks from?).

Though there’s always a horribly murky middle ground in which the ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of a piece of work constantly eludes one’s grasp, I’m sure that, if a benchmark has been previously set, then surely one should at least aim to exceed it or admit defeat? If not, then we’re likely to see a case of diminishing returns as Photoshop hackery takes over where art is supposed to be, training replaces education, TV becomes so self-referential (qv. Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach) that it ceases to be about anything other than itself, punctuation and grammar are abandoned in favour of txt-spk, and Shakespeare gets set to drum and bass/speed metal/techno/whatever.

Banging...

3 Comments:

At 1:44 pm, Blogger Lucy said...

"Svelte", "effervescent" AND I have a point??? Are you feeling ok?
; )

Way I see it, movies are about commerce first and foremost, art second... Why would DVD artwork be any different? People are going to decide to see a film on basis of who's in it - don't we all? I'm sure I've missed out on some cracking stories 'cos I haven't liked a particular actor and seen dross on the basis I have liked the lead.

 
At 9:24 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Why would I not think you had a point? I am, after all, an ancient curmudgeon. ;-) If you think that svelte and effervescent are a bit much, watch this space...

Whether commerce or art drives the production of a given movie is kinda immaterial to me, at least in terms of whether I want to watch it or not. You’re right that studios don’t make movies to lose money - unless they’re laundering, obviously...

I also go for things that, plain and simply, appeal to me. If I went for them based on whether they’d been rated highly as pieces of ‘art’, I’d be worried. For example, I tried to watch Ingmar Bergman movies when I was younger, and found them immensely tedious. Not to say that they are tedious or crap, but they just really didn’t work for me. I tried, really I did. ;-)

Hey, I religiously watch the Eurovision Song Contest, so am not exactly an arbiter of good taste...

Of course the artwork for a DVD sleeve is part of the marketing of the product. In the particular case of the Chinatown sleeve though, there seemed to be no discernible improvement on the original in terms of it pulling in an audience or making it any clearer as to the cast or storyline.

As far as dross with cute actors go, you don’t need to look much further than the pretty ropey Supernatural, with two bright young male things pouting at each other while dreadful writing sends them stamping around a variety of creepy locations in which to express angst at the breakup of their family unit. Lots of girlies seem to love it though. can’t possibly have anything to do with the bone structure of Jensen Ackles, can it? Hehehe...

 
At 7:03 pm, Blogger Jon Peacey said...

I would have commented earlier but I've been slower than usual on the Zimmer this week...

"People are going to decide to see a film on basis of who's in it."
I fear this is the truth and many of the classic posters just haven't got the star on them visibly enough. But putting the stars on the sleeve doesn't mean the new cover has to be eye-scorchingly hideous!

 

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