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American Animal (#110 of 3)

Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2012

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Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2012
Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2012

Honorable Mention

American Animal: It may be a stretch to dub American Animal “the best art film ever,” as Screen Junkies does in this poster’s hyperbolic pull quote, but that’s the only strike against an otherwise spot-on one-sheet, which nails this odd indie’s unlikely blend of grating quirk and classy undercurrent. As pink as the undies often worn by Matt D’Elia’s ailing antihero, the ad wreaths its wiry subject in handsome curlicues, and even throws in a lit fuse to hint at his volatility. The poster, like the film, finds common ground between the high- and lowbrow, the artful and the infantile. [Poster]

The Cabin in the Woods: The poster for The Cabin in the Woods is one of 2012’s few whose design instantly doubled as an unofficial logo, so much so that a later one-sheet needed only include the established graphic’s silhouette. The cabin-as-Rubik’s-Cube may seem obvious and simple, but it’s also perfect and universally legible, rightly promising a mad puzzle of a horror picture. The vintage model eventually produced by Mondo Gallery is notable for its M.C. Escher influences, but it misses the true triumph of this campaign: a deceptively indelible signature image, defined by twists and turns. [Poster] [Article]

Compliance: No matter how you felt about Compliance, a divisive thriller more or less about the loss of dignity, the film’s poster easily trumped its in-text missteps, huddling poor Dreama Walker in a corner and surrounding her with meaningful details. Amid that fine stack of critical endorsements lies the film’s title, whose “C” perfectly encircles Walker’s eye, driving home the sick scrutiny her character endures. Best of all is that whiteboard’s message of customer-is-always-right encouragement, urging fast food employees to dutifully “smile!” The by-the-book irony expertly communicates the film’s themes, arguably even better than the film itself. [Poster] [Article]

Oscar Prospects: The Master

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Oscar Prospects: The Master
Oscar Prospects: The Master

Time will tell if the Academy’s newest rule adjustment will throw off the mojo of latecomers like Les Misérables, but it’s sure to benefit a movie like The Master, which has graciously offered voters several months to see it before casting their ballots. Often, such an early-season release would carry the risk of a loss of steam, and that may well be the fate of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, but it seems there are too many Oscar-friendly factors at play here to doubt the movie’s long-term clout. The cast is smack-dab in Oscar’s comfort zone, the Scientology parallels are present enough to offer some baity relevance, and with critical champions like A.O. Scott, the film has the reviews it needs to make it a veritable must-see, even if it’s not being gushed over quite like There Will Be Blood. There is the consideration that the Oscars aren’t what they were in 2007, when critically adored fare aligned with Academy favorites, and a curio like the saga of Daniel Plainview could go toe-to-toe with the elliptical nihilism of No Country for Old Men. But, then, The Master isn’t in the same key as its predecessor either, and if anything, its rather straightforward narrative makes it Anderson’s most accessible film since Boogie Nights. Though likely not a top-five contender, the movie’s Best Picture nomination chances look fairly solid at the moment, boosted by a very impressive box-office performance.

SXSW 2011: American Animal

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SXSW 2011: <em>American Animal</em>
SXSW 2011: <em>American Animal</em>

If Andrew Haigh, the director of Weekend, the earnest, prosaic, and mostly unsurprising British drama that won an Emerging Visions Audience Award at South by Southwest last night, is considered a fresh new voice in cinema, then what about Matt D’Elia, who shows more breathtaking audacity in his debut feature, American Animal, than Haigh shows in his Richard Linklater-ish romantic talkfest? Don’t get me wrong: Weekend, for all its gay-themed subject matter, is agreeable and sometimes quite moving. What it lacks is the brash confidence that American Animal exudes in abundance, the confidence of an artist willing to risk driving its audience up a wall in order to realize a defiantly unique personal vision. You won’t necessarily warm to everything D’Elia throws at you, but you certainly won’t leave the film without some kind of opinion on it.