Caper Away Productions

Writings of Chad Boudreau

Movie Poster Exhibition – Installation #4 and #5

Posted by caperaway on November 19, 2014

My experience with war through my childhood and into my early teens was strictly through movies. I watched films like Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Midway (1976), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), Battle of the Bulge (1965) and many others with my father and marveled at the ships, tanks, planes, battles, and heroics of the film soldiers. I never felt the emotional impact of war because these films of that era, at least to a young viewer, played out like action movies, with lots of gunfire, explosions, military hardware and a large cast of soldiers who died– usually with a few parting words– as battles raged.

As a result, my wartime playtime with my friends was very similar. We’d storm the imagined beaches or rush a bunker of enemies represented by the neighbor’s front porch. There was a small recess in that same yard and we’d hunker down in it. That was our trench and we’d psych ourselves up to climb out and charge across the battlefield, shouting, firing our plastic guns (without red tips), and when it was clear we were outnumbered and losing too many men, we’d turn tail and haul arse back to the trench.

I was the leader of these games, guiding the action with my words and movements. I played a large cast of characters and when one of these characters would get shot or get hit with artillery, my friend Chris would kneel down beside my prone form with concern in his eyes. “Who was that?” he’d ask. I’d name the character who had been hit and then deliver the soldier’s dying words with gasps and a slow close of my eyes. Then we’d be on our feet again, continuing the assault.

Another one my of specialties was launching myself through the air to simulate death by grenade.

The feeling of exhilaration when watching a war movie was replaced with one of dread and unease for the first time when I saw Platoon (1986). I saw it on home video so I was probably a pre-teen at this time. Others movies that came on the heels of that were Hamburger Hill (1987) and Full Metal Jacket (1987). These were a new type of war movie for me– ones that did not treat war as a heroic adventure.

Then in 1991, the Persian Gulf War invaded the television in our home and my perception of war changed. The coverage of that war on CNN arguably started me on a 23-year (and counting) journey to understand war. Not only why war occurs and the details of conflict but also its cost– the staggering casualty numbers, the physical and psychological cost paid by the individual soldier, and the price paid by society.

Days before Remembrance Day, I hung on the wall four posters of modern films that did an exceptional job of portraying the cost of war: Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers. In my journey, non-fiction books have provided me the most insight (With the Old Breed, Helmet for My Pillow, Generation Kill, Black Hawk Down, On Killing, among others), but one cannot deny the lessons delivered to millions of people who viewed these major studio releases.

Those posters have been replaced by six more posters with war as its subject and setting.

On the south wall are two films featuring two actors not known for roles in serious pieces of work. Casualties of War (1989) stars Michael J. Fox in a harrowing depiction of an event that actually occurred during the Vietnam War in 1966. Also on the wall is Glory (1989), starring Matthew Broderick. This, in my opinion, is the best movie to deal with the American Civil War from a societal and soldier’s perspective. It’s also the movie that turned Denzel Washington into a star. The third poster on the south wall is Rescue Dawn (2006), a lauded but not widely seen movie starring Christian Bale as a real-life fighter pilot shot down over Laos and imprisoned.

On the west wall are three more posters, but there is only one to which I want to draw special attention. George Clooney had received positive reviews for his role in Out of Sight, but it was Three Kings released the following year that drew him even more acclaim. This fictional account of American soldiers in the Persian Gulf War was laced with enough politics and boots-on-the-ground authenticity that it strikes a reality chord despite the shenanigans occurring on the screen.

The first lines of the film set the tone:

Troy: Are we shooting?
Soldier: What?
Troy: Are we shootin’ people or what?
Soldier: Are we shooting?
Troy: That’s what I’m asking you!
Soldier: What’s the answer?
Troy: I don’t know the answer! That’s what I’m trying to find out!

Watch Three Kings then read the non-fiction book Generation Kill (or watch the equally excellent Generation Kill miniseries from HBO) and you’ll see that some of the laughable horror depicted in Three Kings isn’t too far removed from the reality of modern conflict.

This does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that I find war laughable, deplorable or even unnecessary. It has taken me almost a quarter century to understand war and I am certain my journey is not yet finished.

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Movie Poster Exhibition – Installation #3

Posted by caperaway on October 8, 2014

The third installation in the ComicReaders Downtown Movie Poster Exhibition is the first in a series of horror movies. Horror is an obvious choice because October is the month of Halloween, but I also have a personal connection to the genre. Some of my earliest memories as a movie viewer  are of horror films.

I clearly remember not being allowed to watch Jaws during a visit to grandma’s house in Humboldt, but that was around the same time I had watched The Fog with my dad, and probably a year or so later The Thing and Poltergeist. (Looking back, it seems to me the adults just wanted some adult time, or perhaps my mom didn’t want her mom to know her five-year old grandson was already gaining an appreciation of horror.) I saw The Exorcist when I was still in elementary school– my sister and I perched on my dad’s knees during the truly horrific stuff– and one day after school I showed some friends the scene in Evil Dead when Shelly is hacked to pieces with an axe.

So it was with much excitement and nostalgia that I hung the first six posters in the horror movie collection. This first set includes three posters from an enduring franchise, two landmark films from 1999, one of which changed the way horror movies are made, and one that has ties to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3 and Bride of Chucky
The most recognizable and most enduring horror film icons are, in my opinion, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers, Leatherface, and Chucky. The collection from which we get the posters for the exhibition does contain an original Child’s Play poster. That one is not hanging on the wall because it’s in rough shape compared to other posters in the series and because it does not contain the iconic image of Chucky. The possessed doll did not rise in prominence until after the first movie was a modest hit in 1988. (With only a 14A rating, I saw the original movie in the theatres when I was 12 years old.) In later films, Chucky was a talkative chap, getting heavy with the dark comedy in the later sequels Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, but in the first film Chucky doesn’t say a word until the movie is almost half over. It was also interesting for me to remember that the original Child’s Play was released during the Kid Sister and My Buddy phenomenon, and that the movie was disowned by its studio because of controversy surrounding its subject matter.

The poster for Child’s Play 2 is the one that demands the highest price in the collector’s market. It features Chucky in all his sinister playfulness, threatening to snip the head off a jack-in-the-box.

The Sixth Sense
Not since The Crying Game were moviegoers excited by but unable to talk about the ending of a movie. The Sixth Sense breathed new life in to the ghost story and announced the arrival of M. Night Shyamalan. Much was made about the twist at the film’s end and it is the “twist ending” that became the Shyamalan trademark, an expectation that arguably hindered his career. None of his later films could exceed or even match The Sixth Sense, not only its twist but also its overall masterful craftsmanship. Shyamalan has all but faded from Hollywood limelight, which makes this the perfect time to revisit The Sixth Sense. Even when you know the twist, the movie is a pleasure of fine acting, slowly revealing storytelling, and a showcase of how to build tension in a scene.

The Blair Witch Project
In the same year that The Sixth Sense showed how intelligent and finely crafted a horror film could be, moviegoers were also introduced to a film with a budget of $60,000, no gore, no monsters, no set design, only three actors, and the barest of plots and it not only scared up $140,000,000 in ticket sales but also changed how horror movies were made.

The technique would come to be known as “found footage” and if it were not for The Blair Witch Project there would be no Paranormal Activity franchise, no Cloverfield, and no other movie with shaky camera techniques designed to create unease, tension and even sickness in a viewer.

And if it were not for The Blair Witch Project perhaps horror movies made post-1999 would have been more focused on craft, performance and storytelling like The Sixth Sense rather than low budgets, short production schedules and quick turns of a profit.

Slither
What do Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy have in common? A lot. Both were written and directed by James Gunn. Both feature Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry. And both have an intelligent sense of humor that defy the trappings of their genres (horror for Slither; superhero for Guardians of the Galaxy). When it was released in 2006, Slither was a box office failure. It only gathered seven million at the box office compared to fifteen million required to make it. It has since found more fans and is worth checking out if you’ve not discovered it.

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Movie Poster Exhibition – Installation #2

Posted by caperaway on September 20, 2014

A new set of six movie posters have been hung in ComicReaders Downtown and if you’re a fan of Batman I’d suggest you come in for a look before they rotate out because on the walls are three very different types of films about the Caped Crusader.

The best place to view this particular set is smack dab in the middle of the store, in the aisle created by the kid-friendly graphic novels and the over-sized manga. From that spot you can view all six posters easily with a simple swivel of your head.

Facing west, you’ll see three posters for Batman Begins, the first in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. I remember getting very excited when I heard Christopher Nolan was directing and had a hand in writing Batman Begins. This was the man responsible for Memento, a film that had opened my eyes to a new way of telling a story in film. I knew if someone could bring the dark to the Dark Knight it would be him. Looking at the three posters you’ll notice how the colors used and the images depicted match the tone of the film itself.

Only Jim Carrey would be crazy enough to wear that one-piece green horror show of a costume.

Only Jim Carrey would be crazy enough to wear that one-piece green horror show of a costume.

Now turn your head south and you’ll see two posters in stark contrast with those of Batman Begins. First up is Batman Forever.

Tim Burton left the franchise after Batman Returns. Joel Schumacher stepped into the director’s chair and Val Kilmer slid into the cape and cowl. Jim Carrey is pulling a face as Riddler. Behind that maniacal visage is Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face in a suit made of garish animal prints. He looks more devilish then devil. You see that poster and you know the gothic feel established by Tim Burton has been tossed out the window.

But even the vibrancy of Batman Forever pales when set alongside the poster for Batman and Robin, the Batman movie that killed the franchise. (George Clooney apologized for the film; director Schumacher blamed studio interference; and Warner Bros. torpedoed the planned fifth film which would have featured Scarecrow and Harley Quinn as villains.)

When Batman Forever was in theatres in 1995 I was a year out of high school. I thought the tonal shift was a blend of what I liked in Burton’s Batman flicks and what I fondly remembered from the 1960s Batman television show (for which I have much love) and the lighter tone and brighter colors of old comics. Jim Carrey was fresh from Ace Ventura and The Mask. I wanted to see his zaniness. Tommy Lee Jones was, for me, one of the coolest dudes in cinema, with scene stealing roles in The Fugitive, Blown Away, and Natural Born Killers. I wanted to see him spit and snarl and toss his scarred coin.

But there was no part of me that wanted anything to do with Batman and Robin. Arnold Swarzenegger’s last good movie was True Lies in 1994. Last Action Hero, Junior, Eraser, Jingle All the Way removed Arnold from my list of movie heroes. So when he showed up on posters and commercials as Mr. Freeze I knew this was something I did not want to watch. Salt in the wounds was that Alicia Silverstone was Batgirl. She did not strike me as tough enough to play the part. Even Uma Thurman in tights couldn’t coax me into giving up the money I’d earned selling smokes and bread on the backshift at a convenience store.

Do you remember the Bat-nipple controversy?

Do you remember the Bat-nipple controversy?

The final poster in the set is for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, an animated feature initially intended for a direct-to-video release but ultimately ushered into theatres.

The year was 1993. Batman: The Animated Series was one year into the four year run that would have many claim it as one of the best animated television shows ever produced and certainly the best animated Batman series ever made. This is the series that, for Batman fans, got everything right. It is also the series that introduced Harley Quinn and Detective Montoya. (Both would later be written into Batman comics.) And it gave us Mark Hamill as the voice of The Joker.

1993 was one year after Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, which had done exceptionally well at the box office. There was without a doubt a heighted interest in Batman thanks to the Burton films and the animated series. It only made sense that Mask of the Phantasm would hit theatres, complete with a McDonald’s tie-in—fantastically rendered sculpted glass mugs.

There is no Harley in Mask of the Phantasm, but Joker did shack up with a robotic housewife.

There is no Harley in Mask of the Phantasm, but Joker did shack up with a robotic housewife.

I was in the theatre with my buddy Jeff (and probably our girlfriends). We were both fans of the animated series and had high hopes when the lights dimmed. Then the opening credits came on with Shirley Walker’s score and the computer generated images of Gotham’s skyline and a sweat broke out on my brow and my heart started beating faster. This was going to be awesome.

And it was.

For me, Mask of the Phantasm was the best Batman movie I had ever seen. It managed to replace Tim Burton’s Batman. It was everything the animated series got right but on a bigger scale. It also borrowed from Frank Miller’s Year One (which I had only recently discovered thanks to Jeff). It would remain, for me, the definitive Batman feature film until Christopher Nolan came along.

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Movie Poster Exhibition – Installation #1

Posted by caperaway on September 12, 2014

batman_returnsThe Movie Poster Exhibition at ComicReaders Downtown does not officially begin until Monday, September 15, 2014, but I hung the first set of six posters today. For each poster set displayed in the exhibition, I will post additional information on this blog and ComicReaders Downtown’s Facebook page to give you a deeper understanding of the posters on display. The posted material might also contain my memories of the movies featured and my personal opinions on the poster designs. Feel free to share your own thoughts and memories when you’re visiting ComicReaders Downtown or on ComicReaders Downtown’s Facebook page.

Installation #1 (September 15)

South Wall

#1
Batman Returns
Release Date: 1992
Type: Advance Poster
This Batman Returns teaser was replaced by the second Batman Returns advance poster (listed below). Reports claim this initial poster was too plain, but, in my opinion, this is a great example of a simple and enticing poster designed to generate excitement well in advance of the movie’s release. The 1989 Batman movie was a massive hit. It would be three years before Batman Returns would hit theaters so imagine the way fans would have felt when they saw this elegant poster hanging in the local cinema. Remember, this was long before the advent of Facebook, Twitter and even widespread use of the Internet.

#2
Batman Returns
Release Date: 1992
Type: Advance Poster
The tagline “The Bat, The Cat, The Penguin” was widely used during the marketing of Batman Returns. Some feel it is water washing over the Batman symbol while others believe it is ice. What do you think?

#3
Batman Returns
Release Date: 1992
Type: Original Movie Poster
This poster is double-sided. This was not uncommon. When back-lit, the colors and images really pop.

West Wall

#1
The Dark Knight
Release Date: 2008
Type: Advance Poster

#2
Batman
Release Date: 1989
Type: Original Movie Poster
We put the poster for the 1989 Batman between two Advance Posters for The Dark Knight, the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga. The Dark Knight featured Heath Ledger as Joker. The 1989 Batman, directed by Tim Burton, had Jack Nicholson as Joker. The two portrayals of the Joker begs the question: Which of the movie Jokers is your favourite?

#3
The Dark Knight
Release Date: 2008
Type: Advance Poster
This poster is one of the most sought after Original Movie Posters of the modern era.

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Movie Poster Exhibition – Primer

Posted by caperaway on September 10, 2014

ComicReaders Downtown’s Movie Poster Exhibition begins September 15, 2014. Hundreds of movie posters will be shown over a period of months. Most posters are from The Popcorn Palace, an independent movie theatre in Bengough, Saskatchewan. The selection spans a twelve year period: 1988 to 2000.

The posters in the collection are Original Movie Posters. These are designed and printed by a film studio or distributor in limited quantity for display in movie theatres to promote the film. Vintage movie posters are those printed before the 1980s. Those are rare, hard to find and often show wear and tear.

The Original Movie Posters in the ComicReaders’ exhibition are from 1988 to 2000, but many are considered collectible. Original Movie Posters can become highly valued, prized collector items. There are many reasons for this: the movie is highly acclaimed, the poster art itself becomes a stunning image on its own, or the film has over the years developed a cult following.

Some of the posters in the exhibition are Pre-Release or Advance Posters. These are designed, printed and sent to movie theatres long before the movie arrives. This means Advance movie posters are printed in smaller numbers and often feature artwork unspoiled by cast listings and crew credits. As a result, Advance movie posters are often highly prized among collectors.

Some of the posters show the wear of the years, but many are in mint condition. You will also notice that some posters have fold creases. It was common for movie studios and distributors to send the “one-sheets” to the theatre folded up in a large envelope. That method was stopped in the late 1980s. Posters were then shipped rolled in cardboard tubes.

It is our hope that as you visit us over the months and view the Original Movie Posters that you revisit fond memories of your experiences with movies, but also that you come to further appreciate the often brilliant design of movie posters.

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