July 19, 2008

What's a nice movie like you doing in a DVD case like this? or: great films with bad DVD covers

You know the feeling: you go out to buy a DVD of a film you like, thinking how nice it will look on your shelf. And I mean a classy, well-made film. Then you find, to your chagrin, that the DVD cover is abominable and does not do the movie any justice. What are these designers thinking? In this day and age, there are typically a few different versions of a DVD available (different editions, regions, etc.) so you might have a choice - but strangely, the nicer editions tend to have some of the worst cover art. Let's take a look at some DVD covers that make me cringe every time I see them.

Dogma (1999) special edition:

Okay, I just don't get this faux oil painting look. It just looks cheap. I understand the commercial need to cram all the stars on the cover, but this was achieved in the non-special edition with actual photos. The rendering of Linda Fiorentino makes her look like she had fetal alcohol syndrome, and that weird creature in the top center? That's supposed to be Alanis Morrissette. Yuck.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The special edition of this film has an aesthetically pleasing cover. It looks like this:

Unfortunately, the non-special edition looks like this:

I can just imagine the creation of this image: Designer: The DVD cover's all done, boss.
Boss: What?! But you forgot to put Laurence Harvey on there. He's the MAIN character.
Designer: Oh shit!
Boss: Here's what you do. Just get a HUGE picture of Laurence Harvey and slap him in the front, over everything, with a GUN. Cuz he's the MAIN character. Oh, and mute those colors, will you?

All About My Mother (1999)
The American version of the DVD is nice enough:

The Spanish version, however, uses essentially the same image but a very different rendering:

Ew! There are toddlers than could produce better drawings than that. This is not a picture suitable for an Oscar-winning Spanish melodrama. And the eyes are different sizes! Make it go away!

There Will Be Blood (2007):

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the design here. It’s rather nice and suits the film. But doesn’t Daniel Day-Lewis look a little…funny to you? He looks like he’s made out of wax. While this could serve as a metaphor for the lack of humanity in his character (doubtful), it just comes across as shoddy design.

Silk Stockings (1957):

Who let the caricature artist off the boardwalk?! Cyd doesn't look too bad (aside from being a bobblehead), but Fred looks like some alien with a killer chin. Not cool.

No Country for Old Men (2007):

The problem here is that the cover makes this Best Picture winner look like a shitty movie. From the years I worked at a video store, I can tell you with authority that this design adheres strictly the Straight-To-Video Shitty Movie look: floating heads of actors on top, title in the middle, action-packed image on the bottom. Think about it. If it wasn’t for the star power, the Coen name and Newsweek’s enthusiastic praise, this could easily be an image from Jean-Claude Van Damme Fights People and Blows Things Up #3761. Furthermore, why don’t the names match the floating heads? I know this is common practice, but that’s typically when they’re trying to alphabetize. The names here aren't alphabetical, and it’s even more confusing because one name matches the face. And while I’m at it, what’s with the god-awful poster for this movie?

What’s a surefire way to make Javier Bardem look even scarier? Blur out the bottom half of his face and give him Josh Brolin for a mouth. No Country, you’re an amazing movie, but on this front, you fail epically.

The Apartment (1960) collector’s edition:

Remember The Apartment, that terrible romantic comedy with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey that millions of squealing girls dragged their annoyed boyfriends to? No you don’t, because The Apartment is a bittersweet Billy Wilder gem with a stellar cast that won the Best Picture Oscar in 1960. But from this image, you’d think it was the former. The major plot elements are painstakingly laid out for morons – you see, there’s this big KEYHOLE, to symbolize the APARTMENT. Shirley MacLaine is flanked by two potential suitors, and she’s SHRUGGING, because she DOESN’T KNOW WHICH ONE SHE’LL END UP WITH! This is just insulting.

If this post has hurt your eyes and your sensibility, I recommend cleansing your palate by browsing the DVDs of the Criterion Collection. Each and every one of their covers is a miniature piece of art that skillfully communicates the theme of the film inside.

For a good read on the tangentially related subject of the differences in poster and DVD art for the same film, check out this post at More Than Fine.


Anonymous said...

Hehe I agree with most of these.. however, I love the Dogma cover. I don't know if you're a big Star Wars fan, but it is definitely an imitation of the old painted Star Wars posters, so everything about it is most likely intended.

Maybe with the exception of the fact that Ben Affleck looks like Humphrey Bogart.

Maxine Fabian said...

Great comments, especially your hilarious analysis of the The Apartment cover.

I only take exception to your opinion of the Spanish All About My Mother cover. I think it's great - the simple line drawing has great graphic impact. Haven't seen the film yet, so I don't know how well it captures the flavour of the picture though, but from a graphic design standpoint, it works nicely.

words...words...words... said...

I used to work at a video store, and I am a keen picker outer of bad DVD covers. My favorite kind are when the actors are Photoshopped together to make it look like they appear in the same picture when they don't. The all time champ is "The Cemetery Club" with Olympia Dukakis and Danny Aiello. You will not be disappointed.

I agree on the "No Country" DVD box, it looks like a generic Chuck Norris movie. But I think the poster is badass.

PileOfSand said...

I used to work at a video store and on our down time we would hunt down movie box cliches. It is amazing how many movies you can find if you search for movies with a woman sticking a phallic object in her mouth, person looking into a reflective surface and not seeing themselves, or a person on park bench looking quirky, yet lonely. My favorite of all time is Shade Tipping, which is essentially any cover where someone is wearing sunglasses and they are slid down their nose to reveal a set of sardonic eyes.

in car dvd player said...

Many people find that the most difficult part of creating a custom CD/DVD disc is the design process. This is very important because the artwork you choose will give customers a strong first impression of your project.