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Oscars 2021 Pablo Matilla: What makes a movie poster great? Spanish designer behind Oscar hits shares his secrets | Culture

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The legendary line “and the Oscar goes to…” has never preceded the name of a movie poster art designer, and there is no indication that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has any short-term plan to award prizes in this category.

But Pablo Matilla, who has won other industry accolades including Clio Entertainment awards, considered the Oscars of film publicity, recently shared with EL PAÍS the secrets behind a good Hollywood movie poster.

Born in the western Spanish region of Extremadura and raised in Seville, the 40-year-old designer has been making posters for the Hollywood film industry for the better part of two decades. An associate creative director at Concept Arts studio in Los Angeles, he was the mind behind the poster art for hits such as Dunkirk, Interstellar, 1917 and Roma, which means that he has worked with leading directors including Christopher Nolan, Sam Mendes and Alfonso Cuarón.

“‘Interstellar' is a project with a lot of production value. For films like this, studios make a lot of posters," admits Matilla.
“‘Interstellar’ is a project with a lot of production value. For films like this, studios make a lot of posters,” admits Matilla.

Matilla has developed the promotional images for many movies that have gone on to the Academy Awards, most recently The Trial of the Chicago 7, which was nominated for six Oscars.

Matilla says that the posters he has made for Oscar contenders do not necessarily share any traits. However, “I think that most of them have sincere graphics that try to remain faithful to the director and the team’s artistic vision. They are a sample of the movie’s tone and genre,” he notes.

The designer speaks enthusiastically about his work, and is happy to be able to put his imagination at the service of interesting projects, no matter what their size. Creating poster art in the US film industry – and increasingly in Spain as well – involves a large number of professionals and complex processes, including many trial-and-error cycles that make an art form out of rejection management, something that should probably be taught at design schools.

The poster for ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7,’ designed by Matilla, on display in Los Angeles.
The poster for ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7,’ designed by Matilla, on display in Los Angeles.pablo matilla

But Matilla himself never studied graphic art. Instead he studied filmmaking at schools in Barcelona, Los Angeles and New York. As a poster art designer, he feels that his work mostly involves interpreting the director’s vision. “Obviously, you are free to focus on scenes from the movie that you find the most interesting and representative, but ultimately it’s the director who will decide if you accurately translated his vision in one brushstroke,” he explains. “The best movie directors have a clear vision of their movie from the first scene to the last advertising element. Not all of them decide to get that involved in the process, but those who do want the poster to remain faithful to the movie, to the story it tells and to the tone of the artistic proposal.”

According to Matilla, the key to designing a good movie poster lies in finding the balance between art and publicity. “When they show too much advertising information, they lose visual impact. On the other hand, there are some very aesthetic posters that don’t attract anybody to a movie theater because they are not a window into the film’s narrative. That’s why it’s so important to strike a balance.”

“The hug on the beach is a very emotional moment;" "It's a work of art." These were some of the comments from the audience about the poster for 'Roma.'
“The hug on the beach is a very emotional moment;” “It’s a work of art.” These were some of the comments from the audience about the poster for ‘Roma.’

“If you’ll notice, both Dunkirk and 1917 have some things in common. The color range in both is modern. The soldiers are not wearing helmets, they are not shooting or pointing their weapons at anybody; their body language is vulnerable. All of this humanizes the characters and creates feelings of empathy in the viewer. Although both fall under the war movie category, they label themselves as anti-war and this is reflected in the posters,” he explains.

And then there was the Hollywood hit Interstellar. For this kind of movie, studios make many different posters instead of trying to cram everything into a single image. “If you analyze the poster art prior to my own that was made for this movie, each one highlights different virtues: the space trip, the lead character’s emotional connection with his daughter, the sense of group adventure.”

The payoff, or final poster designed by Matilla, shows the main character’s vulnerability in a hostile environment, without providing too many details about the story other than the fact that he is wearing a NASA spacesuit. There is not even a spaceship in sight. And even though it stars a famous actor, his presence is not unduly exaggerated. “I think that this is where the movie studios are really brilliant in their marketing strategy: they are able to identify the main audience and provide the basic information to attract it,” says Matilla. “In the posters for Dunkirk and for Interstellar, the most important information is the director, Christopher Nolan, so we avoided unnecessary distractions. In cases such as Kong: Skull Island, you have a spectacular cast and a good director, but the main message for the audience is that this is a movie by the producers of Godzilla.

Matilla's latest work was for 'Godzilla vs. Kong.'
Matilla’s latest work was for ‘Godzilla vs. Kong.’

Matilla says that studios can test out posters the same way that they test the movies themselves, but that at the end of the day, “the best indicator that the poster is the right one is whether the director likes it.”

“There are people out there with a lot more talent than me,” he claims. “I’m just lucky to be in the right place at the right time to work on these movies. It is not false humility, it’s the truth.”

There are hardly any awards for movie poster art in Spain, but the Premios Feroz, considered the Spanish answer to the Golden Globes, do have a specific category for Best Poster. Matilla does not believe that this is going to happen in Hollywood any time soon: “I see the opposite trend: I think that TV networks favor award ceremonies with fewer categories and more attention on the stars. We have other forums such as the Clio Entertainment Awards or the Golden Trailer Awards, although I miss the Key Art Awards, which used to judge posters by movie genre and by specialized professionals.”

A poster for 'The Nun' on display in Los Ageles.
A poster for ‘The Nun’ on display in Los Ageles. pablo matilla

English version by Susana Urra.

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HSE staff should receive bonus for work during pandemic, says Donnelly

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All Health Service Executive (HSE) staff, including those working in administrative roles, should get a financial bonus for the work done during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

“I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.

Speaking after a visit to the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, Mr Donnelly said: “We need to listen to the frustrations that they have.

“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time.

“I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate,” he said. “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the hospitals, and into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”

The arrival of the Delta variant has been delayed by the use of some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in the European Union, but foreign travel now is adding to case numbers.

“We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to [international] travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home,” he said.

Advice

Some people travelled without a vaccination, or before their vaccinations had time to work. “They shouldn’t have done that. Some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need,” he said.

In “certain cases”, people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of their first jab, as opposed to the previous advice of four weeks, and this may happen more generally, he said.

A HSE spokeswoman later said “For operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases. Second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective.”

On the vaccination programme, the Minister said: “There aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year-olds.”

There will be no immediate change to rules around attendance at funerals, Masses, Confirmations or Communions, while the closure of indoor summer camps is being kept under review.

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Covid-19: More than half of Austrians now fully vaccinated

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With 53,386 vaccinations carried out on Thursday, Austria cross the 50 percent mark for total vaccinations. 

This means that 4,479,543 people are completely vaccinated against Covid-19 in Austria as at Thursday evening, July 29th. 

A further nine percent of the population have received one vaccination, bringing the total percentage of people who have had at least one shot to 58.9 percent or (5.2 million people). 

UPDATED: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Austria?

The Austrian government has welcomed the news. 

“More than half of the total population is now very well protected against the coronavirus and thus the highly contagious Delta variant thanks to the full immunisation,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Thursday afternoon. 

Burgenland has the highest percentage of vaccinated people with 66.1 percent, followed by Carinthia (55.7 percent) and Salzburg (55.2 percent). 

The lowest percentage is in Upper Austria, where 54.9 percent of the population is vaccinated. 

Kleinmürbisch in the Güssing district has the highest percentage of vaccinated people in Austria, with just under 80 percent of people vaccinated. 

The village however only has 230 residents. 

“But we are still a long way from reaching our destination,” warned the minister. 

Around one quarter of the Austrian population has indicated a reluctance to be vaccinated, with around 15 percent saying they will refuse the vaccination. 



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6 Amusing Historic Stereotypes of Major Russian Cities

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About the authorFor lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.

He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.

He has an excellent Pinterest page, and you can follow him on Facebook. Here is an archive of his work published on Russia Insider.

He is currently running a remarkably successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter to be able to publish his upcoming novels. Please support him if you can!


Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”

This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.

However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)

EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL

Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).

Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.

EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON

Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.

It used to be that a hat symbolized one’s personal dignity. In Pskov in particular, to actually take off your hat meant to be shamed. It may be a bastardization of the more generally accepted rule that if someone else took your hat off your headthat was a terrible insult.

EVERYONE IN NIZHNI NOVGOROD IS A DRUNKARD

The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”

Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.

EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL

This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”

Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.

Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.

EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN

When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.

The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.

THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN

The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.

Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.

Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.

True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.


Source: Nicholas Kotar

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