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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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The drama behind the Anglo-Irish Treaty

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On December 6th 1921 a document was signed that would shape Ireland for at least a century.

Throughout October, November and early December of 1921, tense negotiations on the future of the island took place in London after years of conflict.

The Irish team, led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, were untrained and badly prepared. They lacked clear instructions or guidance and had no agreed counter-proposals prepared. They were not even a united team.

They also faced some serious British political talent, including the prime minister Lloyd George and future prime minister Winston Churchill.

In the early hours of the 6th of December 1921, the talks reached a dramatic climax at Number 10 Downing Street.

With the British under increasing pressure to get a deal done, an ultimatum was issued: sign or face war again.

The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. Its aim was to bring the curtain down on the war in Ireland and while it did mark the end of the War of Independence, it sparked another conflict almost immediately – the Civil War.

It also set the scene for the partition of Ireland with the devastating consequences that was to have half a century on from the signing of the Treaty.

Countless books, plays and even a Hollywood film have been made about the Treaty but what is it legacy and why is it an important story to tell?

Playwright Colin Murphy, historian Micheal O Fathartaigh, author Gretchen Friemann and Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy talk to In The News about the Treaty, the negotiations and the impact the document has had on Irish history.

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Lewis Hamilton wins chaotic Saudi GP to draw level with Max Verstappen

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After chaos, needle, misunderstanding and some absolutely uncompromising racing, it took a cool head to prevail and Lewis Hamilton duly delivered, his win at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ensuring there is now nothing in it going into the Formula One season finale.

Beating title rival Max Verstappen into second, the pair are now level on points after a race of complexity and confusion fitting perhaps in a season that has been impossible to predict. The two protagonists endured an ill-tempered race and both left with differing views, Hamilton accusing his rival of being dangerous and Verstappen aggrieved. What it made clear is that neither will leave anything on the table next week in Abu Dhabi.

The investigations and debriefs will go on long into the night after this staccato affair interrupted by red flags, safety cars and the two leaders clashing repeatedly on track but ultimately and crucially for his title hopes it was an exhausted Hamilton who came out on top.

Hamilton had gone into the race trailing Verstappen by eight points, they are now level. The lead has changed hands five times during this enthralling season, which has ebbed and flowed between them but of course Hamilton has experience in tense showdowns, pipped to his first title in the last race of 2007 and then sealing it in a nail-biting showdown in Brazil a year later.

Verstappen is in his first title fight but has shown no indication of being intimidated, instead eagerly grasping his chance to finally compete and he still has it all to play for despite his clear disappointment at the result at the Jeddah circuit.

Hamilton admitted how hard the race been. “I’ve been racing a long time and that was incredibly tough,” he said. “I tried to be as sensible and tough as I could be and with all my experience just keeping the car on the track and staying clean. It was difficult. We had all sorts of things thrown at us.”

Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington credited his man with how he had handled it, noting: “It was the cool head that won out”. It was a necessary skill beyond that of wrestling with this tricky, high speed circuit, given the incidents that defined the race as it swung between the two rivals.

Hamilton held his lead from pole but an early red flag due to a crash left Verstappen out front when Red Bull had opted not to pit under a safety car. Thus far at least it was fairly straightforward.

When racing resumed from a standing start Hamilton, off like a bullet, had the lead into turn one but Verstappen went wide and cut the corner of two to emerge in front. Esteban Ocon took advantage to sneak into second only for the race to be stopped again immediately after several cars crashed in the midfield.

With the race stopped, the FIA race director, Michael Masi, offered Red Bull the chance for Verstappen to be dropped to third behind Hamilton because of the incident, rather than involving the stewards. In unprecedented scenes of negotiations with Masi, Red Bull accepted the offer, conceding Verstappen had to give up the place, with the order now Ocon, Hamilton.

Verstappen launched brilliantly at the restart, dove up the inside to take the lead, while Hamilton swiftly passed Ocon a lap later to move to second.

The front two immediately pulled away with Hamilton sticking to Verstappen’s tail, ferociously quick as they matched one another’s times. Repeated periods of the virtual safety car ensued to deal with debris littering the track and when racing began again on lap 37, Hamilton attempted to pass and was marginally ahead through turn one as both went off but Verstappen held the lead, lighting the touchpaper for the flashpoint.

Verstappen was told by his team to give the place back to Hamilton but when Verstappen slowed apparently looking to do so, Hamilton hit the rear of the Red Bull, damaging his front wing. Mercedes said they were unaware Verstappen was going to slow and the team had not informed Hamilton, who did not know what Verstappen was doing. Hamilton was furious, accusing Verstappen of brake-testing him. Both drivers are under investigation by the stewards for the incident and penalties may yet be applied.

Verstappen then did let Hamilton through but immediately shot back up to retake the lead but in doing so went off the track. He was then given a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage and a lap later Verstappen once more let his rival through, concerned he had not done so sufficiently on the previous lap. After all the chaos, Hamilton finally led and Verstappen’s tyres were wearing, unable to catch the leader who went on to secure a remarkable victory.

It was all too much for Verstappen who left the podium ceremony immediately the anthems concluded. “This sport is more about penalties than racing and for me this is not Formula One,” he said “A lot of things happened, which I don’t fully agree with.”

Both teams had diverging viewpoints on the incidents but both must now look forward. After 21 highly competitive races, the last a febrile, unpredictable drama, the season will be decided in a one-off shootout where both drivers have without doubt earned their place but just when the respect between them appears at its lowest ebb. – Guardian

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Covid testing rules for all arrivals into State come into force

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New Covid testing rules for travellers arriving into the State have come into force today.

At the start of the week the Government announced that all incoming travellers except those travelling from Northern Ireland will have to present a negative test result in order to enter the country irrespective of the vaccination status.

The move came in response to concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The test requirements were due to be introduced from midnight on Thursday. However the system was postponed at the last minute to midnight on Sunday in order to allow airlines prepare for checks.

For those with proof of vaccination they can show a negative professionally administered antigen test carried out no more than 48 hours before arrrival or a PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival. Those who are unvaccinated must show a negative PCR test result.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary had described the move as “nonsense” and “gobbledygook”.

Meanwhile more than 150 passengers have departed Morocco for Ireland on a repatriation flight organised by the Government.

The 156 passengers on the flight from Marrakech to Dublin included Irish citizens as well as citizens of several other EU countries and the UK.

The journey was organised after flights to and from Morocco were suspended earlier this week until at least December 13th, amid fears over the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.

The repatriation flight on Saturday was operated on behalf of the Government by Ryanair.

Responding to news of the flight’s departure, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney hailed the efforts of the Irish Embassy in Rabat in the operation, tweeting: “Well done and thank you!”.

On Saturday the number of Covid patients in hospital has fallen to 487, the lowest level in almost four weeks, the latest official figures show. The number of Covid patients in hospital fell by 41 between Friday and Saturday. There were 5,622 further cases of Covid-19 reported on Saturday.

Tweeting about the latest hospital figures on Saturday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the “plan is working – 3rd doses, masks, test & isolate, physical distancing. Thank you for what you are doing. Please don’t lose heart. Let’s all have a safe Christmas.”

The figures come as the Government on Friday announced its most wide-ranging introduction of new restrictions this year after “stark” warnings from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to take immediate action in the face of the threat from the Omicron variant.

From Tuesday until at least January 9th, indoor hospitality will be limited to parties of up to six adults per table, while nightclubs will be closed and indoor events limited to half a venue’s capacity. Advice has been issued that households should not host more than three other households in their home, while the use of the vaccine pass is to be extended to gyms and hotel bars and restaurants.

Trinity College immunologist Prof Luke O’Neill said the main reason for the new restrictions was the new Omicron variant, and he thought they were needed as the “next three to four weeks are going to be tough”. Speaking to Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ radio, he said it was “strange” that restrictions were being introduced when things are stabilising, with the lowest hospital numbers since November 6th.

Prof O’Neill said he was “hopeful” at news that the Omicron variant may have a piece of the common cold virus in it which could make it more like the common cold.

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