Film

“Loving Vincent” As Only True Artists Can

The making of “Loving Vincent” is truly an act of love. Everything from its Kickstarter crowdfunding to eschewing CGI in favor of painstakingly painting every frame by hand makes this 80-minute film a monumental homage to the life of Vincent Van Gogh and to fine artists everywhere. Polish painter Dorota Kobriela and Oscar-winning British filmmaker Hugh Welchman of Breakthru Films began work on the world’s first feature-length painted animation in 2011, and with an infusion of Kickstarter funding are pushing forward to bring their labor of love to fruition. In an interview with Voice of America, Kobriela says they were inspired to undertake this project after reading Van Gogh’s letter to his brother saying that “we can only speak through our paintings.”

“Loving Vincent” integrates 120 of Van Gogh’s greatest paintings into a storyline pulled together from some 800 letters written by the artist in the latter years of his life. The film’s plot unfolds through “interviews” with characters closest to Van Gogh and through a dramatic reconstruction of events leading up to his sudden and still mysterious death.

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Advertising

Superbowl Commercials – Where’s the Buzz?

Commercials run on the Super Bowl have become their own cultural phenomenon. Costing about $5 million to air a 30-second spot (or $166,666 per second), the commercials reach an estimated 115 million American viewers, and millions more outside of the U.S. Advertisers throw big budgets and top talent at making these spots. In past years, the entertainment quality has been so high that some viewers only watch the game to see the commercials. After the game, people turn to YouTube to see the commercials they missed. This year, however, many advertisers aimed for a pre-game viral buzz by releasing their commercials in advance on TV, YouTube and online platforms.The commercials kinda dribbled out over the past month. The buzz created by millions of people seeing the ads simultaneously for the first time on the Super Bowl was missing. The Super Bowl ads were no longer an event. Without a doubt, there were some terrific ads on the Super Bowl (like the ones shown here), but the thrill of the shared experience is gone. People aren’t coming into the office the next day and chatting with co-workers about their favorite Super Bowl commercial the way they used to.
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Pop Culture

Tonight Show’s Star Wars Jam Session


This 90-second plug for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show is as ingenious as it is entertaining. Featuring Fallon, house-band The Roots, and the Star Wars cast, the video shows the performers singing as an a cappella choir. Arranged in a grid a la Hollywood Squares or the Brady Bunch, each performer is shot against a plain background while giving their own solo rendition of the film’s most familiar tunes. By shooting at different times and places to accommodate the performers’ schedules, the producers were able to make Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, BB8, storm troopers, 3CPO, and R2D2, part of the all-star chorus. The juxtaposition of colored squares and overlapping of a capella voices turned the video into a spontaneous jam session, with performers playing off each other even though they were in different parts of the galaxy.

Public Service Campaign

From the Ears of Autistic People

How do you describe in words what autism feels like from the perspective of the person afflicted with the disorder? Sometimes verbal explanations seem inadequate, incomplete, superficial. It’s better to show it and hear it from their eyes and ears. Rattling Stick Production Company made this public service video for the National Autism Society in the UK to help viewers feel the sensory way that some autistic people experience the world. Sounds that most people don’t even notice affect them with the jarring impact of a pile driver. The video was directed by Steve Cope, with creative direction by Kit Darayam. Turn up your sound to get the full effect.

Advertising

Greenpeace Ad: A Story Told in Metaphors

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Designers are always in search of ways to convey a message visually without the need for lengthy explanatory text. That’s the charm of this Greenpeace advertising released to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last week. Created by London-based Stine Hole Mankovsky, the video and print ads communicate through a shorthand of visual metaphors that are widely understood by the public. Iconic Russian nesting “dolls” tie the story to Russia; stylized icy blue peaks suggest Arctic glaciers, and the decreasing size of the dolls serve as a metaphor for the ever- shrinking habitat of polar bears, which are fast vanishing in numbers. The only text is “Save the Russian Arctic. Greenpeace.” That says it all. Today the gravest threat to polar bears and the Arctic is the unmitigated release of greenhouse gases, which are warming the planet and causing the climate to change.
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Advertising

Sainsbury’s Brings Mog Back for Christmas

Sainsbury’s, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, has made a holiday TV commercial starring Mog the accident-prone cat, the beloved character in a series of popular children’s books by author Judith Kerr. Although categorized as advertisement, the 3 1/2 minute “Mog’s Christmas Calamity,” is a charming storybook tale narrated by acclaimed actress Emma Thompson in a voice akin to her role in “Nanny McPhee.”

Sainsbury’s ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO persuaded the 92-year-old Judith Kerr to write and illustrate a new Mog story for the Christmas campaign, despite having “killed off” Mog of old age in her 2002 book, “Goodbye, Mog.” Published in partnership with HarperCollins, the “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” book is being offered for purchase by Sainsbury’s with all proceeds going to Save the Children, a nonprofit dedicated to improving children’s literacy in the UK. Only on the market for a few days, the book has already sold in the thousands.

The Christmas advertisement program itself also has been a huge success with adults who fondly recall reading Mog books when they were young. The Sainsbury’s Mog ad campaign was written by AMV BBDO’s Alex Grieve, art directed by Adrian Rossi, and directed by James Rouse through Outsider.

Motion Graphics

Stop-Motion Visual Pun By PES

To get the humor in this visual pun by PES, the acclaimed motion graphics artist, it is best if you speak English. Sponsored by Lipton Iced Tea, the video centers around a homophone – meaning a word that sounds the same as another but has an entirely different meaning and spelling. Example: Flower and flour. In this case, PES based his pun around the homophone “mussel,” the shellfish that tastes great grilled and dipped in lemon and melted butter, and “muscle,” the body mass that men flex to flaunt how buff they are. It’s a clever visual pun, but only if the word for “mussel” and “muscle” are phonetically identical in your spoken language — otherwise, you’ll chuckle and wonder what that’s all about.

Film

The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano

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How do you design a film poster that suggests how humans come to inhabit a different body over time? This is the subject of a new documentary called “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano,” which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. The film was produced by filmmaker Joshua Seftel who has produced and directed several award-winning documentaries for television, radio and theater release. “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano” is about famed photographer Phillip Toledano’s effort to envision the ways his life would change over the next 40 years. The project is a continuation of an exploration of aging that Toledano presented in a photo journal on his father’s final years. Called “Days With My Father,” the journal visually tried to reconcile the active, handsome man his father once was with the decrepit old man plagued by severe memory loss. In this film Toledano “fast-forwarded” himself through theatrical makeup to picture how he would be at various stages of his life.

The discussion of an appropriate poster design for “The Many Sad Fates of Mr.Toledano” began between Seftel and Kit Hinrichs while they were on a long flight to Saudi Arabia. When Kit returned to the States, he developed several poster options, three of which are shown here. The top one was the final choice. The one at bottom left simply shows Toledano’s face. At bottom right, the collage of rectangular pieces shows abrupt facial changes, whereas the top image, with the thinly sliced horizontal strips, seem to vibrate Toledano’s facial features, suggesting a gradual, constant change.
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Illustration

Milton Glaser: A True Design Legend

Designers, in my humble opinion, are a self-congratulatory lot. They constantly hold juried competitions and give themselves awards, produce publications to pat each other on the back, and freely call elder designers “icons” and “legends.” Copywriters, on the other hand, (of whom I count myself among them) never refer to anyone in the profession as a “copywriting legend” or “copywriting icon”. We don’t put out magazines reprinting the best corporate brochure text, direct marketing paragraph, or pithy headline. As a group, copywriters are usually unsung and ignored. That said, there is one designer who genuinely deserves to be called a “legend”: Milton Glaser. He is to be admired for his originality, talent, contributions to art and design, and because he comes across as a sweetie. That makes us happy to present this short video interview of Milton Glaser, put together by the New York Times.

Motion Graphics

Before Photoshop

Years ago the CEO of a company I was working for was hospitalized at the time the board of directors’ group photo had to be taken for the annual shareholders report. Another executive who was roughly the same built as the CEO was recruited to stand in his place. Later a photo of the CEO’s head was pasted and airbrushed onto the stand-in’s torso. It looked okay, but anyone who knew the CEO found something about his pose unsettling.

For another annual report cover, we had a shot of a logging truck traveling on a freeway past a forest of gorgeous fall colors. Due to reasons I’ve forgotten, the photograph had to be flopped, so the freeway sign made it look like the truck was driving on the wrong side of the road. If I remember right, a print had to be made of the photograph so the retoucher could fix it, and then it had to be converted back into a transparency.

That was in the days before Photoshop. Because significant manipulation of a photograph was such a big deal back then, it used to be said that “the camera never lies,” Now designers are often overheard saying, “Don’t worry. We’ll photoshop it in (or out) later.” Photography has become an “impressionistic” art form. Seeing isn’t believing. Changes can be made in an instant on a computer by virtually any designer. The airbrushing and retouching professions have all but disappeared. Through Photoshop, a hybrid art form has emerged that is producing some incredible images. More and more, designers have assumed control of the photograph, and taken it out of the hands of the photographer.

Advertising

Lurpak: A Kitchen Space Odyssey

Created by Wieden & Kennedy London and directed by Dougal Wilson at Blink, “Lurpak Cook’s Range: Adventure Awaits” is the latest episode in a series of commercials that expose home cooks to the exhilarating universe that they have been yearning to explore. This 60-second epic journey opens to the majestic strains of the soundtrack from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and closes in tightly on a mysterious landscape of bumpy cauliflowers, gnarled ginger outcroppings, an artery of pomegranate kernels, and membranes of flaky bread.

It’s bold. Challenging. Heroic. It’s all about butter and cooking oil! This ad for Lurpak, maker of premium Danish butter and cooking oils, is intended to inspire and encourage intrepid cooks to venture forth and discover new culinary frontiers, secure in the knowledge that Lurpak butter won’t let them down.

Advertising

What Pet Cats and Great Athletes Have in Common

At first this commercial for Temptations Tumblers cat treats by adam@eveDDB/London seemed like a brazen effort to hook viewers in by combining two of the most popular subjects on YouTube — top athletes and adorable cats. The first half of the “Time to Play Ball” Temptations commercial did look like an ad for Nike or Adidas, with not a furry paw in sight. But then the shared attributes of jocks and cats came into focus. The athletes looked steely, determined, alert and focused. Even the hairs on their neck stood at attention. The cats, presented in elegant slow motion, exhibited the same kind of single-minded concentration. Nothing distracted them from the tiny Temptations Tumblers tossed their way. The comparison came together nicely and worked. (It didn’t hurt to be able to feature cute cats and buff jocks either.)

Advertising

Schwartz’s Explosion of Flavors

How do you make herbs and spices tantalizing on a visual and auditory level? Asked by Schwartz Flavour Shots to create an ad that turned its seasonings into a complete sensory experience, Grey London unleashed Schwartz herbs and spices in an explosion of colors choreographed to a classical arrangement by M.J. Cole of Soho Music. Directed by Partizan’s Chris Cairns, the Schwartz Flavour Shots commercial used pyrotechnic designers to trigger 140 separate explosions of spices. Several sacks of black peppercorn, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, ginger, cumin seeds, chili and coriander were synchronized to blast off on cue to the notes and chords of Cole’s piano score. Filmed at Pinewood Studios in the UK, the commercial had to be shot in one take. The final result was an exciting visual feast.

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Advertising

Guinness “Made of More” Brand Campaign

Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that lends itself to cliché ad images of ruddy-faced Dubliners drinking in pubs or a testosterone-infused sports bar with buff guys guzzling beer while gorgeous women with pearly white teeth, red lipstick and long perfectly coiffed hair laugh flirtatiously at their cleverness. What is totally unexpected in Guinness’s “Made of More” brand campaign is seeing nattily dressed men in the Republic of Congo going out on the town. Yet London ad agency AMV BBDO linked the Guinness ad series to a real group of dapper Congolese gentlemen, known in Central Africa as the Sapeurs – La SAPE or Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo. By day, the Sapeurs are ordinary workingmen – farmers, taxi drivers, laborers, and the like. But after work, they dress up in stylish and often colorful attire to express their own individuality and creativity. “Even if I don’t have money in my pocket, I only need to wear a suit and tie to feel really at ease,” said one. Despite living in an impoverished war-torn region, the Sapeurs abide by a code of honor that respects peace, self-dignity and politeness. They are role models in their community. They live by the beliefs expressed in 19th century poet William Henley’s Invictus — ”I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

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