Do the last holiday movie posters of the millennium make the grade?

By David Hochman
Updated November 26, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Look closer. Just beyond the airbrushed smiles and condensed credits on the century’s last batch of film posters are some enigmatic and downright baffling images: a dancing frog, an old-fashioned psychology test, even a dapper rodent with a sixth sense. ”Movie posters have always specialized in deceptive advertising, and that’s true this year,” says collector Bruce Hershenson, author of 100 Years of the Cinema. ”The studios promise anything and everything, and all for one reason—to get us into the theaters.” With that in mind, we bring you EW’s semiannual, eye-opening poster-mortem. —Additional reporting by Cheryl Klein


It’s more like Poster, Interrupted. Winona Ryder gazes madly over a slash that easily could have been the handiwork of someone in the mental hospital where the movie is set. Kudos to the designer for going beyond the basic head shot to create this arresting image. But to really sell the film, and to play up the whole fractured psyche thing, Sony should have kept Winona’s eye but inserted costar Angelina Jolie’s suddenly famous lips.


What’s New Line’s solution to selling a three-hour-plus drama with eight plots that are only tangentially related, and a superstar, Tom Cruise, reluctant to overshadow his fellow thespians? The Magic Eye route: Tom is tucked behind two petals near one o’clock. (You’ll need to look at the real poster to find him.) While hiding Cruise’s mug is risky business, the studio gets extra credit for referencing the movie’s inexplicable plague-of-frogs scene with a Kermit in the corner.


How do you pitch an epic movie about an impoverished Irish family of the ’30s and ’40s? With a single gorgeous image that seems to say it all. Bill Kaye’s photograph of the film’s young star, Joe Breen, captures the heart and soul of Frank McCourt’s popular memoir.


The Disney poster for Michael Mann’s film about the battle between 60 Minutes and the tobacco industry is likely to go down as one of the year’s best. Spare and elegant, with a wonderful portrait of a pensive Al Pacino, the poster is modeled after a cigarette pack, with the warning label doubling as the credit lines. Like the 60 Minutes stopwatch, it’s timeless.


Creating a poster as cool as Terence Stamp’s character in The Limey must have been a challenge, but Artisan’s artisans nailed it. The sensuous wisps of cigarette smoke. The photo negative images of L.A. The old-fashioned Zippo. It’s the movie-poster equivalent of a Miles Davis solo.


Imagine the face of the poster maker who was told to illustrate a film about people who spend time inside John Malkovich’s brain. Apparently, the artist had a good feel for Gray’s Anatomy. The avant-garde teaser, using an old medical chart from the movie, sells the perplexing premise with bewildering graphics that capture the film’s weirdness. The final poster, with the curiosity-arousing cast and the enticing tag line—”Ever want to be someone else? Now you can.”—makes you want to sign up for director Spike Jonze’s wild head trip.