Tuesday, December 10

Give a wall flavor, but do it in good taste

Posters seem to be the primary wall decoration for people ages
15 to 25. Thus, college students flip through dozens of cumbersome
albums in search of the perfect poster to legitimize their
existence … or just make themselves look cool.

And who doesn’t want to look cool? Who wouldn’t want
the “Lost in Translation” poster with Scarlett
Johansson adrift in the streets of Tokyo? You know, the one with
the dinosaur. It’s sooooo cool.

But the perfect poster, like life, is about more than just
looking cool ““ it’s about making sense. You don’t
have to be an art or design student to understand that hanging up a
poster of Bruce Lee with his shirt on is utterly meaningless.
Granted, picking the right 24 by 36 should be a subjective exercise
involving personal style and tastes, but you still need to follow
some basic guidelines.

Never, ever purchase a poster just because you’re a fan of
the subject ““ that’s only half the equation.
You’re spending $13 on a large piece of paper, so it better
be visually stunning or imaginative. With more mainstream subjects
like Eminem, you have the luxury of browsing through an entire
album devoted to the 8-Miler. Less mainstream artists like,
let’s say, Yo La Tengo are featured on maybe two versions,
which leads me to my next point.

If none of the poster designs catches your eye, don’t
settle ““ simply walk away. Keep walking and don’t turn
back. Run if you have to. I love “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″
just as much as the next Tarantino cult member, but when I was
thoroughly disappointed by the selections, I forced myself to wait
for the next wave of posters coming out for “Kill Bill: Vol.

Conversely, there are times when every poster design completely
rocks. This situation calls for some tiebreakers. If one of the
posters is just a blown-up album cover, eliminate it. If it
displays only text like a Scottish junkie’s soliloquy that
starts with “Choose life …” eliminate it. If the
poster is only one out of an official set featuring different main
characters, eliminate it (unless, of course, you absolutely adore
Aragorn ““ in which case, you’re morally obligated to
purchase the entire set).

A more genre-specific rule of thumb requires posters of
legendary figures (Travis Bickle, Bob Marley) to be black and white
portraits. The traditional look further elevates the status of
these icons. This rule, however, can be overturned by the Jimi
Hendrix Exemption, which dictates that when a legendary figure is
synonymous with hallucinogenic drugs, psychedelic colors are more
than appropriate.

Remember, all things being equal, go with foreign versions of a
movie poster. Those fancy foreign spellings and symbols tell people
that you’re a worldly sophisticate. The rarity of these
posters makes the purchase a virtual no-brainer. Two years ago, I
passed on the Japanese version of a “Boogie Nights”
poster, and I haven’t seen one since.

The best way to avoid buying uncool posters is to shop around
online and at neatly tucked-away vintage stores. Take initiative
this spring break, and go beyond your average Beyond The Wall

E-mail Chang at [email protected]

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