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Poster Documentary 24X36 is Part History, Part Promotion (Review)

Poster Documentary 24X36 is Part History, Part Promotion (Review)

The beginning and ending of Kevin Burke’s movie poster documentary 24 x 36 consists of the kind of history they don’t teach in film school, but ought to be of interest there nonetheless, as the evolution of movie marketing artwork is explored. From the history of screen printing to the evolution of Photoshop, we see what worked in different decades and why; in the pre-mutliplex days audiences enjoyed complicated posters because they gave people waiting in line something to look at in detail, while today artwork must convey a film’s intent even when it’s postage-stamp sized on your phone. Great poster artists like John Alvin and Bob Peak get their due, and we learn heartbreaking bits of trivia like the fact that Roger Kastel’s original Jaws painting was taken from him by the studio and never given back.

Unfortunately, all this history feels like a bit of a Trojan horse, as the entire middle section of the film basically turns into an infomercial for Mondo, the art division of Alamo Drafthouse, which commissions original artwork to create new illustrated posters and T-shirts for classic films. Now, chances are that if you’re reading this, you already love Mondo; certainly all of us here at Nerdist do, and we write about their wares frequently. But beyond the kind of generic talk that aficionados of any collectibles might offer (this stuff is cool, it’s unique, some of it’s super-rare, etc.), we don’t learn much more than “Mondo is great.” Oh, and Skuzzles, a company that does the same kind of thing, is also great. And some artists do these kinds of prints without getting permission from the rights-holders, because power to the people!

24x36_Poster

Mondo co-founder Rob Jones is briefly called out for his eccentric phone-calling etiquette, while his chosen attire of a bright yellow suit with a Danzig skull belt buckle makes him seem quite the dandy, but it also makes us wonder why there isn’t more of him. If this documentary is going to be the Mondo story, why not make him the center?

The answer, I suspect, is that the movie doesn’t know quite what it wants to be. Director Burke is a poster collector himself, and his film feels like an assemblage of stuff he thinks is cool, but as a result, this feels more like a walk through a convention hall talking to random booth owners than any kind of cinematic narrative. Given that it was partially Kickstarter-funded by fans, and premiered at Fantastic Fest, which is run by Drafthouse and features a rabid fan base for the product, maybe it doesn’t need to be more. At 86 minutes, it doesn’t try the patience, at least.

24x36_Still2

As of today, it’s available for streaming online exclusively at TribecaShortlist.com, a streaming site of old and new movies curated by industry insiders. If you’re a subscriber anyway, it certainly doesn’t hurt to at least watch the parts that do delve into the evolution of the artform.

It’s a tough grade here, as I like some of 24X36 a lot, but overall feel it’s a missed opportunity. In the end, I think 2.5/5 burritos is fair enough.

2.5 burritos

Images: Tribeca Shortlist/FilmRise

Luke Y. Thompson has been an L.A.-based film critic since 1999.

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