Thursday, August 14th, 2014

The Cover Job

Peter Mendelsund is associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf Books, which makes him perhaps the preeminent expert among those who judge books by their covers. He’s designed covers for everything from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to classics by Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Joyce, and De Beauvoir. Last week, he published two books: What We See When We Read, an incisive exploration of the phenomenology of reading, and Cover, a monograph of his best work, which includes his thoughts on designing and several short essays from authors.

I talked to Peter the other day about his work as a cover designer, which began eleven years [...]


A Conversation With Whit Stillman About The Script Of 'Metropolitan'

Whit Stillman takes his time. A renowned documenter of the well-educated and self-absorbed, the writer-director has made only four films in 22 years. His layered depictions of the "urban haute bourgeoisie" are, though rare, singular in cinema, and unique in their dry humor and light irony.

Of those four films, perhaps the most influential is Metropolitan, his sleeper-hit debut that premiered in 1990 to critical acclaim and an Oscar nod for best original screenplay. The film portrays a "not so long ago" debutante scene in the upper-crust apartments of New York, where 20-somethings decked in tuxedoes and drinking champagne discuss Fourier, trip on mescaline, and repeatedly use the word [...]


The Rise And Fall Of Grunge Typography

Hop on the nostalgia train for a second. Think back to the 90s. To Nirvana, Linklater’s Slacker, and the flannel-clad rebels on the run from the 80s. To skateboards and graffiti and toe rings and VHS tapes. Things were messy then. And type design was messy, too. Words were splayed and chaotic, letters blurred. Textures were thick and heavy. Concert posters looked like someone had splattered paint on paper and then scratched out band names. You may have noticed it, you may not have, but at its peak, this typography style, called grunge, was ubiquitous. Alternative music cds, videogames, and zines—all the aggregate products of a wayward generation—appropriated its unfinished [...]


The Sound Of 'Requiem For A Dream'

It’s been 12 years since Harry Goldfarb, Marion Silver, and Tyrone Love burst on screen in pursuit of a pound of pure and no hassles. Since then, Requiem for a Dream has achieved that rare distinction of being a low-budget, high-impact movie, the quintessential cult hit. It solidified director Darren Aronofsky’s wunderkind reputation, one later buttressed by the critical successes of The Wrestler and Black Swan. It redefined what a “drug movie” could be, illustrating brutal addiction despite the word “heroin” never being uttered in its 101-minute running time. It subverted film grammar, challenged the mechanics of narrative, and influenced filmmakers wide and legion.

All this has been observed and [...]


23 Terrific Movie Studio Bumpers

It began in France. In 1895, the Gaumont Film Company (the oldest continuously operated film studio in the world) debuted their “Marguerite” logo, the iconic daisy named after founder Léon Gaumont’s mother. The daisy’s design has evolved since then, and so has the art of “bumpers”—those petite vignettes that announce a production studio’s involvement in a project. Universal and Paramount, the respective second and third-oldest studios in the world, swiftly followed Gaumont’s lead; the latter’s “Majestic Mountain” logo is Hollywood’s oldest surviving bumper, the byproduct of Paramount founder W.W. Hodkinson’s doodle of the Ben Lomond Mountain near his childhood Utah home.

Rarely are they consciously paid attention to, [...]