Mid90s – Marketing Recap

mid90s posterWriter/actor Johah Hill makes his feature directorial debut with this week’s Mid90s. Set in the titular time period, the movie follows Stevie (Sunny Suljic), a 13 year-old boy in Los Angeles who lives with his older brother and single mom. Stevie doesn’t have a close group of friends or really know who he is at the moment, which isn’t surprising for someone in their early teens.

Somehow he falls in with a group of skateboarding older kids, which leads to him skirting the boundaries of what is permissible and acceptable. It also means he’s exposed to a broader range of people than he had been before, both in terms of race and economic status. That means he’s going to learn some lessons along the way.

The Posters

Stevie’s just looking at the camera on the first teaser poster, released at the same time as the first trailer. The copy “Fall. Get back up.” hints at a struggle in the story, but no further explanation is offered. Instead the poster makes a big deal out of telling the audience that Hill both wrote and directed the film.

The Trailers

Stevie, in the first trailer, is just a normal mid-90s kid who wants to be cool. He mimics his older brother and hangs out with a group of friends who have some questionable decision-making skills, affecting tough personas but without the actual toughness to back that up. They hang out all day and cause trouble, which inevitably has an impact on Stevie and not in a good way.

There’s no real story here other than how Stevie is trying to figure out who he is and is trying on this identity at the moment. It does look like a good representation of the slacker culture of the era, though.

The same general vibe is felt in the short second trailer, which shows how Stevie is hanging around with these skaters as part of figuring out who he is. There’s some talk about how no matter how bad your own life is there are people worse off than you, but mostly it’s about how friends don’t let you down.

Online and Social

There’s not much actually about the movie on A24’s official website, no synopsis or trailers or anything like that. Instead as you click the arrow at the bottom of the page a couple images just snap into place that present looks at some of the characters and offer some broad copy about the story. There are also links to the Twitter and Facebook profiles established by the studio.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A promo spot showed the basics of the story, focusing on how Stevie is at that point where he’s still a kid but is also growing more independent and wanting to make his own choices.

Media and Publicity

A bit after the first trailer appeared the movie was named among the additions to the Toronto Film Festival. Around that time a substantial feature profile of Hill appeared that allowed him to position the movie as a kind of career summation, encapsulating everything he’s been trying to do to date. It was later added to the Fantastic Fest lineup. Around that time a new interview with Hill ran where he talked about the influence filmmaker Spike Jonze had on the development of the story.

The movie’s screening at the New York Film Festival allowed the cast to talk about how incredible Hill was as a director while he talked more about how writing and directing – more broadly, storytelling – has always been where his heart is at.

Hill made the talk show rounds to talk about how he got his young cast, who weren’t even glimmers in era of the movie’s story, to embrace that time period, the influences he drew from for the film and more.

Overall

Well kids, we’re here. We’ve finally gotten old enough that we’re at the point of nostalgia for the 90s, something that seems very troubling to me.

That aside, the message of finding your tribe and figuring out who you are in the world is a universal one, with Hill simply choosing to set the story in a time period he’s very familiar with because he lived through it. What’s missing from the campaign is a focus on how Stevie grows from the experiences he goes through, something that might have provided a bit more focus to the message that’s offered to the audience. Lacking that this comes off like a kind of Terrence Malick-like movie filled with arty framing, soft lights and other visual affectations.

Picking Up The Spare

A Spotify playlist of songs from the era the movie takes place in is being touted as the first “Official Motion Picture Playlist.” While that may be technically true, the bigger story is that this apparently supplants a curated “album.”

Vulture interviews star Sunny Suljic. And Hill talks more here about the kinds of issues he took on in the story and covers the process behind making the movie in this profile. He also recently appeared on “Late Night.”

Hill got hands-on with promoting the movie, responding directly to fan questions and feedback. He also hosted “Saturday Night Live” a couple weeks after the movie’s release. And he was profiled as part of GQ’s “Men of the Year” roundup.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot – Marketing Recap

The marketing of DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT consistently misses some opportunities to make the story much more interesting.

dont worry he wont get far on foot posterJoaquin Phoenix reteams with director Gus Van Sant for this week’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot. In the movie, based on a true story, Phoenix plays John Callahan, a man who one night gets in a car accident that puts him to a wheelchair. Despite this, he’s reluctant to seek help for the alcohol abuse that lead to that accident and only enters treatment at the behest of his girlfriend Annu (Rooney Mara).

When he does finally begin a program he meets Donny (Jonah Hill) and the two form a bond despite John’s bad attitude toward the whole affair. Along the way, though, he realizes he has a knack for drawing edgy satirical cartoons that soon spread across the country, bringing him some amount of recognition.

The Posters

The first and only poster wants to sell you mostly on the ensemble and so uses photos of the four main players – Phoenix, Hill, Mara and Black – placed within a frame to show you who’s involved in the story. It’s clear from the hair and clothes that the action takes place in the 70s or thereabouts, or at least that that’s the kind of vibe everyone’s going for. Not much else here except for an illustration at the top like those created by John and the inclusion of the Sundance logo to let everyone know it was screened there.

The Trailers

We’re introduced to John as the trailer opens with him explaining how he has been drinking since a very young age. Left unsaid is where he is or how he wound up in the wheelchair, but it can be safely assumed he’s in rehab and that the drinking resulted in some sort of accident. John is obviously still angry about things and isn’t thrilled to be where he is. There are brief flashes to scenes that offer bits and pieces of backstory but nothing really that fleshes out the situations significantly for the audience.

That makes Phoenix’s performance – as well as Hill’s – the main value proposition for the audience. We’re asked to get on board with another fully immersive performance from the former, something that has been his go-to for several years now, the hook on which many of his film’s campaigns have been hung on. Unfortunately that comes at the expense of Mara, who’s barely seen here at all.

In the second trailer John is recounting his last day of being able to walk, a day that ended with the accident that paralyzed him. Most of what comes next is John interacting with Donny and the rest of his support group as well as him finding the inspiration to continue on as an artist. Mara gets a little more to do here, but not much. It’s a bit more upbeat and lighthearted than the first trailer, which is nice as well.

Online and Social

There’s not much on the barebones official website from Amazon Studios, just the usual sorts of information that takes a backseat to the desire to sell tickets. The one exception is an “Illustration Contest” encouraging people to submit artwork inspired by Callahan’s for the chance to win a movie-themed prize pack. Links to the movie’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles are at the bottom of the page.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Not much that I’ve seen outside of some promoted posts on social media to help spread the trailers.

Media and Publicity

A first look still from the film was shared at the same time it was announced it would premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, appearing on quite a few “must see” lists before the festival began. It was soon after given a release date of May, just a few months following that premiere.

Later on Van Sant spoke about why he didn’t cast a quadriplegic actor in the lead role. While the “he’s not in the wheelchair the whole story” perspective makes sense, it’s less believable that he simply couldn’t find someone else. Later on the director would talk about how this movie fits into some themes he’s hit many times over the course of his career.

A promo video from Amazon Studios acknowledged the fact this was one of two films starring Phoenix it’s putting out this year.

Overall

I don’t have anything objective to point to about the campaign that doesn’t work or which shouldn’t bring in audiences who are fans of Phoenix, Van Sant and the rest of the cast. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some bones to pick, though:

  • Why, as we collectively chastise Scarlett Johansson for taking on roles meant for minorities and other groups, are we not similarly taking Phoenix down several pegs for playing a quadriplegic? I understand he’s not in that condition for the whole story, but surely there was some workaround available. Phoenix and Van Sant have both made movies that pushed the realms of storytelling before, why are they being given a pass for not doing so now?
  • Why can’t Hollywood figure out what to do with Rooney Mara – as well as several other actresses – other than cast her as the supportive girlfriend to a self-destructive and troubled man?
  • Why is Phoenix so reliably uninteresting in everything he does?
  • Why were there no better options chosen for a poster? This is a movie about an artist and they used a photo montage.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Another substantive feature interview with director Gus Van Sant here about how the film fits into his overall body of work.

 

Amazon released a bunch of new posters on Twitter that are much better than the low-effort theatrical one-sheet.

 

Jonah Hill showed up on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and working with Phoenix.