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Vocally Critiquing the Typography in Everyone’s Favorite Silent Film, The Artist

Years ago, in those golden days of our youth, our favorite section of the now five-year defunct magazine Premiere was called “The Gaffe Squad.” A small box tucked away on some single page, it picked apart movies for those little mistakes here and there, be they continuity or a distracted grip accidentally being spotted hiding behind a curtain. The section was successful, we think, because not only did it give you the smug satisfaction of knowing that these big shot movie people were in fact fallible, but it also gave you a little peek behind the canvas in a way a PR firm never could. Fortunately, now that our lives are so steeped in the design world, we can still occasionally revisit those feelings when it comes to what’s become a standard on the internet: the dissection of type design in period films. Enter the great Christian Annyas, who invited type designer Mark Simonson to carefully analyze and critique the typography and lettering of the recent Oscar winner, and movie your friends won’t shut up about when you tell them you haven’t seen it yet, The Artist. In general, Simonson gives the film relatively average marks, noting that some of the type they’d selected looks passable for the era, whereas others, such as using typesetting instead of the hand-written or painted style that would have been the method of the day. There’s of course also the usual “that type didn’t come out until 60 years after the movie is supposed to take place!” talk, but we love it as always. In the end, with both this latest type-on-film analysis and back in the good ol’ days of Premiere, it isn’t so much even the careful dissection, as it is knowing that someone took all that time, and their years of knowledge, to lend us a little inside look at something that, for many of us, we might have otherwise had just wash right over us.

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