'Mad Max' meets Warhol as best-picture nominees get pop-culture redo (pictures)

From "The Big Short" to "The Martian," designers give a nod to their favorite pop artists with movie posters that capture the essence of this year's Oscar picks.

Michael Franco
1 of 8 Brandon Lee

A grungy collage

Shutterstock might be best known for selling stock photography, but the website also has a team of designers who work on unique creations. Every year they're challenged to make new images according to the aesthetic of a particular designer or design movement.

For their latest challenge, the designers decided to view the eight films nominated for a best picture award in this year's Academy Awards through the lens of a famous pop-art designer.

This interpretation of "The Martian" was created by Shutterstock designer Brandon Lee who took his inspiration from Mario Corea Aiello.

"In his 'Barcelona' series, Mario Corea Aiello forms a grungy collage of newspaper and magazine cutouts and heavy paint strokes," Lee says. "I felt this style would parallel the vicious storm that left Mark Watney for dead on Mars in 'The Martian.' For the color scheme, I deferred to Eric White's cover art from the original novel by Andy Weir to capture the characteristics of an otherworldly storm."

"The Martian" premiered in the US on September 27, 2015 and is nominated for a total of six awards, including one for Matt Damon as best actor in a leading role. The Academy Awards ceremony airs on ABC in the US on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. PT, with the red-carpet show starting at 4 p.m.

2 of 8 Jordan Roland

The meaning behind

For this take on "Mad Max: Fury Road," Shutterstock designer Jordan Roland turned to perhaps the most famous pop artist of all time -- Andy Warhol.

"I looked to Warhol's subversive dictator portraits to shape this poster of Immortan Joe," Roland says, referring to the film's primary antagonist.

"Warhol had a remarkable ability to distract from the meaning of his art with flashy colors and icon styles. On the surface his work simply looks 'cool,' but this shallow analysis misses the irony behind his cultural representations. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' has the same effect -- the stylized nature of the film gets more attention than the meaning behind it. I chose to feature Immortan Joe because he is a terrible person, but his iconic look makes him instantly recognizable."

"Mad Max: Fury Road" premiered in the US on May 7, 2015. The film is also nominated in nine other categories including costume design, visual Effects and cinematography.

3 of 8 Cristin Burton

Left for dead

"Flirst is a collage artist who assembles disparate pieces to explore how he can change the harmony of the whole," says designer Cristin Burton, who created this piece.

"For my poster, a homage to 'The Revenant,' I assembled pieces to create a vast, sinister, and lonely landscape. The poster features a figure with very few people on his side; this represents the film's main character, Hugh Glass, who was brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead in the winter wilderness."

"The Revenant" premiered in the US on December 16, 2015 and is nominated for a total of 12 awards, the most of any best picture film. These include actor in a leading role for Leonardo DiCaprio and actor in a supporting role for Tom Hardy.

4 of 8 Flo Lau


"'The Big Short' takes a comedic approach to a dark subject, and I wanted to portray the same witty, chaotic vibe in my poster," says the designer responsible for this image, Flo Lau.

"Keith Haring was my inspiration because his high-contrast, brightly colored political work -- which touches on grim subjects like rape, death, and war -- hinges on the same contrast as the film. The poster is based on the film's alligator-in-an-abandoned-pool scene; the alligator represents the main characters in the movie, who took advantage of the 2008 housing bubble and left the world in desperation when it burst."

"The Big Short" premiered in the US on November 12, 2015 and is nominated for four other awards including directing, and actor in a supporting role for Christian Bale.

5 of 8 Jordan Roland

Dire hypotheticals

"I chose to focus on the muddy gray areas and loopholes within 'Bridge of Spies," says the creator of this work, Jordan Roland, who turned to the Russian Sots (a combination of the words "socialism" and "art") movement of the early '70s for his inspiration.

"The Cold War was fueled by each side's increasingly dire hypotheticals, causing mass paranoia among citizens and governments alike. A large part of the film's narrative focuses on the extent of protection under the law, especially for a Soviet spy. I re-imagined Lady Justice, mixing her blindfold with the American and Soviet flags to represent how both countries were tied to their individual principles of justice even while locked in an unending battle for the upper hand," he adds.

"Bridge of Spies" premiered in the US on October 4, 2015 and has six total nominations including music and actor in a supporting role for Mark Rylance.

6 of 8 Michael Wong


"My inspiration for this poster is one part Roy Lichtenstein and one part Stefan Sagmeister," says designer Michael Wong.

"'Spotlight' is about journalists uncovering a massive scandal in one of Boston's oldest institutions, and I found that the perfectly contradictory homophone 'pray/prey' encapsulates the shock and horror felt by the community when this scandal was made public. To illustrate this, I pixelated an image of a priest, then tore off his head and replaced it with an image of a wolf."

"Spotlight" premiered in the US on September 5, 2015 and is nominated for a total of six awards, including actor in a supporting role for Mark Ruffalo and actress in a supporting role for Rachel McAdams.

7 of 8 Abbey Katz

Life, love and joy

"When I first read the plot summary for 'Room,' I envisioned lonely, sterile characters, who had been institutionalized by their secluded environment," says Abbey Katz who made this image as a tribute to KAWS, a New York-based artist famous for making limited-edition clothing and toys in addition to other creations.

"Of course, when I saw the movie that perception quickly changed; the characters are full of life, love, and joy, and the audience instantly empathizes with them on a raw, human level. KAWS' statues play on a similar deceit. Initially they have a sterile, robotic feel, but when you view them in their human-scale sizes and see their playful aesthetic, you experience an unexpected sense of connection."

"Room" premiered in the US on September 4, 2015 and is nominated for three other awards including writing, directing and actress in a leading role for Brie Larson.

8 of 8 Alice Meichi Li

Branding Brooklyn

"Set in the eponymous 1950s borough, 'Brooklyn' features then-contemporary imagery that now exemplifies the commodification of Brooklyn as a global brand," says Alice Meichi Li, who's responsible for this image.

Instead of turning to a particular artist for her inspiration for this work, Li chose to draw from the Pop Art movement as a whole.

"Just as the pop art movement utilized mass advertising and irony to re-contextualize commercial art, I drew from today's vintage, artisanal design trends, which are inspired by that era and setting," she says.

"Brooklyn" premiered in the US on January 26, 2015 and is nominated for two other awards including writing and actress in a leading role for Saoirse Ronan.

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