Look at the above image. That scene, from The Other Guys, takes place in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond Store. Notice anything strange? It’s becoming a really aggravating trend in Hollywood, precisely named for what it is: teal and orange.
I can spare you the details and refer you to an excellent breakdown at Into the Abyss, but the gist of it is that directors are using the digital intermediate, where a film is color corrected to the wishes of the filmmaker, in only one way. You guessed it… tinting the movie teal and orange.
Let’s go back briefly to The Other Guys. Here we have a buddy cop parody, basic comedy stuff, and we’re inside a popular store chain. It’s not exactly a film about reality by any stretch, but are we to believe that every item on those shelves behind Will Ferrell is blue/teal? Do they not make products in any other color? Even the shelves are light blue, and some of the items have an orange trim as if to annoy those of us who see this type of stuff. Ferrell himself looks a faded orange, as do most of the flesh tones of that movie.
This isn’t something new; it’s been going on for years now. Why though? Does tinting the color to this very specific palette suddenly make the movie funnier? Not at all. Does it make a movie more dramatic? Not at all x2. Apparently the idea is to take skin tones, which exist in nearly every frame of the average film (with a primarily white cast, at least), and match them with a complementary color in order to make them “pop”.
The point of this article is not to say that everything should look super saturated like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Lord knows that giving Saving Private Ryan a makeover on that scale would be a mess. Every film should have its own distinctive look, which is why those latter two movies have color saturation controlled to match a style.
That doesn’t seem to be happening anymore. Everything is orange and teal, and be warned that once you see it, you can’t unsee it (too late?). It doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than to show a complete lack of creativity on the part of these modern filmmakers. If you’re in the group that believes major studios have run out of ideas for scripts, you can now join in to the group that believes they’ve run out of ideas for color too. Look at what we used to have with the beauty of Technicolor, this from the classic musical/comedy/drama White Christmas:
Look at how carefully the colors were chosen for that scene. Everything needed a specific look to match and complement the other. We have infinite technology to make that work within a digital space now, and what do we do? This:
What have we come to?