Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we look at the Top 10 trailers of 2014.
As with years past, I feel like I have to disclaim what’s not on this list at the outset so I don’t disappoint anyone hoping I validate what you think were the best trailers you saw this year. Without compunction or any hemming or hawing I can safely say that STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS didn’t even make it onto my consideration list. For all the reasons that I hope regular readers realize, there’s a stark and real difference between whetting appetites and positioning narratives to create resonant moments that ultimately will drive you into action. It’s not anyone’s fault that what they put on display were disparate moments that provide absolutely no context and was seemingly crafted by sticking in random moments as if picked from a bingo cage. Hell, I would have done the same thing knowing that all that was needed was to offer up just slivers of tasty fat from the table in order to keep the dogs satiated. Perhaps when we meet next year, though, there will have been a trailer for this movie that actually is something more than what we were given here. The difference, though, with the trailers that made the list below is that they all wanted to elevate their message and be something more than just two minutes and thirty seconds of palbum. They’re special and stayed with me long after the sales pitch was over.
There are some honorable mentions that didn’t make the Top 11 list (I have a superstition about lists that are even numbered) so I hope that at least they’re given some kind of due for being something great and something worth mentioning: Blue Ruin, Mistaken For Strangers, Tracks, Frank, Gone Girl, Korengal, Citizen Koch, Whiplash, Layover, Birdman, and Before I Disappear.
11. How to Build a Time Machine Trailer
As an unapologetic fan of director Jay Cheel’s last outing, which was the superbly sublime Beauty Day, its trailer made its way into the ranks of my Top 10 a few years ago simply for being so damn good. It’s budget, I’m going on a limb to say, was probably the size of a large family reunion order at the local KFC but had a trailer that put its bloated brothers and sisters to shame. This trailer, as well, deserves its spot for how well it lets things simmer. We’re not rushed, we don’t push towards the front of the proverbial line, we simply move fluidly into and out of people’s narratives. How this all pieces together is a mystery but the contents that we’re offered up are so satisfying that our desire to know more is left only partially satiated. It’s that little hunger that we’re left with that creates a positive engagement as we wait for more.
10. Under The Skin Trailer
Wut? Yes, it’s maddening to even try and create order where there is none but the trailer here is an excellent example of how you take something that lends itself to spoiler territory if you give much away with regard to narrative and simply let the critical kudos frame out the borders of our expectations. It’s a delicate ballet of sight and sound that is so beautiful to look at that you hardly take umbrage with the fact you aren’t given a single shred of knowledge about what brings us here or why we are compelled to find out more. It’s a wicked gambit to bet that this is the way it needs to be positioned in the marketplace in order to maximize profits for those who invested in the vision but, if you but in to the vision, you can see why there could have been no other way than to let this portrait hang on the wall just as it is.
9. Force Majeure Trailer
In what is the first of two foreign language trailers that made the list, this trailer has me on mental edge for its entire running time. The music wonderfully strikes that balance of nervousness and beauty while the moments that we’re given help to define why we should care about this Swedish family in the first place. The metaphor of an avalanche, of racing downhill, of being in a confined area with the family, of human dynamics being so damn complicated, it’s all here for us to understand even without the aid of subtitles. Something bad is going down here and we even get a tease at the very end that what we’re seeing is the dissolution of a relationship, a family, but without knowing for sure there isn’t anything else for us to do other than savor the trailer and buy a damn ticket to find out.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer #2
It helps if your movie is already fantastically constructed from the inside out. But, in the realm of trailers that needed to communicate the style and swagger of a move to a mass quantity of moviegoers you cannot possibly do better than this. The real brilliant move is to eschew any soundtrack that even smacks of 21st century. Being true to Star-Lord’s own musical choices naturally would lead you to use Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” which not only fits remarkably well but it informs the movie’s sensibility. It’s not going to win any points for being subtle, sly or anything coming near subversive but where it excels it does exactly as it should and that’s to stoke the embers of a hungry horde who need to know who these hooligans are, why we should care, and, most importantly, why we need to be the first in line to see the result.