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 back at 2012 and take stock of what was a great year for coming attractions.
It’s that time of year again when I make the kinds of choices that only a comment thread can believe I was silly enough to make.
It is healthy, though, to have these kinds of back and forth of what you think should have been included in this year’s Top 10 Trailers of 2012. I have a list about three times as big as you see here and it’s really a mutt mix of foreign, independent, big studio, you name it, kinds of movies. It all goes back, I think, to the idea that you don’t have to possess deep pockets to make a great film or a great trailer. It helps, to be sure, but there were some real gems that came out of nowhere this year that made me take notice and be instantaneously open to a feature I never heard about until being exposed to a two minute, thirty second window into its core. Here, then, is the list for 2012’s best trailers.
Some of the honorable mentions that didn’t quite crack the top 10 and deserve, at the very least, at least one more peek before starting anew in 2013: Two Little Boys, Maniac, 28 Hotel Rooms, Here, The Raid, The Last Elvis, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Hard Core Logo II,
10. To Our Bright White Hearts
Make no mistake, I have watched this damn thing at least a dozen times and it always gets me. Independent filmmaker Ayz Waraich knows his story and, more importantly, knows how to sell it. There is such a wonderful confluence of confidence and mystery that surrounds this movie you hardly care that you don’t know what in the hell is going on here. It’s flat out wonderful to look at and I am sure we would all blanch at the reveal of how much it cost to cut this versus any number of tent pole features that have truly miserable trailers to go along with it.
What makes this such a gem is the way the music dances with the things happening on the screen. True, all that’s really fueling the action is the quick interstitials that blink rapidly but somehow the movement of the people we meet, their narratives silently playing in the background, it all gels wonderfully to make a tease that gets you bothered enough to wonder what is happening here and when can I find out more?
9. The Ghastly Love of Johnny X
I flat out love this trailer. It is still one of my favorites 11 months after having seen it. There is a just a cheekiness, attitude, and, again, self-assurance that whoever was at the editing bay knew how to spin this into a toe-tapping, visual smorgasbord. We don’t know much about what is afoot here but there is a sense of danger, wonderment, and tilt-your-head confusion about who is fighting whom and what is with the be-bopping zombie of a man who seems to have so much swagger after stepping out of a sarcophagus? Who cares! You have bad girls with big busts who are all but willing to pull a blade on you while strutting their stuff to musical numbers. It’s so deliciously original that director Paul Bunnell deserves just one more shot to make its way onto your movie radar.
There isn’t a better looking film, or trailer, to have come out this year. If you’re a fan of the Qatsi trilogy then this ought to have been one of the movies that you made a point to see in the theaters. As the movie moves through its many disparate, but relevant, moments it’s hard not to take a moment to just allow it to wash over your eyes. This is a peek into our humanity, our collective history, our contemporary society and it is telling us everything without ever saying a word. The marketing here isn’t to sell tickets, per se, but, rather, to sell you on the idea that this is more than just a movie, it’s an experience.
Still freaks me out. Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s latest film deals with a woman who has double vision while also struggling to take care of an infant. This wouldn’t be such an issue if not for the one half of that vision being violent projections which manifest themselves in front of her eyes. At capturing your attention, this trailer works wonderfully. It’s accolades are front loaded into the trailer and give it that kind of stamp of approval that makes you stay a while longer to try and figure things out. Good luck at that, though, as this is all about making you understand that what we’re dealing with is someone who isn’t quite right and who may, or may not, be endangering the life of a baby.
6. Zero Dark Thirty
One of the best reasons to visit the multiplex. Bloated budget blockbusters get a bad rap sometimes and when you have trailers that are so effective as this it’s hard to deny that when the planets align, they align well. What makes this such a solid trailer is that tension, that noise, in the background that immediately puts on a psychological edge. It’s so clean, the way we transition from our initial 30 seconds as we enter this world, the establishment of who is behind this picture, and then the downward plunge into a roller coaster of effective narration, images that evoke a Black Hawk Down vibe, the burqa/AK-47 in a lovely garden moment that’s rather lovely, the brief Lamborghini interlude, and the threat of serious violence about to go down. It all works according to plan, and in execution.
5. The Avengers
Big, dumb, full of…fun. You just can’t help but love the orgasmic explosion of color, money shots, and a’splosions. Sure, it was a monster of a movie at the box office but what this trailer did brilliantly is to make this more about the characters. Yes, we have the needless shots of things being blown up from the sky and enough to keep the kids under 12 entertained but what’s really nice is how we focus on the team, and their dysfunction and motivation, rather than on the enemies they’ll fight. They’re fighting each other and that small shift in focus makes this a gem that shows there really is something to be said about big budget action films.
4. Man of Steel
I just wanted to give Zack Snyder a hug. After coming out with the kind of vim that’s reserved for late night infomercial pitchmen at Comic-Con all those years ago with 300, Zack has come back progressively less enthusiastic each year. However, I hope this is everything he willed the energy to sell all of us back in July. This trailer is masterful in hitting the kind of broken hero many of us want out of Superman. The man is impervious to most every physical force but finding that soft, nougaty emotional center is going to be absolutely vital in hopefully making this a monster hit. The trailer dances on all those notes by giving us our bread and circuses. A little bit of reflection, a little back story a little peek at the cape, at the villains, the love interest, it’s all here and it’s nowhere. I’m not really a praying man but I am on my knees, eyes tightly closed, fingers intertwined, that what we end up getting actually echoes what we see in this trailer.
3. Monsieur Lazhar
Emotionally, this is one for the ages. Besides being an actually great movie, this is one of the better trailers you’ll see all year when it comes to foreign film. This takes us on a nice, smooth journey through this man’s life and his vocation. With regard to being a teacher, the story appears to follow those stories of inspirational leaders who are so often depicted in films where teachers need to elevate the world around them, but with regard to the man being a man there’s something afoot. There’s a depth that informs us how and why he is who he is. This next level of understanding elevates this from merely being an interesting tale of a grade school teacher who can motivate to something else entirely. There is a moment at about the two minute mark, and God knows why it still gets me, where he just hugs one of his students. It’s randomly there but it solidified my own interest in wanting to see the movie and it still works.
2. The Dark Knight Rises
It’s just so damn quiet. I’m still shocked how muted it all is. No sounds from automatic weapons, no screaming, no sounds of metal melting, it’s orchestrated so well. There still are people who are arguing on both sides of whether it was the right way to end the franchise but there is no denying that this was a bold step to make this big of a release begin with such hushed tones. It crescendos at just the time, at just the right places. Yeah, it’s a bit hokey and the joke at the end falls a little flat but for those who are looking to shake up what a mega million dollar release needs to do to sell itself, there isn’t a better example out there.
It’s that sonar, that echo scream, that makes this so powerful. We all can hear it if we close our eyes and concentrate so it’s a testament to thoughtful development of a trailer that tantalizes while promising a movie that didn’t quite deliver. No matter, as what’s important is the sell and they had the biggest fans of the franchise pumped at the sights of the wares on display. There was enough flickering of the screen to induce seizures in the mildly affected, enough money shots here to marvel at how it was all going to come together, and it kept things wonderfully vague about what in the world was happening. Never mind trying to figure out whether that was really Tom Hardy, this trailer is about giving you what you want without spoiling too much.
Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com