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 I’m going international with stops in India to talk about a story of baby swapping, England to make sense of a killer clown movie that’s supposed to be a comedy, the Himalayas to be inspired by wounded warriors, Mexico to discover what I never knew about our friends south of the border, then back home to California where the birth of professional skateboarding in the 80s took a foothold. 

Bones Brigade Trailer

Do I even need to mention how good Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and Z Boys and Riding Giants are?

What you get when there’s a bawling Steve Caballero in your trailer is something that gets to the core of what Peralta is masterful in doing: capturing a moment. You have people who are good at being wonderful wranglers of big concepts but Stacy’s gift is to get to the moments in time that have passed but reopen those moments for us to peer into. This trailer effortlessly takes us from the halcyon days of skateboarding’s meek beginnings and charts the rise of not just a media empire but of the lives that it took with it.

Watching this, Metallica thumping in the background, you’re injected into a scene that only a few were ever really privy to. Sure, some of us had Thrasher subscriptions but the gateway for news and information about this was scarce and we see what that limited exposure meant for those who were quickly becoming the rock stars of this sport. Like football players of yore, we hear how you didn’t do it for the money, you skateboarded because it was a means of expression. The tone changes from the rock and roll exuberance the scene embodied to one of quiet introspection; it was smart to construct it like that, the two narratives complimenting each other so well by having your last moments filled with the personal stories that seem heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time. I’m not sure having the camera linger so long on Caballero in order to sell the moment was creatively the right move but I’m still eager to take this all in when it comes out.

Hecho en Mexico Trailer

Living in Arizona for the last 16+ years has taught me a thing or two about our neighbors to the south.

As well, director Duncan Bridgeman has a thing to say about the people who inhabit the land that is so often seen as besieged and filled with the kind of strife only 3rd world countries go through on a daily basis. There has to be more than the mariachi bands that fill the restaurants which purport to sell the best Mexican food around, more than the image that ranchera is the only sounds that permeate the landscape, more than the notion that Budweiser and luchadors are just as highly regarded as soccer. These are notions that have to be either reinforced as true or put into the proper context by showing a more robust picture of a country that is enormous.

The trailer is flat-out amazing. It puts context to the lives of people who inhabit Mexico not in a documentary-type way but one that looks at the cultural outposts that show Mexico to be diverse and progressive in its artistic expressions. There is no hesitation as it comes out of the gate swinging. You initially think it’s going to be a movie better suited for PBS as the narration speaks in the kind of platitudes that could easily place this as something that comes on around 8 p.m. on a Thursday night. However, it diverges quickly and thrusts us into a story of progression. Progression not in terms of social or economic developments, I’m sure those will be there, but it’s painting a three dimensional portrait of a people who have only been talked about in recent years in terms of labor, illegality, take your pick.

It’s always refreshing to be thrust into a subject that hasn’t been mined for some time and this trailer, especially as we barrel towards the end, is fantastic at establishing a new identity for what it means to be Mexican in 2012.

High Ground Trailer

This really is Michael Brown’s wheelhouse.

Looking at the guy’s resume you can see a depth of knowledge as it pertains to making movies that involve mountains. Seriously, he loves making movies about these things.

What makes this an interesting trailer is how it doesn’t play into the narratives you expect it to as it pertains to soldiers coming back from war when it opens. Yes, we have the dash cam footage of an IED going off and the inevitable shot of someone with a prosthetic limb in the very next beat but it doesn’t give us a lot of information. It doesn’t weigh us down with everyone’s life story of how we got to this point, it almost seems like a back story instead of the real story, which seems to be focused on some veterans making an ascent on a mountain in the Himalayas.

We get to those these people only through their aftermath and the mantras that keep them going, and have kept them going, through their personal ordeals. Seeing moments of them in their climbing gear and the way in which the trailer accentuates the physical limitations they have, even the emotional ones, elevate this from just a story of some people getting together and climbing to something else entirely. This is therapy, this is emotional healing, and there is no way you could ever exhaust the potential in showing lives that have been ravaged from war and how you rebuild from that experience.

Stitches Trailer 

I’m all for horror comedy.

Done right, it’s a mixture of laughter and full-on gore. Director Conor McMahon may have the ability to pull off such a film if this trailer is any indication.

What is so unique about this yarn is how it gets back to the goofy cinematography which made horror films in the 80′s so cookie cutter, and I’m sure the Cutting Crew ditty playing in the background is a bit of a nod to that time as well. The slim run time of what we’re given, a little more than a minute, doesn’t give a whole lot of time to try and play up the idea that what we’re seeing is part farce, part slasher film. I guess if you’re eating a crumpet and sipping tea you know who Ross Noble is but for those of us who have to scour the YouTubes it’s the reason why you have to bring the funny and not depend on name recognition to be enough.

To this trailer’s benefit, though, there is a little bit of the humor and a little bit of the actual dispatching of teenagers that work for me. I’m not sure the “You’ll die laughing” is a great tagline at the end (hell, it made me wince) but the content seems to indicate that it could play both sides of that fence pretty well. At times I’m unsure whether we’re seeing a maniac clown who kills people or if this is really going to mix in comedy as he butchers up his victims. Regardless, I’m unsure and that’s pretty good considering how we leave things by the end. It gives us just enough without giving away the goods.

Midnight’s Children Trailer

I haven’t heard of Deepha Mehta before seeing this trailer but she looks to have created quite an epic.

The story here is quite straightforward: two kids are born from two sets of parents, a nurse purposely switches them so the rich baby can live with the poor family and vise versa, and off we go charting the course of events that punctuate their two existences. Writer Salman Rushdie has crafted a tale that, in lesser hands, might not look as vibrant or alive but the weight of this trailer can’t be denied.

I don’t think I really get what’s really afoot with regard to the narrative beyond this kid swap but you can infer that the tales that’ll be told most likely will revolve around the notion of those who have it and those who want it. There is some heady stuff here between people getting popped in the middle of the street to dead bodies piled up in fields like cord wood. Again, we could possibly guess that this will be a tale of a prodigal son coming back to free a people who have been enslaved by those who rule them but, without reading a synopsis and going from what’s here, it’s all guessing. Not that it’s bad to do so, either, as there is a richness here that promises a story that will delve into territory that is serious and, at the same time, sensitive.

The flow is unbelievably great and Rushdie’s narration feels like butter on top of an already great looking trailer.

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

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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