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: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?


8: The Mormon Proposition Trailer

A trailer like this wants to get you fired up, to strike an emotional nerve, have you react.

It works and it does so by presenting an idea that ought to be so universally accepted, and was, then showing the opposing forces against that idea mounting a full scale campaign against it. It’s not so much who is right and wrong but it’s the naked ambition of those who want to impose their values on others that packs such an emotional punch.

Sure, the act of legalizing marriage between same sex partners wasn’t universally embraced in California but the fact remained that people like mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco lobbied for equal treatment of all and allow people to be trapped in hellish, loveless marriages just like me. For one moment, finally, a politician in a trailer wasn’t seen as a slimy dirtball and it’s rather uplifting. That’s when you get the “I hate fags” guy stepping in to make his backward views known on camera with no hesitation, no momentary pause whatsoever.

Flash the Official Sundance 2010 logo. Smash cut to news footage talking about how the Mormon aristocracy, the Church of Latter-day Saints, wanted to change what was going on in California. The talk of money, of influence, of how the LDS organization assess your current financial situation and tells you what to tithe or else risk your membership in the church, and by then we get the lecherous Cryptkeeper talking about his religious righteousness. You’d have to be an emotionless robot to not start feeling like punching old white men in ill fitting suits at this point.

Things start really cranking up as we get more from the other side of this debate, those who think that homosexuality is an abhorrent sin, the protesters who are demonstrating against the rights which ought to be afforded to any human being living in America, and then it smacks you in the face when Newsom comes out again to basically lay out his disgust with the voters of California who voted to snatch the right to marry away from gay men and women.

2% of the population, 71% of the contributions. That would be the number of Mormons in California and the amount of money they were responsible for in supporting the campaign of this issue, respectively. The music, the small clips of dialogue of people who were affected by this issue, the views on both sides, it’s all compelling and powerful as we head to the end of the trailer. Director Reed Cowan seems to be on a mission here and the passion with which comes through this trailer is undeniable.

Spaghetti Dinner of the Damned Trailer

What you need to do first is check out director Richard Gale’s short film The Horribly Slow Murderer With The Extremely Inefficient Weapon. It’s smart, witty, and ought to make you laugh in some spots. The absurdity of it all, and the tropes that have been used for years it dismantles, just shines right through in a movie that is so well shot and edited that by the end I was honestly hoping this would be turned into a feature length film. How can you not be entertained by a demonic ghoul whose sole mission is to whack some unsuspecting man with a spoon, continuously, at inopportune times? It’s the backtalk at the demon that gets me every single time.

So, that said, Gale is back with a short that builds on what made Slow Murder such a fun yarn and it’s just as solid as a preview for a movie that, alas, will never be. It’s a fun take on the idea that here’s a guy who is endlessly hounded by this aberration from hell wielding nothing but a spoon. The film’s director gets meta with us by hosting a pseudo talk show called Ask Jack where supposed viewers write in with questions to Jack, the man being eternally stalked by this demon.

The mere description of this whole thing, I realize, loses something in translation but Gale’s execution of this concept works incredibly well from the standpoint that it’s done with the same level of subdued playfulness. To wit, as Jack is answering a piece of viewer mail while trying to eat a plate of spaghetti all the while the attacking demon is just repeatedly smacking him with a spoon. It’s when Jack loses it on the hound from hell that it becomes something hilarious.

The generic rock track that starts in as the demonoid prevents Jack from eating his spaghetti is something that is, in all seriousness, is pretty wicked. It becomes a spectacular display of good editing, smart decisions with regard to camera placement, and a general sense of frivolity that ensconces the entire scene.

It’s great to see a filmmaker display such a good sense of comedic timing and execution as I think that’s hard to find in a landscape littered with filmmakers who just want to create pensive, inwardly focused films. Sometimes it’s just good to laugh a little and Gale seems more than capable of capturing that.  [Twitch]

9500 Liberty Trailer

Film critic Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic, a film columnist who I admire and read on a weekly basis, recently reviewed the new documentary 9500 Liberty for the paper. Now, that in and of itself isn’t really spectacular, but considering that those of us living in Arizona have had a 10,000 watt klieg light focused on us due to some immigration reform legislation that isn’t very popular with a lot of Americans Bill’s review was timely. What’s especially noteworthy is that, along with the review, he also wrote a column on how being close to a subject like this informs a viewing of a film that deals with immigration. In fact, the film seems to echo a lot of what’s happening here in the Grand Canyon state and it’s hard to look at this trailer without feeling a twinge of déjà vu.

Filmmakers Eric Byler and Annabel Park have made a movie dealing with what one town dealt with in Prince William County, Va., in 2007 that has echoes of what the state of Arizona is trying to do here. Apart from trying to understand what exactly these bills have in common the real thing that connects both communities are those who want reform and those who don’t. The trailer does a wonderful job in distilling this debate into the yeas and nays with an opening that just gets right into it.

Apart from the chanting, newscasters playing the role of voiceover artists against the backdrop of those demonstrating, the real heart of the situation comes at about the twenty five second mark where the analogy of Nazis shipping out Jews in a boxcar comes into play when describing how one person wants to solve the issue of illegal immigration. Certainly gets my attention.

We meet people on both sides of the issue in a manner that seems fair and even handed as we get the perspectives of individuals who each believe they are on the right side of this debate. There is a little bit of sensationalism when showing the handfuls of residents speaking at a public forum, one after another, using one word: illegal. The effect is powerful, no question, and it only ramps up the deeper you go in watching this.

There’s a feeling of poignancy to this trailer when the issue of God’s plan comes up with regard to what these politicians are doing as well as the issue of whether this was all about politicians looking to get reelected, this all just getting out of hand on account of getting votes. Mix in a crazy old coot who starts pointing fingers in a crowd and saying foreigners should learn how to speak English, not realizing he’s saying it to people he assumed couldn’t and can very well, as it shows the effects that racial profiling have on an entire community and you’ve got a powder keg of fun.

It’s near impossible to not fall one way or another on this issue. I live here in the middle of it and I still don’t know how I feel when I know that there needs to be some kind of policy to deal with the issue of those who don’t follow the law in order to be in the country. Don’t like the law? Change it. Proximity shouldn’t equal favoritism and I think this trailer shows what can happen when this debate no longer becomes one and, instead, results in extremists on both sides of this issue being pushed to their limits.

David Wants To Fly Trailer

I’ve got to relax.

I’ve got to learn how to scrub off the barnacles of other people’s negativity, as well as my own, on a daily basis. To that point I’ve heard that transcendental mediation, or TM, is a good way about doing it, or so I’ve heard from David Lynch. Lynch is a true champion of TM in that he espouses the practice and application of it in ordinary people’s lives but casual onlookers who are merely curious about how to do it, myself included, don’t really “get” what it’s all about. Thankfully, a foreigner wants to know more about it from the cinematic ambassador of TM and the movie couldn’t look any more interesting or amusing.

Now, I haven’t seen director David Sieveking’s 2007 classic Sénégallemand or his 2003 opus Die amerikanische Botschaft oder Warum wir uns bewegen which sounds like a tasty hot plate that must come with a pretzel and matching Fräulein but for those who have seen it David Wants To Fly comes well-recommended. Not only did it play at the Berlin International Film Festival but it looks like it played in such locales as Buenos Aries, Avon, and, most recently, Toronto.

The opening sequence is well presented, if nothing else. Our filmmaker Sieveking makes himself the subject of this documentary, outlining why he would even seek out Lynch in the first place. It’s deceptively pragmatic in its introduction as you feel for this guy who wants to seek out TM as a way of enlightening himself but something else is afoot here.

We see people talk about the benefits of TM and what it ought to bring your soul but our documentarian seems to be amused in some way with the ramblings of those he’s talking to directly. I am unsure if we’re to be in on the joke or if he’s got a smarmy kind of humor to him but it’s interesting to at least see him delve into this culture of spiritual enlightenment with a curious interest; the music doesn’t help matters as it sounds like we’re on a fool’s quest to find out what makes TM such a compelling way of life to those who practice it. By the end I am still befuddled as to how this guy is evaluating this experience and what he genuinely thinks of TM but I think it’s coming from a place of playful understanding.

I think he genuinely believes in the power of TM yet there is a little bit of sly skeptic seeping out of him every now and then. Such a dichotomy is unique in a landscape where positions are taken absolutely one way or another and he’s even more interesting as a filmmaker in that, like a good science experiment, he’s open to being convinced one way or the other.

Note 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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