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?

Mugabe and  The White African Trailer

I’ve heard of this. Only in passing, on NPR, a stray news story in the paper I can’t specify, I just don’t think I have a good grasp on the situation.

The situation being, mind you, of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s controversial land seizure initiative. The way things went down is that, around the turn of the millennium, the president essentially told over 4,000 farmers of the nation’s top crop producing areas that the government was coming to take their land. It was then going to be fairly distributed to those in the lower class who have been marginalized by years of “colonialism” and “white minority rule.”

Now, having said that, how do you think things have gone in Zimbabwe since?

Not good would be a good way of putting it and certainly, without knowing the particulars, it makes watching this trailer a little confusing if you don’t know the background but now that you know a little bit about a little bit the trailer ought to be fairly shocking in its presentation.

Right out of the gate we get that this trailer is a winner. Winner of Best Documentary Feature, three times over. There isn’t anything flashy or particularly striking of this fact, it’s downright bland with its Times New Roman font declaring it, but it’s the moment right after that the uneasiness sets in. The transition between the facts that are tossed out about Mugabe’s rule and that white farmers have had to flee for their lives is unsettling when you hear the drumbeat in the background. An anonymous guy steps out of his truck with a cellphone camera and points it at our camera and says he’s here to take the owner’s land. Just like that. It’s an act of quiet aggression and things just get visually louder from here.

A woman cries, a farmer gets suited up in a small armory inside his house as he prepares to literally defend his property in the middle of the night, a shot rings out, photos of people who look like the ever loving hell was beat out of them pepper the screen, and in one of the more bizarre moments of this trailer, a pack of men are running down the street towards a camera man who is speeding away in a car. It’s frightening.

What’s more, is we come back to the old guy who was going a-huntin’ as he tries to go through legal channels in order to save his farm from seizure. The camera phone guy reappears too and his presence underscores this whole documentary as he tells the farmer that he will sleep on the guy’s farm for as long as it takes until he’s out; it’s a perfect distillation of what seems to be a very charged, emotional, and contentious battle. First time documentary filmmakers Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson certainly have chosen a spark plug of a subject that won’t soon be forgotten.

This is a trailer that should not be missed and certainly was one of the more affective ones I’ve seen in a while.

The Dungeon Masters from Dungeon Masters Movie on Vimeo.

The Dungeon Masters Trailer

Of all the films, of all time, are you telling me not one person ever made a documentary about Dungeons and Dragons? Sure, there was that rockin’ kids show in the 80′s but it would depress me knowing how many of you reading weren’t even born when it was on the air.

I’d like to think that a documentary like Trekkies gave rise to films that went out to chart the many crags and crevices of nerd life that seldom ever got noticed elsewhere. Sure, these geeks existed but the light shone on them after such an absence in popular culture proved to be a good thing as many of these visual documents showed them to be fascinating creatures. From American Movie, The King of Kong, to Darkon it’s hard to look away when it comes to another entry into the secretive lives of the wimpy. So, too, is this movie which looks like a combination of so many of these films all in one and director Keven McAlester appears to have nailed this subculture.

I’ll be the first to admit I was way too stupid to play this game. The idea seemed fascinating to me but after a botched stint with an Indiana Jones role playing set from 1984, I thought my passion had all but extinguished for these kinds of things.

And then the first few moments of this trailer play.

I find myself enthralled at the opening sequence of the haughty classical soundtrack playing in the background as we look upon a foggy and damp looking parking lot. Images of Chris Matthews carrying on like a blubbering idiot, economic talking heads blather on about the fall of the American economy, and then we see scads of die all strewn about on a desk. The juxtaposition is not lost on me as I think the intersection of hard fact and imagined reality is a hilarious one when you finally are presented with the face paint.

Honestly, it’s the look on the guy’s face at the 1:03 mark which is absolutely precious, priceless, and the reason why I will buy this film site unseen. It just has a fuzzy effervescence that makes you think this will be a loving portrait of these fans who like to talk trolls, ogres, spells, health, and armor all the while being completely serious. What’s more is we push on beyond the fascination of the game and it delves into the very public lives these people have to lead after the gaming is done. I don’t know how these things will merge into a cohesive whole but the snippets that we do see, at one point a military guy is told he’s going to be going through a Lifestyle Assessment Survey and I have lucid visions of what the results will actually yield, but the pitch is strong that it will be glorious.

The soundtrack, changing from classical to an edgier rock selection, helps to carry this thing all the way to the end as we see more of the private, in some cases nude, lives of three people who obviously have a great love of the game. It’s a curious thing that the trailer makers decided to place all the festivals it’s been picked to play at the tail end as there are some real notable places it could’ve pimped.

I don’t know what your cinematic slate looks like in February but this movie is absolutely on my must-see list if for nothing else than to understand what I didn’t all those years ago.

The Girl on the Train Trailer

What do you get when you mix Morton Downey, Jr. and Catherine Deneuve? Wrongful racism with a lilting French accent, that’s what.

Anyone who had a passing interest in the film A Christmas Tale knows that the film was the best case anyone could make about how age only makes great actresses even more special. The movie was a wonderful piece of work that wasn’t a deep philosophical treatise but it was a delicate family drama that mixed in comedy with effortless aplomb thanks to director/co-writer Arnaud Desplechin’s take on this dysfunctional family. Yes, dysfunctional families are all too common on the screen but that film stands in perfect contrast to the family depicted here in this trailer.

Yes, I admit standing here ignorant of director André Téchiné’s past film efforts but the past is of no concern to me as this trailer just vibrates with the uneasiness that usually only accompanies films that get drama right. It succinctly captures all the strings that come attached to a movie that hinges entirely on one person’s lie.

The opening sequence is sanguine, to be honest. It’s a girl on roller skates on what looks like a spectacular day in the park. In a voiceover, she tells us she’s roughly 23 years-old and that she rides the train in what looks like a bustling city full of life. That changes, of course, as this trailer comes right out and puts it right out for us to read on the screen: a hate crime, a lie.

We see the focus for this film, Emilie Dequenne, playing  our cinematic mentirosa and who I only know from Le pacte des loups, Brotherhood of the Wolf for us non-Parisians, secretly cuts her own face with a knife and cries wolf, ironically. As the way these things go, it’s labeled and reported as a hate crime and things just so nuclear from here; we go from serene to insane in about ten seconds.

I think we’re supposed to get that Deneuve realizes her daughter, for reasons we’re unsure of, is making it up and wants to protect her. It’s tense and the musical mood is perfectly tuned to what’s happening on the screen.

An unintentionally droll moment happens when none other than Armond White, the lightning rod of a critic, gushes about the movie with a full screen quote.

The last third of the trailer shows these characters in motion, the uncertainty of how they will ultimately collide is obfuscated by the rich imagery, with enough reasons to seek this film out in the moments that seem like they will make up a satisfying whole.

Talhotblonde: Trailer

I make no apologizes about the idea that To Catch A Predator should be on every night.

To extrapolate a little of what Bill Hicks had to say about a reality show based on hunting down and killing Billy Ray Cyrus, and for his fascination with the series Cops, I think a show that hunts down and captures would-be chomos would prove to be an endless delight to the late comedian. I know it would be for me. The actual stories are, at their core, frightening but they are fascinating when you try and comprehend the pathological minds of the men who seek out the amorous advances of girls barely out of grade school. Now comes this trailer, where the hunted becomes the hunter in the most literal of ways in what looks like one of the first stories I’ve heard of where Hard Candy comes to life.

One of the benefits of not knowing anything about a film is just experiencing its pitch and this does it calculatingly well. I’ve grown used to having the movie explained within a matter of ten, fifteen seconds of a trailer’s start time but things are different here. The film’s contents couldn’t be more telegraphed than they are here with a pretty vanilla piano suite, the words “A Teenage Vixen” splashed across the screen with a blurry image of a girl on a bed, and the sound of a firing gun.

We follow the CGI’d bullet on its path to nowhere but, as it slowly spins, we get interview footage. Instead of cutting away from this bullet,montage, the interviews presented are blurred, or relegated to voiceover entirely, as we painstakingly get the setup of the film. Guy meets girl on the internet, guy lies to girl, girl doesn’t like it, and the final solution is something really violent.

The novel thing about this approach, and it’s so subtle that you hardly notice it, is that we aren’t given much in the way of facts surrounding this case. Paradoxically, we’re given a lot of facts about the relationship all at once. The relationship in question obviously ends tragically but what we have here is a trailer that gets into uneasy territory when one of the voiceovers says that he threatened to violently hurt this girl and/or bring harm to this girl’s mother. Now, this girl must have been a real mind scrambler to deal with if she’s driving dudes to such extremes.

The teary piece of interview footage that caps this thing ought to be enough to drive anyone to find out more. I know it did for me.

THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD – TRAILER from Swel Noury on Vimeo.

The Man Who Sold The World Trailer

Quelque part entre les points de rationalité et la folie là existe un endroit d’émerveillement. Attrapé dans un monde de la folie et de l’amour il n’y a jamais eu un film qui a ainsi a capturé le goût de l’époque d’un temps longtemps allé : de l’amour. (A little bonus there for those of you who took French in high school)

Here’s a trailer that pushes my boundaries of what I consider high art and what I think is pretentiousness. It’s a hazy area that you never quite want to go one way or the other because there really could be a story in there that defines the human condition in a way that’s new, fresh, or completely novel.

As someone who likes to think there is validity in every endeavor I watched this trailer and was surprised by what I saw. Not only were there smatterings of art for art sake, not a completely bad thing, there was a narrative that piqued my interest. Knowing first this movie is about a guy who we’re led to believe has everything, a hot fiancé, a great life, the weird thing is, we’re told, he can’t deal with this and goes insane. Yeah, a little odd but I’m up for odd.

Before we even see a frame of footage we’re treated to the proclamation this movie was in official competition in the Marrakech International Film Festival. This is awesome, right? Right? Even though you may not know this was the Moroccan film festival, or that we’re even talking about Morocco, we get into particulars that this movie garnered a Best Actor award for its film’s star, Said Bey. Plus, it looks like a lot of outlets, none of them in English, have written in praise of the movie. It may not mean much to us but it’s presented quite nicely and with an eye toward visual design which I thought deserved some kudos.

The first moment we do have of this movie is of a complete vision of a woman. Petite, with delicious lips, bouncy head of hair, and a total vulnerability about her, she’s asking a question. I only speak American so I have no idea what’s she’s saying but I honestly could let her ramble all she likes because she sounds precious.

A jaunty musical number that just seems so indicative of this kind of movie starts to play and I’m transported to the surreal. A woman is writing in lipstick on a dude’s back, some (maybe different?) woman is lying in bed in her Underoos, a guy with jacked up teeth and a bad dye job looks blankly into the camera, and we get a host of other well photographed but bizarre slivers of narrative.

We move back and forth between the lives of the people showcased in this movie, the trailer giving the impression it’s more about than just one person here. Almost like an ensemble piece of hipsters living through a malaise of their mid-30’s, when they realize that pork pie hats aren’t allowed to be worn at the workplace where they’ve had to get real jobs.

Towards the end there is a lot of crying, yelling, and screaming (as is the case with many films about love as it pertains to artistic types) but I can’t help but feel this is yet another entry into independent films that just want to be artistic without wanting to bridge the gap between commercialism and artistry.

The key, I would think, is to be somewhere in the middle but this looks like directors Swel and Imad Noury have made a movie that simply wants to be art for art’s sake.

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

  • The Ghost Writer Trailer - Ich spreche nicht Deutsches aber, wenn ich tat, dann mich sagen würde, dass dieses hübsches Bohren schaut. Nichts knallt heraus an mir, die Weise, die dieses geschnitten ich sich fühlen wie it’ ist; s etwas vom frühen 90′ s und ich werden nicht verkauft, den dieses etwas ist, das, ich würde aufpassen wollen.
  • Kick-Ass Trailer - Yes, I want to see this movie now. The problem with these trailers, and there are a few of them out there, is that they’re giving me too much information. Honestly, I wish the trailers would stop because, like this one proves, there isn’t a detail that they’re unwilling to give away.
  • Red Riding Trailer - Great, great trailer. If this doesn’t move you to see this film then you and I are done, personally, because they not only made three films digestible all at once but they made it thrilling, compelling.
  • Confucius Trailer #2 - Kind of like vampire films as of late, I can understand that some people are just burnt out on the whole epic Asian thing. However, this movie still appeals to me as I think there is a little more depth being explored here, although, there is a lot of screaming and yelling going on.
  • A-Team Trailer - Seeing Bradley Cooper shoot at a plane from a tank, that fell out of a plane, that’s descending with the aid of parachutes, keeping completely cool while looking cool, is all I need to know this is ridiculous and just the kind of film I need this year.
  • Gavin McInnes Is A Fucking Asshole Trailer - Well.  It certainly is brash, has a very aggro tone, and I think I love it.
  • Chloe Trailer - I don’t know if it’s the sensuality of it, the danger of the story, or the woman on woman lovin’ but this looks wickedly good. It looks sinister in ways that I don’t think we’ve seen a thriller be in quite some time.
  • The Company Men Teaser Trailer - What is this: a movie trailer or a Hallmark commercial? Honestly, there isn’t much I can see in this ensemble piece that makes it appear any different than Up In The Air or any other film about people who have to adjust to “real life” after downsizing.
  • Hubble 3D Trailer - I adore this trailer. It has all the zip and zing of a thrilling drama yet it is completely real in every detail. To say that the images are breathtaking is a disservice to the realization of IMAX’ true potential as a technology if and when you see this on the big screen.
  • Ironclad Trailer - This one I have mixed feelings about. While some of the battle scenes look really thrilling there are moments that let you know this isn’t a finished film and, thus, ought not to have been put in there in the first place. Kind of like a novel in progress, you sometimes shouldn’t know what was excised from the final copy.
  • Ghost Writer Trailer - Even in English I am not swayed by this movie’s trailer. Kim Cattrall‘s insertion and acting ought to make you wince as it certainly made me put my wallet back in my pocket.
  • The Crazies Trailer #3 - Give me the other trailers back. Sometimes, when you try and squeeze too much in a 10 lb. bag, it breaks. The other trailers are far more convincing that it has something going for it than this does. This just makes it seem like a Dawn of the Dead rehash which the other trailers proved it was not.
  • Original Festival Brick Trailer - Stare into the face of a great trailer and behold its majesty. One of the things I really like about this is that it doesn’t allow you to ever get a firm hold on narrative ground. It’s like swimming in jelly, trying to comprehend what’s happening, but what a wonderful feeling that is.
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