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?


Prince Of Broadway Trailer

Fact: I wear a fake Panerai watch to my day job.

In sales, you’ve got to look the part and I’m all about gussying up with this accoutrement which makes me appear to have the kind of money I only wish I had. The watch is the only thing that remotely might hint to someone that I ought to be taken seriously but guys in the know like to talk about it, it’s conversation piece, and it’s like this tiny confidence booster. Weird.

It’s a weird thing when people buy knockoffs for whatever reason, sometimes it’s just a matter of wanting to display a sense of having it all when you don’t, but a trailer like this makes you wonder how appropriate it is to have a film about a man trying to find legitimacy because it’s spot on. One of the better indies I’ve seen out there selling itself, this trailer is a salesperson’s wet dream: it relentlessly touts its awards and accolades, the plot is given out in hearty dollops, and you’ve got a grown man crying in it. Who here wouldn’t want to see a movie where the fast talking huckster on the side of the street selling fake Prada, Gucci eventually get his comeuppance? Everything you need to know is right here but you don’t know exactly how each piece fits together.

Actor Prince Adu does a snappy job in just exploding on the screen with his character in full tilt. I get who he is, what he’s about, what his motives are, all in the first ten seconds. Even before we get the first real piece of dialogue we get two festivals it has won awards from and, by the minute thirty mark, we get a total of five award interstitials and three pull-quotes from the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Filmmaker Magazine. On top of that, they’re all interwoven seamlessly into the trailer in a way that’s unobtrusive.

It’s a movie about a man making moves while contending with having his son literally dropped in his lap. Selling it wonderfully, and director Sean Baker does it with an emotional punch, that’s when we see Prince shed a tear. It’s believable enough and it entices me to be more curious about the film. I realize there isn’t much happening with this film beyond it being this little movie that could but it just feels like it has a heart and, to me, that’s worth telling people about. It’s a sales pitch worth listening to.

The Socalled Movie Trailer

I don’t know much about sampling, jazz, improvisational performance, or how you would blend the thrice together to make cohesive candy bar.

Further, I know less about why director Garry Beitel would pick an even marginal figure in music like Josh Dolgin aka Socalled. The amusing thing about this, though, is that by the end of this trailer I am glad I stumbled upon a character who seems more like a regular schmoe just looking to express himself musically with people who are wickedly talented but living on the fringe of mass musical awareness.

The love affair, really, begins with Dolgin explaining his creative process insofar as he plucks a piece of vinyl from the 30’s and plays it alongside a piece of music from the 70’s. Knowing that aficionados creating hip-hop beats love to raid the back catalogs of long forgotten also-rans was one thing but I didn’t think guys like Dolgin looked as pleased as he does on camera when he shows how these two things go together. He’s beaming at the synergy he’s created. Additionally, he’s immediately likable and has a certain charisma which makes you want to follow a little further into this guy’s world.

The trailer just pops, like a slightly moist bottle rocket that has a wet and muffled “crack” when it finally explodes, as we see our guy touring in Paris and various clubs just creating rhymes on the street and bringing a Jewish kind of funk and flavor to the stage. It’s fun and, I would bet, it’s something you haven’t really seen before.

Then we meet the other members of his band, an exceptional list of talented and sharp musicians who display a kindness and joyfulness about their art which seems anathema to the idea of performing artists like this. It’s strange to see these people working on crafting a specific style of art that seems more experimental than it is palatable to your average music buff yet around the 1:30 mark you hear some of what comes out on the other end of this equation. It’s unique and soulful. And, just to stitch a nice button on it all, we get Dolgin talking about his insecurities yet persevering to just do what he wants.

Deceptively simple, this film appears to be, but I think why I was so taken with it was how honest it was with its presentation and how much you are left thinking this is a documentary, unlike other docs that make you feel crappily about the world we live in, that would be a delight to experience.

Postscript: A link to Socalled’s “You Are Never Alone” to enjoy

Ready, Set, Bag! Trailer

I participated in one of these things the very same week Kurt Cobain died in 1994. I don’t know why I remember this but working in a grocery store in high school gave me some of the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever known, or will know, in my working career.

I would put the position of bagger at a grocery store a single notch higher than the guy who spritzes that anti-fungal deodorant into bowling shows. That said, I can understand the allure for some of these people to be transfixed with wanting to have pride in being the best parcel thrower there is. Now, while I think I had a vested interest in being amused at a trailer depicting the antics of some grocery employees gathering in Vegas for a showdown of non-epic proportions I have to give credit to directors Alex D. da Silva and Justine Jacob who at least make this look entertaining.

I will wholly admit, as long as I’m being honest, that the sell job at the outset isn’t that strong. You have a bunch of teenage yahoos yelling and screaming in a polite way, making me think this is some kind of religious summer camp activity or a rally to get new members into a costumed themed cult, and, overall, it’s not very enticing. As we roll a little further into this we get our first Asperger’s addled youth who pontificates a little too much about his sacking technique. Now this is what I came here for: the Trekkies-like individuals who seem like they aren’t in on the joke of what’s happening.

But it’s this kid who sets the tone for the rest of the trailer for a film that I think looks pretty fascinating from a sociological point of view. These people really are keyed in on winning this thing and are taking something so mundane to life, packing groceries, and have elevated as a personal quest for them to conquer.

It’s not sad, mind you, lest you think this is somehow making fun of them. I think it’s a celebration of what a subset of a subset of the working class do for a little fun. Seeing them in Vegas, feeling how seriously they take this and how giddy their friends are, it’s enough to make you think there isn’t anything we won’t compete for in this country. The trailer brims with the kind of family-friendly content that ought to land this on the TBN network with no problem at all but with all the documentaries of late that showcase the depraved and seedier side of life it’s nice to see something that could literally be enjoyed by everyone.

I Am Worthless – Teaser from iamworthless on Vimeo.

I Am Worthless Trailer

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! This trailer belongs right with the best of them on that program and for good reason.

I know that there is certain self-indulgence that’s easy to slip into when making your own film. Having to script it, film it, edit it, sell it, all by yourself, can certainly make for some interesting moments when you don’t know which way is up and which way is down after spending so much time focused on your baby.

This trailer is a winner in that whoever did this knows exactly what they’ve done and exactly how they want to present it. The trailer defies the usual narrative structure that’s employed when selling a film as it upends what we’ve come to expect our trailers to be like. In fact, I am still scratching my head here to try and project some kind of psychological understanding what’s afoot here because I’m completely lost. In a good way.

You have a homely looking guy setting up an inflatable, Christmas decoration, as the little fan helps to make this little soldier stand erect. The dude setting it all up stands in a yard full of dead leaves, the moment quite bizarre. There is no music, no narration, no indication whether I’m actually seeing a real teaser trailer or someone’s having fun with me but I like that uneasy feeling as I watch this.

The fuzzy indie track that plays as our quintessential chubby nerd rolls around a tree with a quiver of arrows just takes things to another level entirely. He shoots these things into the inflatable symbol of peace and happiness, the moment sullied with question upon question of what the hell is happening here.

The music crescendos as our geek stands triumphant over this helpless piece of holiday cheer, pierced with the many holes he’s placed in it, and I am left with the sense that I want to know more about what it is I just saw. I was initially beside myself with incredulity, positive I was going to write a nasty gram back to the man who sent it to me, but then I kind of relaxed my third eye and just let its message wash over my sensibilities. Director Micah Troublefield has really created a trailer worth pondering.

I don’t know a thing about this movie, I know everything I need to know about this movie.

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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