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?

City State Trailer

This trailer ought to be the standard by which others in its field should be judged against.

One of the things that become like white noise to me are the posturing, loud-mouth kind of films where the name of the crime genre game is, “How big can you make your explosions?” With trailers for movies like Takers, just pulling a random movie from the big steaming pile of faux crime film, you are promised a light-weight romp with people you can’t really take seriously if for no other reason than their delicate facial features. It’s a promise that I, for one, don’t feel like accepting anymore.

I want my crime to be messy, to be complicated, and to be something like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy. I get the feeling that’s what we get here and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Straight out of Iceland, director Olaf De Fleur looks like he’s pieced together a film that mixes in a little bit of vengeance, a whole lot of drama, and killing. The three elements coalesce nicely but it’s the opening sequence that just floors me as a viewer. The trailer is one long narrative sequence where a father speaks to his unborn (possibly murdered?) child who our protagonist never got to see with this own eyes as we see images of dad all battered and bruised, holding a sonogram of the child that I believe never was.

The music is utterly devastating as we flashback to different times, different people. It’s a disjointed phalanx of moments but that’s OK. You see some men who look like they are primed to kill in their three piece suits, some thug in a hoodie who is about to throw down with a pistol in his hand, a dead body gets dumped over a boat, a dead woman gets rolled on her side, a SWAT team dramatically rolls up to a scene in the middle of a pouring rain, and before you know it the trailer is finished.

The narrative is strong, no question, as there are a litany of unanswered questions about what in the hell is going on here but I found myself being excited and brought to a boil when watching the trailer and this is exactly how someone should be left feeling if your movie is worth anticipating. It’s crime filled but it seems perfectly poised to translate with those of us who realize our sensibilities are closer aligned with other countries than many people realize. [Twitch]

The Kids Grow Up Trailer

Documentary Doug Block is on to something here.

I can, without question, and with absolute certainty, say that if you haven’t knowingly produced a human being this trailer won’t be as compelling. There is something indelible that happens when you bring a life into this world and there is no question that a very real thing washes over those who are open to the experience. What follows, and what I imagine is its eventuality, is distilled, heartbreakingly, in this trailer.

While I can’t say I really dig the musical choice, it’s so very ominous, it’s the grainy home movie footage that snaps you like a rubber band. We get this girl being interviewed, all of sixteen, lamenting what it was like to be young. A pull-quote from Michel Gondry pops on the screen. It’s an excellent beginning.

We vacillate between versions of young daughter and older daughter as we get personal perspectives on life from both of these life stages all the while getting interstitials that let us know what this movie is about: a girl coming of age but of a father coming to terms with his own age as well. It’s this dichotomy that penetrates my emotional core as I get it. I understand what this man is trying to say, to capture.

What is captured well, also, is the tension between this man who obviously wanted to get the life of his girl coming into her own, and being an adult of her own, with the logical result of what happens if you are constantly sticking a camera in someone’s face who didn’t necessarily sign up for it. I believe the life of a documentary filmmaker can sometimes have unintended consequences with the one very real result being that the subject feels disconnected with the person doing the shooting. It’s a little heartbreaking but it feels, for lack of a better word, real.

If you can excuse some of the more maudlin moments there are some crazy dynamics going on here and I, for one, would love to see how this gets resolved as it appears this story will deal how one guy learns how to let go after holding on for so long.

Sensation Trailer

I love not knowing anything about a director, an actor, a project, a story, anything, before seeing its trailer.

Case in point is this little gem that was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival, smartly stating as such as we step foot in this world, and directed by Tom Hall, a filmmaker whose credits I won’t even suppose to have heard of. What makes this such a good trailer, though, besides the little morsels of nudity (I would say it’s NSFW just to be sure) is the way it holds its hand close when it comes to telling what it is going on with this story.

It’s not clear what we’re initially watching but I like that little bit of uncertainty. What I am sure of, though, is that we have a delicate score playing behind images of a guy who we determine lives alone somewhere in Ireland. He doesn’t have the stunning good looks of an indie darling and that makes believing this redheaded man ekes out a solitary existence, and enjoys the thrills of buying whores every now and then, believable. That bit about paying for womanly affection is played, and shot, well as any eroticism that could be gleaned from the moments we see this kid going through one woman after another is tempered with a little bit of sadness. The guy seems awfully lonely.

Compounded with this is the storyline that has our protagonist, literally, having to sell the family farm but this is where things get unclear. I am not sure if some streetwalker talks him into running some kind of whore outlet or if a woman gets him to donate to the cause of growing her burgeoning slut service or even how he gets involved but it looks serious. The kid appears to get in way over his head and it seems to be for reasons that are all the wrong ones.

There isn’t some moment when all of a sudden he realizes he has all these women under contract, that kind of thing is saved for movies like Night Shift, as the trailer keeps an even keel while hinting that danger is about to befall this lad should he keep on this path. Domhnall Gleeson shines as a guy who looks like he just needs a hug and someone to like him when not out paying for the affections of a woman.

This is teasing at its best but it’s teasing done the right way; there’s the hint, a promise, of what’s to come but it smartly keeps things muted and at a bare minimum.

The Taqwacores Trailer

This taps into something visceral inside of me.

Huzzah to filmmaker Eyad Zahra for shaping a trailer that shows his film to be brutal, insightful, and all kinds of riotous. It makes me wonder why this writer/director seemingly vanished from filmdom in 2004 until now but this creation was obviously good enough to be accepted at Sundance and SXSW, almost too quick to see the kudos as they flash on the screen, but my only wonder after seeing this is how soon can I see this movie.

The opening sequence, I would agree, is a little limp. There’s no real way to enter this world of Muslims and the peculiarity of this group without just ham-fisting everything from the get go. In fact, it feels like something out of PCU but without the comedy or the oddly thinning bald patch of Jeremy Piven to keep us warm. No, instead we get a guy who is going to play stand-in, much like Ellen Page did in Inception, who plays the part where these characters’ naivete allows us to be just as clueless as the protagonist is at the outset. We get to follow along and feel like we haven’t missed anything in the process. It kind of feels weak to present it like this but this thing just shreds as the music kicks in and I forget about any quibbles I have.

The punk music that just drills us, informs us, shows us the sensibilities of this film, and hearing how these things collide with the narrative that we’re given, is oddly refreshing and soothing. The music rages on, the flashes of Sundance honors, of SXSW honors flashes on screen, we see how this nerd comes to understand the band of motley Muslims he’s chosen to live with and it’s utterly thrilling. There are no punches being pulled, there’s enough of that as a guy pelts himself with his own fists at one point, and we’re given the sell job to end all sell jobs. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see a take-no-prisoners movie on the magnitude of a Trainspotting meets Friday prayer service? I can’t pinpoint what chord in me was struck by what’s here but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t doing my own version of the lawnmower in my head as a virtual mosh pit played out in my mind.

The quotes from other publications who have seen this and have written about it, in this case, just amplify my interest in a movie that wants to tear my face off and eat it.

There’s really something refreshing about a film that deals with the Muslim faith without it slipping into the usual tropes that have been all too de rigueur in contemporary cinema for the past decade. I like that this is merely a piece of a larger puzzle that seems to be one man’s contemplation of where he’s been and where’s he headed in his spiritual life.

Love the soundtrack.

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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