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?


Shooting Robert King Trailer

Absolutely one of the worst productions depicting war zones I’ve ever seen.

You hear a crack of gunfire and a strafing bullet, see some dope with a helmet that looks two sizes too big for his lanky frame run across the screen, and witness a far off explosion all the while our skinny guy spills his heart out in front of a camera, whining about his place in life.

That’s about when I found out it’s real. All of it.

Now, before you all get uppity about it, yes, I know the film played here at festivals all around America so this isn’t a hot of the press release. It was at SXSW last year but good luck finding a copy of it here in the States. The movie is slated to come out on DVD in the UK and for anyone looking to pick up a disc depicting what it’s like to actually capture war through the lens of a camera, we now know what it’s like to go through one armed with a gun thanks to Restrepo, this could be exactly what you need.

It’s not that director Richard Parry’s documenting a documentarian of sorts is novel. War photographers and their exploits have been fodder for many yarns over the years with many a melodrama but what really set this trailer off for me is seeing our man, Robert King, genuinely trying to get at what is driving him to do this. It’s not MTV, it’s the real thing, and it’s fascinating to see how the guy not only navigates the theaters of war, three wars in total over fifteen years, but what this can do to a person. You see up-close what it takes to capture a moment in the heat of combat and what kind of thought processes have to happen in order to get that special “shot.”

What also works here is the decent into utter madness that happens around the minute mark. As his war world crumbles, the techno Blade beat simmering just beneath the surface, he tells us about the indulgences (sex, drugs) he partook of while in some of the most evil places on earth.

The images of dead bodies, of soldiers, of human, caught in this thing called battle, blitz by on the screen as the chaos of uncertainty rolls right past us. The narrative couldn’t be clearer for a film that is essentially its title. We hear only a few statements from King but they’re poignant and are being told not from the men holding guns on the frontline but from a man on the frontline with no gun at all.

Insane, crazy and I want to see if it’s half as interesting as this trailer.

No Impact Man Trailer

There’s something weird happening with nonfiction lately.

People are ending up on talk shows, news programs, or anywhere else broadcasting blowhards need to fill time, to chat about how they did (Insert Crazy Activity) for one year. 365 seems to be the right number for anyone looking to have a bestselling book based on saying yes for a full year, or living out the bible for a year, seeing how many times you can avoid running the cat over with your Volvo for a year, or how much Taco Bell you can eat in a ear. It all smacks of ingeniousness and laziness.

Enter, stage right, Colin Beavan.

The trailer opens up with a radio host introducing Colin as a guest having walked up nearly two dozen stories in order to get to the studio where he is ostensibly going to talk about how he’s a nutball writer who had nothing better to do than come up with an idea, a Crazy Activity. Plug “and do it for a year” on the end of it, have it be sold to someone willing to distribute the Crazy story, reap the benefits for doing a Crazy Activity, and enjoy the spoils of appearing on shows all over the nation. My indignation is tempered by the three film festivals it has played at, helping me to sky down a smidge and give it a chance, but it just gets nuttier from here.

Strictly speaking about the trailer, it’s solid. It explains what this no carbon footprint experiment (don’t be fooled, though, it’s still a Crazy Activity) will entail and it seems all kinds of horrid. No subways, no taxis, no soda cans, no magazine subscriptions, no plastic water jugs, all the while his wife seems to be teetering on the verge of homicidal rage when the television is banished from the house. But this is where it gets interesting. One of the selling points of this trailer suggests that while he’s forcing the family to go along with this Crazy Activity in order to sell a book or pump up the hit count on his website, is that his wife may murder him in the process. This I can get behind. Strangulation by non-shred, no wax dental floss. Imagine my shock, then, when I see that’s the angle the trailer takes from here on out.

The wife becomes part of this ordeal insofar that here’s a guy who has the mad-on for a book deal and his wife is having a real rough go at letting this happen to her. I was positive when I saw the make-up being thrown away I was going to see a real life snuff film but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Never mind, though, as my projections of rage at this guy have psychically melded with the trailer.

I appreciate we’re going to get all sides of this story, especially when his genuineness is called into question. It takes a real kind and gentle turn by the end and, I’ll admit, it swung me all the way back from hostile to open. Looks like a balanced view of ambition meets eco-consciousness meets skeptical wife.

The Chester Kids Trailer

A less pretentious Garden State?

I don’t know how I would classify writer/director/producer Travis Ainley’s debut feature but the trailer gives you more than enough to nosh on as you take in a story that presents a story about maturation with a little more edge.

There isn’t much in the way of narrative in the beginning, we hear a woman have a discussion with our protagonist over some pretty heady imagery, but that’s fine with me. What we are given, though, are glimpses into the lives of these people who seem trapped in an endless summer of adolescence. Literally. Beer bongs, hard liquor, mary-gee-wanna, a little gun play, all are on display within the first 20 seconds of this trailer but it provides just enough hints at what the story is going to explore.

Sometimes it’s just refreshing just to infer what’s happening, there is a difference between not giving me anything as a viewer and, conversely, supplying me with examples, pie charts, and data graphs into the life of a character, and not depend so heavily on a piece of narration or an interstitial charting it all out. This falls somewhere in the middle of all that and it’s absolutely effective.

I get where things are going. At least I think I do. Regardless, the cinematography alone is just head and shoulders above a lot of first time filmmakers and the performances here at least seem genuine and seem to flow well with the scenes we see. There’s frivolity and immaturity but, best of all, I’m intrigued by all of it. I may not know exactly what’s going on with a kid who seems stuck in neutral but this trailer really is a calling card for a director who seems to of had a specific idea of how to capture this story and is revealing it the way he wants and not the way 99% of other people would have.

To put it another way, most trailers make sure you understand every nuance of their story in order to essentially give the most thorough 30 second elevator speech possible. This gives those the middle finger and I respect that.

Kings Of Pastry Trailer

I wasn’t all that keen on writing this one up but, for God’s sake, someone has to step in and help this special needs child before it wanders in front of a speeding meth head in an Iroc Z doing 86 down a residential street.

First of all, this is a bad trailer. Horrible. Wretched.

I’ll be the first to admit that even I have low standards for what tickles me but this was just bad marketing. It wouldn’t be so bad if the opening was still the national anthem of France as if it were reinterpreted by the Lake Wobegon players for Garrison Keillor’s NPR snoozefest but it’s so pedantic in a mind-numbing way.

I get it, chefs from around the world want a little necklace that shows everyone that they’re the best in their class. I do, I can feel the passion that some of these cooks really want something that they’ve worked so hard to get. However, when people talk about burying the lead in news stories the lead is buried way in the middle of this trailer with some guy saying that if he doesn’t win one he will ruminate over that forever. I don’t know what the thought process was here but I kind of think you would want to lead off with a sentiment like that. Instead, I get Nicolas Sarkozy chumming it up with some plebes who are rocking this French award like it’s some kind of prize we all should know about. Guess what, we don’t and I bet you lost a lot of viewers with the slow and plodding entry into a film that finally gained steam at the midway point of this marketing ploy.

On top of that it even says that this is coming to us from the folks who made some pretty solid documentaries but they aren’t any average moviegoer would go, “Oh really? They made this? Here’s a blank check. Do you want it made out to Cash?” Seriously, just like a professional  resume, if you have to go back to 1967 and 1993 as your past credits you shouldn’t even bother putting it on. I’m sure co-directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker are fine people but where have they been for the last couple decades if they want to get by on their old films?

Instead, as almost if on cue, we get some prominent publications heaping praise on this film. Which is great to read but it’s tucked in the middle of this thing and it should have led things off as well as the crying men. Oh yes, crying men. Who here would love to see a crying man, bawling over a crushed dessert, a less than perfect soufflé? Count me in twice for that. And to the jerk from the Herald Scotland who said this movie is the culinary Hurt Locker? Go drown yourself.

There is really a fascinating picture in here but it is being blurred out by shoddy editing and someone’s insistence to make this appeal to people in their 80’s when, in fact, even dudes like me like to hang with Cake Boss every now and then. If only I could Yelp about this thing…

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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