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?

Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best Trailer

What’s in a name?

I wouldn’t have given this movie much notice if i didn’t hear about Oscilloscope Laboratories picking it up for distribution. The company, which has some eclectic but insanely great taste, actually feels like it can leave its mark on a movie and have it appear like an endorsement, a suggestion from someone you trust has good taste. That said, the trailer makes the movie feel something more than just a story about some wayward musicians who need a kick in the ass to get their lives moving in the right direction.

The comparisons to Once will be inevitable but the trailer warmly eases us into a story of two guys who play music in the most unglamorous locales. That’s the idea, right, to have them drifting in a sea of near invisibility and have them connect with really interesting people along the way. Yeah, it feels a little false with the forced comedy but the music is pretty good and the characters seem genuinely likable.

I’m especially taken with the rocking out in a vehicle bit, as I’m an admitted addict to watching Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers’ versions of pop standards as they roll down the highways and byways of this country, but it has that indie band vibe without all the douchery that comes along with it. It doesn’t feel like it’s reaching too far with its notions of what it wants to be and, instead, focuses on the great press it has garnered so far while giving us clips that indicate neither one of these guys take themselves too seriously. I’m sure there will be some drama that will either drive then apart or bring them closer together but the trailer only needs to make us care and it does it excellently by getting in, giving us the goods, and getting out.

Chicken With Plums Trailer

This is one way to follow up a critically acclaimed film that was an award darling: you go right to live action.

Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi of Persepolis have returned to do something a little bit something different with their skill set and that would be a movie about a man and his violin. Taken on its face value, I realize it doesn’t blow the doors off the mind when you consider it’s simply about a man who finds the winds of life taken out of his sails once his beloved violin is broken. However, the trailer has a magical, ethereal quality to it. Almost feels like a fever dream of a memory that is a pastiche of remembered events and the absurdity that surrounds it.

It absolutely looks like a false world with its sets and its models and its toy trains but it only helps to elevate the emotion radiating off Mathieu Amalric as he plays the titular musician. There is such melodrama and exaggerated emoting, and at one point Mathieu buries himself in a bountiful bosom, a brumski of the highest order, that you can’t help but think this is at the same time serious and hilarious. The entirety of the trailer plays out like this and it’s a wonderful collage of moments that seem heartbreaking and absurd. We don’t really get a feel for what we are to make of this man who never recovers from a broken violin but that’s OK as the moments we do have presented before us are cinematic in their execution and presented in such a way that their starkness is amazing.

St. George’s Day Trailer (NSFW)

Frank Harper, known more for his man-about-town acting than his work behind the camera, looks to have made something completely devoid of anything poignant but appears to be completely entertaining.

With a cast that seems to have absolutely no one and incredibly everyone (we’ve got a villain from Cliffhanger, a villain from Last Action Hero, Luke Treadaway from Attack the Block and a couple of dudes from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) I like the cast of thousands we have on deck to tell an ultra cheesy tale of deals gone wrong and crime bosses ready to fight it out on the streets. While this is director Frank Harper’s first rodeo there is the sense of confidence as you watch this trailer unroll.

The movie appears to be completely forgettable and the story seems about as deep as a rain puddle but there’s just something about wafer thin crime stories that have a pulpy center to them; it’s not sustenance, it’s complete filler. You have every cliche about deals gone wrong, at one point you have one twit actually use the words “Columbia’s finest” when referring to drugs that’s devoid of any ironic tone, and shots of this crew’s swagger as if life were one long music video about tough as nails tough guys. Again, watch at your own risk but realize it’s selling itself knowing full well what it is. Truth in advertising.

The Wedding Video Trailer

I need more comedy, the world needs more comedy.

Nigel Cole, best known for his directorial exploits in Calendar Girls and Made in Dagenhem,

The trailer feels slight but in a Death at a Funeral kind of way. While I couldn’t tell you who anyone else is or what their part is, all my hopes and wishes that this is an above average romantic comedy rests with Robert Webb. As a Peep Show fan there’s just something about familiarity which really works for me as we see how this is a hybrid of a faux documentary mixed in with a straight narrative presentation. There’s nothing remarkably adventurous or original about the directing but it’s in the performances with the material which really could elevate this to the kind of date movie you would be able to take the whole family to (so long as you’re prepared to look at pasty white man ass for a bit).

This is a genre that is completely thankless in every regard just because of how safe everyone pursues this material but the trailer here gets progressively more edgy and flirts with what’s acceptable (I’m a particular fan of the lion gag near the end if you must know) in a mainstream trailer but it all works. Again, it’s such a fine line between mass market comedy and thoughtful brilliance but even if you’re constrained to fill many of those four quadrants you still can serve more than just the audiences you’re assigned to take care of and the trailer shows us those teeth. It’s bold and for yet another comedy about a wedding I couldn’t be more excited.

Big Boys Gone Bananas!* Trailer

Back when I talked about Fredrik Gertten’s film about a year and a half ago I thought this would be a documentary that would hoist Dole Foods on their own petard for their treatment of Nicaraguan laborers in that country as it pertains to banana harvesting.

Well, looks like Dole wanted to fight back.
I don’t know why this wouldn’t happen more often with documentarians, I’m sure there are those who could eloquently put into words why this would be the case, but this film looks interesting enough on the merits of looking at what happens when you do a film that talks about a big corporation with even bigger pockets. The trailer is lean as it lays out the issues that the first film raised and then ups the ante by talking about the fallout of what happened when the movie started to get traction. It’s quite ominous in its tone as we see Fredrik become embattled and embroiled in what looks like a serious situation that looks like it’s going to be fought with tons of paper.
It’s the aftershocks of what happens to those who report on issues like this that make this must-see viewing. So many times, especially in the news, when a story gets reported on you’re usually tossed an empty promise of having that followed up on as the story progresses. Problem is, it’s hard to keep track of the after story. There have been documentaries on subjects that have changed lives and, now, with this documentary we can see what happened once the camera stopped filming.

The Other Dream Team Trailer

I don’t exactly loathe sports, but outside of a very narrow subset of a subset, I’m not much of a fan of them. That said, I genuinely love seeing stories like this. It’s why Hard Knocks is a favorite on television when August rolls around.
What director Marius A. Markevicius (who helped produce Douchebag, Like Crazy and The Way Back) is able to capture in a very tight time frame is the the entirety and enormity of a basketball team who was going into the Olympics of 1992 sponsored in some small part by The Grateful Dead. It isn’t because of their tie-dies that this trailer works so well, it’s that their story resonates with the times that were a ‘changin.
This, very fast, has to encapsulate the issues that Lithuania faced all the way up until the Berlin Wall came down. They have to make you care and it does it by not lingering on any one person or clip. The beats are fast and it gets to the heart of the emotional core of why you need to care, showing Jim Lampley bawling like a girl obviously helps, and sets up the match that will define this story as one that deserves to be watched and appreciated. I’ll admit that while the pull quotes are helpful, the royalty free sounding guitar lick that plays in the background for the final portion of this thing isn’t doing it any favors.

Nota 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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