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?


Stonewall Uprising Trailer

A couple of things: 1) I’m addicted to Angry Birds right now 2) I had an English teacher, wise man, T.M. McNally, brilliant man, talk about good writing. He compared it with dynamite and, as an example, used an analogy akin to when our ancestors were building the railroads. You want to get your words wedged right in those fissures, he said. If you want to get the most out of the potential power in your hand you’ve got to jam it into the most accommodating nook.

This trailer looks like it’s trying to find the tightest crevice it can and I’m thrilled at the prospect that this preview shows this will be a story about Stonewall that isn’t some shoddily produced news story or weak puff piece.

One of the things that makes this such a troubling watch is witnessing the vitriol spewing from the lips of  an ignorant savage, a symbol of a generation that’s largely to blame for the hang-ups people have with homosexuality. I knew that laws about sodomy were on the books (how ironic that the bible was conveniently used to describe an illegal act its own proselytizers would come to make an art out of doing themselves) but the footage here buttons up the message real well. It frames the moment, the feeling of some in American society.

The other thing, too, that lights the fuse for this is that the interview footage of people who were living under the cloud of oppression and degradation from that time talking about where their head was at while this was swirling around them. It leads nicely to the foreboding music, the scene of the crime, the nexus point where rage led to violence by those charged with keeping order, the abuse of a pool of people based on nothing more than stigma. It is electrifying.

You can see how the pandemonium that ensued all but energized those who felt already marginalized by a society that wanted to try and ignore their existence. Never minding the great minds of our very existence were filled with those who preferred the company of those of the same sex, it is the emotion that those who were there as they talk about what they felt, comes across as intended.

While it never is said, you can see how without this moment in our country’s history there might not have been a Harvey Milk or any number of crusaders who simply want the same treatment as anyone else. This trailer ought to embolden you. Directors Kate Davis and David Heilbroner are no strangers to documentaries, they’ve tackled everything from religion to horse racing, and I hope this is on par with some of the better true to life stories to come out this year.

Wir Sind Die Nacht (We Are The Night) Trailer

I’ll gladly take a stylish thrill ride over a stuffy, naval gazing indie any day of the week. Throw in some vampires and some Germans and you’ve got yourself a movie I am all but powerless to resist.

Director Dennis Gansel, who has made films exploring such topics of fascism, Nazis, and the inability for some ladies to have an orgasm (what a triptych if you put them all together in one film) has decided to enter the world of vampires along with most every other director currently working today. What makes this one special, and let’s be honest, they all are aren’t they, is that this unique snowflake wants to explore what would happen if a girl was turned into a vampire and had to deal with its consequences.

Yeah, it doesn’t sound all that impressive. However, the trailer has some style.

There is no mistaking the opening for this thing as anything else but completely egregious in the best way possible. You have what essentially equates to Sex and the City for blood suckers. The interstitials, over an awesome eurotrash synth beat, say that these ladies of the night are young, rich, and have been here a very long time. No, it’s not deep but it’s pretty clever, taking the route of wondering what it would be like for a pack of hot chicks to be vampires. Not only vampires but vampires that are unersättlich, “insatiable” for those not speaking the language of knockwurst.

And there’s no question this movie will appeal to the young men of the motherland with all the egregious sexual imagery going on in this thing. It’s made to look like an Axe body spray commercial with some pretty spiffy special effects, I’m a big fan of the frozen shot glass of smoking blood, with some tenuous emotional tie-ins here and there thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure, exactly, what’s happening in this movie but can you really go wrong with a pack of she-vamps going on an eating frenzy with one of them thinking she may want out? I say holen Sie es an.

Veronika Decides To Die Trailer

Sarah Michelle Gellar. Even the name spelled out doesn’t really make me think of anything else but slasher films from the 90’s and that show I didn’t watch which every nerd swears is the about the closest thing you can get to television nirvana.

Sue me, I didn’t care for it.

This, though, is something I can actually imagine myself going out of my way to check out and watching. Based on a book from a rather popular Brazilian writer, Paulo Coelho, and directed by a woman I bet you’ve never heard of, Emily Young, this seems like the most uncommercialy viable project anyone would want to take a chance on but I think there’s something special here.

I’m not usually a fan of written interstitials as sometimes they seem to be needed by a filmmaker who would like the help of a narrative crutch but it doesn’t feel like cheating here. With a really haunting string arrangement in the background and the small clips of film showing a dowdy, unmade Gellar the trailer is able to instantly communicate that something horrible is afoot. I can feel the misery and it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable when the girl jumps off a bridge, unsuccessfully trying to kill herself.

Curiously, we’re told she only has days to live only after finding the will to live. It’s not explained what’s that all about but, again, it buys itself a few more seconds of investigation from the viewer. Erika Christensen pops up for a moment to help add to the narrative, David Thewlis makes an appearance, Melissa Leo slides in for a moment, and before I know it I am getting more and more invested.

The slow burn of the guitar track that starts at just the right moment adds to the atmospheric and sad pallor that this film is bathed in but that’s good. There’s no hiding from the funk that weighs on everyone in this movie and even with all the snippets of the film we’re given there’s no true clues about where this character is going. It’s exciting to think that this girl will actually die by the end but the who, what, when, where, why and how are comfortably left vague.

This might actually make me reconsider checking out Buffy the Vampire Slayer again.

The Radiant Child Trailer

I’ll be straight up honest and say I haven’t ever seen the film adaptation of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I assume that since Julian Schnabel directed it there must be some kind of contingent out there who think it’s the bee’s knees.

However, this documentary surprises me.

It surprises me because I was expecting something straight forward, an analytical examination of a pop artist who was here and gone in a flash it seems. What we end up with here, though, is a jazzy trailer that alters what you’ve come to expect out of your usual preview.

Director Tamra Davis, who people would best know from her work on CB4 or the Bangels’ music video “In Your Room,” brings a little something out of the ordinary with a documentary that feels more like a performance than it is a marketing tool. It’s lovingly done with attention paid to the music and energy and flow rather than piecing together a linear narrative.

While I think it’s bush league, right up there with the obnoxious record scratch for any number of comedic trailers, to have the sound of the projector to imply that what we’re about to see is Super-8 film of Basquait is just silly. I get it. This is old footage. Look, my local news station runs old stories from decades ago under the guise of “The Basement Tapes” which are quaint and maudlin but at least they don’t go for the sound of the rickety film projector.

When you get beyond this, though, it’s like Van Damme in Timecop when he’s hurtling towards that cement wall.  Tamra’s old footage of the artist is intimate, no question, and the music seems in complete harmony with an artist like Basquait who seemed to embody the aesthetic of the notes playing in the background. It would be hard to synthesize one’s life using a single, fixed camera lens but it’s the editing here, like Basquait’s use of shapes and colors and words, that helps you “get it.”

The song that plays as we see a portrait of an artist as a young man, no more than a couple of years before a heroin overdose would shuffle him quickly off this mortal coil, really jams as we see it was a Sundance selection and played at SXSW.

A flurry of examples from the man’s body of work race by, too fast to focus on, some pieces stopping for a moment for quick inspection. Quotes from notable periodicals and purveyors of pop culture mesh together to form a superficial shell of a man who seems to embody so much.

It ends as a song should, on a high note.

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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