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: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we look at Tim Heidecker’s happy face, Zeppelin’s bloated faces, some guys gettin’ their crampon on, Maeby Fünke, and a dissection of the current political process that is neither left or right. 

The Comedy Trailer

This is one film that is dividing nations.

Even though the film’s last teaser that we posted a few weeks ago played up the movie’s wretched reviews (I am a fan of anyone going down that path with their marketing) and mentioned the polarizing effects its had on those who have seen it the movie has become somewhat of a dare. It’s art if it is distilled through someone’s sensibilities and you end up with completely different reactions but what’s here, this trailer? It’s magnificent.

You genuinely feel Rick Alverson’s direction of a man who just seems emotionally numb. What makes Tim Heidecker’s signature style of moving through a scene so compelling is that it embraces that disconnection from something, anything, so wonderfully. We have him interacting with individuals in ways, yes, that are strange but that’s kind of the point. The trailer is able to not only visualize one man’s psyche but through the music we also know that this may or may not end well. I’ll go on a limb and say it will end the way it starts and, honestly, I hope that’s the case.

This feels like a statement about one guy’s life and his issues will not be solved within the run time of the movie. If the trailer has no connection whatsoever to the finished film and this is being used to throw me off the trail for a movie that is genuinely wretched, then shame on me, but what’s here? What’s here is kind of brilliant in the ways we get that nonsensical humor mixed in with some genuine pain and frustration, hell, indifference.

Chasing Ice Trailer

There are all kinds of nature documentaries out there that belong on a channel like Nat Geo.

While photographed wonderfully, they’re usually narrated dryly and it’s a one and done affair. This trailer, though, looks a little different.

Director Jeff Orlowski is putting himself into this movie about a documentary on photographing glaciers. There’s a nice tempo and tone that’s created by talking to us about the process, his process about how he’s photographing these glaciers. It’s like watching the final product and a behind-the-scenes documentary at the same time. What this does for the trailer, then, is create two stories that are running parallel with one another: the captured photography that’s obtained by setting up cameras in unforgiving climates and locations, and the narrative of how this guy is relentless in getting the shots he wants.

It’s the stuff, I realize, of many different nature documentaries that lull people into sleep but danger seems to lurk around every corner. This isn’t a pontoon going down the mighty Mississippi, this is the brutality of melting ice, cliffs that may or may not hold you, and storms that have killed lesser men.

I am awake.

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Trailer

This just doesn’t work.

Dick Caruthers, a director who worked extensively with Oasis in the day, and, more recently and importantly amiright, Michael Bublé, can’t work his magic on this. If he had, I wouldn’t wonder why this seems like a pastiche of unimpressive concert footage that seems more like a tired retrospective of some guys half assing it than it does a triumphant return to form.

And, make no mistake, there is no form here. The cuts are quick and sloppy, the energy that’s created isn’t being done through the magnificence of the remaining members of the band, and it’s only the ADD injected editing that tries to smoke and mirror us into thinking this was a concert for the ages. It’s not quite embarrassing but let’s call it for what it is: old guys making a go at it and who are showing their age. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that and this trailer wants to project something that isn’t there. Plant can’t rock like he did so don’t try and fool me with clever shots and sweeping camera movements.

It’s honestly a disappointing trailer that I thought would make me want to rush out and experience a moment in time. What it’s selling me, though, is a moment in time that’s long since passed. It’s not pathetic or sad, though, but don’t be clever with the bait and switch.

Split: A Deeper Divide Trailer

“I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. ‘I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.’ ‘I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.’ ‘Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding out both puppets!’ Shut up! Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control. Here’s Love Connection. Watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you fucking morons.” – Bill Hicks, ca. 1992

For anyone who holds dear to any one party’s ideology I applaud your resolve but know that there are people who understand that politics, American politics, is a shattered system of common faults and misdeeds. I love documentaries like this that show how our political system is an empty husk of what it once was, if ever it was, and the fervor that people have when it comes to their “special team.” I don’t think it’s off the mark to say that politicians are like professional athletes in that you care more about the team they’re on than they do. Have you seen politicians get into screaming matches, nearly get into fist fights, like this trailer shows? No, it’s theater and director Kelly Nyks is mounting  a campaign against it.

This trailer expertly shows the crevasse that exists between those who want to go toe to toe, literally, on this issue of who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” but I like that we slip and slide though these moments with political pundits who understand this game, who acknowledge this nuttiness. It’s also striking how it couches itself in a way that’s intellectual but states how it’s an examination of this process. Obviously, this is a documentary that isn’t talking about a Dateline NBC style murder plot gone wrong but with some voters feeling disenchanted with the political process this trailer makes a great case as to why this could help get deeper than just “moneyed interests” being a politicians’ main motivation. Cut both parties up and dissect them, it’s saying, and I couldn’t be more  thrilled at the prospect of getting down and dirty.

That’s What She Said Trailer

It’s nice to see Maeby Fünke back in the saddle with a few pictures coming out with her in them.

What I think is lost, though, in Alia Shawkat’s performance here is fundamental misunderstanding about what a red band trailer is supposed to be. What it is not, to begin, is license to swear without being amusing. To toss out ribald bon mots you’ve got to have the punch to back it up and either this fundamental lesson is lost to the editor of this trailer or there’s just no thought about flow and comedic timing, to say nothing but having a good handle on the audio mix.

Director Carrie Preston doesn’t really have control over how her movie is sliced and diced, I get that, but this marketing is doing her no favors. The scenes are allowed to breathe too long, the set ups and payoffs really don’t have a place in a trailer that ought to get down as to why I need to see this film. But I don’t need to see it, frankly, if this marketing piece wants to weave all over the road as it cuts in and out of situations that have no context. Either give me more, give me context but don’t go for the stutter stops that plagues this excuse of a Red Band trailer. Look to those who have done it right and steal their flow.

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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