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 James Franco helps put on our smart hat, we see life meet art meet satire, we shakedown some bankers who are wankers, see what Napoleon Dynamite is doing with the Rubber man, and take an interest in a world that’s getting hungry.
The Emperor’s New Clothes Trailer
There’s something fundamental about this.
Director Michael Winterbottom, who last graced this column no less than a couple of weeks ago, is back once more with a documentary that has Russell Brand at its epicenter playing a latter-day, millennial version of Michael Moore, a la Rodger & Me, as he takes on the fiscal stalwarts of London. It’s all very cheeky but he does bang that gong that many of us have been hearing ever since the housing meltdown exposed the tender underbelly of a system that is built on greed, obfuscation, misdirection, and lies. The trailer does a wonderful job in keeping things high level and going on jags that are already part of our parlance (The rich get richer…, It’s tough to make a living if you’re not part of the 1%…, Life is hard enough…) and the personal vignettes are a nice diversion from the ambushing and sand punching that is Brand going into banking lobbies looking to speak to the spineless weasels who would like to tell you all about free market economics but who were the first people in line when it came to financial bailouts. It’s a good reminder of a system that is playing with house money and that this isn’t a free enterprise, it’s a casino and the house never loses.
What can you say that the trailer cannot?
Director Quentin Dupieux has a view of the world that is built on the kind of bon mots that have no punchline. They’re just simply there and they hang in the ether just long enough to make us wonder what it is that we’re consuming with our eyes and what aural message it’s sending to our brains. I’m incapable of assessing a trailer that has a structure that seems to make sense if you give into its sensibilities, at which point it becomes a race to pick apart its many oddities and find a cogent narrative within it. I’m sold on Dupieux’ ability to get these kinds of films, films that let ids run wild like horses that can’t be tamed, actually made and into the ecosystem so it’s more about being fascinated by how he filters his own reality through a lens that makes enough sense to him much less anyone else.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence Trailer
Go get yourself in front of You, the Living and Songs From the Second Floor.
Roy Andersson’s other two films in this series play like Gregory Crewdson portraits come to life in a David Mamet play. There’s something wonderfully delicious about how well composed and framed these moments are here. There are elements of the bizarre and are tableau-like in their weight while being pretty funny in the process. There’s nothing beyond just establishing this world’s boundaries and what it considers normal in this trailer but in that translation there’s a dance happening before our eyes as we follow its lead, and are lead, down a path that doesn’t end anywhere satisfactory. But, that’s OK. That’s this trailer’s charm and why it’s probably the most unlikely candidate as one of the best trailers I’ve seen all week.
10 Milliarden Trailer
This is for all you concerned about the environment.
With water restrictions killing what little patch of green turf you called a lawn in California, director Valentin Thurn has composed this documentary in the vein of activist filmmaking that has been de rigueur with people who have made some slanted gems like Outfoxed and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. What caught my eye though is the subject matter and how we’re approaching the future with regard to our food supply. The material might not be scintillating, and the German makes it a little difficult to get past (American is spoken a little bit further into this thing) but there’s no question that getting an outsider’s perspective on something like this could be educational if not compelling.
I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel Trailer
I genuinely miss college.
One thing that you can never say about James Franco is how limited his interests are. The man toils in so many mediums that you never know what might strike his fancy at any given moment. Here, though, his inner director takes over for a movie about a very specific conversation. It’s the kind of polemic that you imagine happening between your older, wiser self after you graduated college and your favorite professor from back in the day, the latter of who seemingly spent their entire existence in servitude of raw knowledge, of those theorists who navel gazed the hell out of their subject matter to the point where you couldn’t begin to tell where their stream of consciousness started and what in the hell their point even was to begin with. This movie cannot be understood merely by the trailer. Here, though, is a description of the book on which the movie is based:
Caleb Powell always wanted to become an artist, but he overcommitted to life (he’s a stay-at-home dad to three young girls), whereas his former professor David Shields always wanted to become a human being, but he overcommitted to art (he has five books coming out in the next year and a half). Shields and Powell spend four days together at a cabin in the Cascade Mountains, playing chess, shooting hoops, hiking to lakes and an abandoned mine; they rewatch My Dinner with André and The Trip, relax in a hot tub, and talk about everything they can think of in the name of exploring and debating their central question (life and/or art?): marriage, family, sports, sex, happiness, drugs, death, betrayal—and, of course, writers and writing.
Yes, there is limited appeal here. However, this limited appeal is only subject to how much you appreciated long talks about the meaning of things, of life, and remove any morsel of pop culture fluffery out of the conversation. I’m bemused, interested, and find a certain nostalgia to wanting to know how this movie will play with me, being removed from academia going on 16 years. Hopefully there is still an ember of curiosity within me that would find these conversations engaging, not blowhardy.
This, a short from director/writer Johnnie Hobbs caught my attention and I simply had to share. To wit, here’s some context:
One car. One song. “Redding” is set in the idealistic world of Russell, who believes manhood, loyalty and honor are dead and gone.
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 or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp
In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:
- Dope Trailer – Feels fresh, exciting, and something completely different.
- Jimmy’s Hall Trailer – Spartan but effective.
- The Casual Vacancy Trailer – About as bland and as straightforward as one could get.
- Southpaw Trailer – The narrative feels well-trodden and uninspiring.
- Terminator: Genisys Trailer – Terrible. Nothing, positively nothing, worthy of spending my hard earned summer tent pole fund on.
- Spectre Trailer – So much promise. Delicious.
- Shooting Clerks Trailer – Maybe I don’t get it, but I don’t get it.
- Masterminds Trailer – Disappointed.
- Spy Trailer – Where the hell was this the first go-around? So much of an improvement over the first trailer.
- Mad Max: Fury Road Trailer – !
- The D Train Trailer – Not sure I even get what’s going on here.
- The 33 Trailer – Could be great if it steers away from bombastic displays of emotion which pop up here every now and then.
- The Prophet Trailer – Interesting.
- The Gift Trailer – Eerie.
- Poltergeist Trailer #2 – An improvement on the first trailer but this feels like all the money shots crammed into one promo.
- Amy Trailer – Stark, real, and poignant.
- Survivor Trailer – Dumb and forgettable.