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 noir out with our pistols out, visit a dank looking arcade in NYC, try and make a little sense of wars and their complicated effects, start feeling the holiday spirit bubble forth over our anti-Christian Starbucks cup, and then get to know one family and the matriarch who seems like a real gem.

The Lost Arcade Trailer

Loosey goosey.

What I love, whether you care to know or not, are intimate portraits of places. Now, intimate doesn’t mean it has to be serious but I love it when someone wants to discuss a certain place, a certain time, and contextualize it all for the rest of us. Case in point is the small documentary, The Most Insane Amusement Park Ever. It’s snappy, it’s tight, and does everything that a short film ought to do. That’s why I’m hoping the gnarled edges and loose vibe of director Kurt Vincent’s ode to a midnight arcade has that same staying power. As it stands, the trailer carries you exactly as it should through this story of a place that even though I’m unfamiliar with (I remember hearing about a dancing chicken somewhere in a past life) it’s still one of those things that yearns to be unfurled and examined. Of course, nothing about global warming will be solved here but as long as documentaries like this exist it’s a small, and welcomed, comfort.

Christmas, Again Trailer

cross /’kros/ n: a thing they nail people to.

I’m cynical and irascible.

I hate most things Christmas that are dipped in treacle and offered up like candied consumables for the eyes as it pertains to holiday films. I’m not a fan of Christmas Vacation, can’t really even get into It’s a Wonderful Life, even handicapping it for the time in which it was made still rings to me as disingenuous and false. But, that said, I love me some 24-hour marathoning of A Christmas Story and I do find the cockles of my heart warmed up by Bill Murray’s performance in Scrooged (the ending ending, ehh, I could take or leave). This is a long way of saying I’m all over the road with how I give my affections when it comes to holiday films and I’m giving it up to this one ever so slightly. Funnily enough, director Charles Poekel, cinematographer for the documentary that bowed this year, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, and was a producer on the wildly entertaining Fake It So Real, is making his feature debut with a movie that feels small yet, lack for a better word, sweet. There’s an odd tone that’s struck once we get its critical pedigree (smart choice in front loading that info) out of the way but that’s part of its charm. The theremin music, the gloomy tone, the gloomy tones, the gloomy people, it’s all a big win for me. While the production values are OK and the words coming out of people’s mouths are not having me mistake this for a David Mamet joint I’m nonetheless drawn in by what looks like an uncommon holiday yarn worth unraveling.

Tell Spring Not to Come This Year Trailer

This is what all the fighting has come to.

It’s been de rigueur in many of our precious skirmishes that involved heavy artillery, loss of life, and questionable motivations that once those conflicts were ended we left, usually keeping a mini base there as a memento, a reminder that we’ll roar back again with brand new guns a’blazin’ should we feel so inclined. The thing about what is happening in the Middle East is that we’ll eventually leave and the people who are left to fend for themselves now that there’s nothing separating warring factions or splinter groups vying for a taste of that sweet sweet nectar called a power vacuum. Directors Saeed Taji Farouky and Michael McEvoy are showing us the flip side to what that means to people who are now the ones to keep some semblance of peace in their region. The effects, as shown in this trailer, are nothing short of devastating and not conducive to the narrative that these are a people ready to forge their own path on their own. It’s nation building, it’s an examination into when an occupied country is no longer occupied, it’s about national identity, it’s about a lot of things that the trailer simply has no time to get into. What it does have the time to do is hit you between the eyes with why this is important. Mission accomplished.

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun Trailer

Moar, pls.

What swept me off my dainty little feet as I watched director Joann Sfar’s trailer for a noir thriller that feels genuinely electric is how well we drift through it. We’re not interested in knowing much about the story and, I would argue, it doesn’t matter much to know what’s afoot, as what we have here is a good reason to sit on our hands and just let the moments have their way with us. There are no words, just images. They dance and play with our imagination as we look to piece these things together to make this jumble somehow coherent. The shape never quite comes together but it’s a delicious collection of these small moments that gain heft and emotional resonance once things start revealing themselves in all their bloody glory. Lord knows we need more trailers like this and it’s quite possibly one of the best things I’ve seen all month.

A Family Affair Trailer

OK, fans of Sarah Polley, here’s one for you.

Before I jump into how wildly curious this trailer made me about an interesting woman who has a story to tell, I’ll wind things back about four years when director Tom Fassaert came out with a trailer for his movie, 2011’s An Angel in Doel. This was how the movie was sold to audiences and, as grim and as sad and as utterly morose the tone, you can see that there’s a story that is bursting to be told. Fast forward to four years later and even though the subject matter is a little more jaunty compared to that narrative, chills were literally produced involuntarily by the end of watching this trailer. Watching this, without knowing who the hell is who and initially wondering why you’re watching a documentary about an old fogey who has one foot in the grave already and wondering whether this is going to be some kind of celebration of life and all its mysteries, things take about as sharp a turn as one could. While we’re not talking about murder or espionage there is that thing you can sense when real human drama unfolds before you. Like a train that gains momentum everything that has come before it helps propel us forward in getting to know the players, the stakes, and what can only be described as the ultimate in eavesdropping on an entire life in a matter of seconds. I can’t tell you whether the cohesive whole can match the crushing emotion that is in display here but if you’re looking to hook someone with a bunch of no ones you could do no better than this. Heartbreaking.

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:

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