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?
More Than A Game Trailer
So, if you’re sitting in the front row when LeBron James tosses his rosin up in the air like some sort of ass clown who wants to have a gimmick, the white dust probably settling somewhere in your twelve dollar Budweiser bomber, are you supposed to feel honored that he’s doing it in your presence? Oddly, most people say yes, you are.
I’ve missed the LeBron boat somewhere but it’s not surprising considering my hobby is film and not hoops. I have a love for documentary filmmaking, though, and have a special affinity for Hoop Dreams, one of the best portraits of kids trying to make it big in the world of professional sports that has ever been put out for public consumption. This trailer, though, rivets as it equally delights.
The trailer gets right to it, no question. It showcases who the Chosen One is and intersperses images from the man he once was growing up. The use of technology to make 2D pictures separate so they look more fluid, animated works in the favor for a trailer that has to have the same explosiveness of an NBA game in order to get the right kind of viewer to pay for admission to see this. The generic techno, while a little on the stale side, has the right effect.
The cinematography is reminiscent of so many of the HBO films pieces that air about professional athletes: the edges are darkened, the colors saturated. The tone shifts, the music slides into a piano solo as we get glimpses into LeBron and those who lived the dream in his orbit. The guys he played with are neatly packaged into these few second clips as characters completely unto themselves. They’re fascinating. Using photos, videos, voiceovers from people who lived it, it becomes something more than a documentary when you see that LeBron was the only one to get through it all but kudos to the trailer makers who don’t just focus on LeBron. We get a real story here about a team of players who were a family.
This is a portrait of a athletic artist as a young man who would grow up to be king of Cleveland but, as the trailer goes, this is not just about him, it’s about his friends, his teammates.
The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life (Le premier jour du reste de ta vie) Trailer
Look, I understand the idea of modesty.
Being modest only works when you’re surrounded by others and are mindful not to put on airs so people don’t think you’re a stuck-up twat. So, when you’ve made a film and you want people to watch what you’ve created the worst thing you can do is put the fact you’ve won three French Academy Awards at the ass end of the trailer.
This is the trouble with film marketing by those who don’t understand to accentuate the very thing that would make people want to see it. The film’s director, Rémi Bezançon, has made a multi-generational, layered story that tracks the lives of more than just a few people, which could be overwhelming if it weren’t for the great opening of this trailer. You have a sensitive, patriarchal man (a rarity in cinema when you consider how many guys proclaim the love for their children and then get labeled as femme or somehow less of man) who in the very next scene is slapping the crap out of his kid. It’s a dichotomy to be sure, but it intrigues me.
What’s more is the way, temporally, this movie splays itself out for examination. You have parents and their kids who are all focused on, there appears to be five different story lines happening at once, but, in addition to them, we see the father himself having issues with his own dad. The soundtrack is subdued, sweet, as the trailer really kicks up the narrative a little around the minute mark. We get a glimpse into the life of the father who just lays into his old man as we get our conventional distant male stalwart in the form of grandpa.
I don’t know why this trailer just works but as a family drama there haven’t been many American ones as of late. The examination of the family is one, I understand, can’t compete with Iron Man or the latest thriller starring Clive Owen but this trailer is imbued with something intangible, special. It makes you feel that foreigners aren’t so sociologically different than our own.
While I do take exception with this trailer’s ending, the music abruptly stops and we are tossed out the nugget this has won a couple of awards like an afterthought, the trailer genuinely inspires desire to see how this all falls apart only to come together again.
The Horse Boy Trailer
I don’t know the particulars of autism.
I realize I should not fill in the gaps of my knowledge of the world with what a film tells me but a trailer like this only serves to show brief flashes of reality which might help me understand life around me a little better. To that point, I believe a good documentary should inform and provide good context but this trailer comes raring right out of the gate at frame 1.
As anyone with small kids should know, and contrary to popular culture/what you think you yourself want, it isn’t about whether you have a boy or a girl someday. These things become irrelevant when you consider what you hope for your kids at the base level when they enter the world: health. You want them to be free of the chains that would make their lives difficult but, as we hear producer Rupert Isaacson tell it in the voiceover, sometimes the very hard times come and they don’t let up.
We meet Rowan Isaacson in a sad state: crying, yelling, thrashing, and in the very throes of what will be diagnosed as autism. The next scene that shows which film festivals this movie has played at helps to assuage me for better or worse that this film has something to say that people are responding to. Our narrator Rupert gets into the miserable experience of trying to understand this condition labeled autism only to find constant conflict with the available research and information about it.
The personal narrative continues and I’m fascinated when we get to the bit that the kid happened to have a breakthrough with a horse. The horse seemed to do something and immediately we’re off to an adventure in Mongolia where Rupert believes some real healing can take place. I’m hooked as I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Equine therapy? For reals, yo?
Yes, it is nutty, and he even acknowledges the insanity of doing so just at the time when we’re shown this film is inspired by the New York Times bestseller that he obviously had a hand in creating. This is marketing brilliance, for those keeping score, as we are exactly 1 minute into the trailer and the guy has made a sale based on who has liked it, who has read it, who has heralded it, and providing a compelling first 60 seconds of video.
The 2nd half is filled with the director wondering aloud about his own choice to take this journey to help his son, the mother right along with second guessing as well, but I’ll be damned if the footage of the boy looking like they were right, also showing how they might have been wrong, isn’t enough to pull at anyone’s sense of compassion for a family like this.
Ghost In The Shell 2.0 Trailer
This is burnt-out-husk-of-a-civilization done right.
One thing that you can say about director Mamoru Oshii and writer Kazunori Itô is that they are responsible for a lot of bad tattoos and even worse T-shirts that many an emo kid have adorned their body with since Ghost In The Shell came out almost 15 years ago. The movie set into motion, I would posit, an avalanche of interest in the market of anime and for good reason as well. The movie blended a tough cyberpunk world with images and themes that were breathtakingly vivid. While the movie would splinter off into various forms this 2.0 version looks to recapture and add to what made the first film great.
Now, while I appreciate the idea that this series deals with the lines between technology and humanity I do have to say listening to the old fogie narrating the intro to this is much like listening to The Architect in the Matrix sequel: hoity-toity, superficially verbose for reasons we don’t completely understand, and a little into his own self-importance. I get it, the movie’s plugged in to something wonderful, we suck as human beings, but I am thrilled, however, at the undercurrent that builds up as we launch into what is…another really bad voiceover. We’re ostensibly here to see what has been added to the original but the guy honestly c-blocks that attempt.
Seriously, I’m trying to just admire the classic landscapes and the lush imagery on display but Mr. Don LaFontaine Lite bleeds out of my stereo speakers and ruins the user experience. The cityscape still looks wonderfully crafted as I feel transported back to all those years ago when I watched it the first time. James Cameron tosses out a plug for the film, and I laugh a little bit when the quote mentions he’s the director of Avatar, an interesting choice for a movie that hasn’t come out. The action sequences on display, though, are the real treat. Instead of the heavy CGI’d films that have come out in this genre in the last few years this film feels weighty with the traditional animation that was used here as it blends the new elements with the old.
The trailer does what it is supposed to do: sell me on the idea that this is a new interpretation of the original film. But for a trailer that makes me want to buy the Blu-ray it could have done a lot better than this.
The Messenger Trailer
If you get the opportunity to watch Taking Chance with Kevin Bacon I would absolutely recommend that as required viewing. This movie? Not so much.
I don’t know why this trailer gets it wrong but the opening sequence feels hurried, possesses no real emotional weight when there really ought to be some. Woody Harrelson is on the screen and the guy is virtually a human pogo stick as he stands on a stranger’s front stoop, looking around like he’s strung out on meth, ready to commit a home invasion. I guess this is a story about those who have to go to people’s homes and let them know their loved ones have died in combat but there’s an unnecessary attitude here.
Ben Foster plays the young padawan to Woody’s psychotic, scarred up older mentor in all things bad news but the relationship really feels false. Foster is lectured on the parameters on how to notify individuals of an armed service member’s passing but to mention that he shouldn’t tell a friend (OK, I get that), neighbor (Sure, I’m with you), or mistress (What the hell, Woody?). Seriously, a mistress? Is there a joke in there I’m supposed to laugh at? Some gallows humor? It’s not funny and I’m just thrown off this film’s intent as the trailer mentions all the festivals it has played at, and it’s an impressive list to be sure, and Willie Nelson’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” plays in the background.
The next scene we’re given, where Samantha Morton goes in the exact opposite route of everyone else and seems at ease with the fatal news they bring, just doesn’t inspire a need to spend money to see how things play out. Woody has the hackneyed hard-ass army man down, with Foster playing the unsure and sensitive onlooker, but there’s nothing here. Until, that is, when Foster gets involved with Morton. This is the real meaty part of the trailer but it’s overlooked, obfuscated in lieu of showing a deeper relationship between Harrelson and Foster.
I’m not any smarter about what this movie is supposed to be about by the end of this thing, and even though I see glimmers about what all the fantastic quotes are supposed to be praising, there’s not enough for me to care as much.
In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:
- Bad Lieutenan: Port of Call New Orleans Trailer – I happen to think this could actually be an interesting performance opportunity for Nic Cage and the trailer bears this out. It doesn’t feel like your average cop film and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Domestic Trailer – You know that feeling you get when you genuinely want to see a movie after seeing a film’s trailer? This one has it as it is brimming with brilliance, spectacle, and a keen eye towards selling something worth getting excited over.
- Red Cliff Trailer - You’ve got drums, martial arts, fireballs, epic battle sequences, a pulsating score, and doves. I haven’t been this excited about a John Woo movie since, well, never.
- Shutter Island Trailer #2 - Hey! Where’s my version of the trailer that told me everything and essentially made it so I only have to step into the theater a 1/2 hour before it’s done to see how it shakes out? Oh yeah, this is a new one.
- Up In The Air Trailer – One of the best trailers I’ve seen this year. It sticks with you for the reason I gave during the /Filmcast: I could listen to Clooney read the bible with that voice of his.
- Tooth Fairy Trailer – Shame on everyone in this thing, especially you Stephen Merchant, for seeing Malibu beach home payments with they paychecks they took for a wretched looking movie.
- The Crazies Trailer – This trailer is catching a lot of flack for using the cover of ‘Mad World’ that was used in Donnie Darko and to that I say pshaw! I don’t think this movie will be able to deliver on a solid trailer but, if it can, it will be a thrilling film.
- The Revenant Trailer – Great concept and the trailer hits the right beats with what they needed to do with it. It promises a funny/crazy ride but I’m unsure whether it can go the full distance.