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?

Stake Land Trailer

Jim Mickle isn’t a name many should know but you’ve got to admit this guy has something worth being aware of after seeing this trailer.

This all feels like a cross between The Road and Salem’s Lot. Vampire films, for me, have been played out well before James Woods starred the most unlikely middle aged blood sucker hunter in Vampires. (Although, to be fair, he really took that whole walking away stridently from a massive explosion while still trying to look cool to a whole new level.) So, it takes a little more than a glitter dusted man boy who fights with werewolves to blow my skirt up. Let The Right One In and Thirst are some great examples of movies that take a more measured approach to the genre and have drawn me back in and this one just feels like a fun diversion, maybe even being excellent.

A movie like this can be downright glorious if you know going in what you’re getting and, I would assert, this trailer makes it clear about the movie it’s selling. While the whole first fifty seconds is a little laborious and cheese ball with its dialogue choices it nonetheless establishes the narrative well enough and we’re given a solid footing in this world. The first real glimpse we get of the vampires is a good one and, ramping up from here,  it all feels like a roller coaster going over the crest as soon as we get the award it received up in Toronto and a quick quote that establishes a little critical pedigree.

I’m surprised at the amount of restraint in not showing more of the action in this movie and it’s either real smart as what we have is enough to classify it as a tease or it’s because the effects aren’t that good and they don’t want to show their hand. I’m apt to go with the former and discount the latter because of what’s here.

It’s dystopian and burnt out and there’s nothing more thrilling than to know this battle is being waged out in the open with people who have no home to hide in or vault to shield them. It could be just the kind of mid-afternoon snack that could tide me over until we get another highfalutin vampire movie that changes the paradigm yet again.

Pina Trailer

Wim Wenders coming back into my life after delivering such a punch to the gut as Wings of Desire did is such a welcome feeling. Since I’m not livin’ on Front Street and have no compunction about being completely honest, admitting right now I didn’t come to Wings until I saw the video for U2′s “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” in 1993. That chance video and my interest in knowing more about why someone was just hanging out on a statue pushed me into Wenders’ vision and it’s brought me here now.

Long gone are the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers but watching what’s happening here it feels like West Side Story meets Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice.” Out of the box, the trailer just comes at you and doesn’t relent. The amusing thing about promos that want to sell you on its story or on its style sacrifice either words or narrative development in order for little moments to happen before your eyes or to lay clues about where things are going. Sometimes it’s tantalizing and sometimes it’s aggravating. Here, though, it’s ocular jazz.

There are weird things happening here, no question. I don’t blame you if you point a finger and yell “Pretentious!” as loud as you can. However, it ought to become clearer and clearer as we progress that this doesn’t feel like a filmmaker trying to assert their weirdness. Rather, as we see the motions and fluidity of the body you can see there is an artistry happening.

A blend of modern dance, ballet, theater, and the kinds of things usually restricted to a blackened stage, all out in the open. The blend of the real and the choreographed is jarring but it’s so completely satisfying.

Postscript: For those who would like to know who Pina Bausch is, she’s the name we see that this film is dedicated to, and why she would be singled out it seems she is credited for helping to bring tanztheather, a style of dance that was started almost a century ago in Wenders’ home country. If you really want to go the distance with this trailer slip on over to this clip and see how dance and narrative collide in a transfixing fashion.

Sound It Out Trailer

This previous Saturday was Record Store Day. For those of us who couldn’t tell you where the nearest record store even is within fifteen to twenty miles of their home without naming locations that end in Buy or Mart this is a problem to some degree.

A trailer like this, coming from Jeanie Finlay who directed the fun documentary Goth Cruise some years ago, reminds you of the things that are slowly dying away. It’s like watching visual entropy happen right before us, knowing full well while it’s great to have these kinds of stores, with the advent of the disappearance of physical media and the rise of awful bit rates that people have deemed acceptable. It’s the natural order of things and this trailer gets out of the way of selling and just allows you to see what’s happening in this one record shop, the last of its kind in Teesside, England.

However, it’s representative as a whole with regard to the notion of record stores slowly shuttering for good, and to hear and take in the sights and smells of the place we’re settling into it’s quite quaint. As you see the plastic sleeves covering the LPs, the bent and faded handwritten cardboard signs that pepper the record store, to hear our owner Tom talk about the meaning within music, it all adds to the engagement with the audience to the material that’s being presented.

It’s the oddballs we meet, the owner showing disdain for certain types of music but is carrying it anyway just because it’s financially prudent to do so, the people asking questions as if everyone should know what they’re talking about based on vague pieces of information, the loveable weirdos who know record collecting is a unique thing to be into, that show you how powerful these places really are.

I would also implore you, if for nothing else, to fast forward to 2:08. It made me smile and made me realize that I miss this kind of personality when I shop somewhere. It’s become so cold and clinical out there in the retail space that you hardly remember that things like this really endeared you to record shops, for those of us who remember having a favorite one. It should depress you even further knowing your kids won’t ever know the joy of flipping through CD/LP bins or being turned on to something you may never have heard of just by random chance. This trailer brings all those memories to the surface and, honestly, makes me a little sad.

I have no idea where Teesside, North East England is but I’d love to spend an afternoon in that place, no question, after seeing this trailer.


Pleasant People Trailer

I’m not going to purport, claim, or otherwise suppose to know how awesome director/writer/editor/sous chef David Bonawits is at his job but I do know I really like this trailer.

The best way I can describe how good this thing is that it feels like the physical manifestation of what that first cup of coffee on a Sunday morning, when you’re just sitting on the couch, waking up with the paper, your junk hanging out of your boxers (or your cooter, I’m equal opportunity here), just easing into a comfortable sense of well being and relaxation.

As well, I don’t know Jiyoung Lee from anything she’s been in but she’s excellent for the time that we get with her. She’s a little vulnerable and high on shyness. Those are intoxicating qualities for a leading lady in my book and she’s not an affected musician as we see so many times represented in film. She’s someone who still has the love in her soul for music, and that shines right through in the opening measures of this trailer. We get glimpses of various moments in this woman’s life and they vary wildly; what we lack in narrative structure, then, we get in character. There is no way to tell what any of these moments mean but they do tease us to wonder a little more.

But that’s the other thing. We start jamming on the information super highway doing 55 and then all of a sudden a brick wall pops up from out of nowhere. We slam hard into nothingness and, to me, it was jarring. It’s like it simply ceases to be with a snap of a finger. If you’re gonna go through the trouble to make me like this girl at least have the decency to have everything fade away slowly so I can miss her.

Firewall of Sound Trailer

Almost as a companion piece to the Sound It Out trailer above, this is a documentary that couldn’t be more timely. In fact, head on over to this handy chart to show you how much music your favorite artist needs to sell in order to make minimum wage as this could help to act as a primer for a very vicious debate.

In an age where it is impossible, physically impossible, to keep up with the bands that all hit SXSW this past year, to know that you simply do not have the time to keep up with all the great bands playing out there thanks to all the free ways you consume your aural delights, this trailer lays out the problem facing the music industry.

Director Devin DiMattia can at least be credited with striking while the iron is white hot when it comes to showcasing outlets that allow you to stream your music, put your music in the cloud, wirelessly zap it to any room in your house, or stick it on a device and play it directly through your car speakers. Within seconds he breaks down any confusion about what we’re doing here. Chris Anderson’s Long Tail statistical supposition couldn’t be better realized than within the first twenty seconds of this trailer.

What’s more, the trailer does a lot to entice you with the idea of what it means to be a music consumer in this country in 2011 as the ideas expressed will no doubt seem outmoded and dated if we were to stick this in a vault and wait five years. It really is the Old West right now on the Internet and that chaos is wonderfully captured with the ideas expressed.

Oddly, however, the music bed chosen behind all these ideas is woefully picked. I don’t know if it came from a box labeled 1001 Royalty Free Musical Trailer Clips but the sound seems washed out and muddled in the background. I understand there is a certain finesse to these things but even lowly filmmakers who ought to know better sometimes lift samples of tunes they’re not compensating anyone for but I get it.

In all, this is a trailer that presents a great idea and message, with it leaving the viewer hungry to hear a good state of the union with regard to music. While it’s not doing anything beyond that presentation it’s nonetheless worthy enough to get a little notice.

UPDATE: I may have been alluding to the fact that Devin didn’t get permission to use the music he did in his trailer. I apologize for not being clearer in what I meant and that is some filmmakers/editors use snappier music than what’s chosen here. He did get permission to use the song selection. I stand by, though, that the music is still muddled and is lost within the contents of this trailer.

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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