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?

The Awakening Trailer

I’ve found my attention drifting when it comes to what I find interesting in horror films nowadays.

My definition has grown looser over time, finding greater pleasure in films that want to bring something thrilling, something scary without being ostentatiously gory about it. I can only assume that this feeling of mine is a reaction to bloody affairs that grew more and more obnoxious with the amount of red syrup flowing across the screen.

Director Nick Murphy, who I can only tie back to a couple of episodes of Primeval, and whose resume looks heavily stacked in favor of documentaries, has made a period piece that mixes in the paranormal in an interesting way.  To be sure, this trailer is a slow burn but with a thinly veiled conceit of a ghost story that supposes an expert in all things specters is also a non-believer it sets up something fairly standard. Peter Vincent being one such recent example of a character that we see here but there’s something interesting about this woman, this situation.

The idea that we’re now ghost hunting without nary a television camera or infrared  is a bit thrilling, to be honest. I like that things are kind of kept vague about what’s happening or the way things are going to go. It would be easy to spoil the little nuances of what can make a good, taut thriller but what’s here isn’t explained or hinted at about what the hell is going on. There are some good setups about what we can expect and what might be, but the real pleasure is seeing that this movie is going to live or die by how well Rebecca Hall can pull off being in a large manse with nothing but bumps in the night to keep her up. I’m hopeful.

Perfect Sense Trailer

Back in the beginning of the year we showcased the first iteration of this trailer. While it’s true that the version that came out in January didn’t quite get it right, I would assert that this is leaps ahead of that one.

The main difference between that version and this one is that this iteration weighs the story of how these two people’s loves are separate before showing how they come together. So, whereas the one from months ago made you wonder what in the hell is happening this trailer builds those stories up before merging them together. It certainly is a lot cleaner, from a narrative standpoint, and director David Mackenzie’s vision is a lot better communicated as we barrel through getting to know the key players.

And, yes, there does seem to be a treacle-ly love story in the midst of a Contagion-like disaster movie but I’m actually pretty OK with it. I’m usually the first one to call B.S. when something just doesn’t feel right but this trailer really does balance the needs of those looking for a disaster movie with those who wouldn’t mind seeing a little bit of love go down while Rome is burning.

For all the stumbling that the first trailer did this version was able to go back, regroup, redefine what it wanted to present and for that I think it deserves praise for being not only compelling but being a lot more clear in putting its best face forward.

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! Trailer

My problem with the modern political process isn’t apathy, it’s that I know what’s going on. Politics seems no longer concerned about pushing forward with the democratic process. It’s about jockeying for position, gaining status, keeping your job, toting the party line regardless of whether something make sense on either side of the line. This trailer, though, is naked in its lust to take aim at Sarah Palin.

Director Nick Broomfield, who made the controversial Kurt & Courtney and the awful Biggie and Tupac, looks like he’s solely on a mission to make Palin look like a bit of a dope. While I’m kind of blase on the whole notion of whether she’s as vapid as the media makes her out to be, this documentary has the air of something like Roger & Me in its tone, and for that it’s pretty satisfying as far as trailers go.

It’s all very clandestine, trying to get an interview with Palin, a 1:1, and the trailer does more than a great job in showing a side of her that isn’t her polished media profile would have you believe it is. However, you can also tell there is a bias here in the way the story is being told, what facts are being put out there, and it’s obvious.

That said, I think anyone looking for a tabloid expose on the ins and outs of this political figurine and her rise to, almost, the greatest office in the land would be worth a spin if only to get a better understanding on how someone so electric in galvanizing audiences could be so flawed. I think anyone put to a microscope could have the very worst said about them but, again, when politicians want to put out a polished version of the super them there is something delicious about pulling back that curtain and seeing what’s really behind it.

American Teacher Trailer

I’ll admit that it was only after hearing Matt Damon get a little bothered with a reporter did I investigate this movie a little more.

Academy Award winning director Vanessa Roth, who won with a short subject documentary about the fight of one policewoman who tries to ensure her pension goes to her same sex partner, decided to follow up four years later with a movie about teachers.

The trailer couldn’t be less concerned with making a flashy impact, the best it can do is dig up some black and white file footage of a huge blast that coincides with a joke that seems on par with what you would expect from a school’s science teacher, but that’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK as what we’re here to really focus on is the content. Here, we learn about the teacher who has to spend out of her own pocket just to ensure her class has the materials they need (I, myself, know more than one teacher who has done this) and the teachers who are more than qualified for their positions but are in it because they love what they do.

That’s about when the facts start punching you in the face. The rate of burnout, the long hours, the nights spent grading tests, the second jobs that many of these teachers have to take in order to make it, the honesty of one man who talks about what being a provider means in this country and the effects of what it means when you cannot. The trailer seems like an indie version of Waiting for Superman as there aren’t any fancy graphs or pie charts, there are just stories and emotions of what it’s like to be a teacher at this point in our history. Ah, but there’s one graph that’s interesting and that’s the one that shows up around 2:05. It’s equally disappointing and disgusting but I imagine people just shrugging saying, “Well, whadda gonna do?”

It just seems like one of those unpleasant, yet life affirming, narratives that will reinforce the notion that these individuals need to be better taken care of. The trailer doesn’t want to bum you out it seems, but, rather, it wants to elevate the conversation to one of looking at these stories as we ask ourselves, “What can we be doing better?”

Scalene Trailer

A few months ago, I showcased a trailer for this film and was left wondering what to make of the movie.

Director Zack Parker is back with a proper trailer and a peek at newly minted Emmy winner, Margo Martindale, in a role that seems unnerving and a role that is best suited for her talents.

Whereby the trailer wants to try and tell a story about a girl who wants to be a sitter for a man who is suffering from a brain injury, the real focus is Margo as the mother of a boy who needs the kind of attention that she just cannot give alone. While there is a real flow from setting up the narrative to essentially pull you into what ought to be the real meat of the movie there is just something about seeing Martindale here weave in and out of these scenes with equal parts hysteria and exhaustion.

The girl who plays the caregiver role, Hanna Hall, doesn’t really have much to give here in the trailer until we see her reflective and lacking an emotive vibe as she takes a drag off a cigarette. See, hers is a character that seems wild eyed and eager to please in the beginning only to become something else entirely by the time we get to the end. I’m not sure what that is all supposed to mean but I can tell you that in the realm of independent movies, any natural talent to restrain one’s self from revealing too much about the story for sake of trying to make it perfectly clear what the story is about ought to be celebrated.

Certainly with a talent as strong as Martindale there is the hint, the promise, that if nothing else there will be one actor who is bringing their best stuff to the field. Based on what’s here it looks like there’s more than enough reason to believe it.

Tokyo Slo-Mode

There’s just something about this trailer-length video that c0mpelled me to share.

I heard about this and just watching it I was put under a hypnotic spell by its artistry. It’s the trailer to a documentary that you wish existed if for no other reason than you would be exposed to a side of Japan, visually, you’ve never seen before. Alex Lee, the creator of this video, no doubt appears to be someone experimenting with perspective and filters and trying out different speeds to capture a moment, a people, but there’s something special here. Special enough for me to share with the rest of you.

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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