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?

Balls + Heart: Director Stephen Reedy In One Minute Or Your Money Back Trailer

If nothing else, it’s worth it to see Shia LaBeouf drop a little profanity.

I’ve got zero pull to get anyone employment in my life outside of movie marketing criticism much less within the entertainment industry but, for the love of all that’s holy in this world, someone needs to give this man some work.

About four and a half years ago I wrote about one of the best trailers to drop in 2006: Smokin’ Aces. This trailer was, and still is, the perfect distillation of hyper realism, medical grade razor sharp editing, keen storytelling, all wrapped in a fleshy burrito of fun. Although there are a great number of worthy equals, it simply doesn’t get better for an action film than this trailer in the way it gives so much of its running time to setting up the story but around the minute mark it just explodes into complete anarchy. The way America, God, and Joe Carnahan, intended.

Along those lines, then, comes this trailer which is essentially a personal sizzle reel that I am hoping anyone in a hiring capacity can look inside the charred remains of their blackened heart and give this man a ring-y ding-y. Now, I wouldn’t be stumping for this man if this thing wasn’t the bee’s knees because it is ferocious in its aggressiveness and humor.

The thing that kept me coming back and weighing whether or not to include it is that this man has some serious skill at crafting a trailer. Using unconnected bits from short pieces he’s had a hand in and making them all seem connected through the use of thoughtful editing is the mark of someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Of the countless trailers for a single feature, no one has come close this week in matching the energy and gonzo ethos of great works like Stephen has. This is why I do what I do and why someone needs to let him continue what he does.

I may not know what in the hell is happening in all these separate pieces of film but who cares, it’s the end of the world in this trailer and Stephen is wheeling out all the conventions we’ve all grown to love in great previews as of late: operatic vocals that verge on screaming, nominations for things to show what kind of cred it possesses, and, of course, lens flares. It feels like it’s all over the board but there is an overriding focus to this thing and that’s to show the obnoxiousness of what is possible when someone already is in on the joke of what you need to do to promote your film and just abuses the system while doing it. Lord, bless this man. No one, it seems, can be bothered to do a favor for anyone anymore without expecting something in return so here’s hoping some genuinely good karma is headed his way.

Like I said, the man has deep skill. And, even if you’re not in the market to hire the guy, check out Shia Home Invasion. It’s better than Transformers 3 at a fraction of the running time and at zero the cost.

Chasing Madoff Trailer

You can’t really judge a book by its cover but if you were to simply go off of director Jeff Prosserman’s first major league effort, Snapped from 2005, you would have thought that his talents wouldn’t be good enough for South Beach, much less another feature length film.

Lucky for him, Jeff thought that the whole Bernie Madoff kerfuffle might make for some good material. In the wake of such heavyweights as Inside Job there is still more to be said about what this economic meltdown has done to our country and why those at the top not only were saved by taxpayers but are now still living the kind of life you and I helped bankroll. The trailer here, though, gets you riled up on its own. It does its job so well that you forget that Bernie is comfortably numb inside a locked cage and makes you want to grab a pitchfork to do some lynchin’ of some kind.

Yes, the man of the hour, Harry Markopolos, is a little too dramatic with his retelling of the series of events as they unfolded but the editing here is clean, crisp, and doesn’t relent for a moment in giving up the momentum it’s trying to create. The animation, file footage, and sweeping camera angles are a bit overly dramatic but I get it. It’s trying to sex up what is really a very basic mathematical equation of see money, take money. Either way, I’m completely in because if you, for more than five minutes, try to wrap your mind around the debt ceiling and what that ultimately means to you and why everyone is bickering about it, and you’ve never taken so much as an economics class in college like me, you need a little sizzle on that steak. Thankfully, there seems to be some here.

Hell And Back Again Trailer

There’s at least one thing that director Danfung Dennis have in common: we both love Frontline. He was a camera operator on an episode and I’m just a fan of the series on PBS. It looks like Danfung has taken a page out of Frontline’s rich and engaging library of programs dedicated to showing different angles of this war we’re in overseas and has made his own.

What I like in this trailer, though, is that it does not want to sell at all. It does not want to adhere to the conventions of normal movie marketing by having some kind of narrative element to sell an audience on your idea. Instead we’re given a scene and that’s more than enough to get your attention and give you an inkling about whether this brand of beverage is right for you.

Restrepo succeeded last year, I would assert, because it got out of the way of narrative storytelling. By this I don’t mean that there wasn’t a story, because there was, but that the movie was more interested in dealing with the real issues of when boots hit the ground. It didn’t want to tell the left and right side of what we think is really going on, it wanted to tell exactly what was going on however mundane or intense it could get. It stands as a great documentary and that’s what we’re getting here.

Raw footage of a firefight, captured in such clarity that it cuts through the usual shoddy quality of video cameras that usually capture these things, safe angles from up high that don’t really communicate the front line intensity that this does. The confusion, the yelling, the uncertainty of what the hell is even going on, it succinctly depicts what it’s like to be in the center of a bullet-ridden maelstrom. At the thirty second mark you get a keen idea of just what these men and women have to endure as the world gets even more hazy and the outcome becomes unclear. For those who think that there are too many documentaries dealing with the war I say there can’t be enough and anything that brings the intensity of what is happening across the sea is a welcome gift if only to appreciate what these soldiers are seeing and feeling.

Booked Out Trailer

Consider this a lift. You know, like when you lace your fingers together and make a palm basket as you crouch down in order to boost someone upward?

It’s just inspiring to see first time directors like Bryan O’Neil make something that feels original in tone and execution, not so much technically but in that sense of wanting to tell a unique story with a fresh twist, that isn’t weighted down with subtext. It literally is a boy meets girl film with various objects in its orbit but the core attraction here is how it sets everything in motion.

The trailer is complex but yet it isn’t if that makes any sense at all. When we come upon these two young people it’s apparent that they’ll eventually come together but it’s the introduction of Anne Hathaway’s doppelganger, actress Claire Garvey, that sends this story into flux. Just as you think it’s going to be a story dealing with these two nutty art kids, Claire rolls up without so much as an explanation of how she fits into the narrative. However, her presence and lack of explanation draws you further into this trailer, I would assert.

So, just as you get comfortable thinking you’ve got this all sorted out with the threesome the clips that follow tweak your expectations a little in the way it implies that the boy and girl we’re introduced to at the beginning are going to be the ones who end up together; it suggests, but never confirms, the suspicion.

I happen to like small and quirky. With points added as a handicap for this being this guy’s first film, the trailer gets kudos simply for rising above the noise of uninspired marketing. I want to get to know these people a little more and the fact that they’re not hot off a runway shoot, these actors seem genuine and honest. I appreciate that more than if you had this movie stocked with the latest IT couple; these kids have to try a little harder, put in a little extra effort if they want to succeed and it appears they did on all accounts.

Life In Movement Trailer

This is the visual equivalent of walking past an art exhibit.

It’s one of those rare trailers that crosses over from commercial to artistic endeavor. How else to explain director Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason’s ode to a woman who was on the upswing of an illustrious dance career only to die suddenly, leaving only the vestiges of her instruction as memories of her existence.

The trailer is one that doesn’t want to make things pretty. She’s shown smacking herself furiously, moments of dance punctuated by odd looking moments of dancers on a stage acting less like dancers and more like contortionists, but I understand what’s happening. It all makes sense through the eyes of someone who is trying to tell the story of a successful artist and who they were as performers themselves.

The music is haunting, the extend-o clip of video footage showing her with a bag over her head as he flails her arms about herself is disconcerting, but it’s effective enough insofar that I am attuned to the frequency. It’s not that it’s weird, it’s that it makes perfect sense to those who have gone on after her and this trailer is a testament to a woman who really seemed like a true original.

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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