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?

Barbershop Punk Trailer

To some degree I did understand how this was all happening, what it meant. Filmmakers Georgia Sugimura Archer and Kristin Armfield look like they come about as close as you can to an even handed expose on a contentious issue to nerds everywhere.

I like that this trailer helps to define the argument of net neutrality and the struggle over the free flow of information  while providing the kind of depth I appreciate when it comes to understanding how everything we do on the net is connected. If this trailer is any indication, then, it appears that monoliths like Time Warner and Comcast and a handful of other internet service providers are becoming sinister arbiters of defining what you’re allowed to consume and how you do it.

There is no question that this is a somewhat complex issue but the opening salvo comes from a few people, Henry Rollins being one of them, Damian Kulash of OK GO being another, who establish what it is we’re here to talk about and how the man is sticking it to you when it comes to providing content on the internet.

Refreshingly, and surprisingly, the other side is allowed to have their say as well. After seeing that this documentary was played at this year’s SXSW Film Festival and played at Silverdocs I am even more engaged with the rejoinder from a couple of people who ostensibly come to the defense of big business and saying that this much ado about nothing. Now we have a fight on our hand.

It’s nice from a fair and balanced position insofar that this trailer implicitly tells us what we’re going to get when watching this, a documentary that will hopefully show both sides of this argument. I have no question that The Man will come out of this with a blackened eye but simply knowing there will be another point of view represented makes me feel more willing to give this a chance and the trailer does a solid sell job.

In this landscape of people fighting for net neutrality and ISPs who are whining about the ever increasing demands of customers who are sapping their networks as they use services like Netflix or BitTorrent or Hulu it’s good that this kind of movie is happening now. We can parse the argument a little clearer and see what both groups have to say about how they feel and the trailer ending with one guy’s plight (you’ve got to always have an everyman in a doc like this) to get a little content uploaded to the Intertubes but feeling the wrath of the lumbering beast known as big business.

Bhutto Trailer

This trailer inspires.

In a way, there is something to be said about documentaries that depict the human condition as something indelible, something that everyone can connect with regardless of place or time. This trailer feels like it’s something that wants to show a much too recent example of someone who went up against a system that was built, and still built, against them.

Co-directors Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara (who did a wonderful job in putting together another documentary entitled Fuel) look like that what they’re after in this film is not a documentary on the events surrounding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto but the culture that helped boost her from being just a woman who ought to have recognized her place to a woman emboldened by an idea. An idea, you see, that women are human beings who ought to be afforded the same opportunity to gain influence in a land where patriarchal dominance is brutal and real.

The opening is quite stark in contrast to the images we’re given. Apart from the badge of honor that it was selected to appear at Sundance this past year there is no voiceover, just a small interview clip with Bhutto that ends with an open-ended question that doesn’t get answered and the clip of a car bomb that ultimately took this woman’s life. Letting the moment just sit there, quietly, is powerful.

Further, the trailer is rather unique in that the story is laid before us very neatly, very judiciously, and is done in a manner that is akin to having your morning coffee at the breakfast table as you leisurely go through the paper. There is a steady hand guiding us through Pakistani politics, how she fit into that process, why we should care about her, who her family was, and why they matter in this equation. It’s all done quite well in that it is clear and concise.

The level of intrigue is certainly there as I had no clue her family was the target of a few assassinations themselves and I cannot help but feel like this is a political story that I can really get worked up about. Anyone with even a passing interest in that region of the world and its volatility and its chicanery and the lingering questions about what if anything they’re doing about terrorism is utterly gripping.

The history geek in me squeals with delight.

Making The Boys Trailer

Not many people have heard of Crayton Robey.

I certainly haven’t and I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you haven’t either. What makes this guy such an interesting documentary filmmaker is that not only is this doc an interesting treatise on the making of a play that shook a culture but it shows how this work came to embody the kind of thing that many in the gay community were perhaps needing more than ever around the time this debuted: a mirror. A work of art, if you will, that reflected their life, their struggle, their issues.

The trailer just gets right down to it by not only giving you a little titillation and shock by showing a piece of the actual production of The Boys in the Band but we get Michael Musto, Dan Savage, and Robert Wagner talking about the importance of this play I myself had only discovered, tangentially, by watching The Kids in the Hall.

We move from the play as a piece of work performed for an audience to a movie that seemed to have set off quite a number of those kinds of people who enjoy hoisting white poster board on sticks of hickory with nothing but malice in their heart. The trailer does a great job in defining what was at stake for those who chose to be a part of the film, the play, and what the fallout was for those who aligned themselves with it.

The story pushes further as we see this is more than just about a play but was about the social temperature at the time and how that manifested itself as hatred directed at this one thing. Of course, this juxtaposes delightfully with the GBLT community of today who has no connection, recollection, or awareness of what looked like a very contentious watershed moment for those fighting for equality. Those who cannot remember the past, indeed.

Quotes from Variety, Anne Thompson buoy what already looks like the kind of documentary that isn’t mind-numbingly insipid and boring for it appears like the kind of film that is important and something that needs to be viewed if only to understand that to some degree Will & Grace could not of existed on television without it. Ellen might not have been allowed into the lives of our wives and there most certainly wouldn’t be a wholesale embrace of the wonderment that is NPH on the tee-vee without something like this blazing a new trail.

Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws Trailer

Goddamn Ghost Shark.

Many kudos go to Andrew Todd and Johnny Hall for making a wickedly strange trailer.

I am not really sure of the content of this thing but here’s why this one’s a winner: it plays it straight. Much like the maligned Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus that movie was able to coast solely on its charm as a straight to basic cable release and I think that very same over-the-top obnoxiousness sells this movie really well.

I think that, further, beyond just the silly premise and execution there are the hints that this movie was lovingly made.

For example, when we are introduced to a salty dog on a pier who is providing all the needless exposition we would ever need, knowing that the ghost shark can transport itself through the taps at home, through ice cubes and toilets, you can see the cinematography is surprisingly solid. The way things are framed you can see the level of expertise that you don’t find in films that want to be on the same level as a Mega Shark but only come off as amateurish.

I can’t believe that I would say that being in that same class as anything those at The Asylum have put out is a good thing but there is something to be said for those looking to embrace the business part of show business. What’s more is that this trailer really kicks it up to a whole new level. They have effects showing the ghost shark in all its SFX glory but they have it as a tangible monster that our hero does battle with in a most bizarre fashion. Showing these two entities disappear in a twinkling poof as they fight in ace off is a special effect I wouldn’t immediately think as something worthy of commenting on but, man, is it strange. I’ve got no idea why you would go that route with a story as intrinsically amusing as this but I’m on board with this.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good slice of cinematic cheese and I think this could be the next vehicle that will allow me to tune in, turn on, and drop out. Love it.

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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