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?

Circo Trailer

Here in the southwest I think you can take a band like Calexico for granted.

They have a dusty, desert charm that draws on the kind of music you would associate with a band of roving troubadours from the southwest that pepper their sound with a dash of the Mexican, a slow and soulful examination of the kind of music you don’t really hear. This trailer feels like that band, a parade of circus-bringing gypsies, traversing ciudades south of the border. First time documentary filmmaker Aaron Schock is showing more than just a peek at a dusty circus that jangles around Mexico in a lazy caravan as he appears to be penetrating the relationships that help turn a flat canvas into a big top.

The people here show how the entire operation is really low to the ground, the trailer opening is flat out great as we see them getting ready for a show Blues Brothers style. Megaphones on the car, the slow roll of the vehicle trying to draw in the residents of a small town to their production, something we’re told has been around for over a hundred years. The jangly guitar in the back blends perfectly with the mood of the moment as the music weaves itself into the wordless narrative being shown to us.

It’s striking to see the dented, scuffed, damaged, old, vintage production pieces that make up this circus still being used, wondering how much longer these items can be employed before turning into dust, as you see young children performing their acrobatic moves and honing their skills in order to help do their part. There’s an inherent sadness to it all when you see their parents talking about how hard these kids work, work that ought to fall on the shoulders of those who wanted this way of life.

The trailer, mistakenly, buries all the award accolades it has received in the middle when it should have been bumped further towards the front as you already got the emotional investment with the snippet here that includes the mother’s tearful recriminations about the way things are going but that’s neither here nor there. It makes excellent use of the press quotes as it comes to a final resting point just at the right time.

This is a great trailer for a documentary about a subject you didn’t know you wanted to know about until this entered your field of vision.

The Great White Silence Trailer

How do you get someone excited for a film that was released almost 80 years ago? Restore it and cut a really good trailer that can play to the sensibilities of today’s audiences.

Success on both accounts.

I fully realize that this is a film that has been out for decades, the trailer being out now for a good several months, but after seeing that this film’s re-release and screenings had really only been contained within the borders of the UK I at least wanted to mention it and see about getting it recognized for what it’s selling.

After reading about the ill fated trip we see unfold before us, which is excellently captured in the ominous and minimalist soundtrack that accompanies this silent film, you can see how brilliant a film Herbert Ponting made when you see the footage he captured of the trip that doom the lives of five men who set out to reach the south pole. Led by Englishman Robert Scott, this crew was determined to be the first ones to do it, the trailer capturing the harsh conditions but showing the almost jubilant nature of these men, and you can sense the determination in their steps as they forge forward to accomplish their goal.

The colors here, orange and green, don’t interfere with what we see as they honestly just enhance the vibrancy of the action. It’s hard to square that for all that’s going on with these men that this movie will take a sinister twist, none of that revealed in a trailer that could have very well spoiled the facts of the case. The case being that Scott would find out, after forging through the snow, ice, and wicked winds, they were beaten to the pole by just 35 days as another crew, led by a Norwegian who has little issue getting to the pole and retreating safely. A tent and a letter saying they were there would be the last information Scott would ever receive before he and his four men would slowly die.

For my money I couldn’t think of a more engrossing documentary that I would love to see in its restored form with a crisp new soundtrack.

Norwegian Wood Trailer

Loved it, loved it.

There is no describing the chills you get when something ripples across your mind like a smooth stone just skipping across your pleasure centers but this one did. Director Anh Hung Tran, who created the wonderful film Vertical Ray of the Sun in 2000, looks like he’s back with another film delving into the precipitous and fragile nature of love and I couldn’t be more giddy.

It’s nice that this trailer quietly establishes its critical pedigree at the outset, the opening bars of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” starting in the background. It honestly sets the tempo and pacing of this trailer and I love it for that. The even keel of seeing Tran’s visual style in not only capturing the moods of his characters but the clothing and colors of the time is extraordinary. It’s curious that he’s  chosen Tokyo, 1969, as the basis of his story but who rightly cares. What I see in this trailer confuses me, knowing that the Beatles’ track refers to the veiled affair John Lennon was having on the side with his first wife Cynthia, but trying to decipher whether this is a movie about people cheating on one another is difficult albeit part of the joy.

Just giving in to the visual nature of this trailer is the only way to really appreciate what’s going on and I am fine with not getting my arms all the way around it. One of the characters in the film asks another to hold her and I’m filled with the kind of “Aww” feeling that I’m usually quite cynical about giving into. But I believe it. I don’t know if it’s the Beatles or whether it’s just that I believe what I’m seeing, but there’s something honest happening.

Rinko Kikuchi, who many will recognize from The Brothers Bloom, looks fantastic and my only hope is that the film can match the strength of its visual stile.

All That Remains Trailer

Cody Blue Snider has skills.

While these skills aren’t of the same variety as Liam Neeson looking to go after chomos this trailer nonetheless made me sit on my hands for the duration of this thing while trying to understand what is happening here.

This isn’t your average trailer in that you have a forward moving narrative trying to sell you on a particular movie, this seems to be consumed more with establishing tone, a feeling. You have Old Man Winter playing chess with Death, hearkening back to the Ingmar Bergman classic The Seventh Seal, and before you have a chance to roll your eyes at the pretension something special happens: the old guy gets it in his head to pop a cap in some fool having a pint in a pub. Yeah, I don’t get it either but the Johnny Cash is flowing and I’m going along for the ride.

Disparate moments of a soldier bleeding out on a battlefield, of a woman gingerly holding onto life in a hospital bed, a couple getting all sappy in front of a train,  a veteran coming home to a welcoming woman, and our old man has crimson red platelets just rushing out of his ear. Snap forward and the images just start going by quicker and are more intense. More blood, violence galore, sl0-mo action, Nazi sympathizers, more misery, and there’s a charm here I really like. I can’t put my finger on it but I love seeing things like this, filmmakers with a passion to make something wholly their own. The visual style is not so much unique as it is fresh.

The bad news is that this is a trailer for a twenty minute short film. The good news, though, is that this represents two of those minutes which seem really interesting and done with talent. Hopefully the rest is.

Waste Land Trailer

When a film comes along that tries to make real sense of impoverishment that has stricken some in Rio de Janeiro it may not raise an eyebrow. You would be in the right to think that this could be yet another movie that talk to us about the plight of a poor people trying to eke out a substandard existence and how we all can do something right now in our community to help. However, if that same film is coming to us from City of God director Fernando Meirelles and is being directed by Lucy Walker,  the woman who brought us the pretty solid Countdown to Zero last year, also with an original composition by Moby, I would think this should at least buy two minutes of your time.

I know I wasn’t keyed up about seeing a film about yet another pack of people who have to subsist on waste drainage and whatever someone could catch with a butterfly net but the trailer is slowly effective. Artist Vik Muniz is excellent at describing his take on a project that is looking to hold a mirror to this community of people while simultaneously giving back to it.

There isn’t any flashiness, any quick cuts to make you think you’re going to be seeing the latest action thriller, as what we see is Vik taking men and women of this trash picking collective and making something artistic from it. The way he talks to the subjects of his creations, using photography and sculpture, there’s a breakthrough of humanity that sometimes can get blocked when you have documentaries that simply want to observe, report.

You can feel that this project is, in some part, more meaningful than any NGO coming in to give a few cases of water and a box of granola bars to a populace that doesn’t need a handout. They need a way out and it appears that this is but one small solution to the problem.

The pull-quotes from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter all shore up the happy happy joy joy feelings you get from the tail end of the trailer this but what I really like seeing is how this trailer moves from the slums to the auction block. There is something stark and very real about seeing this trash inspired art created in such earthy conditions only to see it dusted off and ready to go to the highest bidder where it will be hung on pristine walls. There’s an electric current of watching the giddiness of those who want to create real wealth from the wellspring of one person’s artistic talents and it’s that intersection of commerce and creativity that this trailer gets me.

It doesn’t always have to be that the reporter must be aware to not become part of the story. In cases like this it looks like that’s a good thing and it’s for a good cause. Color me uncertain about what these funds will mean to a people cooking stew at the base of a mountain of garbage but I want to find out.

The Bleeding Trailer

I’m speechless. I honestly don’t know what to say of a trailer that looks like it was cut by an editor with acute ADD who was obviously tripping balls on a combination of ecstasy, Jack Daniels, and Pixy Stix.

And Vinnie Jones. Poor Vinnie Jones appears in a wardrobe that looks like it was pilfered from the Huggy Bear JC Penny collection with a hat that makes him look like a flamenco guitarist from down the way and a wig that I think might be the deceased corpse of a wispy haired collie.

I don’t even think this movie falls into the “so bad it’s good” territory. It just looks flat out terrible and I, for one, could not look away at the carnage that is this visual car wreck. Director Charlie Picerni, for his part, looks like he has an impressive and deep resume that includes some of my favorite action shows from the 1980′s. He’s old school, and I respect the level of expertise he’s bringing just based on the level of awesomeness he brought to so many projects, but this is just not working. At all.

Anyone who’s managed to get through the whole thing is welcome to leave a comment below to say how you were changed after coming out on the other side of this.

The Oscar Winning Boston Movie Trailer

In honor of the Oscars, the smart, crafty, and funny lads from Improv Asylum who gave us The College Town are giving you something to think about this award season as it draws to a close.

Beantown. It’s all about the hoodsies, friends. Wicked hahdcore.

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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