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?

Cool It Trailer

I appreciate this in ways that are indescribable.

Finally, a movie that is not about some dirty hippie telling me that driving my H3 is going to melt the polar ice caps, put New York under twenty feet of water by next year, and cause countless natural disasters that are poised to decimate scores of lives. I’m exaggerating, of course, but I have been searching for a movie like this without even knowing it.

The trailer effortlessly balances what it has to say by positioning itself against the noise that has been clogging many media outlets for years now with regard to the part line on environmental issues. Yes, Al Gore’s documentary was a great wake-up call to have people think a little more about energy consumption and conservation but I’m still not recycling my newspapers and cans because I can’t afford the extra money per month that it costs to recycle. Many people can’t implement the things that have been advocated and this trailer hilariously points out that there is a culture of fear mongering amongst those who think that if you’re not doing your part you’re helping to hasten the earth’s demise. The trailer changes the conversation right from the outset.

Ondi Timoner, who made the fascinating documentary We Live in Public, comes roaring back with a piece of advertising that does a superb job in executing a bait and switch. At first, we think we’re actually seeing a documentary that will reinforce all the liberal perceptions of what is happening to the globe right now; with little kids doing the voiceovers, the drawings of the earth slowly melting into a glob of blue goo like a candle sitting in front of a bay window on a summer day, the images of environmental disasters adding credence to all of this, it’s brilliant.

But, without smacking us with an about face, we get Bjorn Lomborg starts talking about the culture of panic that this environmental debate has stoked in many. He’s not yelling, he’s not screaming, he’s not telling you that one side is better than the other, and I’m listening. Everything that he, and other professors, have to say as this trailer progresses is done in a way that is not contrary to Gore, Ed Begley Jr., et al., but is couched in a little bit of healthy skepticism.

You can’t help, if you’re being open to the idea, but think this might be a documentary that could be a good respite from the environmental fervor, the zeitgeist, that has riled up so many people in the past decade. Plus, and this is the best part, Bjorn talks about things that people could actually do and could have genuine environmental ramifications.

The man isn’t espousing we do nothing but he does seem to advocate a new approach to environmentalism. People call him the devil incarnate or that his ideas are completely off base but I’m enjoying what he has to say.


Boxing Gym Trailer

Who am I to question the motives of a man who has been at this for over 40 years?

Making documentaries for longer than I’ve been on this planet director Frederick Wiseman has chosen subjects ranging from the goings-on in a hospital decades before it was chic to have pretty people have dramas set in them to life in high school years before Brandon Walsh stepped into West Beverly High.

Wiseman now has a movie, and a trailer, that raises some interesting questions about what makes this subject so worthy of closer inspection. Further, what makes this a great trailer is that it quickly gets its accolades out of the way. From the film fests it has played at, what the movie is called, who directed it, it’s all pushed all out of the way tute sweet so it can get on with showing the film. Literally.

Settling in, it feels like we’re watching an extended clip from the film as we linger on the gym at the center of it all: a few glimpses of an empty ring, of morning light spilling into the massive space, the mats where, ostensibly, people get their jump rope and rope-a-dope on. Things feel slow but this where it gets wickedly clever.

It starts with the timer, the buzzing sound of the Everlast timer, the skitch-skatch of a person keeping perfect time with a piece of rope. The skipping feet is soothing as is the methodical thud of a guy slamming a gloved fist on leather, hitting a speed bag. There is a rhythm to everything we see and I’m literally entranced.

We see the nameless proprietor of the gym give the easiest monthly offer ever to a prospective client and we gander more at the various kinds of people working out there. From young kids to older chubby guys these cross sections of individuals provide a slight context to what we’re seeing.

I can’t think of a more mundane topic for a documentary that looks as good as this does.


Marwencol Trailer

Devastating in all the right ways and a trailer that truly inspires.

It’s not often when you come across a trailer that makes you sit on your hands and stay silent while it’s playing. We can forgive director Jeff Malmberg for his egregious crimes against humanity, all life in the Milky Way and to any parallel universes if we want to get specific, with his editorial work on The Hottie & the Nottie as this film looks like it was done from a place of true passion and heart.

I don’t know if I’m a sucker for a trailer that begins with a xylophone, or if that has something to do with my predilection of Hans Zimmer’s score for True Romance, but this one opens about as well as any trailer has opened this year.

You get a flavor for this miniature world which just feels different than your average guy playing with army dolls. There seems to be a sadness in this art and when we see our artist, Mark Hogancamp, talk about his own physical trauma we get glimpses of his masterwork.

Next come the kudos. Flashing on the screen, the many accolades this documentary has won populate the frame in a way that is congratulatory and not at all ostentatious. That leads us quickly, and I have to commend the trailer for just getting right into it, to Mark’s story about a savage attack and the resulting effects it had not only on his physical body but on his mental state as well.

It doesn’t ever seem like we’re supposed to feel sorry for him or that this is trying to elicit anything but a general understanding of how we are going from a bloody pulp of a human being to WWII recreation enthusiast who employs dolls and creative photographic techniques to make everything come alive. The background we get on why this place was crafted and who populates it just give you pause. We get to see real friends of Mark’s made into the little figures who help fight in a war populated with guns, murder, teddy bears, naked women, and an overriding sense of jovial fun.

While there does seem to be a subtext of sadness in this all the pull-quotes we see just reinforce that this isn’t a movie about what was lost in this man’s life but what was found on the other side of a very vicious act. There appears to be twists and turns in this human drama that only has Mark at the center of it and the trailer presents it without any unnecessary distractions.

How he finds solace in this world he’s created is the real draw here and I can’t imagine any other documentary I am more eager to check out this fall.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within Trailer

There’s something interesting about selling a story to people who aren’t plugged in to what William S. Burroughs was radiating when the man was at his artistic best.

Sure, hipsters of all walks and breeds are wont to espouse his brilliance, champion his works as an example of what vanguard-level writing looks like, but there are those who walk among us who have never picked up a book of his or have even read two words constructed, side-by-side, by this guy.

Count me as one of them.

That said, the opening is a wonderful salvo for a documentary that looks like it will be a gateway for any person looking to enter what looks like a world where the x and y axis don’t apply. It made me nervous to enter this trailer which doesn’t really have any logical cohesion to it, it seemed to immediately go art for art sake, but thankfully we have John Waters to help crystallize what it is we’re supposed to understand here. In ten seconds John says what is the film’s thesis seems to focus on and we’re off.

The level of insanity that seems to have surrounded this man puts him into a category that I thought Hunter S. Thompson seemed to have occupied all by himself but there is something here that’s attractive from a narrative standpoint. While we don’t have the man himself reflecting on why he thinks people have extolled his work there is archival footage of the guy speaking about his process, of shooting up, of shooting firearms.

The parallels to that other writer who had a thing for Vegas and ESPN are interesting but the most satisfying thing I can see is that for every moment where it seems we’re going to veer off into esoteric mind hump land we have someone on camera giving an interview who is tethering us to a reality that at least seems logical.

I may not understand Yony Leyser’s vision fully as a documentary but this trailer is an excellent staring point as I’m intrigued where this is all leading.

Dead Set Promo Trailer – AKA Jersey Shore’s Angelina and her HORRORible date caught on camera

I apologize but I’m not really sorry.

Since Halloween is almost upon us and there is going to be a crush of great material that’s going to be aired next Sunday night, who isn’t pumped like a shotgun to see The Walking Dead, I can offer nothing new under the sun about what you should watch that night but I am going to yell as loud as I can about Dead Set.

Starting this Monday the 25th at midnight on IFC I am asking politely that you watch this five part miniseries that was produced in the UK some time ago. Those of crafty ability have already procured their copy of this reality television based zombie movie but for those of you who have never seen it you cannot do better than free. Through the use of the ruse that a zombie apocalypse befalls the very same town where reality show Big Brother is taping. People in the house have no idea what’s happening just outside their walls and the juxtaposition of reality television, the undead, and people scrambling to survive is utterly fantastic. I’ve watched it (full disclosure: IFC sent me a screener to look at),  loved it, and can’t speak more highly of a production that was able to find a fresh angle on this genre.

Since IFC is doing something novel by playing one installment at a time I implore you to watch one a day to really savor the series’ punch. Now, if you want to be a louse about it IFC is doing you a solid and running all the episodes together on Halloween night.

As for this promo here? Man is it wicked awful. It’s a ghastly aberration that’s closer to a visual and creative insult than it is a commercial. I don’t know if Angelina from Jersey Shore just isn’t confident or is genuinely bad in front of the camera but it’s not often when I can share a train wreck  like this and so I am unleashing it here for your perusal.

Out of lemons come lemonade and I hope you know well enough to choose between the two.

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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