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?


Craigslist Joe Trailer

It’s not that I’m down on the kinds of stories that make the morning talk show circuit (usually involving someone doing a task for a few months, a half a year, a full year, and then writing a book about the experience) but I’m not sure how compelling this yarn actually is.

The trailer begins innocently enough with making grand claims about how the world is squeezing the humanity out of us (I love statements that are backed by nothing but opinion) and that here’s a guy who is going out into the world without anything but his backpack, a few items, and is going to depend on Craigslist for sustenance, shelter and transportation. It’s easy enough to understand but Joseph Garner is spinning, or at least the trailer is, the story the wrong way.

Where things become compelling is where we find the greatest reason to want to see his movie. It’s in the stories of those he meets and depends on, not that this is a marathon of wills in order for him to last 30 days without relying on anything but the kindness of others. There is a bit of a disconnect here in that we’re either wanting to see this to see whether he can make it the 30 days or if it’s the people along the way that will make the movie. I think it’s more of the latter and not so much of the former, honestly I think the trailer could have cut out everything about this being a test to see if he could last without cash or contacts, and this trailer has a bit of a schizophrenic identity crisis that only exacerbates the real frustration in trying to have a consistent narrative flow.

As it stands I think I’ll sit this one out or at least until someone else has a self-indulgent project that’ll take me through 30, 60, or 90 days of their life.

Dear Mr. Watterson Trailer

Now this is a documentary whose time has come.

With guys like Berkeley Breathed, Bill Amend and other luminaries in the comic strip game talking about the role that Watterson played in their development as artists and as conceptual thinkers it’s staggering to think of how many lives were changed by his influence. Director Joel Allen Schroeder has chosen a subject, and a Kickstarter project, that is compelling, insightful and mixes the academic with the kind of “boots on the ground” perspective of those who consumed the work.

The trailer weaves in and out of the inside baseball, and very casual, talk deftly without ever feeling that one is overpowering the other. Since it appears that what we have here is a movie about the work and its influence, the pitch for what this movie is going to be couldn’t be more transparent. It’s in the opportunities for fellow artists to talk about how he made them all up their game, how his work compelled you to think a little more than what was on the surface, and it all just makes sense in a way that is clear, concise, and emotionally resonant. It certainly doesn’t waste anyone’s time and in a sea of documentary films that obfuscate about what their intentions are or what it wants to be, there is no denying that this is a film that will give fans of Watterson’s work a good bookmark for that time in their lives.

Call Me Kuchu Trailer

Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall deserve some credit.

These documentary filmmakers appear to have made a movie that mounts a philosophical assault on the backwards and socially ignorant policies of Uganda. Yes, every country is free to make any law they so desire and run their country however they like. However, and feel free to disagree, it seems like this is a fundamental issue that years from now, whether it’s 10, 30, 50 or a 100, we will look back at and take pity on such small minded people who hold the belief that because of your sexuality you need to be treated different. That you shouldn’t be afforded the same rights and privileges accorded to those who choose partners of a different sex. If there’s any belief I have, it’s that men and women all are equal and deserve equal treatment, equal rights as if they were the same individual. To believe anything less, no matter where you live, is to live in a country like the men and women who kick off this trailer.

All of them live in fear of their fellow countrymen as they navigate a land where their sexuality is deemed a legal offense and, in some cases, reason for death. Replacing Jew for Gay gives you an idea of the hideousness that people have to endure as they navigate their waking lives where they are misunderstood, where they are not wanted.

Pincus Trailer

If you want an immediate look into what Parkinson’s can do to a family, look no further than this Frontline piece that aired not too long ago. It’s sad, it’s inspiring, and it’s frightening to see what can happen to a human being who has it.

This documentary by David Fenster appears to distill many of the scientific notions that the PBS doc posed while showing us what it does to the caretakers at the center of it all. Here, it’s a son and his father, while also starring some kind of weird German who is tangentially associated with all of this. But that’s all good, mind you, because no one likes to be bummed out or be expecting to be depressed before going into a film, unless you’re seeing Schindler’s List, in which case you knew what you were in for, and this looks like it’s uplifting in a way.

Sure, it looks to pose the same questions as any good documentary would about how you take care of those who took care of you for so long, it’s downright heartbreaking, but there does seem to be levity at the center of it all and hopefully this trailer will make sure it elates as much as it does to make us sad to know a fellow man is being eaten alive by disease.

Neighboring Sounds Trailer

Kleber Mendonça Filho’s film looks absolutely tight.

The real trailer doesn’t start until the 43 second mark so you ought to start there. When you do arrive at it there is a certain clenching of the mind that happens as the drums slowly beat. You can’t get your bearings but it’s nice to be off guard.

Flashes of praise from publications flicker across the screen, it helps reinforce that what you’re seeing is of some quality, won’t waste your time completely perhaps. The security team who is ostensibly watching this block, this area, some kind of Brazilian mall cops, is intercut with the life and times of those within this area. A car crash punctuates what is otherwise a fact finding trailer filled with enough individuals to make you think this was produced by Robert Altman from beyond the grave, but I love when a movie can stich together tiny narratives into a larger whole. If indeed that’s what this is, it could be a fascinating slice of life portrait of multiple generations.

The use of sound, no dialogue, in the trailer proper is something we’ve seen many times before especially when trying to sell a movie to audiences who don’t speak that native language but here it’s irrelevant. This is amazingly well done, visually, and composed wonderfully.

Question Bridge: Black Males

Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas look to have made a movie about questioning, and answering, some of the most critical questions posing black men.

Since I’m not an authority on the subject, I cannot verify the veracity of its aims and execution, but, what I do know is that this poses some fundamental questions that deserve some answers. What I found so profound in this trailer is the ability to speak candidly about the stereotypes that plague a segment of our population and offer what, I think, could be a healthy dialogue between those who know and those who could use the knowledge.

It’s an interesting thing, from a sociological level, about trying to understand a group based on empirical evidence, secondhand evidence, heresy, but when it’s the group themselves speaking amongst themselves it becomes a conversation worth listening to because it offers an insight that many of us simply do not have.

Nota 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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