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?

Declaration of War Trailer

When it comes to parents and sick kids, everyone seems to have a story in them. However, this at least makes an original argument for itself.

Director Valérie Donzelli’s trailer for her film takes a decidedly similar approach to telling the story of some parents who find out some bad news about their child but the approach is slightly different than that of your CBS or Hallmark Channel movie of the week in that it gives us this couple’s hopes and dreams first. Laurie Anderson’s “Superman” is a wonderful musical bed upon which to lie these people’s ambitions for the future but it’s the keeping the kid at bay that’s the real delight here.

Not only are we not let in on what is slowly killing this couple’s cheery dispositions but little is said of the kid. We get a longing look from a therapist of some kind but this trailer’s main focus is on the couple and I like that. A lot.

Too many times the story, and rightfully so, becomes about the person affected by something, by the disease when there is one. However, what gets lost in that battle is the story of those who have to deal with it. How it will tear these people up, these parents, that’s interesting to me. The fact that what we have here is essentially a trailer that keeps the camera squarely on mom and dad is refreshing.

Dreams of a Life Trailer

File this under the Unexpected pile.

It’s not that you ever think you’ll come across something so fundamentally different but when you’re scouring the web for trailers you sometimes come across an item that defies classification. Now, a documentary about a missing person is something that isn’t so novel but when you consider that filmmaker Carol Morely did what amounts to some forensic storytelling this is pretty fascinating. Fascinating as well as riveting when this trailer starts to unwind.

Never mind the details that this is going to tell the story of a woman who died in her apartment and, for three years, was left there to rot as the Christmas presents she was wrapping were still around her and as the television stayed on the same channel for 36 more months without interruption. Creepy as that is, the trailer takes a decidedly less macabre approach. Opting for a more CSI approach, or that other show on CBS where the cop sees dead people from various decades set to a pop classic from a specific era, using the reporter who wrote the initial story was a nice way to begin.

The approach pays off because it establishes that what we’re talking about is real even though the reenactment is not. The emphasis on the details of what actually happened takes away from the unbelievability that a young woman could have died without so much as a phone call from a family member. We get to hear the stories of people around her and what they thought of the woman who would ultimately become a skeleton in her own house. It’s an ipso facto project that you could not imagine making but the trailer does well in balancing the more skeevy details about what happened to her by giving us first hand accounts from people who knew her. It’s sweet, in a way, to get this kind of perspective on a life but it’s downright sad when you consider the interstitial that poses the question about what would happen if you died today and how long it would be until someone noticed.

It’s a trailer that is at the same time fascinating and thought provoking without ever becoming maudlin or sentimental. A rate treat, indeed, in a sea of trailers that bludgeon you with their premises.

The First Movie Trailer

It’s just Iraq through the eyes of kids.

Something that seems so simplistic of a reason to shoot an entire film is a perfectly interesting trailer that doesn’t ever let you in on what the point is. Sure, director Mark Cousins could have stepped in and told us that what we’re seeing is a documentary that is devoid of adults, gone is the spin of those of a certain age to say what is happening to their lives as the Americans occupy their country, but what we have here feels genuinely special.

You don’t notice it right away, and there’s never really an overt mention of it, but the absence of adults in this trailer is odd. In a good way. We don’t really know why or where the moms and dads are but seeing these children just be children is something of a curiosity. It’s like we’re peering into something that is devoid of purpose or meaning other than pure joy. I’m not sure if this would be enough to carry people through an entire film but there is some novelty in the premise.

I love that it seems so removed from anything we’ve seen within the context of this conflict and I, for one, welcome the approach this movie is taking with the subject.

The Greater Good Trailer

I would never question the motives of any parent out there, if you want to raise your little hellions to be the future problems of America go right ahead I’m not going to stand in your way, but it’s the stupidity of other parents that just gets me riled up and angry.

This trailer feels like the kissing cousin of something I saw, surprise surprise, on PBS’ Frontline early last year. Letting pseudo intellectuals like Jenny McCarthy espouse their beliefs while they use the very same belief system trump smart science should scare you to the core. People are cherry picking science data, jumping on that small data set where there is margin for error, and are running roughshod over what’s been perfectly acceptable risks considering the potential risks to the human population. Whooping Cough? Look it up, it’s making a comeback thanks to these individuals. What’s more, this documentary is the slick, commercialized version of that argument and I love this trailer.

I’m really of two minds when it comes to these things: one, it’s this kind of propaganda that is leading some down a path of resurgence with regard to very scary diseases we don’t need to be making a comeback and two, I am more than happy to let you speak your peace. To the latter point, and why this trailer is so electrifying, I genuinely do want to understand the other side of this debate.

To see where they’re coming from, bad science or no, we all should strive on some level to comprehend opposing arguments and this trailer is chock full of propaganda that succinctly encapsulates their stance on big pharma and what the immunization debate means to them.

While I will agree to disagree it is hard to say anything against a trailer that is so well developed and makes a good as possible argument why you should want to see it end to end. Documentary filmmakers Kendall Nelson and Chris Pilaro certainly have their work cut out for them but huzzah to their effort.

Khodorkovsky Trailer

First, you have to check out Frontline’s story about Russian oligarchs from 2003.

The show details the rise of the nouveau riche within Russian society and Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky was a part of that surge of capitalist surge. In 2004 he was the wealthiest man in Russia and ranked 16th on Forbes’ billionaires list but now he finds himself one of the poorest, a political prisoner of a country that can’t let go of its reputation as a state that is a repressive regime.

The trailer takes us from this kid’s auspicious beginnings to where we are today. Since we all probably don’t have any idea who Mikhail is or what he represents it’s nice that no time is wasted to establish why he is in the state he is now. From being close to Putin to finding himself on the receiving end of some good ol’ fashioned political revenge this story seems too bizarre to not find interesting on some level.

It’s tough to try and figure out what filmmaker Cyril Tuschi is hoping this film will do but when you consider that the level of danger of anyone who speaks/reports on the politics of Russian bureaucrats usually is the cost of a life, it’s interesting that Mikhail was allowed to live and be dragged through what looks like the modern equivalent of a complete nuking of one’s life.

If international politics and the dirty dealings of corrupt politicians is your bag I can’t see how you can pass this up. I’m glued to this guy’s story and know that this kind of thing is more relevant now more than ever in Russia.

New Kids Nitro Trailer

Since posting this trailer weeks ago it looks like the English subtitled version has arrived and I have to be honest by saying this is one of my “must sees.” Never before have I seen a trailer use that uses the F word so liberally.

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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