Posted on Friday, May 27th, 2011 by Christopher Stipp
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?
Film Socialisme Trailer
We all can point to examples of those in this industry who have lost their edge, their hunger, their passion to make a good film. For an actor, it’s the lack of exuding the very thing that made us fall in love with them. For a director, it’s the inability to make a good film.
Jean-Luc Godard doesn’t seem to have that problem.
This trailer exudes the kind of confidence and starkness that you see in a movie like Breathless but it’s the harnessing of the medium itself that not only is delightful it’s impressive.
The presentation is so jarring and so stand-offish you wonder what it is you’re actually being pitched. Is this a movie about a cruise ship or is it something else? The mixed media of both film and video, and some distorted video that drips with eeriness, that plays over the haunting sounds of a pipe organ is wonderful to just experience. There isn’t a sell job here as much as there is a true exploration of an idea. The idea being, of course, that this movie isn’t like anything you’ll catch this year.
Sure, the fast forward speed at which images and moments fly by don’t allow you to get a grip on anything you see it nonetheless tells you volumes about what’s being communicated. There’s some confusing imagery of a woman standing with a burro at a gas station, another woman getting her picture taken on the side of the road, some people can be seen living their lives inside a house in a way that’s not only not boring, it’s fascinating.
I can’t say for sure what we’re supposed to feel but this doesn’t ever stray into art for art’s sake. I would be enraged if I thought there was too much pretension injected in this trailer but there’s something genuinely trying to be said here and I can almost make it out that my mind aches as I try and understand what it is they want me to buy. I’m most certainly going to do so but its obfuscation is such a tease.
Margo Martindale is a special kind of actress.
She’s a character actor, a working actor, who has been knocking down parts for decades simply because she knows what she’s doing. She blends in with the environment and is one of those women you wish more actresses could be like: a chameleon, not an ego driven starlet who needs attention more than genuine acclaim. Here, though, she’s front and center and what little we can see of her there is a range of emotions on display for a film that doesn’t look easily classifiable but it’s wickedly entrancing.
In a series this week of trailers that don’t seem to have any words being spoken at all, here is the second of three trailers that use only music to convey the emotion running through the narrative. This trailer, though, has some toughness. There is raw emotion exuding through Martindale and it radiates through the small screen. It’s obvious that writer/director Zack Parker saw what Margo was able to do and he seems to have tapped right into that source as we see Margo in various states of mental acuity. There’s a manic version of her, a sullen version, and even one that looks genuinely pleased.
The exciting thing about this trailer is that it makes you want to know more about what’s happening. The shots that are chosen are wisely picked because it prevents any opportunity for there to be any lulls. Your attention doesn’t drift because the trailer won’t let you drift. There seems to be sharp schisms of mental instability all around and it’s exciting. For all the trailers that want to play pretty and prance around what we’re all here to see it’s just plain great to be sold on a movie without any context. It’s an anthem to anarchy of sorts but it fits so well when you understand what it is the movie is really trying to say, what it’s putting out there.
It’s ballsy to put something out there, at this budgetary level, and let this be their commercial that will get people to see it. There isn’t anything commercial about it but it’s just too good to pass up when the level of craftsmanship that went into making something look so odd and so enticing. The scrambling of names is a nice touch as well. It conveys the crazed nature of both the protagonist and evokes a certain understanding about the movie in general.
The Artist Trailer
This one is a complete delight.
Written and directed by Michael Hazanavicius this trailer is about cinema that feels good, that seems like an old blanket that can still warm your body. I can hardly believe that the man credited for bringing the two OSS 117 films to our shore made this kind of movie simply based on the level of zaniness of OSS but, here, has made something so unique that this is truly a trailer that needs no further examination other than experiencing it.
Enjoy this one simply for the way it tells a story without ever giving you a word.
Magic Trip Trailer
This is certainly an interesting trailer for a new Alex Gibney film.
I’m endlessly fascinated by the choices the man has made and looking a few paces beyond this movie, directing a Lance Armstrong documentary (wondering if he’ll include the accusations made on 60 Minutes a few nights ago) and directing a doc on Wikileaks, the man is one of the premiere examiners of current sociological issues and the impact they have on our collective consciousness.
The trailer here is a unique blend of personal footage and cheeky glibness. What’s more is that this serves as a document of sorts that looks at a time in the 60’s that was the forerunner of the hippie generation. It’s documentaries like this that help to put history in its proper context and there most certainly looks like there’s more than enough context happening here. There is the footage that is allowed to speak for itself, the moments we get with author Ken Kesey, it’s like watching home movies of people who were much cooler than you.
While the trailer is a little too polished, the film, which is also co-directed by Allison Ellwood (she also directed one of the best reality shows of all time, American High) looks like one of those stories about American society that has long since passed on as people passed through the civil rights movement and everything else that has made the idyllic days of The Merry Band of Pranksters a quaint remnant of a time that will never be.
While I can’t say how riveting this documentary will be it is nonetheless Gibney’s name which makes me believe this will be more than worth my attention. Outside of him and Ellwood, I’m not sure I’d give this a second thought.
Wu Xia Trailer
What a good year it’s been so far for Donnie Yen. Actually, it’s been a good year for me seeing films with Donnie in them. Yeah, Legend of the Fist wasn’t that hot but Donnie has been hitting the market fairly hard with his presence and it’s been delightful.
This trailer may only be a minute long but it does establish a little bit of story and a whole lot of what to expect in terms of its wire-fu. There’s a visual gimmick of seeing what happens when Donnie lays the smack down on guys who no doubt to deserve it but just seeing the man dish out the physical hurt on guys makes me dig this man even more and fear the day when Hollywood wants to put him alongside Chris Tucker in some dreadful Hollywood vehicle.
The action here is swift and mighty. Director Peter Chan’s last, The Warlords, didn’t do much for me but this, this looks like something I could really enjoy. I’m hoping for both his and Yen’s sake that there’s a movie here I can finally settle in and enjoy. [Twitch]
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:
- Showrunners Trailer – A great trailer that makes inside baseball easily understood.
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins Trailer – Such a miserable trailer that it takes all I have to not point at this as an example of what could be Jim Carrey’s nadir.
- The River Trailer – Not my thing but the trailer could play well to those looking for something a little different out of their televised entertainment.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D Trailer – Look, it may be warmed over pap but praise those with the talent to make me think that parting with my money to see this wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
- Green Lantern 3D Trailer – I mean this in the best way possible: this trailer feels like something I would see before embarking on a spin through Space Mountain.
- Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop Trailer – I think the best parts of this trailer are when we see Conan being brutally honest with us and himself. Why you would hide that behind the pandering wackiness is a little stupefying.
- Homeland Trailer – This looks about as interesting as a cooling bowl of oatmeal: ultimately satisfying but rather bland all by itself.
- The Muppets Teaser Trailer – I don’t get why they felt the need to keep the farce up for as long as they did. Rather, the real audience for this, kids under ten, just want the felt puppets, not some crafty joke.
- Take Shelter Trailer – If this isn’t your favorite trailer this week there is something wrong with your chemical makeup. Rock solid all the way around.
- Salvation Boulevard Trailer – Just doesn’t do anything for me. The message is muddled about what it is they’re selling and what’s here just falls flat.
- A Little Help Trailer – A little too clever for its own good. I’m not inspired to see this as much as I am kind of annoyed by its tone.
- The Smurfs Trailer #2 – Just wither up and die already. Someday I predict this will be sold in a combo two pack in a discount bin with Hop right next to the Antonio Sabato Jr. collection.
- Shark Night 3D Trailer – This looks horrendous. The people who made this trailer do know that I can’t see in 3D, right? It just seems like a waste of resources.
- The Descendants Trailer – I really like this trailer. A lot. I am hoping for a sweeping, dramatic explosion but I would be satisfied if it was just plain good.
- Happy Feet Two Trailer – I had such a virulently bad reaction to the first film that I can’t see anything new of note in this trailer to make me think this will be any different.