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?

Hell and Back Again Trailer

I talked about the first trailer for this movie a couple of months ago.

Danfung Dennis looks like he’s made a documentary that doesn’t just stop at showcasing the raw aggression of war but appears to reveal what happens when soldiers come off the field of battle and get into dark corners of their own. There have been superb stories of combat units that were in Iraq or Afghanistan and have come home only to slowly burn and seethe with psychological remnants that they could not shake. These are the kind of stories that never get tired and with an opening like this trailer has, you absolutely feel the need to hear it again as if to reinforce the notion that there are no free lunches in nature.

The Patton-like pep rally that pops the top off what appears to be a thrilling depiction of battling and killing quickly devolves into something else. The quiet noise of a bugle staggers the quick flow of what you think is going to be a flash bang expose of guys givin’ hell to the enemy. When you see that the trailer moves into playing the words of a soldier who was wounded during combat, the sights and sounds of families welcoming soldiers back to our country gives you hope yet again this is going to be jovial story about healing but, again, this trailer is sharp and turns yet again.

Seeing our wounded warrior, rolling around Wal-Mart in a Rascal, the absence of any kind of joy or excitement, the break-neck pace of bullets or the screams of happy moms and dads, the quiet of everyday life replacing it all, it is moving. It’s sad and heartbreaking.

The descent quickly continues as everything that the news and the public latch onto is lost as this one guy drifts back to a new normal. That normal as we see when the pills come out, when he’s driving around with a gun in his hand, when he’s handling a gun whilst in bed with his wife, seeing the same gun go in his mouth, is something far more sinister. As a vehicle to sell a film, this is one of the best reasons I’ve seen to check out a documentary this year. On a technical and storytelling level, there is no comparison as to what it’s trying to convey or what emotions you can expect to feel if you wind your way through it.

Complex, yet completely understandable.

My Worst Nightmare Trailer

Goddamn, did I laugh at this.

I realize that of all things in this global village we live in, comedy can have a hard time translating. However, that simply is not the case here and bless the translation that really got its timing down. What’s interesting to note is that director Anne Fontaine, who people would best know as  putting Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel, and gave me my first taste of the thespianic exploits of Benoit Poelvoorde who is the aforementioned nightmare in this movie, is known primarily known for her drama. She works in that field like a painter who knows their best medium so to see something like this, a full-blown comedic effort, is at least inspiring to see someone breaking free of their convention to try their hand at something else.

While I’m unsure of whether this is really as amusing as some of the moments showed it could be. There’s a certain charm about its humor, actually getting pretty close to Molière’s Tartuffe in a way, and it feels more mature in its immaturity than it does the gross-out humor we embrace so tightly as of late.

There’s a silliness that Benoit manages to get across here in the middle of the trailer as he goes from unconcerned oaf to semi-pensive, lovable even. There’s a vulnerability to what we see and while the woman he seems to be wooing, the wife of the man who’s hired him to do some work in his house, the husband seems to have eyes on the nubile blonde that kicked things off in the first place. I don’t know who or what to concentrate on but the flow of this trailer is fast and keeps the pace up where it needs to and slows down when it needs to.

This is the kind of movie that doesn’t look like it will ignite the world on fire but I’m a fan of the farcical and this could be one of those pleasant diversions that could at least satisfy my need for some silliness.

Finding Joe Trailer

Watching this, I think I get a little why Game of Thrones is such a phenomenon with those who have embraced it so tightly.

Director Patrick Takaya Solomon is on to something that has the feel of something not unlike What The Bleep Do We Know?! as the incorporation of dramatic envisioning goes along with actual documentary footage. Joseph Campbell’s idea about The Hero’s Journey is something I’ve heard of only tangentially but never quite grasping what it meant. Well, this trailer helps out in a big way.

The way this trailer is cut it leaves all the heavy lifting through a wonderfully simple explanation of what The Hero’s Journey meant, and how it defines not only those of us who speak American, but that we’re all connected to this journey through basics found in practically every culture, at every time. There is no question if it was presented as straightforward as it is that this would make for a blow-your-brains-out snoozefest but it’s gripping here thanks to the multiple personalities we get who define it in more personal terms.

Tony Hawk, Laird Hamilton, Rashida Jones each defining their own journey all comes back to Campbell’s theory and it’s strange to see how this is interwoven with clips of this fictional journey of a kid slaying a dragon, a demon, many times over but it works for me. I get it. I understand what they’re aiming at and what the purpose is but there’s absolutely some spiritual questioning going on and it’s doing it without being weird or awkward within a two minute spot.

While I don’t like the saccharine sweet mega happy ending of this trailer, I feel like we’re seeing the final moments of the movie and there’s no need to make it as sickeningly twee as it is, there is something to be said about the positivity it’s exuding. It’s all well and good and this could be a film that is just that.

Connected Trailer

I like movies like this.

Sometimes, as evidenced by the trailers above and below this one, I need something that’s buffed and polished to a high shine like a new pair of dress shoes. Director Tiffany Shlain’s bubbly effervescence is a bit too strong, overpowering like the stank that hits you whenever you roll through the perfume section of a department store, but thankfully the moment is brief and we get down to what brings us all here.

In an age when colorful infographics are the kinds of ways we like to have our information parceled, many documentaries sprucing up staid facts and figures in the last decade with animations that bring colorless numbers to life, this is taking the torch from others who have come before it. With old stock footage interspersed with new footage and the animated charts and graphs this all feeds into my ADD quite nicely.

Much like An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary is taking an approach to its presentation that tries not to be overbearing with its initial hypothesis but there’s a certain kind of heavy handedness here. It’s about technology and the personal space it is invading in our lives but when Tiffany talks about a life defining moment that changes everything, yet doesn’t reveal what that is, I’m more intrigued by what she’s not saying than what she is.

The documentary looks like it’s going to strike at the heart of technology dependence and show us all for what many have become, being married to our devices so deeply that we’re lost without them, but the trailer loses me a little bit by the end as the message gets muddled with preachy claptrap. Nonetheless, though, I’m always up to learn about how much we’re becoming more and more like Annie Ross in Superman III. (Still creeps me out…)

Man On Ground Trailer

When you have a trailer like this you can just feel an artist’s hand guiding you along the way.

It’s reassuring, and comforting, to be given this insight into a movie as if it were a quiet secret that could only be whispered. It’s odd to take away something like this from a preview that only consists of static words and disconnected images but this is one of the most evocative trailers I’ve seen all week.

Director Akin Omotoso looks like he’s bringing a story that’s about as complicated as anything you would read in Rashomon but dramatic enough that you already feel for these characters without ever seeing them in a proper scene.

The music is probably the best I’ve heard within a trailer in the last few months and it’s used so compellingly that you can’t help but be drawn in by what its purpose is and, to me, that’s the real hook. And, like a real hook, it slowly embeds itself and then snaps back to the point where you’re helpless to either give in to it or at least acknowledge that you yourself don’t have any idea of why a car bursts into flames at the end of this thing.

I couldn’t tell you about the story, I couldn’t tell you about the characters, but what’s here is, oddly, more than enough to make me want to seek it out and find out what is at the heart of a tale that appears to be gripping and intimate.

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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