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?

The Impostor Trailer

I was hooked by what I heard about this movie on the Film Junk podcast.

The premise was all but odd seeing how there was a child who was reported missing, was “found” but then ended up not really fitting in with their notion of what their child was like. There was something off about him. As I listened to the review I didn’t quite get how this was being depicted on screen and how it could have been so compelling but then I saw this trailer and understood exactly what director Bart Layton was going for.

Sure, this isn’t anything like his past projects The Trouble With Black Men or Banged Up Abroad but the mix of documentary footage, old video clips, and expertly composed film segments is insanely riveting. It’s not at all distressing that we’re drifting in and out of what’s real and what’s not. In fact, it’s a better story just because there is a mash-up quality to the trailer.

In fact, when the trailer hits about the two minute mark and the guitar kicks in there is just a whirlwind of activity that just messes with your perception of what we’re doing here. Is there a mystery to be solved? Is it done? Who is this guy in the clink? Keep me at arms length, keep me guessing. Thank you for putting every element you have in the blender and confusing the hell out of me.

The Fairy Trailer

There are just simple pleasures in film that you can sometimes forget about if you stare at tights and superheroes long enough.

What I like about director Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy’s ode to lunacy looks like the same thing I loved about their nutty 2008 opus, Rumba. Especially in this trailer, what we get is the story of a woman who purports herself to be a fairy, who can grant three wishes, and a man who doesn’t seem much in the mood for it.

On the surface it seems so dumb and facile but the execution is utterly fantastic. These two were star crossed lovers who were meant for one another, although, on this star, the world seemed aligned against them. The music is so jaunty and jazzy that the entire duration of the trailer seems to project a lighthearted tale that is complex enough that you can see how well it’s layered in its comedy.

Forget the puerile and tasteless, this film celebrates the kind of humor that has long since disappeared with the great masters of farce. The physical humor, the composition of the backdrops with absurd comedy happening in the foreground that uses nary a word to get its point across, the absence of mean, it feels like a movie that is from a different time but is coming at exactly the right time.

Tales of the Night Trailer

Just like The Fairy, this trailer evokes something timeless.

Filmmaker Michel Ocelet taps right into that same sense of awe and wonder that I loved in Sita Sings the Blues. Even though I don’t know what this movie is about or why I should even care, there is a playfulness to the material that telegraphs this film’s message being something akin to the endless wonder of imagination. The pull quotes help a great deal to seal anyone’s plans to investigate whether to see the movie, and certainly the case can be made as to why you would want to keep it so damn vague, but it’s the animation that should draw most anyone in.

I can’t put my finger on anything exactly but it’s that curiosity factor that’s in play here. A trailer that doesn’t reveal so much as it lets others talk about it while the disparate elements all coalesce together in a playful pastiche of little moments.

 The Invisible War

Kirby Dick, you’ve got the kind of steel in your nether regions that fits your namesake.

Laying low since 2009′s Outrage Dick is back with a documentary that is set up ever so delicately before it takes a monkey wrench upside your head. There is a nice way the trailer builds up a little narrative around the idea of women going into war, really plays up the empowerment angle, and then explodes into the sexual assault of female service members. Pow.

We get pull quotes that start shoring up the idea that what this is isn’t just a story that will ask you to passively digest the information it’s about to lay out it’s a story that will showcase the seriousness of something that needs to be told. We’re not even forty-five seconds into it before an abused soldier talks about being armed with Jesus for protection and a bad ass pig sticker for back-up.

The ferocity of senate inquiries into the cover up capabilities of our United States military is a nice flourish to include, as well as the background music that amps up the patriotic nature and tone of the subject matter. I have no doubt that rape is a hard thing to have to “sell” in the conventional sense of the word but the trailer succeeds here by focusing on the fallout and the things that AREN’T being done in order to leverage the story. Smart. Very smart.

Personal Best Trailer

Yeah, I get sucked into the Olympics pretty well.

Every two years there are endless EPKs about athletes who have been hooked on smack, crack, blow, horse, been down and out, up and down, broke, mentally ill, lost family members to freak garden hose accidents, and sometimes a combination of all of these. Point is, I don’t care how crazy things get for these athletes who are battling for medals, I’m not able to not turn away from these stories. That’s why this documentary by Sam Blair, who directed the fantastically engrossing documentary High/Low about gamblers in Macau, gets my attention.

The trailer just feels like something you would expect to see on HBO. It’s high praise as the way sports documentaries are shown there (look no further than seasons of Hard Knocks and 24/7 for how well shot and composed those series are put together) and here it’s all about the athletes. The actual feats of human endurance are pretty much relegated to second class status as the focus is on the personal trials and tribulations of the athletes who are gunnin’ for that number one spot, a chance at the Olympics. The fact that we’re following multiple story lines is not only thoughtful, it’s pretty smart. Hopefully this will only increase the odds of us actually betting on the right horse to win or, at the very least, to place or show. As we see them push themselves and talk about what it’s like to tell their bodies to go further when their minds are begging them to stop, this is the real treat of the trailer.

As well, the slow motion is used so well here. The way the digital clock is shown slowly clicking through the seconds, the way the starting gun is poised for what seems like hours, the concentration of these men among men as you feel the pressure that must be building up behind them to perform with every rotation of their body, it’s deliriously fascinating.

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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