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 City Dark Trailer

Ian Cheney may have something.

I never considered the idea about living where the stars are obscured by the blitz of big city light rushing upwards, of being in a place that would prevent the populace from enjoying the celestial bodies many residing in rural areas take for granted, but this trailer makes an interesting supposition about what it means to live in a world without some darkness.

Thinking about what happens to people’s perspective on life in a city when they turn into a twenty-four hour society, how light and the cosmos factor into that, is put out there as a hypothesis gently and offered up as a random thought. The trailer discusses lighting by way of electricity, its first salvo tucked in the unintended consequences of what light bulbs wrought when they illuminated entire towns, and you can tell they’re taking jabs at the invention as it prepares its second argument which is that urban sprawl and the changing nature of cityscapes are pushing people outward. This, as a result, is making everything physically brighter as society swells.

And that’s when I start to become a little annoyed at the whining.

You have some rube who stands on a beach talking about how it doesn’t get dark anymore, a nerd who says he’s only seen the Milky Way when there’s been blackouts, and some dude floats his postulation that by not being able to see the sky at night there might be some perspective that is lost by man not realizing his own limitations as a spec on earth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like this trailer. I like this one a lot because I think it is a thoughtful dissertation on what it means to live without that connection between the earth and the stars. I don’t think it’s as dire as these hippies want to make it out to be, and I could be taking everything the wrong way, but the simple solution to the near tears many of these grown men seem to be verging on is to literally take a drive out of the city. I live in a desert and if I want cool relief in the summer I need to drive two hours north to the mountains. Seems like a pretty easy solution and I see hints of that here but there doesn’t seem to be the notion that one could very easily solve this problem if they wanted to.

Like I said, I like the way this trailer is constructed and it has me really interested but I’m going in with an open mind ready to know why this could be the one film people are talking about coming out of SXSW.

Jig Trailer

What better way to extend that Irish hangover than with a glimpse at a documentary that looks like the equivalent of a breezy best-seller?

What I like about Sue Bourne’s documentary that details the World Irish Dancing Championships is that, besides realizing how interesting a movie about dancing could be after seeing Black Swan and being open to the idea, they tell you up front that kids and young people come from all over the world to dance in a tournament that not only boasts over 6,000 participants but that there isn’t a dollar to be won. Not one plum nickel. It’s all done for a title.

I don’t know how you could not find yourself moving to the lilting sounds of a Irish band with a violin, a flute, and a bodhrán providing the high bass but the opening is what gets you. The opening shows you kids from all over the world training as if these were the mean streets of Philadelphia, training for a world class boxing match with all the prep work and road work going into it. Hearing from parents who couldn’t believe what they were seeing as if they chanced upon some strange pageant of fake wigged festooned children and seeing women who are the equivalent of stage mothers who are no doubt going to be shown pushing their brood to the breaking point, this is the kind of human drama I can get into real quick. It hooked me.

The music just picks up the pace as the energy gets higher, the agony of defeat being shown as dancers melt under the heat of the pressure they’re under to perform, and the doubts that are raised by some as they come to grips knowing that there has to be a life after this and what it means to have prepared so hard for something only to realize the most frightening question any athlete makes: What happens after I’m done with all this training? Has it been all for naught?

The point is raised so candidly that I can’t help but be all in for this movie.

Bots High Trailer

I have a real tender spot, raw and uncovered like a fresh raspberry colored scab that is breathing air after having the crusty epidermis ripped off of it, for nerds.

I fell more into the “Freak” category than I did “Geek” but I’m always willing to give some support to anything that looks like it is championing the brains that some kids possess in high school and are not celebrated for having some. Filmmaker Joey Daoud does something special with how he frames these students and that is he uses this trailer as a means to look at both the competition and the competitors in equal measures.

What really struck me about this trailer is that not only does it look better than a lot of indie trailers I get sent in the mail, but it is crystal clear about what it’s going to show you: four robots, three teams, two schools. The opening is like a little sizzle reel as it gives you a taste of the robot destruction that’s coming. We launch into an explanation of how we got here and it’s done with sharp attention to economy, no unnecessary filler here. Like I said, it’s so clear about defining who we’re going to be following, why we’re following them, and what’s at stake for all involved that I wonder why other people don’t get how to do it right all of the time.

What’s more, I am grateful for showing these kids just being kids. Instead of this being something I would see on Nova or PBS or any other show that would strictly be about the mechanics of how these individuals constructed these metal fighting beasts you get glimpses into normal teenage life. You see girls giggling awkwardly, boys who are unsure of themselves, just normal teenage weirdness, and it gives you a glimpse into the adolescent experience with some technology thrown in for good measure.

The trailer is snappy thanks to some quick, but not freakishly ADD infused, editing and the way in which we move from competitions to interviews to quiet moments of reflection. It never feels jarring and for that I say this is one of the better trailers I’ve seen all month.

Gianni E Le Donne (The Salt Of Life) Trailer

Before you ask why I am including the trailer above, this movie is being brought to you by the guy who did Gomorrah.

That said, this one is pure consternation for me because I’m unsure of what I’m seeing. I mean, the fellow who wrote the award winning Mid-August Lunch and ripped the collective faces off many who experienced Gomorrah wrote and directed what looks like the equivalent of an Adam Sandler production? Is it me, or is there something lost in translation? Gianni Di Gregorio’s latest has all the oomph of a squirrel passing gas.

While there ought to be props to the man for being able to be the director, writer, and lead actor in his own film, the trailer feels like it’s the same old same old about an older guy coming to grips with his age, waning in the days as he realizes he’s not the spry young man he once was. It seems to be an examination of what it means to be married and to be growing older with a wandering eye that doesn’t seem to age.

The trailer embraces the notion that his is a ribald and lusty surrounding, ladies who fit a sexualized idea that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can see when compared to the Regis Philbin’s of the world as they put Old Man River next to a tight and taught female sidekick. It’s the old man/young woman paradox that we seem to have no problem with as it reinforces however subtle the notion of trophy wives/girlfriends but before I can really start bagging on it too relentlessly I start to warm to it.

Yeah, I don’t know what they’re talking about either but the trailer seems to be sending out cues that he isn’t being lecherous as he is a man who is trapped at home with a wife who may not pay him much attention and a mom he’s struggling to take care of. He’s caught in an estrogen whirlpool and he’s working through something. It’s not a man who is stepping out on his wife and becoming the object of our ire; he seems to be on a path to learn something about himself and about where he is in his life.

Of course, I could be missing the point completely, the sickeningly sweet pop music conveying that things aren’t going to get real heavy, bolstering up the idea that this will be more comedy than it is tragedy. I’m caught up with the sweet nature of this guy who is looking to assert his “dudeness” while also being turned off by the almost too light way in which we deal with the subject matter of this film.

I want to believe that the man behind Gomorrah and Lunch is going to say something other than “Getting old is hard” and I really want to be excited about a movie like this but I lose faith as we slowly fade to black on this one.

Charlie Cassanova Trailer

I’ve got no explanation on why I like this trailer as much as I do.

However, what attracted me to this one was it had hints of Tom Hardy all up in it. When I saw the trailer for Bronson I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It was something electric. In much the same way, looking at Emmet Scanlan you can tell yourself that it’s a role he’s playing all day long but there is something that comes through when you see him move across the screen. He’s got crazy nailed down wonderfully.

First time director Terry McMahon has made something wicked and it all seems to kick off with a poetry slam of some kind. I give it tons of credit for just staying still, not moving, allowing us to just hang with a mustache that resides mere centimeters from a microphone in a quiet club. It’s bold.

With an admission by Charlie’s that his mom died with one breath, asking for a prostitute with another, you can feel the deviousness. It’s not going to stick to the usual methodologies of making you want to grab a wallet and hit the cineplex but, thankfully, it’s its own beast.

For if it was just Charlie delivering a monologue about personal freedom and power this trailer would have lost its momentum but the odd collection of clips we’re shown is what grabs your attention. From fornication to violent altercations there are a hodgepodge of things that defy explanation with regard to understanding how fighting in the streets, deathbed confessions, odd shaving routines, bathing, screaming, and yelling have to do with what the ultimate plot of the film.

It may be jarring but it’s delicious fun. I can’t shake the association with Tom Hardy but there’s good reason for that. Much like Eric Bana’s Chopper, there is an element of focused instability. These guys are coming off the rails but it’s very controlled and I like that. A trailer like this may seem disjointed but that’s only the whole point. It’s a glimpse into what ought to be, what it’s selling itself as, a film where the descent into madness is well documented. Quite exciting.

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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