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?


Kidnapped (Secuestrados) Trailer

Interesting thing, the long take.

Hotly debated on the /Film podcast with regard to this filmmaking trick, exploring its merits and effective uses some months ago now, comes a movie to thrill those looking for a new entry into those willing to try it and will most likely rankle those who see this a novelty.

I, for one, embrace its use and look at a trailer like this and marvel at the ways this might be the best use of a long take.

After finding about filmmaker Miguel Angel Vivas’ latest project through a top 10 list from the guys at Twitch my interest was more than piqued by the mere prospect of what this film could be like when you consider the movie is composed of only twelve shots. Now, there have been other films that have milked the spectacle of the single long take but has one ever been named Mejor Pelicula or Mejor Director at a film festival? I think not.

The trailer is fantastic because not only does it get its kudos out of the way, right away, it just doesn’t play up its novelty. In fact, it doesn’t even hint that this is a movie with the kind of marketing angle any PR flunkie would love to jam down our throats as it includes a butt load of quick clips. The pace is so fast that the sheer amount of terror that comes across is undeniable. In a home invasion this is the kind of chaotic disorientation that ought to happen and, proving why it might be better at provoking genuine fear than Panic Room did, this trailer actually manages to make the tight space of a home feel like an inescapable prison that you absolutely must leave.

Any person who has a working knowledge of what happened this year to one of a pair of armed men who stormed a house in an altercation that could only be called evil, knowing they assaulted and killed the daughters of a mother who was forced to get money out of a bank before she was murdered and a father who had the piss beat out of him before being able to flee a to safety, eerily close to what we have here in the trailer, you can feel that this not only seems real but there is a vibrancy to it all. The action is quick and furious and violent. We accept this perspective on events because it is so germane to the movements on the screen.

So frenetic is the pacing that by the end of this trailer you’re not only able to understand why the girl is mumbling incoherently to herself but you’re left to ponder what possible fate awaits this family of victims. [Twitch]

Archipelago Trailer

What I genuinely like about this trailer is its sparseness.

Strengthened by a musical number that is on par with avant-garde musician, I would say pretentious blowhard, Laurie Anderson there is an unseen metronome that keeps a beat with what we see on the screen. Showing a well-to-do family going on vacation, everyone looking mentally wrapped tighter than wet animal skin around a rock to dry, no one is fully enjoying their surroundings. But there is a beauty here, a beauty in the filmmaking.

Watching a conversation between two people about a lobster sitting in a pot, being brought to a gradual boil, a concerned sibling giving an explanation of how this Crustacean will leave this mortal coil, ought to be boring as all get out but somehow it isn’t. It’s downright hypnotizing as you listen to the nuance of the delivery, flashing to these people having lunch where the matriarch seems like a proper twat who needs to be smacked with a frozen carp. But I love it. The natural lighting, the atmosphere that there is something deeply troubling here, I feel like I’m peering into an actual family’s struggle to have quality time together. And, thank goodness, I don’t think that’s going to be possible.

The mother gets a good talking to from a chef who defends the way he prepared the dish she took umbrage with, the woman simply digging into her own opinion that the meal was of poor quality, and then, in another moment, she’s backhandedly poking her family as they try and take a picture together. I know, not thrilling, but this trailer is an experience like no other.

Director Joanna Hogg really does has something here that, I think, is unique in that it appears to be a movie about nothing really important or life affirming but will reflect something innate about the lives we make for ourselves. I’m interested.

Apocalypse, CA Trailer

I don’t know what I like so much about this trailer but I love it’s strange beauty.

Always having a soft spot for indie directors who want more out of their films than just pretentious whining about the state of mankind and why working on a commune is representative of class struggle this trailer’s got bazookas, ‘asplosions, a giant woman (literally), debauchery, chicks in their underwear, hard drinking, and a little bit of je ne sais quoi that feels like raw talent that is looking to be noticed.

While I think it’s admirable that the feature debut of writer/director/cinematographer Chad Peter begins with an explanation of what is happening in the world he’s creating I’m initially lost with why our protagonist is such an unlikable hero. He’s conflicted about something and even as life might be coming to an end on our plant he literally seems to pushing poon away from him. I’m out of my gord trying to piece together why I should root for this man but at the :40 mark I am so on board. Another woman throws herself at this guy who turns to liquor to dull his senses but the strange collage of moments that really hook me here begin at this nexus point and hook me completely.

With the introduction of some more beautiful ladies in bikinis (my caveman sensibilities are easily placated), a giant woman who swats at a helicopter and makes it blow up by her Chuck Taylor’s (nice effect work), a whole army battalion coming out of the back of yet another helicopter, some guy literally getting dragged around on the carpet by some lovelies looking to have some fun (what in the hell is going on here?), some girls kissing one another (and, really, with independent movies you never know what’s going to pass for “hot” but Chad managed to find women who are actually nice to look at AND wanted to be in an independent movie), our hero yakking under a pier, it all adds up to a trailer that is intensely likable, vibrant, full of curiosities, and has me interested in wanting to know how this all fits together. Our hero is conflicted, yes, but wanting to know what one has to do with the other is a win for those who made this. Leaving these questions out there is a bold choice when the impulse to tell all no doubt must be high.

I’m impressed by what’s here and I am sure I would be shocked by how much it cost to get it all made. To be able and hide those gaping holes in this trailer, holes that studios are able to cover up with lots of cash and sleight of hand, is a feat worthy enough for the trailer’s inclusion here.

The War You Don’t See Trailer

You couldn’t ask for a better trailer for a propaganda film.

I’m not being derisive or meaning to sound dismissive but this is a politically charged piece that has a hypothesis many would say, and should say after watching this, can’t be misconstrued. It’s resolute in what it wants to present as it literally resorts to shock and awe to thrust you into its world.

Baghdad 2003.

The sight of bombs crushing structures as the patina of amber night light paints them is international. We can’t mistake what we see. As if pulled from the Karl Rove official handbook of political spin this trailer immediately kicks in with images of a soldier with his gun drawn going into an Iraqi family’s home, of a little girl crying, with sad violin music playing throughout. It would almost be a joke if it wasn’t so manipulative.

Then we get Tobin Bell’s more austere older brother talking to us head on about the role of the media in war coverage. I wasn’t sure which way I was leaning about this trailer but when we get the footage of the chopper that opens fire on a pack of men who were doing nothing but living their lives in a war zone that’s where it fired it me up. The glib comments from one of our American service personnel who were doing as he was told in this helicopter is nothing compared to the sights of the collateral damage left in this war’s wake. Images of damaged women, damaged men, a dead child, and, eventually, a dead child being pulled out of rubble, are really almost too much to bear.

I’m torn whether this is a trailer that is extremely effective at selling what it has to present or if it’s taking the low road in order to use shock and awe against potential patrons of this film. Nonetheless, a movie about censorship and how some will capitulate in exchange for access to this war’s theater is vitally important for those concerned that they’re not getting the full story from those tasked with providing us with information.

I don’t know who John Pilger is but I’m interested knowing he has a definitive point to make.

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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