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?

I’m interrupting this column to announce a sweet contest open to budding filmmakers who not only love the fake trailers that played during Grindhouse but are lovers of all things gonzo and want to be included on the DVD release of Hobo With A Shotgun when it drops. I’m hoping it’s a /Film reader who schools everyone else in this competition but here’s the announcement from Hobo director Jason Eisener:

For those attending SXSW HOBO WITH THE A SHOTGUN will play there on Tuesday, March 15 and Wednesday, March 16. As well, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN will be available on VOD, iTunes, XBOX Marketplace, Playstation Network and Amazon.com April 1; in select theaters May 6.

Now, the fine print:

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN was the winner of the Quentin Tarantion and Robert Roderguiz’s GRINDHOUSE SXSW trailer competition. To continue the legacy of the grindhouse cinema, the YerDead and Rhombus teams are giving you a chance to submit the next great exploitation masterpiece!

To enter visit: http://ca.hobowithashotgun.com/contest/submit/

You can submit right now until March 31st, 2011 at 11:59PM EST.

For more rules and regulations please visit: http://ca.hobowithashotgun.com/contest/faq

View the HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN red band trailer:

Official Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hobowithashotgun

Official Website: ttp://www.hobowithashotgun.com

Kidnapped (Secuestrados) Trailer

I showcased the last trailer for Kidnapped months ago but there’s a new trailer on the loose.

Director Miguel Angel Vivas has made a movie that consists of only twelve shots but you would be hard pressed to ascertain that just by watching this. As we see things movie from a family moving in to a new home to a family being subjected to a home invasion there is every indication this is wildly more interesting than Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Whereas the trailer that came before this one showed a movie that could have been an existential rumination on the nature of panic and fear this trailer shows a film that’s downright exciting. Exciting not only because we see this trailer hit the beats of the story early, as well as succinctly, and that we get right to the heart of the moment without knowing motive or why these thieves are going to extremes with what they’re doing.

The sheer brutality of these men, the Hans Gruber of the team speaking with the kind of calm insanity I can really get into, and the naturalistic way all of the actions appear on the screen, there isn’t any way you can see this and not feel a little charge, a spark somewhere that tells you this is special.

Musical cues, a big part in helping to goose and amplify the quick cuts, are vital and this one doesn’t relent. In fact, as we near towards a close on the trailer there is an ever increasing quickening of the percussion, a trick many try but fail to properly do effectively with any emotion. I like that as we get closer to the finish it just gets more violent. With sledgehammers flying, people getting fists in the face, struggles that are way too blurry to make out, and a final pop from a gun there is something almost wicked about seeing a girl chanting for her mommy in utter shock. I’m not one for torture porn but all’s well that ends really well.

Wondering who will make it out on the other end is one those simple pleasures of watching films like this and the trailer promises we’ll get that satisfaction.

The Tree Trailer

I am a rube, a sucker, a fool for liking this but I can’t help myself. In my defense, though, there isn’t anything screaming out as to why I should like this. There isn’t any star wattage to contain, no hysterical monologue delivered in tears and snot by an actress looking for Oscar gold, there’s just an honest presentation of a story about a woman who’s left to tend to a family after the patriarch dies unexpectedly.

What I like about this trailer isn’t so much about its mushy sentimentality, OK it has something to do with it, but it’s the way it can communicate loss so that the effect can be seen rather then shoved in my face. The way we sort of linger on the shot of the dead father’s grave site with no one having inscribed it, telegraphing this family’s meager income, and the manner in which the orphaned kids all grapple with how to deal with the man’s departure is poignant. To be sure, it’s enough to make any soulless, stone hearted louse get all goosey.

Further, I like that Marton Csokas is front and center here. For my money, he was one of the better villains of the Bourne films and even though he had only a short amount of screen time he came correct and impressed. Here, playing a more subtle role, he comes across with an earnestness that’s undeniable. Director Julie Bertucelli is making something that’s muted and is using the environment as a silent character in the film.

Throw in a little conflict, have the lead actress get a little bombastic about the gnarled tree that people want to cut down but not get too uppity, show something dangerous where one of the kids’ lives might be in danger, and you have yourself a tight, emotional nugget to gnaw on.

Now, this could be all well and good on its own but we’re taken one more step forward and shown one of the little girls talking about the meaning of happiness to her. Yes, I know it’s fake, yes, I realize someone wrote the words on a piece of paper for this little midget to say, but as this girl says the words you just believe it. She makes you believe it.

I realize many, if not all, of you will dismiss this trailer. I would too depending on my mood and I would make fun of my wife if she liked this before I did but just stumbling on it and seeing this I’m filled with the idea that you might have yourself a good cry if all the signs in this trailer are pointing in the right, and honest, direction.

Spooner Trailer

Matthew Lillard.

The name conjures up all kinds of films that he’s been for in the last fifteen years ever since he broke out with Scream. He’s had roles that are memorable and some, well, that aren’t. Nora Zehetner, for her part, might only be recognizable from Brick. I stopped watching Heroes after the first season and I don’t DVR Grey’s Anatomy but she really radiates some charm wattage in this trailer. She’s like a youthful Ginnifer Goodwin with exuberance to spare and appears to be evenly pared with a toned down Lillard who actually has some charm of his own in this and I couldn’t be more surprised.

The trailer has a lot of ground to cover as it appears that not only do we have to establish that Lillard is afflicted to some degree, with an acute inability to be all the way normal, not quite full retard but it’s close. There are the usual tropes of parents who want their kid out of their house with a dad who thinks his son is fey because he has no woman in his life as it starts to stray into some well tr0dden territory but seeing how Lillard chances upon Zehetner is the pivot point in making this trailer just get into its own groove and really shine.

The interesting thing about from this moment forward is that we have zero input as to what to expect in this film. The musical interlude shows these kids to be growing intimately more close with one another as we plod along but it has a sweetness to it; a likability, if you will, that you don’t see often.

Many times with indies it’s all about showcasing a wholly original idea that’s fleshed out with the kind of aplomb usually reserved for first time filmmakers. However, in this case, it’s being directed and co-written by Drake Doremus with some story help from Jonathan Schwartz, the duo you would probably most recently recognize behind the mumblecore darling Douchebag.

This is the kind of movie I could take a chance on and go in with an open mind that Lillard and Zehetner could be an interesting pair of people to follow around and the trailer makes me believe it can be more than what it appears to be and I like that kind of surprise.

The Green Wave Trailer

The Iranians came close.

For a good breakdown of just one aspect of the short lived Iranian revolution a couple of years ago, the death of Neda Agha Soltan possibly being the most polarizing event of that moment, check Frontline through PBS and see the particulars of what happens when a revolt is quelled and a regime tries to make everything go back to normal. This documentary sets up a similar idea and I like the mixed media approach to the storytelling.

It’s odd in that the hushed tones of a narrator who speaks of identity and of history and of personal struggle for a people never once does he say the word “Iran.” Nowhere in entire trailer is it mentioned but it’s obviously done with a purpose and I understand where they’re coming from by not speaking it by name.

I’m struck with the hyper colorized animation that accompanies this faceless, nameless voiceover, as we slowly transition to the actual visages of people petitioning their government in the streets of Iran. The sea of green, of the people chanting and cheering, is overwhelming. You get that this is what a documentary on Egypt, on Libia, ought to be: a tale of a society who have felt maligned by a government that seeks their subjugation and fealty. I get it.

This messaging comes through in such a small time span that you forgive its brevity in hustling you from conceptual animation to in-your-face documentary footage. With the sad woodwinds in the background you already know that while Iran’s story will end with control being reasserted over the land there is an opportunity for director Ali Samadi Ahadi to show what could be possible if the people make another go for it.

Timely and compelling. Enough of a reason for me to seek this out when it drops.

In der Welt habt ihr Angst Trailer

Even though I couldn’t tell you if these people are talking about the vagaries of rock criticism in postmodern Germany I still found this trailer hitting some high notes for me.

Director/writer Hans Geissendörfer, who has been credited with bringing Germany its first real soap opera according to his IMDB profile in 1985, is kind of a big deal. I’m sure you Germans hold him in high esteem for doing such a thing but this looks like he’s made something that’s a little offbeat, dangerous. I like that it has the pangs of a love story that’s infused with narco induced terror, a kidnapping and a hog tie, while also being something genteel when you consider the visual accompaniment of how the kidnapped seems to respond to his captor.

If I’m looking at this right the kidnapped guy becomes the wheel man for the junkie looking to spring her man from police custody but I could be way wrong on this, although I doubt it because it looks like kidnapper and kidnapped are in it to win it. Language barrier or no there seems to be all kinds of wild things going on in this film without any indication how we got from point a to point b and then c. The trailer is a slick representative sample of scenes that are taken out of context while also going in order so as to not give away why the lumpy oaf who our strung out lady captures becomes a willing accomplice to this crime. Maybe it’s how it’s done in Germany: if you get kidnapped you’re legally obligated to drive the getaway car.

Regardless of the moral implications, I was pretty impressed with a trailer I couldn’t otherwise understand. The story transcended simple nouns and verbs and it gives us a glimpse into a movie that seems to be one of those small films that might not set the world afire but might be good enough to enjoy at home.

Potiche (Trophy Wife) Trailer

Three reasons why this is being included this week: Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Deneuve, and Francois Ozon.

The first two, I understand, speak for themselves with Depardieu being the French equivalent of Nicholas Cage with the number of films he’s in a year; I mean, seriously, he’s like a starving child that’s just been put in front of a Las Vegas buffet, there’s no stopping the man once he knows he can have all the bacon he wants. He’s merely window dressing, however, for a movie that rejoins Deneuve, who I last saw being at the top of her game in A Christmas Tale, and 8 Women director Ozon for a movie that looks about as deep as a kiddie pool.

No matter, though, as the narrative in this trailer is presented quickly, earnestly, and done with about as much comedic oomph as one could be reasonably expected to muster. It’s a French film built for American women who want to see their protagonist triumph over adversity and eventually fall in love for the right reasons and not the reasons that this movie’s title suggests. It’s very glib and cutesy but I think that’s just the point of it all.

While this is no Swimming Pool I can see that this movie will provide about as much entertainment as you allow it to give. Meaning, this trailer succinctly telegraphs that it’s serving up a story about a woman overcoming male chauvinism to eventually triumph over those who would like to see her in the kitchen while never promising anything more than that.

A movie that knows its limitations and is honest with its advertising; something I don’t see a lot of nowadays and, additionally, why it deserves some kudos.

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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