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?

24 Hours at the South Street Trailer

There was a certain thrill to listening to the goings on inside a diner.

When This American Life had an hour devoted an hour of their radio programming to detailing 24 hours inside the Golden Apple restaurant I could not, not turn the dial. It’s the epitome of slice-of-life storytelling and that’s what drew me into this trailer for Melissa and Tom Dowler’s documentary about, oddly enough, a diner in Boston.

The trailer is really bite sized in the way we have small moments given to us about this special nook in the city that must have hundreds of greasy spoons. It establishes the reason why we would want to care about a place that sells hash browns and some of the drama that surrounded its existence. While there isn’t anything in here to indicate that it’s going to rock anyone’s world and make them think differently about life, there is something to be said about a nice uptempo trailer that gives us a quick rundown of why we’re here and what we can expect. The music is peppy, the people seem interesting enough to listen to, and, clocking in at a total runtime of 25 minutes, it seems to be that they’re in, they’re out and they’re done before they wear out their welcome.

It’s honest advertising at its finest.

Nostalgia Trailer

I grew up a fan of Janet Jackson.

There’s no hiding from my pop past as a youth and I am willing to say that when the video for “Alright” came out I was transfixed by the melding of an uptempo radio single with the delightfully well choreographed moves of a cadre of dancers and performers. There’s no other way to put it than to say this trailer fills me with the same kind of delight that video did when I believed that joy could be found in dancing and seeing people being happy while doing it.

With a film like Pina you had dramatic, serious choreography that evoked a deep sense of humanity whereas this feels more like the kind of expression that is akin to love, to passion. Dulé Hill pops up in the first few seconds, excellently front loaded in this trailer to make you go deeper into what’s here. It draws you in with its silence, no one saying a word, and letting the music slip into the foreground as the means of communication.

From there, director Johnnie Hobbs’ direction takes a backseat to the accentuation of the performances that pepper the teaser and it turns into something that just exudes humanity. While there is next to zero plot given up to assess or think about, the real delight is just listening to the music and seeing the life pour through the veins of this trailer. It’s not the usual play for your wallet that a trailer is ought to be focused on but, instead, it is more concerned with capturing the soulfulness and the goodness that comes with shaking a leg, tapping a foot.

I don’t know what you can expect going into a project like this completely blind but, from what is here, it really does feel like something uniquely singular.

All In Good Time Trailer

I thought at first glance that this was a Gurinder Chadha joint but, alas, I wasn’t too far off the mark.

Directed by Nigel Cole and written by the chap who brought us East is East, this is a silly construction of outlandish comedy and impossibly unreal situations. That said, it looks like a breezy way to pass an evening.

What makes this seem like a movie that Chadha would have directed is its focus on the relationships that kids have with their parents and the dynamic that exists with older and younger generations. You have silly parents who are overbearing, a mother who seems like she’s the brains of the operation while the dad looks like everything a fop should be, and a son who is trying to make things work with his new bride. The trailer bangs from one moment to the next, leaving y0u no time to breathe.

It’s all very light and airy but if there is anything that is a little disappointing is that we’re given the whole damn film. If it was any other trailer it would be awful that we know this couple gets married, has issues with the groom’s folks, they end up drifting apart, and it’s not until the boy’s father, who is causing all the problems in the first place, tells him to go after his young bride that you realize you’ve now seen the whole film. That said, you get hints that this could be a cute exploration of family politics. It’s cut quickly and has a real nice flow, something that many comedies are missing nowadays in their marketing.

While, like I said, this movie could benefit from not revealing so much it nonetheless seems like a movie that is selling something slightly original.

Murder Capital of the World Trailer

Charlie Minn has focused on Mexico for a while now.

The director has zeroed in on this part of the world in many of his previous works and now, again, he turns his attention to what is one of the most dangerous parts of the world that is mere miles from the America/Mexico border: Juarez.

Charles Bowden, author of the fantastic book “Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez” which paints a rather bleak and frightening picture of this place, is an interview subject who speaks authoritatively about the heinous nature of a place that has dissolved into lawlessness and danger.

The trailer makes me afraid for the lives of those who find themselves in between Mexican authorities and the drug dealers who don’t care who gets in their way. The composition of using actual footage of people getting slain while the talking heads discuss what’s really at issue in a country that is disntegrating.

If there is anything that gives an indication of how horrific things are getting just watch the trailer and wait until 1:20. The break-in that happens, and the storming of the home where no doubt someone got popped, is enough for the price of admission from the standpoint that there hasn’t been anything really good, or comprehensive, that talks about what is happening down south in any good detail. An examination of what is occurring just mere miles from our nation’s border, is a long time coming and my only surprise is that it has taken this long for someone to put it to film. A slight misstep, though, is the heavy musical synth track that is laid as the foundation. It’s kinda cheeseball and over the top when you think that this is the kind of music best left back in the 80s as well as the stark looking interstitials, let the footage do the heavy lifting for you.

While many of us purport to know how corrupt things are in Mexico I think seeing how this corruption mixed in with the drug trade, and the poverty many find themselves in that would make this dynamic even a viable social model, the trailer is a good start to get the word out.

Unraveled Trailer

The lead has been buried.

About 3/4th’s of the way through this thing you have a pull-quote saying that this documentary is a glimpse into the mind of a white collar thief. To me, that’s your lead in.

What better way to talk about Mark Simon’s documentary about Mark Drier, a guy who was on the level of Bernie Madoff but whose financial scheming landed him in federal prison for 20 years. This story is utterly fascinating from the perspective that it is a sign of the times.

The trailer is solidly constructed from the standpoint that the opening is EXACTLY how you use good storytelling and great marketing to lure people further into your pitch. By putting up the logos for all the festivals this movie has played at, by letting our subject put out a philosophical quandary to the audience, without telling us anything about this person or what it is they’ve done this trailer immediately grabs your curiosity.

The rationalization he applies, the calmness with which he delivers his thought about how he found himself in this situation, it’s chillingly on point. The story of how he got to that point, once we establish this is the antagonist in this production, is wonderfully brief and high level from a 50,000 foot view. We don’t get bogged in details but we’re given just enough to understand what he did and the repercussions of his actions. And that’s what makes this documentary look so delicious.

We’ve got this guy on the proverbial ropes and, based on all the things we know of what the banks got away with, and the anger that some may feel of how they’ve been essentially above reproach, this guy easily is the embodiment of the evil that money men wrought. It’s just too good to see him strategize with his lawyers and the road he’s finding himself on as he heads to prison but there’s something to be said for the drama that comes out of this.

I’m not missing this story, it’s just too good to pass up and see one man’s fall from the grace that stolen money bought.

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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