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?

Pearl Jam Twenty Trailer

I’ll admit it: My interest in Pearl Jam has been waning.

Don’t get me wrong, I own all their albums, have dozens upon dozens of their bootlegs, have a cassette recording of the show they did at the Chicago Stadium before they tore it down for their VS tour in the winter of 1994. It still stands as one of the watershed moments of my life and as a concert I won’t ever forget but, as with a lot of things, I started to enjoy other bands as the 90′s closed out and as PJ went in a different direction so did I to some degree. Fast forward a lot more years in the aughts and the band somehow found its way back to the locomotive rock that was their hallmark. I’ve been watching them with more and more interest in recent years after they seemed to get back in touch with something that had been misplaced for some years and this movie from Cameron Crowe is hitting at just the right moment.

What I like, nay love, about the opening sequence of this trailer is, first of all, how David Lynch is the man doing the interviewing here and, two, as you get over this bizarre paring we can’t help but hang…on…David’s…every…word as Eddie Vedder patiently allows Lynch to get his question out. The subsequent quiet reflection and the opening bars from “Given To Fly” is solid launch fuel to propel things forward as we get into it.

Using footage from Pearl Jam’s past and eschewing the usual sit down clips that marked the beginning sequence here it allows you to see and take in two decades’ worth of history this band has been responsible for. From the “Jeremy” video shoot (what self-respecting teen who got caught up in the grunge aesthetic in the 90′s doesn’t remember that video with some kind of halcyon delight?) to their battle with Ticketmaster to the many concerts that became legendary if not for the music than for Eddie’s penchant for stage climbing and diving.

The narration is a nice touch as it hits just the right balance between fondness and having something genuinely interesting to say about what they’ve been about all these years. The interstitials that look like they were created with a consumer grade video editing software are about the only abhorrent thing about this. Por ejemplo, “The Untold Story…Of A Great American Rock Band”? What are you selling, a documentary about Pearl Jam or selling an unauthorized biography? It’s the one sour note in an otherwise exciting prospect of a film that’s directed by the one director who, hopefully, can get to their essence and fully realize that on the screen.

The Enemy Within Trailer

Director José Padilha has something here and I think the trailer manages to capture a certain kind of specialness.

Devotion to Full Disclosure Department: /Film is pull quoted (is that even a verb?) at the beginning of this but genuinely does not take away the greatness of the trailer.

Whereas other trailers just want to give the plot away as if they were being held at gunpoint and forced to divulge every last secret it possesses or be cut from nut sack to throat, this one does something unique in that its sole focus is to give us the dilemma. The dilemma as it pertains to our protagonist and what is at stake for this guy without delving too deep into the particulars of the story. Some of this is, perhaps, because it’s a foreign language flick and those who made this want to try and coyly get those who might be averse to sitting down with something you have to actually put forth an effort to enjoy. It’s crafty, sure, but the avoidance of speech forces us to use our other senses. The sights, the sounds, the colors, they all gel into this experience of a trailer that appears to be a true guessing game of a man on the inside who has a real threat coming from within.

The beats, and the notes this trailer strike all form an experience where we don’t have one solitary clue to go off of as to what in the hell is happening. We don’t know anything about the guy we’re following but the violence and danger that surrounds him is very real and is shot beautifully. The rich yellows, the gritty dirt, the absence of any superfluous, improbable action beats grounds this in a reality where I genuinely fear for this guy’s safety. All without uttering a word. Powerful.

El Congo Manuel Trailer

I have no idea what in the hell is happening here but I do feel drawn in by the air of mystery that hangs over this one.

In fact, the director of this film, Tommy Davis, says of the man who seems to be operating on a whole different beta level than you or I: As a boy he once went missing and was later found under the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.  He said a spirit took hold of him and left him there.  That kind of set the course for his life.

Indeed what we see here is not your usual fare for a documentary that charts some major societal ill or documents some event that is altering human history, you simply just have a guy who wants to talk. In this way, the trailer allows us to observe a man who seems to posses something more than just charisma, he’s electric in that way where you don’t know to classify him as a deep pool of poise or the very poster child of what the mayor of Crazy Town looks like. He, himself, talks about how people can either accept him and his ways or dismiss him entirely and that’s where the hook is for me.

Davis does well to use a jaunty musical bed that you could easily envision being used to narrate a bit on Sesame Street as it takes the edge off the chicken sacrifices for sure. The mystery of what is happening in this man’s shop is also worthy of noting as when we see the hired help on their hands and knees wiping up the fluids expelled during said sacrifice, as if it were a cup of orange juice that needed tending to, it just floored me. Manuel talks with such patience and poignancy that it’s hard to dispute what he says when he states that what he provides is a service to those who need it.

An interestingly crafted trailer, I know that even if this is a “slice of life” film there is more than enough here to make me sit down, be quiet, and listen to what this man has to say. Crazy Town, population: one.

Rebirth Trailer

There’s a couple of things that I like about this trailer right off the bat: First, we see that it’s being distributed by Oscilloscope and, second, it’s another entry into the lauded 9/11 reflection projects.

I’m ravenous when it comes to consuming these video diaries of the act and aftermath of the terrorist attacks that altered life for pretty much everyone in this country. As the trailer begins and you hear the jaunty radio spot it’s instantly obvious that we’re going to take this all from the top. While I would normally not find this kind of recollection narrative particularly worth mentioning, even though I would find it personally interesting, something different happens. It goes from a decade long reflection on the 9/11 attacks to a documentary that appears to have been shot over the course of a decade.

There’s no question that the footage of the World Trade Center being rebuilt, and how it shows the slow lumbering process as the years go by, is curious but it’s the personal reflections of the victims that’s the most noteworthy. Director Jim Whitaker had a vision and it has been almost a decade since he’s finally been able to realize the idea of what he was aiming to accomplish.

We get to see these people move through their grief, their anguish, and listen to them talk about the ghosts that haunt them as a few years pass. Recriminations and the dreams that go unfilled, this is the true stuff of effective drama. You can see as these people put months and years between them and the event that there is an evolution that happens and it’s downright haunting in a good way. If ever there was a visual guide of how you move past the pain of something like this then the trailer here does a great job in depicting that.

I’m not sure if the music we hear is that of Phillip Glass but the score is wonderfully and tastefully muted as the pull quote we’re offered doesn’t appear on screen until the very end, a classy way to not only establish its goodness to an audience wondering whether yet another 9/11 film is worth investing their time in but to also communicate that, yes, it is.

Kill List Trailer

Director Ben Wheatley gave the world an unsung gem that you most likely haven’t seen: Down Terrace.

While that film vacillated between the sticky pitch of dark comedy and the violence that occurs when you’re dealing with a crime family, it’s easy to see that Wheatley really is a Svengali when it comes to his experience with getting the funny right. From Modern Toss to a mockumentary of Steve Coogan the man has got this down. Critically acclaimed in his work, it’s nice to see the man sidestep things and get really serious for a moment. Deeply serious if this trailer is any indication of its veracity.

Honestly, this is probably one of the more gripping trailers I’ve seen all week. What could have been a simple explanation of a guy who’s a hit man, who happens to have an ostensibly healthy family at home, is turned into a slow moving examination of this guy, his life, and what he’s capable of doing. The pull quotes are, I believe, in 82 pt font, but it contrasts well with the despairingly screechy mood music that plays beneath everything. We don’t get to know the man personally as we do see him acting professionally. There are people who have no names, no voices, but you can understand just fine what’s afoot with this entire scenario.

I’m especially taken with the image of our protagonist just emptying out a magazine from a sub machine gun that’s contrasted with a brief peek at a torch wielding group of people that are gathered in the middle of the night. What these two things have to do with one another is, surprisingly, not discussed but really it’s of no matter. The direction and the moments that we’re given beg more questions than it answers.

While this could be a bad thing or good thing is unclear but what is clear by this trailer is that this guy we’re going to follow is juggling a lot of things. An examination into a lad who kills in order to bring home the bacon, and who also seems like a devoted family man, is an intriguing one and this trailer is holding a lot to the vest which is not only smart, it’s genius.

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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