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?

Pixelschatten Trailer

This one is a visual and aural delight.

Anil Jacob Kunnel isn’t a name anyone ought to know offhand but this from-out-of-nowhere filmmaker from Germany sent me this teaser with a note saying the entire movie’s production cost 100.000 Euros. Now, because I’m a dumb American who only understands my way of doing things I’m going to say that translates to either a little more than a $100,000 dollars or a little more than a $100. (Honesty check: I thought it was the former. I found out it was the latter. I really am stupid.) Either way, this trailer blends the directorial style of Gaspar Noé, and has the vibrancy of a Dan Deacon song, that has a slow build into something that’s genuinely meaningful.

I may not know who these people are or what they’re doing but I kinda know what it is that’s going on. The brilliance in this teaser is that it chucks the unintentional barriers many editors/filmmakers put up when showcasing their films in trailer form and that’s the barrier of universality. So many times it’s easy to get wrapped up in wanting to tell your completely awesome story is the most original story ever and here’s why it’s so original that it misses the opportunity to show how it can relate to Joe and Bob down the street or Bjorn in the fjord. Where is that link between story and humanity, where’s the universality?

The teaser’s minimalist style, as it opens up, lures you in with its imagery. Photos of a young lass in all her many poses and styles, the blossoming of love perhaps, as the images and videos and thoughts are projected on a blog. In much the same way that Enter The Void played with a lot of technical tricks so too does this stay close to the first person perspective and, I believe, might give you a different angle to look at that tired and old coming of age story of a kid coming of age in the era of digital openness. I could be way off base but I’m pretty sure I’m not.

The trailer crescendos with comments off this kid’s blog and bright colors and high pitched notes, photos furiously flickering on the screen, videos of young people being young people, and there isn’t a single indication of where the narrative is going. Who cares? This is selling you on its idea and its aesthetic and sometimes that’s enough. What I see here feels like it could be a narrative that explores that line between the private lives of youth and the very public things they do nowadays.

Shakespeare High Trailer

This should surprise no one.

I like this trailer. It’s got Shakespeare, it’s got teens, it’s a documentary, it’s cut well, and it’s just chock full of moments that get me excited to want to see all of it. You are correct in deducing that it’s not going to blow off the doors of your local multiplex, and if you need a trailer like that look no further than the one below, but, as any balanced cinematic diet should have, there ought to be things that aren’t extraordinarily flashy. They just need to be good stories and, from what is put in front of us here, this certainly qualifies.

At the very least, filmmaker Alex Rotaru has made a movie that was good enough to land at the Tribeca Film Festival this year and this trailer gets at the heart of why we’re even following some acne riddled youths spouting off Bill’s Early Modern English. It’s the short moments right out of the box that we get as we hear from the disadvantaged kids who are there from homes and situations many would agree are fairly unsavory, a real life Glee if ever there was one, and within the span of thirty seconds we have an emotional investment in these individuals and have ample evidence why we should care about these pubescent thespians.

The idea behind the project is clever and certainly having Kevin Spacey explain why this program is around, and seeing the many talents it’s produced, is what makes this all the more interesting. To see these kids thriving in something I know, categorically, I would not have done at their age is like seeing the foundation for a lifetime’s worth of self-esteem being poured in front of you. Maybe that’s ascribing too much to it but it’s empowering, especially with the classical score that brings everything boiling over at the end, a crescendo of activity as these geeks flail around on stage.

In an age when arts programs all across this US of A are seen as expendable in our school’s educational budget, those of you still looking to find a mate are years removed from what will be on your mind as you have your own spawn making their way through a shattered public school system, this is the kind of thing that needs to exist. It’s uplifting in a way to watch this and even though that’s probably a dirty word, I’m saying it.

And, seriously, 19 followers? This film’s collective follower count on Twitter is 19 people? That’s just egregious.

TT3D: Closer to the Edge Trailer

I love it when the hairs on my neck rise up.

This is the kind of trailer that is like a glass syringe of adrenaline being shot right through your iris. It works especially well if you have no clue what to expect before clicking play. I didn’t and it was glorious. Even thinking about the trailer now makes me want to tear down a door with my bare hands.

As we open, seeing the tranquility of a pastoral town being shattered by bikes that are careening down streets that are hundreds of years old makes those races that are held on cement tracks of speedways seem girly and lame.  What first time filmmaker Richard De Aragues seems to have created is not a movie about a race that could have been told through the eyes of an ESPN or HBO Sports camera crew but a movie about a guy who seems incredibly likable as an unlikely master of chicanes and tomfoolery.

I’ve never heard of Guy Martin but international readers who are into these kinds of things no doubt have and this trailer lets us noobs in on what makes this guy such an interesting subject. He comes off as an everyman before showing us how much of a superman he is when he’s throttling through straightaways and navigating actual streets. (Note: what are the odds that any city in America would ever think to turn over as much mileage as this race does and allow guys to literally speed through their town as they jockey for position with one another? A billion to one, I reckon after seeing this.) The footage is thrilling and amazing to watch as we have dashboard cams, old file footage of guys eating it in turns that don’t go well, and even the slow motion footage of bikes whipping by the camera is perfectly positioned to give the trailer a little breathing room and appreciate what these guys do.

The obligatory story of a racer who didn’t make it through to the finish line is a necessity and it’s properly positioned as you see the possibilities of what this race is capable of doing to a man. Mix that with footage of three bikes just screaming alongside a hilltop as a helicopter barely keeps up with them from the side is reason enough for me to want to see this movie as soon as it’s humanly possible. If it can be a tenth of what’s here I would be ecstatic and, again, moments before seeing this trailer I wouldn’t have cared about who Guy Martin is. Now I want to know if he can win it all.

Beautiful Boy Trailer

When Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged gunman that shot congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, went on a killing spree that massacred six people, one a 9 year-old little girl, the media maelstrom here in Arizona was fierce. Camera people just descended on the dusty backwater that is Tucson like mosquitoes to a fresh piece of skin in the summer. Reporters camped outside Loughner’s parents’ home in that city just looking for answers about why their son did what he did. The media crush was so intense that the parents erected a fence in front of their doorway just to keep people at bay. The eventual statement that was delivered did what it could to try and apologize for what happened, putting a well manicured explanation of their feelings which may or may not have been tumultuously hard to comprehend.

This trailer looks like the kind of film that will no doubt be depressing, however, it appears like it might bring out the best in both Michael Sheen and Maria Bello. The trailer zigs when you think it’s going to zag as you hear about a school shooting, Bello and Sheen realizing their kid goes to the school in question, and the cops come to the house saying not only is he dead but, “There’s more.” Those two words are wonderfully dropped in there as you begin to try and erase the story you thought it was going to be about which is how these parents move on after their kid dies in a massacre but how you deal with what happens if you learn your kid was the one who did it?

It’s a little macabre to think about, and you wonder how this will play with audiences, but seeing the Toronto Film Festival award it won the trailer just forges ahead. It mixes in some maudlin moments and bombastic flare ups, yes, but, I would assert, there is more than enough here to show that this movie will also explore the effects of what an event like this can do to parents and a relationship between a husband and wife in the ultimate fictional “What if?” scenario. There seems to be a lot going on here and you would be right in thinking it could go either way with how it presents the story or how good it might or might not be but the trailer is even keeled when it comes to showing the devastation this leaves in its wake. Sheen and Bello coping with their lives after it’s all done is the real meat that I hope is explored.

Honestly, a movie like this is going to be dependent on Bello and Sheen to act. Pure and simple, it’s the equivalent of a stage play in front of a movie camera. It’ll be interesting to see if writer/director Shawn Ku’s film is Broadway worthy or dinner theater quality.

The Bully Project Trailer

It’s hard to talk about bullying without the occasional unibrowed troglodyte who wants to talk about how parents are blowing this whole thing out of proportion.

Yes, there is a time and place for kids to get pushed around in order for them to learn that you need to stand up to oppression and to fight back against people who would like to do you harm but there are the extreme cases where adults need to step in and take care of things before it goes too far. This trailer makes that point clear, understandable, and, at some points, heartbreaking.

I may not have been aware of documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch’s 2002 award winning doc Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony but you can see the parallels of a people oppressed by a South African regime looking for an outlet and a movie about kids looking for an outlet of their own against all kinds of sad malevolence.

It starts so gently as we see a school year starting. It seems so serene and full of promise but it slowly starts to make you feel uncomfortable with the scenes of kids standing alone, a pack of boys being read the riot act about what their bullying is doing, hearing the voiceover of one kid who rattles off the names of students who he knows that don’t like him. The moments chosen to be shown here are telling in that we have a hearty mix of what the popular kids are doing (football, cheerleading , homecoming, dances, organized sports, etc…) and the nerd herd who stand on the fringe of that orbit not doing much.

We get a YouTube video confessional of a little girl talking about bullying, and then the real punch gets you without realizing it. To hear a couple stories from kids who are just everything short of begging for relief from those who beat them up on a consistent basis breaks your soul. Seriously, if you have no empathy for these stories you were probably a bully yourself and you might be right for some mercenary work in Afghanistan with Black Water. It’s just plain tough to hear some of these stories and even though this trailer has been out for some time, it’s the first I’ve learned about it, the movie is finally making its way out there and will be available to see at the Tribeca Film Festival this month.

I wish I could be there to see this but maybe someone out there will.

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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