Posted on Friday, February 18th, 2011 by Christopher Stipp
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?
The Return of Uncle Benon Trailer
Clear your schedules, clear your mind, and prepare to be unwillingly beaten into aural submission by the trailer for this film.
You might have thought that Who Killed Captain Alex? was gonzo but this, this is something special. I mean, who would start off a trailer with Bette Midler’s “From A Distance” (I smell copyright infringement but who’s paying attention, right?) as it goes balls out with its furious visuals and violence? It’s inspired and insane at the same time.
I about lost my grip on reality when I saw one of our titular heroes suit up and mount up with pads. And not just any pads, oh no. These are STX lacrosse pads, the preferred pad of crime fighting superheroes who don scarves and sunglasses, chasing down mo-fos on a dirt bike as they edge them into shrubbery. In your wildest thoughts of fancy who would have thought of putting all these things together? Guess who, you indie filmmaking slackers, these guys did and it’s positively glorious.
After getting yet another display of some tightly choreographed martial artistry that hearken back to the Asian martial arts of yore with its poor dubbing one of these guys disappear into another man’s stomach after the recipient of said kung fu hero takes some long swigs out of some concoction that’s distributed from the hull of a hollowed out butternut squash. WTF has no place here, it’s on a new level of incomprehension.
I will posit, and feel free to disagree, there could be college theses, books, investigative reports that would tongue tie even Serene Branson for a second time, all out scientific exploration, made about the burgeoning Ugandan film industry. Only in this movie could you make a guy wearing a fake goatee and mustache look believable, where a guy donning a black mesh shirt that more appropriately belongs on a guy living in West Hollywood look tough, and where the end shot is of a guy’s head blowing up completely leaves you speechless.
I am pretty sure people died making this film. [Twitch]
Watching this trailer leaves you with the feeling that you haven’t been spoiled. It leaves you curious about what this about, not entirely sure what is happening here, but the trailer is great at prompting you to wonder what is really afoot in this quiet little film.
This first feature from writer/director/editor/producer Mark Jackson is interesting if for no other reason than the guy has nothing else attached to his resume yet this film looks like it has been done with an uncanny knack of communicating isolation, telegraphing the sense of loneliness. At least, that’s what this trailer is selling with its straightforward presentation of a girl who looks like she’s spending time out in the middle of a forest, taking care of an invalid. It makes you feel nervous and doesn’t ever let you get comfortable.
The music is so sparse, so quiet, but that allows this movie to be seen in all its forms and, to me, that’s a delight. At one point you think this is a story about this girl’s loneliness but the subtle bumps we’re given by the musical cues, like a bumper on a boat coming into contact with a dock as it’s guided gently into its comfortable nook, heighten a sense of uneasiness that’s apparent when you watch it. It wants to feed us into a narrow passageway and I’m more than willing to let it.
But what is happening here? What the hell happened to her back? Why does she look on edge? Why did she wheel Old Man Caruthers down a hallway in his wheelchair and then let go as she walked in the other direction? Why is she walking alone into a dark forest? Not knowing the answers to these questions, however, doesn’t frustrate me. It actually excites me in a way and, to be perfectly honest, this is the kind of trailer that should be the standard for any movie that wants to sell its more evocative story elements because a film that feels as personal as this ought to speak to something about the human condition. There seems to be a lot of that going on with hardly a word being spoken and it’s gorgeous.
Makes me feel good knowing there are some people out there who know how to cut a trailer like this. [Twitch]
Queen To Play Trailer
Background: I am in love with Sandrine Bonnaire ever since I saw her in 2004’s Intimate Strangers, a movie any cinephile who loves the work of Patrice Leconte ought to rent immediately and see with a nice lady friend, but I had forgotten all about this lass until finding her here in a trailer for a film that looks just as cuddly and kind as Strangers did when I stumbled upon it.
But, you know, there’s really not much to director Caroline Bottaro’s story of a maid who seems to really fancy herself a chess nut. From eye-spying people playing the game on their veranda as she cleans to actually pulling out a chess set at the home of a guy she’s cleaning house for, this woman doesn’t seem like she’s real in the way we would consider how normal humans operate. As it stands, though, the trailer jams through all the narrative beats to get us to a strictly French speaking Kevin Kline who you figure is going to drop the accent. He doesn’t though.
Kline looks like he’s full on dedicated to speaking the language of frogs with nicotine stained hearts and buttery croissant fingers but what I really like about this trailer is its even pacing. It needs to tell you that she loves chess, that she’s a woman working hard at a job that kind of sucks, that she probably wanted more out of life than this, and that she has a bit of a messy home life. I understand that’s not easy to cram into a minute and thirty seconds in another language but they do it here without pomp, without circumstance, and all done with a little bit of passion.
When our protagonist is asked about why she seems obsessed with this need to play chess, and she says she doesn’t know, to me it was revelatory.
The trailer built up to this moment in order to pass the baton to the anchor who takes it all home as she tries to realize what she’s been feeling inside. I know, it’s no Captain America. However, I could easily see myself renting this without ever wondering whether it would be worth the money. This trailer makes the strong case that it most definitely would. I must be getting soft.
The Resident Trailer
Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christopher Lee star in what looks like the film your girlfriend will find at Blockbuster and make you watch, and will most certainly induce thoughts of suicide as you slowly peel strips of skin away from your face as you wonder who thought this would be worth the trouble to make, does not look fulfilling in any way. As it stands, this film from Finn Antti Jokinen looks like the kind of treacle that ought to be playing on the WE channel, late at night, after Army Wives but before the P90X infomercial.
Swank, her part, looking like she came fresh from the same people who bronze up American Idol judge Hennifaa Yopez in a satiny copper coin sheen, appears to be doing as well as we can with a story that seems about as original as a Nantucket limerick.
Single woman, living in an apartment by herself, weird things start going down, Christopher Lee playing the part of lecherous looking creepy guy who is so obviously the cretin in question that it’s painful to even try and think it’s a red herring as, if it is, it’s probably the weakest cover ups for it being Morgan or that alabaster skinned young boy from Mad Men.
I’m apt to believe it’s Morgan as the one of the last scenes shown here in the trailer blatantly shows a tall man reaching through a door that fits Morgan’s dimensions. Although, who knows, and who cares. This could be one long whodunit with misdirection all around. This trailer essentially gives everything up, certainly everything I would even care to watch of this thing, without there being anything even remotely interesting for me to want to invest my time in knowing.
Direct-to-DVD indeed. I hope it at least paid for a month’s worth of rent for these players to cover those beach homes in Malibu.
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:
- Atlas Shrugged Trailer – This just seems weird for weird’s sake. Yeah, I get it, it’s crazy! So ironic but I’m just not connecting with its humor.
- Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil Trailer – Eh, kind of looks interesting but either I’m burning out on movies having to do with cover ups in Iraq or this just isn’t cutting it.
- Dear Lemon Lima Trailer – For a pre-teen girl this looks like it could be the most epic movie event of all time. For the rest of us, though, the appeal is a little limited.
- 11-11-11 Trailer – Pass. I’m just not thrilled about a trailer whose sole purpose is to sizzle without giving me something meaty to gnaw on. Flash without substance.
- Dylan Dog: Dead of Night Italian Trailer – Bravo to whoever cut this together. Unlike the American trailer we’ve been given this actually makes the movie feel fun, breezy, and light like a waffle cone filled with whipped cream. There’s no way I’m paying to see it in the theaters but this might actually get me to sit with it for a while when it eventually comes, quickly, to home video.
- I Saw The Devil Trailer – Yes! What an amalgam of rage and revenge and ass-kickery. This film just skyrocketed on my list of movies I want to see based on the strength of this trailer.
- The Great Bear Trailer – These people aren’t speaking American. The removal of a native tongue from the mix shows this movie’s trailer to be of average quality and I can’t, for the life of me, see anything particularly earth shattering.
- Cinema Verite Trailer – This trailer perfectly positions itself as a movie you wouldn’t necessarily pay for in the theater but would probably be open to checking out free of charge on HBO.
- Mars Needs Moms Trailer #2 – I’m all for fun animation but this trailer looks on par with Chicken Little, a movie that kids will probably like and discard while their parents imagine letter openers stabbing their eyes as they wonder how much longer the pain will go on.
- Thurgood Trailer – I’ll agree with the New York Times assessment of the stage play in saying this trailer feels like a Hollywood actor delivering a monologue.
- Insidious Trailer – If this film can generate quality scares without resorting to torture porn like antics I may very well see it. The trailer certainly is going for that vibe so I’m encouraged.
- Last Night Trailer – A movie about people who cheat on one another. It’s fine as a premise but doesn’t that make it hard to feel connected to any of the protagonists? I certainly don’t care about these two jamokes once they decide to take the plunge into other people’s nether regions.
- Thor Trailer #2 – I can’t see this as being anything else but laughable. Honestly, the effects tickle the little boy in me but I don’t see much more beyond that.