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 the Moonwalker Trailer

Note: I can’t explicitly endorse getting high by way of huffing some rubber cement but, if you happen to find yourself in an altered state, or you just happen to accidentally shoot some spray pain into a plastic bag and wrap it around your nose and moth, I would wholly recommend watching this and seeing what happens.

To that end, God bless Twitch. They turn up trailers like a furious, fast moving game of three-card monte and when this one surfaced I knew it was another great find. It’s part campy horror, part comedy, and wholly bizarre.

When you consider that the trailer opens with some rambling man of the cloth puking up most of what this movie is focused on, cutting to some midget leathermen, graphically depicted in mid copulation, who hear about Michael Jackson’s grave being robbed and then getting a diving message from their toilet there is something genuinely weird going on. It’s quite an auspicious beginning for a movie that defies the classic definition of “high concept” as it just has its own idea about what a mystical tale about the King of Pop coming back to a state of reanimation and is going whole hog.

The trailer is shows a movie that appears filled with wanton fornication and a plot that seems to embrace the ridiculous. There isn’t one coherent idea embedded in this thing beyond the fact that there are those who want to abduct the newly come to life Jackson in order to effect a new world order, whatever the hell that means. Why this has anything to do with a strange guy like Jackson is unclear, as is the case why there are so many people in clown makeup, but I’m transfixed.

This kind of trailer, directed and written by an as of yet unknown person or persons, is really only as good at a superficial level without knowing if it could be mildly interesting for 90+ minutes. Whether it is feature length or whether it’s a short that part is also unknown but what’s here is enough of a schlock fest to make me yearn for the days of The Toxic Avenger, when films of this ilk were released with the kind of aplomb that has long been missing from modern cinema so I welcome its arrival in whatever distribution model is allowing it to be released unto the world. [Twitch]

Senna Trailer

I can’t think of a televised sport, short of golf, more inuring than race car driving. I can’t stand NASCAR and I sure can’t handle the snaking movements of the slick F1 vehicles that race around tracks seemingly designed by a three year-old with a nervous condition in mid seizure.

That said, this trailer and documentary by Asif Kapadia, who made the brilliant film The Warrior back in 2001, has me riveted.

While I couldn’t care less about the idea of some guy doing lap after lap in a car going really fast there is something to a story about a single guy’s passion. This passion happened to be racing and the file footage used is able to craft a portrait of a driver who was revered not only by other drivers but by the country he represented. We see him talking about the nature of driving and of what it meant to him to be the best all the while getting a first-person shot of this kid just jamming around the corners and passing up other drivers at a blisteringly high rate of speed and it’s genuinely engrossing.

It’s the drama that keeps this trailer focused. It’s not enough to just call someone a “maverick” unless you can prove something truly daring but the case is made here for a guy who was risking more than just prize money to be the best at this. The man would not be contained by anyone and it shows. From attempting to do things that literally endangered not only his own life but those around him and by keeping the focus on the way he wanted to drive it makes for compelling viewing.

What I think also is important to note is that we not only get a sense for the man’s dedication to his craft but showing him to be the rock star in Brazil where the populace heralded him as a national treasure also sets up the final moments of this trailer that never once mentions his death. To me, that’s the most interesting choice of all. Whereas most trailers for documentaries would go with the newspaper adage that if it bleeds it leads there is no lead here; not one mention of how this guy ultimately met his demise. Seeing how the Senna happened to die on the track while in a race I would naturally think this would make for a rather easy mention but it isn’t and that’s a bold move.

I don’t know whether to scold them for leaving this information out or praise them for sticking with their decision to not incorporate the one thing many laypeople, like myself, would respond to in a very caveman like way.

Surrogate Valentine Trailer

Lynn Chen is a vision. Really, she is. Director Dave Boyle, for his part, made his previous, and great, film with Chen about a man in full on arrested development in White on Rice and he seems to be exploring that same vein, to some degree, in his latest feature here.

While it isn’t necessarily the protagonist who needs some help getting his life in order, as we open up this trailer we seem to be following one actor’s shadowing of real musician Goh Nakamura. Goh, who also helped write the screenplay, seems to be helping the actor be “more authentic” for a part he’s playing but there are some issues of an unresolved nature with our singer. A singer, by the way, who is used to great effect here (just check the man’s “Just Like Heaven” cover. Brilliant.) as we see him just looking bummed and depressed. The actor provides some obnoxious levity as Goh just ambles through his life as this odd couple clash with one another.

What I like about this trailer is not only its ability to stretch out the moments between scenes, allowing us to get a little foothold in the crags and crevices of this story, but the way we push forward through the narrative without it ever feeling like we know where it’s going or where it’s going to end is especially nice. The music, as I mentioned, is spectacular and the intentional use of black and white gives this film a patina that supports its intimate vibe doesn’t ever feel ostentatious or arrogant. It feels natural.

It is in the home stretch where we see that we have a love story here. Goh seems like the guy who doesn’t want love but desperately needs it, and somehow this just has the sensation of something more different than any other movie dealing with romance as I’ve come to experience it as of late. The love story here seems predicated on the naturalness of how many of us fumble through our relationships. It’s not a Hollywood idea of what falling in love looks like, it just feels like a everyday idea of what it really is. I really dig this trailer.

Transcendent Man Trailer

I am a fan of the documentary/comedy/drama of 2004′s What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?

While I am nowhere even close to recognizing the importance of the knowledge dripping from that film I’m even more unqualified to speculate on the pros and cons of heavy thinker Ray Kurzweil’s ideas on what the singularity is. So I appreciate that, right off the bat, director Robert Barry Ptolemy decides to begin things with a little conflict. I may not know Kurzweil from a hole in the bathroom stall I already understand a few things about the guy before the first thirty seconds is up and that’s huge in a Donald Trump sort of way.

His thoughts on the ever increasing speed at which transformative change happens in a society is directly related to the speed at which we’re delegating our responsibilities as individuals to 1′s and 0′s and he’s blowing my mind up. His theories, what I’m guessing are incredibly complex, are laid out simply and succinctly before us. Using flashy visuals and snappy editing I found myself keeping up with what was being put forth without ever feeling confused or numb from information overload. Artificial intelligence being indistinguishable from humans, check. Being able to download the contents of our minds into computers, check. Batcrap crazy when he says he plans to reanimate his dead father, check. Whaa?

The guy, no question, seems like a live wire.

Filled with utter brilliance and utter nuttiness is a great combo and one that somehow appeals to my ignorant sensibilities. I may not get exactly what’s going down I nonetheless appreciate the opportunity to see this man of lofty ideas in his natural environment and just allowing him to make the best case he could as to why I should spend time with his story.

If you ask me, and you’re not, but if you were I could tell you honestly that I am hooked on knowing more about this diminutive man and finding out what he’s all about. Count me in for the ride.

Marianne Trailer

Peter Stormare. Who wouldn’t love to get into a bar fight with this guy at your side? I would.

What I dig most about this trailer from writer/director Filip Tegstedt is that the music is morose, heavy, atmospheric. You won’t get a lick of insight into what this story is about, and that’s fine, but what you get in return is so much more satisfying as the trailer unfolds. Whereas most people take the cue to craft a good reason why an audience would want to go see a film that is coming by way of Sweden there is no quarter given as this trailer just wants to be experienced, not explained.

It comes off like the introspective half-brother of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Insomnia, with the way the camera just lingers gingerly with everyone we come into contact with in this film. Especially at the beginning when we see all our players lined up in a pew, housed in a large church, and all  gathered for an unknown reason, there is the sense of information being withheld.

To wit, I can’t understand why one of the guys seems to be pouring a black sandy silt along the baseboards of his house or why he appears to be catatonic on his bed but the blurry visage in the background that creeps up on him is equal parts eerie and mysterious. At this point it would have been fine to simply show what is going on here but, again, we’re c-blocked by a directorial decree that will not divulge why the guy we just saw on a bed in an almost catatonic state has bloody striations across his chest.

This movie obviously wants to keep everything tight against its chest with the amount of information it wants to mete out, which is none at all, and this trailer does well with straddling that line of either being way too generous with the plot details or simply being a teaser trailer. It gives the satisfying hint there is something paranormal going on and that’s just about enough.  [Twitch]

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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