This Week In Trailers: The Swell Season, Donor Unknown, Let The Bullets Fly, Bombay Beach, Beyond The Black Rainbow
Posted on Friday, March 25th, 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 Swell Season Trailer
Absolutely enraged that I can’t see this movie, right now.
Part of me realizes that saying that those of you who didn’t at least feel a little something when watching John Carney’s Once are a bunch of unfeeling robots who ought to have their hipster cards revoked is absurd but, there is that part that does wholly believe it. Watching Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová move in between one another in that film was like watching real love blossom and then slowly see it give into the forces of human entropy. But that was a movie, right?
From the looks of this trailer, though, it seems like this movie will have more in common with something like Wilco’s 2002 I’m Trying To Break Your Heart than it does your usual concert film. Directors Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, and Carlo Mirabella-Davis look like they’ve decided to take the black and white route and it’s a road well taken as it just makes us focus on what’s in front of you.
The trailer literally dumps us at the epicenter of what looks like a contentious moment between a couple. It’s damn near uncomfortable to watch as Hansard is getting a talking to but it’s brilliantly placed because it’s telling us everything we need to know about this movie. It’s going to be emotional and hard and real as when the camera swings to Glen, who looks lost and defeated, you wonder what it is that’s going on here. You can’t help but be curious to know what that poor guy did.
And almost as if we just given half a thin mint cookie we get a musical interlude that includes some concert footage and behind the scenes antics that is nothing short of engaging. It’s only a few seconds, though, but it’s more than enough. It leaves you wanting so much more and that’s when we get Markéta again. This time, though, she’s singing quietly next to Glen. Besides wondering if Glen has ever heard of Jheri Curl, I mean how can you look at that tightly wound perm on his melon and not be transfixed by it, it’s about as close as you’re going to get this week to a perfect trailer.
Beyond The Black Rainbow Trailer
Bear with me on this one.
Yes, it seems self indulgent and experimental and feels like it could be art for art’s sake but there is just something alluring about this trailer. It’s creepy. Director Panos Cosmatos looks like he has made something truly unique and it has completely disarmed my ability to talk about it in a coherent fashion because there is no narrative here.
Even though the music is one constant that does not change as we are assaulted with these stark images of things that don’t make much sense there is a sublime beauty to it all. The cinematography catapults me back to another time, another place, this place having no tether to any reality I know, but there does seem to be evil sticking to every frame.
A girl appearing skeeved out by the crazy things around her is about as close as you’re going to get to a humanistic tether and make the case why you should check out more of what you see. This movie is selling itself based on its ability to stand apart from anything else you’ve seen in the last few months and it does it admirably.
The best way to explain what’s going on, or least the best way I can process this trailer, is liken it to a piece of art. Whereas 99% of the other trailers you consume would belong in a public viewing area for everyone to enjoy, something like this belongs in one of those side street art studios where people go in knowing it’s not Thomas Kinkade. This is something else entirely.
Donor Unknown Trailer
Honestly, and this is a place for honesty, I didn’t care for The Kids Are Alright if only because it supposes that lesbians might slip up and crave some chub once in a while. I didn’t buy it then and I certainly had issues with this beleaguered plot device after the third or forth time I’ve seen it employed in other films. Director Jerry Rothwell, however, is making me believe that here is a movie that deals with the sperm donation issue in a matter that’s really interesting and with a little more depth than its commercial doppelganger.
What’s special about this trailer is that even though it follows a very traditional path of storytelling it doesn’t ruin things by telling too much. You would think that explaining the plot away with establishing what it is we’re going to see, the stories of some girls who want to know more about the sperm donor that was their dad, would be an anticlimax but there is real heart here.
Besides seeing how many loads this guy dropped (dozens upon dozens, this guy was helping to populate a small village using only the power of vigorous knuckles) and how many lives were created from this man’s donations a picture emerges, literally, of how even though they were spawned by different mothers these offspring all physically resemble one another in an uncanny way. The process of these half-sisters and brothers reaching out to find one another, the New York Times story that covered this odd situation providing even more sizzle to this odd tale, is coupled with us finding out more about this guy who seems all but destitute, living the life of a gypsy.
What’s more, leaving the trailer hanging before even one of these offspring meet the man who started it all is a really nice touch. It’s such a close approximation to The Kids Are Alright, with the exception that this is full-on reality, that I’m wondering what will be a more compelling viewing experience: the story dreamed up in a writer’s room or the utilitarian nature of a process that happens every day? I’m thrilled to find out, though.
Bombay Beach Trailer
Its beauty is somewhere between its weirdness and the uneasiness you feel as you watch this trailer.
Documentary filmmaker Alma Har’el looks like she’s crafted a movie that looks like it’s T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” come to life, or death, depending on your viewpoint. It’s perfectly apropos here because we start this trailer looking at a kid playing on a beach, hearing his voiceover, but listening him depict the most strange account of a hanging you’ll hear all day. It seems so innocent to hear how this child processes what it’s like to go through one of the most tried and true methods of human extermination but as we transition from watching this youth to seeing a home video of some guy in a coffin, it’s jarring. However, I get it. It’s effective.
And the entire trailer is just like that, moments that seem to slip and slide on top of one another in a pastiche of sparse human experiences. From seeing dead animals all caught up in barbwire, to seeing an average mom squeeze off a few rounds with a pistol, to experiencing the joy of teenagers just being teens at a football game there is too much to try and wrap your arms around here and make sense of in a way that’s meaningful or understandable.
Again, it’s entirely appropriate and I understand the reasoning behind why things are constructed this way because, ultimately, this trailer is a thing of beauty. There does seem to be an inordinate amount of suffering and sadness on display but there are the vestiges of why people keep slogging forward in their lives, these kinds of lives, day in and day out. I can only imagine that watching this film will either make you believe in the indomitableness of the human spirit or make you wonder what’s the point of it all if a place like this exists. I’m hoping it’s more of the former but you never quite know sometimes.
Let The Bullets Fly Trailer
I did not see Wen Jiang’s donation to New York, I Love You so I can’t say for sure whether this is a director that I should be excited about or roll my eyes at. I’m a blank slate with ol’ Wen.
Using the musical cue that was used last year from the :30 Super Bowl spot for G.I. Joe was a nice touch to get people acclimated to the sensibility and speed of what’s happening but it also had the added benefit of rushing through all the superfluous back story we sometimes can get bogged down with in these sorts of trailers. I don’t mind not knowing what exactly is happening as long as I’m promised a treat of some kind and what we get here feels closer to The Good, The Bad, The Weird and that’s glorious.
I dare anyone, without consulting IMDB, to try and decipher the many things going on in this trailer other than the action which is popping out from every angle. Just when I think someone will at least provide a little context we get someone drawing a weapon or someone being held against their will in a battle that seems to be more than just two-sided. So many people are clashing in this movie that I think it’s an all out royal rumble which will be fine by me as long as what’s ultimately driving things is a fun story.
I liked The Good, The Bad, The Weird because it was a fun romp and that what we’re coming to see isn’t a deep examination of the essence of being human. Rather, it’s people smacking people and lots of old school martial arts set in the old west with an uptempo spirit and cinematography that uses a lot of colored lighting.
I haven’t been excited by anything Chow Yun-Fat has done in years and I am just hoping, based on what little I see here, that we’ll get something to wash away the stink of Dragonball: Evolution from our collective conscious.
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:
- Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold Trailer - He’s the Michael Moore of Gen X. This trailer’s peppy, upbeat, and the insertion of the Matt and Kim ditty underlines that what you’re going to see is nothing but absurdity.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Trailer - This trailer certainly makes me want to take another chance after the last installment left me a little cool. The mermaids, though, that’s what really has me interested.
- The FP Trailer - It’s a funny trailer but the question is whether it can carry the joke over a full film.
- Another Earth Trailer - Lot of navel gazing going on here with the amount of talking. I don’t get anything telling me why I should see this film and that’s no bueno when I could be watching the Swell Season documentary trailer again.
- Hop Trailer #3 - I just can’t get excited for a movie like this. Looks like it will test the collective wills of the parents who will have to sit through it.
- 11-11-11 Teaser Trailer - Maybe it’s just me but it looks pretty basic and not very exciting.
- Cinema Verite Trailer #2 - The cinematography is lovely and the story is timely. Free couldn’t be a better price to see this.
- Sympathy For Delicious Trailer - Interesting premise, a little maudlin and bombastic in areas, but overall this is a good trailer.
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins Trailer - Bland, boring, and generic trailer for a milquetoast looking film.
- Last Night Trailer - Wow, will he or won’t he? I’ve just got to see another movie about a guy who’s conflicted about getting into the sack with another woman.
- Captain America Trailer - This is exactly what a summer movie trailer should be. Just a pure rocket ship ride of excess. Dig it.
- The Big Bang Trailer - I really want to like this, I do, as it seems like it’s an explosion of different styles and tones but something just doesn’t work for me in this trailer.