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?

One Hundred Mornings Trailer

You’ll have to excuse the tardiness of bringing this gem to light as those living on the Emerald Isle had this film dropped on them last week and it appears to have been doing quite well, critically speaking. That isn’t too hard to believe as this trailer simply oozes a thoughtful sensibility when it comes to high concept ideas as end-of-days.

To wit, I know I wasn’t the only one who thought The Road was masterful in detecting a grittiness and despondency not seen for quite some time. If you were out there whining about how dark and depressing and bummed out you were in watching it, then it was doing its job. That film had a lot to say about about humanity, about the kind of people left when there were hardly any more people at all. To that end, I just found out about director/writer Conor Horgan’s film that deals with the same theme of what happens when people stop being polite and start being real in this real world scenario.

The trailer is nothing if not sparse in its presentation. There is no talk of whatever events led up to the destruction we see on screen where streets are scorched earth, trees missing 90% of their leaves and branches, only giving a whiff of the aroma that is complete annihilation. The award recognition is perfectly placed, right before we really delve into the details of who we’re going to be following around, and the story slowly reveals itself.

Instead of focusing on the more global implications this trailer stays squarely focused on two couples. There seems to be some cross lovin’ going on, some jealously, some anger, and just a tease about what this does to all four of them. At the end, when the two women are sharing a moment, late at night, and it’s quiet, the sound of two gunshots is simply delicious. We don’t know the first thing about who did it or why it’s happening but I feel my mind race as I wonder if it was a revenge thing, something associated with the apocalypse, whether one of the guys was hunting dinner, all these things you can credit to good editing.

Reveal enough, but don’t revel too much. This trailer has restraint and I’m properly teased because of it.

Thunder Soul Trailer

Stick with me on this.

I love documentaries that want to show me something inspiring. I also enjoy the occasional concert film like Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Mix the two together and you get something like Young@Heart or, hopefully, this film from director Mark Landsman. I happen to love the hell out of a good funk riff.

And that’s what we get when this thing opens. You can feel the energy, the life, the reason why we’re sitting and watching this trailer. It just gets right to the point in establishing who the Kashmere Stage Band was, why they were important, why they were unique, and in forty seconds flat we get the whole back story. Then, that riff starts. It’s thick and it leads us to 2011 as the members of the decades old band get back together.

The next minute is just frenetic passion and it tickles me. The trailer establishes why they’re there and what they’re out to do. Seeing these grown adults trying to get their mojo on after all these years, most never having kept up with their musical abilities, is simply a hoot. In between the awards its won and seeing these out of tune musicians realize how far they really have fallen, we get interviews with members of the band. This is the key in turning a good trailer into a great one.

Man tears. Nothing gets me than seeing a man weep on camera and we get it. You can feel the history, the magic of what made that past time in those people’s lives so great and where it has brought them today, and you can’t help but feel the love these men and women have for a teacher who gave something to them that they purport to carry with them today.

Again, it’s just uplifting and positive and fun and peppy. Sometimes that’s not enough but for this trailer it’s everything it needs to be and has sold a ticket to at least me.

The Scenesters Trailer

I laughed.

Director/writer Todd Berger has that sort of deadpan delivery that I respond to like a doctor checking my reflexes. It’s not so much that this is a film doesn’t seem particularly inspired by slick camera work or breathy cinematography, but because this film looks like your average indie it’s leaning hard on the merits of its script and, again, I laughed a few times while trying to piece together what it is we’re doing here in the first place.

It’s really the first visual gag that either hooks you or repels you. It’s Berger’s delivery while on the witness stand that really made me sit up and take notice. The smokey jazz riff that plays in the background as the trailer trots out their awards more than does the job in solidifying that what we have here is something worthy of your time. And, to make sure you realize this movie’s superiority over less awesome films it’s leaving in its wake, the quotes from critics honestly are well placed to ensure you realize this is more than just a movie that some jamoke made with a camera. Indiewire, The Onion, USA Today, it sets things up perfectly as the trailer pumps up the reverb on the vocoder.

Brimming with style and panache with a beat you really can dance to, the trailer jumbles all kinds of scenes in a Rubik’s Cube kind of way but it’s smart because it’s not giving away anything having to do with the plot. We know the film is about a killer and this colorful cast of characters and the trailer’s content with leaving it at that.

The final moment that we get with Berger is just as amusing as his first salvo and I couldn’t be more comfortable saying it was a delight in not only experiencing this  story but now being interested in wanting to know more about it. It’s an independent picture with an agenda of wanting to bring the funny. If this trailer’s to be believed, I think it can.

Año bisiesto (Leap Year) Trailer (NSFW)

Let me reiterate this again: this trailer will get you fired if Nancy from Accounting happens to stroll by your desk and sees a pair of breasts staring back at her.

That said, what an evocative piece of work this is.

Normally I would call out, or completely ignore, trailers that want to be arty for art sake but there is a genuine despondency that comes through in a way that is not only understandable but it is communicated well enough that words aren’t necessary to drive the point home.

Directed by Michael Rowe, winner of the Camera d’Or for Best First Film at Cannes for this film, this movie deals with despondency in a way that doesn’t showcase one person’s downward spiral as a visceral experience that needs extra velocity behind it. It simply shows this woman hitting every branch on the way down. What we can see in this trailer isn’t so much a portrait of a lost soul so much as a woman who definitely doesn’t connect with the rest of the world.

She’s blowing bubbles by herself, she spies on her next door neighbor, and we can see a calendar with a series of black X’s that are leading to one day that is completely filled out. Could this be February 29th? What’s happening on this day? We don’t know and aren’t led in on what’s happening but what we can learn is that she’s finding time to eke out a little sex time every day leading up to the date in question. Normally, I would be all over this quite giddily but there’s something “off” about this kind of carnal togetherness. It seems empty, vacuous, lifeless. That date on the calendar looks more ominous as the time wears on.

Something horrible is about to go down. When we see our downtrodden protagonist playing with a dagger(!) of all things whilst in bed with her lover during their post-coital refractory period there couldn’t be a better way of saying something bad is afoot here. I like that uncertainty, that intrigue. This is a story that has a much larger thematic thrust but all we get here is a tight focus on character and that is more than enough to pique my interest in this story.

The Bloodfest Club Trailer

Director Oscar Madrid gets that something like this needs to be short and swift before the premise loses steam. It establishes a good sense of place, time, and comedic intent and it does so within seconds of the teaser’s opening. Now, what’s novel to me isn’t so much that the teaser’s trying to sell you on paying attention to it but it’s serving as an ad as to why it ought to be turned into a feature length film.

This is obviously nothing new but in an age when it’s easy to let the artistic side of things take over and simply give an interpretative dance about what your movie is about, this trailer is getting after it with its directness. We’re given plot, who we’re dealing with, what we’re dealing with, and what’s at stake. It’s a grand combo I don’t get a lot of nowadays where obfuscation seems to be de rigueur. And, even though its for a film where comedic horror is at the center, it’s nonetheless effective.

From the throaty voice over, done with just enough echo and bass that it blurs the line between homage and real talent, to the cheesy music cut scenes where our hero preps for battle, this whole thing is just fun. I know I’m not howling over what looks like a send up of really awful, yet entertaining, movies we all remember from our collective youths but there’s a spirit here that comes through.

It seems fun and isn’t taking itself seriously while, on the flip side, showing that there is some skillz being flexed with regard to cinematography and directing. Sometimes you need a movie like this to rinse out the seriousness palate. [Twitch]

Subjective Expressions Trailer

I get sent a lot of garbage.

Now, not everything I get sent that doesn’t happen to make it into the column is trash but there are a lot of filmmakers out there who are just doing average work if the trailers I see are any indication. This, for example, is a mold breaker. I am used to a beginning, middle, and end with these little pieces of marketing and promotion but this doesn’t have that same structure. It’s free flowing, not pretentious, and has a voice that I thought could use a little amplification.

To help you understand what you’re seeing here is a snippet of a really good story about this film’s evolution, about the thematic elements within the film, a little bit about the movie’s director, Dominik Walczuk:

The film itself revolves around Pan, a wandering female vagabond, who meets up with Feliks, a trash collecting- mask maker. In the story is a parallel world focusing on Ave?, a forest spirit, who loses her own perception of “home”. The same actress who plays Pan also portrays Ave?. The film goes back and forth between both stories.

Pan cleans in exchange for housing- and soon observes Feliks’ lifestyle of collecting something people consider negative: trash, and  turns it into something positive: art. Or more clearly; puppets and masks. The artistic interest sparks a connection between Feliks and Pan who develop a teacher-student relationship.

While this isn’t a perfect distillation of art and story, I needed to do some footwork to find out what it is I was looking at, this is nonetheless a trailer that asks for a minute, fifty seconds of your time and I freely give it.

It’s expressive and alive and makes me feel like I’m seeing something special and unique. It does just enough to make me wonder at its lush photography, ponder its significance, and then gets out before I start to ever feel frustrated at not knowing what it is I’m supposed to feel after having seen it. I’m simply satisfied with this and it’s a feeling I don’t get much watching trailer after trailer.

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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