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?
It’s that time year again.
Hard to believe that it was a mere twelve months ago where a fire was lit underneath some of you by the trailers I chose in 2009.
I don’t think this year will be any different than last as I made sure to choose trailers that were unique in their own way and honestly deserved to be chosen above some I’ve already seen selected by other sites doing a Best Trailers of 2010 editions. Some of those lists were inspired and some, well, just toed the populist line of what film was big this year and just selected the trailer attached to it. To that I say “Pshaw!” Hopefully you’ll see that some of the ones here just have something unique to say about what kind of a movie it is, the music and the editing and the story all coalescing into a coherent and interesting two minute, thirty second preview. I expect there to be some genuine disagreement and hopefully, if you feel inspired, you’ll make this year’s list just as conversational as it was last year in the comments section.
However, as this year ends and a new one begins, I would feel awkward if I didn’t thank you readers out there for making it an exciting year. Many of you e-mailed me with suggestions for films that made it into this column and some of you were the filmmakers themselves of these films just trying to get the name out there. For all these suggestions I am grateful and hope they keep rolling in as we head into 2011.
10. Scott Pilgrim
Anyone else still get goose bumps when you watch this thing?
Hopped up on Pixy Stix and Mountain Dew: Code Red this trailer not only synthesizes Edgar Wright’s aesthetic but it essentially gives every nerd money shot after money shot in order to convince you this movie will win the hearts and minds of everyone who comes near its orbit. While the box office proved this really wasn’t the case this is nonetheless one of the best geektastic trailers when it was released into the wild. Filled with enough pop and glitz to be its own rock concert yet interesting enough to make you wonder what really is driving Scott to go through with this, the trailer explodes like Pop Rocks on your tongue.
9. Serbian Film (Srpski film) (NSFW)
Just what in the hell is this? And why am I mildly aroused?
I had no idea watching this trailer what in the world was happening but filmmaker Srdjan Spasojevic’s plunge into madness and sexual insanity could not have been more perfectly captured than it is here. You may disagree about whether or not this was the most gonzo film to have come out of the only European country outside the former USSR to have free trade agreements with the Russian Federation and, more recently, Belarus, but you can’t deny that what’s here is a Jackson Pollock painting of perv. Fractured and completely distressing you half wonder if the movie could live up to what’s here. It can and it does.
8. The Exploding Girl
Even the little guys need some love. Go ahead and make a stink down below but I’ll try to fend off as many of you trolls as I can as I say why this is what an independent film needs to do in order to be noticed. A film like this needs for people to step away from the traditional methods of film promotion within a trailer, save the award nod for Zoe Kazan and critic pull-quotes, and just let it breathe like an open bottle of wine. I get that this won’t be universally liked but the musical accompaniment to a host of scenes that really do define the story in a way we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten if they were chopped up in an MTV ADD style is pretty touching. I want to know these people more. I want to understand what’s happening here. This trailer has resonated with me long after I saw it and, for that, it deserved a place here.
7. Mesrine: Killer Instinct
Jean-François Richet made something special. Question is, though, how do you sell a film about a French criminal to an American audience? Easy, just don’t have anyone saying anything. As a foreign language property you’re already behind the 8-ball in that, let’s face it, some people don’t want to read their movies. We all have friends who love telling us they hate foreign films because they hate following along with the words but the fact remains that this trailer applies a little of that logic in what you see here. Looking at it you would never know French is flying fast and furious but that’s part of the appeal. Instead of using the script the trailer makers employ some interstitials and a mean guitar riff to carry things forward. Watching this is an utter delight knowing the movie is just as good as the trailer sold it to be as well as knowing your ignorant buddies who don’t “read films” will never see Vincent Cassel being all sorts of sexy smooth. Definitely my man crush of aught ten.
There will always be room for movies like this. I could care less about what people say about the nature of wars and whether we need another documentary about war and what else could this tell us about war, all of that. This is a trailer that tells you exactly why there will be interest in stories that deal with the insanity that is combat. It’s the opening seconds of this thing where a soldier tells you what it’s like to try and just go to sleep at night after being beset on all sides by an enemy that is looking to kill them on a near daily basis that grip you by the neck and doesn’t let go. I love that we casually go from quiet 1:1 interview to the pop, pop, pop of distant gunfire in the theater of battle without anyone getting in the way of trying to define what’s happening. Maybe I’m the weird one in that I want to know what these soldiers are going through, and what this means on a grander scale, and that this trailer is fairly special in showing the rawness of that experience.
5. Tree Of Life
You know that feeling where you are so anxious to see a film? Filled with the kind of hopefulness that here is something that could change your life forever if only you just could see it right now? This is a trailer that still has that kind of magic inherent in it and exemplifies everything good about why I love trailers so much. Like whores, there will always be another trailer waiting for your love to come out next week for another film if this one doesn’t work out, but sometimes you’re wishing this could be the one with a heart of gold and is everything she says she is. I am really hoping this could be the one I could put a ring on. Beautifully shot, delightfully vague about any detail, there is a poetry of sorts going on here that can’t be mistaken.
4. The Social Network
This is flat-out a great trailer. Like another entry into this list, before it was parodied every which way possible this gem sparkled because it did something unique. Instead of shoving people right into the narrative we watch Facebook. The net effect is amazing because, with 500 million friends, most of us understand at a basic level what this is talking about. Sorkin’s unique patois is in full effect and Jesse Eisenberg’s mannerisms and delivery are on point. Looking like a soap opera filtered and distilled through the eyes of David Fincher, you knew you had to see this when it all stopped.
3. Tron: Legacy
Look, I fell for it, you fell for it, the whole world did, but word traveled fast that this was not the neon, ephedra fueled orgy of Jai-Alai disc battling we thought this would be. For that, this trailer gets the 2010 Roland Emmerich award for using all of its money shots in order to build a house of cards and for that it should be commended. It did its best to hide its languid pacing and hollowness and, judging by those who have seen it, it did it quite well. With Daft Punk pushing you into the bottleneck of glitz, latex, and sleek modern design there is no way to watch this and be anything but hopeful. Looking at it now, it seems that hopeful was about as good as it got.
Long before nerds raged about its logistical imperfections and much before it became a target for parody and derision there was this trailer. A trailer that not only gave the fans what they wanted from a Christopher Nolan yarn but with so much of what’s here that’s out of context, the disparate images feeling like a very bizarre dream, there is no denying this is a fantastically made trailer. Rich in moments that sit there for a few seconds, and featuring Hans Zimmer’s score that genuinely becomes another character in the film it’s so good, this trailer takes its time and earns the right to be savored and not pounded like a summertime tent pole energy drink.
1. Animal Kingdom
It’s that moment when the gun goes off when we understand exactly what we’re dealing with here.
Director David Michod’s tale of a crime family in Australia seems to leap over any and all cultural fence posts by making a story universal in its reach and scope, couched in the kind of violence that translates well to those of us in America. The design of this trailer is something wonderful insofar that from a structural standpoint it gets everything right: the pacing, the film festival nod, the quotes, the interstitials, and even the music. How can you not feel the small hairs on your neck stand up as Air Supply’s “All Out Of Love” plays in the background, images of brutality juxtaposed upon it? Huey Lewis may have objected to “Hip To Be Square” being used in American Psycho but never before has a pop song had as much ironic weight as it does here.
Trash Humpers Trailer
I am still haunted by this thing.
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:
- Falling Skies Trailer – I was ready to bag on this and then saw it could be just what I need to get me through my summer. It looks like it could be good if it’s able to move the plot forward without resorting to Lost level pacing.
- The Other Woman Trailer – I love what I see here. I’m usually not one to get suckered in by melodrama but this trailer hits just the right notes at the right time with just the correct amount of hysterical weeping.
- Golden Slumber Trailer – Assassination, cover-up, guns, wrong man implicated, I’m all over this trailer. Looks like a fun movie that’s not going to require very much out of you.