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?

Shaolin Trailer

Even directors like Benny Chan deserve a break.

Seeing how Jackie Chan’s Who Am I? and Robin-B-Hood had about as much punch as a squirrel passing gas in a football stadium there is little I can take umbrage with as it pertains to this trailer.

What I like most about its construction is that even though it absolutely is a movie requiring you to read a little bit there is no shying away from that fact as the plot and what is at stake for our protagonist is laid out well and with little fat to get in the way.

There isn’t much flourish to this other than the occasional shot of some Shaolin moves being performed in an expository manner, used here to a muted degree, it doesn’t really shoot its action load until the tail end. Before that happens, though, you get the sense that Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse are playing for keeps while Jackie Chan is playing the part of the fop.

This is what clinches it for me.

While it won’t be as epic as anything that Chan has done in his younger days there appears to be a happy marriage between melodrama, a heavy handed bad vs. good allegory, and light comedy with Chan leading that charge. Maybe it’s my lack of having seen an action movie this summer that’s just plain fun, not having seen Captain America yet I can’t say that for sure, but this kind of looks like a summer film that ought to be light, breezy, and a good time. Whether that’s true or not I can only assume I’ll find out once I give Benny another shot at entertaining me. This trailer is a good start.

To Live & Ride In L.A. Trailer

David Rowe is a name I am going to assume no one has ever heard of but because the trailer is unique that’s all the credentials I need.

See, if you were to ask me what I would think of a documentary that shows some jamokes who tool around L.A. on their Huffy’s, site unseen, I would ask you show me Toddlers & Tiaras and stop asking me stupid questions.

After seeing this trailer, though, I am all about this doc.

The opening sequence is right on. With the music just laying down the bed upon all which everything else will follow you can’t help but just wonder at what these scenes of an awakening city mean. Even though you have the same guys on their custom Mongooses tooling around town it’s the guy on his 10 speed on the highway that elicits something of a new response out of me. I’m curious and drawn in.

To see a guy barrel down a hill, at the bottom of which is an intersection of moving cars, it’s hard not to look away as you wonder whether he’s going to get creamed. Smash cut to other guys just feelin’ it on their bikes. The world is alive with pleasure and this damn thing hasn’t told you a single nugget of what this is even about. I could care less, as the hairs on my neck raise when we gaze on a cadre of bikers just going in all different directions on a race for who the hell knows.

The shots of tricks being pulled off, making me reminisce about the skate videos I bought as a kid, the ones with just countless hours of guys pulling off tricks set to a soundtrack of music by no one you’ve ever heard of but it fit right in, and the looseness of the entire narrative is something I genuinely respect here.

It may not be about global warming but this doc looks like it will hold my attention all the way through.

Death In Arizona Trailer

Get it all out of your system now: “Nothing happens here”, “It’s boring”, “Why don’t you have cool trailers?”

Nothing happens in this trailer, true. Filmmaker Tin Dirdamal, though, got me right in the heart with this.

He lays it all out, everything that this movie is going to explore, within the first few seconds even before you get a lick of footage. He gives fair warning and even though I was a bit hesitant to see why this heartbroken, Jesus looking fellow who appears to be one more setback away from committing ritual suicide was looking for money on Kickstarter to fund his break-up video I found it was much more than that.

This looks about as close as you can get to an exorcism of the soul without involving the authorities. The guy set up in the space that he shared with his lady, a woman who would break him bad enough that he had to make a documentary about it, and just started filming the surroundings. From un-narrated moments of kids playing, of workers working, of one woman cleaning a playground with looks like a very large palm frond, I’m amazed by it.

It seems so intensely personal to be watching something that a guy is trying to show what it was like to love and lose that I can’t look away. I can not not watch this. It’s like I can sense what he’s thinking about the time he had with this woman, whether these sights and sounds were the same ones he associated with a better time. The picture of the woman in question is a lone photograph taped to a mirror that only shows her long ponytail.

The music is wonderfully chosen and the moments shown are lovingly put together. I don’t know why this one cut to the quick as deeply as it has but I kind of love this trailer for its simplicity and its offer to witness a man’s descent into heartbreak.

Mozart’s Sister Trailer

You’ve got to love period pieces if they’re done right.

I’m not usually a lover of the wig and powder scene with regards to my entertainment but because it’s not only dealing with Mozart and it’s a musician like him, all of this triggering my love for Amadeus, I give this one an inch and see if it can get a foot.

Director René Féret may have been nominated for a Palme d’Or in 1977, and I won’t even come close to purporting whether or not that film was influential to anyone outside of France, but I admire the guy’s dedication to keep on keepin’ on with a trailer that is a bit sexy, sassy, and a little bit of fun that expresses some progressive, feminist tropes you don’t see much in movies of this variety. Again, I’m not one for period pieces that dwell in this area unless there’s a novel angle and the trailer comes right out of the gate with anger. It’s hard to think that there could be anything compelling about something like this but as we see young Mozart getting the praise of being a musical savant there’s something to seeing how we get from a slanted family portrait to seeing the focus being squarely on the girl.

The actual facts of this girl’s life are pretty extraordinary compared to the exploits of her younger brother but, what I like about this trailer, is that it takes the usual woman falling in love with a man yarn and instead supposes this girl’s desire to better herself, musically, instead as a narrative arc is more important than the boy wonder.

A little bit of subterfuge, dalliances with those higher than her station, the things she’ll do to become a woman worthy of praise in her own right, and what are those things that are going to stand in her way are all fair game here. I like stories like this and the fact that the trailer wants to position itself as not a stuffy, ruffled shirt kind of film, by expressing as such through expedient storytelling and snappy editing. This is a preview that deserves a look by those who appreciate a slower burn beyond than what’s here.

Weekend Trailer

A couple of things right off the bat strike me as interesting about this trailer.

One, it only has two actors credited as being in the film. Two, it has the essence of what made Before Sunrise a wonderful exercise in finite filmmaking. Sure, you have some truly heinous films that want to take a snapshot of one night, one day and compress a film’s activity within a tight time span but, like stalwarts Superbad and One Saturday Night, there are some inspired titles. This looks like something that could rise above the noise.

The opening sequence is really the meaty flesh that wants you to try it. Sample what it’s offering. It begins with the idea of two men talking. Talking about what, it seems, is irrelevant as what is important, though, is showing the quick evolution of the relationship that forms between these two guys over the course of a couple of days.

That’s when we stop hearing what’s coming out of their mouths for the rest of the trailer. We see conversations, for sure, and that this showed at SXSW, but we aren’t allowed to see what the two of them are saying to one another. We see that moment, though, when the electricity of meeting someone new collides with the opportunity to stoke that spark instantaneously. I’ve had a chance moment turn into a whirlwind once in my life and this trailer gets it right. Everyone should be so lucky as to create that one time you can look back on and see it as a momentary thrill that is special, that is fleeting.

And it feels genuinely fleeting when you see the remaining moments of director/writer Andrew Haigh’s film and you catch a glimpse of one of the fellas riding on the back of a bike, standing up, the camera taking in a moment that feels more genuine than it does staged. It feels special, it looks special.

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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