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?

White Irish Drinkers Trailer

It’s not often that I get a slam dunk delivered into my inbox but it happens from time to time and this was the first of 2011.

The Irish sensibility is one, I would assert, of two extremes: pain and laughter. Where there is fighting and brawling there is also the kind of humor that could out dry anything a limey from the UK could bring to the table. The range of emotion these people are capable of is delivered with wicked precision, humor that borders on transgressive. The former seems to be reigning supreme here, with there being hints of deep abuse, sadness, despair, and despondency. I love it.

The skeleton of plot we get from the interstitials are tactfully placed throughout this trailer and it feels more instructional and spare than it does a demonstrative or definitive explanation of what’s happening. To put it another way, it’s the movements of what’s before us that has to communicate what this story is about and Lord help me if  Stephen Lang isn’t at the crux of this movie. Lang was probably the one great thing about Avatar and has such a presence about him that I can see his talent carrying this whole thing on his own. However, Nick Thurston, who plays the young son to the raging lunatic that Lang plays, and could very well be the yin to Lang’s yang, could help make this a one-two punch upside the temples as both men are angling for attention here. There is an almost undeniable Good Will Hunting vibe that you get by watching this as it feels like a movie that has a hardscrabble pathos it needs to work through before a resolution is to be found.

The decision to go all instrumental with the trailer is a bold one as you can’t get any indication of how these characters talk to one another or get a sense of its verbal patois but that’s more than fine because it forces you to watch how these people move, how they interact. The bullying, the fighting, the shiners, it all adds up to a curiosity you can’t help but be drawn into as it’s a story that looks like it could go any number of ways. I appreciate that kind of restraint and the resistance to share only what’s necessary.

Count me as interested.

Side note: Even though it’s not in the trailer it should be noted that an exquisite piece in the New York Times about how director John Gray put up well over a half million of his own money to get this made and it’s an interesting dissection of what it takes nowadays to get a picture made.

Mad Bastards Trailer

I am just falling in love with Australian filmmakers as of late.

From David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom to Patrick Hughes Red Hill even to Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones there have been some really solid movies coming out from Oz. And absolutely they should be tooting their own horn about it because with a trailer like this it looks like the freight train can’t be stopped as we barrel into 2011.

Now, Brendan Fletcher is a name neither one of us have heard of but this trailer uses colors and hues that are as rich as what I saw in City of God. Now, while one is playing in the sandbox of slumdog overlords the other one, this one, looks like it’s something a little more sensitive. Not that it’s all hugs and Care Bears as it starts fairly starkly with a screeching musical bed as we meet our protagonist in the middle of getting yelled at a woman who I think might be his old lady.

The rich palette is spectacular to look at as we traipse through our man’s life awfully quick. We get that he’s looking for his son, that he’s probably an outsider in a community that looks populated with Aborigines, gets his ass threatened, but then the mood lightens a touch. The screech is replaced with some soulful blues as our beefy protagonist is getting nutty in the backseat of a car. Pull-quotes extol the film’s existence and I dig how we’re kept at bay from the movie’s actual intent.

The real thrill here is to see how Fletcher captures a sense of place and of time. There aren’t flourishes of inspired filmmaking but that’s not what is being sold here, I think. What’s being pitched is a story of a guy winding his way through an uncertain territory fraught with odd individuals and odd situations. The environment, literally, is a character unto itself and I like that it’s captured in a natural, vibrant way.

I almost forget what in the hell I was here to see, which may or may not be a story of a guy trying to connect with his son, but there is a richness to what is being sold that it doesn’t matter much to me about specificity. What does matter is whether this trailer can sell you on wanting to know more and it certainly does. [Twitch]

How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song Trailer

Over a year ago I found this little gem of a trailer for a movie called What’s Up Lovely from Gary King.

The trailer looked like a quiet affair of isolation and introspection with a dark cityscape as a backdrop. It was inviting as a means of entree into this independent filmmaker’s vision of the world and so, over a year later, I’m giddy again at the prospect of his new film which is all about the musical.

Funny thing about a musical is that you need some wattage. They don’t call them productions for the ease of doing so and it’s interesting to see how a trailer that wants to sell a musical can do so without looking like it was done with a budget less than an off off off Broadway show. The tease here is that there are no words, no narrative guidance, only the tinkling of piano keys and the ginger promise that if you just trust it a little it will give you something to tap your feet to.

The scenes themselves are useless to try and put into context in and of themselves but as the solo musical piece plays out in the background we are easily able to infer that this is a story that is dealing with a composer of a musical (pretty sure about that) who gets caught up with two ladies that are a part of his show (really sure about that). There seems to be an issue of how this relationship is colliding into everything having to do with what’s happening on screen but I like how it all flows evenly.

The scale is small, the use of every able hand helps to pump up the scenes that are obviously going to be the well choreographed moments of this piece to make it a musical. To say nothing of the practical challenges of getting a film made there is now the added element of having to make the music completely listenable as well and for that I hope the songs match the professionalism in the production values.

I don’t envy the task of having to essentially craft two wholly separate entities and meshing them into a cohesive whole but the teaser here more than enough piqued my curiosity. As well, it didn’t hurt that actress Christina Rose was almost more than enough to bump this into Whitesnake Tawny Kitaen heights with her lips, hips, and come hither glances.

What I like about the instrumental angle that’s taken with this trailer, besides being able to figure out that lead actor Joe Schermann looks *exactly* like Jack O’Halloran as Non from Superman II, is that we can appreciate its aesthetic. If a musical is going to work it has to go beyond just good characters and good writing, it has to be choreographed well and it better be coming correct with a good soundtrack.

This was a teaser that has really stuck with me as I don’t think I can remember any indie in recent memory that wanted to be a musical as well. It just doesn’t seem like a task too many filmmakers, unless you’re a young Rob Marshall and have your sights set on crafting something extraordinary, something really expensive. For sheer ambition alone the trailer makes the grade. In an age of independent financing it appears that other people thought enough to get it funded as well.

Kaboom Trailer (NSFW)

I’m pretty sure I like this trailer.

Going into it I wasn’t sure if this was the case where the advertising axiom that if you need sex to sell your product your product really isn’t that good or if there was something really interesting going on here. I’m given to the latter but I’m not so sure if there isn’t a little bit of the former.

When we open on this thing, besides the almost too quick declaration this movie played at Cannes, it’s borderline childish. The way everything is lit, almost like the DP who helped Joe Dante’s “It’s A Good Life” look like a WB cartoon, seems childish and the dialogue  is just as infantile. Our protagonist hero is oversexed and seems to be obsessed with his model/surfer roommate in what appears to be some latent homosexuality personified by an Adonis who may or may not end up with our young hero.

The nudity, obviously, isn’t an issue but it almost feels like it’s nudity for its own sake, the ribald lines being delivered by some of the actors sounding like it’s being done just to shock rather than inform, and I start to feel that this is a movie best left to seeking out when it hits Showtime on some midnight showing six months from now. However, something happens.

I don’t know what it is about the prospect of an LSD fueled envisioning of one man’s dreams come to life but in what I can only describe as a scintillating exploration of young people who are obviously self-indulgent, ignorant, and shallow individuals there is something here. I couldn’t tell you if it’s a teen film that’s been acid washed with weirdness with alabaster skinned actors playing the parts of disaffected youths gone amok or if this is the next The Informers, a movie only a myopically misguided critic could love.

Either way, this is poised to be incredibly surprising or an incredibly awful Gregg Araki feature.

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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