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?

Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats) Trailer

Honestly, I hope this movie ends with all three of them deciding to partake in ritualistic suicide.

There was a time when films of Fellini and Truffaut exuded the kind of flashy brilliance that only men who were trying to redefine the language of their art could have made. They were worthy of our emotional investment because they went beyond what was accepted at the time. The trailer for this movie, however, looks like it’s aping the time, an era, that has long since past and it’s hard to look beyond that. It’s kind of like those aging hipsters who still wear those turtle shell glasses or women who don the kind of eye-wear mom used to wear in the 1950’s just because it’s cool and ironic. Unfortunately, for these people, it’s not cool unless you run in this echo chamber of like minded butt-heads and your telegraphed irony is nakedly obvious to everyone else outside your exclusionary clubhouse.

These people in this trailer are exactly like any purported vanguard of vintage you know in real life, who you can’t stand, and that’s a disappointment because I had high hopes for this.

To wit, director and writer Xavier Dolan comes out of the box screaming with an intro that is all sorts of sexy and delicious. A slow walking backside that gingerly bobs up and down to the string opening of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, a gorgeous purple dress tries to contain the voluptuousness of actress Monia Chokri. We get the Cannes recognition as well and it all adds up, for me, as a strong intro.

And then, somehow, it loses its steam. The trailer dissolves into a maddening soup of disparate images that doesn’t really tantalize the viewer in wanting to know more as it does just showcase the hysterical actions of our three protagonists. One dude looks despondent and on the verge of tears as he stands on a sidewalk with his hands on his face, while another boy needs to get his b-boy hat smacked off the top of his melon with that crap eating grin on his mug, as Chokri needs to stick with a time period if she wants to fully realize that if she wants to embody the 50’s and 60’s she needs to take a more demure approach towards violence as she tussles with a guy, grounding and pounding. She’s rustling around the woods, wait, no she’s in bed with the two other guys, wait, one of the guys is having marshmallows rained on his head (this has gotta be deep, right?), one looks forlorn out a window quite serious (deep again, right?), and wait, is this Threesome?

This trailer did nothing but just aggravate me.

Shut Up Little Man Trailer

I knew I heard about this before.

For those who are erudite enough to listen to the dulcet, nasally tones of Ira Glass on a weekly basis know that This American Life marries together the joy of short form fiction and non-fiction along with the ever present possible horror of having to stomach the listless affectations of David Rakoff whenever he has a bee in his bonnet about the indignities of everyday living. This program is where I ultimately learned about this amazing story of a guy who lived in apartment who had a very, very strange neighbor.

I didn’t know, as the guy was narrating the story, whether this was the fiction or the non-fiction portion of the program as it seemed way too bizarre to be true. The crux of the story was that the neighbor of the narrator was given to fits of rage, screaming and berating his roommate at strange hours. It couldn’t be true. It just had to be a machination of this guy’s imagination. He said it was some unknown guy who was on a blue streak so foul that it would make any sailor stand up and ask him to politely choose a new set of words. When he said how powerfully angry this guy got there was nothing that could make you think this person actually existed in society.

And then they played the tape.

This trailer, though, opens with the contents of these alcohol fueled rants through spoken word. Some unidentified guys give their favorite snippets done in the same cadence as the actual beast in question. It doesn’t ever feel like they’re dragging on needlessly as the lack of context for these arguments are just a delight to watch being recreated. In an age when it’s better to show and not tell, this is all tell as a torrent of explicatives hurl from the mouths of these nameless men about a guy who is never mentioned by name.

And that’s the real hook here for a teaser trailer that’s only a minute long.

We aren’t given any context, any background, any reason why the hailstorm of foul words pepper this thing so heavily. But that’s also the joy of it. There is no way that a person who becomes interested in this trailer could not be more curious in finding out what in the hell is going on here. As a character study you could do no better of a trailer than this. It does what it needs to do and leaves you with just enough questions to go find out more. First time feature writer/director Matthew Bate has made something I am hoping, praying, sacrificing is on par with Winnebago Man. [Twitch]

The Woods Trailer

Just stick with me on this.

So many times I have trailers here that simply stand by themselves like a well supported building; impervious to examination, and purposely vague in order for you to be excited and pay money to see them, these things can be rock solid, self-contained, without any context necessary to enjoy them. Well, I’m breaking rank here and offering up a quote from the director Matthew Lessner about this, his first feature length film. I saw the trailer and I knew some background into that might help some of you see what I did. From indieWIRE:

““I took an internship at Democracy Now and I started following current events a little bit closer and reading a few books and just getting interested in this idea of collapse. And just playing with this idea of dropping everything, moving to the woods and starting over. And this idea of being aware of all these crazy problems that are going in the world and not really knowing how to react to those problems and that really became more of the motivating force [behind the film]. Having this feeling and not really knowing what to do about it and [making a film] was the best way to figure out how to do something instead of taking to the streets with a picket sign or throwing a brick through a bank window. Making a film about people with the same sort of sensation.”

This trailer doesn’t offer anything, I give you that, but there is a beauty in the madness of seeing a guy doing the laundry at a washer in the middle of a forest.

With computers, gadgetry, electricity, face paint, discordant messages of harmony and the sense of a cult like vibe littering the visual landscape there is a lot to digest. Without any means of knowing why these men and women are hanging out and living like it’s the post-apocalypse while also retaining the accouterments of modern life. The nature boy playing Wii is a nice touch but I do sense there is a heavy handed artistic theme afoot here. It’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy a film where social satire is the dish being served up to be consumed but there is something about the push and pull of liking the visual style of what’s going on versus the more ambiguous elements of plot, characters, and background. It makes me wonder whether this is just pretentious pablum or something chewy enough to gnaw on for a little while. I am thinking it might be a harmonious mix of both and this excited me.

Thoughts?

Uncle Kent Trailer

This trailer shows that you can be an alternative filmmaker without appearing precious or twee.

Director/co-writer Joe Swanberg is unique in that here’s a movie that takes the trope of the lonely, single older guy and makes it slightly amusing, endearing, all the while keeping it real. What’s more, the other half of this writing duo, Kent Osborne, should be mentioned as here’s a guy who has been writing kids entertainment for a long time. With a few Emmy nominations under his belt, a couple coming as a result for his work on SpongeBob SquarePants, it’s a curious thing to wonder how that Venn diagram aligned when Swanberg thought Osborne would be the perfect choice to help pen a story about a man who finds some kind of kinship with a woman he meets through Chatroulette.

The thrilling thing about this trailer is that it doesn’t feel forcibly scripted. You have a man who is purportedly forty years-old and doesn’t have anyone in his life to love. He seems to be a quiet animator looking to make a connection of some kind with the people around him, the people here being those on Chatroulette. Where it strays into fictional movieland is the woman who willingly comes to his home for unknown reasons as in an age where Craigslist seems to be the proving ground for serial killers it’s just a little jarring to see someone so pretty accept this guy’s invitation. However, there is an honesty to his schlub. He’s not really hip, he’s not really a post modern, indie version of what a single guy looks like, he looks a little awkward and talks unreassuringly, but this woman who comes into his life looks like she’s changing that.

Moments of these two kids getting funny, getting kinky, all the while being seemingly normal by movie standards, don’t feel forced or staged. There is a vérité element here of the handheld camera being used at one point and the taking of video as his house guest gets it on with another lady is thrilling from the standpoint that all the while this insanity is happening you are pulling for this dude. He seems like a genuinely nice everyman who is just trying to eke out an existence that’s filled with a little drama, a little sexual perversion.

The cut scenes near the end only help to shore up the notion there is a lot of handheld camera work but I welcome that as I would posit it’s only going to amplify the intimacy of the storyline. It straddles the line of being too cool for the room and being endearing.

The Chaperone Trailer

So let me get this straight, a dude like Triple H ends up with a fraulein like actress Annabeth Gish, makes a pretty little girl, lands in a posh suburban home, gets himself thrown into prison, and then has to fight to rebuild his life? Throw in Lisa Simpson and Kevin Corrigan who simply limps through this thing and you’ve got yourself enough visual starter fluid to make self-immolation a worthy option for any struggling screenwriter looking to best the work of anything put out by Aaron Sorkin.

This is the kind of trailer that makes not only baby Jesus cry, but any self-respecting WWE fan ought to see this for what it is and turn to John Cena’s masterful work (if you were to compare the two) The Marine for a little solace. It’s just embarrassing to try and get through. I should expect this kind of miserable film out of a thespian like Triple H but it’s downright depressing to know that the man who brought us Critters,  Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and, his real opus, Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, Stephen Herek, is to blame for this. That’s the real tragedy here.

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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