This Week In Trailers: Oh My God, Aladin, As Seen Through These Eyes, Love Of Siam

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?Oh My God Trailer

[The following write-up is based on this new extended trailer at IMDB, although you can view the theatrical trailer above]

I couldn't be more excited for a documentary this fall than I do this one after watching the trailer.

When I saw Religulous I was hoping it would be a successful documentary to showcase the beliefs of all those who believe in something so passionately that they are willing to die over it, start wars because of it, or believe in it enough to try and persuade others to go along with it. In my eyes the movie failed as Bill Maher cherry picked the crazies and stuck in a little commentary to go with the public finger-pointing. I was left wanting. After seeing the trailer for this I am feeling better about those who want to delve into the aspects of what it is to have faith.

The opening sequence is dazzling as we gaze at a snow capped mountain, interspersed with a tribe on an open plain, a didgeridoo plays, numerous faces from all walks of life whip by without so much as an explanation.

I am actually calmed by the first minute of this trailer, more so than any trailer this week, and that's when we see the footage from ground level of a plane careening into the World Trade Center without so much as a comment. An Indian voice starts to speak and I find it profound as an array of people is presented: "Human beings have always been fascinated by this thing that goes by the name of God."

Various quotes start coming out as voiceovers, about what God is, our filmmaker revealed in some shots taken all across the world. Children, adults, holy men of various faiths, and even some detractors who believe the concept of God has been perverted start chiming in as interview subjects.

While I think the tail end of this extended trailer, it clocks in around four minutes, gets a little out of hand with its own sense of majesty, there is something special embedded in these images. I'm impressed that the man who directed the film, Peter Rodger, pops out again to list out all the various locales he shot from in rapid fire succession. Again, the promise that a movie like this has in a landscape where you're either pushing an agenda, or want to water it down so it's more palatable to average audiences, is not one we see a lot of and I, for one, welcome the chance to see whether this can deliver.

This is film I thought I should have received a couple of years ago.

Side note: It's amazing when you compare the two trailers, the four minute version and the other that comes in at almost two and a half minutes. While there are stark differences between the two it is amazing how tighter the vision when you look at the shorter entry.

Aladin Trailer

I just could not let this one go out of my head. You get something stuck in there and it's a like a mosquito in your car that won't find the window to get out.

I watched this one time, left it, and I found myself coming back to it again and again just because it dazzled me. The vagaries of Bollywood productions are completely lost on me beyond what I've casually picked up from listening to those who have talked about it. The dancing, the spectacular plot lines, the no-no restriction on the kissing, the fantastical elements, all the while pushing these things out at a clip not unlike the Duggar family pumping out kids just amazes me. Yet, I've never seen a one.

This one, however, looks like a flick I genuinely want to sit through if the trailer is any indication. The opening sequence is freakishly alluring, thanks to the upstart director Sujoy Ghosh who has nearly zero credits to name by Bollywood standards but has a keen vision, no thanks to the nearly 30 second studio pre-roll intro that would make anyone click away, as we come upon this world.

A guy peers into what I believe is the lamp itself, an exciting Indian soundtrack giving way to what is one of the better dry ice/cgi effects I've seen this year, and then it stops. We are slowed down in order to provide some Michael Bay-ian cut scenes of people walking steadfastly, of swooping camera movements, of daggers flying in the air, of fireballs hurtling towards Earth (I dunno. I don't remember that either.), and then it screeches to a halt in order to be introduced to our hero: Aladin. Played by Ritesh Deshmukh, who has more than 23 film credits to his name since 2003, see what I mean, the man-boy looks exactly like that. Sporting a lower case "a" on the chest of his sleeveless sweater he breaks into song. It has to be good by Bollywood standards but I cannot help but feel at the same time riveted to what's happening on the screen and confused as I try and fit this into my own sense of what's good/bad.

I cannot deny that as the genie grants our young hero with his three wishes the awful synth track goes away, replaced by something more traditional, and the effects get more and more intense. The dancing numbers are clearly a high point in this film's presentation and it does not disappoint with the promise that there is something in here for everyone. Literally. From romance, Matrix-like action sequences, drama, theatrical production values, and some bad dialogue tossed in for good measure there is a Skittles explosion of taste and color that seems irresistible.

My only disappointment is I wish I could see what this looks like all the way through and I haven't a clue how to track this film down to see if it's playing at an art house near me.

As Seen Through These Eyes Trailer

Quentin Tarantino proved you can never have enough movies about World War II.

For those of us who discovered the caulk to the seeming disparate pieces of information we received in history class as it pertained to Europe, Rick Steves, paragon to scads who got half-hour lessons in European history on their PBS dial it all made sense. These events that shaped the landscape of modern life did not happen in a vacuum and indeed it was violence that helped cut deep into the muscle of European history, changing it one way or the other. One of the more moving episodes Steves can lay claim to is his episode on a concentration camp in Dachau. I dare anyone to not feel the electricity that tingles up your spine as he details the exhibits still open to the public today.

That's how I felt after watching the trailer for this film.

When you consider the number of films that try and interpret the events that happened the actual number is astounding. People are always looking for a fresh angle on a subject that could still churn out more derivative, but substantial, works for the next century. This trailer opens with barbed wire, out in the daylight, as it fades into a black and white picture that shows a Nazi zombie, not unlike those found in They Live, eating the many trains destined for their one-way trip to the front door of hell no one was going to escape from alive. It's stark. Sinister.

Maya Angelou does the voice over work here and it's interesting to note: she's not narrating here. She is reading her poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and it works exceptionally. There is a sketch of some brown/orange coated men, much like monks, standing behind barbed wire as collective. A breathtaking piece of art shows a ramshackle dove made out of detritus that has a color palate reminiscent of Dali, looking out into the ocean.

Next comes a picture, a photograph, followed by what looks like a watercolor of those wearing the striped garb the interred prisoners were forced to don. It is a little jarring, trying to understand what exactly is afoot here but it becomes clearer near the end of the trailer in that we get the audio of what I would expect are one-on-one interviews with those who made this art. The person we hear initially talks about how they needed art, needed to be able and express themselves in an artistic manner, in order to exercise the spirits that haunted them.

This trailer really does show without telling and I think it's almost to this film's disadvantage that it does so. I'm intrigued but I don't know that I am feeling the need to hunt this down at my local festival and spend money to see it. As it stands, it's a fresh pitch about this travesty. First time director Hilary Helstein at least can take credit for having a clear voice and knowing to define what she's trying to say.

Love of Siam Trailer

Charm can get you only so far in life but, when you're dealing with me, it can get you miles and miles.

Now, if I were to give a pop quiz about the great masters of Thai filmmaking in the early 2000's to the present I am fairly sure no one in the general population would get the name Apichatpong Weerasethakul written correctly on their answer cards, nor would they be able to pronounce it well if it was in front of them to annunciate. The man is responsible for one of the only highlighted films of Thai origin. Blissfully Yours won the Un Certain Regard Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002. Since then he has been seen as a real forward thinker in a country that feels like censorship is a skill that has to be practiced diligently with the number of things it forbids in its cinema. Lucky for us, we've got Love of Siam or Rak Haeng Sayam in its native tongue from director Chookiat Sakveerakul. Chookiat is perhaps best known for his co-writing duties on the film many saw, and appreciated, Chocolate.

This trailer shows Chookiat is just as capable behind the camera as he is with writing the many moving parts that seem to be at play in this film.

Wherein at the beginning of this trailer we get some lanky dude behind a desk telling us that 95% of all popular music is comprised of love songs, with half of a baker's dozen of the goofiest looking, white collar wearing, boys on the opposite side of the desk from this man with no indication why he's sharing this bit of information with us. Smash cut to a young man, young woman as the woman realizes that the man she's with no longer loves her. She's gorgeous, he's staring into the distance. We go back to our little Michael Pheret of the Ben Stiller Show telling these young men that it's only natural for these nerds to write love songs. After all, they're the right age.

What these two things have in common I haven't the slightest clue. However, I'm curious. This trailer makes me want to know the relationship between these two things because there is something here.

One of our protagonists has some issues with the ladies and, just like every great coming of age teenage drama/comedy, one of the boy's lady friends says she'll help him out by practicing to be his girlfriend. I think we all know where this heads and the real departure of a movie like this is that this hard-on-his-love-luck kid writes a song for the girl. Now, whether it's this girl or another girl I don't know. Seriously, something gets lost in translation for me as the kid's song takes over the trailer and somehow the girl at the middle of all this flips out and starts tearing down her walls, literally.

And, honestly, don't ask me to try and tell you what happens near the end of this either. I am just as confused but, as I see things shaking themselves out, he's not the only one with love issues. Maybe his mother and father are having a rough go as there are a lot of tears falling but I can tell you, unequivocally, this trailer is something we haven't seen before in a landscape that is filled with so much sameness. So what that it's a teenage love story from around the globe. The idea of chronicling the trials and tribulations of those elsewhere on the planet, and who happen to be teenagers, seems like a perspective that is not really exported all that often; we get a lot of martial artistry but not much when it comes to the exploration of human relationships.

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

  • Toy Story 3 Trailer - While I will never understand the world's fascination with Randy Newman the music is appropriate here and it works. While I am not sure the transition really works for me from his bedroom to a day care of all places I will still be there opening weekend.
  • The Expendables Promo Trailer - This promo trailer is visual nostalgia for a movie I just feel I've seen before, decades ago. You won't find me dumping on what looks like the greatest reason to go to the movies with a large tub of popcorn next August. After all, it is called show business.