Green Band Trailer

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: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week, we write a eulogy for our dead mother, explore the love life of a musician and his muse, celebrate the comedy of The Amazing Johnathan, and go noodlin’ with Phish’s Trey Anastasio.

Between Me and My Mind

As a director, Academy Award nominee Steven Cantor knows how to capture the essence of an artist. His films have show what it takes to be on an inner-city step dance squad and the level of determination required to be an elite ballet dancer. But his latest departs from dancing altogether and focuses on a singular talent who has entertained millions.

A few minutes into this intimate look at the creative process of founding Phish guitarist and vocalist Trey Anastasio, it is clear that he is exploding with his unique brand of songwriting and creativity. As the frontman of one of America’s longest lasting and most successful touring bands and a solo musician as well, Anastasio’s virtuosic musicianship has made him an icon, beloved by his die-hard fanbase for the depth of his artistic output and the boundless enthusiasm that he exudes on stage and off.

Weighing whether this is worth a one-night-only experience probably has a lot to do with whether you’re a Phish fan or if stories about musicians and their craft excite you. If the answer to either is “no,” then I would say this isn’t right for you. But for those who are always in the mood for something genteel and a little slower in pace, this would be a nice night at the movies for sure.

Always Amazing

Director and comedian Steve Byrne is uniquely qualified to tell this story. Working for years up through the comedy gauntlet to get where he is today gives him an honest angle into the world of what I can only describe as a tragedy.

Always Amazing is the story of The Amazing Johnathan’s storied career as a comedian/magician, the unlikely friendship that was cemented after meeting a 12-year-old boy while on tour in Australia and the unfortunate terminal diagnosis that brought them back together for one last run of shows.

A little rough around the editorial edges, and at times a little too intimate, the trailer offers an honest peek at a comedian who was one of the best there ever was. It’s not a cautionary tale exactly, but it’s a story of what it was like to be admired by your peers, have success, and then have it all crumble beneath you as the very talent people love to see slowly slips away.

The Black Godfather

Recently, director Reginald Hudlin was a producer of Django Unchained, but he’ll forever be known to me as the director of 1990’s House Party. The man’s range in cinema is phenomenal, and this trailer for his latest movie is just flat out engaging.

The Black Godfather charts the exceptional and unlikely rise of [Clarence] Avant, a music executive whose trailblazing behind-the-scenes accomplishments impacted the legacies of icons such as as Bill Withers, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, and Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Driven by a sense of equality, loyalty, and justice, Avant left the Jim Crow south behind to emerge as a powerhouse negotiator at a time when deep-seated racism penetrated every corner of America. Avant defied notions of what a black executive could do, redefining the industry for entertainers and executives of color and leaving a legacy of altruism for others to emulate.

I don’t know anything about who Avant is, but this documentary piques my curiosity. Not only that, but the trailer defies near insurmountable odds in taking me from no awareness to wanting to see this as soon as it drops on Netflix. The trailer wastes no time in contextualizing this man’s influence, and it certainly makes us want to learn more.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love

Two years ago we were checking in on director Nick Broomfield and his latest work on Whitney Houston. Now he has turned his attention towards Leonard Cohen.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is a beautiful yet tragic love story between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. Their love began on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra in 1960 as part of a bohemian community of foreign artists, writers and musicians. The film follows their relationship from the early days on Hydra, a humble time of ‘free love’ and open marriage, to how their love evolved when Leonard became a successful musician.

The trailer builds on the idea of artists who need someone (usually a paramour) to inspired them to be creative. This can sometimes take the shape of an illicit lover or someone else who the artist points to as the person who drove them to do their best work. This looks and feels like a very intimate story about a one man and one woman, but it feels like so much more. 

Mouthpiece

Patricia Rozema, writer of 2009’s Grey Gardens, is coming for your heart. This trailer starts out what appears to be the life and times of a young woman who grapples with having to write a eulogy for her dead mother. But then everything implodes from within. The emotional one-two punches this trailer is throwing all connect with tight precision. From beginning to end, not so much as a millisecond is wasted here as we preview a journey that seems to have an uncertain end. Totally heartbreaking and wildly evocative, this is one of my most favorite trailers I’ve seen this month.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion 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 or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

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

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