This Week in Trailers

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 go by our house in the middle of the street, forget about college, learn about the universe, and discover a different type of talk show.

Holler

Director Nicole Riegel is not here to tell a tale of your usual teen.

In a forgotten pocket of Southern Ohio where American manufacturing and opportunities are drying up, a determined young woman finds a ticket out when she is accepted to college. Alongside her older brother, Ruth Avery joins a dangerous scrap metal crew in order to pay her way. Together, they spend one brutal winter working the scrap yards during the day and stealing valuable metal from the once thriving factories at night. With her goal in sight, Ruth finds that the ultimate cost for an education for a girl like her may be more than she bargained for, and she soon finds herself torn between a promising future and the family she would leave behind.

The way we’re introduced to our teenage protagonist is amazing. There is no build-up, no sassy soundtrack, and none of the usual conventions pitting them against the world. It’s simply the actual world in all its heinous reality. What this trailer does so very well is create a world where the hopes and dreams of childhood and adolescence inter-mesh with the cold day-to-day responsibilities of life once school is no longer a constant. Depending on where you live, it can be brutal. This brutality can spill into anyone’s life but when you’re young, and you still have shreds of hope, the story can either end happily or end in tragedy. Parts of America, right now, are ending more in the latter.

Before We Was We: Madness by Madness

Directors Bill Jones and Ben Timlett certainly were fans first.

Before We Was We: Madness by Madness is an enthralling slice of music history, featuring original footage and interviews with Madness band members past and present including Chris Foreman, Mike “Barso” Barson, Lee “Thommo” Thompson, Graham “Suggs” McPherson, Daniel “Woody” Woodgate, Mark “Bedders” Bedford, Carl “Chas Smash” Smyth, regaling stories from their 40-year career together as Madness. Set during a time of cultural and political upheaval, the docuseries offers a captivating insight into a post-war Britain, which has changed beyond recognition alongside the band’s inevitable rise to the top of the charts, pop fame and fortune against the backdrop of the ska, punk and new wave revolution.

The docuseries traces the humble beginnings of the band that would go on to set the record for the biggest audience ever for the BBC’s Live New Year’s Eve Broadcast – the most watched TV music event of 2018, and perform on top of Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. Throughout their career, Madness have had 10 UK top ten albums, 15 top ten singles and have won a multitude of awards including a prestigious Ivor Novello. And the story isn’t over yet.

There are probably some out there who have forgotten that Madness’ “Our House” was a Top-40 hit that was played on commercial radio in the early 80s. The video still resonates with olds like me, and I fully acknowledge that there are tens of thousands who wouldn’t know or care too much about what happened with this band after this song faded from airplay. A one-hit-wonder to some, a band who would influence dozens of bands to others, Madness certainly was, and is, musical royalty in the UK.

The trailer hits the usual trappings of showing how the band came together, capturing what it was like at that moment when they were at their peak, but it also shows how that downside affected them as well. Knowing that this is a three-hour romp into the back personal catalog of this band is incredible. As an aficionado of Ska myself, I can still hear their influence today on bands just finding their own rhythm.

Emily @ the Edge of Chaos

Director Wendy Apple is no longer with us, but she would be proud of this effort.

Emily @ the Edge of Chaos interweaves Emily Levine’s live performance with animation, appearances by scientists, and animated characters (John Lithgow as Sir Isaac Newton, Lily Tomlin as Ayn Rand, Leonard Nimoy as Sigmund Freud, Richard Lewis as Aristotle, Matt Groening as Aldo Leopold). The film uses physics, which explains how the universe works, to explain our metaphysics — the story of our values, our institutions, our interactions. Using her own experience and a custom blend of insight and humor, provocation and inspiration, personal story and social commentary, Emily takes her audience through its own paradigm shift: from the Fear of Change to the Edge of Chaos.

This is something a little different. It’s something exciting that, much like Derek DelGaudio’s one-man show In & Of Itself, plays with convention. We’re used to being spoken to when there’s a one-person show. Usually, the stage is sparse; the person giving their performance stands against something that isn’t distracting; and, there is a complete focus on the presenter. With everything happening here, it’s tough to focus on any one thing. It’s probably why I like it so much. The trailer feels like Sesame Street for adults and it’s so soothing. Emily Levine, unfortunately, also passed away, so this feels like a coda to her life that she wanted to pass on. You can quibble all you like on the fuddy-duddy-ness of who this might appeal to, but it doesn’t really matter. She seemed like a delightful human being who wanted to share her knowledge, and I’m more than happy to receive it.

Pause With Sam Jay

This looks to give the world a different take on the late-night scene.

Co-created by Jay with Insecure‘s showrunner/director Prentice Penny, Pause takes the traditional late-night talk show format and spins it on its head, with Jay hosting a lively party in her apartment each week. Episodes will center on Jay and her guest discussing current events and topics, like Covid-19 and racial justice, and their conversations will be broken up with additional interviews, sketches, and animation. The trailer gives a fast-paced look at the vibe of the show, filled with lively debates around Jay’s kitchen and living room.

I don’t know if this will endure as long as the much-ballyhooed shows for all the other mediocre, predictable, scripted, and downright safe talk shows out there, but I’m down. This feels fresh, looks like it has something to say, and it appears to change the game up a little bit. With there being so much white noise on television, pun intended, I can’t see this achieving critical mass, but I’m inspired that someone is out there taking swings at giants who are all too content with being bland as hell.

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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