Fewer 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 for the gold with Nick Kroll, try to become more of an adult, play that game that many people relegate to their basements, deal with the opioid crisis, and examine modern-day Chile.

Saint Frances

Alex Thompson is delivering something sublime.

Flailing thirty-four-year-old Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) finally catches a break when she meets a nice guy and lands a much-needed job nannying six-year-old Frances (played by a scene-stealing Ramona Edith-Williams). But an unwanted pregnancy introduces an unexpected complication. To make matters worse, she clashes with the obstinate Frances and struggles to navigate a growing tension between Frances’s moms. Amidst her tempestuous personal relationships, a reluctant friendship with Frances emerges, and Bridget contends with the inevitable joys and shit-shows of becoming a part of someone else’s family.

This trailer is making its stand using pull-quotes and charm. It’s heavy on the narrative, but that’s very much welcomed for a movie examining multiple emotional silos here: pregnancy, intimacy, maturity, family issues, and many gnarly feelings. It’s a charmer, for sure, and won me over by the end.

Foosballers

Director Joe Heslinga has provided us with the Natty Light of documentaries and I, for one, am delighted.

This award-winning documentary takes a deep dive into the underground world of professional table soccer, following six of the top players as they prepare for the Tornado World Championships. Through an ensemble cast of quirky characters and obsessive fans, “Foosballers” explores the sport’s rich and relatively unknown history – covering its meteoric rise in the 70s during the Million Dollar Pro Tour, its devastating collapse in the 80s, and its current resurrection today.

These are the kinds of stories, a la King of Kong, where the stakes are incredibly low, but it’s the protagonists involved that make it easy to enjoy. Much like how I’m ill-suited to play any kind of organized sport, I’ll delight in watching something like a cornhole tournament on ESPN2 for hours on end simply because of how serious the participants take it. I’m in.

Higher Love

Director Hasan Oswald has created a documentary that will fly right under the radar, but demands to be seen.

A blue collar father tries to rescue his pregnant, heroin-addicted girlfriend from the dangerous streets of Camden, NJ. Once their son is born, a new journey begins for the fate of the baby and the family’s sobriety that may split them apart forever.

It’s hard to watch this. It’s a documentary of our time, with themes that could resonate with thousands of people who have struggled, or are struggling, with addiction. For anyone who says that this kind of story has already been told in so many other ways, I would point out that this trailer makes the case that more of these stories need to be told. More people need to see the tight grip that opioids like heroin can have on a person’s life. It’s a bummer watching this entire trailer, but that’s what makes it so good.

Olympic Dreams

Director Jeremy Teicher is not breaking any new ground but, dammit, I’m in the mood for a love story.

Set against the splendor of the Winter Olympic Games, an intimate and unexpected love story develops between two lonely hearts, each at their own crossroads in life. Penelope (Alexi Pappas) is a first time Olympian and introverted cross-country skier, who, after finishing her event early on in the games, finds herself spending time in Athletes Village with the gregarious and outgoing volunteer dentist, Ezra (Nick Kroll). While both are eager to form connections at the Olympic Games, they are held back by the very thing that has propelled them to this point; what do you do once your lifelong dream has come true, and you’re faced with taking the next step? As Penelope and Ezra navigate the vulnerable slopes, they push one another to embrace qualities they lost sight of in pursuit of their dreams. Will they be able to help each other take of leap of faith into the unknown? The first movie ever filmed on location during the Olympics in Athletes Village, Olympic Dreams offers audiences a never-before-seen side of the Games and the people whose entire lives are shaped by them.

The above is a lot of clap-trap. I’m just interested in watching young love blossom. While I’m not sure I’m feeling Kroll’s “ah, shucks” personality, much less buy it, I’m still charmed by the effort here. I can see why it will not be lighting up the multiplex but there are sparks of something cute, a thrilling dalliance, and I’m tickled by its energy.

The Cordillera of Dreams

When director Patricio Guzmán gave us 2010’s Nostalgia for the Light, I figured that was his opus. Wrong.

The Cordillera of Dreams centers on the imposing landscape of the Andes, which run the length of the South American country’s eastern border. At once protective and isolating, magisterial and indifferent, the cordillera of mountains serves as an enigmatic focal point around which Guzmán contemplates the enduring legacy of the 1973 military coup d’état.

Looking at both the past and future, the filmmaker considers how the neoliberal policies introduced under the Pinochet regime have continued to stratify Chilean society. The cordillera is not merely landscape or a metaphorical divide, as it contains much of the country’s natural resources–wealth that is privately owned and inaccessible to the vast majority of Chileans.

This is sumptuous to look at. The visuals, the flow, everything is very soothing to the eye and the soul. It seems like it is both a reflection on a time that has passed while also reconciling how the present is pushing things into the future. It feels like a travelogue but, mostly, it feels very personal because it is very personal. It’s almost like reading someone’s diary with the exception that he’s reading it to us.

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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